Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Still Love My Stretch F4 Quad

Technical Update
Still Love My Stretch F4 Quad

DISCLAIMER: Just before I blurb on with surfboards or technique, I am not one of those hot surfers. I am still trying to figure out how to get there and the progress is at the snail's pace.

So what prompted me to write this note is that I put away the Stretch F4 Quad board for a while mainly because the tail-pad started to peel off and I did not get a chance to fix it until this weekend. In the meantime, I was using the JC Ugly Stick 6'4 for several weeks and not having much fun. Until the repair I have been riding the F4 exclusively for short-board sessions, for at least a year at all sorts of conditions.

When first I got this F4 board, I did not know what to say about it, I was much more used to the JC board, but one important thing I've learned is the importance of sticking with one board for a long time. I have realized after being back on the F4 board that this morning I felt like the "magic" has come back. It is probably true that if I stayed on the JC for a long time, I would probably like that too.

Having said that though I have really noticed the following things that I can do better with the F4 board.
  • Taking off on an angle at the top of the wave is more controlled. You know when the edge of the wave starts to fold, and I am trying hard to get into the wave at an angle so I take off and at the same time, I won't get crushed. This is where I feel my surfing is the weakest and every little bit of help is needed still. And since that means I am giving up the wave to the next surfer a lot, I get less time on the wave. Most other buddies I know bring out longboards, take off much further out and sooner, while I sit a bit inside and wait for the sweet spot (yes, I should be paddling for it.)
  • I feel like stalling less often after a take off. This is where I usually (OK, I admit, almost all the time) lose a momentum and can't surf well. I can pump a bit and gain a bit more of speed, and when that works, I can head the board to where the power is on the wave. This is where I feel much more confident and once I am really on the wave like this; getting power from the wave, I can begin to be a bit more creative... perhaps a bit more aggressive in all movements. I am getting there slowly, but there is still a lot of room to work, and more consistent taking-off is most important agenda for me right now. But now it does happen once or twice in a good session, finally I am getting some pay-off.
  • Turns especially going from the bottom going up then cutting back works great... nothing is more satisfying to me than than a clean and long "S" cutbacks! And from the shore it looks like I am drawing an 8. Yeah! That's fun!
When I got the board, I thought 4-fins are a bit of a gimmick (and still may be) but in my situation, I feel like sticking with this board patiently has helped me a lot!

Surfing is very interesting and continues to be because I can never get good at it to the extent I am rarely satisfied with the rides... when I think I have done a good ride there always is someone who does it better than me and more consistently!


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Review: RipCurl F-Bomb vs O'Neill Mutant 3/4

RipCurl F-Bomb vs O'Neill Mutant 3/4

I have written smaller piece of information with respect my new RipCurl F-Bomb and O'Neill Mutant suits before. I have two suits because I usually alternate between them and usually buy a new suit 1 to 1.5 season(s) apart, replacing one at a time, but for some odd reasons two of my old suits ripped this year within a few months of each other.

So I had to replace two suits at about the same time. I paid approximately $320 for each Mutant and F-Bom, though I got RipCurl at discount and and O'Neill at more like the full price so this may not be a "fair" comparison since O'Neill Mutant is a bit lower end positioned product. There are higher-end suits costing more than $500, but I am not sure if they last any longer, so I usually opt for a mid-range price stuff, and buy new ones more often. Besides, the two suits I got this time are both warm enough, I see no points in paying more.

Both are front-zip kind and that's basically the only type of suits I will be using. This is because I do not like verclo around the neck. It is almost amazing that people can construct suits without any verclo on them.

Now that I have been out with both of them, I can write a bit more.


I can definitely say that F-Bomb is noticeably warmer. When I am paddling around a lot in the 53-54 degree Half Moon Bay water, I do get quite hot inside. It feels a bit more water tight. There is quite a bit of the "red" stuff inside the suit, whereas on the Mutant the heat shield material seems to be in the chest and back only. So the "red" matter may be making quite a bit of difference.

I do not mean to say that the Mutant is cold, both are nice and warm in Half Moon Bay surfing situations, but if you want a bit more warmth then between the two I'd choose F-Bomb.


The next day I got F-Bomb I ripped the seams on the neck flap. It took almost a month for them do a warranty fix. It came back with more stitches.

What I did was I pulled the neck flap too hard and the threads in the seam on the flap broke. It is partly my fault to have pulled the flap too hard, but I think there is a bit of design issue there since this never happened with the Mutant or other Xcel suits I have owned. I must say that F-Bomb is still harder to get in and out of. I also like the thicker bigger zipper on Xcels. But after several times of getting in and out of the suits I now can do it with much ease.

