Well it's pretty obvious that the blog has been put on the back burner over the last four or five months and if there is anyone out there still reading any of this I suppose a little explanation is due before I put it to bed permanently.
1st things first - whilst I'm still learning I don't think my experiences are that relevant to many people any more - there is so much information out there now unlike when I started in 2007
Secondly Charmaine and myself have bought a house, well a bungalow actually but by the time we have finished with it it's going to be a house, and we are going to have our hands full for the next 12 months or so with heat recovery systems and rainwater harvesting and such Shizz.
Sooo thats it really have to say a MASSIVE thanks to every one that has passed by here and an even bigger THANKS to all those that stopped and commented.
MMmnnn maybe a house renovation blog diary thing . . .
Flew out of London on the 5th of January and after a nights stop over in Liberia picked up a 4x4 and hoofed off down to Playa Guiones the next day -
Quick check on conditions
- weather hot and dry
- surf mellow and consistent
- Imperial cold
- Howler monkeys noisy
- Iguana's present and correct
Yep nothing had changed everything was still amazing so we got straight down to it just as if we had never been away, I swear the hammock was still swinging from when I got out last year. Could be getting a little too comfortable this.
Surf - eat - surf - sleep - surf - eat - go to bed repeat - yep nothing had changed. Even my ULI Munoz felt instantly comfortable in fact it felt surprisingly easy with none of last years acclimatisation required.
After a week or so we met up with Jim, Larry and John (Team ULI) for a couple of days at Avellenas - Cabinas Las Olas, where we surfed morning and evening sessions in perfectly peeling, albeit smaller waves than Guoines. Part of the guys mission was product testing new boards and I was lucky enough to get a shot on one on the new sub nine footers. And thats all that I'm allowed to say about that - except I want one.
Highlight of this trip however was the paddle three quarters of a mile offshore to a reef that was breaking about head high with super wide faces, great fun enhanced by the backdrop of whales breaching in the distance.
Quick damage check - after two weeks in paradise.
Busted ankle (well it felt like it) jumping off the board onto the beach at Guiones.
Poisoned finger (Charmaine's) rescuing baby turtles from cooking on the black sands of Ostional
Busted collarbone (well it felt like it) pitching straight onto it in shallow water at Avellenas
Yep that's about it - great trip already planning the next one.
So back to the UK and the DW 7'10 (8') was calling me. I had to wait until the following Sunday to get in and conditions were not exactly epic. Super clean knee high with the odd waist high set.
Paddling was fairly easy no drama's once the sweet spot was found and the board tracks surprisingly well considering it's length. It felt sluggish to paddle and no amount of paddle digging was going to change that, in fact it felt more lively to take smaller bites. The tiny wave wash inside was dealt with easily by the nose and rocker like it did not exist. Good start.
Memories of and comparisons of my Nah Skwell 7'8 were popping into my head, the board was stable, slow to paddle but felt skatey under foot. It took a few missed waves before I caught one and that's where ANY similarity with any other board ended. More of that later.
Paddling in needed to be late and almost under the curl, but missed waves did not result in the usual tail stall and rinse, in fact the recovery from missing a catch was easy, no doubt down to the wide tail. Dropping into the catch was also a revelation - it just did not seem to matter how late I went the board would not / did not pearl. That's a win. But on a wave the response was instant and easy. bear in mind conditions were tiny even so the DW80 made it possible to actually surf as in surf not just boot off down the line.
OK so I could ride the thing and catch tiny waves in super clean conditions, not exactly testing the board to it's limits but the signs were good.
Roll on next trip.
Basically the next piece was an answer to an email that Dwight sent me earlier this week. Conditions last Sunday were not so much poor, it was more a case of me missing my slot and then not being assed to surf the South Coast when I knew that I should.
Read the following exchange in the knowledge that a certain degree of artistic licence has been applied -
Dwight's email was sort of short and to the point -
"Don't well what me you twat - are you taking good care of my baby?'
'Jeez Dwight it's 6:30am here and I had a late night last night, give me a break I've got to go to work in a minute'
"Get your sorry arse out of the sack, down the beach and ride the sucker and then let me know what you think about my board, I can't wait any longer coz I'm gonna burst"
The last thing I needed on my conscience right now was an angry, exploding American so I bunked an hour or so off work and the following email was the result.
