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Monday, November 30, 2009

Tube Sequence: Mind surf it...

Turned around and saw this one reeling off. Squeezed the button, my camera's not too fast 1.5 frames per second. There's six frames, according to my calculations, you've got four seconds of tube time.

Photo: But ask anybody who's been there, the barrel bends time...

Four seconds in the green room can feel like five minutes.

Photo: This one looks so do-able... but what you don't see are the double overhead bombs that sweep through every now and then. These clean up sets would detonate in knee deep water and scour the lineup of anybody stupid enough to give it a shot.

Photo: That's why it's empty.

Photo: But still tempting.

Photo: Any takers?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Kelly's Custom C4 Bombora Chaser: "Now you have no excuses..."

That's a heavy statement. The point being, if you order one of these, you're basically threading up some meaty zapatos; better be ready to fill 'em. No excuses. I'll probably pass.

Photo: Looking north.

Photo: Looking south. See that little contrail lining the face of the wave way out the back? That's a guy redlining it on the left hander.

Photo: The right looked a bit more manageable, at least there was a semi-channel.

Photo: Before the fog blanket swamped the place, I got a couple of shots of Kelly riding the Bombie chaser through to the inside.

Photo: For a 10'10" it turns pretty good.

Photo: Swoopin' and carvin', a great way to work off a couple of pounds of turkey and pie.

Photo: Even the meanest gun starts off as a humble piece of foam, basically a sculpted styro coffee cup.

Photo: There's only one reason you need two leash plugs.

Photo: Paddle fast, get in early, make sections and pull out. Live to surf another day. Sounds pretty straightforward to me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Southern Baja Stand Up Paddle: Sea of Cortez Style!

The switch has been flicked- stand up paddle season in the Sea of Cortez is on! Sounds crazy I know, but there are waves hundreds of miles up into the Sea. When the winds blow norte (that means Santa Ana for you and me), it means they've come from Arizona all the way down the Sea of Cortez. That's a fetch of close to a thousand miles, enough to get some swell moving from North to South and in a few spots it's actually surfable.

Photo: You know Kunta? Everybody knows Kunta. Kunta Kills It.

I know what you're thinking, this is a "sometimes spot" a close-your-eyes-and-pretend-that you're-on-a-real-wave type of deal. Well, I'll let you be the judge. Check out the shots. The guys down there tell me that it's a legit wave. And, of course, a stand up board makes it even better. In fact, the crew that hangs there all winter is stand up paddle crazy. Check out these photos sent to me from down south. It's Opening Day, Shrooms style:

Photo: Looks like a G-mac to me. Lots of boards are making it down south these days- especially when made-for-standup spots like this are being opened up in the frontier lands.

Photo: Three's a crowd at Shrooms. I'll be down there for three weeks of stand up paddle trips and for the La Ventana Classic hosted by Palapas Ventana... hopefully Shrooms will do its thing. Yep, I've got a 10' Stamps stashed down there for just this type of occasion.

Thanksgiving surf fest?

Thanksgiving Surf??? It seems like we always get a little serving of NW swell, spiced with Santa Ana offshores on Turkey Day... could it happen this year? The report is looking good, the winds might be right... let's all hope it happens. Here's a couple of surf shots of what I'm talking about:

Photo: Find those corners...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stamps 9'6" x 29" x 4"

I had a great time giving the 9'6" a test run this weekend. The beach break was maxing out and was pretty much the domain of prone guys. These guys were pulling in to big, mostly unmake-able, barrels. Of course one of the strengths of the stand up board is the ability to find your own surf-niche (thanks Kelly!) so we paddled way outside to an empty wave and had it to ourselves for an hour.

Photo: No channels? Business as usual down here at the beach. Time the sets, make your call and paddle like hell. He who hesitates is lost.

About a half hour after daybreak, the wind went offshore for about forty five minutes. It was blowing hard up the face of the well-overhead waves- making it tough to drop in. In all, it was a tricky day of surf. The peaks were moving around quite a bit, some of them connecting all the way through for super fast, long, right hand rides. Others were freight train lefts- a few were make-able, most lured you in for a few big turns then grew into death walls.

It was, however, a pretty good day to put this board to the test:

This board is really sweet. If you've paddled one of Stamps' boards, you know that Tim makes 'em surf-specific. The guy's been stewing in seawater since he was a pup- he can't help it, it's in his blood. The board's lines give it away. This is a modern, high performance shape. A good indication are the rails; super low volume, they're the most surfboard-like of any stock board out there. The result is that they really hold in steep and thick stuff. I was so ridiculously late on one wave my brain bypassed the, "lets see if we can pull this" option and went straight to "yank the effing eject handle and get us the hell out of here". It was so steep I thought the board would just detach from the face and fall away. I'm going to credit my survival on this one to the board and specifically the rail line- the thing held. Stoked.

