Another Weekend of Perfect Waves at San Miguel

We spent the weekend at San Miguel for the 3rd Annual Walter Caloca Open, a surf contest that brings together competitors from Mexico, the U.S. and around the world.

The waves were a blast!!

Sunday morning--San Miguel channeling Lowers.

Sunday morning–San Miguel channeling Lowers.

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That’s me channeling Terry Fitzgerald at J Bay in 1975.

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My eldest son Israel.

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My youngest son Daniel.

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IB surfer Sean Fowler.

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San Miguel local Kevin Meza.

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Zach Plopper

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Israel

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Israel

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Contest organizer Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

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From left to right: Me, my youngest son Daniel and friends Josh Johnson and his dad Daren Johnson.

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Junior boys finalists including from left to right: Gavin (3rd), Daniel Dedina (2nd), Dakotah Hooker (4th) and Josh Johnson (1st).

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Daniel.

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Daniel

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Josh Johnson

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Daniel

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Beach cleanup Saturday.

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Sharing Waves and Stoke at the 6th Annual Rincon Invitational

The Wildcoast team.

The Wildcoast team.

“What a stoke and a privilege to share good waves at the cove at Rincon with only seven friends for an hour,” said Jeff Knox, a longtime Imperial Beach surfer and retired elementary schoolteacher.

Jeff was at Rincon to surf with the WILDCOAST team in what is arguably the world’s most unusual surfing “competition.”

This year more than 200 surfers representing 22 surfing organizations were blessed with two days of consistently fun waves and a great weekend of camaraderie and hospitality and the 6th Annual Rincon Invitational.

With my sons israel and Daniel.

With my sons israel and Daniel.

“We designed the event to recognize surfers for their public service efforts,” said event committee chair Glen Henning. “It is not about commerce or competitio. It is about community.”

According to Henning, “Each team had the famed point at Rincon to themselves for an hour. The Black Surfers Collective rode 143 waves. The Best Day Foundation had two or more surfers on over 70% of their weaves. The Barbara Surf Club logged an astounding 247 rides. The surfers from the Third World Surf Company had up to eight riders linking hands.”

Josh Hall of the Pacific Beach Surf Club directed his totally stoked team into the “Wave of the Day Award.”

“They had their entire 10 person team all riding on three different waves,” said Henning.

San Diego shaper Josh Hall.

San Diego shaper Josh Hall.

Probably no one is more stoked on sharing the wealth of the ocean than Josh, a surfboard shaper and student of legend and stokemaster Skip Frye. Hall, a longtime visitor to the surf coast of Spain invited a couple of Spanish friends to join the PB Surf Club team at Rincon.

Josh even let me borrow his 12′ single fin pintail which I managed to maneuver on a few of my early waves. But I couldn’t figure out how to ride far back enough on the tail to avoid wiping out. So I ran the board back to the beach, thanked Josh, and ended our session on my 6’0″ Stu Kenson “Pleasure Pig.”

Daniel with my Stu Kenson Pleasure Pig

Daniel with my Stu Kenson Pleasure Pig

I shared all of my waves with teammates. But my best ride was a long ride with my two sons Israel and Daniel. At one point Daniel hopped on Israel’s 5’10”.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

When the boys are off to college in a few years I’ll think back fondly to that wave. For a surf dad sharing a wave with your kids is as good as it gets.

“There’s so much competition for waves these days, and amateur and pro contests are a constant presence,” said Henning. “So we think it is important to keep alive a version of surfing that’s all about sharing. And ironically, we end up getting really good waves, and a lot of them.

A baby elephant seal shares the stoke.

A baby elephant seal shares the stoke.

Thanks to Glen Henning for the invite and reporting.

Results 6th Annual Sharing the Stoke Rincon Invitational, March 16-17, 2013

Saturday

Total Waves

1. Sunset Cliffs Surfing Association, 2. Malibu Surfing Association, 3. Great Lakes Surf Crew

Total Shared Waves

1. Third World Surf Co., 2. Coast Law Group, 3. Surfrider Advisory Board

Sharing Surfers

1. Best Day Foundation, 2. Pacific Beach Surf Shop, 3. Huntington Beach Longboard Crew

Wave of the Day: Project Save Our Surf

Spirit of Surfing Award: Ventura Surf Club

Sunday

Total Waves

1. Black Surfers Collective, 2. Santa Barbara Seals Surf School, 3. Wildcoast

Total Shared Waves

1. Doheny Bob’s Surf Crew, 2. California Adaptive Surf Team, 3. Oceanside Longboard Surf Club

Sharing Surfers

1. Santa Barbara Surf Club, 2. San Diego Surf Ladies, 3. Surf Happens Surf Kids

Wave of the Day: Pacific Beach Surf Club

Spirit of Surfing Award: Childhood Enhancement Foundation

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How Surfing and Nature Change Kids Lives

Crawford at Del Mar 6-29-09

Chris Rutgers is a surfer quietly changing the lives of kids from the most underserved and low-income neighborhoods in San Diego County. Through the amazing work of the nonprofit Outdoor Outreach he founded more than a decade ago, he is getting thousands of kids outdoors and into the ocean.

Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Chris Rutgers: I grew up in Newport Beach, and as a teenager I was at the Wedge bodysurfing every south swell. When I was 18 I moved to the mountains of Utah to ski full-time. When the snow melted I bought a board and started surfing for the first time. For the next eight years I would ski 150 days from November to May, then spend the rest of the year surfing and rock climbing all over the world.

Dedina: What made you decide to start Outdoor Outreach? Was there a particular experience in your own life that made you realize the value of outdoor education?

Rutgers: I had a violently abusive childhood I barely survived. When I moved to Utah I was despondent and suicidal… a total mess. My time in the outdoors was healing and transformative on so many levels. There is a quote from Joseph Campbell that sums up my experience: “Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” Skiing, climbing and surfing is where I found my joy and it saved my life.

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Dedina: Why is it important to make sure that kids, especially teenagers, spend time outdoors?

Rutgers: I think anyone who has had the opportunity to spend time connected to nature intuitively knows about the positive impact it has on us. The average American 11- to 14-years-old has nine hours of screen time each day. We are raising an entire generation of kids with no connection to the natural world. It’s shameful.

Dedina: What is it about surfing especially that gives at-risk kids a boost?

Rutgers: Any surfer can tell you about their first wave. There may not be a purer expression of joy in the human experience than feeling yourself glide on a wave, the only thing separating you from the energy in that wave is an inch thick piece of foam. Giving that feeling to inner city kids, many of whom have never seen the ocean or left a five-block radius in their entire lives is transformative.

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Kids outdoors in Australia.

Dedina: You started Outdoor Outreach more than a decade ago. What has been its impact?

Rutgers: Since our founding we’ve served over 7,000 at-risk and underserved youth. Over the last four years serving youth in schools with graduation rates between 45 to 60 percent, 100 percent of Outdoor Outreach participants have graduated with 95 percent moving on to college or technical school.

Dedina: What kinds of activities are students carrying out at Outdoor Outreach?

Rutgers: Outdoor activities are the key component to all of our program models. Each year we run between 250-300 trips including surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking and backpacking

Dedina: You started outdoor adventure clubs at local high schools and other schools nationally have started them. How does that work and what do the clubs do?

Rutgers: The Adventure Club has become our core program. Each club typically has 20 youth members who are referred by school administrators and counselors. Students meet weekly after school and participate in monthly outdoor trips. Through their membership, the students develop strong bonds with their peers that encourage commitment to the club and dedication to creating a positive group environment.

Dedina: You’ve worked closely with Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, who is President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior. Do you think she’s a good choice?

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Sally Jewell of REI

Rutgers: Yes, I’ve known Sally for close to ten years.  She’s been hugely supportive of Outdoor Outreach, both personally and through REI. I think she’ll be a phenomenal Secretary of the Interior. She’s personally passionate about the resources she will be in charge of managing. She is uniquely suited for the position with her experience running a billion dollar enterprise at REI preceded by engineering work for the oil industry. I believe she’ll be effective at managing the diverse interests of many different competing interests and perspectives.

Dedina: You’ve now begun to expand the impact that Outdoor Outreach has on a national level. What are you doing to reach a larger audience so that more kids have a chance to get into the outdoors?

Rutgers:  Each year, we get 20-30 people that reach out to us wanting help replicating the Outdoor Outreach model in their community. We’ve just started working on a platform that will give others interested in doing similar work the tools and resources they need to create impactful outdoor youth development programs in their own community.

Dedina: What drives you to continue to push yourself and others to make Outdoor Outreach a game-changer for so many at-risk kids.

Rutgers: It works. Connecting kids to the outdoors is this amazing tool for healing, transformation and well being. There are so many kids out there that need help and support, by sharing our love and passion for the outdoors with these kids we can have such a huge impact. Not only here in San Diego, but throughout the world.

Chris Rutgers on the edge.

Chris Rutgers on the edge.

The Top Five Beach Movies We Hate to Love

One cure for the mid-winter blues  is to make some popcorn, curl up on the couch and check out one of these ultra fun beach movies.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Face it, Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli, a semi-savant, airhead, lamebrain is the best film portrayal of a surfer ever (with the exception of Jay Adams as himself in Dogtown.) Directed by Amy Heckerling (who went on to even better stuff in Clueless) and penned by San Diego’s own Cameron Crowe, Fast Times nails late ’70s early ’80s SoCal teen culture, before John Hughes moved the nexus of teen lollapalooza to the Midwest with movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The best thing about Fast Times is its crazy good cast including Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates (so babalicious!), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stolz (who Quentin Tarantino would later allow to update his role as a drug dealer in Pulp Fiction), Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage, rocker goddess Nancy Wilson (who Crowe later married), and Ray Walston as Mr. Hand, the high school teacher we all remember hating. With lots of nudity, sex, drinking and drugs, you probably don’t want yo

Valley Girl (film)

Valley Girl (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ur teens to watch this, but more than likely they already have.

