Friday, January 28, 2011

ULI Munoz Nicaragua Costa Rica

So long story made short - here goes - we fly into Managua in Nicaragua, rent a 4x4 drive to our beach, stay a night, drive to the border drop the 4x4 off, get totally ass raped by touts at the border, hand our passports over to some unknown quasi official, get them stamped with exit stamps, walk across the border to Costa Rica Immigration, drive to Nosara, drink a beer and think how lucky we are to be at Casa Romantica and then start to worry how the hell we are going to fly out in three weeks when we have non transferable Continental tickets from Managua. Fun Fun Fun.

So back on familiar ground, woke up at 5:00 am and trundled down the path half an hour later with the ULI Munoz 8'11" - it's still dark and I can hear the surf even if I can't see it. I got to admit I'm a little bit scared. Last year I was pretty much always first in the water but all I could think about this morning was sharks and stuff I was really rattled. Weird how the mind messes with itself. Anyway as I gingerly knee paddled out, got some steam up and popped to my feet I began to get my first feel of the new ULI with some proper water moving under it's fins. Fortunately it gets light as fast as it gets dark here - and that's very fast - so the heeby jeebies were soon left with dawn's dark.

I'd love to say that I picked up exactly where I left off last time but that would not be the whole truth. There was a LOT of water moving through and I was definitely a bit sketchy, once on the wave however the board just lit up. It took any drop without fear of pearling, snapped back to the curl like a short board and hung in perfect trim for the longest nose rides, any worries that the fin placement was wrong were soon dispelled.

(Disclaimer : obviously these descriptions and any others that follow have to be applied to and taken in context with my own personal standard of surfing - average is generous - Shane calls it geriatric - which I'll settle for!)

Between the waves however it was another story I had not quite dialled into the conditions which were a steady head high plus at 16 seconds and double that on the sneaker sets. Maybe not huge for some but still challenging when you had a bit of a wave drought for a month or so. (Roughly translated into Cornish reads as a tad munchy)

For the evening session which is always a bit busier I took out the LOPEZ and immediately got it wired, the LOPEZ is a lot more stable and very forgiving in comparison and for the next few sessions the LOPEZ was the board of choice. I hate falling off the board at random and the Lopez was rock solid. The swell was still building.

The signal for my last session on the LOPEZ came as the tide dropped back and the swell built creating steeper faces, I pearled two or three waves on the trot and found the ragged mid beach rip a little more difficult to paddle into, so I swapped out in favour of the more rakish nose rocker of the Munoz again. This proved to be a good move and the couple of days board time that the Lopez had given me stood me in good stead as I felt much more comfortable on the 8'11" than I did on the first day. There was no more pearling.

Me and Mr Munoz just got down to business for the rest of the trip.

I'm not going to bore you all with a session by session account - here's the figures:

17 days - 36 sessions - 74hours give or take - I was and am totally shagged!

I'll stick up a few slide shows which naturally will be the smaller days- they always say that (it's the fisherman in me), - and thanks to DW over at ncpaddlesurfer I'm messing about with my daughters MacBook and my GoPro in order to liven up the blog a bit.
Dwight has been brilliant with encouraging email's and messages like -

"Jeez Steve - give the keyboard a rest will you - life's too short to read all that shit - just give 'em pictures"

So here is a little slideshow of a mix of pics taken from the one session that I did with the GoPro clamped to the paddle. Its all a bit sycophantic but what the hell this blog is my SUP diary as much as anything else and with the sorry state of my memory I need all the help I can get, besides I needed an excuse to mess with the Mac's picture stuff.

This is the Arty one with music combining some GoPro stills with some of Jeff Logans beach pic's.

My last session of my last day was probably the most memorable. The swell had started to build again and the full moon had brought the hide tides to the evening sessions. The back wash off the beach was noticeable 200 yards off shore and could still sweep the board from under me if caught unawares. The waves were held up by it creating some magical left and right handers of biblical proportions (length if not height). All we had to do was dodge the logs and trees that had been washed off the head of the beach. The vibe in the water was amazing - such a cool place - I even got hooted into waves by some local Tico short boarders who were obscenely good.

I finally got to meet and surf with Scott Allen a mate of Glen GJB Atlantic Paddle Surfing whose blog I follow. Scott's a great guy and was taking some time off the paddleboard to get in touch with his longboard again, I was tempted but I was having way too much fun to .

Made loads of new friends Jussi,Hanna, Pete Wickistone, Dick Hilmer and reacquainted with some old ones Pete and Pam, Alan and Pam, Brian and Pat and of course Reimo and Sylvia at Casa Romantica along with the guys at the Guilded Iguana and Jeff Logan whose efforts to make my surfing look good via his big lens was much appreciated.

