Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There is such a place as "Manaba Beach"

When I meet someone new, I usually tell my name is Manabu, you know it is like "Malibu Beach."

But today I just happened to learn that there is actually a place called "Manaba Beach" in South Africa.

According to above mentioned web site, the word "Manaba" means to "relax" in Zulu.

So you'd want to relax, especially after surfing!

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Bigger Days...

Last December, I remember from Christmas onto well into January, there was not a single day we could surf since it was stormy and big. This December, and right now we are starting to get into week 2 of "too big to surf" because as soon as the first 20-ft class came through there is another 20-ft class waves. The northern part of Pacific becomes a roaring mess of 50-ft seas often times. We all hear about that on the news, but I now understand a lot more about 50-ft class seas today than before. No wonder shipwrecks are fairly common in the winter and around Alaska and northern Pacific.

I used to not like big days. Simply because I could not find a place to surf.
But now I look forward to big days not because I can surf big waves. I now can surf bigger waves but not big waves, but what I am waiting for is the replenishing of sandbars.

This last half of the summer was quite lame on the sandbar department in Half Moon Bay. Just about all of our favorite local spots, the sandbars were all raked out and even on some decent swell days, all the waves were just breaking very close at the shore. This caused a choice of spots and types of waves we could surf.

But on the book I have studied on Surf Science: An Introduction To Waves For Surfing, there was a great section on how sandbars form, and I came to scientifically understand why big messy period of time is needed to rebuild good sand bars, and probably like anything in the nature we all tend to destroy and neglect, there are much more ecological benefits for this to happen.

So on bigger days, I would go out and enjoy the beauty and the magnificence of big waves, and wait for it to shape our playgrounds!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

To Equalize or Not Equalize

I got the following comment from one of the WavLOG readers. First I want to thank you for writing. I am always eager to provide what I know, if not the right answer. As always, you'd want to be very skeptical of any single answer and seek many others. Somewhere in there is the truth.

Your question was the following.

I've been reading your blog and you mention a JC Equalizer. I have been surfing for 18 months and am improving surfing 2-3 times a week recently. I have 2 long-boards a 10'2" and a 9'6" I would like to go more towards short-boarding at least more maneuverability. I'm 206lbs and I was thinking of getting a 7'10"x3x22 JC Equalizer or maybe a 8' Hanley Fatboy. 8x3.12x22.5.

I'm nervous that I will buy one and sit there like a bouy and never catch a wave and was wondering what the best way to make the transition.
I was wondering what you think ?

First of all, I do not think I have surfed with you and I do not know how you do it and what your preferences are. Aside from that I seriously don't know how to surf that well, so please follow along with some grains of salt in your hand.

I had the JC for a short while because I was at a time I was rapidly moving towards real short boards, for that I mean boards that are 6'4 or less. I weigh 145 lbs max (and actually trying to cut that weight even further) and I am only 5'5 tall. I now own JC 6'4, that I consider a mini-version of the Equalizer. I feel that JC's shapes are solid basic boards without really any gimmicky tail treatments and such, and I personally think that "bat tails" etc., are really more of a style thing than performance thing.

As for the JC EQ 7'5, I can say that it is really a fine board (it is in my buddy's quiver now, so I can visit it if I want to) for bigger conditions. Where this board shines is to go for big waves, like 1.5 or 2 x overhead waves at Montara or Pescadero in the winter surfing season. Like my JC I got now, it really holds well on relatively hollower situations. It can support you well into good speed and turns are crisp and clean.

I would say that it is not a kind a board you ride small waves, because I happen to feel that you should ride small waves with a good long board or way inside with a short board. If your goal is to ride short boards on smaller waves (that's me), then I'd skip that and instead get a wide fish type boards at regular short board length (6'6 - 6'4 type for example). The reason why I say that is because fish type boards can be ridden a bit more like you'd on long boards and so that's a much better way of transitioning out of long boards. If you can maneuver waves on fishes, and you can paddle at ease with those, then you can go to traditional thruster boards.

Either ways, I'd say get your paddling strength in good shape. It seems to be the key for short boarding.

And finally, don't over alanyze the situation. Get the coolest board you feel like it is "you", and become friend with it. There really is no right or wrong when it comes to board selection. Each board teaches you important lessons to be a better surfer.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Technical Update + Stretch F4 Quad Impression

Since I got a comment for the Stretch F4 Quad, I think I should give an interim technical update on myself as well as the F4 Quad (from here on the F4).

First the Technical Update

I should not boost my skill level progress too much. I still cannot surf like most of you, I am older and I was not born with a lot of athletic abilities as I have been writing repeatedly. But having said that, since 2003 I have accomplished this far;

I can go out on 1.5 overhead type condition with confidence and comfort. This is attributed mostly with the improved paddling abilities, and to a less extent duck diving. More importantly I can get to the outside, not as fast as some of the best people, but I do and I can.

Given a lineup, I am catching more waves than most of the people in these types of condition.

A major breakthrough happened around October of this year (06), when more or less suddenly I can take off on more "steeper" waves than ever before. One thing is that some of the fears have lifted significantly under the circumstances and also as I wrote a while back one important missing link was solved, which was to actually make the board go down the wave. As it turns out, I have been careful not to get the board to bury the nose in steeper take offs, especially on long board take-offs. As it turned out, this rule does not apply as much to short boards. I almost had to trust the board that it will go down into the wave. This is an extremely fear driving thing because basically it is equivalent of standing on a roller coaster right when it does the big first dip. This balance and timing is a bit delicate still, and if the board does not start you'd go down the fall, and now some of the problems I encounter is to get pounded at the floor, which is not fun. But, then some additional skill comes. When I big one comes, I often do not take off on it because I know some of the bigger ones are close-out sets. If you take off into those, there basically is no prayer. Usually good fun ridable ones happens inside after a few big ones pass through for which we all paddle to the outside and wait for them to pass. So that's another skill set right there for those who are trailing me behind a bit. I've seen so many dangerous people taking off on every single wave that comes. Proper wave selection (matched to your skill of course) is an skill in of itself.

So as far as that goes, now that I came that far, it is now refining and improving upon these skill sets, and I will be able to challenge more demanding situations.

It is probably not a coincidence that the arrival of F4 into my quiver has a lot to do with this success, and I have some theory on this. I could be totally wrong on it (and that's why there is a commenting capability on the WavLOG).

The F4, in my opinion, is an ultimate take-off machine. I have not been on any other short boards that basically guarantees a take off. The only thing that come close to was the 6'6 French "Fish" Model that I used to have. May be I have gotten stronger over time, but I do switch to JC 6'4 and Rocky 5'10 and they all just feel differently.

I theorize that with 4 fins out in the back, there is just much more thrust when the tail starts to lift, and so as a result I just get extra "kick in the butt" to take off. Since the power seems to start to apply sooner in a take off sequence, it is not a sudden jolt but a bit more smoother acceleration, which allows me to stand up easier. In addition, the board has a better straight ride characteristics. But I must dispute a bit here. On steep take off spots, sometimes the only one to get into the wave is to take off diagonally, and somehow, doing that with the F4 is much easier, presumably because two of the fins can still be in contact with the water and providing the necessary thrust.

Once on the wave, actually it is not difficult to turn the board, in fact, with this board, I can really aggressively aim to higher part of the wave the I was able to do before, so that's really great there too. Actually the board rides remarkably stable, especially at higher speeds the tail dose not "fish out." So that gives me much more confidence in push-tail-set-rail action. I actually think that if you are a better surfer, you'd feel that the board requires additional force to control it, but for me, the given stability and more pronounced action is better.

The closet dimension to this 6'5 board is my JC Ugly Stick 6'4. This is the board I also really like. What 6'4 gives me better is the smoothness and responsiveness in turns in my opinion. If I nail a pocket right, I would rather be on the 6'4 than the F4, but that does not happen often, and still, it is more important to take off on waves, and I think that F4 really can work in fairly tight conditions we have around.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Art of Dawn Patrolling

Several years ago, there was a surfing magazine article on how to Dawn Patrol. There were many points in there like not fiddle too much with a computer or wait for friends and keep one's self warm and comfortable. Since then I have been trying to refine the art of dawn patrolling.

First, I have figured that in the morning I am not so coherent. So anything that require any figment of logic, I try to do the night before.

One key thing is to basically squeeze 2 hour out of my life before I get to work and make an impression to anybody around me as if nothing else has happened. Because if anything goes wrong, then usually I would be faced with a statement "He is a surfer, he does not know the priority of other stuff." At least that's one of the fears that I have. But aside from that if I am late by 30 minutes I stand to lose 5 to 10 waves, and that's significant given that standing up on a board is actually a very small fraction of a time a surfer would spend in his or her entire surfing career. It IS very precious moment.
About a few days before I start to check the forecasts to make sure that where I can go, then start to coordinate any morning meetings and such. If it is going to rain and storm, I still get up at the same time (5:45 AM) but head straight to work and plan a 8:00 AM meeting with my staff.