In terms of the construction, O'Neill always seem to have mastered the quality in stitching. There is not much dangling threads at the end of seams. Seams are clean. I usually tidy those up by cutting them, and on the RipCurl I had to do some of that.

Also the inside collar part on the O'Neill has stitched re-enforcements. I have been using front-zipped Xcel suits for many years and the inside is just scissors-cut without much re-enforcements (later models put tapes around it), and that's where the suits starts to tear (and that's how I lost two suits this year).

A Major Advantage of the Mutant Constructions

All my suits seems to deteriorate first from the collar. Either the collar rubber splits, deteriorates or tears after a while of use when the rest of the suit look practically new. On the Mutant model, I am supposed to be able to buy replacement flaps both in hooded and plain collar styles. This might help me keep the suit longer. I would like the suits to last two seasons.

Please also note that in my case the suits gets more abuse than typical weekend warriors since I usually do dawn patrol 2 ~ 3 days a week and head to work while the suit stays in the car most part of the day all wet. This is, in addition to, weekend surfing too!

I will be sure to revisit the longevity of both suits in the future WavLog.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Winter Surfing, Staying Warm

Do You Really Need A Heated Wetsuit?

The winter surfing season is upon us, we often think about how we stay warm in the water.

Actually, the coldest water I have experienced here in Half Moon Bay is not in the middle of November or December but in May when strong winds blow across and bring a lot of cold water up in the phenomenon called upwelling. This is the time when the average water temperature dips below 50 degrees F. Getting in and out of the suits in the winter is another story.

I have been surfing here in Half Moon Bay area for many years now with 4 mm suits, but I have not yet switched to a 5 mm suit, and I do not think I ever have to. There is nothing wrong with 5 mm suits, but I also use 3 mm suits in the summer and I can tell how light I feel in and out of the water, so while it is a pure guess I would think I feel significantly heavier with a 5 mm.

In the past couple of years, the suit technology has made a significant evolution. The rubber material feel much lighter, and also many makes started to use welded seams rather than blind stitches. I think that's a great improvement since a break in a string in a seam often cause splits and blind stitch repairs take time. In most warranty repair situation it can take 2 to 4 weeks to get your suits back from the shop.

In addition to the whole suit material they have started to add more heat retaining materials in front of the chest. This firewalling does make quite a bit of difference and when I am paddling hard, I feel the heat reflecting off the chest.

So today's 3/4 mm suits are significantly warmer than the ones just a few years ago. I am not sure what they will come up with next, but I am sure more lighter and warm materials will come in the future.

This year I got two new suits, one is Rip Curl F-Bomb and other is O'Neil Mutant. It just so happened that I have ruined two of the Excels that I have been using for a couple of years. On the average I buy one suit a year alternate them each session as I go in the water 3-4 times a week, often the first thing in the morning and also they stay salty and wet in the car all day until I come home in the evening.

I have used both brands of suits recently and I must say that these are significantly warmer than the others I had in the past. Especially when I am paddling I can actually get hot inside the suits, but that's one of the points of staying warm which is to keep on moving. So I do that a lot by adjusting my lineup positions or going to other peaks throughout the session, I usually am not just in one spot. Trying to get to the next peak before others find out is part of fun in surfing.

In terms of the styles of the suit, I tend to like the front-zip ones. Especially during duck diving, the front-zip ones tend to leak less water. The integrated hood also does help to this effect. The part I do not like about the rear-zip ones are two folds. Most rear-zip ones require a verclo closure. This material tends to lose the grip before the rest of the suit goes. When that happens you have one heck of a leaky suit. And anyone who have forgotten to tighten the neck closure or forgotten to zip up fully know this.

Another irritations with verclo are if any part of it is exposed to your skin, it makes a rash, and also it sticks just about any place and damages the jersey material inside the suit when washing or handling it after a session.

Most front-zip ones do not use verclo. In fact it is so much so that Excel front zip Infinity suits I had did not have any verclo on the suit. I was amazed with the clever design of that too.

The next key to retaining the warmth is to wearing a hood. If your suit does not come with a hood, I recommend you either get a Squid head type or a vest with an integrated hood. The vest kind is a bit warmer as it helps seal the water around the neck too. Often I actually get hot so I take it on and off in a session.

Another important thing may be is preventing the surfer's ear condition, which is an unwanted bone growth in the ear canal. It is said to be triggered even from the outside of the skull. So keeping the whole head warm may be important especially if you go out a lot.

If your suit is a bit older and you want to hang on to it (I'd rotate that into a spare stock myself), get a thicker under-garment called Mysterioso which is available in surf shops or outdoorzy places like REI. Pull the collar as high as possible after you put the suit on. This helps seal (i.e., slow down the speed and volumes of water coming in) and so makes a significant difference over plain rash guards.

