Archive for August, 2010

10 Things That Made Danielle Great

1)      The water was warm, and the sun was shining

2)      The crowds.  Hell man it is summer.  If you can’t beat ‘em (and you can’t) join ‘em

3)      Finding a nugget to yourself, like this unnamed fortunate soul did (no it was not me)

(There was a beautiful photo here but in respect of the break you will have to imagine it) 

4)      She was a great test of all things surf reporting.  Did anyone not know a week ahead of time?

5)      Surfing with groms who were yelling OUTSIDE! at the sight of an approaching set.

6)      Seeing said groms stoked on grabbing their first hurricane swell

7)      Knowing that Earl is coming, and did someone say Fiona ( and I don’t mean apple)

8)      Seeing a few college guys who got some waves before a landlocked semester

9)      Realizing that Labor Day is a few days away and the crowds well, will not be as crowded

10)   Paddle shape, paddle shape, paddle shape.

Daniel Yackewych and I finally caught up via telephone several days ago.  The timing could not have been more appropriate.  Like a tried and true surfer, he must have smelled that the Atlantic was finally starting to brew- with Hurricane Danielle cranking happily along and more activity sniffing at her heels.  This is some feat on his part though, since he was reporting from a small town just off of the Pacific Crest Trail, 200 miles south of the Oregon border.  However, I was not surprised that he still had a read on things- because a surfer in the woods is still a surfer.

SSS: Excellent to hear from you brother.

Daniel Yackewych: Excellent to be heard from.

SSS: For those not checking in on your blog, which is an awesome travel log by the way, please tell us, how is the hike going?

DY: As well as could be expected with 100 plus days under my feet.  I am ragged, dirty and worn but I am feeling good.  So far we have hiked just over 1600 miles and I smell to high heaven.

SSS: You say we- I thought this was a solo mission?

DY:  It started out that way, but I have a few travel companions now who share the goal of making it Canada.

SSS: Mainly Flyboxer right?  I feel like I know the guy from your posts. 

DY: Yeah, Flyboxer is a real levelheaded guy and we have a similar approach to the hike.

SSS: What approach might that be?

DY: Well, a lot of people on the trail are super succinct when they get into town.  They are able to organize their supplies, do their shopping and what not with little effort.  I on the other hand, end up standing in the middle of the grocery store, wandering the aisles for two hours trying to adjust to the change of scenery.  Flyboxer is the same way so that works well.

SSS: It sounds like you are a homeless guy.  You aren’t talking to yourself or screaming on street corners about the approaching UFOs are you?

 

DY:  (Laughs) I don’t think so.  Would somebody tell me if I was?

SSS: That is a great point.  I guess we will see when you get back.  Speaking of getting back, what does that look like for you?

DY: Well finishing the hike will be a miracle.  Washington looms as does late September, and the weather is going to play a huge factor. We are certain to encounter some wet chilly conditions and I am trying to mentally prepare myself.  As the trip is currently planned, I am flying back to New Jersey in early October.

SSS:  Just in time for some prime Atlantic activity I hope.  Although I doubt that you are thinking much about surfing right now.

DY: You would be surprised.  I really miss getting in the water and it is one of the things I look forward to most.

SSS: What else do you miss in terms of your “normal” life?

DY:  I have thought about this a ton.  I miss having an armrest and a couch.  I am focused on a beer, a blanket and the NFL.  I really want to see football.  Flyboxer and I are actually going to try and catch a high school game somewhere in Oregon.

SSS: That is if security doesn’t throw the two homeless guys out.

DY: (Laughs) Good point.  Although most towns along the PCT are used to having hikers pass through, so it is more likely that someone will offer us a pasta dinner and place to shower.  The people we have met along the way have been amazing.

SSS:  And if you had to say there was one lesson that you have learned so far, what would it be?

DY:  I would have to say that I have learned that I know where my home is.  I feel really grounded in knowing that New Jersey is where I belong and that I have it to come back to.  The hike has solidified my attachment to place- to family and friends. 

