Monday, January 31, 2011

What a week of stand up paddling- surfing and racing, all of it... unreal!

This past week was definitely one to be logged in the record books. For starters the surf would just not let up. We had north swells, west swells, north-west swells, south swells and the best... the combo swell situation throwing power wedges up and down the beach. Grinders groomed by offshore Nor' easterly winds, blowing back the tops and making everything.... KILLLER! I started my week at San-O surfing the 'Patch at sunrise. Check it out:

No, that's not the reactor fuel going to critical mass and teeing up a China Syndrome... the thermonuclear reaction you're looking at is hippy-friendly, it's organic and it's taking place 93 million miles from here... but still gnarly enough to light up the sky and get our day going at DogPatch.
The Patch was fun that day but what was really happening was much closer to home...
Later in the week, I got a chance to sample this... and it was FIRING! That's Kelly Kraus charging the shorepound.
There were waves going off everywhere... and the crowd was right. I got on it early and surfed 6' lefts all by myself.
To cap off the great week of surf, I was also pleased with my result at the Hanohano Race this weekend. It wasn't enough to win but it was an indicator that my work is starting to pay off. I'm super excited about improving on what I've done and even more excited about what I'll be surfing tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Speaking of Manny Vargas, check out these stando shots!

Manny also shoots from land- check out this sequence he sent me of Dr. John, a couple of days before he snapped that brand new Plus One stando:

The captions for the next few frames will be repetitive.

Dr. John, traveling...
and traveling...

and traveling...

still... traveling


How sweet was that wave?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

First of Manny!

Yeah Manny! I'm stoked for my friend water photographer Manny Vargas who just nailed a killer shot of Sean Poynter smacking the lip in Northern Baja- and it's been published in the Stand Up Journal! Yeah Manny- great job! Check it out:

I nabbed this shot off of Manny's blog: check it out!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias

If you're in my 'hood this Saturday be sure to come by the Tijuana Estuary's Visitor Center for the kick off of local enviro-warrior/tube rider Serge Dedina's latest book. See you there!

Wild Sea Launch Party: Saturday, January 29th, 6-8PM,
Tijuana Estuary Visitor's Center
301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach
All are welcome

A little background info about Serge:

Many people have lamented the pollution and outright loss of beaches along the coasts of California and Mexico, but very few people have fought on behalf of beaches as hard—or as successfully—as Serge Dedina.

Whether taking on an international conglomerate or tackling a state transportation agency, Dedina is truly an eco-warrior. In this sparkling collection of articles, many written for popular magazines, Dedina tells the stories as only an insider could. He writes with a firm grasp of facts along with an advocate’s passion and outrage.

Sprinkled with just the right mix of humor and surf lingo, Dedina’s writing is weapons grade—surfer speak for totally awesome.

Dedina grew up in Imperial Beach, California, just north of the Mexican border, and he feels equally at home in Mexico and the States.

An expert on gray whales, he eloquently describes the fight he helped to lead against the Mitsubishi Corporation, whose plan to build a salt-processing plant in the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California would have destroyed the world’s last undeveloped gray whale lagoon.

With similar fervor, Dedina describes helping to construct the unlikely coalition that succeeded in defeating a proposed toll road that would have decimated a legendary California surf spot.

In between, he writes about the first surfers in Baja, the Great Baja Land Rush of the 1990s, Tijuana’s punk music scene, the pop-culture wrestling phenomenon lucha libre, the reasons why ocean pollution must be stopped, and the way HBO took over his hometown.

Anyone interested in what’s happening to our natural places or just yearning to read about someone really making a difference in the world will find this a book worth sinking their teeth into.


Praise for Wild Sea:

“Serge Dedina writes with both passion and clarity about a subject he  knows like the back of his hand.  For anyone with an interest in the
issues that define life on the U.S./Mexican border, Serge’s book is  indispensable.  For anyone with an interest in Southern California
Surf lore, with its attendant iron men and holy goofs, Serge’s book is a pleasure to read.” -Kem Nunn, author of Tijuana Straits

“In Wild Sea, Serge Dedina tells the true story of a wondrous world that’s become his life’s work. Dedina’s eloquent narrative leads us on a harrowing journey through the complex and evolving realities of a threatened and forgotten land.” —Drew Kampion, author of The Way of the Surfer: Living It 1935 to Tomorrow

“From San Juanico Bight to the HBO series John from Cincinnati, Serge Dedina details the trials and tribulations of a desert coast under assault by man and nature, from land and sea.” —Benjamin Marcus, former editor for Surfer magazine and author of Surfing USA! An Illustrated History of the Coolest Sport of All Time