Hi Dwight - quick update on the board the following is pretty much going to be the next blog post. -
So got in this morning - bloody cold, air temp was -4'c thats 24.8 F. The van screen was frozen and the Towans were white, in fact the rabbit shit on the path looked like little white diamonds. Even the sand had a heavy frost on it. Fortunately the sea was positively balmy at 10'c (50'f). I had changed at home and only had to slip my boots on, which was a bit of an arse as they had been in the van overnight and were still damp from my last session.
Trogging off down the path my hands were beginning to change colour. I thought 'This could be a mistake'.
Dead clean this morning, almost syrupy, no wind and VERY setty. Managed a dry hair paddle out, which was nice. The board feels skittish to paddle but cuts easily through the wash. Bear in mind that I have just spent three weeks on an 8'11" Uli Monoz so I needed some dialling in.
Sets were head high and a bit. I struggled to catch at first not least because it was so effing cold and I just did not want to get my head wet and as a result I was sitting a bit too far out side. To be fair it was only my hands that were cold, Malcolm's 3mm fleece, Snugg suit was super toasty and I did not feel like I was in a steamer. Without gloves though my hands were hurting and it was hard to concentrate but it was a beautiful morning so no complaints.
It's no surprise that shorter boards are not super quick to paddle and therefore need to go late. Things might be a bit different if I was a stone (14lbs) lighter but I'm working on that.
(yeah yeah yeah)
As I warmed up a bit I risked getting caught by the sets and ventured closer inside, it was the only place to be in order to catch a wave. The sets were frequent but the peaks were shifting slightly, the 3rd or fourth wave generally the biggest. I still had not got wet.
First wave - overhead and a bit - I paddled in under the peak with just a couple of strokes and I thought
'Bugger thats late'
then the afterburner kicked in and the board took off like a Tomcat, down the face , hard bottom turn, overcorrect, off the top and a decent'ish, pumping ride down the line with no chance of being caught with the wash, so f'ing fast!! Popped out the back cleanly and early and I was still dry.
Ok It wants to go late - next wave. ( I missed a good few in-between.) Dropped in late - no sign of pearling, weight forward and Boom off it went again, weight back on the fins and I was amazed at the speed that the board turned, not in a scarey loose, slip out, uncontrollable way, just in a solid, drivey yet easy way that just yelled
'Come On Twat, is that the best you have got'?
I have stepped back on some boards (mainly surfboards) that were so loose off the tail that I felt like I was totally and instantly out of control, usually instantly resulting in me taking a bath. Someone better than me (just about everyone) may like that, but I just ain't that good. This one however turns faster off the tail than anything else that I have ridden, yet stays totally controllable in a really planted sort of way. It's like it has two control buttons -
Button 1 - Go Now - front foot.
Button 2 - Go Here - back foot
Both fly by wire and both instant, no fuss no bother.
Two waves and I'm liking it - a lot. That sort of set the tone for the rest of the session, I would love to say that I surfed for hours and got it totally wired by the end of the session, but I did not want to take the piss at the shop by being in too late, so had a few more and then caught one in and packed up.
Sometimes I ride a new board and think - yeah that's ok but it does not really give me the horn - two sessions in and this one keeps me wondering and wanting to explore further. It does however highlight the eternal Sup dilemma.
Long boards 9' plus take off early, often on any part of wave, all too often on the non critical / wrong sections of the waves and give easy long and relatively uninspiring (at my level anyway) rides.
Shorter boards have to go at, or just under the critical section of the wave - this will make for 'better' surfing (because it has to) but also makes timing and wave choice more of an issue due to less glide, possibly resulting in fewer rides at least initially. But the wave performance potential is light years different.
That was Thursday morning, if the conditions were any bigger I reckon I may have been under gunned slightly as the beach tends to close out when it gets much over head high so getting in early is important - Sunday however is shaping up nicely with a decent shoulder high forecast - The DW80 is going to roll out again.
Length 8' even if I squint I can't make it less ???
Nose at 1' 17 1/2"
Tail at 1' 21"
Nose rocker -
at tip 6"
1' from tail 3 1/4"
Weight 17 lbs
Top 3 x 6oz plus a 6oz standing patch
Bottom 2 x 6oz
Hull contour - dead flat until 37" from the tail when a slight V starts and increases slightly through the fins.
Now the pictures -
Initial reaction is - I love it and I reckon I can do this, next thought - I want to go slimmer and shorter, third maybe listen to Bill next time and slim down the tail a bit, followed by, I really need to get out and ride this puppy. Problem is the forecast is so shite for the next week or so and we are off to Costa Rica soon. Nice dilemma.
I've not seen it in the flesh yet and I have to wait until next week before getting my sweaty paws all on it. Could be queuing up a New Years day session, now that would be something.
