Archive for category: Action Sports

Kelly Slater and Sean Holmes at JBay

05 Aug
August 5, 2015

Just a couple of days after Mick Fanning was attacked by a Great White, here’s Kelly Slater blasting great white blasts of spray on those same JBay lines. Well, not exactly the same. A good 4-5′ larger and perfect. The music is “Three Seed” by Silversun Pickup and Guy Mac put the edit together.

The Lexus Hoverboard: It’s here

05 Aug
August 5, 2015

Unbelievable… Technology never ceases to amaze me. And this technology is a decade old. From WIRED:

“AFTER A MONTH of teasers and speculation, Lexus has finally shown off its real, live, working hoverboard. It may not beBack to the Future, but it’s still a mighty satisfying ride.

As it turns out, the future is hard; professional skateboarder Ross McGouran has plenty of spills on the way to mastering even basic moves. That’s perhaps not surprising, given that riding the Lexus hoverboard is basically like straddling a maglev train. As we explained in June, the Lexus hoverboard relies on superconductors and magnets, which work against gravity to lift board and rider above the ground. That cool-looking steam coming off of the sides isn’t decorative; it’s liquid nitrogen, cooling the superconductors to -321 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which they become superconducting.

The steam’s not the only thing that may not be quite what it appears. The biggest disappointment for hoverboard enthusiasts is that course on which McGouran hover-shreds is actually has metal underneath it; on the surfaces that comprise the vast majority of our infrastructure, the hoverboard would simply be a heavy, immobile board. In fact, aside from its healthy dose of style, the Lexus hoverboard isn’t much different from a dozen lab demonstrations that have taken place over the last few decades.

A highly constrained, not quite original hoverboard is still a hoverboard, though. And this one even comes with a bonus; Lexus put together a mini-doc about the process that gives a refreshingly clear-eyed look at the physics behind the fun.”

Let’s hope jetpacks are next.”

DC SHOES: Robbie Madison’s Pipe Dream

03 Aug
August 3, 2015

Are you kidding me??!!! Now I have officially seen everything. This has gotta be the most ridiculous stunt ever! Ha! It’s great!

Motion by Morgan Maassen

22 Jul
July 22, 2015

I love Morgan Maassen’s work. He is such a fantastic still photographer and clearly is equally adept with motion. His eye for color, composition, pacing and ability to evoke emotion, while showcasing the beauty of life puts him among the elite in his profession. It’s no wonder Maassen works with some of the world’s premiere brands and media. Of course, Red Epic/Dragon cameras, and surfers like Kelly Slater, Dane Reynolds, Stephanie Gilmore don’t hurt; but there’s so much more that goes into creating art like his- some of it learned, but most of it, God given.

While Morgan absolutely has his own signature style, some of his imagery reminds me of Chris Bryan’s work. I’d love to see those guys collaborate, if they haven’t already. I’m sure that whatever they produced together would be mind-blowing.

You may notice at the beginning of the film, that there’ an African American photographer shooting images. Shawn Theodore is a Philly-based artist and photographer who shoots really cool images (mostly portraits) of vanishing African American landscapes. I know Maassen has said that he is inspired by Theodore’s work (and the man himself), and it looks like Morgan included Shawn in this piece, filming the photographer doing his thing. If you want to see some beautiful, vibrant imagery, then check out Theodore’s Instagram feed at @_xst (and Morgan’s at @morganmaassen). Great stuff! Also dig the music here.  That’s “After Gold” by Kelpe. Enjoy it!

Mick Fanning Attacked by Shark During Final at JBay

20 Jul
July 20, 2015

 

Whitewater Crew

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Whitewater rafting family

Our whitewater crew for our 16KM trip up the Navua River in Fiji

Jungle Boogie

12 Jul
July 12, 2015

Trekking through the Fijian rainforest. Some footage from my GoPro…

The Only Thing Better Than a Trip to Fiji is a Free Trip to Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Waidroka Bay Resort in Viti Levu

Waidroka Bay Resort in Viti Levu, Fiji Showing Off

Note: The following is an account of a recent trip I took to Fiji, a trip  won from Waterways Travel and The Inertia. The story was originally published on The Inertia. For the original post and complete reactions, visit: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/the-only-thing-better-than-a-trip-to-fiji-is-a-free-trip-to-fiji/  The Inertia published an accompanying photo gallery, and many of those images can also be found on this site at full size, in addition to others from the trip.

