Monday, December 31, 2007

Gonna beat this thing!

So I'm over the hump on this cold- did some yard work today. Had a Nyquil induced nap (I love that stuff) and woke up feeling like the worse part had passed. So, I'm in the water tomorrow morning. North-Easterlies started blowing pretty hard down here at the beach about 4:30pm today so it's going to be offshore in the morning. Hopefully some of those little fun ones from this morning will still be around. Going to be cold, time to dig out the Santa-Ana lid. Check out this little video I put together from some odds and ends I found hanging out on the hard drive.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sick and Weak- and I just want to surf!

What happens when you mix Airborne, Advil Cold and Sinus, Nyquil and a large vanilla latte? Zombie death sleep. And I'm still sick. I didn't even get in the water today, had to sit on the beach and watch all the usual suspects having fun while I moped around feeling sorry for myself. I'm going to go do a shot of Jack Daniels right now, it's supposed to help. CameraGrom sent me this video he shot and edited from yesterday- check it out:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On the road: Santa Barbara Cruising

Quick post: Just got back from a nice couple of days of paddling with friends. Check out our little run up the coast. Surf was super small but the paddling was nice, can't wait to hit SB when something good is happening. Check back for a full report.

For your information: I've been getting some requests to post boards and other products on the blog. As you can see, I do post select boards for sale from shapers who I support and whose products I believe are some of the best out there. If you are a shaper/designer and would like for me to post a board or are interested in meeting with me, the best way to contact me is by email: you can also send attachments and documents to me at that address. Educate me, inform me and/or entertain me- all are worthwhile endeavors.

I'd also like to personally thank surfer Kathy and her friend for sharing those little waves with my friends and me. Open invitation: Let me know if you're ever in SD and I'll get you on a couple of boards.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Buy this One: The Alligator- DownWind Cruiser/Wave Killer

Downwind fanatics, coastal cruisers and open ocean swell riders- this one is for you. Stu Kenson is selling the Alligator: 100 % Carbon Fiber/Epoxy Construction, 11'6", Five Fin Boxes, Concave deck, custom hot-rod shop paint. This board looks good, surfs good and paddles UNREAL.

If you're doing the big mile down wind paddles this is the one you're looking for- light strong and surf-able! I've done six-mile quick runs with prevailing winds here in California- this thing glides and surfs open ocean swells like a much smaller board.

If you're looking for a board to do it all, and you like the special properties of carbon fiber, this is your board. This is an opportunity to buy a board that is next to impossible to order (carbon is scarce these days and Stu likes to use what he's got on special projects = tough to get him to make a big board like this out of the good stuff). Contact Stu Kenson for further details!.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

Missed my first day of posting in a couple of months yesterday. But it is the crazy season so you'll be hearing a little less from me. I'll be gone a couple days doing some family things- but I do have a couple of new pieces coming up, so check back. I've got a little up north surf trip that may yield some good stuff!

If you can, get out and paddle. If you're one of the lucky ones, go surf some waves!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Have the Guts to Paddle Away

Check out these two photos. Both are from the same day of paddling. In the first photo you can see in the distance a waist high, mushy, peeling right hander. Perfect for the big board and the pusher.

When I pulled up on this I knew that I could absolutely dominate that little wave. Most of the guys there were riding little chippy, anorexic thrusters. Ninety percent of them weren't able to paddle in and the other ten percent never made the gatekeeper section so most of the wave peeled off unridden. I could've easily paddled over and taken that point.

We decided to leave it alone and paddled off in the other direction. We ended up scoring waist high, mushy waves with two other stand up paddlers who were happy to see us (bottom photo). Take a look at the heads sitting there in the first photo. None of those guys is going to care about how skilled you are with board and paddle- they're just going to be pissed off when you snag wave after wave. Do us all a favor and if you have to make this call- have the guts to paddle away. You may be rewarded; we were.