2. Valley Girl

Nicolas Cage wins over valley-beach princess Julie played by Deborah Freedman in this underrated ’80s teen flick. With lots of screen time for LA power pop indie gods The Plimsouls, in Valley Girl, like in all great teen pics, the key romancing takes place at the beach. Cage updates the stereotypical “greaser” role into that of a a Hollywood punker and woos his dream girl on the sands of Santa Monica.

Valley Girl was helmed by Martha Coolidge, who went on to discover and direct Val Kilmer in the 80s classic Real Genius. Valley Girl is a companion piece to Moon Zappa’s horrible and ultra-ironic Valley Girl, arguably the best-worst white girl rap song ever.

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Cover of Malibu Beach

3. Malibu Beach/Van Nuys Boulevard

The best thing about this absolutely lame but lovable twofer from the exploitation kings at Crown International Pictures was the appearance of James Daughton as Bobby in Malibu Beach. Daughton later went on to fame as fascist frat boy Greg Marmalard in Animal House (the best college movie ever). These no-plot teen flicks were drive-in staples during the late ’70s (although I caught them at the now defunct Palm Theater in Imperial Beach) and feature characters such as Dugie (a Speedo wearing greased up bodybuilder) and Chooch (a porn-mustached hot rod racer) who channels Harrison Ford’s Bob Falfa from American Graffiti while ripping off Henry Winkler’s Fonz.

Malibu Beach features an endless parade of airhead bimbo and mimbos driving the oak-lined streets of Malibu while drunk or stoned on their way to the beach to have sex. The likewise plotless Van Nuys Boulevard, a sub-grade rip-off of George Lucas’s American Graffiti, features even dumber teens who cruise around in custom vans while drunk or stoned on their way to have sex at the drive-up burger shack (which is like totally awesome). The best thing about these films is that Richard Linklater used them as templates for his super cool  Dazed and Confused, which is the best teen film of all time. For some reason, both Malibu Beach and Van Nuys Boulevard appeared recently on Netflix streaming and then disappeared. Hopefully you can catch them again very, very soon.

4.The Sure Thing

The film that introduced us to the awkward John Cusack that we came to know and love in Say Anything, Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity among others, this romantic flick directed by Rob Reiner is a gem. Cusack teamed up with Daphne Zuniga (Melrose Place) and super dude Anthony Edwards on this road trip to Malibu, CA, along with The Sure Thing, played by ultra hottie Nicolette Sheridan. This is a homage to Frank Capra’s Oscar winning, It Happened One Night (sort of), although with no redeeming social value, except for the fact that it is still really, really charming.

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Cover of The Sure Thing (Special Edition)

5. Weekend at Bernie’s

An annoying but fun teen exploitation flick starring Jonathan Silverman and Andrew McCarthy a few years after he wooed Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and decades before he morphed into a perceptive travel writer. Weekend takes place at an East Coast beach mansion which explains why all the bad gu

ys are all neon-suit wearing mobsters with bad haircuts. Ted Kiser plays Bernie, the dead guy, who at one point is taken water-skiing by McCarthy and Silverman while he’s dead. This is one of the those films that doesn’t stand the test of time, but with characters named Paulie, Vito, Tina, and Tawny, how can you resist? Plus your kids will love it.

Simmone Jade Mackinnon (L), Brooke Burns (C), ...

Simmone Jade Mackinnon (L), Brooke Burns (C), and Stacy Kamano (R).

Baywatch

Unfortunately Baywatch was a television series so I couldn’t include it my top five list, although nothing else even comes close to being the single best beach filmed entertainment of all time that we hate to love. I mean with David “German God” Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Parker Stevenson (the totally cool star of my favorite ’70s TV series The Hardy Boys) and Kelly Slater (!!!!!), Baywatch is like a graduate seminar in Southern California beach culture. And the people of the world, to their credit, ate it up.

Other honorable mentions include the lovable Lifeguard (Sam Elliot as cool as ever), Blue Hawaii and Mama Mia because, Elvis+Abba=Nirvana. I didn’t include The Beach because it isn’t that fun and Cast Away is long and kind of a drag. Some Like it Hot didn’t make my list because this classic and brilliant Billy Wilder comedy (as in one of the best comedies ever) starring Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe that was filmed on the beach in Coronado, will forever be a beach picture that we love to love.

Top Five Ocean and Surfing Stories of 2012

 

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From Hurricane Sandy to the return of big-wave paddle surfing to the crowning of Parko as ASP World Surfing Champion, 2012 was a pivotal year for the ocean and for surfing.

1. Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change. This “Frankenstorm” slammed the Eastern Seaboard like a bomb, leaving a path of destruction and loss of life in its wake. Sandy’s storm surge radically changed the coastline, destroyed entire communities, and reminded us how vulnerable beaches and coastal cities are to sea level rise. Due to Sandy, 2012 was the year that will be remembered when policy makers, politicians and the public finally took climate change seriously. It remains to be seen if President Obama will have the political courage and conviction to address the very real threat of climate change that is altering our planet.

