Category Archives: Learning & Fitness

Dailystoke in The Azores: Surf Spot Rundown, Go Get It!

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Another Dailystoke writer and I spent a week in the island paradise of The Azores.  What blew us away on our visit to the Portuguese island chain, was how high the “waves to surfers ratio” was.  Not that there are many surfers on the island to begin with, but as you’ll see, when swell lights up the coast, there are numerous places to be alone.  Like many remote island communities whose economy is driven by fishing, and whose folklore and bedtime stories are fed by sailors that did not return, the Azorians are afraid of the ocean that surrounds them.  Even our fearless guide seemed to always be talking about how sharky our sessions felt.  Thanks Ricardo…

But one thing we did do on our trip was hunt for waves.  If I could somehow get back every dollar I’ve spent on gas driving up and down the California coast looking for waves, I would be a rich man.  Not surprisingly, surfers all over the world operate similarly.  From the minute we landed, we were frothing for waves and started putting miles (kms) on the rental car, and there was lots to see.

Like I had mentioned in the previous post, The Azores is a volcanic island chain with an amazingly varied coast.  Exposed to swell from all directions, there’s rarely a flat day if you know where to look.  The main island of Sao Miguel is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, so you’re never farther than an hour away from any surf spot.  Our surf guide has been on the island for about a decade, and knows every nook and cranny that pulls in waves.  In the week we were there to explore, we saw about a dozen spots that can turn on with the right conditions.  We saw some flat, and we saw some firing, and we never saw a crowd.

I’m going to give a rundown of the spots that we visited, but I do so with the understanding that some will be impossible to find without the help of someone with local knowledge.  Let’s start with the most obvious, and end with the mysto.

Santa Barbara:  The main surf beach on Sao Miguel is a half mile long black sand beach on the north coast at Ribeira Grande.  It’s the only place we ever saw other surfers, and it’s easily marked on every map.  Shifty sand bars, a rock cliff and reefy wedgy on the west side, and a rocky reef on the north side, if there’s north swell, there will be a wave (or many) here.  There’s even a deep water big wave spot about 200 yards offshore that can hold 20 foot+.  We heard stories of the only time someone tried to ski to it, got stranded outside the beach break, and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.  Are you man enough to be the second to try?

Spinach:  Directly to the east of Santa Barbara, this is another large stretch of beach with a (dirty) river mouth sandbar.  We never surfed it but we were told it can be as good or better than Santa Barbara, and since it’s tougher to find down a scary narrow alley, can be less crowded.

Milicias: This is the closest beach to Ponta Delgada, about 10 minutes west of the harbor.  The parking lot is just past the cliffside church in the photo below.  This steep beach break is south facing and we were told, can be as good as beach breaks get.  Think wintertime perfection at Blacks, but with predominantly offshore winds and board shorts in the summer.  There is a deep water canyon, lots of peaks, and no crowds.  You convinced yet?

 

The Slab at Maia: At Ponta de Maia, on the north side of the island, there is a reef slab left that was created by a landslide from the cliff above.  We never saw it break, and it’s more of a bodyboard spot, but when conditions are right, it’s the most critical wave on the island.

Ponta Formosa:  This small beach break to the east of Ribeira Grande was dead flat when we were introduced to it on the first day.  There is a small cafe called “The Mill” at the bottom of a steep hill.  Parking is tough, but we’re told theyserve the best burger on the island.  We can’t speak to the burgers, but the post-surf beers were some of the best, and most earned, we had ever had the pleasure of drinking.  Needless to say, we saw a lot of action there later in the week.  We had solid N swell, 12 feet at 15 seconds, with  SW wind at 25 knots, gusting 50.  Challenging doesn’t begin to describe it, but bombs were had.  Anyone want to volunteer to sit on the beach and shoot next time?

Monsteiros:  Pronounced moose-trrey-oosh, which took us a week to learn to say, means “The Monastaries”.  It’s named for the rock formation at the mouth of the harbor that resemble, you guessed it, rocks.  The harbor is on the Northwesternmost tip of the island.  This was the longest spot to travel to, as the coastal roads are windy and meander through the countryside.  Gorgeous, but less than direct.  The mouth of the harbor has both a left and a right reef point, about 20 yards away from each other.  The makings for a pretty epic wave park if you ask me.  We had W swell when we saw it, but also W wind and too much tide.  I want to surf this spot when it’s on!