And night before,

- Pack the change of clothes in the duffel bag, and a pair of street shoes and load them in the car night before. I have been in a situation where I forgot to pack street shoes in the car and had to go to an executive board meeting with a pair of sandals on. If for some reason the condition is not good, I just leave the duffel bag in the car and use the change of clothes for the next session, and pull other set of street clothes out of the closet (as opposed to pull them out of the bag and wear them for the day.)

- Load the car with appropriate set of boards for tomorrow's condition.

- Make sure that wet suits and such are ready to go.

On the morning,

Try to quickly check the condition, head out, and if the condition is ANY surf-able, I'd get out, and paddle.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Enjoy Your Quivers Collection

Many of you thought that I have gone mad by acquiring 3 new surfboards into my quivers this summer. To some extent I do agree. I did not have to get all three, but then I promise that this would be it for a while. My version of the excuse is the Highway 1 closure which resulted in the delay of shipment of all of the surfboard I ordered previously. It is a bit more complicated than that, but let's leave that story there. The end result is that all of the boards that I was going to get in the past year all basically came at the same time.

A lot of surfers also ski or snowboard a lot and a great many of them also travel to other tropical locations to surf. For me though I don't do any of those, instead my mode of operation is to surf almost exclusively in California, with occasional Hawaii trips thrown in. So those who have told me that you were jealous about the rate of my board acquisition, please know that I don't blow $300 to ride some snow at Squaw or North Star and I don't do $2,500 all-inclusive trip to Bali either. So I think I deserve to buy a couple of new boards and one set of wetsuits a year. And besides, I go out at least 3 times a week with the stuff I buy. I at least do 150 sessions a year (I did do more than 260 a year one year), say given a surfboard at $800 and wetsuits at $400, a total of $1200, that comes out to be $8.00 a session! So I think that's still a bargain, and I now buy Epoxy boards so I hardly need to repair them. In fact all of my epoxy board have NEVER been to a shop even if I had them for more than 2 years. So there. $8 to $10 a session is not so bad, and I take care of surfing en route to work most of the time so I am not factoring in the driving cost!

Of course, then, there is the second question. Why do I need to collect so many boards?

I'd be totally frank with you on this. It is because it is fun.

I actually cannot surf any of them. I really suck on any of these boards. I don't even get the most out of each board. But it is exciting to get a new board, ride them, and try to interpret in my own way how they ride differently, and they do ride differently, and teach me a few things or two about the characteristics of each board. Of course, not to the extent whether the rail or rocker differences are significant.

And that brings to this point. There are a lot of people who would want to get a new board advise or two.

I basically came to the conclusion that it is probably pointless to argue these points. These types of arguments belong to professional surfers.

For us we should just get whatever surf boards that attract us, get them, try them, and enjoy and experience them. There really is not a magic perfect board that would transform you into an ace surfer the moment you paddle out with one, and I have not run into one yet. Instead, it is more like try to learn the characteristics of the boards you try. Besides, even if I give you an advise, I know fully well that you are going to go for that board you really wanted. It looks cool and you already fell in love with the way it looks.

We all go through so many different boards we all love them and hate them and sometimes feel totally ripped off, and sometimes totally surprised.

And I think that's also part of the fun of surfing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trust the Board

Trust Your Board
I have been snow skiing for many number of years. As I have gotten better at it, we'd go for steeper and steeper hills. When we get to these places, there are places where the snow groomer won't be able to get in, and then it would be left just to the nature; the snow fall and the wind that shaped the bowl.

When I was in college, and I must admit and say to you that I went to one of these ski colleges where you'd be able to ski for the whole season, I'd go and do the equivalent of an "evening glass off" with my buddy.

There was a bowl under a cliff.

So what we do?

We'd take off from the cliff, drop down into the bowl and then ski the rest of the moguls. And that was basically the routine. Of course, this was when we were at collage ages, we were learning about the physics and mechanics, but we were all struggling over these classes.

So what we do, we stick the front half of our skis and then nudge them into the bowl, and lone behold, the skis catch the slope and go down the slope. Just a few seconds ago, I was thinking there would be no way I would make it, instead, I'd fall forward, tumble and could break one of my legs if the Marker binder would not come off.

This seems to be somewhat of a common theme on board sports.

Today, I would do the same. I'd take off into what I'd consider would be into a definite wipe-out and tumble. In fact that's what would end up happening in 9 of of 10 times, but then I get a glimpse of that good college ski time. Every once in a while I catch that fast wave down.

I must say that it is kind of amazing. When the wave jacks up, it almost looks like a vertical wall that I am going down on. I try my best to take off, and it almost like I am just flying off the tip of the wave. The board and myself shoots very fast towards the bottom of the wave. I don't think it is possible to stand on the board. After all, I am actually not going to stand on the board, but I am actually vertically dropping and attach two of my feet on the board during this vertical drop.

Nevertheless, once in a while, within this very strange configuration of almost free falling the board and my feet come in contact and the next moment, I am set up for a turn.

The first time my buddy lead me to drop in to the bowl from the cliff, I said to myself; "That's nuts!" I was so scared to push my skis off the cliff, I screwed it up a few times, but then eventually I got the timing and everything right, I'd felt that I can drop off from any cliff and catch the slope ahead (I know that's too cocky of me!)

But in surfing it is the same recurring theme. I just do my best taking off, and more often than not, the board catches the wave and I am on the wave, fine and all safe, even though I feel like I am dropping from the sky.

It is really rewarding when all this works out, and goes to say sometimes we can put a lot more trust in the physics and mechanics of how these things work!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Technical Update

Technical Update

I am writing technical updates when I discover something interesting in my learn to surf experience. You can help me by writing your comments and they can remain anonymous.

On this post, I want to discuss about the critical moment of a take-off, and specifically for short boarding. This has been quite a bit of struggle for me and I continue to need to refine the technique. As with any of what I write, my goal is to share what I am experiencing and not necessarily to teach other people to do likewise. I am not a very good surfer, and due to my lower-than-average athletic aptitude and the age, it would be a long way, but having said that I am having really a lot of fun with this.

So what have I learned lately?

I have became somewhat more successful at short board take offs, and there was one key thing happened surrounding this in the past several sessions, and this is something quite different from long boarding, and I've even figured that out by riding long boards some of the times (and this is one of the reason why I advocate all recreational surfers to have a long board in their quivers.)

So what is the discovery?

The discovery is that importance of holding the front of board down during take offs especially on steeper stuff and for short boarding, waves have to be kind of steep to have a successful take off anyways.

As I find the correct spot and when the wave starts to break right at where I am sitting, then it is time to get ready to paddle in really (and really) hard to get into the wave. It is at this point that I am usually left behind the wave not taking off, or worse yet, I just get creamed by the wave. This happens a lot and it will happen for some more times. I originally was on the thinking that the reason I get left behind is because of the paddling power only, but then I think that I am finding out that is not just so.

One time, on successful take off, I almost took off and I thought I was going to left behind, but as I was getting up I was pressing the front of the board rather hard to make the board point down into the wave. That actually worked quite well, then it finally downed on me that I have read somewhere else "Using your chin, hold the board down." And now I've realized pointing the board down is actually quite important in getting the board into the wave.

I think I will be experimenting with this for some time.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Feelin' Norcal Surfing Scene

I do not know if it is just about me or others, but this morning when I went out, I really felt like “I am surfing in Northern California.” It more psychological than anything else because it was just as cloudy as it would be on a summer foggy day, but somehow I felt like I am really surfing further north than most other surfers think about surfing. It was a kind of a morning that started out with drab heavy foggy cloud that was hanging high above the area, there was no sun out the like that. You know, if you are in Hawaii or places like that I would imagine something really sunny, but here, a day like this today I think of a northern fishing town in Ireland or Hokkaido or something. You know... This kind of somewhat depressing weather is juxtaposing with the excitement of surfing and then running in to my other Stokemaster buddies like Ren, which is kind of a “sunny” thing. It is kind of strange. I am wondering if people in So Cal or Hawaii would get the same kind of this strange cocktail of feelings.

Well, as for the session this morning, I got a fair share of rides and they were fun as usual. But I admit it was on a smaller side of a thing even for me who love riding small waves!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quality vs Quantity in a Short Session

During the summer, sometimes, I surf until the sun has just set. I have done sessions that lasted a bit longer than that, in which case, I had to paddle in with a guide of lights on the street or cars, but that's really rare. I don't think that's very safe to do that, though I have even hard of night surfing under the full moon, and there even are some places that let you surf under artificial light. I guess if there is a will, there will be a way. Back to these summer sessions, though, there will always be one or two surfers that would start to get in just when I thought there is no more light left, and if it is left, it would not be any more than the next 20-30 minutes!

I have been thinking about quality vs. quantity thing for the past few weeks. Now that I am working again full time, I my time to surf is either at the start of a day, or at the end of a day unless I am off. So I have been opting for dawn patrol, and I think I will be in this mode for some time. Actually I have became somewhat of a late morning person in the recent months, so I end up getting there and only get to do a 45-minute session.