I've no idea if I'm going to be able to ride the damn thing yet, but even if I can't, you just can't beat a bit of Cornish tribalism and this looks like pure art to me.
"I wander if Charmaine will let me hang it on the wall? Hang on. What the hell am I thinking? It's going to be phenomenal!! Just look at it ferchrissake it's amazing . . . . . UUurrghmmmph "
Oops, SORRY slight gentleman's accident, that's five today. Can't accuse me of not being passionate about my sport. Anyway more pictures to follow as soon as.
Thanks to all who read this blog and a massive thank you to those who have left comments over the last year - always appreciated - hope you all have a fantastic, happy Christmas and a healthy and rewarding New Year - Regards Steve.
These are the first images of the raw blank straight from the machine at Homeblown, got to say I'm pretty chuffed with the way that it looks. Tris told me that he glued three blocks of foam together and then hot-wired the basic blank prior to having the shaping machine deal with Dwights numbers for the final shape.
On the Machine
Rail Line and Nose Rocker
I love the look of this bottom profile - it looks like a porky version of my Naish and there is something comforting about the width of the tail. Above all though to me it looks like a proper job surfboard.
Ok - to sum up the story so far is -
I have a 129litres of surfboard shaped foam all ready to rock and roll.
A big, fat resounding N.F.I. from three local shapers, one of whom I had hoped might be vaguely interested in hand finishing the blank, and slinging a couple of layers of epoxy drenched six ounce glass on the bottom and three layers on the top.
And an increasing feeling that I was going to need a crash course in glass lamination and epoxy resin.
The prospect of having to do the glassing myself was looming large, there was no way that I could pull this off without help so I called Andru to see if he fancied re-awakening his board manufacturing skills.
'I could probably get the loan of a shaping shack' he said, 'and I'm pretty happy to stand over you whilst you screw things up'.
Well it was a back up plane least. Then Tris who could obviously feel my pain mentioned that he was about to travel up to a customer of his in Wadebridge, who not only had experience in epoxy but also with StandUps. That customer was Bill of Escape Surfboards. He suggested that I gave Bill a call. So I did, and you know what? The guy was so easy to talk to, he was interested in my project, his first comment was -
'Yep we can do that'
His second was
and his third was
'Give me an email of exactly what you want and I'll give you a price.'
So I did - glass it as you see fit, twin leash plugs on the tail, twin plugs in the deck to use the paddle as a carrying handle, (no balance issues with this one) and a leash plug and FCS plug in the nose for a GoPro mount. Paint the bottom with a Cornish Flag and you know what - he emailed me back within 24hours with a price. Happy with that I thought and off we go again.
I was gobsmacked - apart from being an easy going guy that made me feel like a customer and not a pain in the ass, Bill had pretty much single handedly restored my faith in custom shapers, and he hadn't yet seen the blank. Top bloke.
So there we go at the moment the blanks with Escape being hand finished prior to glassing and fitting out. Can't wait.
Four years in now and I've pretty much lost count of the stand up boards that have crossed my path. When I was surfing prone longboards I would probably order a new custom every 3 or four years and each new board would usually 'retire' it's predecessor gracefully but totally.
The idea of buying a 'pop out' was alien. I always wanted a little bit of 'Me' in my boards and bizarrely I liked the notion of using a local shaper. Quaint eh!
Then along came the standup's and everything changed.
Board ownership has been measured in weeks and months in what must look like an orgy of stand-up spending. Fortunately a lot of these boards were subsequently snapped up by fellow SUPaddicts. Limited supply (here in the UK) meant that depreciation was pretty much non existent especially on the used boards and moving boards on and between friends was commonplace and easy.
The source of this board fever could partly be traced to the progression that had taken place in my still limited abilities and also in the availability and design of the boards on the market that convinced me that I could advance said limited abilities. Funny I never bought into this with prone boards perhaps it was the excitement of being close to the beginning of something new and evolving. Perhaps it was a perverse form of pressure that stemmed from keeping this blog. Who knows? But the boards kept coming thick and fast.
So where now?
I have no doubt that for me boards are fast approaching the end game in terms of size and possibly design. As far as size is concerned both Gong and Starboard are now producing boards under 7' and even sub 6'.
At some point the paddle advantage on a stand up is going to be lost over lying prone especially on windier days when we present a significant sail area when standing and with shorter boards offering little or no glide advantage over lying prone we may as well ride prone boards.