Photo: Senor Stamps checking under the hood. This shot give a good perspective of the drawn out foil... pulled nice and thin at each end.

A big part of the whole package here is the way the board is foiled. Foil can be crudely described as the distribution of volume from nose to tail. This one's pulled pretty darn thin at the nose and tail. The result is that when you're hooked into a macker and you're hauling ass, you know that when you lean it over off the bottom, the board's thin, low volume tail is going to bite and hold. Other boards, with wider, thicker tails can "walk" off the bottom. Wide tailed boards have trouble biting and holding through the arc of the turn. The boards tend to bounce out as you apply pressure to the fins- this little jitter off the bottom is definitely not a confidence builder.

The board's also got the whole Ninja-bump thing going on. You can see the small wings, or bumps, sixteen inches up off the tail. This does two things for the board. First, the rail line is effectively shortened by the little wing. A shorter rail line means smaller radius turns- and a board that surfs smaller than its actual length. Second, the wing breaks the outline of the rail and gives you a little pivot point to turn off of- the board releases off this pivot point and allows you to transition to the opposite rail much easier.

Photo: Check the Ninja-bump tail... these little wings really keep the board under your feet when you're coming off the top.

As with all design elements, there is a compromise here too: You lose a little flow and gain a bit more redirect-ability. Personally, I like it. I find it adds a level of "forgiveness" to the board. For example, you can overshoot your cutback and still be able to bring it all around and back into the juice. Boards with smooth continuous curves in their outline have that silky smooth, flow when you're going rail to rail but they are demanding as well, technically strong surfers love 'em. I'm finding that my surfing is less than "technically strong", I like the fudge factor that these little bumps build into the board.

This board's dimensions make it a little more suited to those in 160 - 190 lb range. I'm a solid 235 lbs so I was pushing it as far as buoyancy and stability. There is a 10' version of this board (same outline, slightly different dimensions) that is probably the perfect size for a paddler of my size. The 10' will also be offered as a stock production board (I have a feeling this one's going to be hot).

Conclusion: This is a great board for a paddler looking to step into the world of high-end, stand up paddle boards. If you're in the 160 - 190 lb range you'll find the board to be stable and highly responsive. It will definitely be a step up from the 12' barge you're paddling around now. Although this board hasn't been put into full production yet, there are a couple floating around for those interested in picking one up.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blowout Sale: Emerald City in Coronado... + Sneak Peek Stamps Production 9'6"... I'm on it tomorrow!

Get over there... tons of good stuff going out the door for CHEAP!!! Kelly and crew are getting set to remodel the place and the less they have to move, the better- so it's pretty much all for sale!

Check this killer little board out:
9'6" Stamps production shape, light and clean looking. I'm getting it out tomorrow. More photos to come.

Shooting Stand Up Paddle Photos: My Camera Choice

Got a really nice email from reader Bill asking about my choice of camera equipment. Well, I got really into describing the pros and cons of my camera and realized that this might make an interesting post for those of you who are interested in this kind of stuff (translation: Gear Geek).

Disclaimer: I'm not a "camera" guy, I've just used this one for a couple years now and I like it... if I'm way off base with something here, don't let me embarrass myself, let me know! Here is an edited version of our email correspondence:

The camera that I use is a Canon Powershot S5 IS - I REALLY like this camera. For what I use it for, it's close to perfect. Let me give you some of the strong points:

1. Cheap. The camera runs about 350 bucks. I didn't want to spend so much money on the thing that I'd be worried about it on the beach- and I was partially broke at the time so it was a perfect fit. In all, it's a great deal for a device that not only shoots really nice photos but also does an excellent job with video. Speaking of that...

2. Video: I use this thing to shoot all the footage for the little clips that I've posted... what sets it apart from other superzoom cameras is the fact that you can zoom while videotaping (at least that feature set it apart three years ago, I'm sure others can now zoom while taping too) and that this camera has two small mics - it records sound really well. One other thing, there's a dedicated video button on the camera body making it easy to quickly start taping- it's a small thing but it makes a big difference.

3. Zoom capabilities with Canon Image Stabilization technology: This camera can really suck you right up into the action- it's got 12x zoom and when I added an aftermarket extension tube (another plus for this particular model of the camera is that there are threads that will accept aftermarket tubes and filters on it) I can shoot at the equivalent of like 640mm (!).

