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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Racing on Saturday: Seaside Slide... 7 miles, bumpy, junky and gray... here we come!

Okay- it's on. Our little stand up paddle race crew is getting fired up for the Seaside Slide race this Saturday. I've never done this one before but Kiwi said that since it's in our backyard, we've got to do it. I'll admit, I have some reservations about it.

First of all, I suck in the open water. I can handle a bit of roll and chop but when it gets all crossed up and nasty- that's when I really slow down. Dealing with all that motion wears out your legs. By the time the thing is over, you feel like you're going to collapse- your legs have become linguini. Secondly, it's frustrating to have to paddle at a slower rate than you're used to- instead of powering along like you do on flat water, you've got to get into rhythm with the chop and swell. Sometimes you never get in rhythm (that's what happened to me at the Redondo race- the conditions owned me outside of the breakwater) and you never get to the point where you can power up comfortably. That's when it gets frustrating.

I'll start my carbo-loading tomorrow morning and continue all the way until thirty minutes before the start of the race on Saturday. I've been eating oatmeal early on race day, jamming it down by 5am for the last two races both times I felt stronger than ever. Maybe I'm onto something?

Secondly, this is a seven mile race with a water start and a beach finish. The water start shouldn't be a problem, except that a solid northwesterly groundswell is supposed to peak on Saturday morning. Luckily, there are a few channels at Seaside reef that allow you to sneak a 12.6" race SUP through- at least that's the plan. The finish should be interesting- surfing a race stand up board always gets me nervous- the things have sharp rails that can catch and throw you off. I'm anticipating some serious chili con CARNAGE at the finish. But, like I said, this one's seven miles long and I'm anticipating that I'll be bringing up the rear of the pack- I'll probably be missing out on the carnage asada- unless the joke is on me.

Of course, I'll bring my own magic marker to put my race number on a couple additional spots on my body. I want that number to be really easy to see- I'm not going to be left out of the results ever again!
And finally, the winds look screwy for Saturday. The forecast calls for light and variable winds predominately out of the south. This means a tailwind for the first half of the race and headwinds all the way back. Brutal.

Open water races throw many more variables at you than the protected flatwater races. I'm looking at this one as a learning opportunity. If I'm ever going to be a complete racer I'll need to get comfortable on a race board in live water. And, we are ocean racers aren't we? Ocean racers weren't meant to sit safely in harbors- see you out there on Saturday!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beach break stand up surfing: Design elements to look for in your next board.

I just pulled it off- the sneak a way surf session. Don't worry, I'm not shirking any major responsibilities. By some strange contortion of the cosmos, I was left out of the loop with nothing to do- darn.

Kind of crazy getting back on the 8'6 Stamps stand up surf board- it's been about ten days since I've surfed it. After I got my sea legs back and put a couple of waves under my belt, I remembered why I like this board so much- the thing is a stone cold killer in the beach break. That little stando eviscerates beach break waves like Nugent guts elk. Here are the elements that I think are important in a good beach break stando.

For a beach break board I'd suggest something as short as you can handle, preferably in the 9'0 and below range. Beach break waves are unpredictable, you want to be able to swing that thing around quickly and get jamming down the line. Short boards, with lower swing weights allow you to do this.

Go for a wider tail, this provides both stability (you are on a shorter board, remember) and quick acceleration. Beach breaks don't usually provide the nice, long, roll-in of a point or reef wave. On sand bottom waves, you've got to be able to put the hammer down as soon as possible- wide tails give you something to push off and get the ball rolling. This is definitely not the time for a super pulled, pinny tailed board- unless you like to bog and get caught behind sections.

Don't forget the fins- I ride a 2 + 1 set up, I like the positive feeling of that big middle fin but I can imagine the merits of a quick turning quad. In fact, my shaper, Tim Stamps was a first hand witness to a serious Gold Coast wave assault by Australian ripper Luke Egan who was tearing it up on a stando quad fin. I'm interested... maybe in my next one. For now, I like the feel of fairly large side bites and a slightly larger middle fin in the 6.5 - 7" range. I use Futures Fins Gerry Lopez thruster sets almost exclusively, I like the super zingi-ness of the inside foiled side fins. If it gets really small and I want to slide the tail around, I'll use the GL middle fin that comes with the set. Lately, however, I've liked the driviness of the bigger Futures surf fin (7") template. Mix and match and see what you like.

