A GREAT WAY TO SPEND A SATURDAY: BREAKING ROUTINE

In the normal 9-5 world, the weekend is the holy grail. Sundays turn into Mondays, and after Monday we are already wondering where the weekend is. Saturday and Sunday’s offer most an open slate for whatever they wish to do. Whether that be have some fun, better yourself, socialize, or have some me time, there is an infinite amount of choices you can make to spend your weekend. At least for me, they are pretty predictable in a sense: there will most likely be surfing each morning, potentially a workout and a run, and the nights of recent have been hanging out with my roommates and other acquaintances. Soon enough, the nights will be occupied with debauchery and suds. I can’t tell you how long this has been my routine. Sure, throughout my career work has been on the weekends in my retail days. But this really didn’t alter my schedule. It was everything I said above, all for the most part in my local neighborhood, and any open space was consumed with some of my activities I liked- reading, writing, making beats, watching videos, sunbathing etc. 

Sometimes we need to switch it up though. It might seem hard to believe, but sometimes I don’t want to surf. I do it every morning so you could see how some days I just want to do something different (obviously this is when the waves are small or look less desirable, because my fomo for waves is still strong as ever). Take some time off and start the day a different way. You see, I think everyone needs to practice this. We often get stuck in such a rut of monotony that we don’t even notice. And a lot of times it’s not really a bad thing to be stuck in a routine. Sometimes it feels good to have that familiarity. But oftentimes I believe you gotta switch it up sooner or later. Somethings gotta go different, even if you are seriously invested in whatever you are doing. Everyone needs a break.

First thing you can do is change the activity list. It’s always nice to try something new or do something you don’t do as often as before. Whether this activity is taxing or not is up to you. Don’t read a ton? Take a morning to eat some words before breakfast. Haven’t worked out in a while? Get the body moving and see if you get hooked again. Always eat out? Try and cook every meal for fun. Just try and shock your body and mind with something you don’t do often. This is really easy and doesn’t require much effort. You can also change the setting of where you are. Spend some time with yourself and keep it low for a weekend. It’s a pretty good way to reset and feel fresh if you have been taxed. I feel like I have spoken to this subject before, but just breaking routine is a great way to spend a day off. It might be not as comfortable or regular as your normal routine, but that’s the best part. The shock. Kind of like the first dip of an ice bath. 

Whatever, wherever, or however you plan to spend that weekend: don’t’ fret. There are plenty more in the year, and it’s not like they really go away. If you spend the weekend how you usually do that’s just fine. But at least acknowledge the idea of something new.

378 SURFS

THE PHOTO THAT MARKED SESSION 366.

It was the tail end of December of 2019 as I was chopping it up with my fellow Catch Surf Sales Associates at the Laguna Store. I could be found here one day on the weekend (typically Saturdays) stamping sticks and selling softies. I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, as it always just seemed like another year with a different 4 digit number attached. On top of this, I never thought I didn’t already surf a bunch. Ask most of my friends and they have no problem vouching for my froth: subpar conditions can’t stop me if I want to go surf or have excess time to do so in the day. It’s just been ingrained in me that a surf at some point during the day makes the day a whole lot better. So as I was shooting the shit with one of my coworkers, I had somehow come up with the idea to try to surf everyday as a New Year’s challenge of sorts. Plenty of people surf everyday, believe it or not. I wouldn’t say a lot, but you hear stories of people surfing consecutively for years. Inspiring shit. And me typically surfing when I can didn’t seem like a tall task to try everyday.

I had leaked my resolution to others and a common problem was brought up: I like to do things that might not be close to an ocean. I immediately remembered I would not be surfing Coachella weekend, and other events that could pop up during the year could derail me from this goal. On top of this, I anticipated going back east at some point, and there are not always waves in NJ. So we settled for the next best thing: surfing 365 sessions (it was a leap year, so this became 366 funnily enough).

The stage was set. I had to surf most likely every day and more common than not twice some days to achieve this goal. Now mind you, if the waves were good and I had the time I was no stranger to putting up three sessions in one day. But as I become older and gain more responsibility at work and with life in general, these were less frequent than you would think. But still prevalent, especially in the summer with fun south swells and warm water temps. I would catalog my sessions in a google doc, eager to compile the data at the end of the year. To also up the ante, I decided to track “good” surfs and “bad surfs”. This is the data that has the grayest area. What is a good surf? I definitely know what a bad surf is-everyone does. But what metric would we hold accountable for this. And what counts as a session? Let’s break it down real quick.