But would a 45-minute or even 30-minute session just too short to be worthwhile? In my case, I think it would well worth it, because two things. The first and foremost is the whole experience of surfing, and as I surf more and more, I start to really appreciate and miss being inside the water world. It is totally a different medium, the texture of the water under my paddling hands, the floating feel, and going through the water, and just sitting quietly in the outside is just something that I don't get tired of experiencing. That's really a high quality experience no matter which break I choose to go. I am not bothered by the crowd at all any more. Even if I did not catch a wave on a given session, I just am happy that I have been there for a part of my day, and also I pick waves that I like, they are usually small and easy, and in high quality shapes. Sometimes they can be big, but still they are in high quality shapes. Then if I take a nice ride in one, that's just a bonus.

Also, from the physical and mental stand-point of surfing, you can also take advantage of a limited-time session. I have competed several times, and I have realized that I can actually do better under some pressure, like a limited time in a heat. On a limited time session, I know there will be an end shortly, and then I would like to paddle and keep moving around, a strategy that is clearly required for a highly skilled surfer. So if I know I am only going to surf for 45 minutes, then I kind of set myself a bit of goal to make sure that I will do my best within that time limit, and that's fun too. So, if someone gives me 20 minutes to surf, no problem, I think I would still go in for both the experience of it and for improving my surfing skills.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quality vs Quantity

Recently, one of a StokeMaster.COM member wrote to me personally about the importance of enjoying surfing as an experience of being there rather than thinking in terms of how many waves, what types of equipment etc. I totally agree. These days, we talk a lot of things by numbers and we are almost being controlled by them. Almost any business sections of newspapers talk about the Dow Jones average, and a lot of people think of professional sports like baseball and football in terms of the scores and averages.

I do not particularly disagree with these approaches, but we should not always lose out sight.

I had a late afternoon start today, and I only had about 30 minutes of water time, but I was glad I did.

In the fall especially around the time sun sets, you can definitely feel the changes and experiencing the changes in the water is something that I look forward to this time of the year.

I was at a place where you need to do a lot of ducking through to get to the outside. But the sun was just directly ahead of me, getting lower and lower into the horizon. As I paddled out the sun was shining through everything. It was shining through the nose of my board, backlighting the board. As the wave come closer and ready to dump over, I also get to see the sun shining through the thin part of the water. It is orange on top then gets into the dark green hue into complete darkness. I like the feeling of going through the water as I can shoot for the light.

Other than the sound of the ocean there was not any other. It was so quiet and nice.

There were several people watching the sunset at the beach, but I don't think that unless you surf and in the water they would not experience this type of the mixture of color and light.

And that was a heck of a quality experience even though I only caught one wave.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday October 1st. WNW Swell 17 seconds.

Though Ren called me to Linda Mar, I decided to drive down south with a buddy this morning to catch this 17 second west swells. Very very strong sweeping current out there, then on top of that come overhead size close out sets; just about a tad below my comfort and confidence level. We walked closer to south end and paddled out, but before you know, we were swept right back at the parking level and becoming dangerously close to even bigger impact zone north of the beach; if we wind up in there, there is no sunday prayer and I'm glad I had a buddy with me, because that would freak me out if I was all there by myself.

We carefully timed to get in the water between overhead-size killer shore breaks, jumped in paddled out fast to get away from the shore then continued and around these impact zones and waited for sets to come in as the sets started to break further and further out, but when they came they came in a few in a group (always do) and some where mean! If I messed up on a take off on the first wave of a set then the second one is right in front like a big open jaw ready to eat you, digest the board and tug strongly on the leashed leg, sending you down deep inside the water. It is actually not that big of a deal in overall scheme of the things, but still I hate that when that happens. Holding the breath, my eyes tightly closed, keep tumbling, tumbling and tumbling inside the water totally disoriented as the light shining through my eye lids go light, black, light, black... and staying relaxed until the tumble will end is just about all you can do. When I get a chance to get in a pool I always test to see how long I can stay. That's 30 seconds right now. And these holds downs are well under 10 seconds. Still, the anticipation of surfacing and not knowing exactly where I am is not make me feel secure, and when I finally pop out of the water for a breath of fresh air, that tastes so good and appreciate you are alive.

Sometimes, I wonder, "What a stupid choice I made today, and what a stupid sport I have chosen to do." Why I did not go to an easier place I know and could have had some nice relax morning to start a day. But sometimes, that's a surfing experience we all must face occasionally... it is just something that would humble you about a reminder of a small and short life you possess in front of the big nature and the universal scheme of things. If you are a surfer, I konw you can all relate, but if you are not, belive me, you would as if you are going to die in the water, and this happens not just once but it actually becomes a recurring theme intertwined with a lot of fun.

Luckily, when waves are this big enough, then there usually is a chance of inside-reforms that happen. I was on the 9'0 Magic so it turned out that catching the inside reforms were still big and really fun, and when I say it in the inside, it is still quite a bit of way out, so there were some great long rides I've gotten. I have been working on some aggressive tail-spinning long board turns and I was able to nail a few of those. Long boarding is fun in this aspect as you can use the whole length of the board to the things and much much more forgiving.

So in the end, it was still all fun and good, and would at least feel like wanting to accept the challenge again some time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Joy of Frustration

This goes with any skill based activities, but learning a skill can often be very frustrating and stressful, be it learning how to play music, learning to write, and of course learning to surf bigger, faster waves with shorter boards. When it comes to surfing though, the consequence of trying something and it not working can be physically punishing, and I know as spectators that punishing part is just as fun to watch as a surfer surfing in style; like someone going over the falls then creamed by oncoming mass of white water. But as far as that part of surfing goes, I am not so frustrated about that. Being calm and relaxed in the situations like that is almost a requirement to take on "more difficult" waves.

The true frustration sets in when there is a good ride you have been dreaming of executing, and on day that happens, but then it never happens again. Once you taste a "dream" ride in a situation that you have not executed before then it is really exciting. It is either I was lucky or my whole system, from my mind, body, and the choice of equipment are starting to work together. But when you paddle back to the break that never happens, sometimes for days or even for months, and that's one aspect of become being very frustrated with the inconsistencies.

But surfing is probably one of the most inconsistent sports around. The nature itself is very fickle about providing consistent conditions. We don't take the waves for granted, we often be forced and seek them, or paddle around from peak to peak on a single session; tide changes, wind changes, and swell direction, period and height changes constantly, the sand bottom shifts, a rip opens and closes down... So by the time you surf for a few years, you kind of get used to all that.

Come to think, many of my good surfer friends I aspire to are mellow, patient and have established their own philosophy in life.
So it always comes back to me that we should enjoy the process of learning how to surf.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Meeting with Mike Munoz

I actually did not know that I met him until recently. I actually have been thinking about whom I met that was so famous, but it downed on me that that was who he was!

I wrote about how mellow surfing scene is. It is often kind of an experience that you are living in a neighborhood who is really famous, but you'd taken that for granted and thought that it was some other regular old guy next door to you, and much later in life that you'd realize that, "Oh, gosh that's what my dad was telling me about!"

Well, I actually met him and shook hand with him one day in San Jose. It was at the time when the San Jose Museum of Modern Art was doing the Surf Art stuff that started in Laguna Beach Museum of Modern Art, and with a strange coincidence we actually know the person who used be the curator at the institution, and last time I've heard she was going out with a surfer!
At any rate, Mike and Steve Pezman of Sufer's Journal was there, and I took a tour of all of the exhibits with them, and I asked a lot of questions and talked with both of them quite a bit.

I did not realize at the time that he was known for his board shaping so much (I know Mr. Pezman did introduce him to that effect) but today, for whatever the reasons, I have realized that he is one of the significant names in the history of Hawaii and California surfing.
Read this web site, I think you fill find it very interesting

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Need More Home Work!

Back at the home break today. I am glad to say and also sorry to say that one of the most difficult break is right within a walking distance from home. I thought I could "do it," but I scored zero today. What a difference a day makes. One day I have what seems like a 30-second ride and the next day, zero, nothing, zilch! But there was others who scored a few nice ones. It was a very sunny day and there was hardly anybody out. One good surfer was commenting, "I am surprised nobody has dropped by!"

You know I have been talking about two things, still some lack of ability or willingness to take on these rapidly falling waves, and also not be there at right time. But days like these also really teaches me a lesson that surfing is not an easy thing to do, and once I think I am OK, then the nature is going to throw another curve ball at you.

One thing though recently, the more relaxed about it, the more I feel I am up to take the challenges. I am right there with others who are taking these waves, and I am now feeling totally at ease being there.

It goes to say that a lot of this is the mind over matters, then the body. When all of that get harmonized then I know I will be getting into these waves.
After the session I took out my submersible camera and took some pictures from inside the water. It sure is a much cheaper way to do surf shots than buying a huge telephoto lens. Of course, there is a big trade off, I was pounded by the waves a few times holding a stupid camera in my hand. I won't envy the life of these surf photographers like Warren Bolster who just moved on recently.

More of my pictures are -> Here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Walden Magic 9'0 - First Riding Impression

Truly a Friendly Board; Walden Magic 9'0

I now have acquired a new Walden Magic long board. It is a 9'0 length with about 22.5 inch in the middle, and it has an interesting squarely tail to it.