 

Fiji is almost certainly every surfer’s vision of Shangri-la… the height of perfection in the heart of Polynesia. Safe to say, it has become idealized as the epitome of tropical bliss by just about everyone – surfers and non-surfers alike – drawn to its promise of white-sand beaches, swaying palms and sparkling electric blue water. We surfers then add to these mental images, perfect 6-foot barrels reeling down desolate stretches of empty beachfront.

Well, I’m here to tell you about the real Fiji…

It’s not perfect… at least not all the time…

But it’s about as close to perfect as you might ever hope to get.

I recently had the chance to visit this surreal archipelago. I won the trip in a contest sponsored by Waterways Travel on The Inertia website. Although I’ve surfed for over 30 years, traveled extensively and have had Fiji on my “bucket list” for years, I can’t honestly say I ever imagined I’d get the opportunity to realize this dream.

I had come close to winning a trip to Fiji once before when I finished near the top of an early season of Fantasysurfer. Following the announcement of the winner that year, I remember cursing, then congratulating the guy (Johnny Correll) on my blog. He later returned the favor by leaving me a note on my site upon his return: “Thanks Tim, Fiji was epic!”

Now I can finally say, “Yes, Johnny, it was.”

(Lesson: Never hesitate to enter online contests. You may just win.)

 

 Have Fun, Will Travel

I’m a family man, married for twenty years with two daughters (ages 12 and 16) and I’ve always believed in sharing my travel adventures with them. When I won the trip (all expenses paid for two to the all-inclusive Waidroka Bay Surf and Dive Resort on Viti Levu), we had been planning a family vacation to Nicaragua. So, we simply shifted gears and decided to bring our daughters along with us to Fiji. They helped to pay their own way, and it was an experience that none of us will ever forget.

Our journey was long: a 5-hour flight from our home in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL to LAX, followed by an 8-hour layover, then another 11 hours in the air as we traveled across the international date line and below the equator, before arriving in Nadi on Viti Levu. Despite the long journey, our flight on Fiji Airways was extremely comfortable and there were positive vibes before ever even stepping on the plane. When checking my boards, the rep noticed we were traveling with Waterways and informed us that we’d only have to pay board fees one way for the entire round trip, a half-price perk that made me grateful to be traveling with one of the globe’s leading surf-travel firms.

We had scheduled our 8-day trip (10 total with travel) on the first day of summer, which happened to coincide with the WSL’s Fiji Pro. While we’d be staying about 3 hours from Tavarua Island (Fiji is made up of 332 islands and over 500 islets), it was exciting just knowing that whatever energy the pros might be riding, I’d be catching, too. Even while Tavarua may be a bit drier and favorably situated for the area’s prevailing winds, the Koralevu area along Viti Levu’s southern Coral Coast where we were staying offered similar wave options without having to worry about paddle-battles against the likes of Kelly Slater, Owen Wright… or… well, anyone, really.

 

Waidroka Bay Resort – A Near-Perfect Setting for Adventure

Waidroka Bay Resort, set on the Pacific Ocean at the edge of a rainforest in one of Viti Levu’s lushest, most tropical areas, was the ideal base for my family. In addition to escaping the crowds of Nadi and providing a wide variety of waves, it also offered a full range of adventurous activities for thrill-seekers. Although my youngest daughter surfs, Fiji in general is not a place for the less experienced. Most waves require access by boat, are quite powerful and break on shallow coral reefs. So, even while I was the only one who’d be surfing, our whole family would enjoy ziplining, whitewater rafting, SUPing, kayaking, snorkeling, visiting Kula Eco Park, a local village school and more. All this, in addition to enjoying the resort’s many amenities.