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2. The Return of Big Wave Paddle Surfing. With two days of epic conditions at the Cortes Banks just before Christmas, the world’s best big-wave surfers including Greg and Rusty Long, Mark Healy, Shane Dorian, Peter Mel, Twiggy Baker, Jamie Mitchell and Derek Dunfee, paddled into blue monsters and forever changed big-wave surfing. Those sessions followed another early season paddle session at Jaws on Maui in which veteran surfer Shane Dorian (among many) displayed his mastery of the sea. After the Coast Guard airlifted veteran big-wave charger Greg Long to a San Diego hospital after a multi-wave hold down at the Cortes Bank, we were also reminded about the very real limits to riding giant waves in the middle of the ocean.

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3. New Marine Protected Areas for Southern California. With the establishment of new Marine Protected Areas or MPAs, our most iconic coastal and marine ecosystems in Southern California–including Swami’s, La Jolla, Point Loma, Tijuana River Mouth, Laguna Beach, Catalina Island and Point Dum–are now protected forever. The establishment of MPAs in California is a globally important conservation initiative that will help to foment the restoration of our marine ecosystems and fish and shellfish stocks as well as provide recreational opportunities for our growing population. California now has 848 square miles of protected area, supporting ecosystems from Oregon to the Mexican border.

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4. Parko Wins the ASP World Title and the Changing of the Guard. After four years as ASP runner-up, Joel “Parko” Parkinson was finally crowned ASP World Surfing Champion after a brilliant performance and victory at the Billabong Pipe Masters. Parko, one of the most stylish and popular professional surfers, narrowly edged out Kelly Slater for the ASP title. It remains to be seen if Slater will return for the 2013 ASP Tour (most likely he will). But 2012 was a seminal year for professional surfing. With great performances by Josh Kerr, Kolohe Andino, Gabriel Medina, Julian Wilson, Ace Buchan, John John Florence, Yadin Nicol, Mick Fanning, and Dane (will he return full-time to pro surfing?) among others, the ranks of pro surfing is thankfully undergoing a much needed changing of the guard.

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5. James Cameron Explores the Marianas Trench. Earlier this year Oscar winning filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron proved his technical skill, oceanographic prowess and courage by taking his “vertical torpedo”, the Deepsea Challenger, down to a record depth of 6.8 miles or 35,803 feet in the Marianas Trench southwest of Guam. Ironically, we  seem to know more about deep space than we do about our own oceans, but thanks to Cameron and a new generation of ocean explorers and oceanographers, we are on the cusp of uncovering some of the mysteries of the origins of life.

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

Other worthy events include Hurricane Isaac, the loosening of federal restrictions on the movements of sea otters in California, the warming of Antarctica, the SANDAG sand replenishment project, the ending of La Niña, the expansion of federal marine sanctuaries in Northern California and the increasing acidification of the ocean.

Of course the most important ocean and surfing events in 2012 were those special days when we enjoyed the beaches and waves with our friends and family that belong to us all and are our responsibility to care for.

Stu Kenson’s Passion for Making Surfboards

10225_101732346509928_6369969_nLongtime surfer Stu Kenson has always been one of San Diego’s most respected custom surfboard builders. The founder of Evening Glass, Stu has worked with Weber Surfboards, Rusty, and Joel Tudor and his own label Stu Kenson Surfboards.

Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Stu Kenson: Doheny Beach, Orange County in 1970.

Dedina: How did you get started shaping?

Kenson: I did my first board during the summer of 1971.

I had an older mentor/friend that asked a few friends and myself if we wanted to make our own boards. I lived near Clark Foam, where at the time you could buy blanks direct from them. We could get a second quality blank for twelve dollars and a reject for less than that. Resin and cloth would run another twelve dollars or so. Shaped them with hand tools, surforms, and sandpaper. Made our own fins, which I had help on big time.

Sean Fowler with his SK quiver. Photo courtesy S. Fowler.

Sean Fowler with his SK quiver. Photo courtesy S. Fowler.

Dedina: Who inspired you when you started shaping and what shapers inspire you now?

Kenson: Making my own surfboard had a huge impact on me. The blanks at the time were very unrefined, bumpy and thick from end to end. It really took a great deal of talent to shape a good surfboard. I started doing ding repair at around 13 to 14 a years old and had access to many different boards. I would occasionally pick up broken and badly damaged boards for cheap. So pretty quickly I was able to try lots of different designs.

My surfboard collection grew from working in a surf shop. I spent just about every dollar I made on surfboards. Terry Martin was our in house shaper, and he could make anything you wanted, and I was able to try loads of different boards.

As far as who has influenced me, there are quite a few guys that made me some insane surfboards thru the years prior to my picking up the planer to build my own. Max McDonald, Jeff Mack, back in the day were really open to trying different things. We had a great time doing trippy boards that worked really well. Rusty Priesendorfer has been a huge influence. I probably learned more from him than anyone–incredible design knowledge, and great planer work.

When I decided to try and start shaping myself a few boards again in 1986 I had been getting boards from Dave Craig, which were some of the best boards I have ever had. I always sat in while he shaped my boards and told him I wanted to try and do a few. He hooked me up with a couple of templates and away I went.

Chris Russell on a SK longboard. Photo courtesy Jeff Wallis.

Chris Russell on a SK longboard. Photo courtesy Jeff Wallis.

Dedina: It seems like you were one of the early adopters of advanced materials such as carbon fiber. What types of material are you using for blanks and for glassing now?

