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

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Decent S/SSW Swell

Friday September 17, 2010

Waves from a storm in the mid-South Pacific last week began filling in today. Tides wouldn't be great for this mediocre swell, and even when it peaks, wave size and energy will be swallowed up by the too high tides. I paddled out at Sarges and into a daylight low tide of 2.8 feet. The swell was small and inconsistent, but coming up. I paddled through the lineup on the SIMSUP, heading down to T8's where it would hopefully be bigger and more consistent.

I didn't think the southwest wind would be up because of the low pressure troughs and weird weather we've been having, but I was wrong. It was a bit of a struggle on the short, performance SIMSUP making my way up coast, especially with the kelp beds lining the sea surface all along the L41 breaks. Finally at First Peak Scimi's I just dropped down onto my paddle and board and hand paddled the rest of the way to 8's. A crowd of about 60 surfers awaited the presence of me and my mini-SUP.

I picked up a nice long ride on the inside almost immediately. The wave put up a rampy wall and I got plenty of carves in before kicking out way down the line. I was lucky to paddle into a couple more right away as they peaked directly in front of me while I was scrambling to get out the back.

The crowd at 8's is actually pretty SUP tolerant. More than likely this is because T8's is a beginner's to intermediate level spot unless there's sand over the reef and it's barreling, or a big northerly swell is in the house. I think I'm something of an anomaly on an eight foot standup which can look pretty damn strange from the water as I go paddling by on a board that is way too short for a SUP. I get more stares than glares. And the SIMSUP is so loose and maneuverable I think it looks more like a surfboard surfing than a big ol' bulky stand up paddleboard.

Since I hadn't been out surfing at all in about three weeks I was feeling a bit fagged from the start. The headwind paddle didn't help much either, and I worked five waves pretty hard in my first forty-five minutes at 8's. I was pretty sure the swell was going to peak on Saturday and I wanted to save some energy for a dawn patrol session so I headed back to Sarges and the takeout. Gotta love paddling downwind. I picked up a couple more soft rides enroute and called it a day at about 2:15P.

Saturday September 18, 2010

Dawn Patrol on a weekend morning with a well advertised and actual swell in the water is a misnomer. I have renamed it the Dawn Battalion. I was on it literally before "0-dark30," parked, got suited up and waited for enough light to barely see. I made it down the stairs and over the rocks, paddling out into the darkness at 0620 and almost sprinting out the back for fear of getting caught inside by one of the genuine 4-6 ft. sets that were plowing in.

I turned right and set my course for Tres Palmas for a look see at that part of the reef. Slowly the twelve guys who beat me out into the lineup came into view. Five minutes later, just after I caught my first good ride of the morning, it was 24...15 minutes after that it was 36. I was counting.

But what do you expect? Like my friend Jeff so truthfully observes, I'm just a Townie. He's right of course. (Ya gotta have friends to tell you like it is 'cause the easiest person in your life to lie to is yourself. Also, it helps that Jeff sends me an occasional surf shot from his domain. He and his buddies got some pretty good ones during this swell as the "Battle of the Titans" SUP pic testifies.) This swell was showing a lot better than the last south swell, but no doubt it was booming up north. I should have gone up there last swell but the Townie in me whined and complained. Too far to drive, too sharky (besides, they're eating the sea otters), too crowded, wha, wha wha. OK, so I didn't go north this time either, but this time it was OK in Town.

I was fortunate again and picked up a number of nice walls right off the bat. After five or six I headed down coast to find Andy and Sam. I found them at GDubs which was looking pretty good. The main peak was firing on sets and putting up a long, fast, rippable wall. Some were closing out but it wasn't the rule of the day and surfers were taking down some fine rides. Greg was out on his monolithic yellow longboard, seizing the day, even in the crowds. Andy and I traded SUPs so he could get a taste of the SIMSUP. He's an accomplished SUP surfer so it was no surprise to me that he popped right up on the board. He followed just about the same path I did when the SIMSUP was new to me. The most difficult part was keeping it paddling in a straight line, especially when digging hard to catch a wave. That's no problem now for me, but it was a longer learning curve which L41 SIMSUP shaper Kirk never suffered. I chalk that up to extraordinary athletic ability and an age deficit of about 23 years. Good combo.

Andy had installed a single raked fin, the so called "kelp" fin which I didn't realize was there until my first wave on his Angulo custom. I turned hard, putting the board up into the pocket and setting the rail. I took three steps forward to trim it up when the fin and tail came unstuck and started heading for where the nose should have been. The little tail slide, and the calisthenic that resulted, tweaked my back and brought about an early end to the session. This caused me to solidify my negative opinion of the shallow draft, swept back kelp fin. Depending upon rocker, these fins don't make much sense to me. A surfer would be better off with a tri-fin set up. You'd have better hold, better turning, just a more reliable and solid ride. If you just had a single center fin slot, then a fin not so radically swept back and shallow would have to be better than the kelp fin. That started out as a rant, but I'm over it.

