Archive for the ‘Surf Tips’ Category

Surfers Waving

It has come to my attention that with the increasing numbers of beginner surfers who have recently graduated to the intermediate level, many have learned how to stand up and ride waves, but the majority have missed out on the unwritten laws of the hard core surfing devote.  There was time years ago back when I learned how to surf when these laws were bestowed upon ever novice surfer early on by “law of the club and the fang”.   What this means is that when a beginner, usually under the age of 15 (adult learners just did not happen back then) caused an infraction of one of said laws he/she was ridiculed, kicked out of the water, beaten, thrown in a garbage can, dunked in the water or subject to numerous other forms of punishment.

Only after being punished was one informed about the rule he had broken.  This was the way of things since surfing had come to the modern world.  In earlier days surfing was a bit more rough then it is now.  The boards were not as beginner friendly.  Wetsuit technology was primitive at best, as was surf forecasting.  Do you believe there was a time when we did not have the internet, cell phones or web cams?!!!?  If a surfer wanted to know how the surf was he had to actually get in his car and check it himself. (to my female surfers I am not being sexist, I am just using the figurative he for this narrative.  I actually have no problem with the sex of another surfer, or what they ride for that matter as long as they follow the rules and are respectful) Before the internet the only surf forecasting was the weather channel and NOAA radio alerts.  From these two entities one would have to make his own inferences on what the waves might be like.

Things have changed.  Now if you disciplined another surfer in the above manner for getting out of line you could be thrown in prison.  I believe I penned it before that we are now in the Era of Kook running things as oppose to the elite.  There are more of them and they spend more money.  Lets face it kooks hold down decent jobs and surf when they have time.  Us hardcore guys surf all the time, have no money and can barely hold down a job unless we found one that easily catered to our addiction.  What I would like to do here on SurfingRuinedMyLife.net is every so often pick one or two of these unwritten rules of surfing and explain it so that maybe just one novice or graduate may get a glimpse into why many of us guru’s always seem so salty these days.

The Rule of Two

My car only has two seats in it when I go surfing, Mine and one for a passenger.  The back seat is always down and is for storing my boards.  Most days it only has one seat for me.  For myself usually I am surfing well known, heavily surfed lineups that are already pretty busy by the time I get there.  At these locales I like to go alone.  I am not worried about the buddy system because there will be plenty of buddies to share with at the break.  Just come surf Rincon on a Saturday when its decent to understand what I mean.

You know when you are in a public space and on the wall there is a sign that says “Maximum Occupancy” and then there is a certain number.  Those signs are put up to inform users that if that number is exceeded it can be really dangerous.  At surf spots there are no such signs.  Contrary to popular belief these spots have a maximum occupancy, which is defined by the number of people that can logically catch and ride waves for the conditions and size of the break.  For example a wave like Rincon is a very large point break with anywhere from three to twelve distinct take off zones and many other minor ones on any given swell.   If its eight foot with six to eight waves in a set every fifteen minutes with smaller ones in between the spot could easily hold 150 surfers safely.

If it is only six foot on a dropping swell with only one or two waves in a set and those sets are 20-30 minutes apart 150 guys is going to be a shit fight out there.  Lets take a spot like Hammonds, its a reef break with a small take off zone.  Even at its most consistent it can only comfortably handle around thirty guys.  When one checks a spot besides just considering the surf one must also consider the crowd.  I always ask myself when checking a spot “is there room for me”.  The best way of answering this question is to see how many waves have went unridden in the interim you are watching it.  I know if I see one wave go by that no one is on then there is room for me.  On the other hand if I see six guys fighting for every wave coming in then I know I should go someplace else.

If I had brought a friend with me, then I would need to see two waves go unridden.  If I brought three friends then three waves and so on and so forth.  For this reason I usually go surf alone.  Not everyone is a social recluse thus I will allow bringing a buddy along.  When I do roll with more then one other person I try and go to spots that I know are going to be less crowded.  Never bring a crew to a some what secret spot, or localized spot.  By yourself you may be able to sneak in and get some fun waves.  With a crew its not going to happen.