On another note: Do yourself a favor, especially if you're a Californian, go buy "One California Day". On the way home stop by 7-11 and pick up a carton of New York Super Fudge Chunk, yank the shift lever on the StratoLounger and hit Play.

This is a great surf film. It's beautifully shot, features cool music, and is a huge break from the standard kung-fu chop, punk rock, surf flick offerings. If you know something about the windings of Pacific Coast Highway, and have logged winter miles on the north coast then this will get you itching for the Cambria bend or the rivermouth sandbars of Ventura County. Easily one of my top five surf films.

Mind Blowing: Tyler Hatzikian's surfing- kind of makes all my feelings and arguments regarding fin selection moot.

Interesting Approach to Surfing: Alex Knost (wiggly?)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surfing's Unwritten Code

Here's a great letter I received from Mauitomo in Hawaii. This girl is stoked about paddle surfing and says something so important that I felt it needed to be brought to the front page for us all to see:

"Hello, I am in Japan. I was introduced to your site from my friend, and was surprised to see your Baja shots of last swell. I think I was at that exact spot ( but I am not certain) I was standup paddling that day, those were the biggest waves I'd ever been on with a standup paddle board. I was scared shitless at first but I definitely had the best waves I have ever had in my very short standup experience. It was mindblowing. What a perfect wave, I cannot wait to go back there.

There were no other paddlers around and I was very very courteous of regular surfers so they won't have any feeling against SUP. I only stayed in the water when there are a few surfers and always let them have any waves they wanted and I only caught a few. That was what I learned from some of the good (and courteous) standup paddlers back home on Maui. I hope others will do the same so they won't kick us out from that beautiful spot."

The idea that we should pass on the important lesson of courtesy is a big and important one. Many stand up paddlers have decades of surfing experience under their belts, most of us have spent years paying dues and learning surfing's unwritten codes before we started paddle surfing. If you get a chance, pass these lessons on. If the opportunity arises, take a moment to drop a pearl of wisdom on a new stand up paddler. Simple things like right of way, or taking the whitewash instead of trying to race a riding surfer for the shoulder. Common courtesy: take a few give a few, paddle away from a pack of surfers on a good peak, find your own wave- the kind of things that won you a spot at your local break. Share the knowledge, spread the stoke and surf your brains out! Thanks MauiTomo- you're welcome to surf with us here in San Diego anytime!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One More Time: Another Board Worth Grabbing

UPDATE: Sorry this one's GONE! Next time move faster- react, don't think!

What the heck- it's my blog and I can do what I want.
Here's another board my friend Tim Stamps has got for sale. This is a much scaled down version of what I'm riding. And I really, really, like my board.

This one comes in at 10' x 27" x 4" made for somebody a bit smaller then I am (I'm 220 lbs- I might be able to pull it but somebody in the 145 -180lb range would definitely fit this board). It's a ten footer so it's a nice surf/surf-cruiser compromise, kind of an all around model. I think this board is a real California solution- for mushy days at Dog Patch and faster days in the beachbreak- the wider tail gives you a little squirt off the bottom.

JDAM proof construction: EPS and Epoxy with Kook Proof Blank Additive guaranteed to end all kook-like behavior. Tim's also been using 3M's Pearl-Stop the only compound added to the resin that will prevent excessive pearling and he's also been able to get his hands on the last roll of Wrap Weave fiberglass- the only fiberglass specially designed to help you wrap that cutty all the way around.

Price is $1350 + tax, fins and pad come with it. Compare that to $1600 for a board right out of the shop, add another $100 bucks for a pad and you're at $1700 bucks before tax- so you can see this is a good deal. And it fits under the Christmas tree! Available for purchase now- swipe it!

Contact Tim Stamps at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In the Works: What's Going On?

I've got something I'm working on, it won't be finished until spring. Here's an excerpt:

"Surfing a stand up board is like driving your grandpa’s Caddy, it’s big, plush and a lot more fun than you thought it would be. It’s never going to replace a hard-core, nitro-burning, short board, slash-fest but, then again, it was never meant to. The best stand up surfers seem to realize that in this sport, less is more. Stand up paddle surfing is all about doing it clean."

