Archive for the ‘surfing’ Category

De La Soul, rap group extraordinaire, had an album out back in the day titled Three Feet High and Rising.  And while I could probably remember 80%  of the lyrics for Hip-Hop karaoke, it is not the music that stays with me, rather it is the album title.

Three Feet High and Rising is the perfect way I like to think of an incoming southerly swell.  If you are familiar with the album you may remember the refrain where Posdnous asks, “how highs the water ma’ma” and Plug Two replies “three feet high and rising.”

There are times when I am paddling out and I will hear this as clear as a bell and I just need to laugh.  Or even better, there are times when I am hoping for waves and some random object will make me stop and think, “yes, that would be the perfect wave height for me right now.”

Hence the red fire plug.  I passed it on my drive yesterday, and it caught my eye.  All I could think to myself was, how highs the water ma’ma?”




As the last winter storm pushed out to sea it left some damn fine surf in its wake.  The waves turned on for an a few hours in the middle of the day and the wind shifted off-shore.  It should not go unsaid that the water temperatures were hovering just above 37 degrees, which meant that the crew who made it out were able to feast as opposed to famine. 

Below are a few of the photos I snapped. 

No need for a GPS to find your way here.

An unknown rider summoning his inner guide

Make a right at the light and go straight into night

More tube time than the Holland Tunnel

A mid-winter traffic jam

With barely a soul to see


Which suits this guy just fine

So, the last great swell that New Jersey and the rest of the East Coast had has gotten plenty of press- as well it should.  There are the pictures on surfline as well as Mikey Ciaramella’s sequence of the week.  Localswell has also posted a bunch of great pictures which they always do.  Kudos to them.

That being said, and I know I am late to the party, I thought I would share a few of the pictures I snagged.  Central Jersey was absolutely firing and the breaks were completely empty.

A Perfect Peeling Right.  Well Over Head.

A View From the Dunes

In other news I recently touched base with one of Jersey’s favorite sons again, Mr. Gene Wahl.  There are big things happening with Essence Surf and he gave me some great information.  Check back right after Thanksgiving for the complete interview.

Another shaper that is beginning to shine is Basil Giletto.  After his first ever wood board worked with some success he jumped right back in.  The pictures that follow are of his second attempt, and this time he made a single fin fish.

The board is currently sitting in my garage and awaiting a maiden voyage.  The prospects look bright.  I feel guilty putting wax on the thing though.  It is just to damn good-looking! 

However, when the waves come it will be going out.

Video still of storm map (© The Weather Channel)It can’t be easy to be a Gulf Coast Surfer right now.  The spill is terrible and getting worse, jobs are scarce and now they cannot even pray for waves.  Normally, they must watch the charts, and when tropical depressions like the one in the news begin to form they start waxing boards, changing fins and staking mental claims to their favorite breaks.  But now what?  Now a storm is harbinger of trouble and possible environmental destruction- not of tubes and all day sessions.  Surfers prying for flat spells? Is this what the world has come to? 

Others however, can carry on with business as usual, and so that means hoping for waves.  There looks to be an off chance that the Mid-Atlantic Corridor could see something to ride for the weekend. While it is nothing to get overly excited about, there could be some small scale southerly wind swell.  Monitor tides and local flags for the best chance to get a wave.

If you are lucky, the swell may coincide with the Channel Island Board Demo which takes place on the 24th and 25th.  For my friends on the west coast, Pacific Beach in San Diego is the place to be on Saturday.  Ocean City, Maryland will have the demo on Saturday and Ocean City, New Jersey will be holding on Sunday.  If you happen to make it, feel free to check in with a report. I would give you all of the dates but you can get them here. There are many more stops to come, so get down to the beach!

I recently spoke with Sam Hammer, the famous Jersey ripper.  Sea Sand Surf will be getting together with him to discuss all things surfing in the coming weeks.  I can’t wait to find out about his surf camp.  Stay tuned.

Finally, Daniel is still in the woods.  If you are not looking in on his blog, I suggest you do.  He is on the adventure of a lifetime, and I got the start of Surfer Into the Woods Part II last time he was off of the trail.  I am sure we can finish it up in the coming days. 

Before he left we had a great debate about whether The Drums had created one of the great surf songs of all time with Let’s Go Surfing.  I thought they had. Daniel thought it was a 80s rip off.  Will someone please settle the score?  Is this an all-time surf song or is it trash?  

I noticed today that Surfline has posted a preview of the J-Bay ASP contest which is forthcoming, and it got me to thinking of all of the people who will not be surfing in the contest.  I should probably preface anything else that I write here by stating that J-Bay has always been my dream wave.  As a teenager, I covered my walls and locker with pictures of the right hand point break which I snipped from Surfer Magazine.  I should also state, that I am realistically ill-equipped to ride the place well, but hell, a guy can dream.  All of this said, I will tell you that the first person you will not see surfing J-Bay in this contest is me.

