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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Three End of July Entries

Tuesday July 27, 2010 - Surprised by the Sun and a Few Waves

I guess a four board quiver (two SUPs and two surfboards) isn't enough. So now I'm in research mode for a summer, beach break longboard...sort of, I mean, sort of a longboard. OK then, say it like it is, my name is Gary and I'm a boardaholic.

So after checking out a used longboard on Craig's List at a local surfboard factory, I was heading home through one of the tourist towns, noting how nice the afternoon had become. It was hot and sunny, a rare occurrence in these parts this Summer. Dare I even call it Summer? Just outside the kelp line and into the bay the wind wasn't really blowing all that much. So I drove home, grabbed my 10-0 Angulo SUP and beat feet back to China Beach for the launch and upwind paddle to the aforementioned tourist town.

By now the wind was up a bit and it was a full on paddle into the headwind and my destination about 4/5's of a mile away. Paddling directly into the wind was a futile affair, so I tacked left and right. 25 minutes later I was floating in what would have to be the line-up with two young guys, absolute beginners both, on soft longboards. What little teeny peelers were coming through were reeling off about three feet from the rock ledge that looks up at the cliffs above. Is that makeable? Why not? So I started wide, in shallower water and rode these little offerings one after the other. This is one of the things SUPs are so great for, ride the little waves no one else can (or wants to) ride.

About fifteen minutes into the session, these bigger peaks started drifting across the outside reef, putting up honest-to-God decent take-offs and rideable walls. Sun and surf, what a great surprise! As the surf got better, logically I guess, the crowd got bigger. After 45 minutes there were six SUPs and six surfboarders trying to surf not that many waves in a small area. My last wave almost resulted in several collisions and fin gashed groms sitting way inside so after I successfully negotiated that chaos I called it a day.

What took 25 minutes to get to in a head wind, took 10 minutes to do with a tail wind. Gotta love it.

Thursday July 29, 2010 - Gray Overcast with Drizzle at the Beach Break

Each day's morning weather has been remarkably the same. The only thing the NWS is seeing in the way of change is "persistence," which means that everything is going to stay the same. It is a given that each morning will be overcast. The variations of overcast are: overcast with drizzle; overcast with fog; and overcast with fog and drizzle. With an upper level low pressure trough parked over all of NorCal and most of the rest of the state too, the wind is almost always onshore. Variations of onshore are: light onshore; moderate onshore; and brisk onshore. This morning was no different.

Eric let me borrow his Bob Miller 9-2 so I could research various aspects of board design. We met at VPA's early, and determined that the tide was too low. So we headed to Manny's and determined that the wind and swell pretty much sucked. So Eric went to work and I went back to VPA's to wait on the tide a bit. After a while, I said screw it, I'm going surfing and I did.

This is all beach break, and it's remarkable for this time of year, that there are any sandbars left for this stretch of beach. But periodically there's a nice little left that is rideable, albeit the rides are short. The bonuses this morning. No one out but me. A nine dolphin pod that swam right through me and the line-up. Onshore winds that came up early and then calmed. Water temp at 59 degrees (Yee-haw, it's like a frickin' hot tub in here!). Inconsistent but not too, knee/waist high runners.

Eric's board is really more of a performance board and I'm looking for a noserider so me putting in the pivot fin, when he uses the board with a 2+1 set-up, was kinda counterproductive. It didn't turn worth a damn, and the big fin didn't help with the noseriding much. Live and learn.

Next time I'll put the Mikey DeTemple fin in and see how that one does.

Saturday July 31, 2010 - North Coast Change of Pace

Andy had a golf tournament over the hill early this afternoon so we had to get going early, and he needed to stay on his side of town. I headed to his house through no crosstown traffic (the first bonus of the day) and banged on his door at 0615. He was taking a crap. (The first bonus of his day?)

From his house to the Grove is a short, pleasant walk, even while carrying our Angulo 10-0 Custom SUPs. We banked down the sand dunes, warmed up and were paddling upcoast by ten til seven, heading to Mayans. We counted on a fifteen minute paddle as we moved down along the long rock reef ledges and around the first point, through the thick patches of kelp floating like islands in the clear, cold water. It didn't take long to pass the last signs of civilization, and although we weren't very far from town, the rough and rugged coastline makes you feel like you're in the wilderness. Which, when you think about it, you are. I figure that anytime you venture into the food chain and you're not very high up it, you're definitely in the wild.