The reason why I got this board is because earlier this summer I was going to get a Robert August board for fun use and also for competitions but because of various local issues I was not able to buy it locally, and since then I have been making much effort.

Last week when I stopped by in Ventura, I bought it directly from the hands of Steven Walden himself. I think you already have read that part. Party because when October rolls in I am going to get busy so I wanted to take care of all of the remaining quiver building this month.

Yesterday, I finally got around to wax the board and put the 8 inch center fin, and like I have been with the Takayama DT4, I am not putting side fins. Now that I said that though I just put back the side fins on the DT4 because yesterday the waves looked rather hollower at the "P" spot. Which was a good move because I actually was able to ride these waves rather aggressively (note I am always talking "in my own standard') and trying to make faster turns and rail switching.

This morning I took the Magic to Santa Cruz Pleasure Point middle peaks and I can give you some initial impression of this board.

As I dipped into the water and started to paddle out, I instantly felt that it was really easy to paddle like a really friendly long board. The DT4 seems take a lot more effort to paddle, probably because it is narrower and thinner, especially in the front. I used to own Dale Velzy 9'0, and I thought that that board was probably easiest of all the long boards I have experienced in terms of paddling (but it is now just a recollection).

Today we had very clean sets up to chest high but very long wave. I had two rides that lasted all the way from the outside to just in front of the stairs next to the green house.

The Magic board caught the wave so much nicely. At one wave, I thought I would not catch the wave, as it felt it was passing under, but in one big jolt of paddling hand, I got into the wave. It is something that I've seen a few people do on my So Cal trip this past week where they just wait until very last moment, and just a single jolt of wave pushing is enough to get them into the wave. So this was something I was really looking for in a long board. For today's condition, the board took off gently into the waves and then "asked me" how I want to go. Here the DT4 is much more sensitive in exchange for a less stability, but on the Magic, I felt that I had a plenty of time to react and when I do ask the board to turn or stay on the trim it just gently accepted my commands and executed them in a very solid manner. The deck felt really stable at almost any speed and walking back and forth on the board was quite easy to accomplish on this board.

After the couple of good waves, I really was pleased to have made this choice. It is going to be a very friendly stable yet fast board to go out with my friends on friendly conditions. I know this board can be used for much bigger and hollower conditions, but for me it really works well for mellow, well shaped waves. (Should have bought it on the way to San Diego!)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Back in Nor Cal

Do people get tired of surfing. For me, I get tired from surfing, but somehow I don't think I would ever get tired of surfing. Do you see the difference? Well, Part of this WavLOG should explain what I mean by that.

So I drove back from Ventura yesterday on US-101. So what do I do? Everywhere the highway turns close to the ocean, my eyes are on the ocean. Is it breaking? Where? How big? I know thats all the surfers do. Next time if you there is a car in front of you suddenly slowing down, then, they are most likely checking out the waves, surf shops or other surfers. Whatever it is it has something to do with surfing.

I kind of know why this is. We are all in the quest of a perfect ride, and we drive up and down the coast, sometimes hours and days to find the perfect place, or at least, the best we can do at the moment. Notice that I am taking about a perfect ride, a singular noun. Yes, it all takes that one perfect ride and we are all content for the rest of the day until, we get out of the water and see another break that happens, which we'd all think "Gosh, we should have stayed in."

So, I drove back from Ventura yesterday on US-101, and what I was thinking? Where should I go when I get back home.

And so my day starts this morning. I get up, and I look at all the local charts on my web site I built. Many people have asked this sort of things in the past; "You must be making a ton of money on your web site." Guess again. From Google, I only take in about $20-30 a month in the summer and in the deep of the winter, zero! It is just enough to pay my ISP. The rest come out of my pocket. But I need to use every skill set I have to keep on surfing. Some people have good physical strength and athletic ability. What is going for me is a bit of geekness going on plus some strength, a lot of enthusiasm, and also a short stature where the waves are almost always overhead! Thank god, because my buddy who is probably hitting close to 6 ft tall would take 2-3 more seconds in the wave period and 1-2 ft more in the swell size for him to enjoy what I get to enjoy every day!

This morning, the main swell component to go for was the WNW swell 4-5 ft at 10 seconds. My answer is to go south. With small amount of wind, we were ready to hit the beach. I was fully equipped with Takayama DT4 as well as Xanadu and John Carper to catch whatever the ocean throws at. I've already guesses where it is going to be, and when we got there, I was right on. Already there were a lot of familiar locals shredding the scene.

So I was back on the Nor Cal water after a week of nice warm and sunny surfing, and did I miss the So Cal surfing today? Fortunately, and I did not. I felt really at home for being pulled back by the white water, pounded by the shore breaks, and took a long time to get out. I really felt that it was a welcome back home treatment. And when I get out, it was some nice peaceful moment in the outside just for a bit then a big set just ate me, held me down and tagged my leg dozen feet down.

I did have a few nice rides though.

I did have a few bad rides too.

And, you know I am going to get back in the water again tomorrow!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Meeting with Steven Walden

Today is actually the last day of my week-long So-Cal solo surf trip. I must say that this trip has been so phenomenal.

Some highlights of this trip includes;

Two solid days of South Swell fun surfing at Cardiff. I could not ask for better. I had so much fun both with my new Xanadu board as well as a rented 8'6 South Point board. i was really be able to put all my skills I have acquired to this point to to my own best version of ripping and shredding, and surfing by my own meant that I get up when I felt like, I was not dictated to eat meals exactly when everyone is supposed to eat at noon and 7 PM. (I can hold out for food when the waves are good), pick and choose when and where to go without coordinating shopping center or district logistics. (Note that I am not complaining about it, rather, I am saying that I could operate on a different mode for a change.) Pure surfing from the morning to the end of the day! And to top that off I got to see world's top surfers like Kelly Slater, Taj Burrows and Andy Irons up close for the first time, and then spoke with Mike Walden himself, and as a result, I now have added a Walden Magic 9'0 into my quiver.

This has been a recurring theme on my trip, and when I talk about that I am not just talking about this trip but about the life long trip for being a surfer. Surfing is really a mellow sport. What other situation allows you to be up close with the world's top athlete, shoot photos etc., then the next moment you get to get a surf board purchasing advise from yet another world-renowned surf board shaper? I have met people or even exchanged few email messages and shook hands with people like Matt Warshaw who was the editor for the Surfer Magazine, and Steven Pezman also was the Surfer Mag guy and runs the Surfers Journal, and you see him on bunch of surf documentary videos! So that's how down-to-earth surfing is. I am really glad to be participating in this sport.

Anyhow, when I walked into Mr. Walden's shop, and he was explaining about a board to another customer, and he notices me checking out the boards. He says, "You've been in here before, right?" I don't know whether that's his regular line or not, but at least that made me feel really comfortable. I think I would use that line at some point in the future; a very good idea.

Like many surfers, he is a short statue guy like me and a whole lot of surfers, but he just can explain so much about the boards he makes, and he also started to manufacture his own EPS core boards. I was asking about whether there are any differences between his glass boards and the new EPS ones (note that I am a big fan of EPS boards because of its strength). He said that the board behaves a tiny bit high-floating than his glass boards, but otherwise they all perform the same. He took an EPS board on his last trip.

He was just so friendly and so enthusiastic about surfing, and when I explained to him about me living only a walk from Mavericks he asked me about Devil's Slides and his last trip from HMB to Wise Shop in SF... all familiar stuff.
Long boarding is really fun, and I know I am going to enjoy it. That's what I told Steve Walden when I left the shop.

Technical Update

Taking off on a wave continues to be one of the most difficult part of surfing, and especially when you are trying to do this on a shorter boards. One thing though, I was just watching several of the top surfers and I was a bit relieved to know that they sometimes are struggling with that too, especially when the waves are smaller. This really makes the playing field level, and so gives chances to many surfers. To this effect, while surfing do require some strong muscles, it also requires a bit of creativity. I have met many surfers, but especially at recreational levels, I found that good surfers are in general very creative people, and they are usually are in a profession that requires that; in other words, they tend to be musicians, artists, physicists, programmers etc., (note that if you are not one of them, you probably did not explore deeper into "real you.")

But here are a couple of my observations.

If they go for a wave and if they take off, it is just a matter of 2-3 paddles into the wave when the wave takes shape. I am not including the counts of the paddles to get to the wave. I cannot define that here but if you go there and see it, you know what I am talking about. So I figure that if I need to paddle more than a few strokes, then I must say that I am not choosing the correct wave. The wave selection really is one of the key factors in a successful take-off. You might wonder what "wave selection" is.

To me they are;
+ Be at the right spot. Good surfers are actually on the move, and know when the next set is coming and where the wave is going to pop.

+ Know when is the right set to catch. This is where I often see some surfers going for every wave, and not catching any.

The time to take off and be up on the board is actually quite variable, I've noticed. There are times when the board does not quite get in the wave and surfers would "wait and see" if the board catches the wave. So getting up on the board quickly is not necessarily the norm. However, the true difference here is that they do get up on the board quickly when they decide that it is the wave to catch.

