Sunday, January 29, 2017

Just after the turn of the decade 1980 things changed in surfboards. It came with the fin. Actually 3 of them, on one surfboard.
It started in '81 and it seemed like within a year that was pretty much all you saw was the Thruster, also known as a tri fin. I personally didn't make the switch until the end of '82. I was a Greenough guy and surfed a single fin hull until finally deciding to try the Tri.
Not sure where that first tri fin I made myself went. I don't really remember how long I surfed it before making another one. But, I do remember that board well... and the one hang up I had with it.... fin location.
Never being one to take a ruler to another guys surfboard design... probably a pride thing... and even though I knew how important fin placement was I set out to figuring that tri fin thing on my own. The guys got to be different, or is it stubborn?
A few weeks ago I stumbled across some notes I'd written from January 1 1983 through January 18th. The notes were about 9 go outs riding my first ever tri fin. Even though I didn't remember writing about that board I always had remembered the problem I had with where the front fins were placed. So no surprise that in 2 of the 9 entries I mention a performance issue and the comment.. "I'm sure the fins need to be wider apart".
I fixed the issue by making another board. In retrospect maybe it would have been better to have sanded the fins off the board and re-positioning them. Guess making another board seemed easier.
Yeah, the tri fin design was pre fin system, so all those fins were glassed on. Funny too, there was the thought that if 3 fins are good maybe 4 or 5 fins would be better. I remember seeing a guy walk down the beach one day with a 6 finned board... I can't imagine glassing 6 fins on a board. Actually what's worse... having to sand a board with six fins on it. And the sander says " you want me to sand that? .. I quit.. sand it yourself".
Multi finned boards are great, and the removable fin system make them greater.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The story of a surfboard blank.
Early 1994, during a typical routine of ordering blanks from Clark Foam. Usually I'd have a few blanks I'd need for specific custom orders. Then while I still had the order gal on the phone I'd grab the Clark catalog, turn through the pages asking the gal if there were any seconds or reject blanks available of the different blanks I'd call out from the catalog. Every blank that I was interested in that was available in a second or reject I'd buy and have sent up with the other blanks I'd ordered for my custom work.
Seconds and reject blanks had blemishes, or were order screw ups, like wrong stringer or glue color. Most of the blemishes would shape out. So I could end up with a good blank to use for a good discount. The blanks that wouldn't clean up good enough I'd keep for myself. Then fill or cover anything that didn't get shaped out of the blank. I'd get a board for myself and spend a little less in the process.
May of 1994 I moved off to Kauai. My original intention was to return to the main land a couple times a year, make some boards for Ventura Surf Shop and any orders that might come along, then return to Kauai. When I left in May I had a few stock blanks, seconds and rejects, that I put up in the rafters for safe keeping. Thinking I'd use them on my return visits.
I ended up only coming back September of '94. And as it happen I got an order for several boards all to be shipped to the east coast.  The orders took up all the time I had for my return visit so those stock blanks I had in the rafters weren't touched. And remained in the rafters until I returned to Ventura in 2002.
The 2 years I was back in Ventura I never touched those blanks in the rafters. But when I went back to Kauai in 2004 I decided to put the blanks in our shipping container with the plan that I make a few boards with them in Kauai.
My wife and I ended up only staying on Kauai for a year and in that year I didn't do anything with the blanks. So, not wanting to bring the blanks back with me I thought I'd sell them in the yard sale we had to reduce the number of things we would need to ship back to the main land. I'd tried to sell the blanks for $10 bucks a piece but had no takers... crazy.  
The funny thing is... this was November of 2005. It was December 5th of 2005 that Clark closed leaving the whole surfboard industry with no foam and just a few weeks before that I couldn't give those darn blanks away. So they came back with me to Ventura and went up in the rafters again. Then when we sold our house the blanks moved to the shed up in the horse corral at our new place.