Tim Stamps has got something he's working on, and it's for me. I think it may be the agony of waiting and the anticipation of the final product that keeps bringing us back to custom made boards. There really is a bit of magic in something handmade just for you. If you haven't had a board made, and you want to get back to that pure "kid at Christmas", gnawing at your gut, feeling of anxiousness- then you should go order one up. It's beautiful pain.

Andy Gere has got something he's working on and it's taking form in Giapetto's workshop. Remember the Waveyarder, hand made, all wood, hollow board project? Well, Andy sent in these photos of his progress. In Giapetto's own words:
"I've also drilled 146 holes in the fishbone parts, shedding a
critical pound or so in the process. This took forever, since the
location of each had to be carefully laid out, and the hole saw had
to be run slowly to keep from setting things on fire. I had it
literally smoking on more than one occasion. I'm now in the process
of dry fitting everything, and getting ready to start gluing the ribs
to the planks. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks."
I'm sure Andy's dreaming of how the final board will look and surf in its final form. His anticipation-meter must be slowly rising.

That's what we've got going on, what are you working on?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Southern Baja Surf Report: Palapas Ventana

I guess I could make this stuff up but I'd rather let you get it from a primary document. Here's Tim Hatler's surf report from down in Southern Baja:

Baja Sur Swell Report from Palapas Ventana
December 6th log

NW swells served up some meaty Bistec Ranchero at all our spots on the pacific side...The bigger the curve in the coast the better as many regular spots started to close out with sets of 12 feet. Water temp remained at 71 and the wind even cooperated by laying down on the two best days....All wave hunger appetites were satisfied, everybody was feliz, and those willing to explore were rewarded.

As soon as I hear a report like this I start scheming.

It drives me nuts thinking about what I'm missing. How am I going to get back down there? I've surfed this wave, I know how good it is and worse then that, I know how PERFECT it'd be on a stand up board.

I paddlesurfed it this summer on a windy, messy red tide swell.

It was fun but nothing like what Tim scored- basically by himself. Imagine the turns you'd be burning; weaving and turning, repeat, over and over again. I just need to dissappear down there for two or three weeks. So I start scheming. Maybe you should too.

All Photos: Santiago

Top: The point offers up a left... and a right (check the last photo) it just depends on how much of an angle the swells got on it.

Middle: Let the race begin. Coming around the corner from the top of the point, across the flats to the bay- better get moving! Imagine the layed out, projected bottom turns you'd be throwing down right here- covering tens of yards with each turn.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cold Morning Waves

Ridiculously cold this morning. Forty five degrees on the beach making the water warmer then the air. The light offshores brought the temperature down a couple more notches each time they'd whistle through. Today I featured, "the standing ice cream headache", guess it comes with the upright nature of our surfing. I've got nothing to complain about compared to what guys on the East coast are dealing with, even my brother in Santa Cruz is reporting iced up windows and lawns. Any sane person probably would've passed today- but where's the fun in that? The surf has diminished slightly but there were still some fun ones to be had and Marla scored some of her longest waves today; getting better every time! Here's some clips from this morning remixed with some from yesterday.

MichaelF wrote in asking me what's up with all the videos lately. Answer: Shooting and editing video is vastly easier then putting an original thought to paper, er, to monitor. I think that's why there's so many video bloggers out there- it's just way less work and takes much less creative energy. At this moment, I'm working on a large stand up surfing project, it's sucking up most of my writing time and energy- so, since I'm committed to posting daily (why, I have no idea) I'm taking the easy route. And, I have to say it is a different kind of fun.