I can almost hear Kelly Slater breathing a sigh of relief. Can you imagine if he lost his chance at a 10th world title because I actually got a decent barrel?

The rest of the surfing world is aware that Joel Parkinson will not be surfing either.  While he had a more realistic chance of winning the thing than I did, there was something with stitches and a gash and blood.  Those pesky fins!  Stick around and surf long enough, and you too will get to know the pain.

While being a long shot to grab the podium, I must tell you that LeBron James will not be in the contest.  Yes, he has dominated sporting news in recent weeks, but there is serious speculation about his ability to swim.  This makes his choice to play for the Miami Heat questionable, but I am sure he could get some endorsement cash for wearing a rubber ducky inner tube while drinking a Red Bull pool side.  Come on LeBron, think outside of the box man!

I will also tell you that neither President Obama nor Tony Hayward will be able to make it to the famed venue.  While both would like the chance to destroy some waves by unleashing their energy on the helpless ocean there is some concern that the devastation they will spew may be too much.  They do both have a willing sponsor in BP however.

Other names that you will not see on the 32 man roster are as follows: Barbara Streisand, Elmo, Mr. T, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Glen Beck and Betty White (although she is in the news a lot lately.)

Still, the contest stands to be a good one, and I am sure that I will spend hours mind surfing the waves like I did in high school.  This goes to prove the old axiom that the more things change, the more things stay the same.  


Simon Anderson, one of the greatest surfboard shapers in history and a visionary in design was once quoted as saying that “if you don’t have a relationship with a shaper where you can still get what you want, then that’s more of an issue of not fostering relationships,” than it is an issue of finding the right equipment.  As a surfer, these are words that I have recently taken to heart.  I have begun my quest to build these relationships that will allow my surfing to progress while keeping it local. 

But where to begin?  Well, I once fell in love with a girl from Toronto.  I told my father about this “relationship” and he laughed in my face.  I said, “pops, what are you laughing at.  This is the real thing.”  He laughed even harder.  

He said son, “that girl is a GUD.”  I thought, ok old man, now I know you are crazy.  What the hell is a GUD?  “Son” he said, “that girl is geographically undesirable.”  And wouldn’t you know it, as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. 

Using this philosophy, I decided that my relationship with a shaper should be geographically sound.  No GUD needed here.  I am no longer a giddy teenager, and my last relationship with a faceless Hawaiian shaper did nothing for me.  I am a Jersey surfer and I need a Jersey shaper. 

Enter in Gene Wahl, owner and lead shaper for Essence Surf.  Now, anyone from Jersey knows that while the beach may be the soul of the place, Dirty Jersey has a steel drum industrial heart.  With this fact in place, it could not have been more appropriate that I slug it out in rush hour traffic to get to his shaping shop in the gritty teeth of the northern part of the state. 

The shop was what one might expect.  When I arrived the two bays were lit with florescent lights, moths circled at the mouth of the garage doors as the sun set; there was dust, power tools and the steady hum of work. 

Every Artist Needs a Muse

I had arranged to meet Gene through one of his former students and mutual friend, Tim Bourne.  Tim was there working on a shortborad for his fledgling label Identity Surf. It was in the glassing bay however that I met Gene Wahl, working with a student Dylan Jones.  Jones was taping off his board in preparation for airbrushing and Gene was there guiding his every step. 

Tim Bourne in the Shaper's Bay

When I finally interrupted their artistic meditation, Gene looked up, cigarette hanging from his lips, and he eyed me with curiosity.  He was immediately gregarious and welcoming.  Introductions were complete, and he dove back in with Jones headlong to the shaping process.  Gene, while not being disinterested in me, was knee-deep in teaching his craft to his student.  This is something that Wahl takes very seriously, as he later told me.  “At every stage, a new shaper needs guidance and encouragement.  When a student takes a class with me I want them to build a board that represents them as surfer and as a person.” 

Wahl (L) Works With Jones (R)

According to Dylan, he decided that he wanted to learn how to shape as a means to inspire him to surf more.  He has only been in the water for several sporadic weeks, but he “wants to make surfing a part of his life.”  One of the great aspects of his work with Gene and Essence Surf has been getting the chance to meet people who are as stoked about surfing as he is.  “My friends don’t really get it.  They thought I was crazy when I told them I was going to spend several weeks learning how to shape a board.  By coming to the shaping bay and working with Gene and the other people in the shop, I have found a group of people who identify with my passion for the sport.  I am just getting excited to christen the 7’2” funshape I have created.  At this point I just want to get in the water.” 

