Thursday, September 27, 2007


The longshore rip was so strong yesterday,
We had to paddle constantly to stay on the peak.
And the peak was perfect for an hour.
Perfect rights peeling like a point break.
But if you went for one and missed it,
You were gone, swept away in the roguish current.
If you blew a wave, you got sucked to the south so rapidly
That you could actually see your line-up on shore
Fading away into the distance.

It was easier cash in your chips and belly in,
Walk back up the beach and start over.

Back at the peak there was a barnacled buoy
That marked perfectly where the wave started cresting.
I now have scratches all over my finger tips
from trying to hang onto it to stay in one place.

The things we do for a couple good waves...

The Wedding Present - Brassneck

Monday, September 24, 2007

He Walks on Water

I surfed with one of my heroes this weekend. Gerry Lopez, aka Mr. Pipeline, aka The Goofyfoot Guru, was out at PC on Saturday and Sunday on his stand-up board. Can I actually say "surfed with" if he was 300 yards outside of the line-up, paddling into bombs and making stand-up surfing look appealing? That's right. Gerry is the first stand-up surfer I've ever seen use etiquette on one of those things, grabbing big outside waves that only he could catch, then plowing down the faces of the overhead bombs and connecting them to the inside, kicking out just before the big close-out at Gas Chambers.

After the session Saturday, as the sun went down, I was taking a hot shower behind the Pelican and Gerry walked by. He gave me a nod and I said casually, "Hey." After he passed, I looked down at my hand which--completely on its own--was shaking a cheeky little shaka at the legendary surfer. It was like some weird subconscious reflex. I felt like a total kook.

Anyway, that evening over a glass of wine I lamented about not having a camera. I usually take pictures on all my overnight trips to the beach. The next morning when we woke up at the beach house and checked the cams, the shot of Pacific City captured a figure who appeared to be walking on water. It had to be Gerry again. When we got to the beach, he was still out there, stroking into the mysto peaks that crumbled on the outside bar.

It also was really cool to surf with Gaz today, who was riding his Mandala as well. He informed me that his son's health is improving, which made a sunny day even brighter. And shout out to Morgan, who lent me sunblock and told me he reads Sissyfish!

Roni Size - Heroes

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Newsflash: I'm No Occy.

Tried out my new-fangled tri-fin thruster yesterday. Let's just say that it was a bit difficult to adapt to, considering that the conditions were fairly extreme (overhead-plus sets). The paddle out was interesting in that although it was easier to duck dive, paddle speed was so much slower. And I duck dove a lot on the first attempt to get outside. I think I lost track at around 30 walls of punishing whitewater.

Anyway, I didn't bring my Mandala to the beach because I wanted to force myself to try my new Parmenter-shaped "Occ-ster," a board based on the sticks Mark Occhilupo rode in the 1980s. After I made the paddle, I wished I had brought a surfboard I knew better. The set waves were really big. Some of them sort of started out breaking mushy, then they would fire on the inner bar, others came on steep and chunky, cranked and closed-out.

It goes without saying that confidence is important in decent/challenging waves. I didn't really have it on the Occster. But that's kind of the curse on any new surfboard: How do you dial it in on those good days, when you know that your tried-and-true boards would work better for you? When do you take it out the first time? How many sessions will you sacrifice in order to get comfortable?

After scratching like a madman and missing my first three or four waves (It seemed like I was dragging an anchor), I finally caught a right. I felt so late on the drop, but I made it and the board responded really well. Turned easily off the bottom, but the wave closed out. I did a hard turn to straighten out and it felt really loose. I can see potential there.

I caught a few more before my arms were completely shot. I noticed that the board is plenty stable on the take-off, so that's not a problem, but the speed I have grown accustomed to on my quad and 2+1 just isn't there. That effortless zero-to-lightspeed-in-two-seconds shift into fifth gear. I know that I need to immediately pump the Occster to generate velocity. Some people like the whole act of moving the board around to create speed on a wave. Occy was a master at that. For me, it's sort of the trade-off that allows you to have that agility to whip turns off your back foot. Give and take. Sacrifice.

I'm not there yet.

I surf twice a week at the most. Do I have enough time to spend floundering, feeling back at square one, like the first time I ever stood on a board? I'm not giving up on the Occster after one session, but at the same time, I'm not leaving home without my daily driver again.

Metric - Between the Bars (Elliott Smith Cover)

Saturday, September 15, 2007


The best part about buying this little package on the way to the beach last week was when I walked up to the gas station cashier and she asked, "Will that be all for you?"

"Yeah," I said. "I just need a little stoke."

Other ways to stay stoked include watching Hi-Shred (all 3 episodes!) on VBS.TV, directed by Tyler at Mollusk. Or by checking out the following video, which I also discovered on the VBS.TV site:

Bat for Lashes - What's a Girl to Do

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Massive Air

The best way to rinse saltwater off yourself and your wetsuit after surfing is to find a river and jump in. In our case over labor day weekend, it was a stop at the Smith River on the way home from the beach. The same rope swing was there as when we were in high school, hanging from the same bridge that many of our friends (including old One Speed) have jumped off of. Crazy. And as proof that some things never change, there were even some classic river rednecks--complete with mullets, sunburns, and beer bellies--who had constructed a makeshift slip n' slide out of an old tarp and some Crisco. I've seen Deliverance, and I didn't want to hang around too close to dark with all that beer and lube around.

Gee's getting some nice air and style points in the photo above.