I don't want to make this blog seem like a commercial for ULI - cos it's not. I take ULI paddle boards with me through choice because they don't cost me anything to travel with, (Pete got charged $100 each way for his 5' fish and they dinged it!), they wont hurt me or anyone else if I loose it, you can't hurt them, and although they may cost a bit more to buy when you factor in postage and tax I can sell them dead quick second hand after a year or two for decent money to help me finance the next one, but the main reason is that I have got no reason to take a hard board - I get all fun with none of the fuss.

One thing that does make me smile above all else about the boards though, there was not a single moment when I thought

"I wish I was on a Hard Board"

I mean come on these things have no rails - or hull concaves - or 'v' channels or fin options, and the fins that they have are so flexible that they could easily be made from recycled products taken out of the Anne Summers warranty returns bin. So whilst I accept that at my standard of surfing (best described as mediocre to average) I am unlikely to appreciate or test the finer points that some of these design features offer, and a lot of this stuff is probably lost and waisted on me anyway - I don't think that I could have had a better time than I did. Makes you think?

ULI PROTOTYPE 8'11" Sshh you ain't seen me right!

I'm always pestering ULI for new boards and Jim,Chris and the guys being the nice people that they are sent me a pre-production prototype to shut me up for a while.

As I started writing this (Late November) I still do not know how much of it, if any is going to be published. As mellow and easy going as the ULI guy's are when a board comes with a warning like -

'Ride it and enjoy it - but photograph it, forum it, it or blog it and we will send the Steamroller around for some personal correction therapy!'

- well you just don't argue with that - do you? Jim finally gave me the green light following some customer requests for shorter boards and some 'spyshots' breaking cover on the Standupzone relating to a thread started by alap - another avid ULI fan. Reading this thread makes you realise how strong the vein of ULI brand loyalty runs through their customers. ULI make you feel like one of the boys.

The thing is the inflatable standup market is becoming quite a crowded place and although some of the raw products may originate from the same factories the subsequent work and tuning that is done on the boards does make a difference, resulting in the endorsements and inputs from shaper's that ULI have been involved with, like Gerry Lopez and in this case Mickey Munoz - there I've said it. Thats the sort of thing that sets these boards apart from the others and in the pre-production stages creates the need for an element of secrecy in order to maintain a commercial market advantage.

So whats with the board? - My sample measured 8'11" with a 28 1/4" width and just a smidge under 4" thick. The nose and tail are both pulled pretty tight and there is 4" of nose rocker.

Those figures would make pretty exciting numbers for a hard board I was worried that the board might not even float me. My fag packet maths put the volume at around 100 - 110 litres - pretty much borderline for my weight at 90kgs.

First time out was during that long spell of Easterly airstream that we had during November - barely any swell and glassy. I struggled to find anything more than a lazy knee high bump but you know what it's like when you have a new board and desperation sets in.

The board floated me - some of the deck was just above the water but I was definately on the dry side. The side to side 'tip to recovery' point was incredibly sensitive and although I thought that I was used to fairly small tippy boards this one was going to be a challenge for a while. The board is unbelievably light, 16lbs on our shop scales and this was also noticable on the water as the boards reaction to paddle strokes was instantaneous.

Don't get me wrong the board tracked straight and true and I could easily paddle half a dozen or more strokes on each side but dig the paddle too deep or too wide and she would either tip or turn - no messing. Stationary stability was hard to judge given the conditions, absolute glass, however get the board moving and she felt fine.

The 4-5" of nose rocker made light work of the knee high wash that was pushing through the inside section. Waves were tiny with barely enough power to tighten the board up however I caught a few ripples and was stunned at how easily the little inflatable accelarated and caught the bumps however the waves were so slack I was struggling to work them to any degree and fell frequently. The nose, although narrow, held firm and was stable paddling in and did not show the tendancies of my Naish boards to 'dive away sideways' if I got the entry wrong. The session was too short and lacking in any significant wave power to come to any significant conclusion about it's surfing performance however, if anything it felt a bit lack lustre in the tiny slack conditions.

Just got back from my second session on the MUNOZ. Managed a little session last Sunday in tiny clean ankle slappers, I thought then that the board was a bit tippy and that it was fairly hard work even in super clean conditions.