Andy started coming to this place last year and I've been meaning to join him for about that long. Today was a good day to do it because even though the swell was small, there was enough juice in it to show on the north coast. Just about everything is bigger up here. Bigger cliffs, bigger sea lions, bigger whites.

We nosed around for a bit, looking for the best of several peaks that were breaking along this particular stretch of sheer cliffs and small pocket beaches. We finally settled on one that had a rideable shoulder that half the time would form a small saddle at the end of the ride, giving you an out before the last unmakeable section; and the rest of the time would just go square in about 12 inches of water. It wasn't a long ride, but it was fun and fairly consistent. We were the only two guys surfing while lot's of fisherpeople in boats were lying just off the kelp beds trying their luck. Four guys on paddleboards in two groups of two glided by outside in the rolling, gray seas.

The sea surface was generally rolly in the line-up too. We bobbed around, riding up and over numerous windswell bumps, paddling back and forth chasing down the capricious little peak that didn't want to stay in one place. More than once each of us got pitched off our boards by backwash from the cliffs, or side swell from some nonconforming, incoming wind wave as we paddled full speed to pick up a diagonally moving peak. But all in all we caught a lot of good ones, taking down our fair share in the fun and fast sections over the shallow, grass covered rocks on the inside.

The paddle back was punctuated by a few larger waves that were inhabiting formerly waveless expanses on the reef during our paddle up. So we headed out to sea and paddled just inside the kelp beds so we wouldn't get inadvertently beat down by some mutant rogue. SUPs is so much the call for places like Mayans. There's no driving in here, and walking in takes more effort than most people are willing to make for the quality of waves we encountered. But on a SUP this was no big deal. The paddle in, is a big part of the fun.

I don't think Mayans can hold much of a swell. It would probably be pretty rude in a real swell that's packing some punch and size. Shape would disintegrate and in a higher tide so would any surfers board that was unlucky enough to wash into the cliffs. But for today, and our typical summer surf, this was a score.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beach Break Under Ever-Gray Skies

The long lived low pressure trough that has taken up seemingly permanent residence over NorCal is showing no signs of going away soon. July has seen one clear sunrise this year. All the rest have been under overcast skies and/or in fog. Permutations of this dismal event include various low pressure troughs that break off forming the dreaded "cutoff low," sitting just off the coast and swirling up southerly, onshore winds from the earliest hours, until the more virulent southwesterly onshores take over for the rest of the day. So, even if the surf was booming, conditions have taken a dump.

The lack of swell make times like these moot for wave forecasting. The dependability of any kind of buoy data is neutered by the capricious nature of an unfavorable weather pattern. As Jerry Lopez says, "surf is where you find it," if you find it that is. I found some yesterday while walking the dog, but yesterday was different from today. Same pattern, just worse. So instead of bemoaning the feckless nature of it all, I went surfing.

Yesterday found me at the turnaround point of my soft sand jog staring at one lone longboarder taking down wave after thigh high wave on nicely glassed off, walled sandbar birthed left-handers. The small and not powerful waves could be easily chased down on his tanker. A quick spin from the tail, two-strokes in and he would be dancing down the line and into the shore break. Even at 10:30AM the wind was light and the sea surface barely rippled. It looked fun.

So I tried it myself today. I was in the water on my new 7-6 GB, paddling out at 0900. Wave size looked to be almost a carbon copy of yesterday, but of course the conditions has taken a much bigger dump, with the marine layer deepening and the onshore flow strengthened. From the start, a moderate southeast wind put chop across the surface and the waves were crumbly. Granted, some sections were steep and hollow for an instant, and the rides were acceptably long for such weak surf and poor conditions. The new board worked superbly. I had no idea it would surf this well in small, relatively gutless surf. This was summer longboard stuff, grab your wide fat fish/mini-Simmons stuff, but the 7-6 Ghostbuster was bringing it's "A-game". If it works this well in junk, what will it do in good surf? To be determined.

I surfed leashless in the nearshore breakers. The sand apron leading into the water was smooth and rock free, or so I thought. After the session I found a scratch perpendicular to the stringer up near the nose. First ding. Only the third session surfed. I guess they all ding up sooner or later. I would have preferred later.