I can always tell the days Rincon is going to be too crowded when all I see are SUV’s and Vans in the parking lot each one chuck full of eager surfers.   If I see the majority is cars then I know its mostly ones and twos getting out there.  I am an advocate for car pooling as much as the next guy, but if we all took our own cars down to surf then the lot would always be full thus deterring other surfers purely cause there is no place to park.  Next time you decide to go for a surf and have an itch to call all your buddies and load up your Nissan Pathfinder, maybe think again and just call your one bud who owns a Honda Civic and roll with him.

Tune in Next Time for Lesson two: Surfing and Cell Phones

Surfers watching sunset

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Before I get into this week’s UCB I have a bit of an announcement to make.  As everyone knows there are only two more Thursdays left in the fall quarter.  As of right now the race is pretty tight between I think three people and there a few trailers in there as well.  This quarter in addition to the two more blogs up for grabs I am going to put up a chance at a bonus double points blog to be written on the 31st. So here is the deal the topic for this one has to be something really special or I wont write it.  I will allow an unlimited amount of entries for it.  With double points it could be the difference between a victory or not so get busy.


That being said this has been I believe the most successful UCB quarter ever and I would like to personally thank everyone for participating.  This week Kooky Kyle takes the win with the topic “what goes into the perfect surfboard quiver”.  I feel that this topic comes a sort of mystery, most surfers having no idea what type of boards are appropriate for them.  I being a rather credible source on the issue thought I would shed some light on the confusion.  (For those who may question my background I spent nearly eight years of my life working in surf shops, ten doing ding repairs and about six as a psuedo professional surfer)

What Should I ride?

Tool Box

A quiver is a toolbox, you put the tools in that are necessary for the job.  This is a theorem that for years I did not hold true to just as a result of pure ignorance. I will elaborate.  When I was 18 my principle short board was a 6’2 x 18” x 2” Squaretail with so much rocker there was not flat point in the board.  Then I had a groveler 5’8 fishy thing and finally 6’10 pintail gun.  I mainly surfed only NJ.  The short board and the fish were fine but the large gun for a kid who barely was pushing 130lbs (heck Im still only about 135) was a bit ridiculous especially in a wave scene like NJ.


The only reason I owned that board was because I thought I needed a big board for when the waves got sizable and I was just copying what I saw in the magazines.  The same could be said for my short board, which was way too big for me as well.  Like I stated earlier I did not know any better.

Your Perfect Board


My Perfect Board



Before we get into the quiver, a group of boards, lets talk about your own personal perfect board.  This is the corner stone of everyone’s quiver and with out an understanding of this board, building the perfect quiver is nearly impossible.  All you will end up with is a collection of trash.  The perfect board is a surfer’s go to board for any conditions.  It is the surfboard that if you were stuck on a deserted island and left with only one board you would choose.  Its your all around short board or long board depending on what you ride.


It took me years to get this board right and I am still refining it.  Technically one always should because as your surfing changes, the waves you ride change and your body changes over the years so should this one.  Im sure when I am fifty I wont be physically able to ride what I do now.  For me this board is 5’10 x 18 1/8” x 2 1/16” squash tail tons of rocker.  I have had plenty of success with this template for the last six years.  Many people comment that I ride too small of boards but then they forget that I have not gained any significant weight since I was 21.


Back east I rode my boards with less rocker to fit the erratic flat spots and condition changes, but when I moved to the west coast where the waves are more conform I found more success with fuller rocker out lines.  Obviously if you weight 185lbs and are 6’1 you should not be riding my 5’10 you would most likely want a 6’1 or 6’0 a bit wider and a bit thicker to accommodate your size.


Same thing goes for ability as well.  If you are the same size as me but have only been surfing for 3 years then my board wont work for you either.  Once again you might want something a bit thicker, wider and longer with much less rocker.  Your quiver needs to suit you first and foremost.  Years ago we believed that everyone should ride the same board regardless of your size or ability; since then we have all been enlightened.