Now as far as editing and posting- Camera Grom, my fearless video partner along with FuzzNugget productions posted the Sunday "Church" piece. All other pieces are mine. It's been super fun working with CG, the kid's super reliable and technology savvy (read: smarter then me). If I were you MichaelF, I'd give him all your footage and the music you want put to it (or else you might get the clown music) toss him a donation and he'd probably pull it together for you. By the way this is a shameless plug for Camera Grom- anybody interested feel free to contact me at

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December Morning Bonus: Good Times

Woke up this morning to clear blue skies and fun 3 foot waves with a slight offshore breeze. Zipped down to the end of the street and here's what we got:

Also, I was stoked to paddle Kelly's new Stu Kenson stand up board (the yellow one 9'10"x 28" x 3.75"). I really didn't think the board had enough in it to float me so I was totally blown away when I hopped right up on it and caught three fun waves. Stu's got something going on with his decks, the boards way more stable then you'd expect. At 220lbs I had only slight wobbles paddling it around in relatively glassy conditions- give me two weeks on that board and I think I'd have it nailed. The board's a little ripper. I busted one of the biggest floaters of my life on it on my last wave. We're lucky to have such a cool little community of paddlers down here, lot's of boards to pass around. On it again tomorrow!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Little Bit of This and A Little bit of That (hopefully)

Keeping my fingers crossed that we'll score some fun surf tomorrow. I was able to steal a couple of hours out of the day today and hop in at the end of the street. Turned out to be a fun two hour paddle with mushy waist high lefts funneling into a new hole punched out by our recent storms. The beach is changing with the season, the sand's moving offshore and some of the slow, shoaling sand bars are starting to work. Perfect for our type of wave riding!

I'm keeping my hopes up that tomorrow will bring clear skies, clean water and fun little waves. A big part of this is the blue railed number you see here. It's a scaled down version of the Mahi and I really want to see how it goes. It's fun (and really important) to try different configurations of the same design. You start to rachet down the variables until you're where you need to be. I'll keep you posted.

Top Photo: 10'o and hot.

Middle Photo: Sweet rocker.

Bottom: Good clean fun.

All Photos: El Tigre

Thursday, December 13, 2007

And While We Were Up Here: South Baja Reels

A four hundred yard long left point break.

Water warm enough to wear a spring suit. Glassy. Head high and roping.

Drive the truck right up to the edge of the cobblestones. Paddle out, surf it to the fish camp. Walk all the way back. Repeat until your arms give out.

Walk back to the truck, crack a beer, lie in the sun. No parking meter, no goon squad, no problem. As a matter of fact, nobody within a couple of hundred miles. Southern Baja- we should all be so lucky.

Tim Hatler, owner of Palapas Ventana hitting the jackpot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Que Onda? Stu Kenson Shows Us What's Up

Hours are lost in at the surfboard factory. But that's a huge part of the fun and it's also why your custom board is taking so long to get made, guys like me keep gumming up the works. Here's a short clip of our little visit to the SK factory. Stu's crazier then ever about making these boards and this last batch looks super fun. I'm going to poach both Kelly's (yellow) and Kiwi's (blue) and do a full report. Going to be interesting to see what the volume is on the yellow board and how it does with a big guy (220lbs) on board. More to come.

How'd you like that last video of Pavones? More importantly did anybody catch the video that I was ripping off with that composition. It's my favorite all time surf video, the guy who made it was a crazy Californian (I heard a story about him showing up way down in Baja with nothing but his camera, his girlfriend and a space blanket) who's since passed away and the section that I'm snaking features Stuart Caden S-turning on a fat left. Way too many hints, who knows which video I'm talking about?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Petting the Cat in Pavones: Goofy Foot Dreaming

Possibilities. Think of all the big point breaks all over the world that are just calling out to be ridden with the stand up board.I was sent this old clip by a good friend of mine. We scored some really fun surf down there and had a great time- this was about ten years ago, pre-stand up craze- at least for me. But the question keeps popping into my head: What if we had brought stand up boards with us?