Design? - Well I could be wrong but there can't be that many undiscovered 'magic' hull shapes, rockers, plan shapes, rails etc. etc. that have not been tried and tested on conventional surf boards over the years. There may be as yet untried combinations and maybe new materials and construction methods but true design? Not sure. Which is why Dwight's custom shape made so much sense.
I had been hankering after a custom board for a while and the thought of riding something shorter than my 9'0 Mana was an itch that was gaining in intensity.
My Nah Skwell 7'8 proved beyond doubt that short was not only viable but also capable of wringing more out of less than perfect conditions. When Dwight over on ncpaddlesurfer started down his foam frenzy of home shaped boards I watched with envious admiration. He first shaped his downwinders which was impressive, but he really caught my attention when his first surf stand up was hot-wired from the solid block of foam.
His philosophy seemed simple and obvious - take a proven surf shape and blow it up to a size that would support a rider and paddle. Keep the hull flat in order to maintain wetted area helping with both stability and speed. Beautifully simple, and for me the fact that his Naish 7'8"'s were immediately put up for sale and sold bore testament to his shape.
There was no way that I could personally copy Dwight's handiwork, as I said to him in a recent email my manual skills are stretched when I have to dig a hole with a shovel. My only option then was to get a blank machine shaped using DW's detailed CAD designs and then get a local shaper to glass the beast -
'Urgh Hi, I don't suppose you could shape me a Stand UP blank could you? I've got some drawings and numbers for your shaping machine'
I was desperately trying to sound
b) not a numpty
c) Technically together
There was no chuckling from the other end, I don't think I even detected a snigger.
"Yep, no problem, send us the drawings and we can give you a price."
Bloody hell that was easy. So I sent over DW's drawings and back came the quote - £180.
BLOODY HELL this was going to be a doddle and not crazy expensive. Better ask a few questions.
'So how finished would that be? What weight foam is it? Would it have a stringer? How long would it take? Could you glass it?'
I was now sounding
a) desperately naive
b) like a cock
c) totally clueless
The answers came back almost as quick as I had asked them.
'An hour or two hand shaping to finish', something in kg/m2 that passed me by totally, 'no', '3 days' and 'yes, but not a chance'
"Brilliant", I said "lets do it"
So I paid my money and set out on a quest to find a glasser to finish my board. It would have been easier to milk a Unicorn.
Call one -
'Hi - it's Steve, how do you fancy glassing a board for me, it's ok it's not huge, in fact it's just 7'10, yes it's EPS. Right so it needs to be done in Epoxy. Right so you're not keen then because you think it will fall apart and you could end up with herpes. OK not to worry, thanks'
Call two -
'Hi Any chance of glassing a Stand Up Blank for me, . . . . yes in epoxy, ok so you would rather nail your hand to tree Mmmn so that's a no then is it?.'
Call three -
'Hi any chance that you can glass a Stand up blank in epoxy for me, it's pretty much finished, just needs glassing. You can!! Fantastic !!! £1800 and it will probably be a pile of shit, the EEC will fall apart and I'll get herpes. Mmmn, not short of work then?'
'F@$k Me - Will someone somewhere just glass my F@$king blank!'
I could be in trouble here or worse - I could end up doing it myself!!
Been back nearly a week now and the trip is beginning to feel like some surreal experience that happened to someone else. Red summed it up succinctly on the way back on the plane.
'That was bloody intense'.
He was right. From arrival at Agadir airport and for the next seven days we were totally immersed in the hospitality that was Moroccan Surf Adventures. The routine, although clockwork :
Sleep - wake - eat - surf - eat - surf - eat - drink - sleep
was relentless BUT never intrusive or regimented. We instantly fell in with the easy going manner of the Surf camp and with the minimum of fuss got into the groove.
We came to surf and that's exactly what Denny and the surf guides and drivers, Hicham (who took most of the pictures) and Rashid enabled us to do even when it seemed unlikely that we would find any swell.
They always put us on waves.
The Moroccan Perfection that is Machine Guns
The mix of surfers that we found ourselves with helped a lot and during the week we met some great people and had a barrel of laughs. There were a couple of couples that were novices and some independent travellers that very quickly found themselves part of the overall house group along with the three of us and another group of five (KernowSurf Doc that were always on 24hour call out), that also happened to be from Cornwall. Small world surfing.
(Man stumbles into the Doctors office in a blind panic, trousers around his ankles , rushes up to the desk and flops his old man down between the stapler and the stethoscope.
'My God man' Exclaims the doctor with the fear of god in his voice. 'What's the problem?'
'Nothing - beauty in'it')
Not so far from the truth that.!