So in summary, I would;
  • Invest in a newer mid to high range front-zip wetsuits with welded seams. Invest $60 to $100 more than the lowest end ones (almost always a rear-zip type) will get you a significantly better deal, I paid < $400 with tax for mine. No need to get into a high-end costing $600 or above with fancier materials. You are reaching for an incremental improvement there. I'd rather get new suites more often.
  • Get a hood.
  • Keep on moving in a session.
  • Ask or Share Your Experience On This Blog.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

It's The Shape That Matters

It's The Shape That Matters
Don't Laugh at Small Waves

Our friends Miguel from El Porto provided me with this link to a local blog site out there on the other day.

As long as we know, the "size" is usually what people talk about. Just eaves drop on a surfer on a cell phone, the chances are you'd hear "It's small", "It's big..."

My findings have been though it isn't really the size of the waves that really matters to me. It really is the shape that I am going for. If the shape of the wave is nice, clean and forming somewhat slow and not walled up or closed out, I'd go out practically any size from knee high to double the size of my height and I am a bit at an advantage with my 5'6 height, there are more overhead days than my my much taller buddies. I can also fit inside more tubes than them too (provided that I know how.)

Small waves are just as difficult to surf than bigger (and especially faster) ones and surprisingly require similar technique. I mean the following sort of things;
  • I need to paddle harder to catch.
  • I need to get up on the board quickly
  • I need to turn the board to the wave sooner
OK, so what do I need to do in a bigger more demanding situation?
  • I need to paddle harder to catch.
  • I need to get up on the board quickly
  • I need to turn the board to the wave sooner
In essence I believe that if I master small waves, the same technique provides the building block necessary to master the wave riding in just about any conditions. The only difference in the small wave condition is that I need to be a bit more gentle and precise in all moves once I am up on the board. These requirements also help make me a more precise surfer in bigger condition.

So if you have been hesitating or even ashamed of getting into the smaller stuff. I'd encourage you to try it out. I recommend it highly.

Beside it is always surprising more often than not, it is always more fun than what it looks like from the shore. I am thanking to those surfer who turn away. I get to catch a lot more waves!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Fear Topic: Fear of Getting Better

The Fear Topic
The Fear of Getting Better

It has been quite a whil since I wrote a post on my blog. I had a bit of cold last week that put me down for about a week. Then at the same time our area was blanketed with a massive Red Tide phenomenon. As I wrote here before I am very sensitive to the Red Tide situation, and when I go in the water, I am sure to get some nasty sinus problem that can last for a few months. So these days I have been very cautious and I have not had an incident for over a year now.

Another reason why I do not write often is that I should write something when I can really write about something so it would be both worthwhile for me to write and for you to read.

I was surfing at Montara yesterday in late morning and there was one other good surfer out there. He was catching waves significantly more than I did. I was thinking about what the difference between him and me, and I came to the conclusion that another "Fear" is part of the issue.

Let me explain why.

Over the years I have been able to handle pretty fearful conditions (I am still talking about relative to myself.) But going to Montara was one of the biggest fears that I had to work on. The waves does pack more energy. It is a beach that we usually lose a few people every year. It did happen this late spring too. I had a surfing accident there that resulted in 5-stitches and where nearly missed the siatic vein. I overcame the fear when I got more used to handle the waves... getting in and out of massive shore breaks, duck diving through to get to the outside etc.

You've probably read about my fear of ocean currents. The current is usually very strong around here even at the Jetty. I paddle out and I usually end up at a totally the different spot from where I intended and during the session I often notice drifting fast. The most fearful time is though when I get caught in the rip and I start to move further away from the shore. That have been very terrifying. I ended up overcoming this fear through one of the most fearful incidents. My leash snapped quite far out in one of the bigger spots near the "radar" As it turned out I was able to swim back to the shore. You've read about that also.

Catching faster waves, pearling, held over etc. I am managing those too. When the condition is right I can catch shapes and sizes of the waves the other good people are catching.

So these days I have gotten sufficient technical skills and body strengths that I can handle the situations where most "regular local" surfers handle. The level of the fear in these areas are now significantly less in my mind.

But still I am not surfing as well as those locals.

And that's this post is all about.

From Friday's session I now came to the conclusion that I am now afraid of surfing as good as others. I am afraid of being "successful" at something even though I have all the confidence and skills to do that. If I am forced, I will go further out, go to the peak and catch the waves more aggressively. As this Friday, there was nobody else really out so I don't even have to be so aggro about getting waves. I just have to make myself do it.

