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I read a piece about Tyler Warren in a recent issue of Surfer’s Journal and he certainly seems like a talented surfer/shaper/artist with a master plan and a solid sense of style. In other words, he’s just the sort of lad to merit a spread in Surfer’s Journal. He’s apparently the primary subject of a new film coming out courtesy of Mark “One California Day” Jeremias and John “Natural Expressions” Smart and judging by the trailer above it looks to be quite the cool buzz with tasty waves in abundance. Also in abundance in the film are a variety of wave riding vehicles… from logs to fish to thrusters to bars of soap to spoons to hulls to kneeboards to mats and everything in between as well as a host of talented pilots to steer them through the aforementioned tastiness and even lay down a  Quasimoto when need be.

I’m sure some of you are saying to yourselves that there’s nothing all that original or surprising about a surf flick featuring a variety of shapes and styles ridden by an eclectic and versatile crew of surfers and, cynicism aside, I’d agree. But what is quite surprising to me is that a certain southern rock band’s magnum opus would lend itself so well to sound tracking it all. Play some Skynyrd indeed.

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A buddy of mine up in San Francisco recently had the good sense to introduce me to Malibu Hamish (aka The Illusion) via the YouTube link above.
I was pumped.

In the clip above, The Illusion is kind enough to let us ride shotgun as he ditches work for a pumping west swell at Rincon. He does us the further kindness of sharing a few of his theories on how best to approach the goat rope that any premier point in Southern California becomes on a solid swell. And as an added bonus he employs his masterful command of the stereotypical So Cal surf dialect while doing so.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that some of The Illusion’s theories are a bit…. hmmm… how to say this gentlemanly?

“The Illusion is out there!”

He is indeed out there as we can safely say after hearing of his holographic universe principle of it all in which The Illusion surfs his passions and desires all while doing battle with sundry characters bent on disrupting his serenity. But if you set this principle aside for a moment and give a listen to what else he has to say, I think you’ll find that a few of his ideas, such as those set forth in italics below, are actually spot on.

1. If you’re planning to paddle out at a crowded point break during a pumping swell… you might consider surfing a beach break first. Grab a few waves. Get a taste of the swell. Take a few beatings. And in doing so, you’ve already won, as The Illusion would say, which should leave you in a much better frame of mind for dealing with the inevitable frustrations presented by crowded surf. Look at it this way… it’s certainly easier to wait your turn in a long pizza buffet line when you’ve already had a go at the salad bar. Now I haven’t actually put this theory to the test but it seems imminently sensible. Perhaps a pit stop at Zuma would be in order sometime before continuing on to County Line?

2. If you’re planning to paddle out at a crowded point break during a pumping swell… you are going to get snaked. You certainly don’t have to like it and you definitely don’t have to simply allow it to happen (in fact I’d argue that a little bit of barking is well within the bounds of acceptable play for a gentleman surfer and even educational for an uninitiated donkey) but the sooner you accept that it will happen, the better you’ll be able to deal with it when it does. Think if it as your destiny and deal with it accordingly. I like this one. The Illusion is spot on.

3. If you’re planning to paddle out at a crowded point break during a pumping swell… give yourself three hours. While there are certainly times when fortune will be in your favor such that you’re able to u-turn from your paddle out into a tasty set wave, I find that it generally takes some time before you find your niche at a crowded break whether you do so by settling into the rotation or finding a less crowded section a little inside from which to pick off waves that aren’t quite connecting all the way through. Three hours will be time enough to find the flow out there, but not enough to have you running on empty, and thus it seems like a good rule of thumb. Although perhaps in my case it would be better thought of as a rule of neck and shoulders as mine seem to start getting a bit jacked up by around the three hour mark anyway. In any case, you’re bound to have a better experience if you have the time and patience to find your place out there and wait your turn.

So there you have it… three intriguing theories courtesy of The Illusion. It’s my hope that I have the good fortune to cross paths in the water with The Illusion in the not too distant future. And while there are a good many questions that I’d like to ask of him, I’d have to say that the most pressing of those would undoubtedly be “Dude… where did you get those gloriously tasty looking raspberry filled donut holes?”

DaFiNs in Incredible Hulk Green

I recently invested in a pair of DaFiN swin fins after coming to the realization that I might be limiting my fun in the water by sticking only to board surfing. While two foot closeouts in Venice and Santa Monica don’t hold much appeal on a board, they might be downright tasty with a pair of swim fins… at least that was my hope.