As always go as light as possible- you want to be able to flick that board from rail to rail as quickly as possible. You will pay for the lightness with durability, typically light boards will take a beating and show it much more sooner than a heavy one. I'm used to the deck indentations since I come from a surfing background- as long as the fiberglass isn't punctured, deck indentations cause no harm.

Most importantly, find a shaper who surfs the same beach break conditions that you do- they'll be able to dial you in the best and make a board suited to what you're surfing. 

Good luck and if you sneak away- I want to hear all about it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One San Diego Day. Part II... back to surfing stuff.

Capped off the morning with a killer sushi lunch at Sushi Deli (if you know... well, you know) washed it down with an ice cold Kirin and set myself up for a nice afternoon nap. The evening featured a little bit of a surf art/artifact show in the industrial part of downtown. Check it out:

Once you got inside of the gates, this is what the place looked like. I didn't know a single soul but I knew that somewhere inside there were some wacko surfcraft and with them, the free thinkers that made 'em. I wasn't disappointed.
Little did I know that I.B. is everywhere- who should I see right when I walk in but my two friends Kraig Surplus and Kevin- from then on, it was on.
Yeah, I was the kook snapping pictures of everything. Can you see Eckstrom over there in the corner... can you say: asymetrical?
There were cool little things stashed all over the place- how's that fish board?
One wall featured notes describing the time line of a surf film.
Cool to see my local spot featured.
This loft was featured in The Surfers Journal- as were these kids... riding chunks of foam... actually, I should say, ripping chunks of foam. They showed up too.
It was a good party: free beer, free food... interesting people and....
...that string band I was telling you about... rocking out Fiddler on the Roof tunes.
Here's a shot of the whole compound... a little oasis of surfdom in the middle of the 'hood.
By the time we left, I was hungry again- one more trip to Pizza Port, one more Lahaina pizza and I was done for the day- it was definitely a good one!

Monday, March 28, 2011

One San Diego Day. Part I (Beware, lots of pictures of vegetables below)

San Diego is a great place to live. There's so much to do when the surf goes to shitake... you just have to get out and find the fun. Check out Part I of the my killer Saturday adventure:

Started my little adventure downtown- well not exactly. It was Little Italy but it felt so downtown-ish... love it that I can go from my sunny little backyard garden to this sort-of downtown in about ten minutes. San Diego's downtown is like a beginner's downtown- it's got the buildings but it's not intimidating at all. 
Every Saturday is Farmer's Market- Little Italy has got to have one of the best... tons of actual farmers not just dirty hippies selling feathers and beads. And, best of all- ton's of different types of food for sale and, even better, free samples! I am now making it a mission to go to every farmer's market in the San Diego area... at least until the surf gets good again.
All kinds of fresh stuff. How good do those look? The berry bin was actually kind of fascinating to me- there's about ten more photos of it on my hard drive... you never know when you might see another one! Mondrian would've loved it.
I sampled one of these and it was over. This jar went home with me. Scroll down to the next pic for a full description.
Watch out for that habanero half lurking... it'll get you every time. These things didn't even last two days in the fridge. I going to learn how to make these myself- if I don't, I'm going to put a serious dent in the new-board fund. Anybody know how to make 'em?
The carrots were great- but this guy ruled. Joes on the Nose... awesome coffee, coffee drinks and straight up craziness like the peanut butter and hot chocolate drink... wait, what? GENIUS. By the way, that little step van is where I'm going- forget about the Sprinter Van- I'm getting one of these things.
Here's the drink list, belly up to the bar and call your (espresso) shot! I had the Cheater Five... blended.
These guys were hanging out. How punk rock is that crested ugly dog (sorry can't remember the full name)? This farmer's market was cool in that you are allowed to bring your dog. The dog owners are pretty responsible- I didn't see doggy doo-doo the whole time- and I looked.
Like I said, there's all kinds of insane food there. I don't know if this is a crepe or a tortilla/crepe mutant... but it was huge!
My rule of thumb for eating at farmer's markets is to never order anything large, you want small bites so you can eat a bunch of different things. I ordered up these little pulled pork sliders. The price was right, two of them for five bucks perfect to share with a friend... and that's right, there's coleslaw right on top of it. Don't be afraid.
Be sure to get there before 10am, it get's pretty darn crowded and finding a parking spot is tough.
Can you tell I like my new camera?
This one's for my friend Sarah who told me I should buy these and roast them- they're on the menu for tomorrow night. Full report to follow.
Check back for Part II (I promise no more vegetable photos!).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hydrodynamica/Loft 9 Get Together: The Surf Community is Cool

Thanks to Kevin Ferris (check out his blog, The Birds and the Beards) for giving me the heads up on this super cool get together at the Loft 9 Gallery. What a cool spot! Here's a couple photos, check back for more:

Scene of the crime. Inside: A converted tin building, legendary board shapers, up-and-coming-surf weirdos, cool boards, cool people, hot chicks, free beers and a full sized stage featuring a string band playing Fiddler on the Roof tunes. Rad.