I am not quite sure that why I am stuck with this type of fear, but then I was thinking more about it, a lot of people have this type of fear in many other aspects of daily life.

Things like "slump" or "writers block" got a lot to do with this. May be this is something about "Self Esteem" issue. And that's probably true. Deep inside I have been keep telling myself, "I am not a good athlete. These good surfers have been in sport team when they are in high school..."

So I my next project to join the rank of "Local Good Surfers."

Whatever you are working on, perhaps, you may be stuck in similar kind of fear.

I am going to work on it now, and you should and you can too!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Surf’s Up at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery

Surf's Up at SFMOMA Gallery
Exhibition Explores Ocean Environment and Surf Culture

via Press Release

June 4, 2009

Contact: Maria Medua, 415/614-3201, mmedua@sfmoma.org
Surf’s Up at the SFMOMA Artists Gallery
Exhibition Explores Ocean Environment and Surf Culture

From July 16 to August 28, 2009, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery will present the exhibition Pipeline: Art, Surfing, and the Ocean Environment. The exhibition examines the influence of surf culture on Bay Area artists and will feature paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, film, and mixed media works alongside custom surfboards by Jeff Clark, one of the most noteworthy big wave surfers. Artists in the exhibition include Doug Acton, Anthony Bacigalupo, Jo Ann Biagini, Leo Bersamina, Charlie Callahan, George Corzine, Peter Shepard Cole, Keone Downing, Jessica Dunne, Jack Y. Ford Collection, Colin Gift, Dale Hope/Kahala, Terry Hoff, Max Lawrence, Ian MacLean, Reuben Margolin, Serena Mitnik-Miller, Linny Morris, Adrienne Keahi Pao, Frank Quirarte, Don Ross, and Charles Valoroso.

The title of the exhibition takes its name from the Pipeline, a wave that breaks at Ehukai beach on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, the birth place of surfing. The sport was popularized by Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian waterman Duke Kahanamoku in the early part of the 20th century. It spread to the United States, catching on first in California, and reached new heights in the 1960s, when surfing as a phenomenon became a nexus between youth culture and expressions of personal freedom. In recent years, California surfers have become an important arm of the environmental movement, raising awareness about the condition of the shoreline and ocean.

Exhibition Highlights

In the exhibition are paintings by Charlie Callahan that reverse the typical roles in which nature and humans are cast. His vivid, large-scale works painted on beach debris, imagine humans as victims consumed by sea predators.

Reuben Margolin looks closely at water, observes its dynamics, and translates it into handcrafted forms using salvaged materials. The resulting kinetic sculptures are moving tributes to the unseen forces that move water.

Adrienne Pao’s series of color photographs evoke travel posters that have attracted tourists to the Hawaiian Islands since the advent of jet travel.Beachfront Property at Diamond Head/Lei’ahi Kapa depicts the Waikiki shoreline of today, overrun with tourists and encroached upon by concrete high rises. The Hawaiian title, Lei’ahi Kapa, refers to the origins of the site and calls to mind a past that cannot be retrieved. Pao re-frames the visitor experience and calls into question the practice of exoticizing other cultures, the natural environment, and women.

Charles Valoroso grew up surfing Kalapaki on the island of Kauai. He is noted as the first artist to pay homage to the Aloha shirt in a series of large-scale oil paintings. His work has been translated into textiles for the Kahala shirt line. For the exhibition he will present an installation piece that includes paintings of the ocean that verge on the abstract and as well as works from his Bikini Atoll series.

Linny Morris photographed environmental issues such as the struggle to preserve Midway Atoll and its wildlife. She also made photographs of the world that exists below the surface of the water. Her appreciation of the ocean and her eye for abstraction are showcased in the exhibition.

Peter Shepard Cole’s realist works evoke the early period of Hawaiian contact with the West. His references are haunting; there are native women donned in layers of Victorian garb and hand-to-hand combatants. In the painting, Self-Portrait as Captain Cook, Cole imagines himself in the vulnerable position of the man who opened the door to the transformation of Hawaii and paid a high price for it.

Related Film

In partnership with The Surfer’s Journal, the exhibition will also include an education room featuring the Journal's series 50 Years of Surfing on Filmshowcasing prominent surf filmmakers. The film surveys the history of surf films through interviews of the most influential filmmakers and the surfers in their films, along with clips from those historical features. In the process of covering the evolution of surf films it also depicts the surf culture in transition from 1940s to 2000s.

* * *

Where: SFMOMA Artists Gallery, Building A, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

When: July 16–August 28, 2009.

Gallery hours: 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Tues.–Sat.