As with most people who spend any time at the beach, I’ve done my fair share of casual bodysurfing over the years. But I had never used swim fins for that purpose.

Enter DaFiN.

I strapped them on for the first time last Thursday afternoon to swim out into some textured 2-3 footers a couple of hundred yards north of the Venice Breakwater. Kicking and stroking into my first wave of the day was nothing less than a revelation. I was in much earlier than I had ever been in before and planed along the face of the wave as I had never been able to do during my many finless forays into the surf. It was an all together different feeling… one of glide and actually surfing the wave rather than merely being jostled towards shore and struggling to stay afloat.

I had a blast out there and thus my suspicions were confirmed… two foot closeouts can be very tasty indeed when bodysurfed with a good pair of fins. Simply put… I’m stoked on my new fins.

According to the DaFiN website

“The side rails — the “strakes”— on DaFiN are rock solid but run only about half way down the length of the fin where they angle back to the blade. This forces the fin to flex right at this critical point. The raised v-shaped foot pocket combined with a stiff blade working together at the point of flex creates maximum acceleration of the water flowing over the fin surface resulting in more thrust per kick with less effort.”

Now I’m no expert in hydrodynamics so I really can’t tell you whether I agree with their assessment that the design of their fins creates maximum acceleration. But I can tell you that an hour in the water with my new pair of size XL’s in Incredible Hulk green certainly created maximum fun for me in those waves last Thursday and I’m definitely looking forward to a second session (and a third, fourth, fifth, etc.) in the near future.

Please believe me, my good readers, when I tell you that henceforth The Gentleman not only blogs and surfs his various boards, but he most definitely bodysurfs as well.

¡Orale!

The Gentleman Inquires: Bali?

Let’s say you were planning to drop everything back home to do a bit of targeted travel around Southeast Asia and India for several months (having never visited this part of the world) and you wanted to wind your trip down by posting up somewhere in or along the Indian Ocean for 3-4 weeks of tasty waves. Let’s also say that the timing for your little end of trip surf holiday would probably be towards the end of summer in the northern hemisphere and that you would be willing to sacrifice a little bit of wave quality if it meant you would be sharing those waves with fewer surfers. In other words, if the 10 point scale is in play, you would rather surf less crowded 7’s and 8’s than crowded 9’s and 10’s.  While fewer surfers is certainly the hope, the difficulty of dragging a board or two around Asia for several months prior to your post up means that you will need to acquire the tools of your trade upon arrival and thus your destination must have some surf industry infrastructure. One final hope for this location… that it offers the possibility of surfing a right or two here and there knowing full well that the preponderance of set ups will require this normal foot to rely upon his backhand.

So what’s it going to be then, eh?

Bali seems to be the logical choice, no? It sounds like the surf industry is fully entrenched and thus gearing up should be quite easy. As far as waves go, Bali seems to be holding quite the assortment and, perhaps more importantly, it appears to be an ideal jumping off point for exploration of other less developed islands (Lombok? Lakey? Sumbawa?) via land camp or boat.

Which brings me to the crowds… and that seems to be where it falls short of the mark. But how infested is it? Are the crowds thick enough to warrant skipping it entirely? Has paradise truly been lost? Or are the surf hordes manageable particularly given that my baseline for crowds was set in the far from empty waves of Southern California?

And so readers I ask of you… does Bali hit the mark? And if not Bali then where?

Classic Rincon, 1973 by Steve Bissell

The above photo is known as Classic Rincon and was taken back in 1973 by Santa Barbara based photographer Steve Bissell. But I didn’t first catch sight of it until one afternoon several decades later when I strolled into the Patagonia store on Main Street in Santa Monica where a giant print of it hung on the south wall. Now I had surfed a few times during my high school years growing up in Florida but it wasn’t until I moved to California that I came to be fairly obsessed with the sport of kings and that move had taken place less than a year before my first encounter with the photo… all of which I share in hopes of explaining how it could be that I (a gentleman surfer living in Southern California) hadn’t a clue that the wave depicted in the photo was none other than the Queen of the Coast herself.

I might not have known a thing about the wave but I was captivated by the photo nonetheless.

There is something special happening here beyond the simple perfection of those blue waves stacked towards the horizon peeling perfectly off the point and I suspect it has to do with that solitary figure checking the surf from high atop that grassy knoll. There is no doubt in my mind that the dude in that field was grinning from ear to ear at what he saw and I in turn find myself doing the same whenever I see the photo which I made a point of doing every time I passed by the store over the last several years.