Rabo de Peixe: Just to the West of Ribeira Grande, is a small fishing village with a harbor.  Unfortunately, the story is not all good here.  This used be the most perfect and lengthy left rock point on the island, but a new addition to the existing break wall has caused the wave to be less than perfect.  The Surfrider foundation got involved during the engineering of the addition, but the builders ignored the recommendations.  The result is the wave energy and sand now have no exit, resulting in a wicked backwash on the inside.  We saw swell here, but surfed elsewhere.  Keep meddling civil engineers out of our precious resources people!

Ribeira Quente: This is another south facing break that we saw totally flat, but with amazing potential.  Down the mountain from the volcanically active town of Furnas, this remote fishing village is far from the surfing population.  The wave is an a-frame reef that breaks off the break wall of the harbor.  The right (we were told) is a hollow and shelfy short wave that closes out into the rocks, and the left is equally hollow but is much longer, makable all the way down the length of the jetty and finishes in a channel.  Apparently, the thing to do in summer is surf until you’re noodled, then drive 20 minutes up into the crater and have a soak in the volcanic hot springs with the visiting Norwegian co-eds (which we did, sans waves, and the girls, unfortunately).  I’ve got my summer flight booked already, do you?

Santa Iria:  I culminate our wave tour with the most remote, and basically impossible to find spot on the island.  The irony is that you can very easily see this wave break from the road, at the bottom of a 1,000 foot cliff.  In fact, there is a parklike viewpoint just off the highway that teases you to try to navigate the drop below.  It might just be worth your life to try, with a hundred yard cobblestone barreling point on the left, and a shorter right barrel on the opposite side of the cove.  When we finally saw it break, we were led to the 1.5 mile goat trail, but even if I wasn’t sworn to secrecy, my directions would be worthless to you.  Over a river, through some woods, dodge electric fences, you get the idea.  Not to mention the rocks on the point (the last 300 yards) are so slippery, you have to wear shoes to navigate them. We got some great waves this day, but only saw about 10% of its potential.  This is another spot I will surf perfect and alone one day in my life.  Just me, a buddy, and the hammerhead sharks that come from thousands of miles to breed in this cove…

 

Well, that was partially more comprehensive than I had planned, but as far as I’m concerned, if you have the balls to fly over 2000 miles to an unconventional surf destination, you should have the tools to score.  There’s no doubt that this is a world class surf destination, and will be popping up on surf travel sites sooner than you might think.  But what makes it world class isn’t how amazing the surf can be but rather the combination of surf and the things to do on the island when conditions are less than perfect.  There’s no better way to take your mind off not surfing than soaking in a 100 degree hot spring in what feels like the set of Jurassic Park.  More on that, in the next post…

-PK

 

 

Crowded Breaks: The 6 Laws of Surf Etiquette!

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This photo makes me uneasy – there are 3 dudes trying to ride the same wave, and hoards of others paddling out to make it even more crowded.  I don’t where they’re all going.  But we’ve all been here.  Nice waves, but crowded as fark.  You almost run over a floater, then someone drops in on you, rage everywhere.

We all need to remember the basic rules, and I say if the break is crowded as this one above — there should be a new “law” that says the wave is too crowded to surf period.

So here are my surfing etiquette laws – remember these basic rules:

  1. If it’s super crowded, go home (or wait), you got there too late!
  2. Don’t ever drop in
  3. Know who has the right of way
  4. Don’t be a floater on the paddle back out
  5. Get a leash please, please, please
  6. Respect the locals

Props! Guys Getting Shacked on Longboards

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How hot is this shot? Getting barreled on a longboard isn’t easy to do. It’s hard to get a 9 foot board to do what you want inside a tiny tube. It’s not every day you get to surf a wave as good as this shot above. If you’re like me you pretty much only ride a longboard when the waves are shit. Longboards make small waves fun again. There have been a few select times when I’ve ridden a longboard in good waves, and I can honestly say I’ve never once made it out of a tube on one. Longboards are fast, they’re big, and it’s hard to slow one down enough to see some tunnel vision. Longboards have a way of generating speed on their own, and you basically don’t have to do anything to make it down the line. That’s where all the cool cross-stepping, and toes-over-the-nose things come into play. You gotta do something while you’re standing there. But yeah, I’m always syked to see dudes getting barreled riding longboards, so here’s a couple clips…