“Serge Dedina has dedicated his life to preserving the coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife of the Californias, researching, writing, fighting battles, and working with local residents to conserve their precious natural heritage. . . . You must read this inspiring book by one of the country’s most articulate and courageous defenders of the environment to find out what’s happening now in Baja California and on the southern California coast, and what we can do about it.” —Homero Aridjis, Founder and President, The Group of 100; Former Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO

“In an era when our last pristine places are being threatened by rampant development, Serge Dedina’s account of his ongoing battle to preserve the Baja Peninsula should inspire environmentalists everywhere. With a surfer’s passion and ingenuity, he takes on the corporate powers – and, along the way, gives us a fascinating history of others who ride the waves.” —Dick Russell, author of Eye of the Whale

Available from Amazon:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sheldon's Killer Go Pro Tube Shots

I was stoked to see my friend Sheldon's Go Pro shots posted up on Facebook- especially since he nabbed the shot I always wanted, the in-the-barrel wide angle Go Pro shot. Here he is on his 8'10" Paddle Surf Hawaii Ripper pulling in at the Shores. Check 'em out:

I love these kinds of shots, you get the surfer's eye view. Cool Stuff.
Thanks Sheldon those are super cool!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Surf Dolphins RULE.

I've surfed with all kinds of sealife: turtles, spotted eagle rays (gliding underneath me on a big left at Pavones), sea otters, whales, dolphins. Way back when I was still kitesurfing we used to zoom along and see dolphins just underneath us. Those guys were either trying to figure out what the hell was going on or trying to ride the tiny wake off our kiteboards. Once, as I was zipping along, I watched a dolphin come up underneath me, turn on his(her?) side and look up at me with it's big dolphin eye as we both jammed across the water. That was pretty cool but it was nothing like today. Today, I had my best dolphin encounter ever.

I had just enough time after school to suit up and paddle out at our local offshore wave. It's a solitary spot, way out there- so it's perfect for stand up surfing. It, however, is spooky because out there you feel like a soup ingredient. Sometimes it gets straight up creepy because the water feels so alive; all kinds of things are swimming around down there. There's lots of fish that come out of the deeper water to feed on the reef and I suppose they attract the dolphin. Or maybe it's the surf. I say this because I have never surfed a spot that is so infested with surfing dolphins- and these guys rip, busting pirouette air moves, speed carving the face or pulling off underwater go-behind figure eights. These locals are definitely shredders.

Given the size and quality of the surf, I wasn't surprised to see a couple dolphin way out the back, catching one of the big outside humps, busting free and then diving down. Or so I thought. As the wave made it's way towards me, I saw the two dolphin resurface and then both simultaneously busted an air. Dang! Those were two of the biggest dolphin I'd ever seen- I mean those guys were thick, probably in the range of five hundred pounds. Boom! They smacked down right in front of me and in a flash- they were gone. 

Fortunately for me, the wave they were surfing didn't disappear like they did. Instead, it was gobbling up a smaller wave in front of it and getting ready to double up into a sweet, ledgey left. These are the ones you wait for. Double-up lefts run across the whole reef, they're fast, they're steep and they are long. Perfect. I spun around and in a couple of strokes I was into it, charging down the face and angling off the bottom. I finished my turn and found myself right in the sweet spot, a thick, steep wall buzzing by just a couple of feet from my left cheek- I was tucked right into the pocket, not barreled just nicely slotted in the hook of the wave. What I saw next almost made me pull the eject cord. 

Surfing right next to me, inside of the vertical face of the wave were the two dolphin! It instantly reminded me of a photo I had seen of a surfer in South Africa unknowingly surfing along with a Great White shark within the wall of his wave. Those two dolphin seemed like they were standing right next to me- I swear, if I jammed my hand into the wave I would've touched one of them. Even more strange was the fact that they were keeping pace with me in the bowl of the wave- they knew how to find the juice too! We cruised along like that for probably five or six seconds- checking each other out.

We didn't surf together very long. I remember thinking how cool the two different shades of gray looked along the curves of their bodies. And in an instant they were gone. At first I thought they were going to get airborne to finish the wave (I've seen them do this before) and I started hoping that they wouldn't land on me (do you remember the surfer who got squashed by an airborne dolphin? True story.) but this time, they were gone for good- probably disgusted by the kook with three arms, surfing ugly and blowing their wave.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

While the cat's away...

... the spot goes off! Here's what was happening while I was at the DogPatch.