A session was pretty simple- 3 waves or 10 minutes. I had a couple of these, but the bulk of my sessions were 30 minutes at least. On top of this, if I had been out of the water for close to a half an hour before going back in, this would count as two. To some this might sound strange. But let me paint a picture: you are surfing Lowers, packed some snacks, maybe two boards, and a lot of water. For me, many times I find myself peaking early or late, having a great start or great ending on my Lowers sessions. I split sessions up because if I did two 1.5-2 hour shifts on the cobbles, one would most likely be better than the other. Often I would be switching boards as well, so that clearly must be another session. I would say the bulk of these split up sessions come from Lowers or an all-day beach day in Newport that involved a couple quick dips.

Now for the “good” vs “bad” surfs. First, we need to consider the conditions (something which I stupidly thought did not need to be logged in my spreadsheet). A good surf in subpar conditions might be below average in really good surf. As a surfer who spends a lot of time in the water, you know what feels good versus what doesn’t. So here’s how I logged it: if the waves were below average, a good wave could be one good turn or a tube or an air. When I say below average, think of gutter surf. Really bad waves. The bar is incredibly low. As waves got better, the same still applied for the most part. As long as it was deemed a tube, a tube gave any session gave it a mark to enter the “good pile”. Not every session you luck into a barrel. For me, airs were the same although I know the difference between a shitty low air and just a low air. For turns, one hammer turn or a two turn combo would suffice, and if I could rattle off 3 decent turns on a wave the deed was done.

Now that the details are ironed out, let’s talk about the end product and what I learned. I ended this crusade on December 15th. I was unsure if I would finish early. At my best, I was 20 surfs ahead of schedule. At my worst, about 15 surfs behind. Digging out of that hole was a grind. But you can essentially match up your session number with the literal number of the date. December 15th was 350. I always knew I would get to 366. Even if I had to do triple sessions over the weekends and sacrifice surfing fun and good waves. I am glad I didn’t have to. While at some moments it was rather tiresome, we got there. Here are the takeaways I got from a year spent in the salt.

DO USE THE CAMS-DON’T TRUST THEM

In the digital world we inhabit, there are so many resources at our disposal to make getting a fun surf easy. The most obvious are the Surfline cams. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check surfline. I roll over post-alarm and pull up Surfline and start cam surfing. Where I live, there are 25 surfline cameras within a 5-10 minute drive of my house. Now when I say DO use the cams, this is to see some factors that would help you decide on whether or not you want to surf. Wind and tide are the easiest two. Too high? Wait. Wind up? Sleep in a little and surf when it’s more sunny. We wake up early to catch glassy conditions- if the winds up the session already has a damper on it. Unfortunately, I surfed many onshore mornings and sometimes they are fun, most times they are not. DON’T trust the cams. There have been so many sessions where the cam looked average to below-average and it ended up really fun. There are tons of blind spots for the cameras so if you surfed yesterday and the report is similar, trust your knowledge over the stream. 

A SURF TO START THE DAY JUST FEELS RIGHT

No matter how bad the waves were, how cold the waves were, how crowded the lineup was, it always feels good to get wet. When there is swell on tap and you have been surfing a bit, the allure of a shitty session has a little less power. But if you’ve been out of the water for a while or just are a little stressed, getting a rinse in is essential. If you work all day, wake up early and get on it. Start work early and can’t get the dawnie? Go out for the last hour and watch the sunset from the water. I know most surfers can back me up on this one.

HAVE A DIVERSE QUIVER-SURF DIFFERENT WAVES

Now, I know not everyone has a quiver of boards. But hear me out: there are essentials boards to have to make surfing more frequently way less of a chore. Obviously, when the waves are good, you need a proper shortboard (if that’s your style). But in most cases, the waves are more often poor than pumping. So, you’ll need some boards that inspire you when the waves look pretty shitty. A fish can do wonders for your surfing. I once wrote about how a fish can help your surfing (read here). But as far as getting out when the waves aren’t looking too hot, the fish is the go-to route. Something flatter, with more foam, and less fins typically is the formula for fun when the waves are dribbly. Another good addition to the quiver is a soft top. Riding soft tops is just more fun. I don’t know what it is about it, but it is not hard to go soft. Whether it’s packing walled closeouts or just cruising, softies bring a smile to your face. Surf different waves on different boards. Nothing gets more tiresome than surfing the same kind of wave. Hunt some tubes. Cook some turns. Try to launch some airs. Keep it spicy. You have to if you want to put up numbers. When you get tired of a board, try it at a different wave. When you get tired of a wave, try a different board.

THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A BETTER SURFER IS TO SURF

You can workout, study surf clips, or do whatever you might think will improve your surfing. But when it comes down to it: the only way to get better at surfing is to surf. I think a lot of skill just comes from comfort standing up on the board. And every surf you’ll at least stand up. I’d be gassing you up a little if I said you could progress your surfing by surfing shit waves. You can, but it’s hard to work on open face carves when it’s 2 foot and walled. You can learn a lot just from drawing different lines and different boards and conditions. But surfing when the waves are fair to good is definitely when you get the best return on investment. But like I said- surfing in general will excel your ability on the board.

SURF WITH FRIENDS BUT ALSO SURF ALONE

Surfing with friends is almost always more fun than surfing alone. Having someone to talk to in the lineup, split waves with, and can see your sick ones is what surfing is all about. I am lucky to have a ton of friends that surf and live within very close proximity, so it isn’t that hard to link up with some friends for a surf. It is a little tougher with my early bird schedule and before work surfs, but when it’s warm and the waves are good almost everyone is on board. However, sometimes the solo session is warranted. There is nothing quite like scoring waves by yourself. As this doesn’t happen often in California, there are still pockets of time that you can sneak out for a session of fun wedges with just your lonesome self. Surfing alone gives you a lot of time to think, which can be good and bad. But sometimes I really like just waking up and enjoying a quiet morning of surf. Don’t worry- if I don’t know you I’ll still talk to you in the lineup. But sometimes silence is golden.

That’s it. There’s probably more, but I will spare you the time I have already made you lose. I encouraged anyone who would like to surf as much as they can in 2021 to do it.

I SURF BECAUSE…

Parallels with one of my favorite surfers.

Now I am aware the title is rather cheesy, but let me explain. I surf quite a bit. Almost every day if I am lucky. And if you follow me on Instagram, you watch me surf quite a bit via the Surfline cams (sorry). But it’s not easy. Well, sometimes it’s easy. When the waves are pumping, I am sold on the idea the night before. Sometimes even days before. I check Surfline so much that I am always tapped in to what the next couple days will bring. If it really looks good, I go to bed excited. When I was younger, I often had trouble going to sleep in anticipation of swell (a feeling pretty similar to christmas, as waves on the east coast are far less abundant than that of the west coast). When the forecast looks good, it’s not hard to go surfing.

But back to when it is hard to get in the water. When the waves are small. When it’s windy outside. When your boards are dinged. When the waters cold. When the air is cold. Blah blah blah. There are so many more reasons as to why I shouldn’t surf than why I should. But for me, I never had a problem overlooking all of these negative factors. I just loved to surf. Day in and day out. I think it stems back to being wave starved on the east coast. But even when I am home, I am chomping at the bit to get wet. It’s just ingrained in my brain at this point. Surfing = fun. Who doesn’t want to have fun?

But, contrary to popular belief, surfing is far from fun sometimes. Bad waves, eggy crowds, or just not surfing up to your usual standard can bog down any session. Sure, all it takes is one wave to turn that frown upside down, but I’ve had sessions where even an immaculately surfed wave couldn’t make me forget the 30 waves I surfed horribly. 

I am sure people from the outside looking in wonder why I (and everyone else who surfs before their work, surfs instead of other obligations, or just is surf obsessed) surf so much. Especially those who hear me say “yeah the waves were shit” upon exiting the water or getting home. There’s just much more to it than the actual act of surfing. Let’s let one of my (late) favorite surfers explain:

I never knew AI and I would have so much in common. First off, we’ve both lost to girls in a surf contest. While he has a little bit more pride in his stride considering he is a 3x world champ, it’s a commonality nonetheless. Speaking of girls, we hear Andy mention one of the reasons he started surfing was that it would get him chicks. Take it from me, it doesn’t. I mean, maybe the odd few, but no one cares if you surf. It’s sometime seen as cool, but who care? I too had all these illustrious ideas in my head of what surfing would get me. Girls, social status, “being cool”. But the thing surfing gives me is something that isn’t really tangible. And is by far the most important thing I get out of hopping in the water.

The 3 minute piece ends with “I surf because I am always a better person when I come in.” Let me preface this real quick: this is not how it used to be or how it always was for me. If you knew me in my younger years and even on a (now extremely) rare occasion at the age of 25, if I had a bad surf you can tell. Before I went away for college, I really would act like a girl. After I landed at school in California, I knew I had to grow up. These temper tantrums would look foolish. But it still was really easy to tell how pissed off I was after a shit surf. A bad surf put me in a terrible mood twice as potent than when a good surf put me in a happy mood. But as I grew older, I soon realized how to just kick this embarrassing habit and enjoy surfing for what it is.