How to Perform a Drop Knee Cutback! Tips from a Pro

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The drop knee cutback is a traditional longboard manoeuvre from the early 60’s, when surfing was all about “style and grace”.  The sheer weight of the longboards of this era combined with the deep single fins glassed right at the back of the board and virtually no rocker, made these boards great for trimming, catching waves and nose riding, but extremely difficult to turn.  Therefore it was necessary for a surfer to shift their weight back over the fin by dropping their back knee and pivoting the board around; thus performing a classic drop knee cutback.   Ray Gleave in Photo Above courtesy of Al Ashworth

With today’s modern lightweight equipment, this manoeuvre has become more fashion than function.  However, surfers from Nat Young to “The Godfather of Soul”, Ray Gleave, have made the drop knee cutback their trademark.  With the traditional heavy glassed-in single fin movement making a comeback, this classic manoeuvre is here to stay!

“Drop knee turns allow you to open your shoulder more to rotate your board easier in small waves.” Ben “Skindog” Skinner, 2009 European Champion

So want to try one?  Here’s how to perform a forehand drop knee cutback

Stage 1

You’ve run out of wave face and need to cutback into the pocket to let the wave develop in front of you.  Start by rotating your hips and feet in an anti-clockwise direction, and gently shifting your weight onto your heels.  Then rotate your upper body, by looking over your left shoulder with your arms extended for balance, and your leading arm pointing in the direction in which you are travelling.

Stage 2

With your legs in a slightly wider stance than normal for balance, slowly shift your weight onto your front leg, allowing your back leg to rotate 90 degrees on your toes. Now lower your back leg towards the deck of the board, (but not touching it), and shift your weight back onto this leg, increasing the pressure over the fin to pivot the board around.  Continue to rotate your upper body and arms bringing the board smoothly around looking for the point-of-impact with the white water.

Stage 3

As the white water approaches, extend your back leg keeping your weight on the tail.  As you hit the white water, swiftly rotate your upper body and arms in a clockwise direction, lifting your head to bring the nose of the board up.  Now shifting your weight onto your toe edge, bring your board around so the inside rail is locked in the wave face.  The wave should hopefully have formed in front of you and you can continue down the line.

“You don’t just do a drop knee cutback because they look good.  It’s still a functional turn.” –Josh Constable.

“You don’t need as much speed to do a drop knee cutback as you do for a full roundhouse cutback.  So it’s a good manoeuvre to change direction quickly.” –Taylor Jensen.

“Very effective turn when you have little speed.” — Harley Ingleby, 2009 ASP World Champion

Want to learn how to perform this manoeuvre and many more top tips from the best pro longboarders? Then surf to www.shortcuttolongboarding.com

How To Do Aerials on a Longboard! Tips from a Pro

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Harley Ingleby Backside Air PhotoStraight out of the shortboard stable, “aerial” manoeuvres are nothing new.  The introduction of lightweight materials and advanced technology in the early 90’s allowed longboard pro’s Joey Hawkins and Jeff Kramer to “bust some air” and put progressive longboarding on the map. 

Aerials require a great deal of speed, and although the overall volume of a longboard generally prevents you getting any real height out of the wave, this extra volume and width does make landing aerials a little easier than on a shortboard. 

A light onshore wind is best when attempting this manoeuvre as any offshore wind will get under the nose of the board and blow you off the back of the wave.  Try keeping your weight over your front knee when launching to prevent this happening.  

“Aerials are really hard on longboards because you really need the perfect section and conditions to do a good longboard aerial.  Plus once you find a good section, you really have to hit perfect to get good height.” — Harley Ingleby, 2009 ASP World Champion

Josh Constable Photo sequence, courtesy Simon Williams www.swilly.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

“I personally thing it looks gross on a Longboard… Like a seagull with broken wings.  Want to do an air?  Get on a short board.  No one likes to see a longboarder doing airs.” — Belen Kimble. 