Photo: Here's an example of the camera with the extension tube attached at full zoom. A kind of cool by product effect is that the images are super flattened out... check out the background, that's the San Diego skyline with the Coronado Bridge smashed right on top of it. Of course we only care about what's happening with the stand up paddler in the foreground.

If you were to try to buy an SLR with a good quality 600mm lens you'd be spending significantly more money- plus you'd need a tripod to shoot from unless you spent huge bucks for a really fast piece of glass. I shoot all of my photos handheld (and, yes, they aren't tack sharp but I only publish to the 'net anyways) which is pretty impressive considering the amount of zoom I'm using. With the Canon Image Stabilization feature you can pull off those shots with relatively good results.

Photo: I shot this camera from really far down the beach, that's how I was able to get this angle (which I think is really cool!). The photo is definitely not really sharp- but remember this is hand held at max zoom with my extension tube attached. Not too bad for a guy who's just downed a 24 oz. 7-11 cup of joe... Kind of an example of the zoom capabilities.

4. Relatively rugged: I pack this thing with me all over the place- and I don't baby it. It travels in the bottom of my day pack, no camera bag. I like that there is no fear of getting dust or sand on the sensor like you would if you were switching lenses like an SLR. It's not bombproof but I've treated it badly from Baja to Mainland Mex and I've had no problems with it.

5. Lots of controls over images: If you want to go deep with this camera, you can- there are lots of dials, buttons, settings and other photo-geek gizmos to keep you fired up about it. I really only appreciate a couple of features but I've come to view them as important now that I'm using them frequently.

First, I really like the dedicated exposure compensation button that lets you bump up or down the exposure by 1/4 increments (I think). I started playing with that button a bunch during sunrise and sunset shots- or when I'm shooting against super bright backgrounds. I've had good results with it and I'm having fun getting different effects... best thing about it is that it was easy to use- I'm not a guy that pores over the instruction book.

I also like the white balance control in the program setting that allows me to change the set up when I'm shooting indoors under different types of light.

6. Extendable/flippable/large view screen: This is a great feature! You can flip the view screen and tilt it so that you can shoot from your belly looking down into the view screen- I find that the camera is less intrusive this way- allowing you to grab shots without people knowing. Even better, you can tilt it down and hold the camera up high, over your head, for different angles. It's a small thing but it is really cool. The camera also has an electronic rangefinder (essentially just a smaller LCD screen) that you can use to conserve power or if you want to just snap off a quick photo without flipping the big screen open.

Photo: Here's an example of a shot I made by flipping the LCD screen down so I could hold the camera over my head and shoot down on the subject. Pretty easy to do, if your screen is flip-able!

7. Long battery life on AA batteries: I use rechargeables, they last a long time. Typically, I can charge them up and shoot continuously, both video and stills, for three days before I need to recharge. I bought my batteries and charger at Radioshack, the charger was cheap and came with a cigarette lighter adapter as well as a wall plug- perfect for travelling. Another plus is that AA batteries can be found almost anywhere- so you're almost never worried about running out of battery power.

8. And last- the camera has an excellent macro setting- you can take really great, super closeup pictures of bugs, flowers and other weird things.

Photo: Here's an example of a photo I took of a female sand crab on macro setting- I'm not the best at it but this gives you an idea. Evidently, on super macro setting, the subject can actually be touching the lens and the camera will still focus!

Oh yeah: 9. The camera uses easy to find, cheap, SD cards.

There are a couple of downsides to the camera. Here they are:

1. I'd really like to have a camera with a super fast (large aperture) wide angle lens that would allow me to shoot low light pics with ambient light (no flash). This camera's lens isn't that fast and at low light you get a lot of shake- which I guess I could correct with a tripod but who wants to carry one of those around.

2. The camera does have a setting which allows you to hold the button and rattle off about two frames a second (a quick google search would give you the real number on that)- it's adequate but I think there are faster superzoom cameras out there- it'd be great to nail six frames a second like a D50.

Interestingly enough, with my camera you can hold down the button until the SD card is full- there's no pause for the camera to write the info to the SD card. On my friends D50 he can only rattle off so many continuous shots before the camera has to pause to write to his card. That means there's a limited number of frames that he can shoot- which would suck if it paused right when the good stuff was about to happen. My camera is slower, but there's no limit to the number of continuous photos it will shoot.

3. If you scratch the primary attached lens, you might as well throw the thing away.

My particular model has been replaced with the SX10IS which has been bumped up to a 20x zoom. With that particular camera your zoom is now close to what I can get with my extension tube. The model is super sweet and if I had the money I'd trade up.