Building Your Perfect Quiver


Surfboards are not cheap and getting the right ones can be an expensive headache of trial and error.  It took me nearly ten years to get a quiver Im happy with.  First off a surfer should always have two of this perfect board as described above because surfboards are very fragile and break and ding all the time.  There is nothing more frustrating to me then riding a board Im not happy with when the surf is firing because I broke my favorite short board.  If I have a duplicate in my quiver then I can just pull this one out and go to town.


I personally keep three copies of this board in my quiver, but I surf a bit more then your average person even now with my shitty full time job.  The next board that should be considered is a step up.

The Step Up


One of my step ups



Now your step up should be geared to the waves you want to ride.  I personally hate big waves.  Once it gets more then double overhead I don’t really have all that much fun.  After that size it always feels more like survival then surfing.  My step up is a 5’11 x 18 ¼ x 2 1/8 round tail with lots of rocker.


This board is only a little bigger then my all around short board but a bit wider and thicker for paddle.  This is the board I got to when things get dicey on my short board.  I also keep a 6’1 x 18 x 2 rounded pin tail for macking beach break.  This is my barrel board.  I have made some of the most ridiculous hair raising tubes on this shape.  A barrel board is one that should be shaped bit more narrow and thinner then your normal short board.  It should also contain a round tail or pin tail combination and be 2-3 inches bigger then your normal short board.


The barrel board is designed with one purpose, getting shacked.  This board should be able to hold a rail in the steepest sections the waves through at you.  It is also the board you must rely on in the most critical of moments.   Basically your step up board should be what you ride those hand full of days your home break gets outside of its normal comfort zone and a key board for travel.



A gun is a term that is loosely thrown around in surfing far too often if you ask me.  I am definitely guilty of the offense.  A gun is the board you ride when it gets scary.  This is your big wave board; triple overhead and bigger, when you pull a gun out of your garrison there should be butterflies in your stomach.  Most likely it is a day where the waves could kill.  Now like I said Im not a fan of big waves.  My gun is a 6’3 x 18 ¼ x 2 3/16 pin tail.   I have rode this board maybe ten times in my entire life.  I don’t go looking for giant waves and on the rare occasion that I find myself in a chest thumping mood I will pull out this board and go up north in search of fear.


Now if I lived in Hawaii a 6’3 gun would be laughable where the average gun is anywhere from 6’8-7’10.  Like I said your quiver is a toolbox.  I don’t live in Hawaii I live in Santa Barbara where we rarely see waves over double overhead and even that is rare.  Personally I feel a 6’3 is too big as well, but every now and again it comes in handy for a mission up north.

Rhino Chasers and Tow Boards


I cant give much help here because I don’t have the desire to ride waves the size of houses.  A rhino chaser is a gun made for waves in the twenty foot plus range.  They are what is ridden at Waimea, Todos, Mavericks and every other BIG wave spot in the world.  Most start at around 8’10 to as big as 11 and 12 feet.  I  would not consider purchasing one of these unless you live in a place near a big wave spot and believe yourself ready for the challenge.  I know when I was tested in such conditions it had me paddling back to the beach like a scared little girl.


Tow boards are super narrow and weighted down with lead usually in the 5’6 – 6’0 size.  I have only seen these boards in surf shops here or in production and have never rode one nor desire too.

Small Wave Boards


A good small wave board is gold in any surf locale.  No matter where you decided to settle down there are going to be terrible small gutless days, some places more then others.  You can either spend these days sitting around watching Brady Bunch re-runs on television or surfing.  I choose the latter.  This where a good small wave board comes into the picture.  Picking the right small wave stick is totally dependant upon how you want to surf tiny waves.   Do you want to still try and get high performance on it or do you want to cruise.


A lot of this is ability dependant as well.  If you are not great at surfing then most likely you should seek out a small wave board that will allow you the most float and maneuverability.  If you are looking to shred in the miniscule then you want a scaled down, stubby lower rocker version of your all around short board.  For me this is a 5’7 x 18 1/4 x 2 2/16 wide swallow tail.