Waidroka is a dream set-up with special appeal for surfers and divers. A private, casual resort in stark contrast to some of the larger, more sterile properties along the Queen’s Highway, it has a fleet of boats to run you out to the breaks for surfing, fishing or diving; a spacious clubhouse with plenty of places for lounging or socializing; endlessly running surf vids and largest collection of surf pubs from around the globe that I’ve ever seen; a bar; outdoor pool table; swimming pool; and a small surf and dive shop.

We stayed in an oceanfront bure that slept 6 and had AC, although on most days, the breezes kept things plenty comfortable. Every morning we received fresh linens, and each day we feasted on 3 squares of fresh local from banana pancakes in the morning, to locally caught Tuna and Wahoo for lunch and dinner. One of the things I really loved was sitting down and getting to know some of the other resort guests and staff at one of the group-style tables. Although it was never crowded, we still enjoyed interacting with some great people from Australia, South Africa, Hawaii, Austria, Sweden, the UK, Israel and Fiji. It was a fun, enriching experience, especially for my daughters.

 

There’s No Such Thing as a “Lay Day” in Fiji

The first few days we were there, the sun was surprisingly fleeting, the clouds thick with brisk winds and intermittent rain. There was a small pulse of surf on a couple of days in the head high range, but the predominant side-onshore winds weren’t cooperating, and by the fourth day of our trip, Fiji was not only out of sorts, it had effectively gone flat. Over on Tavarua, the pros were dealing with the same maddening conditions.

Of course, as any experienced surf-traveler knows, you take what you get on a surf trip and make the most of your time. There was swell on the near horizon (new swells arrive like clockwork in Fiji, every 7-8 days, year ‘round), and we had already planned to dedicate some of our time exploring the area’s numerous other offerings.

One day, we headed into Pacific Harbor to go ziplining through the rainforest, high above the Wainadoi River Valley. We were in the air for over 2KM, and our guides were a blast! We had all zipped before, but the rules here were a little more… relaxed… Soon, we were letting go of the lines completely and even zipping upside down! We even got in a little abseiling on the course, which none of us had ever done.

Another excursion took us into the deep interior of Viti Levu on a 16KM whitewater trip into the Upper Navua River Conservation area. It was an all-new kind of adventure for my girls, who had never been rafting before, and the class II/III rapids were ideal for them. There’s no way to adequately describe how amazing the scenery was, here. Pristine rainforest… pure, virgin wilderness… steep canyon gorges covered with lush ferns and vegetation and so many waterfalls of every shape and size, all along the way. It was like stepping back into the Jurassic age. Sadly it’s a part of Fiji that so many travelers, who tend to focus almost exclusively on Fiji’s admittedly beautiful coastal areas, miss. Take it from me- if you ever venture to go there, DO NOT make this same mistake. It’s must-see, Chris Burkhard, Nat-Geo kind of stuff.

 

The Surf

 By mid-trip, I was jonesin’ to surf and just as forecast, two new swells were arriving- an initial 3-5’ swell that would be reinforced by a second, larger 4-6’ swell that would peak at just over that on Tuesday, the same day as the WCT finals and Owen Wright’s 20 pt. masterpiece at Cloudbreak.

I first ventured out into the Fijian surf at a break called, “Pipes”. Pipes is a fast, powerful wave that the locals refer to as, “Mini-Chopes” as it rises from extremely deep water and breaks onto a shallow reef in a way that gives it the appearance of breaking “down” into a sub-sea level “pit”. The winds were still stiff and side-onshore, and the weather, overcast. But it was clear there was now a solid swell in the water. Upon getting out, I quickly caught a small one, negotiating the impressive speed of the wave and gaining a little bit of early confidence.

I then paddled for a larger set wave, about head high or a little over. But this time, the wave was traveling and rising so quickly beneath me that I stalled at the top, mesmerized at the sensation and the sight of the shallow reef racing below. All, while being lifted and ultimately, ejected onto that beautiful reef. As added insult, while I was fully expecting extended hold-downs, I was still caught by surprise at the ocean’s ability to hold me below the surface even longer than I was anticipating. After surfacing from that first wipeout (and bouncing off the reef), I had a much clearer idea of what I was dealing with on this powerful, tricky wave.