What do you think about aerials on a longboard? Leave them to the shortboard or do they have a future in professional longboarding?

For more great photo’s and advice check out www.shortcuttolongboarding.com

Buena Onda = Good Vibe Surfing

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I just want to say how nice it is when there is a good vibe in the water. In Mexico, we call it “una buena onda.” You can call people or different things “buena onda” and even say it as a, “Thank you so much, you’re so sweet!” = “Gracias! Buena onda!” I forget sometimes how much I love surfing with people who respect each other in the water. No territorialism, no competition, just a bunch of  rad people enjoying one of the many magnificent wonders of the world……gorgeous waves! It’s so much more satisfying surfing with people when you’re taking turns catching waves (or even sometimes accepting the party wave), instead of trying to catch every single one yourself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be proud of yourself for being able to catch every wave, but it’s kind of like sharing…..you know, what you learned when you were a wee child. What should be a fun, no stress time in the water, has somehow turned competitive even when there is no real competition going on. Why can’t we all just stick with “una buena onda,” enjoying and appreciating what you’ve got, while you’ve still got it goin’ on.

Surfing and Localism

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No KooksSurfers can be territorial sometimes, especially where I live in Mexico. The locals (not all of them, but a good majority) are constantly yelling at beginner tourists who get in their way. There is this one local who supposedly has been banned from surfing, after pushing people off of their boards and surfing with a weapon to threaten them. The police said if they see him surfing, he’ll be in jail immediately. The craziest situation I experienced was this one day when we had this great swell. There were these two girls who had been bravely learning to surf and had been living in the town for a few months. The waves were throwing them around like rag dolls and I gave them mad props for not giving up. Soon enough, this local guy (who is known to be an a**hole to everyone in town) said something mean to the poor girls and their friend (another local) stood up for them. All of a sudden, I look over and the two guys were going at it in the water. It was mostly the a**hole who was throwing the punches, while the other one (a pretty peaceful guy) was just trying to defend himself as best as he could. Water was splashing everywhere, words were flying and I took the opportunity to catch the great waves that everyone involved in the fight was missing out on. Eventually, they took the fight to shore, where the a**hole was still punching and kicking, while the other one was calmly swatting his fists away like a fly. I was actually happy the a**hole local left the water because he does not surf fairly and was pissing everybody off. All I have to say is, is it ever really worth the fight? C’mon guys!

How to Surf Big Waves on a Log, Tips from a Pro

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Although longboards are generally associated with small wave surfing, taking your longboard out in surf over 6 feet can be great fun.  The speed and drive you get with 9 feet of rail in the water is exhilarating.  However with all that rail edge to control, a lot of things can go wrong…  So preparation is the key.  Photo above of Lee Ryan courtesy of Simon Williams www.swilly.com.au

Before you paddle out, make sure you have studied the conditions for at least 20 minutes.  In particular:

  • Look for rips and channels to help you get out.
  • How many waves are there in a set?
  • Is the first, third or fourth wave the best of the set?
  • How long is there between sets?
  • Are you fit enough?
  • Can I hold my breath long enough if I wipeout?
  • Before you paddle out, ask yourself, “If my leash snapped, would I be fit enough to swim in?”  If the answer is no, don’t paddle out.

Big wave surfing is all about the take off or “the drop” as we call it.  It is important to use the extra length of your board to your advantage by paddling into the wave nice and early so that you are performing your bottom turn before the wave has pitched.  Stay low at the top of the wave and have a slightly wider stance than normal to aid balance.  Around 70% of your weight should be on your front foot to help draw the board down the face.

Lee Ryan getting in nice and early; Photos courtesy of Simon Williams www.swilly.com.au

As you get midway down the face of the wave, gradually start shifting your weight towards the back of the board in preparation for your bottom turn.  Try not to look down over your front knee as this could cause the board to nosedive.  Keep your head up and try and read the wave at least 20ft in front of you.

“You have to pick your line quicker.  Keep in mind that you have a 9ft longboard that won’t go places a shortboard can – every manoeuvre has to be drawn out” —Jye Byrnes, Pro Longboarder & Shaper www.thesurffactory.com.au.