Kenson: I had a team rider that wanted to try an epoxy style board so I shaped one for him and he loved it, so we started doing quite a few. At the same time Future Fins had come out with their Vector foil fins, which were made out of G10 fiberglass. They were very stiff with no flex, which was part of their design theory.

With these fins you were able to generate an extreme amount of drive and speed, which sometimes led to the surfboard breaking down due to the load that the fins put on the fin box and surfboard itself. At the time I was heavily involved with EPS/epoxy surfboards and looking into alternative glass/fabrics to build in additional performance into the boards we were building. We laid one up with carbon and it went unreal, in addition to it holding up really well. IB surfer Dave Parra had the first one.

The only problem with using advanced materials for surfboards is the cost. The fabrics we have used which included carbon and Kevlar are expensive, so they are not for every one. I am currently offering EPS/epoxy or Poly blank/ epoxy glassing, unless the customer prefers poly blank and Poly glassing.

The SK Pleasure Pig.

The SK Pleasure Pig.

Dedina: People rarely discuss the health aspects of shaping and glassing. Is that something you are worried about? Has the use of new less toxic or volatile materials reduced your health risk?

Kenson: As a kid I was always elbow deep in resin and solvents; not a good combination. I got much more serious about gloves and wearing a respirator when I got back into making surfboards in the early 80s. Years ago I participated in a study with a guy doing grad school research on dust produced from shaping surfboards. His findings were that it was not toxic as long as you took precautions, wore a mask and didn’t eat it.

Dedina: How has the evolution of social media allowed you to promote your business? Has it made it easier?

Kenson: I started with a web site, which went thru the process of constant design change, and it was fairly expensive to start with. It has progressed through blogs. Now I pretty much use Facebook to feature and promote my surfboards. It enables me to get new designs out as soon as I shape them.

Stu at work. Courtesy of Stu Kenson.

Stu at work. Courtesy of Stu Kenson.

Dedina: You always seem to be “pre-cutting edge” in what you are shaping—whether it was high-performance longboards,  SUPs, carbon fiber short boards, and now with the hybrid mini-Simmons and fishes.

How do you stay ahead of the game in order to anticipate what your clients want?

Kenson: I still get my time out in the water–when the powers that be don’t feel like destroying the beach–and have some of the best surfers–Sean Fowler, Chris Russell, Jason Ronis, Derek Dunfee, Mark Stone, Dave Parra and Bill Lerner–throughout San Diego riding my boards. I get bored riding the same old thing. I like to experiment with different materials and designs. I have a great crew of surfers and craftsmen that I work with, and we are constantly trying different things. Just trying to keep everything interesting.

Dedina: What are the shapes/designs surfers are into at the moment? And how do you test your designs and boards?

Kenson: The Pleasure Pig is one of my most popular small wave designs that I offer right now. I wanted to have a board that was easy to catch waves with, that had to be fast and very maneuverable. The board features a very wide template to accommodate quite a bit of volume, and a concave deck to keep the board very sensitive under feet.

Bottom design features a modified Bonzer concave in the tail, adding to the maneuverability and speed. I built the first one about four years ago and it went unreal in absolute junk, blown out summer surf, maybe knee high. A friend of mine saw me surf it and called it the “Pleasure Pig” and the name stuck.

Quads are also at the forefront right now. Many of the boards I make now have five fin boxes in them so you can tune your board better to the conditions. Quads are faster than tri fins, and sometimes that will make a huge difference

Sean Fowler test-driving a SK shape. Courtesy Sean Fowler.

Sean Fowler test-driving a SK shape. Courtesy Sean Fowler.

Dedina: Where do you think custom shaping is headed? 

Kenson: If you make good surfboards and believe in what you are doing, the possibilities are endless.

Dedina: With all the obstacles to making and selling custom surfboards, why do you continue?

Kenson: Some people worry about imported boards. That doesn’t concern me. I’m not building boards for that part of the market. I have always tried to be innovative with my surfboard designs. As long as I still enjoy what I do for a living, I won’t be ready for anything else just quite yet.

A custom SK paddleboard.

A custom SK paddleboard.

Surfing Charities That Deserve Your Support

With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, many of us take the opportunty to write checks to our favorite charities. With the emergence of new surf-related non-profits dedicated coastal protection, humanitarian and community development and recreation, there is no reason that every surfer shouldn’t give back this year.

Here is a list of surf-related charities worthy of a check or online donation.

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WiLDCOAST The conservation team that I run has preserved over 3.2 million acres of bays, beaches, lagoons, and islands since 2000. A 4-star Charity Navigator ranked charity, WiLDCOAST this year mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to clean up 150,000 lbs of trash and helped to preserve miles of beautiful coastline in Mexico.

Wildcoast

Wildcoast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Surfrider Foundation: The granddaddy of surfing charities, Surfrider is a well-managed and effective coastal protection organization that mobilizes its thousands of members to strategically save surf spots and beaches in the U.S. and around the world.

The Surfrider Foundation Logo

The Surfrider Foundation Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Outdoor Outreach in action.