In the past two days, I have observed the world-class best surfers and also local-level top notches compete and I highly recommend that you go and check out the good surfers make the "best" out of the conditions that they are faced with. This makes the surfing very interesting because you cannot control the environment and condition like you could, say in professional Bowling. And of course, that makes surfing a whole lot more interesting than many other sports.

Trips of "The Lifetime"

If you are just reading the blogger WavLOG, the rest of my travelogs are posted directly on the StokeCOMMUNITY as posts. Please catch them there -> Click.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

San Diego Road Trip Day 1

As many of you know already, I am between jobs. I left my previous job at the end of August and I am starting the next one in October 1st. I am hoping to take this time continue with my quests of "What is the life all about, and how does this relate to surfing?"

So I have packed my car last night (Saturday) and start to head towards San Diego and stop by many of the spots on the way to and on the way back from there. The first stop was in Santa Cruz. I tried to find a motel there to stay overnight so that I can do a DP. I had a late start so I did not leave until 11:00 PM or so. My first goal was to find a motel. Actually it was not easy on Saturday night. But I saw a familiar Vacancy light on in one of the motel. I could not read what the outfit was but by now it was close to midnight so I had to find something quick.

Have you see the movie "Sideways." Well, the place turned out to be one of the Hitching Post Motels. But this one was really in a bad shape and I got charged $89 a night, comes to be $99 with tax. Anyhow, it was a very old building inside and out. I slept OK, but when I tried to take the shower all the hell broke loose. First the shower did not work. I pulled the thing on the faucet to change to the shower mode and it did not work.
Next I tried to take the tub bath, and so I switched the knob to the tub mode and the drain did not close. I stuffed the towel and the emergency patch was completed, but gosh, how these people deserve to get close to $100 a night for such a crappy place!

But I don't dwell on things. I have moved on to Coffee Topia near the Hook for a reliable coffee and pasty before checking out the waves. By then it was already 8:00 AM. When I checked out the parking situation, all of the spots were full on top of that the water looked pathetically flat.

Of course, I now know Santa Cruz like the "back of my head" so I went on to Manresa Beach, which I consider the spot as one of my home breaks. I have to describe why I like this spot a lot but in short I like this spot because it is a beach break and it really can spread out. A savior on crowded day in Santa Cruz, and my surf training is on crappy beach breaks, so I actually tend to enjoy this type of break. But look at how clean it was braking this morning, and my Xanadu Rocky brought me some good rides!

The only problem is the red tide and the water was definitely all red-brown. Right now, as I write this, I am now bit suffering from the stuffy nose! But then this is a surf trip so I am going to live with it. Hopefully this will clear as I surf further south.

The next destination was Rincon and Ventura, so I headed south on US101. I have been on this route so many times on surf trips that I really feel at home driving this route. I can actually say that the entire Califronia coast is kind of my home break, since I have really surfed so many places on the map, stayed there and got to know the towns. Right now, I am writing this at a cafe in Capinteria, which is a town south of Santa Barbara.

When I arrived here, one of the first thing I wated to do was to get a spring suit. Or at least I thought I needed it. I jumped into a surf shop and the guy there told me that water is so cold that he surfed today with his 4/3. Good info. I got to save some money.

After taking a bit of nap at a motel, I headed out to Rincon. It was flat! Check out the picture 2.
Tomorrow morning, I will check out Ventura breaks and if that is not working out I am going to head straight to San Clemente.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Voyage with The Xanadau Rocky, Day 2

The M spot again with the Xanadu this morning. Today?s test was to see how the surfer and board together can make the best out of the junky situation. When I woke up in the morning, it was cold, foggy and soggy. It was definitely not an optimum type of day for surfing for sure.

I waited for my buddy on top of the cliff in the car, hoping that the condition might improve a bit. The enjoyability of the surf continued to be questionable. But my buddy was on a limited time basis so we had to go in.

To get out at this spot at this type of condition requires a bit of planning. First, there is a tremendous amount of side-going current present. Over the years, I have learned where there will be the start of the rip. One thing that I now need to mention is that rip currents sometimes do not go straight out like the diagrams on many rip current descriptions. Here the rip goes diagonal to the beach for some time, eventually dissipates out; and it is for very long distance. At least 400 yards. So if I mess up getting out, I would walk back out on the beach and try to catch the current to see if I'd get out. The tactic here is also try to paddle straight out, and in the direction of the side/rip combo current. If I did that I?d be in the inside impact zone in no time!

I must admit, that I was not that successful in getting out today, I did it a few times. We were there just barely under 1 hour but the workout was so tremendous that once we were out of the water we were just breathing so hard that made talking about the condition difficult!

But then, I did have a few fun rides. To some extent, a 5'10 board is really fun in this type of condition where the waves are popping up all over the places, and I love to ride all these bumps and now the board fits more into these nooks and crannies that making rapid turns to connect among these bumps were really fun. It is definitely very different type of ride than trimming on the wall of a wave on a long board.

Well, so in the end, it was fun and I was glad I went out. I think I can always get something out of a situation. In fact, I don't think I can remember any time when I went out and I had a bad time, even those on which I got injured badly.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Christening of The Xanadu

There was not much action this morning at the J spot, so I went up to the M spot. There definitely were clear swell lines from the NW so that got me excited. It looked fun enough, but I did see some close-out sets, so I decided to drive further up to the L spot to see if it would be a bit mellower, since I was going to to try the new Xanadu Rocky 5?10. With the christening of a new board, I tend to be a bit conservative.

When I arrived at the L spot, though it was closing out rather badly and tide was quite low, so I turned back to the M spot.

A 5?10 is the shortest board yet, I will be riding. I was thinking and fearing about it for a bit that this board may not work out right. But I suited up, and tuck the board inside my right arm, and run down the stair. Gosh, it is so light and small! I am a compact size person so when I started to surfing on these 22-inch wide long board, the board did not fit under my arm so the only way to carry it was to hold it horizontally. Though when I started to surf with Ren, another compact person like me, she does the same thing with her long board, so I was so happy to see another person in the same situation as I was.
In order to counter the length of the board, Kevin at 41 Surf in Santa Cruz equipped me with a set of FCS PG-3, premium 4.5 inch glass fins which is fiberglass composition with inside foil contours. I have also been really pleased with the performance of the Vector foil fins on my other boards so I was really excited about the FCS fins!

When going to a shorter length, there are a few other concerns, like, whether I have a hell of a time paddling out, or back in if I cannot handle the situation; I can stand on it or not; would it totally sink while I wait for the board, and of course once I catch the wave, would I even be able to ride it at all today?

So I am going to answer some of these questions.

Relief #1: I can paddle on this! As soon as I paddled out in the water with this board, it felt a bit strange to have the front nose of the board almost right under my nose! I felt like I was on a boogie board.

That?s how short it is. But I did not notice that much difference in how I moved forward in the water. It was probably harder, but not significantly harder like the time when I switched from a long board only to a 7?6 length. Of course it owes to the board construction, and it still is more of a fishy floating board on top of the epoxy/EPS composition which is lighter to start with. Today it was a bit messy out there and there was that usual current this spot is famous for, but I did not feel that I was overpowered by the current. Duck diving was a snap. It was so much easier with this board than any other ones I owned, including the Wayne Lynch 6?4 I used last week.

Relief #2: The board did sink a bit when sitting on it. But not that much. Now though I can look a bit cooler among others in the lineup where their boards are totally submerged. On this one, only a 5-6 inches of nose was out of the water. I can make it totally submerge but I?d rather sit behind a bit so I can turn around when a set comes in.

Big Relief #3: Well, today I had one really satisfactory wave, and rest of them were a bit too steep for me to catch. But then realized that I can actually go for more power in the wave as the board requires a bit more of that. In terms of getting up and riding the board, I did not feel any difference in the comfort to my 6?4 JC Ugly Stick which is the one I have been riding good part of this summer. It gave me much more supportive and controlled feel than the Rusty Piranha 6?3 I used to have. I felt really at home with this board and it ridden more like the 6?6 R French model, which I sold last month to Ren.


I have a good feeling the Xanadu Rocky 5?10 has already accepted me. I think it will be a fun, great all-around board for me to enjoy the types of breaks I like (inside, up to overhead). It will also be fun to add different set of fins to this setup.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

6 September 2006

Note, this turned up on my old NEO Alphasmart. It appears to be around September 2006.

Last week, I was looking forward to on more day of smooth south swell surfing, but the wind turned SW overnight, and when I checked the Jetty, it was already blown out. But today, the Highway 1 opened up so once again, we had a lot more options to locate spots to surf. A neighbor buddy called me up and said that he would want to go, so we decided to head to Pacifica, and that was probably the best pick for today. Here the SW wind is basically "offshore." And there were some NW swells which were actually kind of big.

I must say, though, I actually don't like offshore conditions here. What happens is that the waves jack up OK, but they do not pitch forward until much later than I'd expect, and in most cases, they just end up closing out in places I surf a lot. More often than not, when the offshore condition is that it can tolerate a much higher level of the wind than onshore conditions, and the surface of the water looks much smoother and easy to paddle out even when it is blowing like 15 knots.

