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Friday, April 30, 2010

Big Al's 9'8" Dave Craig Custom Made Stand Up Paddle board.

I always love looking into my email and finding reader submissions... especially if the mail I'm picking up has photos of new custom boards in it. Big Al sent me these shots of his new Dave Craig stand up board. I asked him about the channel that Dave's got running through the bottom and this is what I got:

"This is a new thing he and Mitch have been working on...The channel gives it more lift for initial acceleration. It also makes it more stable in choppy conditions. I'm not sure of the board's weight but we used the lightest blank and it makes a huge difference. I surf lots of different waves on my boards: Cliffs, P.B., the Shores, Torrey Pines, Cardiff. I like to move around with the different conditions."

"It's fast and likes the pocket... the board is 9'8" x 29 1/2 x 4 3/8. I've been riding Dave's boards for the last two years. The quad set up works good for my style. This new one has a lot of drive. We went with the lighter blank. I'm trying out the Lopez quad fins but I'm also trying out some different Futures rear fins as well."

Of course, I'm a little hung up on stand up paddle fins, so I asked Big Al for a little more information about what his other set ups were for his rear fins. Here's what he had to say:

"More info. I like the rear 375s(top right) the best- especially on hollower waves. Gonna try the 413s(bottom right) and see how they work on this board. The black 426s are a nice all around fin. I usually run the big twins in the front because of my size 6'3" 235lbs. But I decided to give the Lopez fins a try."

Super cool hearing Al's thoughts about the board. I'm constantly learning and I can say that a few of the things that Al likes about his board are similar to what I'm finding that I am liking. A list of my observations: 

1. I also like my "everyday" board (used mostly here in snappy beach breaks) to be light. I find that lighter boards are easier to whip around and transition from rail to rail. Al said that they used the lightest possible blank... I wonder if he's on a 1lb blank? All of my boards are made with 1.5 lb blanks. I know that Stamps is making his own board with 1lb foam. We'll have to get a report on how it holds up. But, yeah, for me- light is definitely right.

2. Both Al and I are the same weight, 235lbs and it seems like we're both on boards about the same width. My newest one is 30" wide but the version before it was 29.5". I have paddled boards as narrow as 28" and can honestly say that they are do-able but if I want to keep my length around 9'0 and the thickness to a very minimum, that 29 - 30" range is about right. 

3. I'm a big fan of the Futures Gerry Lopez SUP fins... My opinion?  Those fins do it all (you're going to hear this again and again from me... I like them that much). But- the four fin thing hasn't clicked for me- I do have a nice set of the GL quads and I will give them another shot but Big Al and I differ on the quad thing. I do think Al will like those quads. For me, it's the nice flex that those fins have in 'em... I get a bit of snap off the bottom but it's not a "big 'ol waggin' fin" hangin' down there. Al's going to have to give us his impressions once he's had them out for a ride.

4. And finally, I see you're going with a single bump over a round tail. I am hooked on that single bump... talk about release off the top! I've had nice chats with Dave Craig about the benefit and theory of the breaking the outline with a bump like that and I think that for the surf we're riding here in SD, that little pivot point is super helpful. 

Congratulations on your new board, Al. Definitely fill us in on its performance- it looks great!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Manny Vargas Water Photography: Part III

Editors Note: I just wanted to thank Manny Vargas for taking the time to sit down and knock this out with me. Manny's a modest guy, but the reality is that this is a bodyboarder who is known worldwide. Manny is hugely respected for his surfing and his humble demeanor. Don't get me wrong, the court jester is hiding just below the surface but most of the time this is a soft spoken guy who takes his photography seriously. Bodyboarders seem to be the shoe-ins for difficult water shot assignments- just check out the work of Mike Stewart and Todd Glaser (guy nailed a couple of Surfer Mag cover shots)... the spongers know how to get in the pit and get it done. Speaking of gear, what are shooting with these days?

Manny: I've upgraded to the Canon 7D and a Tokina 10 - 17mm fisheye lens. Going from the 20D to the 7D is like going from a standard hot dog at a little league game to a Tijuana Danger Dog with all the fixings! If you’ve had a TJ Danger Dog, you know what I’m talking about. I also have a 100-400mm lens for land shots and the 28 - 105mm kit lens that came with the 7D. What's on the wish list?