Long story short (kudos to you if you’ve made it this far) surfing makes me a better person. I don’t particularly know how or why, and I feel like many others would agree with this strange phenomenon. I mean hell, even Andy felt the same way. I just look back to times where surfing wasn’t as prevalent in my life or I couldn’t get a session as easily and correlate it to that being the source of my problems (or the reason my problems felt little relief). Sure, my demons aren’t anywhere near the magnitude of the late Andy Irons or others in this world, but everyone has their own problems and down days. It’s not always sunny. But for me, the ocean is the only way to rinse them off and part the clouds. And I am fortunate to now live in a wave rich environment where it isn’t that hard to get wet. Having a good session at this point is just the icing on the cake.

Meet Your Next Surfboard

Besides Asher Pacey, this is the benchmark for high performance fish surfing (Asher’s boards have a lot more high-performance attributes to them, whereas Burch rides more traditional fishes, what I am trying to get you on).

To keep something fresh, sometimes changes need to be made. Mindset, environment, etc. The list goes on and on. Some people might fear change. This is definitely a problem, considering no man or woman has achieved greatness by staying stagnant or true to their routine for too long. Sure, having something dialed feels good and if they are good habits and routines keep them going. But the old saying goes “variety is the spice of life”, so incorporating things outside of your comfort zone is essential for development. 

Hard cut. 

Everyone should own a fish. And no, not a gold or beta fish. A surfboard fish. It can be a twin fin or a quad fin fish. Ideally, start with a twinnie. If you happen to be my friend and ever talk about what board you want next, you’ve heard of this spiel. Unless you have a concrete image of the board you want, I always recommend a fish. A fish is classic. A fish has truly lasted throughout the test of time, and are having a huge resurgence. You probably see just as many fishes as shortboards in the lineup of recent (especially back home, where waves are tiny and weak).

There are two main reasons I recommend someone starts riding a fish. The first one is that it gets you in the water when the waves don’t look that fun. Personally, I think fishes tend to almost work best on medium to bigger canvases. It’s hard to fit such a wide and voluminous board in such small curvers. But having a short, wide, chunky twin fin fish can get you out there when it’s two-feet-and-firing. The glide these boards give you is unlike any other. The fish can help get you in the water when it is tiny. Take off and instantly you get a burst of speed. Catching waves is also a breeze, and you have to catch small waves first before you can surf them. Also in the bad wave spectrum, super fat reform waves are also the bread and butter for a fish. Generating speed easily and having the float and glide to get back to the power source or hop to another power source on the same wave are how the fish fries fat waves. A low rocker and middle to front of the board wide point help you catch waves and glide effortlessly. 

Now on the other hand, owning a fish and riding it in both good waves and bigger waves can really open a new realm to your surfing. Riding different boards forces you to draw different lines. And the line you can draw on a fish is a fast one. Whether it is highlining a section instead of going low or getting in front of the wave before burning speed going back to the lip are things a fish is more conducive to rather than your standard shortie. Since the board isn’t as sleek as your regular shortboard, having a bigger more slopey than steep wave really grants you a blank canvas to paint upon. Riding a fish in these waves makes it really hard to get back on a regular board afterwards. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. 

The lines you learn to draw on your twinnie can really open up new routes and ways to plane when you hop back on a shortboard. Also in this same realm, getting the feel of the twinnie and then hopping to a quad fish will just elevate the ability to rip the same lines. Currently, I am stuck on quads. The amount of speed you can generate is incredible, and works quite well at walled beach breaks or gutless reforms (unfortunately the bulk of what I surf). Surfing your shortboards with the same flow and routine you might on your twinnie will eliminate extra pumps and help you draw cleaner, smoother lines. You will learn how to ride the contour of the wave for speed instead of hopping around pumping. In surfing, speed is your best friend. So gaining it effortlessly is always an added bonus. 

If you don’t have a fish yet in your quiver, get on it. This is for my friends on both the east and west coasts. Getting those sneaky fun sessions when no one is out (almost impossible in California but very apparent in New Jersey) really keeps the stoke high. The days when you don’t expect a surf and end up scoring a fun little 30 minutes or hour are when you leave the water with the biggest smile (only tied with when the waves are absolutely cooking). I know, surfboards aren’t the cheapest things in the world. But next time you are looking to grab a freshie, looks towards the fun twin finned fish to round out your quiver.

This is more realistic: smaller waves with no push featuring Mr. Burch.

Living in the Paddle Battle Capital

ABOVE: AN EXAMPLE OF PADDLE BATTLING AT IT’S APEX (AT LEAST IT IS FOR A LICK OF WORLD CLASS WAVES).

