Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The age old debate surfer have with themselves.
Do you go in after a good wave?
Do you go in after a bad wave?
I don't really think it ranks up there with the age old Zen classics like “What's the sound of one hand clapping?” or even “What was your original face before you were born?”.
But every surfer has had to answer the riddle was that last wave good enough to be “my last wave”?
Too good a wave and you have topped off your stoke reserve and want to immediately paddle out and get another one.
Too funky of a wave and you think “I don't want that one to be my last one” let me go out and get one more.
So, as they say, the search continues.
For a wave,
not too good
not too bad
Like a surfing version of Goldilock's dilemma
Looking for a wave
That's just right
To go in.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I threatened I'd tell the story of my encounters with Mickey Dora. It's re-'printed' here from and an old blog entry of mine. A bit of fun reminding me of the fun of times long passed.
HEY DUDE, NICE STICK.
We've all heard the cliched line, but sometimes you do find a nice stick. One fell off our almond tree a few years back, and something about it's shape resonated, so I whittled all the bark off.
It sat in the backyard for ages, got weathered, cracked, until one day the kids were driving us mad...
Dad we're bored, there's nothing to do, all that.
Right, we're going to paint the stick.
That's right, we're painting that stick leaning over there against the fence.
So I dig out the paints, mix up a nice thick base coat of blues (cobalt, ultramarine, and maybe a touch of white) and off we go. Once that was down they each had a brush with the handle end cut flat, then we sat there, dotting, just like they do out back.
They loved it.
And now we have a Nice Stick, which hangs in the kitchen.
Another Nice Stick was owned by a guy who paddled past me at Estagnots, near Hossegor in France, one day in 1978. He looked very familiar, and it all dawned on me as he took off.
Hey mate, is your name Miki?
I can't remember his exact reply, but it was in the affirmative, and we sat and had a yap for awhile, until a set came and I started paddling for a wave. Taking off, I was horrified to realise Da Cat was behind me.
Holy shit, I thought, with images of a flying kickout and 7'10 of gunny Doraboard heading straight for my scone.
Miki though, had other ideas.
Stay on, man.
Well I wasn't about to swing into a big cutty, so I stepped forward, cheater fived on my 6'5" double wing round pin, and trimmed away, looking back at a bit of Mickey jive, as we cruised along a very clean little French wall.
Later on the beach, we caught up again, me, Mickey and my travelling mate, Rene.
Sat in his big, green, Benz camper while he told tales of Malibu, Manson, and all sorts of madness, tinged with a little paranoia of the establishment which I later came to realise was more that a little prophetic.
In the van was his little library, and in it was a copy of Helter Skelter, the book of the Sharon Tate/Manson killings.
Miki had apparently crossed paths with Manson back then, and had already told us how Manson had tried to get him involved in the Family, because of the influence he had over the surfing community.
But Miki says take the book, just get it back to me.
Not long after, Ren and I headed into Spain, and Portugal, scored big time, but everywhere we went we'd bump into guys going, " Are you Mick and Rene?. Miki wants his book back."
Heading back to France a few months later, and the first break we hit is Guethary. Clean, 6 foot, two guys out... and one of them is Miki.
We paddle out.
Hey guys, you got my book?
Don't worry mate, it's in the van.
Two years later, I couldn't let the travelling go and I'm back in France, standing in the car park above Lafitania.
I turn around to see a big green van parked away aways.
I wander over and say hi.
He looks at me quizzically for a moment, and I remind him of the Helter Skelter story.
He smiles, we have a chat for awhile and then I went for a surf.
That was the last time we crossed paths, later that year Miki was in jail, but it's always been fun to think I've been hanging out, and hanging five, with Miki.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Feet together, knees slightly bent so that my thighs rest flatly on the deck, back arched up into a cobra position, shoulders and neck relaxed. With fingers held closely together I stroke deeply with one arm, feeling the pull from the top of the stroke through the strongest part of the stroke in the middle and then exiting cleanly as the other arm begins the stroke. This steady measured and intentional form and rhythm are like a mantra.
BACK ARCHED, FEET TOGETHER. FEET TOGETHER. HEAD UP AND STROKE EVENLY. BACK ARCHED, FEET TOGETHER.
What is surfing with out the paddle? How does my surfing improve without the perfectly balanced paddle form? Proper form over time makes way for strength and endurance. After not having surfed regularly for six years I told myself after the first week back that I would LOVE THE PADDLE. Slowly over three years I have improved. For fitness is cumulative and each session is adding up to where I have achieved some fitness and my thoughts can now focus on improving form. It’s hard to say what aspect of surfing is the most important to me. Undoubtedly though progression is at the top of my list and the better and stronger I am at paddling the better I surf.
The human mind and body can work well together when that is the intention. Ultra marathoner Dear Karnazes once ran over 250 miles without stopping. That’s the distance of more than 10 marathons. How did he achieve such a feat? He did it by taking one step at a time with a mindful intention to reach his goal.
Back arched, feet together, shoulders and neck relaxed. Back arched feet together, stroke and pop up. Down the line. Speed. Kick out. Back arched, shoulders and neck relaxed and one arm follows the other. Stronger each time out. Progressing steadily over time.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
When I was asked to join this merry band I wondered what the hell do they want me for?
An old fart stuck half a world away, rambling on about things that happened a lifetime ago.
In a way though that's the essence of talking story. Sharing yarns and laughs when lives intersect for a few free moments, we remind ourselves that we are alive.