Manny: Well, it's just wishing right now.... But sooner than later I’d like to get a hold of a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm 2.8, 24-105mm f4L, EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS, EF 50mm f1.2L, EF 600mm f4L IS, 100mm Macro. Pulling that together is a goal. It’s possible, right? Absolutely! While we're on the topic of dreams... if you could pull together a dream trip where would you go and who'd be there with you?

Manny: Oh man… never really thought of that question. Let’s see. For sure, my wife would be there for support. I would love to explore more of the South Pacific. From what I've seen, the water color is amazing. And I love the island style of living. Onboard? Shoot, Roach, Sean Fowler and a couple other people who understand the difference between respect and having fun.

 Anything we should know about working with a water photographer?

Manny: Talk to the photographer. And when the photographer speaks don’t just "hear" him or her... really listen. Just like an experienced wedding photographer choreographs his portraits in response to the environment around him, the same goes for water photography. The water photographer is looking at the same wave as you but from a different angle. Oh man, I could go on with little tips and tricks but you’re going to have to book a session with me! Hit me up and I’ll make you a better photographed wave rider. Definitely... let's get your contact information out there. Where can we reach you?

Manny: I'm easy to find. On the web, I'm at If you're fired up, just call me at 619-788-2456 and you can book a session. Other than that I'm shooting practically everyday. You can also check out what I've got going on more or less daily at I'm having a lot of fun with that site so check it out. Killer- thanks a lot for sitting down and busting this thing out... any last thoughts?

Manny: I love taking water photos. That’s number one. But when the waves are perfect… I’ll shoot, but sometimes I need to get on my sponge and get slotted too. Can't really blame me, can you? Nope! Thanks Manny- see you in the water.

Manny: Right on- thanks a lot. 

Be sure to check Manny's work out at his site:, Manny's fired up to put his life in danger shooting hard charging stand up paddle rippers... if you're looking for the shot, call Manny!  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Manny Vargas Water Photograpy Part II I'm sure you've got some favorite shots... how and where did those come about?

Manny: Since '03 I've been putting together tours of some of my favorite bodyboarding spots. My tour company packages them all up and we uncork them onto the public. Costa Rica, Indonesia and Cabo are on the yearly list. Part of the package includes water shots so I get out quite a bit in some unreal conditions. But it was during the recent '09 trip to Cabo trip that I got one of my favorite photos.

Basically, it was the day I’d been waiting for- great light, surf and one of the best, arguably the best, bodyboarders in the world in the water. The wave was macking 5 foot shorebreak and Paul Roach was the only one making the drops perfectly. We lined up a few shots that day but one particular shot was unreal- that photo is going up on my wall for sure (ed. note, check Part I for a sweet shot of Paul Roach getting shacked drop knee).

As for surfing… a Russian surfer living in Bali gets that vote. I was shooting Padang Padang and it was on fire! As I'm shooting, he goes by me getting barreled. After that wave he paddles over and says I should move over a little. So I did. He had this “I’ve surfed this place many times” look about him. So I listened. The very next wave we hooked up! It was awesome. I still see Gene Kreyd when I get back to Bali every year. He’s a cool dude. Any super sketchy sessions?

Manny: Every session is different. My most difficult one was shooting a group of bodyboarders over this reef on Maui. It was about three feet deep and about 4 foot Hawaiian. When the sets came in, the water would drain and I was floating about 1 foot above the reef with all limbs extended and the camera out of the water. I did this for about a couple hours and it just got too dry. Yes, I got a scrape on my knee- but the housing was untouched! Ha! Anything funny ever happen out on the road?

Manny: I get funny about my gear. A couple of years ago, I was driving a crew around in Costa Rica in a 15 passenger van. Along the way, we picked up a few other people. So I had to pass my camera bag back to the rear. I'm keeping my eyes peeled on my bag through the rear view mirror as it's getting passed back. I keep looking back checking it out. Finally, I can't stand it any more and I pull over, throw it in park and grab my bag. I ended up driving with it on my lap the rest of the day. Yeah, that wasn’t really funny, huh? Shit. I’m anal about my camera gear!