Then there is something about big and small waves too. I've spoken to numerous surfers regarding this topic, and I am starting to appreciate why "bigger" waves can take less effort to catch than smaller waves. A lot of them say they get more tired at the end of a session going after smaller waves.

On things about this is that it still all depends on the shape of the wave, more so than actually they are big or small, plus as always, my own skill and the strength. Or even, sometimes, the proper choice of a board does matter in these cases. In fact, when waves are over a certain size and shape, a good long board is the only way to go.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Long and Short of It

This weekend, I was surfing 3-5 ft beach breaks with my 9'0 Takayama DT4. I must say, long boarding is a lot of fun. Many of surfing buddies, once they switch to short boards they do not seem to care about long boarding, but to me switching between the two teaches me a lot about surfing technique, and also it is just purely fun, smoother, faster and more powerful... quite different from short boarding.

This time, I was a bit more careful in observing what the heck the differences are, so that I can write a bit about the experience.

The first ride of a long board session:

I always mess this ride up. Especially since my main mode of over the wave transport is a short board these days. As the session progresses I regain some of the long board skills and will go much better. This really indicates how a surfer can pick up a specific habit of surfing on a specific type of board.

The Turn Differences

This might be different for you, but for me, but on all rides including short boards, I like to ride in rail-to-rail style, so switching a rail to make a turn is very critical for a success. On my first rides of the sessions this is where I tend to fail. I am feeling like I am doing all of the correct moves, but the board does not turn, and then I'd be taken over by the wave coming from a wrong direction, "za-boom!", the ride ends. What I'd usually realize at this point is that I need to execute a turn from way-way back in the tail side of the board. Just leaning won't make the board to turn so easily. Looking at some good long boarders, they often ride just sitting in the back of the board and let the board pivot around. I personally don't want to do just that, but once the turn is set, the inside rail sinks in to the wave side, I want to move forward a bit. At this point of time, the board starts to gain so much speed. This is where the fun begins where the board picks up the speed, sometimes tremendously!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Collision Avoidance Technqiue

Collision Avoidance Skills

It is an unavoidable fact that given a lineup in a good condition, there will be several surfers. In my early days of surfing, I must say that I had more than a handful of situation where I collided with other surfers. In the past few years though I have not had this occur and I do surf sometimes in a crowded situation where long boarders are coming from far outside, and short boarders can cut right in front of me.

I have been thinking a bit about this for a while, but I think it is a good time for me to summarize and write down my experiences and also how I've learned to avoid collisions.

? First, the most important thing is that I know how to avoid the situation that will result in a collision. I never ever take off in a "party wave" situation unless I know how other people would do.

? That brings to the point of observing everyone in the lineup for a few sets. There will always be one that will try to take off on every wave. But mostly those people tend to be less skilled, but not always. If a person is getting every wave, then I am basically "out of the league" at that section of the lineup. But if the surfer is wiping out 3 out of 4 waves then that's a danger sign. Either ways I would move on to other areas where I can be safer. Also there are people who can only go left or right. Combined with someone who do not yet read the waves right, they take off on a wrong direction, and wipe off immediately. If you know this to be a fact then you can almost always take off from the "back side" of the surfer almost right next.

? Good wave reading skills is also important. I now know more or less instinctively which way the next incoming wave will break.

? Have enough skills so that you can look left and right as you paddle into the wave. If I see someone next to me or coming at me, I can stop paddling and turn the board back. I am not good enough yet like doing a kick out after taking off though.

? You know you see on these pro surfer videos that people are duck diving under the surfer? I thought for a while that happens only with pro surfers but that's now quite a bit of routine. If a surfer comes at me just taking off, I can duck under the water and that is actually a big helper.

? When paddling out, I always paddle around. Sure it takes longer to get to the lineup. One trick is that if there is a side current, I walk up the current bit and ride the current back out so that by the time I get out, I am there.

? On inside 38th etc where people tend to be very friendly and laid back, I usually say "going left or right" as I take off. Or give a quick nod that others can go ahead. Usually if I do that other people tend to yield to you.

? Finally, but not the least, I always try to keep smile on my face, greet people as I pass them padding, and say "hey that was a good one!" when I see the members of a lineup catch a nice ride.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Everyone Has His and Her Own Potato Patch

There was an article in the July 30th edition of San Francisco Magazine titled Wild Surf. As a surfing enthusiast, I could not even escape from the article. My wife must open the unopened newspaper. This means that she would be a bit pissed if I first open the paper. She said that it was the same way with her father. So I guess that runs in the family. At any rate, when she sees any surf related stuff on the paper, she always give that to me with the page with the article facing me on my desk, which turns out to be a corner of a dining table, and which also makes my wife upset after I have decided claim this small real-estate in our home as my "home office." Then later on that day, her mother in law calls us and leaves a message about the article. So I had no way getting out of not reading this article.

Well, finally I had a chance to read this over a dinner sitting at the bar in HMB Inn last night. So here how I internalized the reading of the story.

The article basically tells a story about Dr. Rennaker's obsession and commitment to surf the Potato Patch, which is a treacherous, hard-to-reach area outside of the Golden Gate, and the number of trials and period of time, like 25 years, before he finally surfs the wave as the first person ever.

It was an interesting story not so much from the standpoint of someone surfing a big wave. Personally that really have not interested me mainly because I really cannot relate that to my current level of surfing, and I also know darn well that I won't even be able to consider doing that. It is really almost like a totally a different kind of a sport, though as we surfers all experience from the people who are not surfers, we all be asked about big wave surfing, and I actually have a difficult time explaining about the types of surfing I do; not much more than overhead, paddling no more than 3-4 minutes in to the ocean and if I rode 30 second that's considered a victory.

But then I have felt that just about every surfer would go through mini or micro version of the same story.

Mine is like surfing a locally known bigger spots on actually a bit bigger day.

When I first started to surf, whenever the wave gets a bit bigger I'd go and watch some experts taking waves at ease. I often wondered how they do it and whether I can try it. Then after a while I actually try it, and either I could not make the outside and come back, completely wasting the whole session. But like Dr. Rennaker says in the article it was not a loss, but I've learned a bit more about how the break works in the place and condition. The experience like pulled in or out by the tide and current is just as real as described in the article.

As I practice several months more and get a bit more confidence, I would go out, and I go out and there would be some other factors that would make me not be able to surf. I was not particularly obsessed with surfing at the spot but I'd always hope that some day I can and I keep trying.

Then eventually I would go out and I would come back catching the wave, which would be the biggest and strongest wave I have personally experienced.

And from that standpoint I was really able to relate personally what he went through to get where he wanted to go, and the fact that he never gave up on it, and kept trying all different ways to get there.

So, I think that every surfer has his or her own Potato Patch.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Local Adventures

I am not going to be able to write where I went today, but it was one of those spots that a even a lot of my seasoned friends would not consider going. But a local surf buddy of mine finally convinced me to check the spot out and go. My buddy used surf with yet another local surfer who'd go out to the famous Mavericks break from time to time. Of course, none of us would be crazy enough to do that.
Well, this could have been just another day at the Jetty fighting the crowd and just being a bit frustrated. We checked a few other local spots, but then he said, lets go to "???" Even a local surf shop owner kept telling me "Mano, you ought to try the spot, man!" Today, of course is a small day so I though that there is nothing to lose. All I need to do is just to paddle out and not catch a thing.
So we did.

Normally, my paddle outs are either a two-minute ordeal or otherwise, like my last session, not a great distance but just have to fight the waves to get out. I can handle them. But this afternoon, it was more like the Waikiki session I wrote about a while ago. We had to paddle out a bit far out in the ocean, past the pile of rocks with kelps growing on them. Should this have been bigger, and if I was not careful, I'd be swept into the forest of kelp covered rocks and it is certainly a trip to a ding repair shop, if not at Seaton Coastside Emergency room (again).

Of course today was a really small day so there was not that sort of concerns, but then there is that thought in back of my minds, because just in February of this year, I was standing on top of the bluff just to watch people take these spills, coming close to what I?d be afraid of. So today, it took me quite a bit of time and effort to paddle out where the waves were breaking and with my short board, it was definitely a double effort.

As I caught up with my buddy said this is as close of an experience you can get to surfing at "M?." Well, I think that a bit of inflated statement, but OK, at least if I catch a wave in this that would make me feel a bit gratified.
As for the waves, they were actually bit difficult to catch because if I'd miss the first turn and go straight, there would be the rock waiting for you, and to add to that, the waves did jacked up quite a bit faster and more powerful than what I thought it would. I still don't have that much of the staying power and abilities, so basically for a couple of waves, the board slipped away from me (at least I did not shoot straight to the rocks!).

I did have a couple of waves from the inside, but it was difficult to judge. It is something I would need to get used to.
I am glad I did go. It was totally a new and different experience. I think I would try again when the condition is good for me.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Local Surf, Ripples and Rip Tides in Montara


This morning was a truly local surf scene we all happened to show up at Montara at the about the same time. It was foggy, soggy and junky. But quite often, we'd be forced to pick a spot and this would be "it."