SurfAid: This humanitarian organization carries out health related work in Indonesia. If you’ve surfed Indo and/or care about the fate of people who suffer from diseases present in tropical paradises than donate to SurfAid.

Outdoor Outreach: This San Diego non-profit is one of the nation’s most effective organizations at getting low-income and at-risk kids into the outdoors. Founder and Director Chris Rutgers, a local surfer, involves kids in surfing, rock climbing, camping and even snowboarding as a way of building self-esteem and providing recreational opportunities for kids who have very few.

Save the Waves: This Davenport-based organization focuses on preserving surf spots around the world and promoting and developing World Surfing Reserves.

Waves for Development: This New York-based charity creates life-enriching experiences in coastal communities in Peru through educational surf programs. Waves for Development is working in some of the most marginalized coastal communities to bring in surfing and get volunteers involved to assist in community development programs.

Crawford at Del Mar 6-29-09

Outdoor Outreach in action.

Center for Surf Research-SDSU: Researcher and surfer Dr. Jess Ponting has created this new academic and action-oriented research center in order to promote more sustainable surfing tourism and manufacturing and to promote great involvement by the surf industry in environmental and humanitarian issues where surfing tourism occurs. Off to a great start with groundbreaking conferences on surfing philanthropy, this is a truly innovative university research division.

YMCA Camp Surf: This wonderful beachfront youth camp located in San Diego County is an ocean oasis that provides recreational and educational opportunities for thousands of kids each year. For many campers their day and overnight camping experience here are their first real contact with the ocean.

Sustainable Surf: This San Clemente-based organization works with surfers and the surf industry to foster and promote recycling and re-use of surfboard materials, and promote better and more sustainable practices in the surfing industry.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

Beach cleanup in Chile with Save the Waves.

I’m also a big fan of the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego and the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA. In these challenging times, all of these organizations provide critical and much-needed recreational opportunities for kids and families, including teaching kids to swim – which is key to enjoying the ocean and learning to surf.

Shaping New Ideas with Plus One’s George Gall

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George surfing Indonesia. Photo courtesy of G. Gall.

George Gall grew up blocks from the water in Ocean Beach body surfing and riding inflatable mats. Today the third generation board shaper runs Plus One Surfboards.

Serge Dedina: You are a third generation shaper. You would think that the adversity that surfboard shapers face economically would have pushed you away from shaping. Why have you stuck with it at Plus One Surfboards?

George Gall: My grandfather made boards starting in the 1920s for himself and his friends. I don’t know that he made any for money, plus the number of surfers was not that many, so his income came from other sources. He was a bit of an artist, I was told he did graphic/sculpting work on buildings in Balboa Park, worked at the Navy Aircraft Rework Facility on North Island, and worked as a chauffeur/assistant for a prominent San Diego family, the Luces.

I only remember my dad having one foam/glass surfboard and they only had their own boards for surfing and abalone diving. So again there was not a lot of economic pressure to make a living from surfboard building, which is probably why I never heard any discouraging parental words to not shape boards.

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

George at work. Photo: K. Stucki

Likewise, I had other careers. I went to college and got degrees in mechanical engineering and then mathematics. All the while I made boards, I kind of thought I was going to go the full corporate route, and I did, working for the Space Systems Division of General Dynamics on the rocket program that launched payloads like Cassini, the GPS array and military payloads for the Air Force and CIA.

Then the big change for me happened, wanting to surf more again, I took a big chance and changed careers. I became a high school math and computer science teacher and worked in Chula Vista. This opened me up for summers off, perfect for surfing and travel, and making even more boards.

I was busy to the point of surfing less and working more. Not for the money as much as wanting to make good boards and to stoke people on them. I enjoy it.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

George at work. Photo courtesy of Michael Andrew Photography.

Dedina: Is San Diego a good place to be a shaper?

Gall: This is a double-edged sword. Southern California has always been the pre-internet hotbed for innovation and the active lifestyle. This means lots of board makers come here to establish credibility and all the major ingredients: the blank makers, resin and glass suppliers had set up shop near San Diego.

It is good to be a shaper in San Diego, for many reasons: cred, leading edge, testing and close to media to share designs and do business. San Diego is a bad place to be a shaper because there are so many shapers trying to do the same thing, thus the market becomes a bit saturated at times, and the price and profit for boards is probably the lowest in the world outside of China.

San Diego can be an aggressive market due to pro surfers wanting sponsorships and low-ball pricing. Access to materials to home builders has an influence on killing the margin needed to make a living from surfboard building.

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

George field testing his designs. Photo courtesy of G. Gall

Dedina: It seems like there is more support for local shapers from the industry and the media. Does that translate to greater sales? Has it helped at all?

Gall: There has been a huge shift from the mindset of pre-2005. Gone are the days of shaping 40, 50, 60 of the same board over and over. Supplanting this is the desire for fresh designs. This paradigm shift has brought the spotlight on “alternate” designs, on new ideas, and thus local shapers.

This translates into different sales, depending upon which side of the threshold the shaper is working. If they were once doing 300 boards a week of the same design, the rise of the local shaper counters their effort. If the shaper is one of the local brands, then yes, they are going to feel an increase in demand, if their designs are good.