Here's a little sketch story: I was in Cabo San Lucas after my group had gone home. My wife and I stayed a few extra days to wind down. We went out to Lovers Beach and it was cracking. Glassy and heavy. I had my camera and headed out. I grabbed a bunch of empty wave photos- cool stuff, great light, no problem. Just then, a set rolled in and I turned to take a shot of the first wave. That was almost a disaster, it was the worst thing I could’ve done. I came up after that wave, paddled hard and fast to get the next photo and was caught. The last wave of the set was coming and I didn’t think I wasn’t going to make it. Luckily, the waves were throwing out about as wide as they were tall or I would’ve been gonzo. I came in after that- straight to the beach.

Photo: Manny and his wife Mailei Have you had any of your shots published?

Manny: I’ve had photos published overseas and nationally. All in the bodyboarding scene. But it’s just a matter time before I get some surfing photos published. I’m working with a few great surfers and we’ve been connecting... but I'm still shooting for that one magic photo. Where do you like shooting, land or water?

Manny: I love the ocean. I want to be in the water and with the lens I use, I have to be in your face. I love getting as close as possible without getting a fin to the head. I’ll eventually get a longer lens for shots from the channel but I prefer getting in the barrel.

Check back for Part III

Monday, April 26, 2010

Waterphotography with Manny Vargas: Part I

I'm always stoked to run into Manny Vargas- the guy is hilarious (ask him about surfing in South Africa) and is super talented at stuffing himself into the barrel on a bodyboard and at being in the right place at the right time to score killer water shots. Here's the transcript of our little beach side chat (all photos courtesy of Hey Manny- thanks for the water shots. Why don't you give us a "for-the-record bio of yourself?

Manny Vargas: Sounds good: Born in National City, raised in Imperial Beach from the tender age of fourteen hours. I've been bodyboarding professionally since 1985, surfing now and again during those years. I was a lifeguard at Silver Strand State Beach from '93 - '96. Lately, I've been shooting water photography basically since '05. How did you get started doing water photography?

Manny: I was fortunate to start my professional bodyboarding career with one of the best surfing photographers out there, Jeff Flindt. Jeff and I were both perfecting our trades as we went on world adventures, he was snapping photos and I was surfing perfect waves. When we hooked up on an awesome photo we'd both be stoked on it- that's the part that I really enjoyed.

I learned so much from watching Flindt, he had a killer work ethic and his camera care regimen left a mark on me. It was cool to watch. When I got my first water setup (Canon 20D and SLP Waterhousing) back in 2005, I was hooked! I was now on the other side of the lens seeing the stoke of riders when we nailed a shot. It’s an awesome feeling. Who were the water shot guys that really stand out in your mind?

Manny: I grew up and bodyboarded in the old-school age of film… when photographers would have to paddle in from heavy surf after taking the 36 photos per roll that they were limited to, load up a new roll and then head back out. Again, Jeff Flindt was cool to travel the world with and learn from. But then there was Aaron Lloyd.

Aaron Lloyd was the boot camp photographer. He's a cool cat to hang with and talk story. But if the surf was on and the lighting was crisp, you better perform. There's a trip I remember vividly… it was in '89, I was part of a crew of five bodyboarders sent to Puerto Escondido for a photoshoot. One day it got good, 5 - 7 foot Hawaiian and it was heavy. Aaron paddled out with us right into it.

I was lucky enough to go big and not each shit right in front of the camera. But the other guys were blowing opportunities. I remember seeing Aaron come in from the beach with his pole cam in hand and his legs scraped and bleeding. And he was pissed off. He put himself in positions to get the shot but the rider(s) kept blowing it and he’d go over the falls. That’s when I realized that the photographer can’t make something out of nothing. When it comes to shooting wave riders, it's a two way road. If both perform, magic happens.