We should be all weary of spots where you can check from a cliff-top, because it is always the case that it looks like an easy paddle out from the top. Well, by now, I am a bit wiser surfer to be fooled by this, but then we paddle out the reality hits the board. I even thought that there was a channel, but that was far from the thought. I jumped in where I thought was a "huge rip like a river flowing out into the ocean" only to find out paddling, ducking, paddling and ducking. Some more experienced surfers were already out, but I could not figure out how, almost. At this point of time, I have gained a bit more confidence and more muscle fibers on my body, but it is still a heck of a lot of work to get out there.

Then sets start cranking, then that's basically is the start and the end of the story. When they start, it would be waves and waves and waves of waves! I am ducking through so many waves and then the lineup seems to be miles away! I look back and I have not moved an inch. Then the waves around me start to form huge ripples? now I am trapped. Cannot go forward nor towards the beach. The only hope is for this set to stop for a while so I can either paddle back and walk up the beach, or paddle out.

Since getting further out was not an option for me, I paddled back in. That took me some effort too. What a relief though when I stand and I feel the sand beyond the layer of rubber wrapping my feet!

I walk down the beach to find another channel.

This time, I found a real channel, and without much effort I am escorted to the outside. Part of me is really freaked out about the fact that I am being carried out towards Hawaii, and at the same time I am so happy that I am so "cool" that I know how to handle the situation. Well, some of my surf buddies are still out there, that gave me an additional piece of mind.

Then there is a wave front coming at me. I push my board down in the water. The board starts to shoot up. I catch the board grabbing the rails and leap forward onto the board. I start to paddle hard, looking far ahead, but also my paddling arms deep in the water, as if I am trying to find something I lost in the water, as I start to feel the tail of the board start to lift off.

"There we go, there we go, there we goooo?" the board catches the wave, and I am in a shoulder. The wave in front of me start to form a nice slanted slope. The board continues to gain more speed. I say to myself, "keep on paddling, I am not there yet." I increase the paddling power on my right arm. It is a left. The board is now starting to glide. With one big push, I tuck my legs under my board as the wave kicks my upper body up.

I am on! I am on the wave!

Now I am up standing on the board, but I find myself in the middle of ripple field.

What's the heck?

As I think about this, there is another bump forms on the right. I pressed my back knee to set up a turn to cut back to the right, and the board responded just in at the right time to shoot myself back to the top of the wave I have just caught. But it was starting to flat out. I pumped hard to gain the speed back as the second ripple stared form right under.

I am back gaining some speed. I climbied back up the second ripple, as the wave started to lose the power. Again, I pumped, that took us to the bottom of the wave. I made another turn. Now I got the speed, and the wave was mine.

I kept riding on a few more ripples connecting them with some good cutback actions. When I finally kicked out of the last ripple, I saw a couple of people at the beach pointing at me.

That was really a gratifying moment, and with that I paddled back out.

Well there was no more repeat of this. I just had one wave on this session, but that was enough and worth the trouble.

I was glad someone did witness this magnificent ride. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

Creating A Ride

Here is some additional story from Saturday session.

I am really convinced that many good women surfers are so much more graceful whether they are on short boards or long boards.

There is at one point in learning surfing when it becomes more about riding the waves than catching them. Crossing this threshold is, in my opinion, very difficult and most people I consider who passed this stage are very limited in number. Most people have the natural knack at this with them being great athletes to start with. I still consider myself in the "catching a wave" stage since I am still spending a majority of time figuring out how to catch a wave when and where and how I want. Many people crosses this stage, then can ride decently. But basically their rides look awkward and do not inspire much confidence. My friend calls these stances "a survival stance."

If you run into a surfer that crossed just this "catching a wave" stage, and now they are riding the waves, they start to look very confident in their rides, and also they are actually creating rides out of the waves ahead of them, really taking advantage of the wave that is ahead of the surfer. It is kind of like a dance performance, except that the performer is provided with a music chart the moment she or he takes off on the wave.

There was one surfer on Saturday session I saw I thought that she has clearly crossed just catching waves then onto actually creating rides on the wave, and that was really stoke inspiring. With her movement all in synch with the wave ahead of her and with graceful movement all on her knee to the upper body.

For me, this type of shift won't happen suddenly on one day, but as I start to catch much larger percent of waves I go for, that will bring more confidence and wave time, and then I can begin to create more on the wave.

Surfing continues to be a very difficult sport to master and at the same time, it is very rewarding every step of the way.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fun Summer Morning Session

  Posted by Picasa

I treat surfing as a mini-version of a real-life. Of course, it is part of a big real life, but sometimes, by separating this part of life out, it is at least provides some interesting perspective in life as a whole.

This morning, we got together with three of my StokeMaster friends and set out to surf. I stopped at the Jetty first. It was really flat. I then called the others not to bother with coming up here, instead head south. The first stop in the south was at the Pescadero. From the top of the cliff as I drove the waves looked really good, so I suited up and waited for the others to show up. But waves were kind of gutless and not really surfable. By the time all my friends showed up, I had to admit that it was a bad call on my part, but then we decided to risk a bit and driver further south. A bit of frustration set in the surf party...

As the road go past the Pigeon Point, it actually runs east, this makes the cove at the Pigeon Point completely south facing. And that is a very good thing because I can gauge how the south swell is doing, and in this case, there were some waves that were breaking. I have heard a few shark situations so I never stepped myself in there, and I do not see many people surfing either at any time of the year. Besides there are a lot of rocks and I think if I am not careful there would be some board damages.

Eventually, we arrived at Waddell Creek. This is one of my most favorite spots when it works, and this morning we were not sure if it would, but we did go in. And this time, some good roller started to come in.

I surfed a lot today, and especially since the competition, I am determined to do certain things right, like paddling back as soon as possible to the lineup. I had a nice drop like the picture above, many other fun rides. I also continued to move around and try to get to where the next peak would pop. It is a real satisfying feel when the wave pops up exactly where I thought it would and there is nobody else on the wave!

So what is the life lesson I spoke about at the beginning of this log? Well, when things are a bit disappointing at the start, we took a bit of risk and tried to continue to hunt for the waves, and then we were able to leap some benefits.

Afterwards we all shared a nice lunch and conversation. Surfing brings so much to life from all angles.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Technical Update Part 2 - Professional Size Spary

Going in when nobody else is going in is something I tend to do a lot, and I really cannot remember any times that I have truly regretted doing it. Yesterday, I got in the water all by myself. It was small so I did not feel unsafe. Besides at this spot, if you paddle out where the breaks are, you can still stand on the sand bar. It is kind of interesting that way. During this session, I've seen a few people watching from the cliff, presumably trying to decide they'd go in or not. For me though I don't have that kind of a luxury. Either I go before I hit the desk or I don't surf for that day.

Nevertheless, while I have had a fair share of zero-catch sessions, they are rare. I'd usually catch waves or two before I get out and head to the office. There usually is a wave or two in an hour to 90-min session even when it looks really flat out there.

So this morning, I did manage to catch a few waves, and a few of them were quite punchy enough for me that they were challenging -- as you know I am trying to work up to be able to catch more waves like really good people can do. Also I did not touch this subject in my recent log, but I now try to catch the wave as if a life depends on it. That means that I will continue to paddle until I am very certain that I did not have a wave, and a few of the take-offs really worked in my favor. I think that it would be a worthwhile effort to keep on paddling into the wave a bit longer before giving up that you did not have the wave.

Another change that I am experiencing is that I almost did not realize how hard of a pressure that I can actually experience in making a turn; especially after at the very bottom of (at least it seems like it) a big straight drop, and that a board can actually hold up to this. As I executed my first bottom turn the pressure on the bottom my feet feel like as if I jumped out from the second floor of a building, and the board is actually making a turn and I am still on the board and it is going so fast that I still feel I am a bit out of control as to what I can do next. On the land, and right now, I know what I could have done. I could really have utilized that speed and power to go back up the wave and do the next one almost just as powerful as the first. Right now, for me though, it is still "easier said than that" stage. But I have a feeling that now that I am tasting a lot more of that today, I think I will get to the point to harness that power.

The spray being thrown at the back of my board on turns at the competition picture is good, but they are nothing like the professional-size spray. My next goal is to get to the point that on the turns these sprays are much more pronounced, perhaps doubling in size.
I feel like I have already starting to unlatch the next door with a bit of a glimpse into what happens next.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Technical Update

My interest and focus in catching more waves have returned. You might ask; "What else were you working on that's not that?" Yes, of course, as I practice on each wave, I try to improve all aspects of surfing, but I now feel that I need to refine the take-off technique to the next level.

Pleasae, though, I would like you to remember whenever you read about describing I am talking about all the skill issues relative to my previous situation, and not relative to yours or Andy Irons!

The area that I am specifically interested in improving are;

* Taking off when there is a lot more power in the wave.
* Develop the staying-power under these types of conditions.
* Reading the waves and positioning.