“Always paddle really hard when taking off in big waves.  One stroke more than you think you need.” — Harley Ingleby, 2009 ASP World Champion

Jye Byrnes takes the high line – Photo: Simon Williams www.swilly.com.au.

“Keep an eye on the horizon and once up and riding.  Stay low, as any chop in the face will bounce you off as you’re travelling much faster.” — Ben “Skindog” Skinner, 2009 European Champion

With the increased speed you get from the power of the wave, you need to adjust the timing of your manoeuvres.  You will almost have too much speed going into some turns, especially after you have just dropped into the wave.  The more speed you have, the more manoeuvrable your board will be.

“In bigger waves, you need to slow your surfing down a little.  You don’t have to push off your turns as much, as the power is already in the wave” —Josh Constable.

Want to learn more great tips and manoeuvres then check out Volume 2 of “A Shortcut to Longboarding” now with video clips!! www.shortcuttolongboarding.com

How to Perform a Fin First Takeoff! Tips from a Pro

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This is another manoeuvre that has been labelled as simply a “trick” and “not a functional manoeuvre” in the competition arena.  However, Joel Tudor frequently pulled them off in competitions in good sized surf with no leash – just because he could!  They are a fun manoeuvre to try and probably one of the first “tricks” you will attempt on your longboard.  Photo above courtesy of www.jamiebottphotography.com

There are a number of ways to perform this manoeuvre, but they all involve the same key elements:

  • Early wave entry – by paddling as fast as possible.
  • Staying relaxed and light footed.
  • Keeping your head up to maintain balance.
  • Lying further back on the board than normal for the take off, (to keep the fins out of the water).
  • Assuming a slightly wider stance than normal.

Method 1 – The Traditional Method

Start paddling for the wave when it is at least 3 board lengths away, as you need to get into the wave well before the wave starts pitching.  As you feel the approaching swell lifting the tail of the board, angle the nose slightly to one side depending on which way you want the board to rotate.  As soon as you feel you have caught the wave, jump to your feet but stay low in a crouched position for balance.  

As the board travels down the face of the wave, put 50% of your weight on your inside rail.  The fins should lock in the wave face and your board will naturally turn itself 180 degrees (It will turn very quickly, so be ready and stay light footed).  The board will now be facing the correct way, but you will be facing backwards to the beach and be slightly disorientated as you will be standing in the opposite way to your natural stance.  All that is left to do now is switch stance and continue on your way.

Method 2 – The Switch Foot

This is essentially the same as method 1, however instead of jumping to your feet in your normal stance, you pop up with your opposite foot forward, i.e. if you are natural footed, you jump up in the goofy foot stance.  This saves you switching stance once the board has rotated and stops you losing time and speed, as you can get straight into your bottom turn without breaking the flow.  However, trying to force yourself to pop up in your unnatural stance is a lot harder than it sounds when you are looking down the face of a large wave!

 “All you do is hang on and go with the flow.”–Jye Byrnes.

Method 3 – The Shove It

This method is more of a skate board manoeuvre and requires a modern lightweight longboard to pull it off.  Paddle into the wave as before, and as the board starts to travel down the face of the wave, put 50 % of your weight on your toe side edge and set the rail.  Next, put all your weight onto your front foot and lean forward.  As soon as you do this, the board will start rotating.  With your weight slightly over your front foot, you need to “shove” the tail of the board around behind your back by first lifting your back foot up in the air, and then your front foot in quick succession as the longboard rotates underneath you. 

This method requires you to assume a more upright stance than the previous methods, so stay very light on your toes.  This is by far the hardest method, but looks the most impressive if you pull it off!

“Make sure you keep some weight on your front foot so the fins stay in the water – otherwise you will look like a goose just going straight.”  –Jared Neal.

Lee Ryan – Photo sequence: Jamie Bott www.tubeframe.com

Tip:  The Fin First take off is easier to accomplish in a 2-3ft wave than a 1ft wave, as the longboard has more face to rotate in and therefore, there is less chance of you catching a rail.

