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.


Marc said...

What size is the ULI LOPEZ length and width?

Why do you think its so much lighter?

thanks Marco

csx355 said...

Hi Marco - thanks for stopping by - the Lopez is 9'11" x 29 1/2"
It is lighter due to the single skin (lightweight) material used in the construction. It's still tough but you would not want to drive your 4x4 over it. Regards Steve

Marc said...

How does it compare surf wise -to the heavier boards - other than being able to ride over the heavy ones with a truck.

How much do you reckon they retail for?

steve said...

Hi Marco - the Lopez is much more of a ripper than a cruiser. The pulled in and up nose means that you can go late into a wave without pearling, at the slight expense of stability. The Steamroller surfs well but is much more cruisy with more glide.