Archive for the ‘Surf Gear’ Category

After my last surf session, I am glad to report that I was officially able to peel back the hood on my winter wetsuit.  Sure, I still need gloves and boots, but the hood was off.  Popping the top is always a great sign of things to come, but it leaves me in a bit of a dilemma in terms of my gear. 

Brinley says, "time to pop the top."

When it came time to purchase a winter suit, I maxed out and went with a 6 millimeter O’Neill, and in February I generally have few regrets about this.  But, in the transitional seasons I find myself too warm in the big daddy, as the suit is affectionately referred to, but too cold in my 3 millimeter.

I realize that this is very convenient problem and that plenty of people in the world should wish to have such worries.  I also understand that this “dilemma” hardly warrants blog space, but if you have read this far I will share my options with you as I see them:

  1. I buy a 4 or maybe a 5 millimeter suit for the transitional seasons, which in New Jersey amounts to a month in the spring and a month in the fall.
  2. I stop whining and suck it up, wait for a warm spell and forget about winter altogether.   
  3. I buy a one millimeter top to put on under my 3 millimeter suit, and let my lower half, including my spindly legs, freeze. 

Being that I usually ascribe to the sentiment “less is more,” I am inclined to go with option 2.  After all, it is May already.  But there is still one deciding factor to contend with, and that is the reports from MagicSeaWeed, Localswell, and Surfline. 

Winter days will come again...

If the stars align, and a peak swell should develop where I want hours of water time in absolute comfort, I will be off to buy that suit.  Of course this is wishful thinking on my part.  The reports look marginal at best.  None-the-less, I am only an impulse buy away from having the session of my life! 

I can hear the wetsuit makers praying for waves- it is money in their coffers after all.  And the best part about it is I can hear them so clearly without that damn hood on my head.

I hear ya dog. Summer time is cool.

Yesterday’s surf session was fun. The south swell lingered and the afternoon sunshine was rejuvenating.

I also had the chance to surf an old break with a good buddy, and I watched him go all time on his classic longboard. Tim is primed for his Costa Rica trip!

And the best news is that my feet were toasty thanks to the folks at Inlet Outlet Surf Shop in Manasquan. All wetsuit gear is 30% off, if you are in need head on down.

Just one question… Is that surfer still in the woods?

I know that when surfers plunk down sixty bucks on a pair of wetsuit boots they are not making a lifelong committment.  I am fully aware that these boots, and even the gloves and suits for that matter, are consumer products with a shelf life in alignment with the average Hollywood relationship.  I also hypothesize that there is some grand marketing plan behind it all; with a CEO looking at the prototype, asking his team of designers, “are you sure that these boots will fall apart after six months of normal use? Because that will truly alter my bonus and our bottom line if they don’t.”

None the less, and maybe because I am a cheap SOB, I feel like these products should offer more of a return on the investment.  Afterall, when they are through being useful, the rubber generally ends up in a landfill, free to release toxic compounds for generations to come.  So why, as a half-awake buyer, should I not anticipate a long and happy marriage with this costly gear?

So fast forward to my second season in my Infinity 7mm boots.  Snug as a bug in a rug when purchased, but more torn than a pair of Union Solider boots during the Crossing of the Delaware, as the second February came closing in. 

I knew I was in trouble given their current state of repair and the 36 degree water temperatures.  So I borrowed a bottle of this product that is essentially rubber cement glue on A-Rods vitamins, slathered every hole in my gear, and paddled out for a friendly Sunday surf session.

As soon as the waves wrapped around my ankles I knew I was in trouble.  My boots took on water, or should I say ice water, faster than an oil company raises gasoline prices.

Still, I decided to play through the pain.  I was suited up, and the waves were glassy and fun.  About an hour into the afternoon my foot began to throb mercilessly.  I will spare you the dramatics, and let you know that I dodged a few more waves and then grabbed one for home.  

The glue did help with this hole... I think...

The run, I mean limp, up the beach was excruciating.  The rock solid sand, coupled with the ice and snow, made matters worse.  By the time I reached the car I was cursing these blasted boots, and the glorified Elmer’s Glue. 

Sure my digits were intact, right down to the smallest toe, but my session was cut short, and that is the point right?  For sixty bones you might think I could get a little bang for my buck.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…

I know, “summer is over and the blog dies.  Go figure.  This guy is a light weight anyway.” 

“Another one hit wonder and blah, blah, blah!”  Trust me, I have heard it all a hundred and three times before.  But not so fast.

Winter swells have yet to come.  Daniel is officially off the PCT.  He finished his hike and I know he is looking forward to getting back in the water.  Having a surf buddy always helps drag a person out of the gloom and doom.

On top of that my friend Basil has figured out how to make a board for under a hundred bucks.  I won’t give you all of the detail, because, well… I really don’t know how the hell he did it.  The pictures speak for themselves.  I can tell you that the board actually rode last week in thigh high wind swell though. 

Granted, it is a prototype and the kinks were numerous, but when you combine Basil’s tenacious nature with his natural understanding of craftsmanship, I have no doubt that he will make a board for any quiver.  I repeat, under a hundred bucks.

Take that China!

The Finished Product and the Maker

...From Humble Beginnings

 

According the Basil, "the holes make it float." Of course they do.

 

A Sweet Fin Sets this Board Apart

Looking Damn Near Done

I also had someone give me a board.  Sure, my halo is bent and rusty; my angelic wings are singed but when someone gives you a board you have to figure that you have SOME good karma left.

Life Smiles on Those Who Smile

The nose needs some repair, but the glassed in neon fins make me want to surf in corduroy OP shorts while wearing a pink Gotcha tank top.  February can’t come soon enough!

Other than that I am hear to tell you that Seasandsurf has yet to die.  It just rises and falls with the autumn tide.

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.

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

August 1st clearly indicates that we are entering the home stretch of summer and it is time to plan accordingly.  It is time to ask ourselves, “if I am not doing this now, when am I doing it?”  Summer does not wait for us and it is fleeting by its very nature.

So here are some things to consider.  The Big Sea Day Surfing Contest is taking place at Manasquan Inlet on August 14th and 15th.  There are a wide variety of divisions scheduled, so if you have an inkling to compete get the entry form here.  If you are more inclined to get down there and take it all in, hop on your bike and make your way to the shoreline. 

This is assuming that we have waves.  The CI Board Demo took place (or should I say did not take place) on Saturday in Manasquan in an ocean that looked like a lake.  I suppose the old axiom holds true that “you can plan the picnic, but you can’t plan the weather.”

The Gaslight Anthem plays in Asbury Park on Thursday.  It promises to be a great show for those who are holding tickets.  I think they have sold the venue out though.

Traditionally, August has the ability to make or break a summer of surfing in the Mid-Atlantic Corridor.  So as we enter the final phase of summer 2010 we need to collectively hold our breath, cross our fingers and rub our lucky rabbit’s feet that the waves start to fill in, as the basin looks empty right now

Also, there is a premiere of the movie Dark Fall taking place in Atlantic City, at the House of Blues on August 13th.  The film trailer looks amazing.

I for one am particularly antsy as I just picked up my 5’8” Quasar from Essence Surf.  It does not look like it will we need much to get it moving, but flat conditions are flat conditions.  Of course if you have a SUP you are still in business. The Surfer Environmental Alliance is sponsoring the Sea Paddle NYC on August 13th.  Participants are raising money to fight Autism.  It is just another example of surfers making a difference.  Thanks for checking in.  Stay Stoked!