I am working on this area again because;

* I have gained more confidence in terms of paddling further out and paddling into waves under more variety of situations. The difference now is that I have more confidence. Also when I mess up the take-off, and what happens after that, I can handle these situations with much better skill and confidence.
* As a result of starting to take off on more powerful situations, I am in the wave more frequently. The problem is that what happens after that. What is interesting happening with me on this is that now I keep paddling a lot more and a bit longer and often setting the initial direction.
* And once I am on the board, sometimes, I fall off. This is probably the most aggravating of all because I am in the wave, I have negotiated the first line of drop and was ready to go. I am actually up on the board, but then something isn't quite right to take me to a solid turn #1. All of this is almost exactly the same when I first start to learn how to surf, but now I am starting to deal with much more power, shorter timing and faster speed.

I am presently debating whether to correct and improve these issues through more ground based training, and/or by surfing a lot more. But the answer seems to me that I need to go back to the basics and do some additional ground based stuff since it is probably best to reduce the number of parameters. Perhaps, I should also go to a surfing coach again and get some bad habits spotted too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Post Competition Update

I did surf on Sunday; day after the competition. I surfed with my close local surfing buddy. It was a lot of fun, still some waves were challenging and some waves closed out right after I took off; just like "as usual."

Since I have not been in any other types of competitive athletics, I am not sure if a competitive athlete would go out the next day after getting some result from the competition, unless, of course there is another competition the next day. I remember when Nancy Kerrigan got her medal, and asked what she will do next "I want to go to Disneyland!" If I was in the same situation, I would say, "I want to go surfing!"

I really think that surfing is quite different in this respect, because I do see the same people I have seen at the competition the previous day still having fun surfing. Or for that matter the rest of the day at the competition! It is fun and challenging and, and to me, if I have gotten better, that opens up so much more potential of having fun. Whenever I am out there and I have some satisfying moment, that moment is gone immediately, and I would start to think; "I want to do it again, but with a better or bigger wave next!"

This difference is seriously deep and confirms with me further that surfing is not just a sport, but it seems to hold a key to one a life-long quest and a journey associated with it, and so whenever the chance arises, we all take the board out and paddle out. Winning in a competition is not the ultimate goal, but it is just simply a status check how well things are progressing and part of fun.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Life's First Real Surfing Trophy

My Life's First Real Surfing Trophy

Please open my album as you read this story at
Surfrider Foundation is the organization where I spend part of my time to volunteer my services to contribute some of my computer and organizational skills as well as my love of interested in the oceanic environment. We work with local organizations to get supports and so we usually volunteer our time to "table" these events. This means that we go, set up a table, and provide information, and also gather peoples names and addresses if they are interested in joining our San Mateo chapter to help us out as volunteers.

I have agreed to table the Annual Kafuna Kupuna Contest event at Linda Mar beach. As I left home and drove by the Jetty, it was flat, so I was not expecting much in Linda Mar. But everything has turned out to be a super day for me. First, unlike the usual gloomy and foggy Pacifica this morning was exceptionally clear, and when I got there, there were waves all over, but they were not big. Almost a perfect day for me to surf!

As I was hanging around at the registration for the contest to meet with the organizer and get our booth set up, another surfer friend whom we meet at the contests a lot was there. He said "Hey Manabu-san, you really must like contests! Which heat are you in?" I said "No, I am not competing today and I only brought couple of shorts today!" But he kept insisting, "Oh, come on, man, there are spots, let me ask the guy!" I said, "Look, the list is full all over, it is too late to register." Then the guy on the other side of the table says "Oh, yeah, there is a place for Men's shortboard! What's your name sir? Write it down here because this guy decided not to compete." Oh man! Now once and again, my arms are twisted from both sides to enter. I actually enter the contest myself only once, any other times, it is other people in the surfing community that would twist my arms to enter. Most of these local contests are done in the name of providing some benefit to the community, so I don't mind paying the entry fee and go out and have fun. Nevertheless, the moment I put my name in the ink in that slot, I started to get this jittery feel about this. Especially this is going to be a short board heat. I have not competed ever in a short board heats. That made me even more nervous. It was agonizing next two hours as the clock slowly ticked on, 8:00? 8:17... 9:23? I carefully watched other contestants chose the lineup, where they paddled out, and which waves they caught and which directions worked the best. The contest is moving right along without any delay in heats. It is now 9:45 and I was barely able to just stand on the sand let along paddle out.

Finally it is 10:00 am, only 15 minutes away. I put the jersey on, do some warm up, and try to relax by doing a couple of deep breathing exercise. Everyone is on their jersey and are waiting for the double horn to blow. We shook hands and introduced each other. This is probably one of the most nerve-wrecking periods of any surf contest I have been in.

Well, the judges finally blew the horn twice, and we all started to paddle out. Luckily, the set stopped for a moment and it was an easy paddle out. Having been nervous, I totally forgot to pace my breath and strokes, and I was a bit out of breath as I paddled out. As I started to realize this, I basically said, "Oh, who cares, I will just enjoy and catch a few waves!"

But there was a strong current and I was not making the original lineup. But there was the first wave of the set starting to form just in front of me. That was a lucky break (literally!) I paddled in, and without much effort, I got in the wave. This was a really great wave. I got up early on the face and executed the right turn immediately. I executed standard ups and downs and had a long ride. Some other contestants already wiped out and heading back out.

I paddled back right away after the first ride. But this is something that I have not really been training for. I was even advised by Richard Schmidt to work on it, because I just get off the board and stand and wait to catch some breath and set to die before I get back out. I know that's not what pro surfers do, or even just regular "good" surfers you see. Another thing I remembered was an advise I've gotten when I went out for the first time in a contest, a local surf shop owner told me not to wait for the best set, but catch as many waves are you can, and you will be all set to move up to the next heat.

So as I paddled out another set came and I caught that. Thankfully, I know Linda Mar well by now, and I know waves tend to reform in the inside on larger sets. Wave #2 was not as high quality was #1, but I did ride it through.

The final wave was again a bit more from the outside and I almost did not have that one as it almost closed out but I kept hanging on the wave and as I got closer to the beach I recovered the balance a bit but the horn blew and so I kept riding all the way to the beach, which worked out perfect to complete a heat!

As I un-did the leash, the whole weight was lifted off my back. In some ways, this type of relief is something I would usually not experience. Well, I take it back, sometimes, some of my medical software system stops working for no obvious reasons, and get the issue escalated to me (usually on Monday morning at 2:00 AM after I come back from short vacation) and then it is extremely mission critical to get it working again. The first 5-10 minutes into these types of situation, until I know what is going on, is probably very similar to that.

Did I know I did better than others? Well I don't know actually because I just don't even have time to think about it while in the heat. But personally I thought I felt really great for being able to catch all three rides which is a minimum I had to do.

They've decided that they won't announce the result until the award ceremony so I called my wife to join me for the dinner. I was expecting that I still won't get anything, but at least to see what happens, I went.

It was a long wait too with first music, then raffle, then finally the award part came on. When my division was announced, I was called to the front along with all the people (since this was a single final heat). Then the promoter started to call names from the last place up. Fifth? Fourth? My name is still not called (that's strange, probably they mixed me up), Third? and Second is Manabu. Hey! What?! Unbelievable! I placed on second place?

So I ended up walking away with a second place prize in a men's shortboard heat!

This day ended up a significant milestone day in my life as a surfer!

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Confident Rider

A Confident Rider

Yesterday, I surfed at Cowell's in Santa Cruz. I cannot remember exactly when the last time I surfed there, so it must have been quite some time. In the past few years, when I go to Santa Cruz, I either surf the East Side or go to Manresa, and actually much of the time I stay up closer to breaks in Half Moon Bay.

I was really glad, though, I went, because the waves were fun, and especially I was comparing my experience with Waikiki. Here I don't have to paddle out too far, but we still get some good quality long rides, and like it was in Waikiki sets were far enough in between that getting out was easy and really relaxing just be out waiting for the waves. There were a modest amount of people, but there was a room for just about everyone too.

While I try not to boosting my abilities, I must say that I came a long way since the first time I stepped myself in this break. In fact, this was the only break that I could surf for many of my early sessions. Now I go, catch a wave; go "diagonally" to the wave all the way to the beach from the "outside" where other people are not catching. I have gotten confident enough also that even there are people inside; I can easily negotiate around most people. I can sometimes even work out a course when I was dropped in later, if the surfer wipes out, I can cut over the surfer and continue on!

Every once in a while I do run into a surfer that I would aspire to and I saw a woman surfer who was there catching ton of waves at ease wearing a small smile as she went down the line with really graceful posture. There is this big "confidence" on her that everything looked so natural and part of her from a take off, kick out to paddle back. I was just observing her and I was just watching the whole grace of the thing. It was kind of watching a nice dance performance by master dancers. Everything looked came so easy and effortlessly with her.

There always are other technically good surfers, but I saw that many surfers seems to be forcing something out of their actions, and I feel that I am one of them doing that too. So I really felt that I still have a long way to go, but this is a kind of surfing experience that really is valuable to me.