SSS:  Well that is cool.  Just so you know we will be here when you get back.  Of course you better plan on getting into paddle shape before the winter swells start to come in, or you will be sure to get you tail handed to you.

DY: I know!  I am hoping it is like riding a bike.

SSS:  There is a reason why Todd Stewart titled his short surf film Surf Magazines Don’t Talk About Lapsed Catholics. The ocean will be waiting…

DY: I can’t wait.

SSS:  We can’t either.  Keep up the great work.

DY: I will. I hope there is a Jersey Freshie waiting with my name on it.

SSS: You know there is, and I am buying!

DY: With pepperoni too?

SSS: Sure.

DY: Nice.

 

When I arrived to meet Mike Stadler, owner of New Life Surfboards, I did not know what to expect.  A mutual friend suggested that I talk to him for Sea Sand Surf and I took the lead.  Mike and I exchanged several emails, set a date for an interview, and I drove over to his place in Manasquan assuming nothing.  I figured “how bad could it be to talk shop with another local surfer?”  Worst case scenario, I may know another face in the lineup when all is said and done.

What I found upon meeting Mike was a surfer with a wealth of knowledge and a shaper with ties to the deep history of the sport.  He was kind and generous and extremely stoked to show me around the intimate workings of New Life Surfboards.  We got together early, after a wave check revealed a mess, and he and his wife Trish gave me a great cup of coffee upon my arrival. As often happens with surfers, it felt more like I was seeing old friends rather than becoming acquainted with strangers.

Sea Sand Surf:  So when did you first start surfing?

Mike Stadler: It was either 1964 or 65.  My father used to pack the family up and take us to Sandy Hook.  My earliest memories center around surfing and everything associated with it.

The Stadler's and Their Summer Quiver

SSS: Did you stick with it this whole time?

Stadler: Pretty much.  It was one of those things. It got in my blood and I could not imagine it any other way.  My father passed the love of the sport onto me, and when I had my son I tried to do the same.  My son is 28 now and has been surfing his whole life.  Surfing is part of the Stadler family.

SSS: How about shaping surfboards?  Is this something that you have always done?

Stadler: Not really.  I have only been shaping for a couple of years.

Stadler Knows that Fine Edges Make for Fine Surfing

SSS: What made you want to get into it?  Why not just surf a few boards you love and be done with it?

Stadler: The design of boards has always been an interest to me.  I have always been very aware of my equipment and the way that it was built and how it functioned in the water.

SSS: I think most surfers share that desire to understand their boards, but to start a surf company like New Life Surfboards is a whole other thing right?  How did that transition happen for you?

Stadler: Well, I was sitting around one day in an apartment in Jersey City, totally frustrated by the rat race.  I was caught up in it.  I was a successful graphic designer, but the landscape of the profession was changing rapidly.  I was fed up with the hyper-competitive nature of things.  I was laying this all out on the table to my wife Trish, and she said, “well, what do you want to do?”  I told her I wanted to shape surfboards and she just asked me what I was waiting for.

SSS: I am sure that support is a big help right?

Stadler: (laughs) I tell everyone that she is the C.I.O of New Life Surfboards… the Chief Inspiration Officer.

Cool People Doing Cool Things

SSS: So you basically dove right in from there?   That must have been daunting.

Stadler:  I was already accustomed to working in design so the transition felt natural in many ways.

SSS: Did the 40 plus years of surfing experience help?

Stadler:  Absolutely.  I had a pretty clear idea about what works in the water and what doesn’t- so that eliminated a good deal of the trial and error phase for me.

SSS: What types of shapes have you been designing?

Stadler: I love making classic East Coast Long Boards.  Boards that let the rider get in the wave early enough to get down the line, but still offer some precision turning in the tail.  I try to get the right foil on the rocker with a perfect blend of concave.  That, combined with the rounded pin, and you have a board that flies but still turns on a dime.