Check Back for Part II

In the water: Manny Vargas Stand Up Paddle Water Photography

Here's a couple of killer water photography shots sent to me by pro-snapper Manny Vargas. Kiwi and I were stoked to run into Manny and local ripper Sean Fowler down the beach last Friday. Kiwi ended up scoring this killer right hander and I nailed a cool little beach-side interview with Manny. Check out shots and check back for my interview:

Photo: Kiwi happened to walk right into this nice right runner. All photos courtesy of

Photo: He told me that there was nothing to do but stand there and watch the lip fly past his ear...

Photo: And at the end of the wave, there was Manny- SPL housing and fisheye just waiting and shooting.

Photo: I even snagged one- but the whole deal with water photogs is that you're supposed to aim right for their head... that lens is an in-your-face type of situation... and I have to admit, getting that close with 9' of stand-o kind of hairs me out.

Photo: Next time, I swear it- I'm putting that thing right in his face!

Photo: Here's one from Friday- the one that got away.

Manny's super skilled, fired up to get in the water and stoked to shoot stand up surfing. The guy's an animal in the water, swimming into collision courses with barrel and stand-o. Check back and see what makes him tick.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crank it...

Made it down to the beach just in time to see Mark paddle into this...

And set up for this turn...

Next, I saw Gary sliding into this little hook...

And, I thought, "Hey, I'd like some too..."

JWall was there to watch me paddle out and flounder around, missing opportunities. He did snap these two photos though... and I did finally hook into one that let me....

....crank it!

After the rain...?

One can only hope...!

Photo: Big Brent, bustin'.

Photo: Johnny, jesting.

Photo: Wallop wave?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paddle Fuel: Throw it together, jam it in your face, go rip cutbacks

Here we go... FUEL for rabid stand up paddlers.

"Refrigerator Sheeeesh-¿que?-bobs"

First rule, don't measure anything. Second rule, only use what's in the refrigerator or cupboards.

1. Open can of pineapple slices you found rusting in the back of the cupboard.

2. Pour juice from can into ziplock bag of chunk-cut chicken, add what's left of the orange juice after you use most of it to make a margarita. On second thought, pour a little Grand Marnier, Triple Sec and, what the hell, dump a shot of tequila in there too. And a teaspoon or so of soy saw (local pronunciation).

3. Chop up a shallot and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. Got some red pepper flakes? Dump 'em in.

Photo: Getting so hungry you can't see straight? Me too!

4. Pinch of salt, close the bag and put it in the fridge while you chop up some veggies to go on the skewer. Red bell pepper, good. Green bell pepper, check. Red onion, yes. Carrot, no. Sliced up pineapple chunks from the rusty can? Nice you're getting the idea!

5. Get out your rice cooker (every surfer's got one, don't you?) two scoops of rice (calrose, always calrose), enough water to reach the first knuckle of your pointer finger (that's not measuring... that's how mom taught me to do it, works every time).

6. When you've finished chopping and you've got the rice cooker going, run outside and fire up the grill... charcoal is better but in the rain go with the gas.

Photo: That grill isn't dirty... it's what we call, seasoned.

7. Pull chicken out of the refrigerator, dump marinade down the sink and run some water after it or if you are just an effing party animal pour it into a tumbler over ice and suck it down. Chicken Sushi Margarita - the last thing you drink before you wake up in the hospital septic from o-ring to o-ring. Just kidding! DO NOT drink the salmonella/e.coli cocktail.... eat the worm, do a shot or open a beer bottle with your teeth (don't do that either) instead.

8. Thread it onto the skewers, slap 'em onto the grill and drink a cold one.

9. Server over steamed rice, maybe some steamed broccoli if you're a health nut.

Extra Credit: If you're trying to impress somebody or if you just into it, go to this website and make the peanut sauce. These ¿que?-bobs go excellent with it. This is by far the easiest, best tasting peanut sauce recipe out there- and it takes almost no time to make with ingredients you can find in your local supermarket. This woman is legit... look over her blog if your a Thai food nut like me.

Got a great recipe you want me to write up "Paddle Fuel" style? Send it to me: and I'll give it a go.

Stand Up Paddle Barrels Continued...

