Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Told Ya So!

Here's an article in the NYT about the importance of paddling in surfing:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Few Websites You Should Have Bookmarked and Other Stuff

I just wrote an email to a student, the main thoughts of which I think ought to be broadcasted on this blog. It regards where to go to practice paddling/surfing when you're not in a lesson and don't have a car or a board. I've also been getting a lot of inquiries about how to go about finding a used longboard, so I'll address that here as well. First off, for paddling and whitewater catching practice I recommend that you take the train to 67th St. in Rockaway. There's a new shop there called Breakwater Surf Shop. It opens at 9am (one hour earlier than Boarders) and has rental boards. Now, be warned, their rentals are bottom of the line foam boards. I've ridden them myself and am not a total fan, but they will do the trick as far as paddling practice is concerned. The foamies at Boarders on 92nd St. are much better, but that means you'll have to surf 90th St. with a gazillion people. Boarders opens at 10am and you'll need to take the A to the S shuttle to 90th St. The third option is to take the LIRR to Long Beach and rent a foam board from Long Beach Surf Shop, then walk three blocks to the beach near Lincoln Boulevard. All of these rentals are going to run you $20-$30. We have one more week until Labor Day weekend which means that surfing is still restricted to only a few beaches. To see which beaches these are in Long Beach check this website: Long Beach Surfing Schedule. In Rockaway you can surf 61st-67th streets and at 90th. The hours are 9am-6pm, so if you want to surf wherever you can go before those hours, but you'll need your own board because the shops won't be open. Wherever you choose to surf, find the channels or lanes or spots in the water where you see the fewest amount of people. If it is crowded figure out who are the best surfers and do your best to stay out of their way. Do not go for set waves. Remember that it is okay for you to be on the "outside" when you are resting or practicing paddling, sitting on the board, etc., but when you want to catch a wave go to the inside and try a whitewater or an inside wave. Do not stay there, however, because you will be in the way if there are other surfers out. Just go back outside and rest and then go inside again to catch waves. Remember that  the ability to navigate a lineup with speed is going to make you a better surfer. Don't hesitate and don't lolly gag. If you are taking a wave that others are paddling for remember to give whomever is closer to the peak the right of way. If you are nervous about other people seeing you struggle, I recommend finding the emptiest spot of beach that you can. This will all get better after Labor Day, when surfing will be open at all beaches and at all times, until Memorial Day 2013. Still, if you are renting a board, you must go when the surf shops open. I recommend getting there right at the time they open to get a big enough board. Get anything from 9-10 ft. The bigger you are, err on the bigger side with your board choice. As far as going when the waves will be small enough, everyone needs to get comfortable and proficient at reading the buoys. There is one buoy that I use for surfing in our area of New York and norther New Jersey: Long Island Buoy. Make a bookmark folder called "Surfing" and put it in there. That is the buoy for Long Island. You look for the reading that says x amount of feet at x amount of seconds. The first reading is called "wave height" and the second is called "interval". Both bigger wave heights and longer intervals mean bigger waves. So if it's 2 ft at 14 sec, it actually might be good sized; likewise if it reads 8 ft at 5 sec, it will also be good sized, but in a different way. Ideal buoy readings for beginning surfers have wave heights from 1-4 ft. and intervals of 5-10 seconds. It's also good to check the buoy before you go and even if it doesn't quite translate right off of the bat, just go to the beach and you'll see what that reading translates to by looking at the water. You can also check the cameras. There is a great new camera stationed at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach (National Blvd.) and it gives a wonderful perspective on what the waves and wind are doing in the area: Allegria Surf Cam. There's also, which has link on this site. Surfline has 14 day forecasts. Those are what I use to schedule lessons. I have a premium membership at $70 a year. I find it to be incredibly useful, especially since I get live streaming cameras and forecasts on my iPhone. If you don't want to pay, however, the LI Buoy and the Allegria Surf Cam will do. If you use Surfline, be warned, they highlight days they say are going to be Fair-Good in green and since everyone uses the site those days can be really crowded, regardless of whether Surfline made the right call (believe it or not they are often wrong, and a little empirical research goes a long way, so just go to the beach yourself). All that said, it is still best if you get your own board so that you can go surf whenever you want, or at times that suit your schedule. Some of you have cars, some don't. I've told many people that Mint and Zip cars are awesome for surf missions. All you need is a pair of soft racks and your board. Now I am at the board part. None of you beginning surfers should be on a board less than 9 ft long. You need the length to get the right speed paddling, so that you can develop proper form and actually have the stability to stand up. If you want to ride shorter boards after you've become proficient that's totally fine. You'll still probably want to keep that longboard around for really small days. Always err on the side of bigger. If you see a 9'8" for $400 you should probably buy it. Some of you will have storage issues. Well, you can get on the list for a locker at Boarders and Breakwater is going to install units this winter. I think there might also be another board storage option out there. I've yet to research it. As for finding the boards, here are your options: Craigslist (NY/NJ), EBay (look for boards selling in NY/NJ), Saturdays, Pilgrim, Maritime, Unsound, Long Beach Surf Shop, Atlantic Beach Surf Shop, and Sundown Surf and Ski (in Levittown). I just found my 9'5" Pure Fun at Sundown for $440. They have a huge stock of new and used longboards. It's a hike out onto the island, but totally worth a check. As you all know, Saturdays and Pilgrim have very nice longboards, but they're quite expensive and a little less beginner friendly. Something of an investment for the very keen or very experienced. Nice boards, no doubt, but most of you have expressed trying to find something in the $300-$600 range. The last option is to buy a board off on Craigslist in San Diego or LA, ask the owner to buy a boardbag for it (you pay), and have them drop it off at the Greyhound station for $50. This is the cheapest shipping option. I've heard it works, but haven't tried it myself. I'd be interested to see if any of you give it a go. And last, to end this long post, I am planning a hangout for my past students, so that you all can meet up and make connections. Having surf buddies is crucial. I'll talk more on that in my next post, when I've set a date and place, etc. Until then good luck getting all of this stuff dialed. Be safe! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back: Out of Town, Hurricanes, Paddling, and Fish Mode