As far as me being the only Stand Up paddle-surfer, Denny's crew accommodated me and the board with the minimal of fuss and bother and apart from a couple of sessions when I felt that it was prudent to sit out a session (down to busier more focused peaks rather than conditions) I don't think that I was too out of my depth. Even during the post surf decontamination process people would still talk to me. I was generally able to get stuck in most days with the advanced party, and don't think that I let the Stand up crew down too much. In fact several of the house guests seemed genuinely curious, once they stopped sniggering!
"See that Muppet on the Paddle Board getting Nailed - that's what happens when you get old"
Anyone riding a standup, with some time on their hands and looking for a reasonably close, warm surf trip would be well looked after on a daily basis by Denny and his house-crew, Sophia, Russell and MoMo the cook, could he cook? So much so in fact that the distinction between staff and guests was often subtly blurred.
Denny said at the outset
'Make yourself at home'.
And you do. The camp has claimed some mighty scalps, Taj Burrows, Taylor Steele, Sam Lamiroy to name but a few. It's easy to see why. I don't think anyone would argue if I said that the stretch of beach from Banana Beach to Taghazoute was not exactly a pristine piece of coastline, but the area does enjoy some cracking and consistent swell, especially if you know where to look.
Water temperature when we were there was supposedly 20'c , to me it felt more like 15'c. I was fine in boardies and a rash vest and occasionally a tube suit (2mm shortie john). The other guys needed their 3/2 full suits. First session at Devils Rock and I went in without my Vibram's - my feet were pretty much shredded on the rocks in the shore break. My shins caught it inside at Machine Guns. One week later and the itching as the scrapes and cuts heal is driving me nuts.
The practicalities of taking a Stand Up are only limited by the airlines. I think I was lucky with mine. I double bagged my 9'Mana and slipped my one piece Werner Nitro in it's case in between the two bags. Total weight of the board bags and paddle was 19kgs, having booked a surfboard I had a total allowance of 32kgs. No problem. BUT officially the maximum length should not have exceeded 2.5meters(8'2 1/2"). MMnnn. My 9' Mana in the Nash bag inside a 10' bag should really have had me going back to the car for my ULI Munoz. I reckon I just got away with that.
Had we been gone for longer than a week I think that I would have taken my ULI Munoz by choice anyway. The board is lighter than the Mana and possibly a tad more lively. It does take a little more adjustment and acclimatisation to get the best out of it so a week would be iffy whereas the Mana is instantly doable. Next time however there is the distinct possibility of taking a custom 7'10 . . . more of that later. All in all fantastically, selfish, fun packed trip, that does not leave you wanting. Big thanks to all who put up with me and especially Charmaine for springing the surprise.
Wow what a day - after a fairly heavy night it was decided to get up and on the road for seven am as we were going South to a spot with the slightly worrying name of 'Machine Guns'!
Denny had been giving us the lowdown throughout dinner.
'Yeah it's totally sick, a slab that you get onto by holding your leash and jumping off the rock between sets.'
He then looked at me and said
'Can you lie down and paddle your board?'
"Why would I want to do that?'
I asked, I was getting fractionally more nervous with every description that Den used to paint the picture that was Machine Guns. Words and phrases like, Slab, Reef, Firing and f'ing mental sprinkled with timing and insane were being used liberally.
He then dropped the bomb
' I just think that I would just prefer if you got going and got out quickly'
The other guys in the group lept to my defence Stating that I could probably paddle just as quick on my knees or standing, it was good of them but the seed of doubt had been sown in my mind. The counter to that was that it was Friday and almost certainly our last surf of the trip. So I was going in shit or bust.
So after an early start and an hour and a half or so on the road we pulled off the main road and headed down a desert track to a cliff overlooking Machine Guns. It was exactly as Den had described. The sets were stacking up well out to sea and were being focussed over a series of reefy lava outcrops up and down the coast. Our outcrop had been named as Machine guns.
Not wanting to spend too much time thinking about it I pulled on my rash vest and Vibrams and mooched off down the cliff. To be fair getting out was fairly painless - wait for a lull pushed through and over the wash and knee paddled quickly out behind the reef.
The sets when they came through were amazing and heeding Hishan's advice of 'Take the last wave Steve' I picked off the last wave of a set and paddled in to a steep drop and a rolller coaster ride down the green face before taking the high line and exiting cleanly as everything beyond shut down.
That was allright and the session that followed saw me rack up my wave count considerably. The break was mainly rights but a few lefts presented inside of me that the guys were on.