Now I'm not saying that I would have used my paddle board for evil purposes. I'd have been run off into the jungle if I decided to poach every bump rifling from Rivermouth to Cantina. But there are other possibilities. You've just got to have the guts to paddle away from the main event. And I'm not just talking about Costa Rican waves here. Every "name spot" has an excellent non-spot right next to it. So paddle away and make your own discovery. I can promise you that just around the corner from that perfect head high wall is another one just begging to be ridden by our big boards. Go get it!

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Boards: Stu Kenson's latest

Kiwi's got his. Trent, yours is almost done and Kelly, your board looks so good it's almost unfair.

Some fresh ones straight out of the SK factory. Hot looking shapes. This is going to be a big weekend of board swapping.

Top and Bottom Photos: Kelly's = yellow, Trent's = green, Kiwi's = blue.
Don't we all deserve new boards?

And, yes I was made privy to some proprietary information. Think bullet proof but custom.

All Photos: El Tigre

Sunday, December 9, 2007

New Paddlesurf Video: Courtesy of FuzzNugget Productions

I know you want to know, FuzzNugget Productions? Yep, Camera Grom, owner/operator of FuzzNugget Productions, films it, cuts it and posts it. Anybody interested in getting filmed should contact me at and I'll put you in touch with Camera Grom. CG is working his way through 9th grade (yep, the kid can work iMovie better then most 30 year olds) so any donations you want to flow him would expedite your DVD copy of the action. Let me know.

Video Highlights: Brennan Hovland's drifting floater on the 10'6" C4 has got to be hot by anybody's standard. We're all in trouble now that the rippers are getting stand up boards. Also, check out Pinky almost pulling in on his 12'0. And, no I didn't snake that guy behind me (I'm on the green and yellow Stamps), it's fun surfing behind somebody. How about Kraig Surplus getting a little floater on his new 10' Stamps? That shape (same as mine but add an 1/8" all around) is a real California solution, check out how much speed it makes on waves that haven't even broken yet. Not shown, Marla's first wave- pay your dues now and reap the rewards during the sweetness of summer! Killer session today people- glad we could share some waves.

Excellent job Camera Grom- look forward to working together again. Breakfast burritos on me next time.

And: I have no idea why Kiwi got the clown music.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

8'0 Stand Up Board Spotted in Surf Mag!

The rain here in San Diego has been pretty heavy for the last couple of days. I don't like to hop in the water when the California State Beach Poppy is in bloom (see last photo). So I've been doing some lurking.

I spend time driving from spot to spot. Catch me sipping a cup of trucker's brew (7-11s finest Arabica) and checking the blown out mush in the morning. I'll chase that with a Stardust Donuts Cinnamon bomb at the Strand mid-morning and then grab an RBC (that's Rice Bean and Cheese burrito) for lunch at the Towers. I've also been logging hours at my favorite library, BookStar in Point Loma.

It's great, grab a stack of mags, snag a comfy spot of industrial carpet (I like to wedge in next to the Wedding Mags- limited interest, low traffic) and kill a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon. Finish it off with a root beer and an Old Smokey (OliveTree Deli) at the Cliffs and you've just capped a great day my friend. But back to the magazines, if you haven't noticed lately the surf mags have been paying a lot of attention to us. The first two pages of Longboard Magazine are full color spreads for Aviso and C4 StandUps. The coolest thing I found was a photo of one of the SUP heats in fall's Infinity Contest. Right there, wearing the jailbreak trunks and setting up for what would undoubtedly be a Chopes style barrel ride, is Tim Stamps on his 8'0 biscuit. A telling comment in the piece, "...there was just as many competitors in the SUP division as there were in the Open Longboard." Watch out world, the janitors are coming to clean up.
Middle Photo: Look familiar? Plenty-o-pudgey.
Last Photo: California State Beach Poppy, requires heavy loads of organic matter to survive, common after first rain, considered bad luck by California surf riders.
Top Photo: Poquito Poachito
Last Two Photos: El Tigre

Friday, December 7, 2007

Reader Submissions: And Mind Surf The Last One

The last of it- at least for now. Here's a couple of reader submitted photos from around San Diego County. The tentacles reach to all corners of our little city, especially when our spiderweb of contributors keeps sending in killer photos like these. Thanks guys, feel free to snake me a couple of times in return.

