Posts Tagged ‘Destruction’

We had some good waves last weekend in New Jersey.  The March winds blew and blew, the passing storm shook the trees and filled the lakes, and in the wake a nice swell persisted in the face of howling offshores.

While surfing on Sunday I found myself feeling immensely grateful for the opportunity to be in the water.  It is a small miracle to be able to paddle out, to have legs and arms and a body that will allow it.  It is an equal miracle to have found surfing at all; to be given the opportunity.

Rarely is this gratitude lost on me, but last weekend it was more pronounced.  With the devastation in Japan I could not help but reflect on how quickly life can turn.  The phrase, “that there is no day promised to you” came to mind as I watched the sun weave its way through the mid-March clouds.

Internally I had a flickering reminder that “there is no wave promised to you either.”  Life can change on a dime, all the more reason to give thanks for the opportunities we have, as we are having them.

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.

Below are ten very unofficial suggestions you may wish to adopt as resolutions for the year twenty-eleven.  Either way SeaSandSurf wishes you a year of peace and good times. 

1) Don’t hate on the beach that is growing on the floor of your car.  Sand is beautiful.

2) Drink more pre-surf coffee so you can stay warm during those winter sessions.

3) Don’t doubt it- when it’s your turn to go, paddle and go.

4) Road trip!

5) If you find yourself mind surfing in the middle of the afternoon then you must be doing something right.

6) Don’t let the boss know.

7) Surf on a day that is beyond your comfort zone, even if it means a surf trip to Tahiti.

8) Go ahead, hoot that stranger in the line-up into the wave of the day.

9) Snake one for old time’s sake.

10)  If anyone can get away with wearing a pair of purple Uggs you can. No, for real!

A special thanks to Daniel “Surfer Into the Woods” Yackewych for helping to formulate the scientific list above.

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.

Sharks can clear the water with the flash of a fin.  That is never going to change.  But can you imagine not being able to get in the water at all because the line-up is swarmed with Sea Nettles?  It sounds crazy I know, but it may not be far from reality. 

A sting from one of these things is worse than bumping into a hornet’s nest.  The article in the Asbury Park Press clearly documents how they may become a monster of our own making.  Check it out.  Stay informed.  Do your part to keep our oceans clean.