January 9, 2012 Photo: J. Chandler

Friday, February 7, 2020

Boozers & Thermalution Surf Shirt Review

After yesterday's failure to surf primarily because it was too cold (39° wind chill factored air temp and 54°water temp) I decided to face down my inner wimp and commit to a morning matter what. For me, the only way this was going to happen was for me to leave the house and arrive at the beach in my wetsuit. 

Fortunately air temp was a few degrees warmer this morning and there were no high clouds obscuring what was going to be maximum solar gain. Regardless I looked at it as a chance to go with my full winter warmth wardrobe.
Photos may not be the exact rendering of the location surfed

Boozer's was the spot call. This place is a kind of beach break/sand point that sits on a long arc of coastline that runs for a couple miles in either direction. It's unusual in that the waves break in a fairly consistent place on the point although you'll get waves bouncing around from here to there as beach break waves do. The water was full of wildlife. At least a dozen seals were leaping and diving, revealing their long, sharp canines as they barked at each other. Great whites inhabit these environs too, but...what else is new, besides the surf shirt that is. 

Surf this morning was smaller and less consistent than yesterday, with steady offshore wind. Waits were fairly long which was a good test for the heated shirt. It's easy to get cold when you're not generating body heat paddling or surfing. I managed to grab seven waves in a little over an hour, three of which were very good. My third to last was the biggest wave of the morning and it was just what I like...a late drop with a very steep takeoff into a long fast wall all the way to the beach. Stoke! I thought I was in the perfect takeoff spot, a bit inside cuz the waves were pushing water and rolling some, but as I turned and stepped on the gas I saw the top two feet start to feather. I started my drop down the face and quickly accelerated, digging the feeling of free falling with speed and hanging by a fin in the steep face. I had a solid connection. A millisecond later that pitching wave top slapped me hard in the side of the face and threw me off my board for a tumbling beat down spin cycle in the froth. Arghhhh! Bitch slapped! But while I was bummed, I was stoked. It could have been an epic ride. You don't know until you go and it was a great opportunity to test the wetsuit ensemble and surf shirt. Also, every once in awhile we need to remember that OMO is in charge.

My Winter ensemble from head to toe: 2mil Excel Quick Dry Cap (not an integrated hood, they make my neck feel stiff and sore); 4/3 O'Neill's Mutant wetsuit; 0.5mil O'Neill Hyperfreak (that's me alright) neoprene/skins long sleeve top; Thermalution heated surf shirt; merino wool boxer style undergarment (surprisingly warm); O'Neill Heat 3mil split toe booties.

If you haven't noticed yet, up there under the blog title is a word that you, dear Reader, should note. Septuagenarian. Definition: A person who is from 70 to 79 years old. At 72 (73 in 11 days) I fit nicely into that category. And I might as well admit that I take great pride in that I'm still surfing fairly well into my seventh decade. In order to do that I really need to be warm. Thus the full winter regalia especially when the temps are in the 30's.

I've owned everything on that list for at least two or more years except for the Thermalution surf shirt which I added this season and it has made the difference between me surfing in the winter and having to give it up during the cold season. It's what keeps me in shape so when I return to Maui I can surf every day. comes at a cost. They're retailing right now for $429 on the Thermalution website. Yeah, it's a hefty price to pay, but if it keeps me warm and surfing, it's worth it.

The Thermalution shirt (linked here is a lot more information which  I've found to be accurate, no hype) is essentially a short sleeve rash guard with built in heating elements that rundown your back from your neck to your lumbar spine. This full coverage allows the suit to heat your entire spinal column and the major muscles of your back needed for paddling and surfing. This alone can keep your back more relaxed and limber as well as keeping you warm and in the water longer. The heat source is two slim lithium batteries that fit snugly in two side shirt pockets. When pulled over your head (like pulling on a regular rash guard) the batteries are situated far enough under your armpits and above your hips and are practically unnoticeable. The shirt is very comfortable to wear and has been well designed and engineered.

The surf shirt has a pigtail cord that attaches at the back of the shirt, with a switch which supplies heat to the heating elements. The switch has three toggle positions starting with the coolest setting, the green indicator light; then orange; and finally red, the warmest setting. Heating is very efficient and I haven't yet had to move from the green setting to anything higher. But it's comforting to know that I've got a lot of heating to pour on if and when I need it. When buttoning up my wetsuit in preparation for a surf I pull the cord out over my shoulder so that it hangs in front of my chest. I tuck a section of the cord into the front of the wetsuit, leaving about 6" to a foot hanging out. I then pull the neck flap over my head (the Mutant is a front zip suit). Before zipping up, I place the cord and the switch between the body of the wetsuit and the flap so that when I zip up, the switch is sandwiched in between the neck flap and the body of the suit. It is then easily accessible and out of the way. I usually turn on the shirt when I'm ready to leave the car. The shirt heats up very quickly and I'm nice and warm when I hit the water.

