Monday, August 25, 2008


Dear Surf Gods,

Thank you for serving up a bacchanal of hollow waves on Saturday morning. We checked the beach above first, noticed a growing crowd, and moved along. The next location was about twice as big and breaking twice as far out. As we paddled out into the glassy beachbreak, joining a friendly group of five guys, we counted our blessings.

The swell continued to build and clean up, and we joined in on the feast. I distinctively remember dropping into a perfect left and hearing OS yell, "PULL IN!"

I didn't...

But yay, the thought did cross mind that Oregon never gets waves like this, as I locked into the pocket, moving faster than I ever had on my round pintail. Guys were getting shacked. I threw myself over the ledge on some "head-and-a-half" rights. Can I get a witness?

I guess you could say it was a good day.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Beach, Many Faces

Finally made it back out again in Oregon on Saturday. It was really cool because my wife and el nino joined me (along with the rest of Portland). The air was incredibly warm, the waves were decent, and the water wasn't really that crowded. What I did realize is that after surfing in Mexico and sparingly in small surf before that, I'm really no longer in "Oregon surf shape."

Duckdove about 10 waves on the paddle out and got a crazy icecream headache (and I was wearing a 5 mil with hoodie). My arms burned like hell and my lungs screamed. It took like ten minutes to get the heart rate back down again so I could catch some waves. When I did finally snag a few, my pop-up was kind of off. I think I was still tired.

After spending about 2 hours at the south part of the cove, I went in and checked on the family. From the beach I could see that the north side was looking much cleaner and nobody was riding this one peak that was groomed by the offshore wind. I spent the next hour down there and had a much better time.

Afterward, a cool cat named Jed who I'd met at the Sissyfish Movie Night walked up and handed me the CD of his band, The Pink Widower. Check out "Let Me See" on the link. I'm digging it. Maybe an official Sissyfish music review to come?

Hopefully this weekend will give us some more gems with that hint of autumn. I've been doing push-ups and pull-ups all week to get ready.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blame It on the Board (Again)

So I finally had the chance to read the article “The 40-year-old Barrel Virgin” on Surfline last week and was interested in the story on many levels:

1. Because at age 35 I haven’t gotten a legit, witnessed, in-n-out tube and...
2. Because I mostly ride what might be considered “retro” surfboards by the author.
3. Because three people have mentioned the article to me in the last week.

It’s no secret that I’ve only been surfing for 5 years and I’ve been chronicling my quest to get shacked on this blog, in the process getting comments from readers that I should try a tri-fin thruster to help me go slow enough to allow the lip to throw over my head. Someone even recently brought up the article in one of my blog posts a few weeks ago.

The story basically claims that “retro” boards are anything that diverges from the 3-fin potato chip-style surfboard professional surfers favor, stating that the design features of quads, keels, Bonzers and single fins are not only ill-suited to good waves (the kind that barrel), but are essentially just a passing fad.

Granted, it seems pretty obvious that this piece was written to ruffle feathers and instigate a war of words between “alternative” surf craft enthusiasts and “traditional” thruster advocates. Controversy equals traffic. Initially published in Water Magazine, Surfline's re-publication was definitely successful in that regard: They had to shut off comments on the story at over 200 responses, some of which were pretty inflammatory and others downright hilarious. The argument degenerated to jocks vs. hipsters, rockers vs. mods, Jets vs. Sharks.

Despite the fact that this kind of polarization of the surf community based on what people ride, or even wear, is one of the things I hate most about surf culture, I have a take on the sentiments expressed in the article and would be interested in hearing yours.

First, the classification of boards with resin tints and fin configurations that aren’t a thruster setup as simply “retro” is a complete generalization that is mostly wrong. In my understanding, recent iterations of alternative surfboards, whether quad-fin or twinny, bonzers or eggs, are shapes that have evolved over the last 20 years to incorporate new design philosophies into the mix. Certainly, templates, contours and fin configurations engineered for speed and early entry into waves will require that surfers figure out a way to get back to the curl, whether it be to “brake” or stall by applying backfoot pressure, dragging a hand, or simply delaying or extending a longer bottom turn to position yourself under the throwing lip.