Top Photo: Mysterious macker about to detonate on some guy's melon, check out the little black dot deepest in the pit- that's his head. Ouch.

Second: Symmetry. Check out how the fan of the snap is almost perfectly mirrored in the fall of the lip. By the way, that's a pretty hefty hack.

Third: Many miles to go on this endless, back lit wall- legs don't fail me now!

Top Three Photos: An.All.

Last Photo: Sent to me by Alexis at FCS- where you been Alexis?

Mind surf this Blacks beast. Let's see, pull hard to get all that stand up board in early, watch as the nose just skims the water as you make the drop into the pit- hold off from your turn for a millisecond...then lay it all over at once, power up the fins and rail and just bury the tail, now ease off and drift up the face a little, it's all finesse here, back off the inside rail just a touch, pick your line, set your rail and watch the curtain fall. Get spit out. Paddle out and do it again. Sounds pretty straightforward right? Now go get some!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Video Update: Big... No Takers

It's great to have the camera back. I have to say, this little camera with its SD memory card and an IMac make throwing up videos pretty darn easy. Uploaded the clips, edited them out and slapped some AC/DC over it in about twenty minutes. Pretty sweet, makes me want to do more surf vids- we'll see. Here's a couple of clips of yesterday's beach break. Like the title says, there were no takers.

Couple of video highlights to check out: First, there's the outer, mysto, sandbar bombie that was probably a quarter mile out, cloudbreaking and then rolling through. Second, check out the last wave- just a fat left rolling into the pier for at least a hundred yards. Third, imagine yourself trying to stand up paddle through all of that nastiness. I just don't see how you could punch through a wall of whitewater that's six foot high- the guys in Hawaii are probably handling this no problem. I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Universal Truth: All Bets Off When Surf is On

Surf in town means plans change. Our surgical strike to the SK Factory had to be postponed because, guess what? All those guys are rabid, foaming at the mouth, surf dogs- and if there's surf to be had, they're on it. So you go with the flow, surf and don't worry about it; and that's what we did.

Here's a couple of photos of my little brother surfing in Santa Cruz. Mike was the first guy out at Privates, had to punch through a couple of head high walls of whitewash, had an asthma attack just outside the lineup and then felt like puking once he got worked a bunch of times. He lucked into a tweener, rode it for as long as he could and then had to wash in down by the Capitola Pier.

This part of Santa Cruz is just a giant series of right points so the southerly current was cranking. According to Mike, everybody was getting washed down and a few got stuck in high tide coves with no way out. Those guys were the lucky ones. In Monterey, a surfer lost his life swimming in for his lost board in big surf.

Stand up boards can get you in trouble real fast. At spots with channels, and with our extra mobility, I can foresee unprepared surfers getting into bad situations. Imagine losing your board to a swing-wide set at some heavy water offshore reef. If you can't free swim the distance, you shouldn't paddle it. With our ability to cover miles of water you might be looking at a mile or more of open water swimming. How many of us have been putting in the pool time to crank out a couple of hours of that kind of activity? Just something to consider when it gets big out there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Stu Kenson Stand Up Boards: Kiwi's New Custom Shape

Kiwi's torturous wait is over. His new custom SK stand up board is ready for pick up. Tomorrow, we're out there! Good for Kiwi and great for me because I've been due for a trip back to the magician's shop. Stu's always got something new brewing up there and if I can get a peek at it, that's a good thing for me and you.

Now I'm not going to reveal any trade secrets but I will tell you that I am going equipped with my trusty spy cam and syringe of sodium penathol. Shoot, if I have to water board the guy, I will. I'm looking for follow up information regarding the develoment of new blanks and some vacuum bagging lamination schedule that he dropped on me a few months ago (and you thought I wasn't really listening- gimme a break). We'll see how it works out. Check back tomorrow evening for the full scoop.