A Classic East Coast Board from a Classic Guy

SSS:  Have you branched out from there?

Stadler: I have.  I have made some fish that work really well, and I am currently working on a shape for a classic California Long board- a board that will let the rider get ten over the nose.

The Cup Loves to Hang Ten- Forever...

SSS: Outside of your C.I.O, who are your other influences?

Stadler: I was fortunate to fall under the tutelage of Donald Takayama for a spell.  In the short time that I had the chance to see him at work I was amazed.  I went to California to meet with him.  I left so inspired, and I have applied that inspiration to my work.  I mean, here is a guy that has been shaping for over 55 years, and I am standing there learning from him thinking, “this can’t be for real.”

SSS: How does it feel to be a small leaf off of that great branch of surfing?

Stadler:  You know; it is my goal to help other people get stoked on surfing.  When I shape a board for someone I try to get to know them as a person first.  I may go out for a session with them, or do a quiver inventory.  In the end, I want their New Life Surfboard to be something they will have in their quiver for a long time to come.  So when a shaper like Donald Takayama opens his bay to me and spends some time I am ultimately very grateful.  He has a knowledge base that is so unique, and the fact that he was willing to share it with me just solidified my love of shaping.

SSS: What direction do you see New Life Surfboards taking?

Stadler: As of now, I am really focused on making custom boards for people who love to surf.   A number of people have approached me about making “go to” long boards for their quivers, and that has really driven me.  In the end New Life Surfboards has a core mission of passing along the love of surfing on to people in any way possible.

SSS: What is on the radar in the near future?

Stadler: We will have a stand at the Belmar Pro in September and we welcome everyone to stop by and say hello.

 SSS: Best of luck along the way.

Stadler: Thanks.  We will get there one great board at a time.

 

In Ancient China, Buddhist Temples are often protected by enormous statues of warriors with empty eyes and permanent scowls.  These monsters of the Id are often stocked with weaponry and are intimidating beyond reproach.  The stone guardians are intended to ward off evil spirits and protect the monks.  While these figures keep demons at bay, they often serve another purpose, and that is to remind those who enter the temple to leave their fear behind.

When a visitor comes face to face with the statue they are reminded that fears greater than themselves will rise up within them, and they are to look at those fears directly.  Much like the stone that these warriors are made from these fears can be unrelenting, and to ignore them is foolery.  They are not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon.

So travelers near and far are confronted with a very sobering fact: the only way to overcome a fear is to look directly at it and accept it.  The statue is a test. Will you stare at your fear, acknowledge it and then leave it behind or will you allow it to stop you in your tracks?  Will you go past the doorway of your fears and enter the unknown of the temple?

 

The ocean often offers guardian statues of its’ own.  For surfers, those way-layers of demons and fear come in the form of waves that are a little larger than anticipated.  Sometimes the keeper of the shoreline stands before us as a nagging injury or a powerful rip-tide.  At other moments it is laziness or procrastination- or maybe it is an unwillingness to try.

These demons that circle around us are often no more than figments of our overly active imagination.  What if a shark is looming off of the jetty?  What if I go out there and make a fool of myself, or even worse, what if I go out and give it my all and fail?

From session to session surfing is an excellent tool to push personal boundaries.  Many people equate surfing to a religious experience; and in that it requires devotion to be done well, I suppose that it is.  The ocean is a temple for so many surfers.  So when you come to the shoreline literally, or when you reach that place in your own thoughts- think of those before you who soldiered on, and push out past yourself.

Remember, it always better in the walls of that sacred place, than it is standing at the door with you fears.

The wind has been blowing onshore for the past three or four days.  Frustratingly, it has not produced much in the way of quality surf.  There has been the distinct smell of autumn in the air however.  This is not to suggest that summer is over, but the fall is waiting in the wings.  Although early predictions had suggested that we would have an active tropical season that has not been the case yet.  We all know that can change on the dime so keep monitoring the reports.

