Sunday, March 30, 2008

Two Sorts Of Stability

Never gave this much thought to my conventional surfing - probably explain why I was never much good at it - plus I think that the actual 'thinking' time on the board is less with conventional surfing. With stand up you are on it all the time and the paddling element is as big a part as the surf element. This means that the way the board reacts when paddling and at rest is given as much consideration as how it surfs. When I started off it was all I could do to stand on the board - the Jimmy Lewis was very stable side to side (Yaw) due to it's width and stable end to end (pitch) due to it's length. It was only today that I realised that pitch has as much effect as it does.

Dropping to a smaller board (my 9'8" Starboard) seemed like an easy, natural transition from the JL. IN FLAT WATER! Introduce some chop and the balance training starts all over again. Something that I just did not realise until this morning.

Since getting the Starboard I have had a couple of abortive sessions due to the weather - naturally I went in (new board) but got blown to hell - Wednesday night I managed a quick surf after work in the middle of the beach with Shane. The wave was waist to chest high and glassed off really well - we only got 40 minutes or so before dark but I couldn't go wrong. Lefts, rights, full rail cutbacks just one of those fantastic sessions, albeit too short. Friday and Saturday was blown out but Sunday looked promising.
I paddled out at Hayle Rivermouth, Gavin was ill and Steve had Pupils for flat water tutoring. I had the wave to myself. It was fairly small, waist high, bit bigger on the sets perhaps and clean as a whistle. The tide was pushing up to high and the wave was fairly slack, the wind had yet to show. The first 40 minutes I picked up where I left off on Wednesday - beating into to plenty of waves and, for me, styling it up, paddling hard as the the wave backs off then catching up with the reform on the inside going the other way - you gotta love it. Then I got greedy for some bigger stuff, always happens, so I paddle off up the beach a bit. I catch a couple of decent waves and again manage to make the reform on the inside sections. It was getting harder though, I started to struggle a bit, particularly getting into the waves. All too often my last paddle stroke would send me side on to the wave and I would miss it, or I would get the nose bogged down in the confused water between the start of the wave outside and the reform inside - really frustrating.

Stepping back stopped the nose from bogging down but slowed my paddle speed up and made me less stable resulting in even more rinsings. The wind had got on it a bit and I was getting tired. It was very noticeable that the board reacts much more to 'chop' than the Jimmy. It's not so much the 'Yaw' (side to side) or the 'pitch' (end to end) individually, but combine them both and you have a very lively, three dimensional balance board. The extra length of the Jimmy spans more wave and water and has much more of a dampening effect.

I am sure that I will adapt and deal with it but lets just say width is not everything. Neither is sheer volume and float, length actually matters as much to stability as width. - Good job I did not go for the 9'er though - at least not yet.
Please add your own thoughts and comments to this blog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Well - it looked do-able!

The trouble with long week-ends and new boards is that you feel that you've just got to get out there - regardless.

Pretty much every weekend since Christmas we've been getting a decent wave in on Sundays - the last couple of weekends though the weather has been pretty grim - verging on evil!! This weekend was no exception - howling winds and no immediate sign of a let up, apart from one tiny glimmer of hope - can't see how they can be quite so precise but the forecast sites were all predicting a massive drop in wind between 9am and 12.

We pitched up at the car park at Gwithian 8.45am with every thing just about looking do-able. The wind had dropped off, but not disappeared, the waves were sloppy waist high mush but Gavin's Southcoast surf check was dead flat - so for any chance of a wave this weekend it was here and now.
And that's how we convinced ourselves that we should brave the chill and get stuck in. Steve from Sunset Surf and a couple of his friends, Gavin and myself.

The paddle out was challenging - cross chopped confusion with a steadily stiffening onshore wind. The chop buried the nose of the board with every paddle stroke - stand back a bit and having too much rail in front caught the wind and spun the board around - it was that windy. Soon standing became a challenge. Wrong board I thought but from the frequent rinsings that Gavin was also getting I think that the Starboard was actually coping OK.

Picture above shows Gavin making it look a lot better than it actually was.

Steve paddled out on his Starboard (UB) I think. Like us he did not find it easy as the wind was picking up by the minute, the odd few short waves that came our way just 20 minutes previously were now impossible to repeat - retreat was the only course of action available to us - and that was not easy, hanging on to the boards as we made our way up the beach made me realise the potential in Kite boarding!

Back at the vans it was a two man job to get the JL onto the roof racks due to the wind - a very quick improvisation with some straps and the Extremist slid in to my van at roof level - bonus .

We decided to retire to Sunset for coffee and a chat - there have been better surf days but it was good to get out albeit briefly. We took the opportunity to check out and compare the range of Starboards available to rent out at Sunset Surf . They have Mr Easy's / Ultimate Blend's and a 9'8" Extremist all in the full deck Tufskin versions. There's going to be a lot of happy trippers on the beach this summer.