Simmons twin fin reproduction- I salute you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Franken-Paddle: I thought I published this August of 2008...

My first mainland Mexico surf trip was in August of 2008. I woke up early the first morning, beat everybody to the lineup and snapped my paddle in half on the first wave. Welcome to mainland... good thing I had a back, oops- no back up paddle. So here's what I did:

Franken- as in Frankenstein, the monsterous (yet misunderstood and strangely gentle) patchwork of cobbled together human parts that was large, strong, gnarly and unfortunately for that dude, not flame retardant. This was the name I gave to the eight pound beast-paddle that I pieced together after my shaft snapped on my first (yep, FIRST) wave at the point. Check it out:

A normal paddle (thanks Duffy!) and the Franken-paddle to the right of it. Notice the twist and knob on the shaft. Kind of like those x-rays of a femur trying to reconnect itself- this is where the shaft snapped. I jammed a piece of black steel water pipe inside of the shaft from the handle to the blade and wrapped the two pieces together with a whole roll of electrical tape. The folks at the hardware store told me I had to buy the whole twenty foot long piece of pipe- they don't sell just 74" of the stuff. I gave the guy two bucks to cut it short and handed them the rest of the pipe back as a regalo (gift). Gringo loco!

This is absolutely what you don't want to see if you've just arrived on a firing point break and were too stupido to bring a back up paddle. The break was no fault of the paddle's- I should've packed it better. The failure didn't come as I was paddling out with it, or even cranking on it to get into a wave. The snap came as I was leaning on the paddle on a long, open face bottom turn. I think the shaft must've been nicked - and I've heard it before, if carbon fiber is compromised- it'll snap on you. I'm definitely going to buy an exact copy of this paddle for daily use, same brand and all- the thing is the best I've used so far, paddles great and is featherlight. I'm also seeing the need for a hard case just for paddles. I've only seen soft cases out there- a hard case that could hold three or four paddles would be a great piece of equipment, especially if the manufacturer could disguise it to look like a fishing pole case. Fishing gear travels at no extra charge!

Check out the photos below. I actually thought about jamming a piece of driftwood into the shaft to act as the handle- but that snapped instantly. I finally ended up buying a PVC plumbing piece and wrapping it with tons of electrical tape. Bingo! Game on!

The Franken-paddle was sooo heavy- but it worked and that ended up being one of the best surf trips I've ever been on. Thanks Franken-paddle.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A couple shots from last summer... the non-summer.

Anybody remember how bleak and gray last June was? As a matter of fact, the whole summer was one big, damp, gray, gym sock tossed over what should be a time of sunshine, bbq's and hot 'n' glassy south swells. Anyways, here's a couple of interesting ones I dug up from the "non-summer" archives.

I was stoked to meet and surf with Sean Poynter. The guy is pretty amazing on his 6'4" stand up board, legitimately ripping on the thing. Even better, let him switch it up for a stock 5'10 potato chip thruster and watch him tear the nutsack out of anything with a rippable wall on it. Here he is finding a little seam and pulling in- just in time for Manny V. to hit the snap button. Good times... but still ridiculously gray.
The summer of fiberglass. That summer I completed my 14' wood, glass and epoxy dory. Honestly, completing that boat has got to be one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. I'm still doing the little bits of finish work on it and am contemplating a journey up to the Pacific North West, wooden boat in tow. I'd like to paddle some pretty lakes and ponds- and maybe even learn how to flycast. I did learn how to lay up yards of fiberglass- it was tough. And, yes, you do get itchy but it's the road calling so you load up and see what's around the bend- at least that's what I do. That's what the boat did to me.
My town is still kind of the wild west... and that's what I like about it. You want to shoot fish with a compound bow? Go for it... this ain't Newport or Laguna. Down here some of your God-given rights still exist... like the right to stand ankle deep in freezing water waiting for a corvina to swim within range.
One guy you can count on to be on it is Kelly Kraus. He's surfed this spot for decades- he's got it wired. When Kelly picks a spot to paddle out, I pay attention. When he shifts to the south- so do I. And when I get a chance I pepper him with questions about how the place works, he always has time for answers- like I said, he's a good guy.