A couple of rides ended up with me holding on too long, ending up well inside in the washzone and I touched down a few times but really no great drama. If i had to go behind someone paddling out I would get caught if I cut across them I got away with it.
We all had a wave fest at machine guns and again credit to the Moroccan Surf Adventures team for once again placing us in perfect conditions and on a break all to ourselves.
As one or two decided to get out the real fun began. The wind which was virtually non existent when we paddled out had just gone slightly onshore, the swell had jumped up a bit and the tide was dropping back down the reef, all pretty small changes but together they were enough to change the character and atmosphere of the place from a benign, glassy break into something a little more grey and snarling. With the dropping tide the inside was hard enough for the guys with 6' shortboards - my Mana was going to take some holding on to. Three tentative attempts later, one involving me bailing inside and duck diving into three feet of water and six feet of wash saw me struggle to my feet and scramble up the reef carrying my board, desperately trying to hold on against the surging back wash.
All in all a great session and an experience to remember. Can't quite believe that the board came away unscathed from that but it did.
It's now Saturday mid morning and everything is packed up ready to leave at three. The offer of another surf this morning was tempting but it's great to finish with a good one under my belt.
As soon as I get a decent connection I will upload the pics - the whole guided surf camp thing has been a new experience and great fun. Imagine staying in a hosted ski chalet and you sort of get the picture. As Denny said it's not five star but if the alternative is camping or just taking pot luck and ending up in a scruffy guest house in Taghazout this is luxury. Always plenty of food, fun, hot water and waves. Perhaps recording the morning call to prayer on an iphone and playing it back over the outside house sound system at one o'clock in the morning was not exactly what Apple had in mind for itunes but it did make us smile and give the stray dogs some competition.
Quick update today got some pictures but will add them all in one go when I get back the internet is slow here.
The swell had dropped off overnight and the plan for this morning was to go South to get out of the swell shadow, however a last minute change of plans saw us drive up the coast past Boilers and on to a reefy point that broke over shallow flat rocks. A couple of the shortboarders in the party braved the descent down the cliff whilst the rest of us wnt on to Tamari Beach.
Got to say having Hishan and Rashid with us as drivers and guides has been a godsend. Driving away from where we are staying we followed the coast and it was sheer glass with hardly a ripple even Boilers was quiet. Crest the headland and there were the swell lines, not huge but waist to head high with a suprising amount of punch. Left to our own devices we probably would have fannied about and ended up not surfing at all. As it went we all gottwo sessions in on the beach. Net result totally knackered - feels great.
The wind had dropped off and with the forecast predicting a bump up in swell we all piled into the two 4x4's and headed north to check out mysteries and then on to the headland that looks down on Killers. With perfect lines bending around into the bay it made sense to get stuck in. Duncan Red, Mark and Jim joined me shortly after although they struggled a bit with the paddle out against the rip that kept taking them back to the beach. All in all a good session for me and to finish the day off Andru and myself paddled out into Banana beach whilst the others took the windier and bumpier option of Devils just around the corner.
Sorry bit light on the picture front - the guys went in this morning at a very heavy and busy Devil's rock. Thought that it might be best to sit this one out but the heeby jeebies were well and truly laid to rest in the evening session. Managed some head and a half reeling rights to keep the Stand up flag flying high.
The wind was howling offshore and the sets were stacking up proper.
Wind dropped off overnight and wewent to Croco beach clean Head high plus with some Monster closeouts. All in boardies Couple of sessions. Arms are now officially toast!
Hopefully there should be a flurry of short, sharp posts over the next couple of weeks. Charmaine surprised me with a weeks surf camp in Morocco flying out with Andru and Red next Saturday. How cool is that? That's the joys of an impending 50th birthday.
So the big decision was board choice. The sensible option would be the 8'11 Uli Munoz. However with the fact that hard boards had been already been booked with EasyJet I opted to take my 9'0 Mana. Ticking away in the back of my head though was the notion of taking a shorter board not least for the convenience during travel - so why not just take the ULI? A circular dilemma.
Shorter boards were already on my radar for this year anyway, not to replace my current boards but to make more of less than optimal conditions. I sort of regret getting rid of my old Nah Skwell 7'8 and would probably take that with me if I still had it, the only downside with that board for me was the number of sharp edges that had my name on them.
I had been following Dwight's home shaped 7'10 and 7'8 Dumpster inspired boards with interest and envy and had tentatively made some enquiries both with Dwight and locally with a view to getting something home grown. I had also checked out a couple of Gong boards, the Mutant and Faking and had my eye on the Starboard Rush 7'4" which was coming out favourite on paper. The new 2012 Starboard Squirt also looks do-able but would it be viable? None of this however was going to help me with this trip.
