Sunday, May 24, 2009

ULI LOPEZ - Sweet second helpings

Could not get in Saturday night but amazingly managed to keep off the wine and beer enough to get up early Sunday morning check the forecast and get stuck into a second helping of the Lopez. The wind had all but dropped off and from the car park there seemed to be a bit more order and shape to the beach. It was 8.30 and the tide was dropping away fast - still closing out but cleaner and with a few more workable shoulders than Friday night.

Jumping onto the board this time I managed to stay dry. Progress.

The session was so much easier than before - more waves - more sweet skills - and confirmation for me that the board nose rides both standing and my little kneely nose rides that I seem to have gotten into the habit of doing. I need to work on my snappy cutbacks but slowly but surely the board was given it up. Like my all time favourite music I think that this board was going to grow on me.

Gwithian beach is 3 miles long and as time goes on the access points become more and more restricted and controlled. Annoying but it does mean that people being people tend to concentrate around the access, leaving lots of lovely empty waves if you are prepared to mooch up or down the break a bit. This morning I plumped for a mid beach mark in order to continue my painful apprenticeship away from the crowds. After an hour or so in the water I spotted another Stand up paddling down the beach on a Starboard - our wave choices brought us within speaking distance - we nodded and exchanged some brief good mornings, he had just come done from Plymouth to catch some waves, and then we paddled away from each other and you know what - that was just fine - no need to congregate in packs with so much beach and so many waves - good on ya pal who ever you were - clocked you having some decent rides - if you read this stop by and say hello.

So thats it - I can let the air out safe in the knowledge that I now have a real surfy travel board - Might try and get another session in this afternoon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Riding the ULI Lopez

Got to go out - I'll tidy this up later.

This is going to be easy - I have been surfing the Naish recently, well last time was over a week ago, since then the weather has been total shite, so jumping on my new ULI LOPEZ was going to be a breeze, wasn't it?

I had it all planned out - I have had ages to square it up and get it wired mentally plus as I've said all the practise that I have had 'breaking' the Naish in would stand me in good stead. Because that's what I have to do with a new board - I have to tame it. I need to gradually find out where to stand to paddle, to turn, to catch a wave, to punch out through whitewater, all these things I have to dial into initially in glassy conditions and then in chop before you actually take control of the board FROM THE BOARD. All these procesess enables me to get to the point where I'm not scared to take the board out for fear of looking like a bit of a cock and if I'm honest I do want to look as good as I can or at the very least capable.

So the latest inflatable offering from ULI using Gerry Lopez's design was sure to be an easy ride.

After all -

The 11'r, now sold, was a doddle to ride and would glide with the best of them.

The Steamroller 10'r - man that baby surf's not a ripper but soooo much glide, so stable, so easy,

and the Lopez, well that was going to be pretty much the same but with a bit more rocker, half the weight and instant membership to Cutback Central, right? WRONG!!

Tonight was the first chance that I have had to get the Lopez in the water - still not great conditions 2'- 3' breezy, cross onshore slop maybe the odd chest high set wave. The wind was dropping off and it was low tide, there were few faces mainly loads of white water low tide closeouts. Needs must.

Carrying the board down the beach was a doddle the board is incredibly light and the paddle loops are such a simple and fuss free way to make transportation easy.

Into the surf and I spring confidently onto the deck feet first, sink the farthest rail resulting in an immediate ducking. I surface laughing nervously. That didn't just happen - did it? I mount up again - first onto my knees and then onto my feet - Jeez this thing is loose proper loose. I reckon you can almost tell more and learn more about a board paddling out than you can surfing it sometimes. In fact I seem to dial in to most of my boards paddling out through the soup. Even if I have to knee paddle them for a bit it seems to give me 'a feel' for them. What I learnt about this board was the surgical way in which the nose, or lack of it, sliced through and over the wash.

Once out the back I found it easy to spin the board around for my first wave and - bugger what happened there? I was off. Next wave stroke in and - nothing! Paddled out again and turned in front of the rapidly jacking up face and I get caught side on with the nose sliding away left under the water - rinsed! This is getting silly now. The plan was paddle out - turn - catch a wave - walk to the nose - you know the usual sort of thing!! - I love it when a plan comes together - this one wasn't!!

So what was happening? - I stopped doing and started thinking. Sort myself out and get Paddle Steady first. I was sinking the side of the nose - not pearling but more bogging down. I stood back a step - instantly an improvment - with weight further back the board seemed to 'come alive' and I started catching a few - this board wants to go late - it just does not have the glide of the Steamroller - stop paddling and you stop. Familiar but not what I expected. The board is super loose and tippy. The pulled in nose means I had to to stand well back to paddle and step back even farther to turn, this focus's the weight on the narrow tail increasing the tippy feeling. Finding the 'paddle sweet spot' was harder than I had anticipated. I started to get my head into gear and slowly began to take a few late waves and began to get a few tantalising glimpses of what this board was going to be capable of.

A late crumbly close out left - my backhand - I took off with the soup on the tail and stood back over the fins - thats well back! Immediately the board 'pivoted' left around the fins and set me up for what little green water there was, does not sound much but it was one of those 'instinctive' moves that I did not expect to get away with - hard to explain but I know it when it happens and it allowed me to make the best of a bad wave. Some boards just dont give you that opportunity.

