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.