I was able to stretch out a bit on my way back to the takeout so it wasn't as bad as I had first thought. (Back at the car I popped open my emergency bottle of ibuprofen and started the treatment cycle.) Still, I got a two-hour session out of the morning and my stamina improved a lot over yesterday. With any luck, I'll get the last of this swell early tomorrow morning. Just me and a few close friends no doubt.

Sunday September 19, 2010

The swell peaked yesterday evening around 6:30, but there were still plenty of waves on tap today. I couldn't do the low tide dawn battalion (it was still the weekend) because I was slated to play guitar for the Celtic Mass at Mt. Cal, so I thought I'd get some at the afternoon low tide. I was also hoping that the low pressure system would either stall or blow through quickly, which it didn't do. Consequently it was basically too windy to SUP. The wind was blowing 5-15 mph with gusts up to 18, that's perfect wind for a downwinder, but not for surfing. I spent most of my time knee paddling or prone paddling into the wind. I couldn't even hold my position in the line-up 'cause as soon as I'd stand up, I'd be blown 25 feet down wind in a couple seconds. It was frustrating because the best waves were in a tight take-off zone at GDubs and I just couldn't get to them with any success. I did get a couple OK insiders and a few nice walls at Middles, but after an hour plus of continuous paddling I gave it up and headed in. The ride downwind was sweet. Stand up and balance and get pushed rapidly downwind without even paddling, or moving a muscle for that matter. Sweet.

I should have planned better and brought my 7-4 Freeline along with the 8-0 SIMSUP. I'd have gotten better waves on the laydown simply because I could have been in the right spot. It never hurts to have your quiver with...good argument for a van.

Monday September 20, 2010

The swell was fading quickly this morning and I knew that today, day four of surfing, might be all she wrote for this fun but crowded southerly swell. I hit T8's at daylight to take advantage of the lower tide. Monday, finally, the crowd was light and although the waves had dropped way off in size, it was still consistently 2-4 ft. with short waits in between sets...until the tide swamped it. But I figured that would happen so I was expecting it.

Of the four days of surfing, this was the most fun for me by far. Why? It wasn't crowded. I grabbed three or four waves in the first 20 minutes with only four of us out. Then it went to seven surfers and stayed that way for another half hour. Plenty of time for everyone to get enough waves for a fun and satisfying surf session.

Herby paddled out on his longboard...always fun to surf with a positive energy guy like Herby. We chatted and gabbed and rode some fun waves in the slowly fading swell. I swapped boards with a woman who was riding a Hawaiian Pro 9-4 standup. At only 26" wide it was definitely much more tippy and hard to stand on than the SIMSUP. But she was curious about the 8-0 L41 performance SIMSUP so I let her try it. I also got to try her board which is the best way to learn about other craft. Ride 'em if you got 'em. (Here's a hint though...make sure that the person borrowing your SUP has paddle edging on their paddle, or is an excellent paddle handler. If you don't you'll get paddle banger marks or outright dings and chips. Generosity has some caveats.)

I didn't like the HP 9-4 for several reasons. 1) Too narrow making it hard to stand on, even on a relatively calm sea surface. I supposed you'd get used to it, but on a big day with wind and cross chop you'd be spending a lot of energy just trying to balance. 2) Compared to the SIMSUP the HP was much less maneuverable and not as fast. Granted, the waves were a little fat, but the HP just didn't feel like it could get up and running. It would work better in more powerful surf, but that just makes the SIMSUP a better overall board for sloppy, fat surf and for good waves as well. 3) I just don't like kelp fins. I'm sure the board would have surfed better with a more conventional fin.

In comparison, the SIMSUP was designed to be fast, loose and stable. It's also a good paddler for a short board. I believe we hit the mark on all four counts, which makes the SIMSUP about as close as you can get to finding the Holy Grail of SUPs.

I think she liked the SIMSUP but it does take a little getting used to. I knew what I was getting into on her narrow SUP, but it was all new to her on my board. Kirk's got an 8-2 bat tail quad SUP for sale that she'd seen, so checking out the SIMSUP will give her an expanded data base to compare boards. I told her to contact Kirk and take the 8-2 out for a demo. Demoing is THE way to go as far as I'm concerned.

Finally it just got too fat and slow. What waves were coming through were riddled with backwash on the inside so the fun was pretty much over. This has been a good swell. The best one since the last good south that got into the bight in May. With the NPAC waking up I hope we don't have to wait as long, or experience such a long lull before the next good waves arrive.


  1. Great read, Gary!

  2. It was fun surfing out there with you and the boyz, I'd like to get on that little bar of soap in less crowded conditions and see if I can really get it going. Sorry my kelp fin led to a back tweak, I like the thing and have been having fun with it all summer. It's the bomb in thick kelp and that means more waves for me in drained out low tide conditions. It noserides well and generally performs like a classic longboard pivot fin. For those not familiar with the breed, here's a link to the template.

  3. What's the story on that pic of the SUP dropping in on the LB'r? That looks ugly...

  4. Ain't no longboarder, that's the "Battle of the Titans!"