Top Photo: Stu-dizzle fo'shizzle- or, whatever.

Photo: Chuck Forsbergentoff

Bottom Photo: You likey, I likey- man, I like them all; board fetish anybody?

Photo: Gustav Klimpt

Monday, December 3, 2007

Baja Bad: The Readers Speak!

The Baja Bad piece blew up. The counter spiked like the Geiger counter in San-O's cooling pond. While I don't like to be alarmist, I thought that the situation south of the boarder needed to be addressed; and the two tips I gave are important for anybody heading south.

For those interested in more detailed accounts, you can read about the Baja 1000 incident here. Details about the robbery at Cuatros Casas can be found here and here. More robberies in the Cuatros area here. And the most harrowing of all of them (because I hear the story firsthand from one of these guys) can be read here.

Still in the works: From Cradle to Grave: Making a Stand Up Paddleboard. The stars and planets are aligning, palms are getting greased and lips loosening. Who knows? We may get a story out of this after all!

Top Photo: Not my board- but just as sweet. A new 9'0 that looks good enough to steal. This board is meant to harm waves.
Photo: Cowboy

Bottom: Unofficial photograph number 2 (see if you can look back and find the first unofficial photo I posted). Stand up blanks... and the men who birth them. Machine meets man, testosterone meets technology- the only thing left to do now is ask, "Quien es mas macho...?"

Photo: Tucker 007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Baja Bad: Some reflections on some bad times.

Undoubtedly if you're a California surfer you've heard the scary stories coming out of Baja. To tell you the truth, what's happening in the border region of Northern Baja has been heavy enough to make me think twice about my casual day trips. For those who don't know, here's a quick summation of the latest happenings:

• Three San Diego surfer/kiters carjacked in the early morning hours driving through TJ to the toll road. Highlights: Fake (or not) police pulling them over, guns to heads, execution style kneeling postures, highspeed flight to the border, thousands of dollars in vehicles and gear lost.

• Fishermen carjacked on their way south, again in the early morning. Highlights: Blue lights in the rearview mirror, guns in faces, tweaked out looking "police" with masks, everything lost.

• Family of four pushes for home from San Quintin, pulled over by blue lights at night on toll road. Highlights: Same as before but this time forced to drive into the hills above Rosarito, thrown onto the ground, robbed and abandoned.

• Surfer and girlfriend pulled out of their RV in the middle of the night near Quatros Casas surf spot. Highlights: Bullet fired through the side of their RV, robbed and assaulted at gunpoint.

I am certain that some will believe that these stories are fabrications. I can assure you that they are not. In one case the victims are guys I know fairly well from surfing and kiting. The stories are true. Luckily nobody was killed in these incidents but the trauma they all faced will effect them for the rest of their lives. In all four cases the victims stated that they'd never go back- I don't blame them. In each case, however, there is a thread of commonality that ties the crimes together.

In the case of the carjackings: All were traveling at night. It seems now that driving on the toll road in the darkness in an offroad equipped vehicle may be asking for trouble. The toll road and the road along the border fence that leads up to the first toll booth do not afford you immunity. In addition in each carjacking the vehicles were newer 4x4s (two were F250 4x4s and one was a Honda Ridgeline 4x4) it seems the bad guys know what they want, singling out these particular vehicles. As far as night driving goes, I have to admit that I frequently broke this rule. I'd usually cross the border around 3am, leaving early allows you to steal hours in the day, effectively giving you an extra afternoon of surfing. I've also done the 20 hour marathon of driving from Cabo to San Diego. I'm done with driving at night down there. As my friend Marcos always says: "Bad things happen at night".