Jenny Smith making it look easy – Photos: “Moonwalker” www.moonwalkerphotos.com

Want to learn more great manoeuvres from the world’s best longboarders?      Then surf to www.shortcuttolongboarding.com to download some more free chapters of the best selling instructional guide to longboarding

SurfScience.com: Check out ratings on boards

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SurfScience.com is a website devoted to helping you understand more about surfboards.  The site was founded by a couple of OC surfers.  Along with articles on board designs, one of the coolest things on the site is the board rack where you can see ratings on thousands of surfboard models from top shapers.  Its kind of like CNET for surfboards.  Now you can read what people think about a board before you go buy it and if you’re not sure what type of board to get, the Surfboard Match can help point you in the right direction. Its a pretty cool idea so go rate all the boards in your quiver and help out other surfers looking for info on those models.

A Surf Pro on Fins, and Their Importance

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Fins are probably the most important part of a surfboard. 

How Do Fins Work?

As you push your back foot down over the fin(s) in your chosen direction, the surface area of the fins push against the water and forces you in the opposite direction.  The more pressure you put over the fins, the more push back and drive or direction you will get out of your turns.  

Tip: If you put too much pressure over your fins, they will release or slide out (especially if the fins have a small surface area).  The secret is to know just how much pressure to apply when going into a turn so the fins hold in the wave face.  This will come with plenty of practice.  When you get to know your board well enough, you can make the fins release on purpose.  This is called a “tail slide”.

You will often see longboarders chopping and changing their fins, moving them forward or backwards in the fin box or changing from a single fin to a 2+1 setup.  The 2+1 setup is a single fin box with 2 smaller side fins (sometimes called “side biters” or “training wheels” if you come from the traditional longboard school).  By changing your fin or the position in the fin box, you are “fine tuning” your board to suit the conditions on the day.  The key is to know what each part of the fin does so you can choose the right fin to help the board perform at its best.

Parts of the Fin

The Template

This is the general outline of the fin.  The bigger the overall area of the fin, the more stability and hold you will have.  The fin will hold the board in the wave face and stop it sliding out, particularly when you are near the nose of the board.

The Base

The bottom of the fin where it sits flush in the fin box is called the base.  The wider the base of the fin, the more stability the board will have.  A wide based fin combined with a full template will give you the most drive and stability.  However, this will make the board feel stiff and therefore harder to turn.  A narrow based fin, or Cutaway Fin as they are called, ( as the back of the fin has been cut out), loosens up the tail by removing excess area, but you will suffer from less drive.

A Cutaway Fin

 The cutaway fin can be a good compromise.  A 9 or 10 inch fin can be used on its own as a noseriding fin, which will give you plenty of hold in the pocket, but at the same time be fairly easy to turn.  They also work well as a 2+1 set up with the 7-8 inch version generating more drive and control.

Rake

This is the curve in the fin from the leading edge to the tip.  The more rake a fin has, the more lift it gives the tail of the board.

Depth

This is the height of the fin.  The more depth the fin has, the more the board or more specifically the tail is going to hold you in the wave face.  When choosing a fin for noseriding, choose a fin with a height over 9 inches and a wide base to keep the board stable whilst you are “hanging 5”.  The added depth to the fin prevents the tail “sliding out” or “wandering”, and allows the surfer to remain on the nose of the board through critical sections when the wave is breaking over the tail of the board.

Flex Fins

Most fins are fairly rigid.  However, flex fins are designed to have flexibility in the tip of the fin.  This flex can smooth out your turns and give you more control, especially if the surf is bumpy.

 “One fin, One God, One country” –Joel Tudor

Whether to ride your longboard as a single fin, thruster, (3 short board fins) or a 2+1 setup is one of the biggest talking points in longboarding today.  Some people say it is not a “real” longboard unless it is a single fin.  Others prefer a 3 fin setup as it is less limiting and more manoeuvrable……… 

Want to know the difference between single fins and 3 fins? Which is better? Where to position your fin in the fin box plus hundreds of useful tips from the top pro’s on the planet? Then surf to www.shortcuttolongboarding.com

Aamion Goodwin got burned & injured at Pipe by some Kook

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Kauai boy Aamion Goodwin copped one of the worst beatings amongst pros after being dropped in on at Pipeline.  As you can see in the various frame grabs, Aamion pulled in super deep into a big grinding left.  He tucked in, set his rail, and began charging through for the daylight at the far, far end of the tunnel.  Unfortunately for him, some unknown shoulder hopping douchebag thought it would be nice to drop in a few seconds later and take the elevator drop straight to the bottom.  Said douche then caught a rail and did his best impression of complete assbag, by proceeding to bellyflop in front of our unsuspecting pro.  Aamion charged through, and apparently partially over the turd before copping the full force of the lip on the head.  Poor Aamion was then sidelined with serious knee issues, while the kook that burned him was probably safely back home on the mainland.  Someone name this prick so we can send him his douche of the year award.