From Inception to Creation

As for Gene, he has been surfing for 20 years and has been shaping for 10.  After Dylan had applied the slick green color he concocted to the bottom of his masterpiece, Gene was able to turn his attention to me.  We talked about my favorite wave types and about boards that I have in my quiver.  He sized me up taking into account my build and years of experience telling me, “yeah dude, you are a stick with some gray hair, but that experience is an advantage.” 

I had expected that he would try to sell me on a standard shortboard.  Something with a fair amount of rocker, three fins and some pinched in rails.   We did discuss the advantages that a board like that might bring, but when taking inventory of my current quiver he noted that one of my boards, the 6’4’’ Local Motion can serve that purpose on the occasional hollow day. 

Take Me to Planet Quasar

In the end Gene suggested that I go for a pod shape that he has been experimenting with.  The board is appropriately named the Quasar and it borrows from the success of the other shapers like Rusty Preisendorfer.  “The Quasar is a mix between the Dwart and the Pod.”  Gene showed me a prototype and I was immediately sold.  He explained that I should ride the board 8 inches shorter than my standard shape.  “We will leave a little extra volume in the tail to make catching waves easier and the rails will allow you to make long arching carves and hold tight in the pocket in conditions up to head high.  The board will be fast and fun.”  He also suggested that I go with a 5 fin set up so that I can experiment as much as I want with fin placement. 

Gene explained the Essence Surf philosophy further to both Dylan and I as the last of the paint dried on Jones’ board.  “Not enough surfers pay attention to their boards.  Most people get a board off of the rack and ride it for a long time and then wake up one day and say ‘wow, you mean I have a choice.’  It is important that a surfer understand the benefits of having multiple boards in their quiver to meet the conditions, especially on the east coast where wave quality can be so varied.” 

A Sample of a Locally Grown Quiver

As with most relationships there was an open-ended quality to our meeting, but there were a few unique aspects regarding this entering into a surfer/shaper discussion in my back yard so to speak.  The first is that Gene sent me away with a board to experiment with, so I was immediately stoked by the generosity.  Secondly, he gave me an idea of when he will order my blank and promised a future discussion about the particulars of my board.  Neither of these things are going to happen over the internet or via a phone call. 

With all of that in place, the darkness of a late Jersey night settled in.  Dylan was ready to airbrush the other side of his board and Gene was more than prepared to walk him through the steps.  As he explained, “after a student takes my class they are always welcomed to come back and work in the shaping bay on their next project.  I just want people to be excited to surf and find equipment that enhances their surfing experience.”  As I piled in the car and cranked the windows down I heard the generator kick up with its manic whirl and the airbrush gun hiss.  Dylan was immersed in his new found craft again and Gene Wahl was passing on the stoke that is the foundation of Essence Surf. 

The Essence of Essence Surf

As a note, I will post throughout the process of watching the Quasar go from blank to board, and I will review how it performs in the water.  Thanks to Gene for opening up the shaper’s bay at Essence Surf and letting me in.  Anyone interested in boards or learning to shape should contact Gene via the Essence Surf website.

The Earth Says Hello

Whenever I am faced with the decision about whether I should make it a long night out or a dawn patrol I have always chosen the latter.  To me there is little better than getting in the water and surfing just as the sun is breaking the horizon.  Crowds are usually at a minimum, and the wind almost always stays light so that conditions are clean and glassy.

This morning was no different. After almost two weeks without waves every surfer I know was waiting for the small swell that came our way today. This was evidenced by the number of people who were in the water with me at 6:00 am. The local crowd was in effect, with Travis “Big Hack,” “Step-Down” James and “Long Board” Dean all sitting at one of my favorite spots exchanging waves.  I was happy to join them.

The waves were small and summery.  It was like a few drops of water on the tongue while wandering the desert; just enough to keep you going but not enough to quench the thirst.

There were a few other faces that I did not recognize.  While waiting for a set I overheard their conversation, and I realized that localism is not dead, especially for the dawn patrol crowd.  One of the guys was barking about “some Guido who has been on the beach all summer, yelling and barking out orders to his friends and family.”  The guy went on with much vigor about how he “hopes to see him in the water one day.”

At Least For the DP

I would say that this alarmed me somewhat, but this was dawn patrol.  This was local hour, and I was somewhat glad that there was an inclination to regulate in the pack.  In fairness to everyone else, I will go squeeze in among the herbs and kooks for an afternoon session when the tide drops after 2:00 pm, and I fully expect a free for all of tourists and Bennies. 

That will be fine.  Locals can play nice in the sandbox then, just as long as we have the dawn patrol intact.