Another marginal left and this time the wave sort of backed off I bumbled forward on the deck and the board picked up speed and took off. Class, can't call it as a noseride but given the conditions and the previous half an hour or more of rinsings it was a result.

A couple of late fast rights - again not too much to work with but it was becoming more and more apparent that the board needs speed to work and then, when it does it's stuff, it's way better than me. In fact it held a couple of bottom turns so hard it took me by suprise and I was off.

Conditions were not good for any board - the beach gets rippley (Is that a word?) at low tide and the waves take awkward shapes even when it's clean - add in a short period cross chop and I generally stay in the dry, however on the Lopez a one hour tester turned into two - the board lifted it's skirts enough to make me want to see more and push on despite the conditions. It was frustrating but fun.

It's not a Steamroller - It's no cruiser and unless you weigh a lot less than I do, 14 1/2 stone, 203lbs 90kgs, I can't say that it's going to work for a novice. It's challenging - which I like (I think), It was hard work - my thighs are killing me as I write this, (still hurting as I edit it again 2 days later) but it's going to be a proper surf board - which I really like - I just want to get it in some decent clean waist to chest high surf for a proper try out. One things for sure - taming it is going to make me either a better surfer or give me thunder thighs.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Look at that - and then tell yourself 'It's inflatable' - Just check it out. The board may start off life in Asia but the guys at ULI spend hours applying and custom tuning the rocker strips, which are what makes a surf board surf, and then fitting the paddle carries, the leash rings and the deck grip all sourced from stateside suppliers. Nett result a 18 lb, travel easy, FULL ON stable wave magnet.

At least I hope so - conditions have been pretty dire since my Lopez arrived. Desparate to get out and have a bash but the forecast is not looking good for the week. Have to slake your thirst with some ULI porn

First impressions - I did not see what the fuss was about. I was expecting something super thin and fragile but the build of the Lopez did not seem any different from the Steamroller UNTIL I put it our scales -
18lbs !!!thats lighter than my Naish and that's lighter than a very light celebrity that's just discovered the joy's of Bulimia.

The pump is new too - the old pumps shift a fair amount of air but get a little bit under geared as the boards get to full pressure 15 - 18 psi - the new one may take a few more strokes BUT it's soooo easy - no more swinging off the handle like an Olympic Pummel horse master. Wth little down force and about 250 strokes I got the board to 11psi - did not go any further but the pump is excellent.

Black fibre glass full length rocker strips run from end to end top and bottom. and contrast boldly with the grey board material. The deck grip mimics the rocker strip.

Regarding the rocker strips these are Jim Weir's words 'The three layers are applied by us in San Diego, they set the rocker and stiffen the board . . . . We assemble the fins, D-rings, tie-downs for carrying, and the deck pad.'

He then followed that up with 'Back to work, tomorrow, early surf with Steamroller, Lopez, Chris Koerner and Munoz, hope there's waves.'

So I guess it should be just fine!!

Which means I'm reluctantly going to be selling My 11' ULI - Great travel board - bomb proof construction 18 months old - Excellent condition £575 - includes Pump and canvas bag - pictures all over this site more if required. The board is white with a white and blue logo'd full deck grip and blue rocker strip. The grip is just beginning to lift at a few edges but easily re-stuck down. Three fin thruster set up.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My ULI LOPEZ is on it's way!

If you read this stuff you already know how I feel about ULI and their boards. It seems to go beyond the product itself - I have never met Chris Atkinson or Jim Weir from ULI, although I have spoken to Jim a few times - They really care about what they sell and how the customer feels. One day I'd like to hook up with them maybe share a wave or two and buy them a beer or coffee or something just to say thanks. Their boards have turned naff holidays into great ones and great ones into my all time surf fests. So you can imagine how pleased I was when I got this pic in my hotmail inbox.

Along with the tag line


How good is that? - I always preferred the shots of the black and grey to the technicolour boards and the orange and yellow ULI logo stands out nice. Should be here by the end of the week all things being equal - COME ON - I mean check it out.

If you are sitting there reading this thinking 'What the hell is he getting so revved about an inflatable surfboard for?' You have never experienced the joy of ULI ownership - the smile that the 'ULI BOUNCE' gives you - the look of incredulity on the faces of fellow surfers as you smoke another swell, and the deep, smug contentment as you pop the valve, roll it up pack it in your suitcase and flick the bird to British Airways as you check in with a 10' paddle board, paddle and pump nestling between the boardshorts and bikini's. Makes me want to book a holiday.

I had been toying with the idea of getting hold of a C4 sub vector recently as a 'less than perfect conditions' board. Extravagant I know but hey, I dont drink (much) and I don't smoke (MMnn maybe the odd cigar!). But limited supply into the UK, high prices with poor exchange rates and the fact that I have been dialling in on my Naish more and more, you know I reckon that the ULI Lopez might fill that gap. I have had some great sessions in less than perfect conditions on my 10' Steamroller at Praa Sands - real choppy onshore shite - but on the right board that can s m o o o o o t h out the chop a bit it can still be fun. Being a realist I know that the minute the wind turns onshore and cranks up above 10 - 15mph I'm going to struggle on the Naish. I'm getting better on it - this morning was just peach. Light offshores and glassy with head high sets saw Gav and myself picking off more than our fare share of nice waves, swapping boards around, and generally having a blast, perfect. The rest of the week however is going to be rough and hopefully I'm in for some ULI TIME - I'll let you know how it go's.