A downer is that the new model no longer comes with threads on the barrel of the lens so, as far as I know, you can't put extensions and filters on it. And that sucks- because if you're shooting lots of water, sky and cloud shots, you'll want to use a circular polarizing filter to make them pop- I think you're out of luck until an aftermarket solution arrives (by the way, I do use a polarizing filter on my camera).

Hope this has been helpful- if you have anymore questions, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Keep me posted about what you pick up and what you learn from it... and if you ever need some stand up paddlers to shoot... come on down!

John Ashley

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Lumps Coming Through!

Super fun day of surf today- much bigger than I thought it would be (and really cold on the beach at sunrise!). Check out these lumps:

This big sailboat came bombing in full steam right into the lineup. I saw it from up the beach and bolted for the end of the road- I thought I was going to witness a full train wreck. The lifeguards zoomed out on the PWC to warn them out of there- they probably had no idea what the clean up sets looked like. I think they were just going for a surf check. More photos of this spot here.

Morbidly, I was bummed when they turned the thing around and got themselves safely out of there. It was a cool yacht, though. I was digging the rig- I think they call that "cat rigged", am I wrong here?

Hoo, land of lefts!

And another...

Got one!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From the road: Catalina Island has got paddlers!

Howdy all!

I'm on a three day field trip out to Catalina Island with my marine biology class. This place is meant to be paddled! The water is beautiful, we've got a high pressure bubble keeping things nice and toasty- and super glassy. The way things are now, if there's beautiful water, there's bound to be a couple of stand up paddlers working it over. It turns out that there's a couple of stand up paddlers exploring the waters down here at Catalina's west end :

Check out what I found: Peeking around down at the dive locker, I spy the bow of what looks like a flat water race board.

It turns out that Miah here is into stand up paddling!

Look what's in the corner of the locker... hmm... just my size too!

Miah's board is stashed in the rafters about twenty feet from the water. I wonder how that thing paddles?

Shoot, might as well give it a test drive... thanks Miah!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday, Nov. 15th, still some fun ones out there...

Didn't take many of these to get me scrambling for my clammy, cold wetsuit:

Early bird gets the right hander...

Kiwi was up early and out there on his Stu K. stand up board.

As I'm simultaneously snapping photos, jamming my foot into the arm of my wetsuit and trying to drink the rest of my coffee, I see John snagging these little fun ones over and over again.

Jeez, how fun does that look?

The surf was pretty slow, the tide was still coming up and the swell was dying. Perfect for stand up paddling... we were on it!

I took a look to the north just in time to see Matt slide into this nice right hander...

Jamming off the bottom...

Pre-loading the springs to come flying off the bottom...

Take a little step back and across the board to the inside rail and throw that thing over...

Matt rode this one for another thirty yards coming off the bottom and the top twice more before it was over. Fun times. Go get some.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dr. John's Ride: Stamps Viking 9'0 x 28" x 3.75"

This ended up being one of those bonus days for surf. The clouds rolled back, the wind switched around and that little "dying NW windswell mixed with a small SW" provided some fun crossed up waves. Dr. John was out nabbing a few, here's a couple of shots of some good ones:

John's on a 9'0 Stamps Viking. The single best thing you can do for your stand up surfing is to get a board that matches your size- a board that's scale to you. It doesn't matter if you want to cruise, rip or if you're just learning, the sooner you get a board that fits you the better you'll get. This is John's second custom stand up- he's stoked on this one; it just fits him. Could I paddle this board- absolutely not, too small. But for John, it's perfect. Plain and simple, get a board that fits.

Of course I was dicking around with all the buttons on my little Canon S5IS when I looked up to see John dropping into this cool little wedge. I whipped the camera around and just barely managed to grab this shot. If I was more on it I would've snapped a quarter of a second earlier and got that little piece of lip before it folded over in front of him- that would've been the shot.

A little bit of the peanut gallery- stoked for somebody.

You can't see it from here but there's quite a few guys in the water. To his credit, John didn't surf right in the middle of any of the small clusters that were out there. John worked a little open spot between the prone guys. He was really patient, he didn't get a wave in every set but he did snag a gem here and there. The next few shots are evidence of that:

From where I was shooting this wave didn't look like there would be much to it...

...but the thing turned into a little zipper.

Whoo- hitting the inside sandbar and starting to run...

and run...

and run.

Easy there! Looking like he hit a little warble, John just manages to pull it together.

This one looks like it ran all the way to the beach!

Looking for an exit (check out the wave behind him).

So much easier to pull out on a small stand up board...

Probably made his day!