I surfed alone for almost an hour, taking down 8-10 waves in the first thirty minutes when things slowed for the second half hour. Then Buck paddled out. He was the lone longboarder surfing yesterday who was having so much fun. Turns out he's a professional meteorologist, working for the U.S. Navy. Since we're all amateur weather forecasters, our conversation was most interesting. And he confirmed what I've thought for a while. Wave Watch III is the wave model that all commercial forecast sites use. What differs is the package.

We surfed and chatted for another 45 minutes, mostly chatting on my part. As soon as I take my focus off surfing by socializing, the surfing goes right out the window. More chat, less surf, less chat, more surf, etc.

Unless it goes flat, I think I'll try my luck again tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cold Steep South Swell

So you think it's been cold this "Summer"? And you would be correct. It's the fifth coldest summer in 40 years. Don't take my word for it, read it here. Water temps have been down in the basement too, more consistently below 55 degrees than above, and not much sun these last few weeks to warm it up.

The current "next" south swell came quickly on the heels of the last one. I thought the last one was steep, this one was even steeper. Only those spots that really feel a 180 degree south swell were working well, but the constant onshore flow made for crumbly and cold conditions. While I'm not willing to give up surfing in bare feet, my hood is an on again/off again affair.

I was on scene with the usual suspects at 0545 but held back. Three folks out and what with the small and inconsistent nature of the waves, I let them have it. More than three would have been at least one too many. I decided to take a tour of the bay and double check reality with the forecast charts. The charts did well.

Everything north of Sarges was bigger. Significantly so once past the Arena and onto the coastal road north. I stopped at Couch's (about ten miles out of town). A handful of people on the left riding inconsistent overhead waves in sets of four to six. One guy on a SUP killing it on an inside reef that no one else seemed to notice. He was taking down wave after wave, all by himself, hidden in plain sight. The right at the other end of the cove was about head high and full of water, looking like it needed a lower tide.

All in all, by the time I dilly-dallied and hemmed and hawed, I was back down at the beaches looking at a one foot shore break. From one end of the county to the other it went from one foot dumpers to overhead peelers and I didn't even get wet. Sometimes that's just the way it is.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Board in New Off-Season NW Swell

Monday July 12 and Tuesday July 13, 2010

7-6 Freeline Ghostbuster

What happens when your shaper's Skil 100 loses it's bearings and his spare planers have all been cannibalized for those parts? You wait until he finds the parts he needs. What happens when your shaper feels bad about making you wait? He leans on the glassers and you get your board on time anyway. Freeline. John Mel. Da kine!

When it rains it pours. The 7-6 had been floating around in the ether for a while, but no big rush. The 8-0 L41 SIMSUP was something that had been percolating in my mind for a long time, but which came to fruition quickly. Fortunately I had the funds in my surfing account from some previous board sales so my cash flow stayed in the black. (Well, almost. The "to be funded" portion ended up being chump change.)

Interestingly, the designs of both boards influenced each other, although one was born before the other. The SIMSUP was influenced by my foray into the mini-Simmons design world which started with the 5-11 Freeline Ghostbuster. Additional design elements were tweaked and added in the SIMSUP, which in turn influenced the design elements (especially bottom contour) of the 7-6 Ghostbuster.

A four board quiver seems like enough. Two SUPs and two surfboards. One SUP all-arounder, good for paddling, and paddle surfing. One short SUP surfboard, great for paddle surfing all kind of waves on a stable yet loose, easy-to-turn board. One short surfboard, fun for summer beach breaks and fun sized reef and point break waves (think fish without the v-section in the tail cut out); one "longboard/hybrid" surfboard, perfect for juicier beach breaks and bigger, fast, down-the-line reefs and points. The 7-6 rounds out the above scenario by fitting into the longboard/hybrid category.

Reserved primarily for Winter waves and the better south swells, the 7-6 Ghostbuster (GB) is designed to handle speed and energy. The board delivers trim speed and flow through straighter rail lines and the Simmons influenced, drag reducing bottom contour. The quad fin set-up keeps the fins out of the water flow off the tail and adds maneuverability that a twin fin could only dream about.

I was fortunate that we received some small but real ground swell energy soon after I took possession of the board. I had a chance to ride it in decent wave and low tide conditions which gave me a good idea of how the board would perform in moderate juice and lot's of kelp. The report was good. The 7-6 GB is a great paddler, and bountiful wave catcher. Even though it's 3" thick, John foiled the rails so that it feels like a much thinner board under your arm. The bottom concaves give the board "extra" lift which helps in wave catching, and in getting up to trim speed quickly. Once up and riding, the board responds to rail pressure without a hint of bogging and is easy to place on the wave where desired. Acceleration and repositioning are accessible by alternating between the power pocket and the trough. It's not a thruster. You won't bleed off speed by throwing a ninety degree tail slide, but that's not what I wanted, and not how I surf.