Opening reception: Thurs., July 16, 5:30–7:30 p.m. featuring the music of The Eldorados, a four-piece surf band that includes Stu Brandt, Mark Scardello, Jeff Moon and Scott Culbertson.

Admission: Free

* * *

Representing Northern California artists, the SFMOMA Artists Gallery offers a diverse selection of original artwork for sale and rent.

The SFMOMA Artists Gallery is located in Building A at Fort Mason Center. Gallery hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission to gallery exhibitions is free of charge.

Visit our website at www.sfmoma.org/artistsgallery or call 415/441-4777 for more information.

* * *

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Q/A Stinky Wet Stuff?

StokeMaster Network Q/A
Stinky Wet Stuff?

So this one is a response to Peter who is one of my StokeMaster Network member. This is about how I am avoiding getting my stuff from stinking up, especially booties.

In order to tackle this you need to be a bit of micro-biologist.
First off, you need to understand the fermentation process.

Fermentation process is very important for all of us. Without out it, we don't have bread, beer, sake, wine, cheese to just name a few all of which I like to enjoy. On the other end of the spectrum fermentation can occur in and around your body. Yeast infection, for example, is a fermentation go wild.

In my opinion, a good deal of the stinky stuff happens due to fermentation.

In order to fermentation to take place you need to have an environment
  • The presence of the seed organisms
  • The growing medium for the micro-organisms
  • The nutrient that feeds the organisms
  • The temperature
  • The time
  • The lack of infectious or anti-agent for the growth
Given all above factors to work out, the organisms take in the nutrient in the growing medium and covert the nutrients into bi-products. Some of which is CO2 and other are complex protein or gas like hydrogen sulfide etc.

First the ocean and your skin contains lots of different kinds of organisms. Probably in the order of hundreds if not thousands.

The sea water is very nutrient rich and especially these days with pollution, fertilizer leeching into the ocean and as your stuff drys the nutrient get more concentrated making easier for the organisms to find and go in production. You only need a few of these organisms but they multiply very fast especially in your warm house or inside a car.

Also no matter how hard your wash your body, you cannot get rid of the native organisms that are on your skin.... two bit strikes there.

In terms of the nutrients, you have some hope. Flushing and rinsing your wet stuff with clean water can remove quite a bit of the nutritious sea water. I'd do that vigorously and as soon as possible.

The temperature is actually important. If you leave the wet stuff in your hot car, it will simply help the organisms to multiply much faster and they can work even at 90 to 120 degrees. Note that the lack of oxygen does not matter and in fact, I believe that anaerobic fermentation can create a lot more different proteins than just aerobic one in which most of the stuff goes from O2 to CO2.

So I'd rinse and hang the stuff in colder place as soon as possible.

Next is the time. If you can prevent the fermentation process to stop sooner, the less bi-products that get generated. To this effect making sure that the stuff drys faster is important. You can notice a significant difference when you blow the fan on the stuff and have them dry. I personally throw all the stuff in the washer and not wash them but put them in a spin cycle to get most of the water out first. Washing will destroy the rubber stuff so don't machine wash your suits.

Finally it is possible to further reduce the growth by;

- Wash with light amount of dish soap, shampoo, Woolite etc. This will help remove various nutrients and organisms too from the cells of the neoprene.
- Applying a light coat of Lysol type stuff.
- Use Mirazyme from McNett and have it enzymatically break down the bi-products
- Use very weak solution of bleach, but this is not recommended for rubber materials

OK, now you can help by writing comments with what you know. Be sure also to tell me if I said something wrong.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Technical Update: Paddling Topic

Technical Update: Paddling Topic

In addition to trying to look good while I am up on the board, lately, I have been training myself to be a better paddler.

When I started surfing, I was so weak of a paddler that practically everyone passed by me. Older people, kids and women... I was so embarrassingly bad. Not only that paddling only for a few minutes caused so much pain in the muscles that I had to stop. I was just completely out of shape in terms of paddling.

As I surfed more I have been able to get to the average speed but it was still not good enough to be with a group of more experienced surfers. I was always left behind when they all moved from one peak to another.

Now I am at a level that I can keep up with others in most sessions.

But when I am in Santa Cruz or Trestles there always are people who are significantly more stronger than me, and many of these people look smaller and thinner than me and so I wonder where these muscle powers are stored. They take waves and while I am still paddling out they are already at the lineup. Amazing!

Without some power, it is difficult to hit the "outside." My experience with this is that there is some threshold of speed that you need to attain, and here is what I mean.