My dear old dad always said never spoil a good story by sticking to the truth, and when I think back on all his tales of a childhood in the outback I find myself wondering which bit was true and which bit was a bit of colour to add to the mayhem he was often describing.
For me, well, I think he's right. If it was exactly the same every time you told it it'd fade with the telling, and get a bit boring too, but when you massage them, have a play, even mix them up a bit... no wonder I was getting confused when he'd retell one of the old tales.
Hang on.... I thought you blew up the tree full of cockatoos after you set the speed record from Broken Hill to Adelaide.
So next time I drop back and really try to talk story, be it the time I dropped in on Mickey Dora and lived to tell the tale, or the time my mate and I lived on brussel sprouts for so long you could have lit up half of north west Spain on our farts, you'll know, for sure, I was telling the absolute truth.
Like the chap below. My mate Markie, and how he surfed 80 foot waves in the Southern Ocean.
But that's another story.
I still love surfboards and I spend hours in surf shops checking the board racks.
It's just that in my opinion the mat is the most advanced and adaptive craft I've ever ridden
lets begin with the approach
the mat rolled up and tucked under one arm my fins interlocked and dangling from one finger of the other hand
Photo courtesy of JHall at Daily Bread
I can casually stroll to the water.
I actually prefer to walk in some distance to my entry point
The walk warms up my body and lets me focus my mind
and I have to say I love the beach.
Beach combing was more exciting before the days of the big sand cleaners
more driftwood, more shells, more beach finds of all descriptions.
These days I am as likely to find a used syringe as a neat looking shell
but still, my favorite beaches are those that don't accommodate the big sand sifters
Since I walked in, I'm warmed up enough that my pre-surf yoga is more effective. I usually don't go for a big stretch just enough to find any tight areas and loosen them up.
That way I can focus more on the wave and less on myself.
Photo courtesy of JHall at Daily Bread
The mat and fins allow me deeper access to the water.
Less paddling on top of it and more swimming through it.
I love the water, I find the feel of it to be quite sensuous.
A bit of wading, a few duck dives and some kicking and I am outside waiting for a set.
Duck diving with the mat is not that different than a surfboard. Just before the wave reaches you, you shift your weight forward and drive the front of the mat underwater.
At this point you are underwater under the wave energy and holding on to a bag full of air.
All that is left to do is relax and hold on while the mat rockets to the surface behind the wave.
I have on occasion swam out through larger surf and then inflated my mat.
Easy on a mat, more difficult on a standard surfboard.
The mat take off for me is a lot like body surfing in that the takeoff is usually in a critical breaking part of the wave. Of course you can take off well before the wave breaks but as a matter of personal preference I like the no paddle take off, no doubt a remnant of a lifetime spent surfing short, short boards. Good position, sucked up the wave face I turn and with a quick flutter of my fins I am sliding down the wave face.
Flying is really a better description, there is much less drag on a mat than a board.
The toed in fins on most boards that allow small radius turns are completely absent.
Less drag means more speed.
Most mat riders are speed freaks.
I make no apology, I like to go fast!
Mats are optimally ridden less than fully inflated.
This allows you the freedom to shape the mat as the wave changes moment to moment.
You build a rail by squeezing the outboard front corner of the mat which plumps the inside rail which as it turns out is quite adequate to hold in steep conditions.
Photo courtesy of JHall at Daily Bread
If the wave flattens out or you want to hold yourself back in the tube, you release pressure on the outboard edge the mat flattens out and with the correct body english you are in a controlled side slide.
"Just like a Willy's in four wheel drive" to quote my friend and Matter El Supremeo, KenDog.
If you have ever raced on a dirt track the feeling is similar to drifting through the corners.
Since you can adjust the floatation of the mat so easily you can change it on the fly from a substantial floating platform to a completely neutral flotation device.
Liquids do not readily compress. Winds blowing across the surface of the water hundreds or thousands of miles away introduces energy into the water which gets passed along atom to atom as waves until it dissipates or breaks upon a distant shore.
I like to watch waves. Sometimes I'll sit on the shoulder and just watch them go off.
Sitting just out of the impact zone with a ringside seat waiting for that special wave that invites you to ride it.
Photo courtesy of JHall at Daily Bread
Riding the mat is all about the wave.
Not necessarily the size (it’s always over head) .
Compared to stand up surfing the motions are much subtler.
You move your weight around your core to emphasize the changes you make in the mat volume. Maximizing speed and subtle directional vectoring.
This quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery explains it best, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Mat surfing is and will continue to be for those of us who seek an intimate relationship with the ocean unencumbered by all but the basics of a fast slide down the waves face and some quiet moments in the water.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
One of the most beautiful sounds to me is that of the common mourning dove. The common seagull is another matter. While I don't particularly love the sound they make, it usually means I am at the beach, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.
Have you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull? Written in the 1970s, it's a simple, zen-like fable and a quick read at under 130 pages. It's a bit about nonconformity and going after your dreams.
"I want to learn to fly like that," Jonathan said, and a strange light glowed in his eyes. "Tell me what to do."
Chiang spoke slowly and watched the younger gull ever so carefully. "To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is," he said, "you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived... "
Friday, May 1, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A life on the ocean wave,
A-home on the rolling deep!
Where the scater'd waters rave,
And the winds their revels keep.
Like an eagle caged I pine On this dull,
Oh give me the flashing brine,
The spray and the tempest's roar.
-A Life on the Ocean Wave (Trad.)
Sunday, April 26, 2009