Apres surf, I leave the batteries on to exhaust the charge. The shirt keeps you warm as long as you have your wetsuit on, or some other insulating clothing, like a jacket. You won't stay warm in just the shirt alone, you need that neoprene or outer garment. I peel off the shirt and drape it over the rails of my boards, stored on edge in my van. When I get home I place the shirt over the edge of a padded chair, unplug the battery connectors from the shirt's heating elements and plug them into the charger. Charging takes a couple hours. Then I put the whole thing back together and hang the shirt on a hanger, ready for use.

Caveats: The heating elements are quite noticeable and are subject to damage if treated roughly. You can't wad up this shirt and throw it in a bag, the back of your pickup or your trunk. If you break any of the connectors the shirt won't heat anymore so you have to be careful. Also, while I rinse all my equipment after every use, I only rinse out the shirt every three or four surfs. When you do wash it, be careful and gentle. The second caveat is the connectors on the battery, surf shirt and charger. They are surprisingly small and fragile. Always use caution when connecting and disconnecting the wires. Damage to the connectors will render the shirt unuseable for heat. The connectors come with caps so the moral of the story is to never leave the connectors uncapped. They should always be plugged in to the shirt wires or capped. If you take care of your equipment, it will take care of you. And WTF? You just paid over 400 bills for this thing!

Overall I give the Thermalution surf shirt a five star (⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐) rating. On a couple occasions the shirt has been so effective that I've actually had to turn it off. But when it's cold out, don't leave home without it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Winter Waves and Remembering 2012

Thought I'd start posting again, a least for a while...

But before today's report here's a flashback from 2012 and a link to my blog post from the day in question...January 9, 2012, which was the best day I've ever surfed this place...ever. It wasn't until a few years later that I learned my friend, Jared Chandler, a photographer par excellence had documented the day, and the exact time I surfed. Here's his pic of that epic day.

Moving on to 2020 here's today's report. I haven't surfed the beaches for a long while. Last year there were no consistent sand bars that I ever saw, and the year before that I took a flyer headfirst into a little hidden part of the sand bar I was riding and gave myself whiplash. Winter surfing was over until I made my annual trek to the Islands in May.

Truth is that it's been too big and too good in town to venture to the beaches so, until today, I didn't really know what was going on. Here's the story...

Arrived in the Harbor lot about 0930, bundled up and stepped out of the car into a brisk offshore wind. It was fucking COLD and I found some shelter behind an RV to scope the situation. Much bigger than I had anticipated (head to one foot over or so) but it looked surfable, or rather, the peak with a firing left looked good. And it was...two shortboarders killing it on really fun looking zippy lefts into a sorta channel. Overall not bad and had it been anywhere but here I would have ventured out. But, I could not overcome 44° with a brisk 7 mph east wind right out of the valley. In case you're wondering that's a wind chill corrected 39° outside temp. I could not get past it. All I wanted to do was get back in the car, heater on. Then a young third guy ran down the sandy beach, no hood, no gloves, no booties. WTF? I am SO OLD!

On to Boozers where it was smaller and a little less windy and again was surfable. Two guys out. A shortboarder on the left getting good lefts (today was all about lefts) and a guy on a surfing kayak working the rights opposite the long peak with the left. The left would have been the call because there was something just not quite right about the right but it was well worth a go. It turned out to be the best bet of the morning, but still, I hate to admit it, I couldn't work myself up to get out in the cold. Next stop HP's.

Heinlein's Point was practically deserted with very few cars. Down to the end of the road which had more cars than HP's. I was expecting a big crowd and really good waves but while there were about eight or nine out, they were all spread out surfing different not that great peaks. I was surprised to see a couple of SUPs out. All the peaks were shifty and fast and very consistent. It looked very pretty but it wasn't all that good. I didn't really see any good rides. Again, Boozers was better. So did I go back? No, on to Badges.

Badges had the most people and it was very small and really inconsistent. The best wave had about ten guys on it and I only saw one two-wave set that was rideable. Everything was small and there were guys up and down the coast. Nothing looked good.

Last stop Tables where it was nearly flat all the way to the lot. Two longboarders riding a fun looking miniature (knee/calf) left almost to the lot. No waves seen from the lot looked even remotely good or fun so, I headed home.

If it stays small, I'll try again that I know what to expect.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Designing A Board With Kirk McGinty on Paddlewoo

Eric at is currently running a series with Kirk which will end with Kirk designing a new board for Eric. This is a really interesting and informative podcast/web post, and if you're interested in L41 Surfboards, The Original SIMSUP and it's successors as well as the creative genius of Kirk McGinty, or just the modern cutting edge evolution of the surfing SUP, this series is for you.