My previous few surfs have taken place on the 5’8” Quasar shaped by Gene Wahl from Essence surf.  The board performed very well.  I was skeptical, as it was a step down for me from my traditional 6’ board, but it is sweet.  I rode it as a tri-fin set up, although the board is constructed with 5 fin boxes offering all kinds of options.

There is very little rocker and it paddles like a champion.  The thicker rails allow for easy wave entry and they offer a feeling of stability as well.  If I were to summarize the board in one word it would be “fast.”  The board seems to naturally generate speed and any prodding on my part only made the Quasar run faster.  The board also turns on a dime and stays underfoot very well.  If you are considering a step down or a pod in general, it is a solid way to go.  

In other news, I recently met with Mike Stadler, owner and shaper of New Life Surfboards.  Mike is a true surfer and he has a very interesting story which I look forward to sharing.  It is always great to meet other people who share the same level of passion for surfing, and he and his wife Trish were super hospitable.

For all the Tri-State readers, if you have not already done so, get your tickets to the Surf Bash at the Algonquin Theater in Manasquan.  The date is Saturday, September 18th.  There is a free outdoor Surf Festival that begins at 4:00 and Matt Costa is performing at 7:30.  Jay Alders and the guys from Original Skateboards will be there, and I am sure it will be a cool evening of surf art, music and community.

Thanks for checking in.  If you have not contributed your thoughts to the Six-Word Ocean Project please do.  Look forward to hearing from you.

Pot of Gold

 

Anyone who knows about Jersey Surfing knows about Sam Hammer. I first met Sam while working at the Crabs Claw Inn in Lavallette more summers ago then I care to count.  At the time, he was just coming into his own as a surfer.  He was methodically building a reputation as someone that really represents what Jersey Surfing looks like in its finest form.  In the time that I worked with Sam I knew him to be driven, humble and focused.  

Through the years since, Sam has been a champion for surfing, and a point of pride to the Jersey Scene.  He has built a successful career as a professional and is recognized as an ambassador for the Garden Sate.  I caught up with him recently to talk all things Jersey Surfing. 

Sam Setting the Standard for the Garden State (Photo: D. Cresitello)

Sea Sand Surf:  I guess I will start by saying that I have kept up with your surfing though the magazines and it is has been awesome to see you progress.  Do you remember the first time you had a photo run?

Sam Hammer: Yeah, I had a postage stamp in Eastern Surf Magazine when I was seventeen.

SSS: Do you still have it? 

Hammer: Of course.  I try to keep a copy of everything that runs even the stuff in the international magazines.  I am only missing two, one was a shot from a  Magazine called Black Water and the other was from a surf magazine in Uruguay.

SSS: As a public service announcement: anyone with a copy of Black Water surf magazine get in touch.  Sam wants to complete his collection!

Hammer: (laughing) It’s not like that.

SSS:  But it is a point of pride to see your photos published?

Hammer:  Definitely.  There is a pride factor involved.  It is also a sense of accomplishment.  When traveling for my sponsor Billabong it is important that I come back from the trips with photos, so having them published lets me know that I am getting the job done. 

Sam Getting the Job Done (Photo Donald Cresitello)

SSS:  What gives you that work ethic?  It must be tough to get somewhere and not want to blow the whole thing off so you can drink beer and sleep on the beach?

Hammer:  Well, my parents are a huge inspiration.  They always taught me that it was important to do things the right way, and I take that attitude into my surfing.

SSS: It seems to be paying off.  The last spread I remember seeing you involved in was a feature for on a surf trip to Norway.  Where have you been to surf?

Hammer: At this point I have been really lucky to have been around the world.  Indo, Chile, Tahiti, Hawaii, Iceland a bunch of times, Norway, Mexico and recently Russia?

SSS:  So Billabong has been good to you?

Hammer: Very.

SSS: What was Russia like?  Was it all big fur hats and vodka?

Hammer:  (laughs) No, that was a bummer.  We got there with the intention of finding some unique breaks and exploring the culture, but we got completely skunked.