Fast forward to now with my granddaughter wanting a surfboard for her birthday, she is getting serious about surfing. I tell my son I've got a few old Clark blanks, we could use one for a birthday board. Some 22 years later one of the rafter blanks becomes a surfboard. 
To every thing there is a season.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

As far as surfing goes for So. Cal. 2016... was pretty good. The water temps remained very nice. I only put on a winter wet suit once last January, which was a mistake, got to warm. The warm water temps remained  through spring and summer as well. Love that warm water.

It's gone now, back to the typical cool temps. The Anacapa buoy has been reading 58 degrees of late. That's the coldest it's been for 2 years, and normal for this time of year.

The surf was pretty consistent for the most part. This past November was going off as a matter of fact. This past summer got off to a good start with back to back southern hemisphere swells for most of the month. But the hurricane season, what was up with that?

I love hurricane swells and watched no fewer than 15 develop off Mexico this year. Always hoping for the best where they would hook to the north for a couple days and send us some surf. All but a couple weak ones did. They all did a bee line toward Hawaii instead, leaving us with.... not much.

The thing about surf, you never know what's in the future. We can have surf or not. We can have great weather for going to the beach and no surf when you get there. We can have surf with junk weather so the surf is no good. You can have your day off to surf be epic or not worth the effort. You can have every day available to surf but see a long run of no surf and bad weather... so long that you're going nuts from boredom. I mean really, a guy can only make surfboards for so long before the need to get in the water is over whelming.

Fortunately 2016 was pretty good for surf. Hoping 2017 is as good or better.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 22, 2016

If you think about surfboard design and are motivated to work through a certain design idea then being able to make your own surfboard is nice.
I consider myself fortunate that making surfboards is what I do. Being able to make a surfboard with some certain design elements and then go surf the board can be inspiring. Having a plethora of outlines accumulated over the years can make putting a new design together almost effortless. At least if the curves you're interested in match up nicely.
It's best to work off of something you're familiar with. So when I was asked to make a mid length performance type board that's not egg shaped or have a round nose I first thought of my Gadget model because of it's performance characteristics. But I would need to get a narrow nose on the front end.
So I got to thinking about another favorite performance board that runs about the same over all width with a narrow nose. It's a board that I surfed while living on Kauai and made for a number of guys there. Sure enough, this boards front end lined up very well with the Gadget back end. So using the Gadget profile and blending the two outlines together I came up with a new shape.
And as usual I didn't want to let the board go when it was finished. But it was promised to my friend Bob. Plus he wanted the board to be a tri fin. I've got ideas on making one for myself now but with a completely new fin set up I've been dreaming about.
More on that later.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