Until Rich rang -
"Hey Steve - fancy a demo on our 8'6"?"
"Urrgh - funny you should say that Rich - how do you feel about me taking it to Morocco for a week?"
'Joking!' Got to say though the board does look good and following a quick pre-brekfast bash in super clean but close-outy conditions this morning I was sorely tempted to take it. As stable as a rock, just a tad less nose rocker than I think I'm going to need. Looking forward to getting some more mellow sessions on it when I get back though.
Can't deny I had a shite surf summer - part of the reason is that someone stepped on the season throttle and accelerated spring straight into Autumn. No sooner had summer started it seemed like all the leaves were turning brown and blowing off the trees. No idea where the time has gone this year. Anyway that coupled with a van deficiency, an insanely busy workload and . . and . . . . and bollox I'm just running out of excuses now. I just plain didn't make the effort and when I finally got some transport it just didn't seem worth going in unless it was 4 foot and clean with perfect offshore breezes. And we have had a lot of that this year. Haven't we?
So - load up the courtesy van and change up for first trip for weeks, and I put my shortie on inside out -
's'funny, I don't remember this being blue'
It was pathetic - lock the van, mess up my key routine , unlock the van - start again - it was like my first time ever.
'Come on Steve get your shit together and sort it out'.
Can't say it was an epic session but it sort of half fired me up, enough at least to make me want to go again. The next time I took the Sub Vector in - it was ok but still not feeling it. Couple of lame sessions followed on the Mana 9' in mush and I thought seriously about giving Gavin a call at The Traditional Surfing Co. for one of his belly boards. These puppies are going to make the ultimate Xmas presents and it's a great website.
Then I cracked it - literally, there's nothing like a bit of self harm to spice things up a bit and make you focus on the important stuff - so with a decent forecast (finally) in between gales I trotted of to Gwithian the Saturday before last and promptly decided it would be good move to get caught between the beach and my board and head butt the rail of my Mana - I thought it best to get out after that and trogged back up the cliff to the van trying to look all non-plussed like.
'OOOhh I think you might need a stitch in that'
commented a walker coming down the path.
My nice white Naish deck pad was now looking like a slaughter-house floor, which was a bit of a give away. Anyway a quick trip down to casualty to collect 10 stitches in my brow (2 inside) made me think -
'This really isn't going at all well at the moment'
10 days later I gave the Mana another bash - the headaches, double vision and nausea had settled down a bit (joking). It was an evening high tide with a bit of swell pushing through about chest high. The forecast was promising to give a few decent days between the squalls. Again the session was lack lustre - I needed a bit of a system reset so I pulled out the 9'3 Hokua and the following night in super clean, albeit small conditions I nailed it. (My nailing uses very small tacks).
God I love that board. Whatever posessed me to ride anything else is beyond me. Again it was hardly epic the swell had dropped off to between thigh and waist high but it was so much fun eking out the most that the waves had to offer. Steve from work took his new toy down - a waterproof housing for his Canon Eos to get some practice in and Phil and Sam pitched up with their Starboard Drive and Naish Hokua 9'6 after half an hour followed shortly by Nath who had just bought a Starboard Stinger. Between us we made the best of a sweet little sunset session just the way it should be, tired, chuffed and desparate to get some more in. Hokua rules!
I had the Go- Pro mounted so enjoy the Music (Art of Noise) if not the video and pics. Forgive the clumsy editing.
Can't quite believe that it's been almost five months since my last post here - loads of reasons for that March and April were just nuts. The swell just did not die down and I was so busy making a pig of myself that to be honest I just could not be bothered to post.
My new (not now) Mana 9'0 was my turn to board throughout the run of swell and once I got dialled in I almost stopped missing the 9'3", not quite though.
Having decided that I could not do without a proper van and getting a blazing offer from Peugeot to buy back the Popemobile providing they could have it for the 1st May I once again found myself without transport for what was meant to be just 4-6 weeks.
Little did I know! - Soooo back on the motorbike with the ULI Lopez for the Summer - which just happened to coincide with the longest wave drought that I can remember, followed by me starting to get back on the push-bike and ride to work. I just could not take sitting in the back of the POLO one more day. We also had a few cycling jollies that I had to attend so there was an incentive to get a few miles under my sorry ass so that I would not let the side down (too much!!)