SSS: What do you make of the New Jersey Surf Scene?

Making the Most of the Jersey Scene (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

Hammer: I think it is great.  We have a really active ocean year round and we get waves that are amazing.  There has been so much growth in the sport in recent years and I think that the progression is awesome.  There are so many guys that are surfing so well right now and I think it is great that people are taking advantage of the beautiful ocean that we have.

SSS:  What do you say about the idea of localism and the growth in crowds? 

Hammer:  I think it is ridiculous.  This is not Pipeline.  I understand that certain breaks need regulation, especially in places where the conditions can put people in the way of serious harm, but that is not the case with Jersey.  When we get some real size that thins the pack plenty, and on any given day you can find a beach break to yourself if you look around.

Sam, Taking Advantage of a Thin Herd (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

SSS: So localism is a dead issue in your eyes?

Hammer:  Localism is for people who don’t get out and see the world.  If people did they would realize that everyone is a tourist somewhere. 

SSS: And in Jersey we have this whole “Benny Go Home Thing” too.

Hammer:  Yeah (laughs).  I don’t get that.  I know some kids who work for tips that are like “I wish these Bennys would leave.”  They just don’t get it.  Tourism is such an important part of New Jersey. We have amazing beaches and people want to experience them.  Surfing is so much fun, and who can blame people for wanting to get in the water.  Plus, if you are any good, you will still get your waves.  Sure, someone might get in your way now and then, but is that really a big deal?

SSS: As a Jersey surfer, I take it as a point of pride to see that you are getting waves and traveling the world.  It validates the fact that we do get good waves and there is plenty of great surfing here.  I know a signifier of the Jersey Scene is the Smith Optics Garden State Grudge Match and you are the returning champion two years running.  Do you plan on defending the belt this year?

Hammer:  Absolutely.  I love that contest.  With so many awesome surfers in the state I want to surf my best for the Grudge Match. Everyone who enters really wants to win and so there is a lot of tension and it is super competitive.  In the water there is a lot of Jockeying and everyone is focused on getting the best waves possible.

SSS: So no intentions of giving the belt up?

Hammer: (Laughs) Absolutely not.  I am going to hold it down for as long as I can. Everyone in New Jersey respects the Grudge Match. It is where the best surfers in the state come together with one goal in mind, to be the champion.  People outside of the state recognize the Grudge Match for what it is too, so it allows for a higher level of exposure.

Everyone in NJ has a Grudge. Sam Knows How to Handle His. (Photo: Donald Cresitello)

SSS: Is there a certain amount of trash talk involved?  It seems like there is a theatrical element to the thing like the WWE.

Hammer: This is New Jersey. You can’t expect it any other way.

SSS: Has anyone threatened to body slam you off of the pier before?

Hammer: No, but if they thought they might win by doing it they probably would. (laughing)

SSS: The rivalries are real though?

Hammer:  Sure.  New Jersey Surfers have so much of pride. I know that there are some people that are not happy with the fact that I won last year.  It was a really tight competition and the final heat between Gessler and I came down to the closing moments.

SSS: Do you feel your knowledge of the waves along Casino Pier played a major factor?

Hammer: Wave knowledge goes a long way, especially in shifting conditions and Casino Pier is in my backyard.  It means a bunch to be able to win contests there because it is such an awesome place to surf.  Everyone on the East Coast knows about Casino Pier and it has so much history.

Casino Pier at Sunrise

SSS:  Given that you are a three time champ and the only back-to-back winner of the Grudge Match do you have a bulls-eye on your back?

Hammer:  Of course.  I respect everyone who is in the event so much, but I want to keep the title and I know they are hungry.  Guys like Andrew Gessler, Mike Gleason and Frankie Walsh want to win as badly as I do and they surf so well.

SSS: Who else is surfing at a high level right now?