When paddling in the inside part of the ocean, there are more white water breaks, and the water seems to flow back towards the beach. I've seen some beginner surfers from the side that they are continuously paddling but they are staying basically at the same spot or gradually going backwards. I am sure that they do not realize that they are retreating instead of moving forward. I've seen this happen to me a lot at Montara or Ocean Beach, for example, when I am paddling for a while and when I look back I am basically at the shore! Nevertheless other and better people do make it to the outside. This is not to mention how far up and down to the side of the beach I have drifted.

So I must conclude that when you are a waker surfer, you cannot even overcome this initial part of the game of getting out. This is even without talking about turtling or duck diving. They do help but without some basic power to overcome the speed there is nothing you can do, but get back to the car and go get a cup of coffee or a glass of beer instead.

As far as the paddling technique goes, my experience with it is that it can be used to generate more efficient paddling but still without the muscles to support the power you cannot paddle fast enough. In addition, improved techniques will begin to utilize more and other parts of the muscles that you have not used much so far yet (unless you swim hard already.) Given the muscles though the "better" surfers palms are nearly closer to the center of the board under water, not directly under the rails. Watch some under water videos of pros paddling out. Another things you notice is that when you begin the stroke put the palm in the water from thumb first. This will get your hand and arm faster in the water at the point where your muscle power is the least from the leverage point.

Some additional findings are that smoother, slower and big stroke paddling gives much less fatigue and often I can move faster in the water. Especially I have been working so that the same amount of power is continuously applied while altering hands, this way I am preserving any gained momentum.

Also this is especially true with short boarding. Dragging the feet in the water can generate additional resistance. I try to make sure that my feet are out of the water. I use one of the legs to prop up other slightly. That's get tiring so I alternate the legs.

Watching strong and good surfers, they really look nice, natural and confident paddling and I am trying to get to that stage.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Would I Still Surf in the Rain?

Would I Still Surf in the Rain?

So this is mainly in the comment posted in response to my previous post from Gloria of Santa Cruz California. She does bring a good point, so I am going to put some positive spin on surfing in the rain stuff.
I had a fair share of nice rain surfing. Locally it seems to happen towards the end of the summer in Northern California as the autumn approaches. Some of the best ones goes like this.
A morning starts with mostly sunny with scattered clouds, and as the day goes by the clouds would move in. The sky is full of clouds of all different shapes, some were swept with a stroke of a brush and some look like growing monsters... The horizon starts to get a bit blue grayish, but still sunny here and there. The winds have not kicked up yet, and I have paddled out to some nice clean outside lineup and we could be chatting with our buddies in the lineup.
It then starts to sprinkle and it makes some nice sound and glistening splash pattern on the water with small circular wavelets. The rain is not cold and it is almost warm to the touch. It washes away some of the salt from my head.
Then with the darkened backdrop pop complete double rainbows from both ends touching the ocean, or perhaps, 1/4 of the circle looking like emanating from the horizon.
Then it stops completely and back to sunny again, and we'd catch the last wave of the morning and head our ways to for the "rest of the day" stuff all content and re-energized and somewhat sad that we all know the summer is ending, and somewhat happy to look forward to some bigger stuff coming in a few weeks down.
Now, that's surfing in the rain!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Not surfing in the rain any more?

The Rain Topic. Rain in May?

Gosh, it is already May and it is rather strange to see the rain at this time of the year in Northern California, and also very unusual South wind pattern that goes with it. Typically around this time of the year, we start to get NW winds and fog developing. And I thought that it was going to be a short days of rain but it looks like it will continue for several more days.

It has been an on-going joke among us that if one of us would utter "I am not going surfing because it's rainy out." The usual response is that "why not, you are going to get wet anyway."

True, but I think that I am going to think about that for a moment.

The reasons why I'd not feel like going out in the rain.
  • It really still feel so much greater if it is nice, warm and sunny out.
  • It is really a hassle to change when it is raining, and when it is raining, it usually also is storming to some extent. It is nice to come back to dry and sunny situation, hang around in the parking for a while after surfing. When it is pouring, it is amazing how the towel soak up the water so fast. It is amazing to the extent to think of amout of the water that come down to a small square footage where I stand. Multiply this by the size under the rain cloud, that's a tremendous amount of water we are talking about.
  • We always worry about the run-off. Especially in San Mateo county, I am a bit worried about (but may be not 100% warranted) lots of horse ranches there and all of the stuff on their ground... At any rate, whenever it is rainy and stormy, the water looks murky and stirred up a bit.
  • If it is really pouring, we know that sewage plants might overflow....
So these are the reasons sometimes I do avoid water when it is rainy.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The "Confidence" Thing

The "Confidence" Thing

I just got a comment from a surfer in Australia about thanking me writing about the fear. Funny because lately I have also been thinking about the confidence thing, which is either exactly or almost other side of the coin from the fear.

I would say so because as more we conquer the fear the more we become confident.