For me the 'know before you go' thing never really settled in until I moved to Hawaii.
I remember seeing guys watching the surf for a half hour or more before they would grab their board and paddle out. And for good reason. When the surf gets big in Hawaii.... it has danger written on it. H3O = heavy water.
So watching the surf, knowing if the swell has peaked or still coming up.  Counting the number of waves in a set and timing the sets so you know what's happening in the water is smart.
I remember surfing a spot on the west side one winter day when the surf was a little inconsistent with sets in the head high plus size. But, about every 10 - 15 minutes or so three or four waves twice that size would roll through. The bigger sets would almost always pick you off.... Sets with 3 or 4 waves aren't terrible, sets of 8 or 10 waves are a whole other thing. So knowing how many waves you might encounter on big days is smart.
Being in heavy surf can bring on fatigue in short order. Being short of breath can bring on panic. Being panicked in the ocean is the opposite of a good thing. As well, being physically conditioned to be in the ocean even when the surf is small is smart. There is a lot to the saying 'Know before you go'.
In all the years I've been fortunate and not gotten in much trouble surfing. There have been moments but nothing real serious. Though this one time there is no doubt if not for being lucky things could have turned very bad. You can read the story here. And another story about not being strong enough to get past in coming sets is here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The difference between the point in Ventura and the other three points a few miles up the coast?
They all have their own personality but the thing about Ventura is it's the place where the more novice surfers go, especially in summer.  Summer waves are softer breaking and sand fills into the beach at the point which makes for a much more casual go out. besides the other points don't really break on the summer south swells.
What happens then is the more novice or inexperienced surfer that is a little familiar with the point in Ventura may come for a surf in the fall and winter when the surf gets some size. And, have no idea that the surf and water conditions in the fall and winter are much different than what they've experienced in the summer.
First the surf will not look as big as it really is because where you look at the surf from the beach is a good 8 feet above sea level so you are looking down on the water. As well, the surf will be breaking much farther out, the distance makes the waves look smaller.
The biggest thing that someone who's surfed the point in summer will find different in the fall and winter is the current. And that's the problem. The current moves you down the point as you paddle out. If you can't break through the surf zone it's possible to get stuck in the current and end up still in the surf zone at the pier. Imagine being swept through the pilings in the white water. Then add your surf board is strapped to your foot. It can be and has been fatal.
The experienced regular surfers at the point have been known to caution and encourage the more novice not to go out when the point has some size.... for good reason.
My son while surfing one of the recent swells after getting one of those long rides all the way down the point got out of the water down by the pier and was walking up the beach with a guy that had got swept through the pier. The guy said his dad was not going to be happy because he was using his dads board and it got buckled on it's way through the pier.
Then my son sees this guy, with surf board under his arm, eyeing the surf at the waters edge about half way between the pier and the lower stairs like the guys is getting ready to paddle out. Robin says to the guy "this is not the place to be paddling out. If you're going to go out then walk way up the point first. Other wise you'll end up being swept through the pier with the current".
There is a saying... Know before you go.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ok, it happens again. Only this time it's not a cover shot, it's a 2 page spread in the current issue of The Surfers Journal. 

This picture is looking at the Fair Grounds from the back side of the point to the Ventura river mouth. It's a morning shot with what looks like the typical morning river valley off shores, maybe between 7 and 8 am. I'm counting a 4 to 6 wave set that looks to have maybe 12 foot or larger fronts... using the buildings for reverence.
Looks pretty epic, and maybe the day the picture was taken it was epic. Or, it could be more like a couple Fridays ago when there was a pretty consistent WNW swell running a few feet over head and not much wind during the day.
I got down to the point and in the water around 1 or 2. The paddle out was uneventful having managed to squeak out to the line up between sets. Actually when you paddle out during a West North West swell with some size in Ventura you get yourself out past the break line, then you work your way to a line up spot. You can point yourself to where you'd like to be when you first enter the water but the along shore current will drag you well away and down the beach from where you want to be.
The first objective is to get through the surf zone. The more time it takes to get through the surf zone the farther down the beach you will be from where you'd like to be. After you get past the surf zone then you take stock of where you are and where you want to line up. For me that Friday I wanted to be a little above Figaroa St so after I cleared my way past the surf zone I was below Figaroa St. and paddled up the point to get to where I wanted to line up. By the way... you are always paddling on days like these because the current keeps dragging you down the beach.
In the almost 2 hours I was in the water that day I caught 4 waves total. The first one there was a guy above me that took off too. I didn't think he would make the section between me and him and I was in good position so I dropped in. The guy eventually milked his way through the white water and then I yielded and pulled out in short order.
The second wave was one of the bigger set waves. Once I took off and did a quick top turn the wave walled off an unmake able section so I pulled out. The third wave I rode down the point some ways and then pulled out because I didn't want to much of a paddle back up the point. As I paddled back up the point after the third wave I stayed a bit in side and picked off one of the head high waves a little below Figaroa St and rode the thing all the way past the inside stairs.
That one was easily my best ride and after being in the water all that time and being all the way down the point I was done, and went in.
When I looked at the surf that Friday before I went out it looked pretty darn good. When I got out of the water after all that time and looked at the surf again from the promenade before walking back to my van it still looked pretty darn good, and would've made for a nice picture. Reality check... with a smile... it was a lot of work for little reward.
You know what? I'll do it again next time... with a smile.