Awhile back I posted up some poached photos (thanks again LJS) of Gerry Lopez getting barreled somewhere in Indonesia. I dropped the challenge, saying something to the effect of, "these are the first photos I've seen of a paddle surfer getting fully barreled". I even said, "Prove it..." show me other pics of guys getting tube on stand up boards. Well the challenge was met, reader Colas (and Colas, if you have a link to your site, send it to me so I can hook you up) sent me some links that are shit-hot- and, once again, it's those hard chargers at Gong SUP getting the goods. Here's Cola's note to me:

"Gerry Lopez is always a pleasure to see. Note that a Frenchman, "JVB" (Jean Valere Bordenave) has been SUPing G-Land for some years with some nice barrels..."

Click here for more stand up paddle tube riding shots... good stuff! And here too. Charging G-land on a stand up board... killer stuff!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

FIN CHECK: Futures Fins 7.5" Albacore Flex Fin with 3/2 Tech Foil sides- a great set up for long board style paddle surfing.

Here's the fin setup that we've figured out works best for a progressive long board style of paddle surfing. I combined notes with Tomahawk team rider Art Curtis and we both agree- if you're going to walk the nose and jam turns, the 7.5" Futures Albacore Flex Fin combined with the 3/2 Tech Foils in the side boxes is hard to beat. Here's a little clip of Art talking about the set up:

The 7.5" Albacore flex fin provides a nice twang off the bottom, you load the fin as you compress off the bottom and then let it release out of the turn- the projection is sweet and the arc you carve has a nice little squirt to it. If you're surfing has a "beat" to it this is the fin that you want, it's all about load and release with this one.

At speed, the 3/2 Tech foils just provide more and more drive, especially when you're wrapping it all around back into the pocket. The fins let you come way out onto the shoulder and still wrap the board down and around. These side fins are a great starting point for figuring out what you want to run in the middle box. There's tons of lift in these things and the size is right- we don't like the little side bites unless you're into a slippy, slidey type of surfing.

Next Fin Check: We'll take a look at the SUP specific middle box fins offered by Futures.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Big Boy SUP Video: Over 200+ or get out of the water!

No Big Macs were harmed in the making of this film:

Spring time conditions on a low tide. Actually really tough to find some corners out there but we had fun anyways.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Riding an Outer Banks Barrel from the Inside Out

I don't like to do this. Posting up things I find on the web is not what I think a blog is about. Poach waves not content. But this video has really got its hooks into me. Check it out:

So I apologize for this little grab (and I suppose I did poach the Ellen video but it was just so good I had to do it) but the view out that dark barrel is really cool. I've seen the other vids (My Eyes Won't Dry), for some reason this one hits me a little harder. Maybe it's the fact that it's so dark in there or the angle of the camera lets you see the lip whizzing just past the surfers back. I don't know but I played this one at least six time today and another couple with me pausing it every couple seconds. These guys did a great job with this one- I thought you guys might like it. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jodie Nelson Video Clip: Larry the Whale and the Ellen Show

Cool story... great job to Jodie for getting out there and getting it done. All for a great cause too!

How's the Stamps Ninja Bump
at the end? Ellen's going to be ripping it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sneak Peek: Stand Up Boards from Caution Kites

The bearded ones up in Santa Cruz are set to release a series of stand up boards. Check 'em out:

The shapes look clean.
I'll see if I can get a ride report on them- when I hear more, I'll post it up!

Monday, April 12, 2010

SUP HATE: All the funny little forum people...

How great is this guy's response? I found this on the Surfer Magazine forum. If you want to get a look at how a handful of forum clones (I say clones because they all seem to write the same way, say the same things, think the same way) feel about stand up paddling, swing by and scroll through. Chances are you'll find a thread or two that will make you laugh (or get your hackles up).

I grabbed a screen shot of one of the threads I found. This guy was funny, I thought his response was well done. Especially this, "I'm sorry that you have to share air, sunlight, ocean space with other human beings." Witty. Check it out:

I can totally understand how a prone surfer would feel with a stand up paddler snagging everything that came through. Shoot, I still surf on occasion and I've witnessed visiting paddlers doing things the wrong way. But we can coexist with our laydown brothers- it just takes some self control. Don't snag everything that comes through. Stay out of the way. Be very aware of how you're coming across. Golden Rule kind of thing... stuff you already know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jodie Nelson on Ellen Show, 4pm 4/12/10... check it out!