Then we get the start of the Tour De France so three weeks of catching up with the greatest show on earth and then - well I just don't know really I suppose that for a while I just ran out of steam as far as the blog was concerned.
I found myself checking into the forums less frequently and being less 'revved' and inspired by some of the stuff that was going on, things just did not seem as fresh and exciting as they used to be. Where once everybody who paddled out seemed to be breaking new ground and we all had something valuable to contribute there were now too many and opinions and rules all saying the same stuff that had been covered ages ago and yawn . . . and as a result my 'SUP Stoke' levels began to wain somewhat. I had no doubt that come Autumn, with a van and some decent waves I would regain my enthusiasm but for the moment I just was not feeling the love.
Around this time Mark rang me and asked if I would be interested in his Sub Vector - MMnnn not had one of those (was this the stirrings of a SUP Boner?) - had not even ridden one - 'Scwhinng!' - so I went for it and . . . for six weeks it just sat in my board store looking sorry for itself.
My get up and go had not completely got up and gone - I was being seduced and spoilt by my SEVEN Axiom. Jeez what a bike - cycling has been part of my life almost as long as surfing, it's how I earn a living but this bike, this one's special.
Not the lightest - maybe not the quickest but smooth and satisfying - within a few weeks I found myself doing all the things that I promised that I would not do - working on cadence - checking averages - drafting tractors - overtaking cars - generally being a total cycling twat and recording it all on another new toy that we had been selling in the shop the Bryton Ryder 50GPS. These puppies give loads of useful info and are dead easy to use - we still have not read the instructions - like we would anyway. Speed, time distance, heart rate, ascent, descent, slope %, direction and a load more besides.
If you click on this link you should get an idea of how useful the Bryton can be as a training aid without having to shell out excessive amounts of dosh. £279.99 for the all singing all dancing HRM version.
08/01-17:49:48: "Activity Type: Road Cycling"
Loads simpler that the Garmin Edge to use and a couple of hundred pounds cheaper to boot. An amazing piece of kit and they do a watch version for triathletes which should be a blast for distance paddlers.
Anyway having been told that there were some delays in the production for my van Rygor Mercedes came up with the goods and delivered me a courtesy van to use until the new bus arrives, now that's customer service and they delivered it to my door - oh yeh - is that surf I hear? You just can't beat a van for stoking up the surfing horn. God I love vans.
Surf's been shite since it arrived though on shore short period stuff - until this weekend and an early morning Sunday opportunity was looking good. Wetsuits and board (Sub Vector) loaded Gwithian beckoned.
Unload the van - pull out the wettie and, - shit that's a lot of fleece - I had brought my winter suit with me - no way was I going to poach in that, fortunately I also had my shortie, it was 7am, grey, mistly drizzle and I was going in. Changed up locked the van and I don't remember this shorty being pale blue. Cock - I had put it on inside out. Amazing how it's so easy to get out of the rhythm of things.
So the Sub Vector - my first impression was that it was heavy, significantly more so than my Naish boards but with the stiff onshore breeze and choppy conditions that I paddled out into that might be a good thing today. Jumping onto the deck for the first time and paddling through some waist high chop the board was indeed rock solid and the nose cut through and rode over the oncoming mush without any drama, good sign. However turning side on to the wind to patrol across a face or turn to catch a wave had me staggering around for a minute or two like Bambi with a broken leg. My 'sweet skills' had deserted me.
It felt like the wind was getting under the high boxy rails and tipping the board, my reaction was to over correct and it was not until I sussed that the board would only 'tip' so far and the opposite big rail would come into play that I began to settle down a bit.
Keeping things in perspective I don't think that I did that bad. Picking off a few very messy set waves in adverse conditions (I did not see anyone else out) the board began to sow me some of the magic that has been accredited to one of the original hi-performance short stand up boards. The odd wave allowed me to work the face and fire off down the line, nothing too exciting but there was potential there. This was the first time back on a board for six weeks!
I missed the sheer nose kick of my Naish boards, The Sub Vector did not 'pearl' in the mush so much as 'bog down' slightly. There was always enough float for it to recover but a couple of times the submarine'ing caused just enough delay for me to miss the catch. I'm not criticising the board for one minute, in fact it reminded me a little bit of the Bonga Perkins 9'6" that I had some time ago. No the issue was with me my foot placement was poor and I was rusty and awkward and it was probably a testament to the board that I caught anything at all. Throughout the session I kept in mind that the next time would be loads better. I must have started to get it wired as I kept telling myself 'Last wave' - then shortly after - 'Just one more'. it's alright this paddle surf stuff.