However, the local shaper hits a ceiling because there are other local shapers on either side of the shaper’s “territory.” If that shaper has a good share of a particular coastal stretch, then that shaper usually does well, just servicing that business model.

As the territory expands, then the shaper is no longer perceived as a “local shaper” requiring a morph of the public image. In my book, the board has to work, it has to be fun, and the business will come.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Plus One asymmetrical boards.

Dedina: What are the trends you see for surfers and the type of boards they are riding right now. What are the hot shapes?

Gall: Experimentation. The average surfer has seen the iconic top surfers trying “new stuff.” With this permission slip, the average surfers are cleansing themselves of the “one-design” constraint of the last 20 years. With this experimenting there will be successes, which will manifest larger quantized jumps in better designs than the small incremental refinements of the old designs.

With this greater design mutation, it is assured you will see greater, more noticeable progress in surfboard design; the door is now open wide, pushed by newfound creativity and also financial reasons. In a way, it is good to see this wide array being tried in the water. Along with this, we are seeing surfing change, less “clonish” with different styles and approaches.

On the other hand, imagine being a surfer who finally gets the hundreds of dollars together to get a new board who must make a decision to go with a “known” design, usually reinforced as a “model,” which implies more credibility to a board, or to take an expensive gamble on an unknown concept that might result in being stuck with it for a while, having to get rid of it, and having to endure criticism from peers–the all-stagnating peer imperative.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

George and his racing SUP design. Photo: G. Gall.

Dedina: Is the economic incentive to use more sustainable or “green” materials there yet?

Gall: We are still on the uphill side of sustainable boards at the leading edge of performance surfing. I often wake up wanting to go in the shop and build something that was grown or was from something used previously for another purpose, so it would not be a waste.

Everyone in my family built wooden boards and that weighs on me, especially now. The big difficulty is educating the buying surfer to understand that purchasing a sustainable board is much more than just getting another board to ride.

Seeing the big picture offers a satisfaction, and to some a fulfilling duty, to make a responsible surfboard purchase. We are trying new materials all the time and are in contact with many of those dedicated to finding the coming viable solutions. I do not think there is a surfer out there who would be opposed to owning and riding a surfboard that was 100 percent green. The constraints right now seem to be cost, durability, performance and convenience.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Shaping machine Plus One design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Dedina: What can the surf industry and even the surf media do to promote having surfers work with local shapers? Could local shapers work together more effectively to create a trade association to promote the art of shaping and buying handcrafted surfboards?

Gall: Most of the push is word of mouth. The push is being felt the strongest where it matters the most: in the water. But whether at the local break, or big contest, or daredevil surf spot, the credibility of the shaper is in how the board works in the water. In most cases there is a core group or core surfer who is devoted to a particular board concept.

The shaper needs to be dedicated to listening to the surfer, produce the dream into a reality, and maybe answer the phone every once in a while. Reputation is, or should be, made by the merits of the shaper. The modern “word of mouth” is social media.

I get more and more boards ordered on an Internet-only basis, and it is working. In fact I am seeing less errors on orders since we have written histories on boards and idea development. This has actually made my workload easier and a little less stressful.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Plus One computer aided design. Courtesy G. Gall.

Another thing I see happening post-2005 (blanks) and post-2007 (economy) is that the remaining shapers have had to pull up their stakes and regroup. It is now common to see five or six shapers have their boards made under the same roof.  At Plus One we have six to eight shapers who will come in to do their work, all of their own brand.

This strategy is a good starting point to go to the next level which is to promote the trade. Shapers are more networked together now than ever before. We have tribute shows and a semblance of a trade show open to the public. A trade association would strengthen the small local shapers and give them a voice and a channel to improve what they make.

Chasing Mavericks: Surfing in Northern California

The swell had finally hit.

Steamer Lane was 6 to 8 feet on the sets with fun waves and not that many people out. My sons Israel (16), Daniel (14) and I quickly donned our wetsuits and jumped into the lineup.

We were on the second part of our Thanksgiving week excursion up the coast of California to visit college campuses in the world’s best public university system (Israel is a junior in high school) and hopefully catch a few waves.

Before heading north, we checked out Southern California schools and surf spots.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

My wife, Emily, flew into San Francisco the day before Thanksgiving and we planed to join my dad, my brother and the rest of our family for a feast.

The Lane, a World Surfing Reserve, is ground zero for Northern California surf culture (technically it is Central California—but I’m calling Santa Cruz and SF Northern Cal). It is a frenetic beehive of surfers, waves, coastal culture, and surf-gazing tourists.

It is the Main Street of surfing in the United States, with a lighthouse and panoramic view for the wave-filled lineup of Monterey Bay. I couldn’t think of a nicer place to spend an afternoon.

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While the boys gleefully jumped off Lighthouse Point and into the Slot, I carefully walked down the upper staircase and delicately threaded my way down the rocks and into the lineup at The Point.

While I fought the crowd for a few lined-up rights, the boys snagged set waves, then found waves to take them inside, where they would run up the inner staircase,  back to the outer rocks, fling themselves back into the lineup and start all over again. Grom heaven.