From Left to Right Ultimate Blend / Mr Easy's / and the 9'8" Extremist

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Board - New Camera - Shocking Weather

Extremist 9'0"
Having ordered my new board I was counting the minutes until it arrived - Due date Thursday - No chance whatsoever of getting on it today but I was like a kid at Christmas - 'Santa' for the purposes of this story is played by John Hibbard of Starboard.

4.30pm Thursday - text to Santa

'Where the f#*$ing f#*$ is my f#*$ing board?"

5pm Thursday Santaphone text reply

'In the back of my f#*$ing Sleigh, I'm 5 minutes away from Tim's - now chill out dork'

And rest. Pulse is a steady level 3 about 150bpm - Not getting it tonight!!!
Picture shows Tim explaining to the world that it would be a better place if we all rode the 9'0" Extremist. The board immediately behind is the Tufskin 9'8" - left of shot is a rack full of Starboards - new Jimmy Lewis' - C4's and Custard Points. That's walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
9.00pm Text from Gavin to Dork

'What's the board like?'

Slight spot of artistic licence there but you get the gist - never been so keen to get a board.
Got to Tim's just after 10am Friday to be confronted by the 9'0" in pride of place Bugger - I reckon I could ride that. Tim halfheartedly suggested going to the harbour to give it a go - He is as excited at stocking these new boards as I am at getting one.

Santa John turns up with more boards - we chat for a while and I PUT THE BOARD IN MY VAN, Oh yeah it fits without popping the front screen out!!! Done that before, and drive back home racking my brains for some sheltered little spot for a test run.

I wax the hull, fit the fins and leash and wipe all the fresh drool off and gloat for a while.

Starboard Extremist 9'8"

She is so pretty - decent proper rails and rocker and side fins and light and pretty and short, and pretty.

And its got wood! On the deck - apparently its makes it stiffer and lighter than the tufskin jobby.

Starboard Extremist 9'8"You can just about see the change in the deck grip area where the Diamond 'Target Zone' is for your feet.

The bevel on the tail is a nice feature and this shot shows off the rail plan. Tried to turn the pic but couldn't (be bothered). There are two leash plugs - one for goofy's a nice touch I feel catering for the disabled . . . . . (and duck).

Starboard Extremist 9'8"
This next shot shows the rails,tail and rocker quite well - The rails on my Jimmy are ummm - soft, yeah that's fair I think, the Starboard - well its has them they are quite hard and they go well up the sides.
The daft thing about the fins is - you don't get side biters with it. You get the big red Drake centre fin - and an FCS key in amongst the comprehensive owners wallet, Stickers, Warranty book and cuddly toy - but you don't get any side fins - Why is that then? Arent we meant to use them? Was it a mistake putting the slots there - sort of a slip with a router?? Come on Starboard - you got a great piece of kit here - not cheap - so don't get all cheap on us for a pair of fins.

Top side the deck is just beautiful the faux stringer line conceals a first joint deep handle - could be deeper but so nice to have.

Two or three phone calls later and I'm on my way to Praa sands - meet Shane there but it's so grim - I bail out to Perranuthnoe - Its shockingly bad - but I have a new board and can conquer anything - well almost. I manage one or two waves, get blown down the beach and sort of kneel and stand paddle my way back before getting blown back down the beach again. But I know that I would not have been able to look at it on the Jimmy and probebly not even been able to stand up.
Can't wait to get a decent day on it - shame is it's not likely to be this bank holiday weekend.
Please please please - if you read this rubbish - leave a comment. Anyone?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Frustration and Turmoil

Been a while since my last post - almost a month - several reasons really - the last session at Hawks was a blinder and being a greedy bugger I probably stayed just a bit longer than I should, the wind went round and the paddle back to Carbis was Hard actually BLOODY HARD. This took it's toll on my shoulders that were already work sore from the previous week.

It's fair to say that my paddle technique is far from graceful - Neanderthal is probably a better description - harder - faster - more, if you get the picture. Result one painful week of sleepless nights and a grim session the following Sunday at the River mouth when I should have known better. The pain seemed to travel across my back from the right to the left shoulder eventually taking up residence in the deep centre of my shoulder blade. I don't consider myself to be a wooss, I've broken ribs, smashed my collar bone and taken stitches without pain relief (I may have cried like a baby, peed my pants and called out for my mummy) but generally I've taken stuff on the chin. But this was real SORE and smarts. Plus I could not paddle Neanderthal - no strength. Double arse. Apparently a rotator cuff issue (self diagnosis) and I gather not uncommon with Kayakers. (Internet circumstancial evidence). Add all this to a couple of abortive sessions due to 'The Perfect Storm of the year' and here we are - fatter, less paddle fit, aching and desperate to get a decent session in.

So enough self pity wheres the surf stuff? - Still on the trail of a demo session on the Starboard 9'8" I got hold of John Hibbard and loosely arranged for a Sunday session at Gwithian. This saw today's early morning meet overlooking a flooding tide of the most dire onshore slop. I got out of bed early for this North Easterly nightmare. We chatted for a while and I had my first 'in the flesh' look at a 9'8" Extremist. It's soooo small, chubby but cute sort of a Lucy Ewing of boards - am I showing my age here? Anyway all I wanted to do now was ride it!