Surf Forecasting Resources for Regular Surfers – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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Over the coming days, we’ll be profiling the work of Adam Wright, from SoCal Surf Forecast. Adam was cool enough to answer a series of questions from our writers, all about surf forecasts. Here goes!

DailyStoke.com: It’s one thing to follow a surfing forecast site like yours, religiously, but it’s quite another to understand in great detail the information that is presented there. Do you have any suggested resources for surfers who want to figure it out for themselves, or at least better understand the services you provide? We’ve reviewed the Surf Science book and Wetsand’s Surf Forecasting Book.

Socalsurf.com: I am all for people getting into forecasting for themselves… in fact I encourage it on my sites…it is always super cool to see surfers become more connected and passionate about forecasting, and in the end I think it makes people better surfers or at least have more fun, which is what this sport is supposed to be about.

Like you mentioned there are a few books out there that sort of go over the mechanics of forecasting, but they sort of assume that you have the basic vocabulary and terminology already. I think that it is important to build a “basic weather” foundation, where you understand where and why wind blows, how atmospheric pressure works…things like that. I have a post on the blog that helps to cover some of the specific forecasting basics.

Generally, if I know that someone is interested in forecasting but is starting from scratch, I recommend that they spend some time watching the weather channel, and the nightly weather forecasts on the news. Yeah some of them are super cheesy and pretty dumbed down but they do get you familiar with the meteorology terms and basic weather patterns. Talking a basic oceanography, physical geography, or intro to meteorology college/Junior-college course is another great way to get a lot of the terminology.

Once you understand the basics then those surf forecasting books, and sites like mine, suddenly make a lot more sense…you start to see where we are coming from an information standpoint and you can make the intuitive leaps that you sometimes need to put together “weather” with “marine/surf forecasting”.

Resource-wise the internet has a grip of information about weather forecasting, understanding weather patterns, oceanography, meteorology , hydrography. You can find anything…all the way up through PHD level information (big brain stuff)…you just jump on Google and there it is. The hard part is learning what you need to look for…once you have the basic idea down it gets a lot easier to refine your search for more info.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Surf Forecasting Technology – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: How do you feel that forecasting technology will advance in the future? Or are we at the…uhh…peak now? How do you feel that forecasting technology is changing the surf culture?

Socalsurf.com: I think we are a long way from the “peak” of forecasting technology. Just like every form of technology…Forecasting technology is going to get more and more sophisticated and refined in the future. Computers are going to continue to get faster and be able to process more, we are going to get better and more specific satellites, more flexible ocean sensors, and probably even find new ways to use the older technology that we already have in place. It will allow us as forecasters to get more relevant and timely data, tighten up the predictability of the swell/wind models, and generally create more accurate long-range forecasts.

Forecasts and technology are changing surf culture…no doubt about it…at the end of the day everyone wants to get good waves…and they want to be able to plan for it. I think that forecasting tech is allowing surfers to get more strategic…An average surfer in Southern California has sooo much going on (work, family, chores, commuting, more work) that being able to get a little heads up on decent conditions and swell helps them clear the plate a little, maximize the fun-time if you will. I think that this will just become more refined as technology advances.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

I don’t even know how to spell Corilois – Misunderstandings about Surf Forecasting – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: What is the most frequently misunderstood element of surf forecasting made by regular surfers who are trying to understand the forecasts?

Socalsurf.com: That is sort of a hard one to pin down…there are a lot of confusing concepts in forecasting… How swell direction (and swell period) interact with local geography and bathometry is usually something that is hard for people to wrap their heads around. It is one of those, “wait…what do you mean that this spot breaks on a 290-degree swell…but only part of the time? I hate you Adam”, type of concepts.