After a couple of hours at the Lane, we hurried northward along the Pacific Coast Highway. Our destination was Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point, home to Mavericks, one of the world’s most infamous and challenging big-wave surf spots.

After hitting a bizarre pre-Thanksgiving traffic jam in Half Moon Bay (which is literally in the middle of nowhere), we found the Mav’s parking lot at the base of Pillar Point.

The boys with Greg Long.

The boys with Greg Long.

The boys ran down the trail ahead of me.

“Hey, Dad,” said Israel, running back toward me after a couple of minutes on the trail. “That’s Greg Long,” he said, pointing to a lone surfer walking down the beach carrying a big-wave gun.

And sure enough, we were lucky to catch a moment with one of the world’s best big-wave surfers.

“The waves are coming up,” Long said. “It’s not super big, but I wanted to get ready for tomorrow.”

Sunset at Mavericks.

Sunset at Mavericks.

All I can say about Mavericks is that I have a deep well of respect for the surfers who challenge themselves on what has to be one of the gnarliest and most difficult waves to surf on the coast of California.

The rocks, the waves, the paddle, the sharks, and the boils come together to make it a true surfing gauntlet.

As the sun set, the boys and I joined a couple of locals and a group of Japanese surfers on the cliff above the beach and watched 12- to 15-foot waves pour through the surf zone.

It was gnarly. And it wasn’t even that “big.”

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For the next two days, in between wonderful meals at my brother’s house, the boys and I enjoyed great waves at Fort Point and Ocean Beach in San Francisco. We couldn’t have been more stoked.

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So for those of you who spend your time and money searching the world for great waves and adventure, make sure you haven’t overlooked our wonderful surf-filled state.

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Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change and Sand Replenishment

As I watch the news reports of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge, I think of the south county coastal area where I live and surf.

Imperial Beach is a low-lying coastal city connected to Coronado by a thin strip of sand. Any storm with a potent tidal surge would immediately obliterate the homes, dunes and streets of my coastal backyard.

Understanding the the impact of Sandy on the beaches, barrier islands and cities of the East Coast is critical for the residents of Southern California in order to evaluate the costly efforts to preserve local beaches.

Now that SANDAG is finishing up its $28 million regional sand replenishment project, we need to ask if having government agencies continue to spend billions of dollars nationally dumping sand on our beaches to forestall the inevitable reduction in size due to man-made erosion, violent storms and sea level rise, is really worth it.

That is especially true in light of new proposals by the Army Corps of Engineers to spend $261 million on sand projects just for Encinitas, Solana Beach and San Clemente.

Beach replenishment and beach nourishment are euphemisms for what are really beach dredge and fill that turns the beach into an industrial site during construction,” said Surfider Foundation Environmental Director Chad Nelsen. “They should be designed to minimize impacts to nearshore reefs that are important recreational (surfing, diving, etc.)  and ecological resources.”

Terry Gibson, a longtime surfer and fisherman from Florida who is the Senior Editor of Fly & Light Tackle Angler, has spent a considerable amount of effort evaluating the impacts of badly managed sand replenishment projects on the East Coast.

“Near shore reefs or other types of essential fish habitat are typically buried or silted over, without adequate much less kind-for-kind mitigation,” he said.

According to Gibson, “Chronic turbidity is often a problem. The entire slope of the near shore environment typically changes so that wave quality from a surfer’s perspective is degraded or destroyed. And you often lose the qualities that make a beach attractive to sea turtles, not to mention the impacts to the invertebrates that live in the beach and are a requisite forage source for fish and birds.”

The San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is currently monitoring the impacts to surf throughout San Diego from the current SANDAG regional effort via video monitoring. In Imperial Beach the SANDAG project has shut down the surf for about 75 percent of our beachfront.

“At IB we’ve been seeing a trend towards decreasing surfer counts and decreasing ride length,” said Tom Cook of San Diego Surfrider.

According to Julia Chunn of San Diego Surfrider, “We hope that video-based monitoring, similar to our current Surf Monitoring Study, will be required of all large beach nourishment project in the future.”

For this reason, it is my view that the current SANDAG project is preferable to the incredibly expensive projects the Army Corps has slated for Solana Beach, Encinitas and San Clemente. Those proposed federal projects come with a price tag that in light of the cost of Sandy’s storm damage and federal fiscal woes, seems obscene.

Additionally, the federal project planned for Solana Beach-Encinitas, that in the long-term is designed only to protect 300 feet of beach, would involve more than double the amount of sand SANDAG deposited on beaches throughout the entire county. These Army Corps projects are relics of the past that do not reflect our climate-contorted and fiscally prudent future.

SANDAG sand project 2012 in Imperial Beach

Clearly we are going to have be smarter and more resourceful with our tax dollars when it comes to conserving our beaches. The process works best when all stakeholders as well as scientists can come to the table with local agencies and evaluate the most cost effective and sensible solutions to coastal erosion, rather than when Army Corps push through massive dredge and fill projects with little public oversight and accountability.

“These projects should be considered temporary solutions that buy us time to find sustainable long term solutions to our coastal erosion problems because they are expensive, short lived and will not be sustainable in the face of sea level rise,” said Nelsen.

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