Others lean towards keel fishes, which offer great float and glide in even the worst of conditions.  Round nose fishes give plenty of float and offer the rider a chance to ride a super small board with a fair amount of maneuverability.

Fun Shapes & Long Boards

Everyone should own a long board in their quiver.  You never know when you will have to rehab an injury, teach someone how to surf or just want to go out and chill.  I had never felt the need to own a long board till I moved out to Santa Barbara where there are tons of perfect point break set ups that break under knee high most of the time.  There is nothing more fun then cruising down a perfect point peeler on a good long board.


Long boards and fun shapes are also the unskilled surfers and big man small wave machines.

Specialty Boards

Specialty boards are those that are not necessary at all but in some cases fun or even cool to have.  Alias and hulls are perfect examples of these.  Who really needs a fin less surfboard that only works in perfect waves and is near to impossible to ride?  When you snag a wave on one and feel that unimpeded glide it’s a pretty cool feeling.  Retro boards are another one.  Every true surfer trying to reach guru status needs at least three classic boards from contrasting time periods and know how to ride them.  I currently have two but at one time had four.  How can we create new ideas with out revisiting the old ones from time to time?


Slab boards are another specialty board that has also recently came into modern quivers since everyone loves slabs.  A slab is a wave that comes into shallow water from deep water too fast to properly form thus causing a mutant triple up tube.  The Box in Western Australia is a perfect example of this.  Slab boards should be geared specific to the different slabs but rule of thumb should be your regular short board but thinner, more rocker, more narrow and pined out.


Basically the perfect quiver is not harmonious but specific to each surfer and his needs. It’s a toolbox.  End result you should own the boards that allow you to have the must fun.  At the end of the day that is what surfing is all about anyway.

My perfect quiver circa 2006, 2 5’10’s 2 6’1’s and a 6’3

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Mark Occhilupo has arguably one of the best backsides in surfing, ever.

This weeks UCB makes a victor of Kooky Kyle whom is getting yet again back on a roll with two wins in a row.  If he gets a hat trick (three in a row) he will be awarded an extra half point.  He suggested I right about the essence of the backside bottom turn.  Since it is officially Rincon season I figured why not.

Backside surfing is the proverbial double edged sword.  Those who have it mastered are either goofy foots living in the northern hemisphere or world class surfers in general.  Everyone respects a surfer with a strong backside.  It’s the corner stone to solid surfing, the ability to go both left and right with out a care in the world.


For me being a goofy foot born and bred in the mainly right dominated beach break of northern New Jersey backside surfing was never a consideration but just another instinct like breathing.  The funny thing is I surf with so many people, especially here in Santa Barbara who always are hesitant to go backside.  It seems too, that regular foots will always take a right over a left when they can find them, while a goofy will take a right over left at times.


Personally I almost find it more enjoyable to have my back against the wall.  Surfing backside allows me in many cases to fit better into the barrel and draw that picturesque backside bottom turn.  The backside bottom turn may be the one of the most ascetic yet highly functional moves in surfing.   I mean lets face it good backside surfing is completely based off your ability to get out in front of the wave any way.  How is that done?  The backside bottom turn.


I find it to be one of my favorite feelings, next to getting barreled and doing a massive air.  There is nothing like the way a perfect backside bottom turn rings home through your lions.  The initial drop straight down in front of the wave pulling as far straight as you can before losing the wave.  Then at the moment when it feels like all could be lost, make it or break it, you lean back on your inside rail with your back foot, un weight your front foot and all of a sudden with all the natural pull of the ocean and your body weight you feel the inertia of being catapulted back into the steadily crashing lip.


The size, length and shape of the wave will distinguish the extent and gnarlieness of the turn itself.  After all you can do the best bottom turn in the world but if it does not amount to anything then it was all for nil.  Its winter time now so for me it is finally back to nothing but long fast hard backside bottom turns for ridiculous amounts of distance at many of the various points around, but mainly reserved for Rincon.  I love winter.

Here is my lousy backside bottom turn.

Here it is closer up.

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