Kelly Kraus... shooooo! I DO love those left-handers!
Kelly again...

What a day- I was told it was the best in three years out there...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I love California

I'll start by telling you that today was an excellent day, stellar even. I had a little DogPatch adventure, an up-the-coast-ramble with a good friend, a couple of good boards and a promise from every surf forecasting website in the cosmos that today was going to be the day. Well, they were right. We surfed through the low and high tides, right through the moderate Santa Ana winds that blew straight offshore. It was a full day of surf- we left only because we were starving (and the Pipes Cafe took care of that... I recommend the Bacon or Sausage Scramble... I couldn't finish it).

If you don't live in California and haven't surfed in Santa Ana conditions, here's what you'll want to know:

1. The winds blow straight offshore, holding waves open, standing them straight up when they really want to curl and break. Offshore winds make something that looks like a closeout, makeable- so don't hold back.

2. You've got to paddle hard to get over the ledge and into a wave because the wind is blowing straight up the face, right into your chest. Paddle hard and get low.

3. Take a moment and breath deep- you should pick up the aromas of the chaparral; pungent coastal sagebrush, velvety white and black sage. Santa Ana season is also the season of the firebug- so don't breathe too deep, especially if you see black smoke moving along the ridges and down the canyons. In fact, if it's blowing hard and the fire engines are going off you might want to think about getting the hell out of Dodge.

Hope you got some today too.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

For Kevin Ferris: My first piece of "art" (?)

Notice the quotes- it may not actually be art and the question mark... I'm doubly unsure of its status. Anyways- my little surf/art friend Kevin didn't believe that I made a little painting down in Baja- so here it is Kev: Keep on Truckin'

Down in Baja we do a gift exchange for Christmas- but you have to make what you give. This is what I came up with for the name I pulled.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Crossing my fingers for tomorrow morning!

The surf ended up being super fun today- as long as you got it at the right time and tide. No too late and not too low of a tide... but there were some long left handers out there just dying to be harvested.

Here's what I'm hoping we'll get a little of tomorrow:

Crossing fingers and toes for more of this in the early morning!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kiwi off to Race in the La Ventana Classic

Here's the email and photo I got from local racer Kiwi (Mark Field) off to defend his title at the La Ventana Classic: "It's all business from here".

Yep, I know that spot- it's the closest bar to the Volaris terminal in the TJ Airport... good job mate!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For better or worse... I'm in, you?

The plan was to continue working out while I was down having fun drinking Commanches and surfing my brains out. It turns out that the last two options were a little more attractive than the first. There were no four mile workouts or two hour distance paddles going on down south, especially when I had a Pacifico Ballena in my hand most of the time (which makes holding a paddle almost impossible, almost).

Anyway, I'm racing in a little more than a week for better, or for worse. The Hanohano-Huki's 15th running- see you there:

The deed is done, the check in the mail... all that's left now is to show up and blow up, dog. Or blow chunks, or something like that.

A couple more from Saturday and Sunday

Dr. John, cranking away on his Plus-One stando.
As you can see, it was pretty much a classic California surf day. Dr. John doing it again.
Kiwi nabbed this killer left and rode it a hundred yards up the beach- jamming his quad fin Stu Kenson 8'6" the whole way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Killer weekend of surf...

Here's a couple of shots of how it went down this weekend... or should I say how it went OFF. Sorry for the grainy quality- it was early, I was jittery and my gear ain't exactly top notch. Enjoy:

Early light, splitting the peak... stoked for those guys.
I'm not sure what's happening off to the right but I hope it's better than that little left sneaking through on the inside...
Oh boy.

Is it here yet?

Look what's heading our way... is it here yet? That big blob means waves heading our way. I'll be checking it after school today... with an afternoon low tide it may be time to hit the big offshore, bombies. It'll be a battle with the wind- let's hope it holds off.

Yep... purple and black mean big, scary waves.... run and hide!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Northern Baja Firing

I know this isn't a vid of someone ripping on a stand up board. I'm posting it for a couple of reasons:

1. Sean Fowler is a local boy and he's just effing making this wave pay on his little Stu Kenson twin fin... and since he's a bro and SK makes killer boards... why not?

2. This is a good example of what is just over the border in Northern Baja. The water may be cold but in the winter, that region fires... and just to the south of this particular spot is a land of reef breaks just tailor made for stando surfing... lots and lots of possibilities.

3. Good surfing is good surfing... dig?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

First surf with Futures Fins Jamie Mitchell SUP fins in my 8'6 Stamps

Untitled from john ashley on Vimeo.