I am now remembering the first day out at Montara, and I paddled out and I thought that I could never be able to come back to the land. I paddled out with other better surfers when I only had just a few sessions under my belt. Quickly I was pulled away from the comfort of being able to sand on the shallow water, and the panic ensued. I was frantically trying to paddle back, but no matter how hard I tried to paddle I felt like I was getting away from the shore.

Remembering that day from where I am today, it was a sunny clean day without much wave action. But, I do remember that day clearly, and I did think that it would be a horrible day for me and my friend when they would have to call the Coast Guard or something to come rescue me.

Though the fear was mostly inside my brain. I did manage to paddle back to the shore. It was probably only the first 5 minutes that seemed like forever as the shore did not come closer, but once I saw the shore closing in, I felt much better.

At that time, I thought and admired many people having so much confidence in being able to paddle out much further out in the ocean.

Many years later in a local bigger break, a big wave was braking and it was too late to paddle to the outside. The only option was for me to bail (throw the board to the shore just in time -- normally we should not be doing this sort of things, but there was nobody around me so I felt that that was the best thing for me to do.) Instead of my leg being dragged under water, the board slipped away, the leash came undone and I could not find the board. This is probably one of the worst case scenario where it is bigger, stronger and I was already fairly way out. By this session though, I was confident enough that I can swim toward the "zone" so that I can take advantage of incoming wave and I can also take my time getting back there. Still a bit scary, I could keep my calm and slowly swam away from the rip current and toward the shore. Sure enough, in no time I was standing back on the beach and picking up the washed up board, and paddling back out after resting a bit from the swimming. This is where years of short boarding have been really helpful.

Should I have panicked at that moment the situation could have been worse, but I did feel a true sense of confidence.

Sizes of the wave is the same thing. I am now starting to look forward to the days when the swell period is more than 14 or 15 seconds and height can be more than 10 ft. Just a few years ago, I was hoping that it won't get that big. Of course, for many real surfers that probably would be on a smaller on scale, but I know where and when to hit breaks when the situation is like that and how to position myself to enjoy catching waves. The confidence in this area comes from a lot more experience in the wave. Frankly I have not changed too much physically in the past 2-3 years, but my minds are more set to deal with these types of situations, and as a result, I am not particularly struggling to "show off" how strong of a surfer I have gotten, but it is more like part of the environment, like a cat that can easily jump several times over their height, so as a result I am enjoying a wider variety of conditions.

The process was definitely not overnight type thing for me. I do say that I have been working on it on a very gradual basis, but I did identify the various causes of the fear along the way and worked specifically on them.

One of the worst fears that I had for the longest time was that I would get carried away by some strong current and swept away even on days when it is calm and clean, and the more I think about it the more fearful I have gotten. There are one or two news stories like those in a year that usually happen in Pacific Northwest on huge Alaskan swell days (I know enough about it that I won't go out on these types of conditions.) What actually helped me on these fears was that when my board came apart a few times and in all times, I was able to get to the shore in a short time and realized that these types of the fears are not really warranted under the situations I would go out. Also as I have been writing off and on, surfing with other stronger surfers provide additional opportunities to expose myself into the "next level" situations and once I do those a few times, my fear levels tend to go lower.

I know many of you are like me, but I think that with identifying your own fears and then work on them gradually would go a long way in overcoming the fear, and I am using this in my other real life scenarios outside of surfing.

Have fun!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Are You Dialed In?

Are You Dialed In?

There was a comment in my previous WavLOG post about the importance of being Dialed In. I have been thinking about this and how to be a totally "dialed in" surfer.

You might ask; Is it mportant to be "dialed in?" I would definitely think so because unlike most other sports, surfing is subject to continuous changes in the nature, and we are talking about a few hours of optimum window, and hitting the spot at right time period can make a significant difference in the surfing experience.

Through operating my StokeMaster.COM, I have realized that one of the things people wanted to know the most was when and where to hit the beach. This brings to the second reason why being "dialed in" is important. It has to do with your own surfing skill set. Through outing with many people at different skill levels, the perception of what an acceptable condition can vary greatly. I am fairly stupid in this aspect of it to the extent that if I see waves that look ridable, I'd go if it is not dangerous looking. But some people are very picky and others are totally clue-less. I cannot comment who would be the winner in these situations -- sometimes Ignorance is a Bliss... But nevertheless, if you are not willing to paddle out with me because you happened not to like what I like then there is nothing I can and will do. I do think though, I know anyone want to get their favorite conditions, so that means you ought to be dialed into the condition you like.

So what I think is helpful to become "dialed-in?"