Hey folks, local California super paddler (that's 40 miles... solo!) will be on the Ellen show tomorrow, Monday the 12th, 4pm Pacific time. Be sure to check it out and hear about her epic journey. Rad.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

SUP 4 Cancer: Hood River Oregon

My friend (and prokiteboarder) Tonia Farman is once again planning and hosting a super fun stand up paddle event this summer. If you're a wind junky/SUP competitor migrating across the country, put this one on the calender. You should definitely get involved with this event- it's for a great cause and it sounds like it's going to be a ton of fun!

Photo: Tonia keeping the ball rolling!

Tonia is just getting ready to roll out the event and I'm happy to be able to help her get the word out. Stay tuned for more information about the event in upcoming posts. Here's what I've got right now:

SUP 4 Cancer
- July 10-11, 2010 in Hood River, Oregon

Paddle 4 Cancer is an SUP race dedicated to embracing the healing power of water (mother nature!) with the determination of the human spirit to benefit those affected by cancer through funding of advocacy, prevention, and survivorship programs.

SUP4C will consist of a 7-mile downwinder, Relay Race, Full Contact Race, and various other "fun" races that only require an open mind and creativity! All proceeds will benefit various west coast cancer organizations including the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, Children's Healing Art Project, and SUP 4 Cancer's Survivorship Camps!!

Call for volunteers! Tonia needs help- come be a part of something great, get a free beer and a tee shirt... and a billion karma points. Contact Tonia here:

More info:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Fools: Tough conditions - still fun!

Just a little clip. This was a tough day to surf. I know it looks really clean and inviting but, truthfully, there weren't too many corners that day. Kelly and I had a good time anyways. Check it out:

Here's a cool, little blog that's just getting started. Check out Sheldon's Cubicle Surfer.

Offshore Baja with Isle Surfboards: Check the vid!

Here's a cool little Go Pro HD clip of a stand up session offshore of Baja California. Pretty rad stuff, big surf and... a little fishy out there. Check out the clip and stay tuned for some killer still photos of their trip:

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Okay, ready for some jaw-droppers... here's a set of photos that's got me by the balls; Gerry Lopez stand up surfing Indonesia. These photos come from a deep-cover, gone fully tropo, paddling madman who goes by the code name L.J.S... Dude, please keep them coming!

Photo: Could the stakes be any higher? This kick turn is a must win situation, totter off here and your in the path of the world's nastiest lawnmower. I once read that when Sean White launches into a 1040 all he hears in his head is a voice saying, "I'm gonna make this". It'd be interesting to know what's going through GL's head right now. Probably something like, "Tofu with Curry or just straight up?", dude's got ice water in his veins.

Photo: Is it me or does that look really.... fun.

Photo: I'm digging the foot position. When I pull in, I've got my back toes across the inside rail but I never get my front foot that far over. And, you know what? I usually can't get high and tight enough into the hook to travel in the barrel. Then again, this is Indo- the land of the open barrel right? Do you think it makes the act any more easier? I'm thinking, no. And I have a feeling that GL's got a little more tube time under his belt than all of us... he just might know some secrets.

Photo: A legit, traveling behind the curtain, stand up paddle tube. I think this is the first photo I've seen of somebody legitimately stuffed on a stand up board.... sure there's been plenty of, "looking in from the channel" type tube shots but I think this one really depicts the cover up component much better.

My challenge: I think this is the best photo of a stand up paddler actually getting barreled. If I'm wrong, prove it.

Out there: Stand Up Paddling some Bluebirds...

Bluebirds: big, open ocean, waves. So big they break in deep water- making them dark blue even purple. Operative word here: BIG.

Here's Marc Miller out stand up paddle surfing among the blue birds down south. Check 'em out:

That's the back of a wave! More to come...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NoBa Paddlesurfing: Waves, Tacos and a yard sale...