I was surfing Pipes with two others: Dan, the surf guide from Waidroka, and Jared, a surfer from Hawaii. I told Dan what had happened on the last wave and he noted that you couldn’t linger at the top of these waves, before dropping down. No, you had to get down to the bottom immediately, then start enjoying your ride. A couple of more large sets came through and raced below me, and I thought for a moment that I might need more board than my 6’ Whisnant. But then, Jared offered some additional advice. “You can’t just ‘pop’ into these wave like you’re probably used to at home. Try taking a couple of extra strokes down the face than you feel you need.” I did, and it proved to be a key. Although the onshores seemed to be inhibiting escapable tubes, I was just blown away by the speed and force of the waves. It was exhilarating.

 

 Wash, Rinse, Repeat

For the next two days, we’d check other spots, but would ultimately venture back to Pipes, which seemed to handle the trades the best. The clouds and showers continued to linger, but the surf was fun and the second, larger reinforcing swell was bearing down.

On the day prior to our departure, I was praying for the sun to come out and winds to lie down, but woke to even heavier winds and rain (some locals told us they thought this unusual weather was the result of this year’s continuing El Nino weather pattern). Alas, I had one final day, as our plane was pushing out the next afternoon.

The swell was forecasted to peak that day, with “moderate” SE trades lingering in the morning. This would be the day of the Fiji Pro final. Cloudbreak was forecasted to be double-overhead with 8-12’ faces, and some larger 12-15’ sets in the morning. As a general rule, Cloudbreak and the outer reefs in Fiji break about 1/3 bigger than the interior reefs where I was surfing. For me, this translated into 5-8’ waves with sets in the 8-10’ face range. And that’s exactly what we got… with a bonus.

 

Fiji Turns On

Upon waking the next morning, there was the sun! The clouds and wind had disappeared, and there was the Fiji of the magazines with its iridescent azure water and big ol’ lines of whitewater fringing on the reefs about a half-mile from shore. We sped out to check a spot called, “Serua Rights”. Although I knew Pipes would be phenomenal in these conditions, I was anxious to try some new spots. Upon pulling up at Serua, we looked across the channel and saw even bigger, better waves coming in on the opposite side of the channel at a break called, “420’s”.

As I would learn, 420’s is a spot that doesn’t work that often. It only does so on large swells that tend to overwhelm Serua (which takes medium swells), but when it’s on, it’s really on! These beautiful, steep lefts were breaking at around 7’ with an ample number of 10’ foot faces on larger sets. I was still riding my 6’ board and remembering to take those extra strokes down the faces. On one particularly big set, it felt as if my board got nearly vertical on the drop. I couldn’t do anything but just try to stick with it. It felt as if my toes were just barely clinging to the last inches of my tailpad in freefall. Somehow, at the bottom I reconnected, wobbling precariously, before setting a rail enjoying a good ride, escaping near-certain obliteration.

As the tide backed out, we moved back over to Serua. It was a fun, long unusual wave, more forgiving than Pipes or 420s. It was like riding in a skate park. You’d begin with a medium-sized line on the outside reef, which would then move into deeper water, tapering down into a small foamy section that might normally be your cue to cut out. But, if you just stuck with it for just a couple of seconds, the wave would suddenly hit the inside reef and start jacking up… and up… into a big ol’ peak that supposedly, on smaller days, would provide a backdoor barrel to shoot. As it was, there was too much swell for this barrel to materialize, but the huge bowls that were left were just outright fun!

 

Almost Perfect

 On my final wave at Serua, I made a critical mistake. I had managed to largely avoid the reef for nearly the entire trip, but things were about to change. Our boat was positioned at the back of the reef and it was a lonnnggg paddle back to it. I had just caught a nice ride and had covered a great deal of yardage back to the boat, albeit still with another 100 yards or so, to go.