When it rains like this...

I start dreaming of mainland Mexico. Down there, the rain will open up like a busted lawn sprinkler and then just as fast as it started it will stop. The rain will be gone- the waves remain:

This is the view from the casita that I rent every time I'm down there... watch the rain and when it stops, grab your board, bounce across the yard and jump on in... the water is so warm it's like pulling a blanket over your body.
 I'm getting that traveling feeling again- Spring Break is coming...and I've got an 8'6 that's dying to run a little bit... Yep, I think it's ON.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Secret weapons Part II: Stuff I like to use...

Check out some of the things I like to have around on race day:

The start of the Malibu to Marina race... just looking for some clean water.

A. GPS, I use a Garmin eTrex, it's cheap, waterproof and is easy on the batteries. I've found that having it on board during a race is hugely helpful for two reasons:

1. The GPS provides a constant speed update- my goal is to keep my speed around 5.5 mph. If I find myself dropping below that, I either look to see who's going fast in front of me (and I copy the line they're taking) or I suck it up and really start concentrating on laying down some power.

2. If you're paddling a course for the first time, the GPS provides a huge psychological crutch. Instead of powering along never knowing when you're halfway there (and subsequently feeling like the course is ten miles longer than the five that were advertised) you now know exactly when the course is half over. For me, knowing where I am on the course keeps my head on straight (and keeps those negative thoughts from creeping in on me).

B. Take a close look at the little black box zip-tied to the back strap of my visor. That's one of those slick Interval waterproof cases that H2O Audio makes for the ipod shuffle. I love paddling with tunes- they keep me fired up and take my mind away from the pain. I usually only paddle with one earphone in- that way I can hear what's going on around me while still getting to rock out.

C. See that white piece of string around my neck? That holds the mouthpiece for my waistpack water bag in place making it easy for me to quickly stuff it in my mouth and get a drink of water. I learned that trick from Kiwi- thanks mate.

D. I like to use the CamelBak brand waist pack for hydration. The back fits nice and snug and the bladder features a large mouth that makes filling and cleaning really simple. I also like to fill it with Fruit Punch Gatoraide... dunno, it just tastes good to me when I'm out there pushing hard.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Secret weapons...(Futures Jamie Mitchell Race fin and more!)

Wow, I had a great weekend of racing. No, I didn't win or place or anything... this weekend was all about learning- I did a bunch of that. I think I may have dialed in a few things that are going to help me out there next time- I call 'em secret weapons but I don't mind sharing.

Carbo-loading: Do it and do it early! I started loading up earlier this time- instead of waiting to pile on the carbs the night before the race, I started at breakfast the day before. And I also sampled this pizza and Stone Brewery offering at Pizza Port... it's important to hydrate- at least that's what I kept telling myself.
Get there early, get set up and then chill out. I always get all twisted up inside before the race starts- that feeling is multiplied exponentially if you're rushing around trying to find a parking spot while simultaneously looking for your water and Clif Bar. It's best if you can show up early, snag a nice parking spot and then just take a breather before it all starts. Plus, you get to see all the cool boards go by as they're carried down to the beach.
Get a good fin. This is what I've been using- the Jamie Mitchell race fin by Future Fins. This thing is made in carbon so it's feather light and very stiff. I think it's given me a bit more directional stability than the weed fin that I was using and I have to say I've felt faster since I've had it in (my practice times have dropped considerably and I was able to motor along in the flats much more quickly than normal). I've been checking out what the fast guys have been using and for the most part I'm seeing larger fins with lots of leading edge angle (I'm assuming that helps with shedding weeds). Get yourself something that helps you go straight- unless you purposefully like to make the course just a bit longer by zig zagging all over the place.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stand Up Paddle Racing: Malibu-to-Marina Race '11... a quick synopsis.

I don't have enough time to go into it so I'll hit you with some highlights of today's race. First of all, stand up boards are only allowed to compete in the short (5.2 mile) course which runs from Mother's Beach in Marina Del Rey out and around the breakwater at the mouth of the harbor.

The brutal part of the course is the half mile or so that takes you out of the protected harbor and straight into the surf, chop, reverberation and cross swell nastiness that comes off the outer breakwater wall. Today, by all accounts (including the guys who paddle it daily) was GNARLY!!! Once you cleared the protective jetties of the harbor and came around the breakwall, you were being hit from all directions by steep, short period chop and swell. I got pitched in twice (brrrrr), dropped in speed from 5.5 mph to .5 mph and was passed by eight paddlers who left me behind as I tottered, sputtered and cursed my way around the mark. I suck when the conditions get messy and getting on a stable board is going to be a MUST before the open water Seaside Slide on April 2nd.