First I think that you should start taking some notes. I have been blogging frequently so that's how I managed mine. In your case it can be a note in your calendar or Facbook post... whatever works. The idea here is it is documented and you can go back to these records in the future. They do not have to be detailed, but you'd want to write down things like where you went, the tide level, the direction, period and the height of the swell, and overall winds. If you have different boards, you may want to write down what you used then. The idea is that if these numbers match up in the future, it is likely that the you can have similar experience, though I can even say that they would not be identical, you will start making your own system of surf forecasting that is really customized for your own needs.

There are numerous surf forecasting sites too, but way I use them is to compare with what I have actually experienced and what they were saying. Their ideas of what's big can be impossibly huge for you. But given that if they say it is big, then next time you know they are going to be huge. While they may not be telling what you want to hear, most forecast sites are at least consistent based on the surf parameters.

As your surfing skills or styles change over time, especially if you are seriously into it, your own forecast will change over time too, and that's important. This is typically what old surfers call "Paying The Dues."

Where would you start?

I would skip all spoon-fed surf forecasts from commercial sites that tells you to "go" or "not to go", and try to understand the winds, swell and tide parameters, and if you are interested in a longer term forecast, I would go to more specialized site like StormSurf.COM and read the full ocean and weather analysis. First, it may not make much sense to you but as you do it for a while things start to come together and before you know it, you would be able to know up to a week ahead of time where and when you will want to go. This means that you won't be wasting a weekend driving around and not getting in the water several days before the weekend arrives. Your surf plan would become significantly more efficient. For me, it is essential because I allot a 45-minute window to surf every morning. Depending it is go or no-go for the next morning I schedule other works or appointments, and I can usually do this at least 3 days to a week ahead of time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

How To Get To Be a (Technically) Better Surfer

How To Get To Be a (Technically) Better Surfer

We all make a few New Years resolution. On this post, I would like to share what were useful for my surfing skills improvements. You can write to me at Master(at)StokeMaster.COM for suggestions and I will share with our loyal WavLOG fans.

Surf with Better Surfers Once in a While

For the morale support getting out with people with similar level is important and that's my standard mode of operations in most sessions, but every once in a while a chance arises that someone better than you might ask you to come along. I'd ask to make sure that the condition and place is OK for you (and they can usually tell.) What this does is to add a bit of exposure for you to surf in a bit more difficult situations, for example, more powerful breaks or uncharted (in your map) locations. After successfully coming back (you do almost all the time) from these sessions, it boosts a level of confidence in your surfing abilities. I've "leaned" to go to OBs, Montara, and "outside peaks" in SC this way. And ask lots of questions how to surf in these areas.

Go To Surf Camp for a Week

There are instructor-lead adult surf camps all over the places. I would recommend actual tent-camping (not hotel kind) surf camps that would go to somewhat remote locations like Baja, let your cell phones die and be a 100% surfer for a week. I would not do one with your friends since getting instructions every day and meeting other better surfers is one of the most important thing.

Stick with One Board

Sure it is tempting to buy that quad, this fish and keep blaming on tools for our inability to surf well. We are taught from early on that we solve our life problems by consuming. I understand that we need to support our economy this way but for the art and surfing (and the art of surfing) exploring all possibilities within the limitation or confine of a medium is of key importance, I've realized.

So stick with one surf board for a while and really get familiar with it, explore everything about surfing that darn board. I am talking about doing this for one or two seasons. So pick one board this year and surf until you feel you have graduated from it.

Next time you see our friend Elizabeth or Jocelyn, ask for their stories on this.

Enter in A Contest or Two

One of my very close friend strongly disagree with me on this on the ground that any competing activity is bad, but depending on your personality, having a drop-dead goal date is a very strong motivator for getting things done. I fall into that category of people. Surf contests have a fixed date to go for, and of course we need to perform on the waves. I do often have to rely on something like this to set a goal. If you are more determined person, no, you can set a goal without such a thing, I agree.

So I enter the contest early and practice for it. Locally in this area there are "all levels" contest two or three times in Pacifica later in the summer and fall. They are really for the enjoyment of surfing by the community and your fees will support local beach cleanup programs too. I will guarantee you that you won't be on Surfer Magazine's cover for appearing or even coming to the first place on any of these contests. But I know I will be competing with my own limitations year to year.

Surf Regularly

This may be difficult for you but I'd set aside a block of time, declare that as "your time" with your family and friends and so long as it is safe to go, then go. If the condition is not safe I'd still do supplemental exercise like balance board, yoga, or even flick up practice on the floor. But as for the condition, I won't knit pick, don't be greedy and think only about riding, if anything build the paddling strength. I've realized that a good part of successful take-off is in paddling strength.

See you out there!