But when I dropped into the shop a few weeks back on one such occasion, I was bummed to find that a different photo now hung in its place. It’s an OK shot but it’s certainly no Classic Rincon. Saddened though I was with this turn of events, I quickly realized that there might be an opportunity here. I asked one of the Patagonians milling about the store if they still had the print and, if so, whether they might be willing to part ways with it.

“Yeah… it’s in the office.”

“Cool!”

“But I’m afraid there are already a few people battling it out over the right to take it home.”

“Doh!”

I asked if she happened to know anything about the photographer as I had done several times over the years with a few of her co-workers. Much like them, she didn’t. I might mention here that several searches on the internet over the years hadn’t turned up any leads for me on the photographer either and thus my chances of finding my own copy of the photo were looking less than good at this point.

It was then that another Patagonian, having overheard my question, chimed in.

“It was taken by Steve Bissell and I think it’s called Classic Rincon. Google it and you should find something.”

Thanks, amigo! I did indeed find something… his email address! I fired off an email in hopes that he might be willing to sell me a print. Steve replied to me in less than 24 hours saying that he would be happy to sell me a print and at what I consider to be a very reasonable price. True to his word, a cardboard tube containing a beautiful color print of Classic Rincon arrived at my door last week a few days after I sent off the check. It’s awesome! I plan to hang it on my bedroom wall where I’ll have a good view of it each and every morning as that would seem to be a surefire way to ensure that I start the day with a smile.

It can be extremely difficult to explain why a particular photograph (or any work of art for that matter) is able to speak so strongly to certain people. But in his initial email to me, Steve shared why he believes this photo might have the effect it does on many people and I think it’s as good of an explanation as any. He said, “One of the reasons why so many people like that Rincon photo, is because they identify with the guy standing in the field, looking at that perfection. It looks like some guy traveled from afar and after climbing the last obstacle, he just stood there in that green field of dreams and knew that this is what he was looking for and finally found…perfection.”

Indeed.

I’ve been mulling over a changing of the auto recently. While the Saab has performed admirably well over the past 10 years, I’m inclined to go with something a little more spacious such that Mr. Anderson (7’6″) and The Hatchet (9’6″) have an easier time of it in transit. In fact, I’ve been thinking about a pickup truck for a while now and when I walked out of my place this morning to see this beauty parked in front, I think the choice kind of made itself. You can’t really go wrong with a combo surf wagon/public boast of sexual acumen. Seems like a sure way to impress the ladies when rolling up to your favorite surf spot.

Incidentally, I wonder which fair lady in my neighborhood was lucky enough to merit a house call last night from the talented cocksman who calls this little pickup his own.

Some of you are probably already familiar with Alby Falzon and David Elfick’s very awesome Morning of the Earth and if you are then your life is probably all the better for it. If you aren’t, do yourself a kindness and get familiar with it. The 1971 film features Terry Fitzgerald, Michael Peterson, Nat Young and a host of other heroes surfing single fins mostly in seemingly empty Australian set-ups. The Morning of the Earth surfer shapes his own boards and treads lightly while living close to the land and closer to the ocean. He seems to find joy in life’s simple pleasures having left the trappings of a modern hyper-consumerist lifestyle far behind. I might add that he also rocks some ruthless cut-off jean shorts in the line-up and does so quite successfully. And, at least during this hour and a half, he does it all with a helping hand from a perfect soundtrack… which, incidentally, appears to be out of print on vinyl with the originals commanding a steep premium around the interwebs. Anyone looking to part ways with one?

Blame it on the even more challenging than normal Venice>downtown LA commute this past week…and the perfect beach conditions on offer during the latter half of the workweek while I labored in my cubicle … and the almost always unfulfilling 9 hour days of pushing of corporate paper. Whatever the reason, I definitely found myself even more in need of a midweek pick me up than usual last week. A couple of viewings of this little gem of a clip from Morning of the Earth proved to be just the jump start I needed.

It’s a potent shot of aloha and speaks in joyful tones to a deep and simple love of  wave riding. What’s more… it does so better than 99% of the surf flicks that have followed in its wake. You’ll hear John J. Francis sing…

“I’ve seen the best and worst that we have here on our earth / and finally decided on the things that I get worth”

Well, me too. And this segment of Morning of the Earth is as true of an expression of some of those things as I believe I’m ever likely to find.