Southern California is a tropical paradise. Ok, tropical paradise might be a little bit of a stretch. But in my short life and sheltered viewpoints as far as travel and locations, California really has it all. Nice weather most of the time, fun surf, nice beaches, cute girls. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I have longed to live in California since I was a child. Sure, I might like the beaches back home in NJ more. And the pizza is not as good out here. Back home, Summer time was crowded and congested. Where I live, it is even worse. Southern California definitely has a crowd problem, both in and out of the water. Nothing grinds my gears more than trying to navigate an uber-crowded lineup or waiting 45 minutes to get into a bar just to order 2 drinks before it’s time to go home. Fun stuff. All this bitching and moaning aside, California for now has my heart, and it’s not too hard to see why. 

But let’s hone in real quick. If I had to have ONE major qualm with the golden state, it involves surfing. California single handedly has to be the paddle battle capital of America. I’m sure you make the argument that peak season on the north shore might give it a run for its money, but California 365 days out of the year has to have the most wave hungry surfers. In some instances I get it. I know that if I am going to surf a battlefield like Lowers or pumping 56th street, it would be cute to think I wouldn’t have to get in peoples space and take waves. I think that’s maybe where it starts: having to actually take waves in order to catch them when it’s crowded. I like to think I give people a decent amount of waves. And I don’t get many given back to me. On a rare occasion someone that isn’t my friend will chest pass me a wave. I always make it a point to thank that person afterwards, much like if someone gave you a free coffee or something like that. It’s just basic etiquette. When I am not catching waves and no one is giving any waves away, this is when it gets eggy. I think this sometimes brings out the absolute worst surfer in me and others. While I always am respectful and never burn or heavy back paddle people, sometimes I give out absolutely zero handouts and sweep up every wave that comes where I am the deepest (unless a friend is on the shoulder). 

Now I can recognize this and slow it down, but for the most part if I am being respectful I don’t see too much trouble in it. No one bitches at other people when they are catching a ton of waves, but for some reason I tend to cop it on the head pretty often. Certain places require this cutthroat mindset, as much as you dislike having to throw it on. The problem arises when people resort to shit etiquette to catch waves. Getting super close to someone while paddling for a wave, telling them to fuck off, or just blatantly burning someone is when it tends to cross the line. The best part: the people who resort to this definitely are in the bottom of the talent pool when it comes to ability. They can only catch waves by doing these strange actions. Or their uber-macho localism shines through and they just feel they have the right to deliver fades left and right. Luckily, it is not like every session we have to deal with this. But if the waves are good, the chances of a lineup altercation or getting torched increase exponentially. 

Even on the smallest and most dismal of surfs, I can find myself getting paddle battled to catch a two foot closeout. In these instances, we just need to lighten up and laugh a little. Nothing is better than really wanting to catch a wave (a shit one at that), making sure the person trying to shoulder hop sees you, and then that person lets out a sarcastic statement or still decides to go because maybe you’ve been getting a bunch of waves or they haven’t gotten one in 20 minutes. Often people like to say shit just for no reason or fade you just because fuck it. There are a lot of bad eggs in the California lineups. No matter how shit of a session I am having or how crowded it may be, I can proudly say I rarely fade people. 

Lowers is in a whole different universe in itself, like we touched upon earlier. People will do anything to get a wave out there. And I have been on the receiving end of a lot of these strange exchanges. In my mind, if I can’t get a wave the right way, without back paddling anyone or doing anything that would label me as cheap, then I might as well just not catch that wave. I have caught plenty of sets there without any foul play. It’s not the hardest thing to do. Unfortunately, a lot of other people do not feel this way. There are so many tactics and ways to appear like you are in the right, but at this point I just kick out. People really can get offended if you call them on their bullshit, even if they are blatantly in the wrong. Some people really just don’t get it. Or really think their ability or some other defining factor about them makes it ok to act up in the lineup. 

However, I think this passage might be painting the wrong picture. As my years of living in California lengthen, I tend to know the nooks and crannies to enjoy a peaceful, quiet session as long as it’s under head high. And there are plenty of times everyone is smiling and sharing waves. We just came off a pretty fun run of swell, and it seems like everyone has had their fair share of waves. With a long flat swell incoming and summer crowds still looming their ugly head, I am positive the next solid swell we will have plenty of  people that are going to be going mad to subdue the wave-stricken appetite of not surfing a head high wave for a while. If you find yourself tangled up in one of these strange altercations next time you are in the water, just shrug it off and keep surfing. Like I said in my last post, surfing is so fun. Don’t make it not so fun for the others around you.