TODAY however was a totally different story. This board is a beast. We had a bit more swell to deal with, still very clean and small, sort of waist high and a bit on the sets but what a difference some speed and punch makes to the board. I was able to make a total pig of my self and caught everything going. The ability for it to turn both on and in front of the waves is nuts. I was in with a couple of freinds who are just starting out with stand up. Sam had a 10' x 30" fish (local home grown board) and Phil borrowed my 9'3" Naish Hokua. We swapped around boards during the session and honestly the best tool for the job was the Munoz. My Naish is a real hi-performance board lots of nose rocker and tippy as hell. I would normally ride it in most conditions but the Munoz was just a wave machine today. Even Sam who had a quick go on the Munoz found it easier than her 10' Fish. I think that ULI have got a winner on their hands with this one, they would need to pitch it at the lighter or more experienced user, but honestly it's one of the best boards that I have ever ridden, no bull I am serious. It has a real longboardy feel about it yet it will snap 'flat' turns on the wave so easily.

If I was super picky I would say that it could possibly do with some tweaks to the fin placement. I not quite sure why but I seem to 'loose it' a bit if I try and crank it around super hard on it's rails. The Naish or the Lopez will take it but this one washes out a bit soon, possibly needs the front fins pushed forward some or maybe even a quad set up?? Or maybe I just need to ride it a bit more. I had some of the longest cheater fives on it today and dont think that it would take too much for me to get the fins out and spin it, amazing. I dont think that you would need to do too much to this one to make it perfect, thats perfect compared to any board not just inflatables. Perhaps if it was a inch wider it would have a broader appeal but as it is it could easily double up as a travel longboard.

The way that short performance sups are taking off at the moment I think this would compliment anyones quiver and give them a travel board to boot. In fact thats how I would pitch it

'A performance Standup - that just happens to be a travel board as well', this puppy is a real peach and it's definetly going to Nicaragua with us. I love it

OK This was all written before January but kept as a draft until the cat was out of the bag.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Day - Glass

Had a quiet'ish new years eve, packing the kit ready for our holiday, boards, paddles rods and reels and a ton of other stuff that all needs to pack down into a couple of 23kg holdalls. No bother.

Forecast was looking great for New Year's day - and it was spot on, 2-3 foot and clean as a pin - no wind. I swapped out the rear Quad fins on the 9'0 and popped in a single 8" longboard fin hoping that it would steady up the board a bit. It did. That and a slightly shorter 8' and thinner leash and the change in the boards manners was amazing. Stable and quick to accelerate it was beginning to feel familiar and comfortable. Phew!! The 9'0 is definitely borderline for me and I would say a step on from the 9'3, the larger fin evened out some of the differences between the two boards but the nose would sink away at the first sign of incorrect weighting making foot placement more critical than the 9'3. I probably only fell about four times today when holding station - hopefully that will get better.

I picked up a GoPro HD from a chap recently - brand new, unused and unwanted. I can hear the groans reverberate around SUP'dom. Anyway it was a good price and I thought why not? Today's trip was a bit experimental and I mounted it on the paddle shaft. The effect when paddling is really comical as it gives the impression of the paddle remaining stationary and me sliding myself around the paddle arc. Dead impressed with the picture quality - unfortunate how bad it makes my surfing look. Don't worry there wont be too much of this as a board mount is being sorted.

This is the spot where I was going to post a little GOPRO video but the damn thing wont load up and I cant convert the mpeg4 file into something that Windows videomaker will recognise. PC's are giving me so much grief at the moment, time for a Mac I think!

For me the 9' is everything that the 9'3 is but with a little more chili. It has a better handle and obviously it's shorter with all the practical advantages that offers. Above all if it is going to stay it's a board that is going to keep my weight in check.

January the 2nd and I managed to snag another early morning session (without the ball ache of the camera). Again this session was so much easier than the last one, again it was like glass. I had some decent waves but the swell was dropping off and the peaks were shifting about making decent shoulders hard to find.

There was a chap out on a 10'4 (I think) Jimmy Lewis this morning, it was Gut's Griffiths old board and as we chatted during the session we swapped over boards. The Jimmy was really nice, so easy to paddle and early into waves, compared to the Naish it felt sluggish to turn (unless your Guts) but still easy as. Why am I making things difficult for myself?

As good as the Hokua is (VERY GOOD) I'm still not convinced that it's for me. It will float me I can surf it but I have to be honest I'm too damn fat and just a bit too shit to get the best out of it, and that's a shame.

I was missing too many waves and felt awkward like I did in the beginning, and I don't think that I want that anymore. The trade off, more surfability versus ease of use just was not stacking up for me today. My little Nah Skell was more stable, shorter and could surf it's tits off but you really had to 'work it'. Always having to be in the right place, always having to make the correct last paddle stroke and for me with the 9'0 never being able to relax and that's in glass. I just want to surf now, I'm done blazing my own trails.

When's that 9'0 Mana available??