As far as the Baja campers are concerned: It's pretty well known that the Quatros Casas/Camalu/Outskirts of San Quintin areas are very sketchy places. There's always been dark happenings in the Shipwrecks/Quatros Casas area, now that meth has found its way down there it is bound to get worse. In my circle of Baja travelers, Baja Sorrow (the region around San Quintin) has always been off limits- the surf has never been worth the potential trouble. In the case of the RV bound campers, the guy supposedly had been going to Cuatros for many years. I was surprised to hear that he chose to camp away from the relative safety of the "surf camp". For you readers out there, Allan Weisbecker wrote about this area in his book, "In Search of Capt. Zero". You'll remember it as the spot where the hills had eyes. And where a Mexican rancher invited him to shelter in his walled compound for the evening. It was, he insisted, safe for nobody at night. I wholeheartedly agree.

Do I think it's safe to travel by car in Baja? I think abiding by the two guidelines I've described can put the odds in your favor, but I've always been one to follow my gut. And right now my gut says there's some real strangeness afoot down there. I may give it a pass until something has been done to restore my confidence (I wouldn't mind seeing their Army patrolling that stretch in their Humvees). Importantly, I don't think these dark tidings have enveloped the whole peninsula. As a matter of fact, I think once you're past San Quintin, the odds swing even more in your favor. Whatever you decide to do, be safe, don't drive at night and stick together.

Let the Magic Begin, Part III: Off to Paint and Glass

Once the shaping side is done the board is off to paint and glass. I like to leave the creative side of this up to the painters- after all they've done a million boards and they know what looks good. I just like to specifiy colors and for me it's greens and yellows. This is part of the fun of the custom board process- some shapers will even let you come in and throw your own paint on it if you're feeling like you need to express yourself. A tip: Less is more (Yeah that Molly Hatchet album cover might've seemed easy when you were tracing it in 8th grade- but it becomes a nightmare when you've only got one shot at it on your hot new board- simple and clean is the way to go!)

Glassing is another area where the board can be customized. You'll pay more for it, but you can ask for extra layers of glass if you think you're going to be beating your poor new stick to death. I like to pay a little more for what's called a gloss and polish. This is a final coat of resin over the epoxy and glass lamination that gets buffed out giving the board a highly polished look. I kind of dig it so I always go for it. Many contest surfers like to go for a lighter glass job and skip the gloss and polish, the board will be lighter but more then likely, less durable (most of these guys get them for free so they beat 'em to death).

In the end, the goal is to find a shaper you can talk to. I'm a fan of the new digital shaping programs; using them ensures that both shaper and surfer are in the same frame of mind. A lot of errors can be caught early when you have something tangible to look at rather then a bunch of ideas swirling around in the dusty air of a busy shaping bay.

Once you've found a shaper that you can work with, stay loyal to them. As you build your CAD file you can begin to work on variables one at a time until you've hit the mark- and you've dialed in your magic board. And that, my friend, is just the beginning!

Top two photos: Adding the good stuff that'll hopefully stop me from kooking out! Whatever it is, keep it coming.

Bottom Photo: Ready for a trick paint job and some bad ass glass. The hardest part of the whole process is the waiting!

All Photos: Cowboy

Thanks to Tim Stamps and the boys at ProCam- still waiting for the underground, double secret, good stuff!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Let the Magic Begin, Part II: Clean and Fair

The shaper brings it all to life. Once a board arrives from the mill it's up to the shaper to make it work. This is where hard earned years of experience pay off. The best make it look easy- linking curves, eyeballing rocker lines and fairing rails all while cracking a joke (or a beer).

Above: Stamps, linking the numbers. A good view of my new board, mid-scrub. Too heavy of a hand and you've just destroyed the rail, too light of a touch and the foils all wrong. Think I could do this? Nope!

2nd Photo: A California solution to the surf we've got right here. Another view of my soon to be carve machine.

3rd Photo: How sweet is the rail line and foil on this thing? Still got some beef in it to float all 220lbs of me and at 29" wide isn't going to be skittish in the chop.

All Photos: Cowboy