There was whitewater everywhere and I couldn’t see any exposed reef. So, rather than turning for the channel, I just continued riding in. Almost instantly, the water depth drained from about two-and-a-half feet, to six inches, to “Oh s*%#! And right behind me was another surge of whitewater, propelling me up onto the reef. Ultimately, I negotiated my way back over into the channel and climbed, bloody, back into the boat, sporting a few new tattoos from the Fijian coral.

Still, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

I returned to the resort with about an hour get packed up and ready to head back home. My wife and daughters were just returning from their visit to a local village school just down the road from Waidroka. We felt so blessed to have won this trip and really wanted to return some of the karma while there. We had brought along some Waves for Water filters, school supplies and other fun stuff (punching balloons) for the local kids and I would be leaving behind my 6’ Whisnant and 6’ 6” Joe Johnson Quiet Flight for the “Surfboards for Fiji” project – a joint effort co-sponsored by Waidroka Bay, Wai Tui’s and the Fiji Surf Association. (As you can imagine, getting boards for rising young Fijian surfers can be difficult, so it is a great program).

While waiting for our ride, I checked my phone and saw the epic conditions that the pros had scored at Cloudbreak. On the south side of Fiji, there’s another world-class outer reef – Frigates Passage – that by almost every account, rivals Cloudbreak. The only differences are that rather than being 2 miles from shore, it’s about 14 miles from Waidroka (and 7 miles from anywhere) and as a result, less crowded. Although I was keenly interested in trying Frigates, conditions were such that a good opportunity didn’t present itself until my last day, and then, not enough time. Frankly, as powerful as the waves were where I was surfing, I’m not sure that wasn’t a complete blessing. There’s no skis to pluck you out of trouble out there.

Of course, the flipside to my angst: it gives me the perfect excuse to try and get back to Fiji.

Close to perfect, anyway.

Century Swell by FTR Films

12 Jul
July 12, 2015

A great video -mesmerizing action- featuring the highly technical skills of Dean Morrison, Billy Kemper and Nathan Behl in the recent huge “Swell of the Century” in Indo. Amazing waves, amazing performances. These guys make it look easy. Don’t believe it for a second…

Duck!

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Surfer duck dives in Fiji

Duck diving in Fiji required a little more effort than the waves back home…

420s (Four Twenties) Surf Break, Viti Levu, Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
420's surf break, Fiji

These were some big, fast steep waves! This place rarely breaks. Only on large swells. And it was ON!

Big Rights in the Land of Lefts

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
erua Rights, surfing in Fiji

This section of Serua Rights gets big… it just keeps growing… and growing…

Serua Rights Skatepark, Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Serua Rights surf break, Fiji

Yes, there are rights in Fiji. Here’s a fun one called, Serua Rights. It’s like a skate park!

GoPro Perspectives

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
I haven't used a GoPro much, but bought one for this trip. They offer some interesting perspectives

I haven’t used a GoPro much, but bought one for this trip. They offer some interesting perspectives

Speed line

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Top turn at Pipes, Fiji. One of the fastest waves I've had the pleasure to ride

Top turn at Pipes, Fiji. One of the fastest waves I’ve had the pleasure to ride

Liquid Highway, Fast Lane

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Pipes Surf Break, Viti Levu, Fiji

Not a wave to play around with! Drop in fast, get to the bottom and hang on!

Pipes, Viti Levu, Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015

Pipes surf break in Fiji

Left side! Left side! I mean, right side! …

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Navua River whitewater rafting

Getting into the action of the Navua River…

Fijian Pit Stop / Rest Area

12 Jul
July 12, 2015

NAVUA RIVER WATERFALL

Yewww!

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Modern Mom ziplining

Gretchen, showing off some good form, here! #ModernMoms

Zipliners

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Mother and daughters zipliners

My crew, getting ready for our zipline / abseil adventure!

Upper Navua River, Fiji

12 Jul
July 12, 2015
Navua River gorges

What an amazing 16 KM whitewater trip up the Navua River this was!

Tyler HollmerCross at Shipstern’s

03 May
May 3, 2015

Here’s another great video shared by the folks at surfsleeptravel.com who always find pretty amazing clips. This is Tyler Hollmercross riding the rolling cliffs at Shipstern’s Bluff. Mesmerizing work from Simon Treweek.

