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.