Everyone has pretty much guessed that I'm back, as I've been teaching non-stop lessons ever since I arrived on New York soil. About to head out to another as I write this. Just a little update to say that I'll be out of town next weekend, August 25th-26th. My birthday is the 23rd and school begins on the 28th, so gotta get one last out of towner in. I'm around for Labor Day. It's starting to book up. I'll do my best to keep everyone in the loop. Hurricane season is upon us, but we haven't seen anything real yet. It's currently just real small and real clean. Perfect for beginning and staying in paddling shape. When the real waves arise I advise all my students to go down to the beach and just sit and watch great waves.  Try and read the line up. See who's getting what, who's surfing best to your eye, etc. Watch for patterns in the ways the waves come in. Count in between sets. Prepare yourself visually. Do not paddle out. Many of us have sat and watched days that were over our heads at the time. For those that are still green it's best to keep going paddling on the small days: making sure your legs are together, your lower back is arched, and that you are making clean and even strokes. And I repeat: always keep your legs together! Surfing is all about paddling. A lot of people have skateboarded and snowboarded before taking lessons with me and these people always ask, "Does it translate?" My answer: only partly. In the beginning, not so much, because surfing is the only board sport where you start laying down and in which you much pull yourself into a moving circle of energy and then stand up upon it on the board on which you are laying. Sounds easy. It isn't. Learning to paddle efficiently is the first stepping stone of becoming a graceful surfer. Some might even argue that you have no business going for waves until paddling becomes a thing of effortlessness—when being on the board and with board become a second nature. I usually refer to it as "fish mode". No particular reason except that I get this feeling when I have been away from the water too long that my gills are dried up or something and then when I jump in—no matter how long it's been (1 day; 3 mo.)—everything just clicks and I am in my element. I named that feeling "fish mode" or "ocean mode" about 6 years ago. It's a phenomenological shift in attunement—a different, and valid, way of comporting oneself in the world. I hope for all of my students to one day find this. This is essentially what I mean when I say I teach "new ways of seeing". All of the articulation to this is of course still under development and I am using this blog to explore it and because I feel that it necessary to share this info with my readers, some of whom are past students, some of whom are future students, and others who are lifelong surfers who deeply care about surfing. The mystery of the radical indefinability of surfing is what keeps a lot of us healthily at it and which also makes a lot of us frustrated at some of its oddly ugly manifestations: crowds, aggressive locals, poorly structured competition and sponsorship systems, corporate greed, bad styles, entitlement, the list goes on. The cool thing is, however, that at the base of this activity is a supreme joy and in the end it is really that joy that brings us back to surfing over and over again. Part of the joy is that it is precisely an activity. And the beauty of this activity is that you are simultaneously passive when it comes to the whims of the sea. Surfing has the capacity, the potential, to blur all of those distinctions we like to make and see. More later.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Currently in CA and Other Stuff

Noticed that my last post was July 3rd. That's pretty despicable blog upkeep. But when the waves have been looking like this: 

and I've a ton of research to do, all that matters is that I post at all, and that when I post I provide pertinent information. For example, on the day pictured I surfed for 5 hours. The buoys were reading 8.2 feet at 10 seconds (with a forecast to drop throughout the day). Picked up the star team rider in Billy Burg at 6am and banched out to Rockaway. We surfed for five hours. A doctor in residence from Hawaii was tearing it apart. Fastest surfing I've seen on the East Coast barring the star team rider. Had to cancel lessons because it was too big for beginners. Other surf instructors from the Rockaway schools had also cancelled theirs. They run a pretty nice outfit down there. I would never do it that way myself, nor do I plan to, since I prefer surgical strikes to all day camp outs because I believe that to be good at surfing you must embed it into your daily life (thus requiring said strikes). A daily surf mission is not vacation. Well it is. But one can vacation and work as well. Like now, I'm writing from a cabin in Northern California, having swam in a lake all day, but I still find time to get work done. Work and play must be in balance. Both ought to be both challenging and fun. Take the doctor I spoke of as another example. He arrived to the beach at 6am, blew the tops off of chest high lips for 3 hours until 9am, when he went in to check his pager (haha doctors still have pagers). He then came back out for 5 more waves or so, then he drove off to the Bronx to work in a hospital for the rest of the day. And that's how it's done folks. Daily surfs are possible. Or at least tri-weekly. Seven days of surfing in a row is vacation. 

Other notes:
1. Taught two awesome body surfing lessons. I thoroughly enjoy teaching people how to ride waves without boards. 

2. I'll be back in NY on August 9th, not 8th. I'll start answering email inquiries and scheduling lessons tomorrow. 

3. Am planning my own camp/surf school of sorts, which has more of a seminar quality—surfing history, board design, structure of competitive surfing—for both kids and adults. 

4. Also offer tutoring in Ancient Greek. That's random, I know, but hey, if you're interested, I teach that too.