John introduced me to Steve Carter - nice bloke , who handles the surf side of Sunset Surf cafe at Gwithian and we eventually abandoned the car park and had some most excellent coffee at what is likely to become Sup surf central this summer. We talked and chilled and as the cafe got busier and busier we said our goodbyes and resigned ourselves to a blank day.

A quick trip with Shane to the Longboard House to get another paddle, that was destined to be cut shorter in a bid to prevent over reaching on the high handle grip and hopefully relieve my shoulder issues. Yawn Yawn Yawn, saw me pawing over the C4 9' bat wing 'I wish', the 10' er 'Still wishing' and the 10'6". Tim is convinced that the 10'6 is the board for me. Shane agrees with him and to be fair I know that if I were to persevere with the board it would be great - I just want a a shorter board and 10'6 ain't that much shorter than 11'. It might be thinner and prettier and more surfy but it ain't shorter.

Driving home I had a text from John Hibbard - something along the lines of

' Decided to stay on for a while - Marazion is working at waist high - do you still fancy a bash on the Starboard or are you still whinging like a girl about your poorly arm?' (I might of made the last bit up).

Quick call to Gavin - 'Sort out your Man Flu - the Starboard has landed on your doorstep'

I paddled out to see John spanking a decent knee to waist high clean wave ON HIS OWN. I was a bit rusty and slow off the mark but started to pick a few off - Gavin turned up and immediately got on the case and then we paddled out to a rock outcrop which seemed to be turning the swell up a notch. It was, but it was not easy to get on John had a few but we soon went back to the beach. Gavin sloped off towards Penzance and we could see that he was well into it. I swapped boards with John and 'oh my God' how solid was Lucy Ewing? Very stable no drama and excellent recovery when my balance let me down - it seemed like I was on it for ages before I fell off. Rock solid. The other noticeable trait was how easy it was to weight your back foot and turn before an oncoming wave whilst remaining stable. I was amazed. Paddling did not seem to present any major 'yawing' or 'row' issues. I like this board, all I need now is to catch a wave.

All around me John was picking off waves on my Jimmy - could I get a wave? Could I hell. I struggled and struggled and eventually positioned myself for a late take off (late me - never) and a couple of strokes and - away we went. Surfs nice - stayed upright on the inside and punched my way back to the line up with ease - I am really liking this board. It turns so easily. A few more waves and I'm beginning to feel at home - working the wave face a bit more and generally getting comfy. I want one - it fulfils my criteria - it's small - pretty and I can ride it. Conditions were kind but sometimes you just gotta go with it. When Gavin had a bash he felt that he would like to spend more time on one, even though his first wave on it was a peach. He is definitely getting too much practise. Having said that he did spend more time on the C4 than me and reckoned that it got better and better. I can see that the C4 could possibly be the better surf board BUT I felt instantly at home on the Extremist.

We all swapped back to our own boards and moved down the beach where the peak seemed a bit - well peakier. John very soon started chatting to a longboarder and volunteered the 9'8" up, it was noticeable how quickly John's wave count shrank on a longboard.

As the tide pushed up the wave got fatter and fatter it was obvious that the Stand Ups were getting the Lion's share of the action - Gav and myself both spotted a monster set cranking up in the middle of bay and stroked out for it - turning I shaped to go right Gavin left. Gavin got it spot on and scored what was probably the wave of the day - again. Flushed with success he then feigns sickness and says 'I gotta go before I pass out' and paddles off home. Sort of rubs salt into the wounds.

We surfed on for a while before John makes tracks off - it was getting dark and life must be hard when you surf for a living!! Only kidding John's a genuine sort of bloke as today proved when he gave up his board to us in what was pretty decent if small surf - As the advert says;

' I'm not sure I could do that' !

So there we go - what started as a pretty crappy day ended up really well - Even my shoulder seemed to hold up well , had to concentrate on keeping my top arm straight (advice from Tim) which seemed to have a beneficial effect. Have to ring Tim to get my order in tomorrow. It would be nice to get it from Sunset Surf, Steve is also a decent bloke and they are on my doorstep but I have a prior allegiance to Tim at the Longboard House. hard to explain but there it is and there will be other boards. Good to know though that there are so many decent folk out there willing to put themselves out.

So many thanks to John and Steve for letting me test their board, buying me coffee, saying nice things about my Uli and listening to my drivel, Tim for being Tim and medical advice above and beyond the call, Gavin for STEALING ALL THE BEST WAVES and not talking about it like I do, and most of all the love and support of my wife and family for just being there, without whom none of this would be possible. Sniff Sniff.

If you do read this and take anything from it Please leave a comment - it makes me feel wanted and worthwhile in a fractionally sad sort of way.