But once under the lip, speed becomes your friend again and it helps to be able to quickly outrace the foamball. This is where you see guys on traditional thrusters having to pump like hell to get out of the tube.

My understanding of these techniques comes from watching experienced waveriders on video (and not just in Sprout) and also from a lesson taught to me by a guy a met in Nicaragua who was getting numerous barrels on his Pavel-shaped Speed Dialer. His advice for getting tubes boiled down to two methods:

1. Drop in late and get up into the wave's sweet-spot immediately.
2. Drop into a wave that you see is going to throw ahead, bottom turn back up the face, then jacknife the board back at a downward angle in a quick pivot motion under the lip as it is throwing. It almost looked like he was "hooking" himself in the wall under the curtain.

Seemed to work for him.

The article makes it sound like a tri-fin has the perfect amount of drag via a center fin to place you into the greenroom without much additional skill or technique. Just drop into a hollow wave, bend your knees, and enjoy that sick liquid tunnel until you miraculously shoot out in an explosion of spit, shaking shakas over your head.

Perhaps the funniest thing about the article is that the author claims that he's been surfing with his retro-loving friend for "decades" and that the guy has never been shacked. Seems strange that the equipment is to blame, since the whole "retro revolution" in surfing only started about 5 years ago. What was his friend, with 20 years surfing under his belt, riding before?

But then again, upon reading the story a second time, with it's artificial dialogue (e.g. the annoying Chuck Norris quips) and exaggerations (organic pine tar glassing?) it became obvious that this is a work of fiction anyway and meant to be taken as such. A satire, if you will, on the emergence of hipster surfers... He almost got me fired up.

Now where's my thruster?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Mexican Blooper Fiesta

So here I am, still posting about Mexico because, frankly, I have no other material. Above is one of my many attempts to squeeze into a tiny toob. Hey, I may be wearing a lip sombrero, but my arm got totally shacked and my hand is still claiming it.

Stop, drop, and roll.

Our housekeeper hid the key to the front door, then left a big note on the front door telling us where the key was. Under the mat.

Oops. She wasn't going to make the section... uh... yeah. This serves a a permanent reminder not to get pissed when people accidentally drop in on me. The expression on her face says it all: "Oh no he di-in't!" Trust me, her wave count was still higher than anyone else out that day. My most embarrassing shot ever.

We drove about 50 miles and when we got out of our car, realized that the back straps had come undone on our boards. This is how we found them...

The "O" face.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sailin' Away

Shiver Me Timbers

I'm leavin' my fam'ly
Leavin' all my friends
My body's at home
But my heart's in the wind
The clouds are like headlines
On a new front page sky
My tears are salt water
And the moon's full and high

And I know Martin Eden's
Gonna be proud of me
And many before me
Who've been called by the sea
To be up in the crow's nest
Singin' my say
Shiver me Timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away

And the fog's liftin'
And the sand's shiftin'
I'm driftin' on out
Ol' Captain Ahab
He ain't got nothin' on me, now.
So swallow me, don't follow me
I'm trav'lin' alone
Blue water's my daughter
I'm gonna skip like a stone

So please call my missus
Tell her not to cry
'Cause my goodbye is written
By the moon in the sky
Hey and nobody knows me
I can't fathom my stayin'
Shiver me timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away

And the fog's liftin'
And the sand's shiftin'
I'm driftin' on out
Ol' Captain Ahab
He ain't got nothin' on me
So come and swallow me, follow me
I'm trav'lin' alone
Blue water's my daughter
I'm gonna skip like a stone

And I'm leavin' my family
Leavin' all my friends
My body's at home
But my heart's in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
Upon a new front page sky
And shiver me timbers
'Cause I'm a-sailin' away.

--Tom Waits

I've sung this song to my son pretty much every night since he's been born. Always seems to put him right to sleep... I wonder what effect those lyrics might have on a developing mind?

You can hear Tom sing it below in one of his earliest recordings.

Tom Waits, Shiver Me Timbers - Tom Waits