Mini-Rant: Why buy a "custom" built surfboard, if it's not custom made to what YOU want, and how YOU surf, and WHERE you surf? In order to do that you have to know something about yourself, surfing and surfboards. And that is a huge part of what makes surfing FUN, intoxicating and dare I say, addicting? End of Mini-Rant.

The nose of the board is built with just the right amount of rocker, foil and bottom contour to make the board a prolific wave catcher, and to get it out of the way once I'm up and riding. No outside edges, overly flat nose rocker, or other negatives to interfere with the surfing.

But the heart of this board is under your feet where the channeled concaves, vee and flat sections blend to create a ride that is both stable, fast and maneuverable. This "engine" allows for maximum velocity and fun, in moderate to serious waves of consequence. Like the SIMSUP, John shaped in some intense vee (some might call it spiral vee) in the final third tail section. This gives the board the lift I like, and (like the SIMSUP) aids in allowing the board to turn more easily in spite of a straighter rail line, and wide square tail.

The designs I've evolved to enjoy are most readily steered by quad fin set-ups. Therefore, the 7-6 GB is equipped with Future Controllers and a set of Future slotted RFC Speed Dialers that I've managed to keep in my fin inventory over the years. I used the Controllers on Monday and was delighted at how well they worked. The feeling was smooth and well...controlled. The tide was such that kelp could have been an issue, but for the Controllers it was not. I didn't catch kelp once and I pulled down at least a dozen waves in my hour in the water. Tuesday I switched out the Controllers for the Speed Dialers. The difference was surprisingly noticeable but not detrimental to the ride. The Controllers have more rake, while the Dialers have less. Therefore it seemed like the board wanted to turn more squarely off the more upright rake of the rear Speed Dialers. But with the less swept back rake, came a minor issue with the kelp. I did catch kelp a couple times but nothing that greatly interfered with the ride. Suffice it to say that I'm looking forward to spending more time comparing both of these excellent quad fin sets.

I've only scratched the surface of this board's character traits, but it already seems like a friend. I'm looking forward to a lot of fun surfing on it and will write more later in an "official" review as I get to know it better.

My Review of Barska 10x40 Blueline Close Focus Monocular

Originally submitted at

The unique Barska 10x40 Blueline Close Focus Monocular offers a host of special features. Close focus brings you closer to the action, and the ergonomic design makes it comfortable over long viewing sessions. Along with 10x magnification power and 40mm objective lens diameter, this scope boasts ...

Great Monocular, Website and Service

5out of 5

Pros: Strong Construction, Quality Lenses, Accurate Ranging, Easy To Use

Best Uses: Surfing, Hiking, Bird Watching

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

I will use this monocular primarily to "check the surf", which is a ritual employed by almost ALL ocean wave surfers. My usual surf checking vantage point is a sheer cliff about 100 ft. above the water. From there I can look up and down coast for miles, as well as across the bay. I can easily see over a dozen surf spots and get a good read on where the best waves are. This monocular replaces my Nikon binoculars (now mysteriously disappeared) that I had for over twenty years, and an old backpacking monocular that has seen a lot of hard use. The 10X40 specification is a huge and valuable step up from the old 10X25 spec in both the above pieces. So far I like everything about the Barska. The feel, focus, image brightness, smoothness of operation, sturdiness, dual lens caps, highly functional eye piece (I can wear my dark glasses, yeah!), and neck lanyard (maybe a bit skinny but the loop size is just right). My wife and I feed local and migratory birds at home and the Barska is incredible for viewing (very up close and personal) from our "blind" located right inside at the kitchen sink. We also do some recreational hiking together and with friends and the mono will be a great addition to those trips...(no more backpacking unfortunately).

Finally, mega-kudos to Hayneedle's website which made it easy and informative to shop. It took a while to whittle down all the great choices that fit my needs. By using the "Compare" feature I was able to make a good decision and buy a piece of equipment that fits my needs exactly. And to top it off, it arrived by Fed-Ex about three days sooner than I was expecting it.