Hammer: Truthfully, anyone who qualifies for the event is a legitimate player.   Pat Schmidt is surfing really strong. So is P.J. Raia and Zach Humphreys.  There are just too many quality surfers to name them all. 

SSS: What about the guys who feel they belong but didn’t get invited to the dance?     

Hammer:  They need to get through the qualifier like everyone else.       

SSS: What about wave quality for the event?

A Couple of These Waves and Sam Might Be Champ Again (Photo D. Cresitello)

Hammer: Rob Cloupe and the whole crew do an amazing job waiting for optimal conditions.  Last year we had two North East storms in play.  When New Jersey is on, there are few places better in my opinion.  Pound for pound we get solid swells and the waves allow for a wide variety or maneuvers and a progressive approach.

SSS: So you are doing it for Jersey pride.

Hammer: Yep. 

SSS:  I know you started a surf camp in conjunction with Billabong?  What made you want to do that?

Hammer:  I saw it as a new opportunity to share my love of surfing and of the ocean with other people.  It is awesome to be able to provide individual attention to the students and see them get as stoked about the sport as I am. 

SSS:  Have you seen a number of your students fall in love with the sport?

Hammer: Definitely.  Surfing is one of those things that you just can’t explain in words no matter how hard you try.  It is really cool to see the look on people’s faces the first time they ride a wave.

SSS:  I know that the camp was successful this year.  Is it something you are going to continue?

Hammer: Definitely.

Who Can't Use a Pointer from One of Jersey's Best? (Photo D. Cresitello)

SSS:  What else is on the horizon?

Hammer:  Mike Gleason and I are planning on tow surfing big waves in a partnership with Red Bull and ABC in the near future. We have been tracking storms for some time now and are looking at running a mission between September and December.

SSS:  Where?

Hammer: Not letting the cat out of the bag on that one. (laughs)

 SSS: Anything else?

Hammer:  The premier of The Dark Fall by Alex DePhillipo at the House of Blues in Atlantic City will be on August 13th. We are also starting work on Get in the Van II.  Brian Nevins, Joe Carter and LaVecchia make hysterical movies and this is guaranteed to be good.

SSS:  Well, I appreciate you spending some time.  Keep representing Jersey well.  Maybe we can catch up again in the future.

Hammer:  Sure thing.

 

*Special thanks to Tim Bourne for his technical support on this publication and to Donald Cresitello for the great photos.

There are plenty of happenings in the Surf Community as the summer chugs along full speed ahead.  With so many things to choose from the only question is how to get it all in?

For those looking to help raise money and awareness for the fight against Autism there is the SEA PaddleNYC.  Stand-Up Paddlers will join friends and family to trek the waters around Manhattan.  With a distance of 28 miles each participant is taking up an awesome challenge for a great cause.  The Paddle will be taking place on August 13th.

On that same evening in Atlantic City the premier of The Dark Fall will be taking place at the House of Blues.  Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.  This is an awesome film about New Jersey Surfing and is a must see.

The iMatter Surf Camp for Children with Autism is taking place on August 14th in Westhampton NY.  This is such an awesome way to get people in touch with the ocean.

For folks in Central Jersey, or anyone willing to travel to compete, the Big Sea Day Surf Contest is taking place in Manasquan.  Entry forms can be found here.  There is a division for everyone, so if you want to get out and test your skills against your fellow surfer, do not delay.

Early reports indicate that we may have some swell on tap for all of these events too, so that will be a good thing.

In related competition news, The Garden State Grom Grudge Match waiting period opens on August 15th.  The event will take place in Seaside Park.  If you feel like you are an up-n-comer get your entry forms in, and get in the mix for the $1,500.00 in prize money that Smith Optics and others will be handing out to the big winner.

This is also a great time of year to look for some new gear.  Many of the local shops are running their sidewalk sales, so if you are in the market for a new pair of trunks or shades, this may be your time to pounce.

Thanks to everyone for checking in.  If you are like me we will try to get every last drop of fun out of this summer.  Make the most of it.