Really though I think that the “swell model” is one of the most misleading aspects of surf forecasting. Most people look at NOAA’s Wavewatch-III in some form or another…usually it is in some sort of map-image or graph form. While it is mostly accurate there are some weaknesses to it. For one if it gets bad data, say a storm doesn’t produce as much wind as it is forecasting, then the whole output is corrupted…every forecast that would have been affected by that storm is now wrong…they may adjust the model on the next forecast run but if you only look at the output every 24 hours then you could completely miss or overcall a swell.

Another thing to watch is the “output point” itself…some people try to look at models that aren’t showing geographically relevant data…so for example someone in Santa Barbara looks at someone’s pretty graph, which is generated using a point just offshore of Oceanside. In the summer it would show lots of Southern Hemi swell that would never hit the beach thanks to the Channel Islands.

Lastly is that the model doesn’t really account for nearshore shoaling…it gives you a pretty decent deepwater wave height but it won’t do a great job of showing what the actual rideable size will be when it hits the beach.

Don’t get me wrong…overall it is usually a very good resource for surf forecasting but it can’t be the only tool that you use. Always try to back up the model with empirical data from satellites, buoys, and observed conditions.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

A Kook’s Guide to: Not looking like a kook while walking up to your break

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(Sorry Mr. Kook, I know that kookiness is your domain, but I had to do this subject – Feel free to put up any posts using the title “A Kook’s Guide to” if you want…)

Disclaimer: This is a parody meant to be read by real surfers. But read this as if you were a clueless kook. That is the the only way that this post will be funny. You have been warned.

1. If you are in wetsuit weather, walk up with your wetsuit hanging around your waist. It’s a sign that you are too cool to put on your wetsuit fully until you know that the waves are good, and therefore not wasting energy, but you are still somewhat ready so that you can be out before anyone realizes you’re a kook (in the water, though, that’s a different story).

2. Stand on the beach and watch the waves for half-an-hour (time may vary depending on wave size). All the pros do it, so why shouldn’t you waste your time looking at the waves, seemingly thinking about rip-tides, paddle-out points, swell direction, drift – only losers do that! Besides, you’ll look like you’ll know what you’re doing (that is, until you get in the water).

3. Hoot and holler whenever a perfect wave peels down the line or someone already out does something incredible. Only hardcore surfers and crazy people hoot and holler for no apparent reason, and with a surfboard under your arm, people will think you’re a hardcore surfer.

4. Stick those stickers on them boards – not only will it cover the dings that you’re too kooky to know how to fix, but you’ll look like a sponsored hot-shot who can rip (again, until you get in the water). *

*I take no responsibility for black eyes in the line-up.

How to video: short board pop-ups

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Above is a video, starring yours truly, showing you how short board pop-ups are done.  Yes I was very bored.

I’ve seen the Youtube videos, and how misleading they are… I’m that sure most of you have seen the video where the guy brings one foot up, then the other. That’s a big no-no.

I’ve been where you are confused about figuring out how to get into a standing position without using my feet to prop myself up.  It should be done in one smooth motion. You know how when you first start off on a longboard, you use your toes to prop yourself up and hop to a standing position? Well short board pop-ups are exactly the same. Except for one thing: Your knees take the place of your toes.

Let me break it down for you:

1. Place your hands on the deck and arch your back, like a normal pop-up.

2. Instead of propping up on your toes, use your knees! Focus on keeping your feet up and out of the way until you need them!

3. Push with all your upper-body strength and use the space between your chest and board to swing your legs up underneath you.

Again (whistle). Again (whistle). Again (whistle). Again (whistle). Again (whistle).

Surf Science – surfing book review

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If you want to increase your surfing knowledge, it’s a natural progression to move away from surf forecasts made in some bunker in Southern California by someone else in favor of your own ability to predict when waves are on the way. There may be no better way to do that than through a book published with the University of Hawaii Press (of course), written by Tony Butt and Paul Russell entitled Surf Science. As much as wave prediction is science, there is a fair amount of chaos theory involved (or at least, that’s what it feels like when I show up at the beach, having been TOTALLY wrong with my predictions.) This book covers everything from the basics to a technical approach to surf prediction, and everything in between. It’s a quick read, with fantastic graphics to hammer home the points that you might not be able to get from a website. Check it out at Amazon here.