We did actually ride some waves that day in Northern Baja, problem is nobody wanted to stick around on the cliff and snap pictures. The classic problem, I'm sure I've spoke of it before. Kelly got out about a half an hour before me and after getting out of his suit, he snapped these two pictures of me surfing Bachelor Party lefts:

This was the second reef that I surfed that day. The first spot I surfed was about a quarter mile to the north. That spot was a little funky. Have you heard the term "slab". It's term du jour in the surf mags. A slab is usually a big, nasty, heaving wedge of a wave that jumps up out of nowhere, heaves farther out than it is tall, throws a filthy, almost unrideable barrel and then backs right down to nothing. Spot 1 could be described as a micro-slab. It had the heave-out-of -nowhere qualities (think jacking, vertical drop into a folding ten foot section) without the death defying side dishes. At a higher tide, it was tough to figure out and even tougher to paddle into.

Eventually, as the tide dropped, Spot 1 began to wall up and the death drop turned into a nice, head high, lime green left runner, good for a lip hit, a carving top turn and one cutback before it all dumped over onto a rock filled inside section. It wasn't a mind-bending wave but the crowd was right (me), the sun was out and hey, who doesn't like wrapping high speed, power-arcs even if there's only one per wave? Especially if you ride fifteen or twenty waves.

Kelly opted to surf the big, right hand, outer-bomby-to-inside-reform wedge that sucked in the West-ish swell and pushed it over the reef. I gave him his space- not like it was a problem, I had found my little playground and he had his. His wave was much longer than mine, he was surfing over a hundred yards all the way to the inside. I was behind the wave most of the time, watching from my little left hander but I could see that he was doing a good job of working that wave over. The new 9'2 Rusty LOL model that he was on is one fast little ride and from the fans I saw coming over the back of the wave, it seemed to turn really well.

The spot-of-the-day for me, however, was the left right out in front of the crash pad. Kelly called it Bachelor Party lefts and I hope get a chance to surf it again. It was a super fun wave with grunt, length and size a surprise given the fact that it looked pretty mellow from the cliff. We ended up surfing it at the end of the session. I paddled over first- probably a little deeper than I needed to be but I was chasing the mysto-left I'd seen from Spot 1.

Well, I did it right- the first left I snagged was a good two feet over head. That wave was pissed. Right off the bat, I was on my tippy toes free falling into a steep, hooking bowl section that looked like it would run right by me. The wave was so nicely formed that it didn't section and as I hit the first bottom turn, the 9'1 Stamps just got off its ass and squirted through that first little hook and out onto open face. From there, it was rail turn after rail turn, with a little squared up lip smash thrown in for variety. I know which wave I'm going to first next time I'm down there!

Paddling back in was harrowing. The surf wasn't huge but as the wave would line up square to the beach, it would feel the cobble bottom and double in size, pitching over and colliding straight up with the sloped shore. Bam- rock-shrapnel would fly up the beach, clatter against the volcanic cliffs and rumble back down into the wash machine landing zone. Coming in through that would take timing, balls and luck. I was hoping for two out of the previous three characteristics, knowing I could improvise or make something up to compensate for the missing piece. Here I am timing the sets and sprint paddling for the keyhole.

At some point during the paddle-in, you stop looking over your shoulder- you figure that even if you timed it incorrectly, looking back to see the monster coming for you does you no good anyway, so why do it? Well, in my case, what got me didn't come from behind- it swooped in from the side. A three foot sideshore wave freight trained me right in the death zone- knocking my board free and blowing the paddle right out of my hand. Yard sale, and all that stuff was getting sucked back down the berm right on top of me!

I had just told Kelly that I wasn't so sure of the usefulness of a handle in a performance stand up board. My mind is changed completely- if I wasn't able to grab that board's handle, flip it over and get those feet moving up the beach I would've been nailed. Here I am, board in hand hoping to get my paddle before it sweeps across my shins and back out to sea. Luckily, I pulled it and climbed out of that liquador unharmed. Not for the faint of heart- if you want to do this kind of thing you better be ready.

To the victors go the spoils and in this case, Taco Surf does 'em up right. Got a bucket list? Add, "Eat Baja tacos after surfing for three hours" on it. Sitting in the sun with a plate of tacos (six in my case, three or four in Kelly's), bragging, laughing and lying about the day's surf is one of the good things in life. Northern Baja's got it waiting for you, it takes some work and some know how but it's there for you if you dare. Get out there and get some.