Big Future

03 May
May 3, 2015

Wow, Riley Lang is only 16 years old and he is looking a lot like John John. Looks like he’s riding for Billabong. I think may have a find. Great clip, here.

Matters of Style

20 Apr
April 20, 2015
stylish surfer

Is great style something that can be learned, or is it something you’re born with?

Since its birth hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, surfboard design has never ceased evolving. From ancient paipos, olos and alaias to modern longboards and shortboards, every new generation of surfers has always looked both forward and backwards in never-ending attempts to find new ways to enhance performance or just have a good time and more unique experience in the water.

These days, experimental boards of remarkable diversity continue to emerge at a breathtaking pace. A glimpse around your local lineup on any given weekend will provide testament to this trend. And for every surfer you might see at home trying out the latest unusual shape, there’s a steady stream of new web clips waiting every time you surf the net to show you how a dozen others are doing it someplace else.

Like most surfers, I appreciate the continuing revolution(s) in board design, including the most recent retro-and post-modern experimentation in shapes and construction. But whenever I witness someone drawing smooth lines on an asymetrical slider, tombstone-style alaia or vintage Steve Lis fish, my focus invariably winds up not on the equipment, but rather the rider and on the transcendent nature and enduring value of great style. And that’s not something you can buy off the rack.

Your shaper can’t imagine or engineer style into you. He can only provide a framework for drawing out your own natural expression of it; an expression fashioned by some inexplicable combination of God, genetics, friends, heroes, the break(s) you grew up surfing and the good or bad memory of 640 different muscles that make up our human bodies.

Great style is magical.

It is hard to define and as unique as our own DNA. At the same time, most of us claim to know great style when we see it, even if it’s served in a thousand different flavors. Clearly, it’s important to us. It’s one reason why an explosive, acrobatic world champion can be criticized for stink stance, while others with air games nowhere nearly as advanced, are routinely recognized as being better overall surfers.

Heck, did Tom Curren ever ascend even ten inches above the lip? More to the point, did he need to? No.

And yet, Curren is still universally heralded as perhaps the second greatest surfer of all time behind only Kelly Slater (witness some of the most stylish tuberiding ever at 7:32), whose unparalleled mix of speed, style, power, flow and explosiveness may never be rivaled.

Great style is transcendent.

It transcends age, gender, body type, wave type, conditions and whatever surf craft it is you might happen to be riding. It typically begins to evidence itself early in our surfing lives and matures as we ourselves do. To be certain, we can all improve our skills and work to refine our style over time, but core style is so ingrained and inherent in each of us that slivers of its true nature will always be revealed, no matter how much time and attention we’ve dedicated to “fixing” our less stylish bad habits.

I can recall two specific instances in my life when the true nature of style presented itself to me in clear, unequivocal fashion–two occasions when I paddled out with different surfers who were regarded as two of the best, most stylish surfers in the area where I grew up. Perhaps not coincidentally, both were pretty decent on a skateboard, as well. Although both were often encouraged, neither had much interest in surfing competitively. They were simply passionate about surfing as an activity and a lifestyle.

Randy, the first fellow, was pretty much an All-American kind of guy–smart, laid back and just a really cool, fun guy to be around. Physically, he was on the short side of average with a compact, athletic build not uncommon to many pro surfers. We agreed to meet out at the Jax Beach Pier one hot summer morning to try and catch a few. But when we arrived, as is the case on so many Florida summer mornings, there was little energy in the ocean, save for the slightest occasional burps from a far-distant SE background swell.

While I almost immediately resigned myself to the fact that there’d be no surfing that day and began weighing our fishing prospects, Randy began waxing up his board saying, “Well, I’m gonna’ go catch a couple. You comin’?”

No.

There was no way I was even going to try–especially being one of only two people who would have in the water at all that morning, trying to ride a swell that was only barely there. But Randy went right about his routine as if it was just another session. He removed his leash from his board and to my surprise, pulled on his baseball cap and sunglasses before trotting down to the water’s edge. And there wasn’t a damn thing pretentious about it.