Squeeze - Up the Junction

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Land O' Lefts

Back on my Manny again Thursday night. Bolted from work a little early to get some 8' at 10 seconds goodness. There's a spot where a stiff northwest wind blows offshore and 8 feet is more like 4-5. Shorties: A place people love to hate. For whatever reason. And the water is cold again. I hope I don't have start wearing gloves this month.

I'm loving my Manny more and more in these waves. Wedgey beachbreak seems to be the perfect playground for the 2+1. I have very little problem getting in early--you know the kinds of casual drop-ins where you have a few seconds to look down the line, get your bearings, and decide whether or not it's going to close out. The board has no problem riding really high on steep faces. One wave in particular I thought I'd get pitched, but I just kept flirting with the feathering lip and it stayed true and stable. So much speed, with spray blowing high into the air off my rail.

Confession: I unapologetically dropped in on someone on my first wave of the day. First time I'd ever done that, actually. This guy who'd just caught a wave paddled inside of me where I had been waiting for 15 minutes to catch my first. The peak was fickle, but I knew that if I waited it out, instead of chasing ghosts like the rest of the pack, it would pay off. Sure enough, the dude paddled up 10 feet to my left and was still on his stomach when the set I was waiting for arrived. He just turned around and started stroking for it and I thought, "Oh no he dii-in't!" and went for it. It was a stellar left that set the tone for the the rest of the session, which was a blast. I don't think he made the section anyway.

Does that make me a monster?

Nick Lowe - So It Goes

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


At long last, I had the chance to meet the legendary Festus Porkmeyer last Sunday in a little beach town nestled on the CA/OR border. He's a writer, beard-grower, and wheelbarrow specialist recently transplanted from San Diego to McKinleyville. I pledged to buy a Parmenter-shaped "Occster" surfboard from him nearly a year ago, and finally made good on the purchase.

But more on the Occster later.

Porky packed (along with his lovely wife and child) a nice stack of wave riding objects for my road-weary crew to test out in those southern waters: namely a Pavel Speed Dialer, a Pavel log, a surf mat, and a Liddle Hull. The waves were only waist high at best, and I soon found myself trying out the Hull.

I had read an article on the Hull a couple years before and remembered being intrigued by the shape. Porky swapped the the board with me in the water and just said: "Your first wave will be interesting," or something to that effect. Knowing that Hulls are supposed to be surfed closer to the middle of the board, I figured that I'd have very little problem getting used to this one. I've always ridden off my front foot, with my back foot in front of my fins on traditional shortboards.

So when a little left came my way and I paddled in and hopped to my feet, I was pretty surprised at the relative instability of the craft. I leaned to turn down the line and the board just kept rolling downward until I fell flat on my face. Splat. My second wave, backside, was even worse.

But, at Porky's insistance, I stuck with it. When another, larger left came my way I paddled in and jumped up a little quicker than my previous attempts, gently angling down the line and correcting slightly when the board seemed to lose stability. As soon as I realized that I'd made the turn and was slotted in trim, I did very little else but crouch low and "feel" the wave.

From my limited experience that day, the Hull actually felt more "in tune" with the waves than other boards I've ridden. It felt like the curved bottom and tapered rails conformed to the wave's concaved face when riding in trim in the same way that rocker fits into the curve of the wave when descending from top to bottom. As a rider, I felt more sensitive to the nuances of the little peelers that I slid along the faces of. Just by gently tweaking my ankles, I could climb to the top or drop to the flats. It almost felt like I was pumping by simply moving from rail to rail. It was all very subtle.

Riding several long lefts in a row, I found myself wishing that the waves were bigger and more consistent so that I could really feel how the wafer-thin fin flexes on turns. I wanted more.

Some of you who know me will say that I'm like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials when it comes to surfboards: I'll try anything, and usually like it. But the Hull had me genuinely intrigued because it simplified my goals on the waves I was riding. I was completely focused on the act of plugging the 7'0 stick into trim and then just tripping on the feeling.

When I got back to the blogosphere after the long weekend, I noticed that the Cabinessence blog featured a long excerpt from the Liddle website where Greg Liddle addressed surfers who were interested in Hulls after the publicity from the TSJ article. I was surprised at how many of the observations I had made in one session with the board were exactly what he intended by building them:

"...These boards are not for the onlooker. It is not meant to be a visual experience, it is for the "feel" of these boards. Not that visual observation of the ride cannot be enjoyed. To me it is quite beautiful the way they "fit" to the wave and become part of it."

For me, riding the Hull was one of the most vivid surf experiences I've had. By that, I mean that I can remember little nuances of every wave I caught on the board. I felt attuned to almost every ripple on the surface. But, then again, I never did get a chance to try out the surf mat...

Marianne Faithfull - As Tears Go By (Hullabaloo London 1965)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Finding Oneself

All kinds of philosophical thoughts come up during the experience of surfing. One of my favorites occurred on a day in Nicaragua when the sea was finally showing swell again after a week-long flat spell. A guy who I'd gotten to know, who worked at a nearby surf camp, explained the lumpy, disorganized conditions by saying, "It's trying to find itself."

Since then I've always enjoyed thinking of the ocean as a conscious being with its own personality.

Sometimes moody: "It's angry."
Sometimes scattered: "It's confused."
Sometimes sick: "It's hung over."
Sometimes benevolent: "It's generous."

I wonder how it'll be feeling tomorrow, when I head to Crescent City for the day?

Spoon - The Underdog