I know five stars is a high rating...nothing is perfect as they say. But all things considered, the Barska 10X40 monocular and Hayneedle deserve the *****-Star mark!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Steep Angle First Summer Southie

Monday and Tuesday July 5 and 6, 2010

Monday: While the waves were booming in SoCal and much of CenCal, our little corner of the world was lucky to see much head high surf, with the best spots going overhead periodically. Longish waits in between sets were the rule and by Wednesday (July 7), it was pretty much all over.

I waited until 11AM to paddle out, waiting for the tide to drop a bit and for the swell to start showing better. When I arrived there were a lot of people in the water, owing to the fact that it was, after all, the "official" day off for the 4th of July. Still, I was anxious to get the SIMSUP in the water in some longer period swell energy instead of the localized and weak windswell we've been getting.

The swell was big enough for Yellows to work even though it usually takes a much lower tide. That was good because all the other spots were pretty packed. I waited for a seven or eight wave set to subside, idling over a deep spot in the reef before making my move to the outside as the waves died down. Larry was out on his 9-4 Ward Coffey SUP and long story short, we traded off riding lot's of waves for two hours before calling it good. The biggest waves were walling up across the pocket beach, but offering a fast and steep section to hit before fading back into the white water. A steep cutback into the soup would put you on a course to ride over the shallow part of the reef. This in turn set you up to turn back into the beach break part of the wave which was putting up a steep and fast run into the shore. I love it when it does this, and southies is when it happens.

Using the new Tahitian paddling technique has almost completely neutralized the yawing issue I had with the short and agile SIMSUP. Now I'm able to concentrate more on riding a board that is substantially different than all the SUPs or surfboards I have ever owned.

Tuesday: L41 Surfboards owner and SIMSUP shaper Kirk and I had made arrangements to meet beachside for a dawn patrol session. We walked down from the gate at 5:30, traded boards and while I did my routine pre-surf stretching, Kirk headed towards GDubs for his first session ever on the SIMSUP. He left me his 8-10 Bat Tail Quad to try. I was looking forward to watching Kirk surf the SIMSUP and getting his feedback on the board. There is really nothing like getting info on board design and function from the surfer/shaper who made it.

In a word, he was stoked. He didn't seem to have one bit of trouble with paddling like I did. As for surfing the board, his biggest concern was with a potential learning curve in riding a board that is so dimensionally unique. But watching him surf it, and talking to him about it during the sesh, there was no learning curve. So far, his take on the design is that it is spot on. He wouldn't change anything except he's sure it can go shorter. That would produce a concomitant increase in dimension to keep the volume at 130 liters, which Kirk felt comfortable with. (Later manipulation of the SIMSUP software board file yielded a 7-10 SIMSUP with the only dimensional change the addition of 1/8 inch of thickness, making it 4 5/8th thick.)

Kirk is 6-2 and goes about 175-180 pounds so it's something of an anomaly to watch him paddle the board. It's just not like any other SUP you've seen out there surfing. His smooth and graceful riding style lends itself to what the SIMSUP is all about: carve, flow and speed. Kirk thinks the SIMSUP is the fastest short SUP he's made to date. Faster than the 8-8 rounded pin, and the 8-10 bat tail quad (the blue board pictured here).

I've ridden three of the L41 surfing SUPs and my take was slightly different primarily because I am not the surfer Kirk is. The 8-8 and 8-10 are much more conventional designs and I am used to surfing those designs, therefore my style fit them better. But the SIMSUP is different. I can't elaborate on that clearly as of now, but I'll know more as I learn to really ride the SIMSUP. That said, one thing I can give as an example is pumping the board for speed. Pumping the SIMSUP is kind of a waste of time. It's faster than the other two so placement on the wave is key. Watching Kirk ride was an instructional lesson in how this is done.

Photos: Lighting was horrible both days but particularly on Tuesday. I've included the sequence of Kirk to try and give a visual representation of how the SIMSUP surfs. Since the light was bad I tried something new, figuring that the pics wouldn't come out anyway, so what the hell. I zoomed all the way in. It worked better than I thought but I lost framing by keeping my eye on an incoming wave that was looking like it was going to take me over the falls backwards. That's why he isn't centered. (The kneeboarder got a great barrel so I had to include it just for fun.)

Overall it was an informative, inspiring and fun session. It is quite fulfilling to put together a design on faith, hope, speculation and experience, and have it yield such great results.