Randy wasn’t trying to attract attention. He was just trying to beat the blistering Florida sun on a windless summer day. And within two minutes

of paddling out, there he was gliding effortlessly down the line on these periodic, glassy one-and-half-foot bumps; hat dry, sunglasses in place, finding energy where none existed, and turning 360s without displacing a single drop of water, with as much grace and style as you could possibly imagine. It was just all so smooth. I was fully content to just sit there and watch the show. I learned that day that truly great style is unaffected by shitty conditions.

The second instance was with my friend Tony. He was a hipster through and through–a tall (about a full foot taller than Randy) skinny musician / guitarist / vocalist / surfer / skater and independent music connoisseur who oozed charisma. At the same time, like Randy, there was absolutely nothing contrived or self-conscious about him. He was unmistakably, authentically himself and that just happened to be extremely stylish, in and out of the water.

Just like with Randy, Tony and I had decided to meet up for a paddle out, this time a little further up the road at a sandbar behind my dad’s place in Neptune Beach. Tony showed up that afternoon glassy-eyed and ready to have fun. The waves were about 2-3 feet and offering up some really nice peaks.

I was keenly interested in trying out Tony’s board and immediately asked him if that would be ok. I determined to figure out how he could surf so well and learn what his board had to do with it. Was his craft noticeably lighter than mine? Was there something different about his rails that helped make his lines so much more fluid and his turns, so much smoother and arching than mine? Surely, a revelation was at hand. And it was.

Tony handed me what looked to be a standard 6’ thruster- a worn, yellowed beater that I estimated to be about 2-3 years older, a little longer, wider and heavier than my own. In exchange, I gave Tony my board. He wasted little time getting at it, casually paddling over to spot about 15 yards away and beginning to surgically dissect the fun peaks in a manner not altogether different when he was riding his own board.

Meanwhile, to my astonishment, there was no extra “magic” that I could conjure from his board. Nothing helped make my turns look like his, nothing helped me to displace more water or create more symmetrical fans; nothing prevented my dominant right arm from dropping towards my rib cage when I really needed to keep it extended… the writing was on the wall.

Some people were–are–just naturally more stylish than others. Period.

This point was driven mercilessly home when Tony then mentioned the antique longboard hanging in my dad’s garage. I think it must have come with the home when my father purchased it. He certainly hadn’t ridden the thing in years and frankly, I was embarrassed of it, and not curious about it at all.

But Tony was. He wanted to try it out.

I tried to laugh off his suggestion off at first, but he was serious. And so we took it down off the wall. It must have weighed 50 pounds and had faded far past yellow. It was now closer to steam pile brown. I was red-faced as Tony enthusiastically tucked it under his scrawny arm and lugged it across the sand and out into the water.

And just like that, he was up and riding it–his stance and body positioning largely unchanged, like a cat about to pounce as he navigated shifting areas of the waves where opportunities presented themselves to hit open faces, step up to the nose or bend a knee to pull a graceful, flowing turn.

Oh, Tony fell a couple of times. But when he did, it was always with a smile on his face and, well… just a lot of style. He loved riding that monstrous old antique. And he looked every bit as brilliant riding it as he did on his shortboard. Or mine.

I came to the realization that day that great style isn’t necessarily subject to a certain kind of board under your feet. Rather, it is something that lives inside you, and you bring it with you wherever you go and on whatever craft you happen to be riding. If you’ve got great style, it’s going to show up whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard, dick-shaped board, a finless plank, door, or a table. Heck, even with another little human strapped to your back.

And finally, if your style still needs work: Hey, no worries. Just keep on trying, having fun and smiling like the rest of us. After having spent a great portion of the past 30 years in lineups at home and abroad with surfers of every different skill level, I promise you that’s the most effective style-enhancer that any surfer of any ability can ever hope to master.

Note: This post was originally created for, and published on The Inertia. You can see the original, including article response, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/matters-of-style-and-the-style-masters/#ixzz3XnthvnWC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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