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.