Check out this clip- shot just this morning on the new fins. The surf was super gutless, even so, the fins created tons of drive to get down the line.

Digging these new fins- definitely more of a "power on" type of feeling. I'm going to make an adjustment to the back fin (move it forward .25") and surf it this afternoon. I'll write a full review after a couple more sessions on 'em.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Futures Fins: Jamie Mitchell Thruster Set... Looking Really Good!

Futures is the type of company that thrives on feedback, testing and progression. If they can improve on a fin design they'll do it even if that means going against the grain, breaking from what's fashionable or even breaking new ground- with these guys form definitely follows function. I've known this to be true for the last two years that I've been riding their stuff... and every year I get a little more excited about what they're putting together. 

Here's the latest- Jamie Mitchell's SUP Thruster Set. I just got these today and already I'm walking around with a paper towel stapled to my chin because I'm drooling all over 'em:

This is the center fin of the set... it's just a bit bigger in height, width and overall area than the Gerry Lopez thruster set... just what I was looking for!
If you've been following this blog for awhile I'm sure you know that Futures absolutely sold me on their Gerry Lopez thruster set- they killed it with those fins. Basically, the team at Futures put their heads together with the master himself and came up with the first true SUP specific thruster fin set. The fins were excellent, working perfectly in the two boards I was riding at the time (9'4 Stamps Ninja roundtail and my 9'1 Ninja/Bump) both had relatively foiled, round tails which suited the fast, flexy fins well. 

My latest board, however, is an entirely different beast. The 8'6 Stamps Grim Ripper has a fuller outline and tail. I've been running the board with a combination of set ups; a stock G.Lopez thruster set (very loose and light feeling underfoot but with the board's wider tail, not drivey enough), G.Lopez sides with a 7" Futures Performance fin (drivey but a little stiff, not as quick to release off the rail) and a combo made up of huge G10 twinnies (Stu Kenson's personal set on loan... thanks Stu) and a G.Lopez center (zippy and loose... drivey but apt to track and railroad away from you at speed). As you can see- I'm kind of all over the map with the fin set up, I'll like one on Monday and then change it out by Tuesday. Clearly, I'm still searching for the perfect set up. 

Side by side comparison: Gerry Lopez center fin vs. Jamie Mitchell center. BTW: How sweet do those Mitchos look?
 It was almost eerie then when I received the new Jamie Mitchell thruster set- it seemed like somebody over there was reading my mind. The middle fin is both wider (more drive) and slightly taller than the Gerry Lopez middle fin (J.M. back fin area = 22.57sq." vs. G.L. area = 18.48 sq.") while the side fins are just a hair smaller than the Gerrys. Could this be the magic combo for my 8'6"?  Are these the fins that match my wide bottomed board"? Well, we've got some surf coming and I'm fired up to run these things through their paces. You can be certain that I'll report back on the performance of these fins.

Oh yeah- there's a bunch of other fins that came with those Mitchos... most notably are the race fins sent for the 2011 race season (never to early to start getting things dialed in!) and of those.... wait 'til you see the full carbon Jamie Mitchell race fin (actually, there's a sneak peek of it in the first photograph on this page) developed for Battle of the Paddle type racing... that thing looks HOT.  Stay tuned for more fin-porn- coming soon!

Standard Baja

As you can see, I'm having Baja withdrawals. In fact, I'm already planning my next trip. I'm ninety percent sure I'm heading down in April- but not the whole way. I'm going to spend ten days exploring the little coves and offshore islands of the Bahia Concepcion. I'll post some pictures of the place later but just believe me when I say it's one of Earth's treasures. I'm also going to drive way out into the desert and check out the mission at San Borja. I've been there before- for some reason it's calling me back. More on that later as well. And finally, while I'm down there, I'm going to go hangout with the gray whales at Laguna San Ignacio- maybe I'll even get to touch one. I'm getting fired up for more Baja... which is pretty standard.

And this is standard Baja too- look how much road is left over for you when you pass this guy. Not much. So it's easy to see how big ol' elephant ear side view mirrors get smashed off, right? Happened to me, though I was gonna die... something to consider for your next Baja rig.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Catching up...

Wow. It's tough to get back into the swing of life in the real world. Give me a couple of days to get my act together and I'll put up some new stuff for you guys.

This... this was much easier.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Made it home!