I did suck it up once I hit the flatwater and was able to catch and pass all but two of the guys who blew by me on the outside. I was happy with my performance (I felt really strong) on the flatwater and discouraged by how ineffective I was in the open ocean. It's pretty obvious what I need to work on and I'm very clear on what I'm going to be looking for in my next board.

Race Day!

4:00 am... still carb loading, this time oatmeal. Sitting here in the dark, waiting for Kiwi to come rumbling up in the diesel F250... prerace jitters and the start is still hours away. This one, Malibu-to-Marina (that's Marina del Rey) is partially outside of the harbor so it'll be the balance game today when we hit the choppy stuff. That part will slow me down... always does. Looking forward to my new board which will be wider with a wide square tail on it and a different type of bow that should help me stay stable and steady. If you're not comfortable, you're not laying down all the power you could. Off to grab a quick shower and get the board on the front lawn... still dark. Wish me luck!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't forget...Adler paddler event this Sunday - rain or shine!

Be sure to get to the Adler Paddler Race/Benefit this Sunday, March 20th in Belmont Shores (Long Beach).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Surf food?

There is such a thing as "surf food". Carne asada fries and a Negro Modelo are surf food. A rack of lamb with mint jelly followed by a tumbler of scotch with a Glen in it's name will never be considered surf food. Quiche is definitely not surf food- although if it has a really good crust and you cover it with ketchup- well then, it might be surf food. Part of what I love about traveling and surfing is finding those spots that do it right- could be a perfect plate of corned beef hash and eggs (yes, surf food) or un plato de sopes con nopales with a little sliced mango on the side and an ice cold Pacifico (you feeling it now?). I'm good at finding this kind of stuff. Here's a couple solid spots I've got squirreled away- don't ask, you've got to earn them:

Best thing on the menu? A chicken roasted in a clay pot... surf food. How about the dark chocolate cake (warmed?) and the best thing... they're "willing to to trade" for food. All you have to do is ask.
How about a caesar salad made from locally, organic grown greens? Not surf food. Add anchovies and a beer? Surf food.
Wood fired stoves? Anything that comes out of them is automatically surf food.
Doughnuts are surf food. Pastries? Yes, pastries are surf food- as long as they are comboed with a cup of black coffee.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You meet the most interesting people... at surfspots in southern Baja.

This is Hank a.k.a Enrique... I've seen him down south for many years but never took a close look at what he was riding- turns out he get's his boards from the same guy I do. How's that painting? Hank told me his wife did that one for him- I love it... the Rooster Rider. On this particular day, the point was going off about 6' Hank and his buddy were killing it, surfing super fast and flowing on that Stamps quad fish. Made me want to go grab mine. 

This is Sage. Sage was stranded on the beach at the surf spot with his dog Dutch and his killer little trailer. He'd driven in the hard way, taking a dirt road all along the coast for a couple of hundred miles... and blowing the tranny in his old-school Land Rover out in the process. I asked him if he needed any water or groceries but he said he was stocked up. It's kind of tough to see but inside that trailer is a cool motorcycle that he built himself. He told me he bought a book on welding, practiced a bit then just went for it. Check out his bike in the next pic.
Here's Sage's bike. He was on his way to Panama or maybe he was even planning on going further south. Either way, I liked his style... solo with his surfboards, motorcycle and his dog. Core.
Anybody know this guy? Believe it or not, he shaped my first custom surfboard back when I was just a youngster. I ran into him fifteen years ago on a mad-dash, midnight run to catch a south swell at Scorpion Bay. This guy pulled into the camp with a diesel F350 piggybacking a giant slide in camper and a fully amped electric guitar. Fortunately, I beat him and all his surf ghetto buddies there by one day and I got to surf third point two feet overhead all by myself. The next morning he came rumbling in like the lead tank in a Panzer division. He didn't even unpack, he just flipped the back door open, sat down in the door way, powered up his guitar and started wailing on it. I found him last year parked at the La Machina on the way to the spot- kicking back in his Astrovan with his dog, drinking beer and listening to tapes of himself playing. I'd drop off a cold beer each morning as I went to surf. It was an homage... he did make my first board after all.
I posted this before- while I was down south. It's worth putting up again though- this is Sage and his dog Dutch... somewhere further south by now.