G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Road Trip: Saturday, Sunday & Monday

Saturday, October 11
This morning was cold, windy and overcast. I took one look at the side shore white capped wind conditions and decided I could sleep in until it was time to head over to the Expo. This was a good move 'cause I could use the rest after SUPing three to four hours a day.

Spent the day talking to what seemed like "hundreds" of people who were touring the Expo. A lot of people showed up to this thing. Finally got a chance to meet Mash's brother John, who is as cool in person as he is a writer on his blog. His new SUP was on the display in the Stamps booth and wouldn't be available until after the show on Sunday. Too bad 'cause I really wanted to ride it and compare it to the Angulo 10-2. John did too, but we'll have to wait for another time.

After the show a group of us went for Mexican food at Las Olas in Cardiff (right next to Yogi's). Good food, but the stories were even better. Ed's longtime friends for years, Steve Walden and Steve Sales joined us and shared a couple hair raising tales of surfing Sunset at dusk on a macking swell that was getting bigger with every passing minute. That was the time Angulo paddled in early and left Sales out there by himself. The phrase, "almost drowned" came up more than once, and it wasn't said in a light hearted, macho kind of way either.

It was pretty cool hanging with these men who have been involved in the surfing industry since it became an industry. As shapers, Walden and Angulo are well known, you don't hear about guys like Steve Sales though unless you meet them in person. Steve's been involved in every phase of surfboard design evolution and construction. He's like a walking encyclopedia of surf knowledge. One can learn a lot with a closed mouth and open mind at times like this. And you learn too that these guys, as famous as they are, are just folks like you and me. Good folks too, and it was my good fortune to get to know them.

Sunday October 12
Sunday morning was the direct opposite of Saturday morning. Instead of a cold and crappy wind blown mess, we were greeted by crystal clear skies, cool temps and a light Santa Ana condition. We were on it early and had made arrangements for another "demo day" but this time at Cardiff. Surf was smaller than last Friday, but the beach break was clean and fun with lefts and rights and an easy paddle through the shore break.

Cardiff is stand up central for north SD County and all in all it was really mellow. As usual it's the middle age (30-40) and older guys (50+) who are into it the most. A lot of guys are riding longer and bigger SUPs, cruising and trimming and catching everything in sight. But a lot of guys are riding smaller and smaller SUPs and surfing them like performance longboards. Ward Coffey from Santa Cruz (down for the Surf Expo) was out on his swallow tail SUP. Tom English, pretty much a Cardiff SUP pioneer was out on his quad SUP. Another guy who's name I didn't get was ripping on a 9'6" Laird. We Angulonians didn't do too bad either with the full quiver of 2009 Angulo's on hand. As a matter of fact, it was a blast and, as usual, we all caught a boatload of waves.

After a three hour surf, we were late for the 10 o'clock opening of the Sunday show. But what the hey, the "boss" was surfing with us! M and I packed up and showered and by the time I got to the fairgrounds it was past noon. Whitty and Ed were on the scene though so no prob. It didn't seem quite as mobbed in the afternoon, and the show ended at 4PM as opposed to 6PM yesterday. At 4 we broke it all down and packed up for the drive to Santa Barbara and tomorrows SUP demo/session at the "secret" spot.

Monday, October 13
Up early and rolling north on 101 for our rendezvous with Pastor Ricky, our secret spot host for the day. Although this place is famous far and wide, I've never been there, much less surfed there. I knew that the surf was going to be small to smaller, but I didn't care for two reasons. 1) I was actually going to get to surf this place. 2) SUPs always get waves!

It was hot and sunny, not a cloud in the sky and a light offshore Santa Ana was in effect. You couldn't have asked for better conditions. We passed through the guard shack and drove for miles to our destination. Welcome to California, circa 1948. All the pictures, and stories I've ever heard and read just came alive. I tend to fold up into nostalgia anyway, so I was swooning most of the time.

Added to that was the crystal clear water. Visibility was easily 25 feet and as we made the half mile paddle down coast to the surf spot, the feeling was like paddling over an open ocean aquarium. At the start of the session the waist high little zippers that ran down the reef in exquisite right handers were pretty consistent. As the tide drained out the waves made us wait, but it didn't really matter because I couldn't take my eyes off the ocean. There were literally hundreds of bait fish swimming in the line-up. Schools of rock fish patrolled the nearby kelp beds. Whitty swears he saw a shark pass under his board. Every nook and cranny of the reef was visible, all the crevices in the rocks, all the places the wave would jack up and shoot you into the next section or into the channel. Two separate schools of dolphins swam and fished a hundred yards out the back, along with a small raft of sea otters. Being here was a 60 year plus, transport back into California history.

Now as cool as all this was, there was one thing that surpassed it. One of the guys we were surfing with was a long time prone surfer who had lost 60% of the ligaments in his knee. He was on a lay down board and doing his best. He told us that he thought he couldn't do stand up because he couldn't get into a kneeling position without extreme pain. This limited his prone surfing too. So we're out there whooping and hollering, having a great time, giving each other waves and kudos, you know, the whole thing. So Dan gets out, and we all thought OK, he's done for the day.

The next thing you know, here he comes, paddling down coast on the Angulo 11-11 Big Buggah. And he's looking good too! Of course the place erupted in spasms of shouts and hoots. Well, to make a long story short, Dan is STOKED and is so into it, he's out for almost four hours. Not only that, he started catching waves AND pulling out on his feet, then paddling back out into the line-up. Me being the compassionate type, I accused him of being a ringer. We all told him that none of us had made as much progress our first day on a SUP as he was making. And that, is what really made this trip for me.

Stand up paddle surfing is doing for me, what it's doing for a lot of other guys who thought their surfing careers were over. Not so. What a great gift this whole thing has been, and continues to be. We heard other stories too. One guy at the Expo told us that hip replacement surgery had knocked him out of surfing because he could no longer pop-up. Now he just grabs the paddle shaft and pulls himself to his feet. A little ponderous maybe, but he's still in the game. He won't be surfing overhead bombs, but he'll be as stoked surfing his local waist high peelers as the guy on the macking overhead death tube. And that is really what this is all about. Staying alive, living fully and enjoying all of it that you can with a grateful heart. Did I say that, Life is Good?


  1. Excellent post Gary.

    Really, SUP is a gift isn't it? Guy's are finding out that the best times weren't twenty years ago when they were surfing this way or that- they're right now. SUP makes you live in the present.

    But I think you know that already.

  2. Somebody say Amen! Brother John!

    BTW, I know you're busy but you've got to schedule a trip north this winter. I'm as interested in getting your take on my board as I am in riding yours!

  3. Got barrelled twice this morning on the 9'4"... mind is blown!

    Mash gonna be there tonight- hopefully there'll be some scraps for him tomorrow!