Mission completed! Safe and sound at home- unloaded and unpacked. I even washed the truck- though it looks like it will require four or five more washes a full wax and buff job to remove some Baja pinstriping (from crashing through the bushes in 4x4 mode) and a thorough interior cleaning. I'm going to do a few more posts about the trip and let you in on some of the future plans I've got for paddling Baja- hope you don't mind but I'm still buzzing from the trip- such a great one!

I'll leave you with this little morsel for now: 

No sheep were harmed in the making of whatever this rancher was making... I think. You see some crazy stuff down there and some jaw dropping beautiful sights... I can't wait to head back down this Spring.

The opposite of swank... the best tienda in town!

I know, I know- I got you all nervous yesterday telling you how gentrified this place is getting. Well, all you have to do is walk around the corner and you're back in Mexico. For example, this is the best little tienda in town... it's on the way to the surf spot so it's an excellent place to stop and pick up beer and ice and the best part.... freshly, hand made flour tortillas.

Okay- the sign says Mini Super Campos and the building says California Star... this is the place for hot, fresh, flour tortillas. Nicest people in the world working in there too.
That's the owner, Juan, in the red cap. Juan makes the best refried beans I've EVER had. Really. If you are his friend, he'll throw together a bean burrito for you with a fresh off the grill tortilla, a big slice of queso fresco and some of those ridiculously good beans. He will not divulge the recipe... and believe me I tried to get it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Made it to San Quintin... forget about Old Mill... this place blows it out of the water!

Cleaner, cheaper, newer, dog friendly with pristine tropical gardens and an A+ restaurant next door... I'm over the Old Mill- this place is unreal! Spent $95 bucks for five margaritas, six beers, two giant ribeyes, three lobsters (big suckers too), two bowls of Siete Mares... all cooked to perfection (the steaks were even cooked to a perfect "rare" which is tough to get in Mexico)... I'd tell you where I'm at but then I'd have to kill you. Don't worry pics to follow but keep it on the hush/hush!

More photos...

Some of you may notice that a few of my photos aren't opening up into huge pictures like they usually do, right? Not to worry! It's my fault, I somehow instructed my camera to take smaller files- I've since corrected it. You should see some full sized, style photos coming back to you... in a couple of days. Until then, deal with these as best you can!

 Check out the cool little perch this home has carved into the street side. This town is full of interior and courtyard, "hidden" gardens as well as these quaint little spots, usually full of cool plants, that the locals hang out in during the cool evenings. There are many restaurants that look just like a plain door but once you enter them, they open up into big, lush, tropical gardens.
Honestly, the place is becoming kind of swank. There's an American owned wood-fired, pizza joint a Thai-fusion restaurant and a killer bakery (all I have to say is tres leches... feel me?). So it's swank.... but I like it! It's not blown out of proportion snobbiness it's just an availability of excellent food and services that are sometimes hard to find down here. I'm digging the direction the town is heading in.
The Pastry Shop... yumm.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Made it to Mulege... hatching plans for Spring Break.

I've never really walked around Mulege before. This afternoon I got a chance to walk along the river and check the place out- what a cool spot this is! I've already hatched a plan to come back down here for ten days and paddle up the river (as far as possible) and to paddle the beautiful flatwater spots of the Bahia Concepcion. Look for more info about this upcoming adventure- it should be a good one!

I'm on the road... so I'll just be posting photos and captions.

If I can update from the motel in Mulege tomorrow I will. Most likely you'll just have to enjoy a montage of trip photos... Enjoy:

Plumeria, frangipani... whatever you want to call it, you can find these growing here in town. This also the only spot in Baja where mangoes grow naturally. If you know me, you know that I'm always on the lookout for those plumeria.
Another shot from yesterday... wow, what a fun day of surf.
Noah, rail grab on the inside.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Poquito triste... heading home tomorrow.

Had a killer time here- already planning for next year. This town is such a cool place, even if you're not surfing. Here's a shot from our afternoon, post-dinner walkabout:

I dig this place... how about that little buddy giving me stinkeye?

Worth the wait... waves!

If you've been following along (and you should... checking in at least three times a day!) then you know that I extended this trip to try to score a couple of the solid NW swells projected to hit. Yesterday was the day- it basically went off until around noon... then the wind came up but it was so sideshore that the lower racetrack was still very surfable. And practically empty. Check it out:

Early morning... thick and lumpy and really fun.
Unlike this guy, I wasn't going to sit around and watch it happen... on it!
Tailgate breakfast with a side of right hander....
I've seen this cat down here many times today I finally got a chance to meet him- and look who made his board! Enrique was ripping on this little Stamps quad fish. This shot is from the afternoon- check out the inside runner, protected from the wind and grinding.... yeeehaw.