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!