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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Sliding the Glide with Shaper Josh Hall

Josh Hall, 31, the president of the Pacific Beach Surf Club  is one of the San Diego’s core shapers and surfers.

His innovative and stylish shapes and surfing directly connect him to his mentor and surfing legend Skip Frye. On clean fall days I often catch up with Josh in the lineup at La Jolla Shores where we swap stories about Baja and Spain.

Dedina: When did you start surfing and why? Do you remember your first surf session?

Josh: I started surfing toward the end of 8th grade and beginning of high school. Kind of late by today’s standards. Growing up, my family was always at the beach. We’d go to south Carlsbad every summer for two weeks from when I was born until now, so I was always in the water. My grandfather boogied almost until he was 80! And my half brother was a big surfer, but being ten years older we weren’t real close when I was young so it was up to my friends and I to get it going on our own.


Serge: When and where did you decided to get into shaping?

Hall: Once I got the full addiction of surfing, I knew I wanted to build boards. More as a way of being able to stay in surfing and surf forever. I grew up surfing on Felspar St. in Pacific Beach, right next to the Crystal Pier. There was always a heavy group of older locals that were all in the board building business–Joe Roper, Bird Huffman, Larry Mabile, Hank Warner, Glenn Horn. All those guys checked the pier every day so being around them was a huge influence on me. And of course, everyone’s hero Skip Frye had Harry’s Surf Shop with his wife Donna and great friend Hank right there, a half block from the sand.

Serge: How did your relationship with Skip Frye develop?

Hall: Well surfing Felspar everyday, you’d see Skip in the mornings cleaning up trash around the cul-de-sac and then you’d see him later surfing. But it really started when I was 18-19 and ordered my first board from him.

Dedina: Is the role of a mentor critical in producing good surfers and shapers?

Hall: Absolutely. Skip has taught me everything I know about both surfing and shaping–weather, tides, swell directions, periods, everything to do with waves. And of course over the last ten years, he has bequeathed to me a lot of his design theory and his evolution as a shaper/surfer.

It is critical to spend time paying dues, working from the ground floor up, starting at sweeping and packing, then maybe to fins, then maybe other glassing things.

Too many people nowadays just pop up and go, “I’m a shaper,” and they might not even surf. It takes time, and lots and lots of practice. I am just really fortunate to have started with the right person to follow. It is important to ride the boards your are building and watch boards be built. That helps build your overall design knowledge every day. I just happened to be (and still) learning from someone who has 50 years of experience.


Dedina: You and Skip seem to represent San Diego and California’s forgotten art of style and soul. Do you see the need for style once again being recognized or has it been lost with the rise in more technical and aerial surfing maneuvers?

Hall: I think style is important, for sure. For me, hanging around those older guys when I was a grommet, it was for sure all about style. They could pick out any surfer in the line-up from their style, from the pier to the point. As much as big industry seems to be taking over, in my opinion, there’s a HUGE movement of individuals right now, whether surfers or shapers or both, creating their own identities and I think its a far better picture of what’s really going on right now.

Dedina: With the rise of machine-produced surfboards and mass production in China, you’ve made a commitment to creating handcrafted surfboards. Do you regret becoming a shaper? Is it still really possible to make a living as a shaper anymore in the U.S.?

Hall:  I don’t regret at all becoming a shaper. Surfing and shaping has given me everything I have. Now some shapers have been able to turn it in to a bigger-than-hobby business, which is possible still, but for me it’s all so I can surf.

These days I think it is really important that your shaper be a good surfer. You are going to want to be able to talk to them about certain waves or how you’d like to surf, and the guys that just design on the computer might not be able to fulfill what your looking for. Now don’t get me wrong, the machine is another tool, and has a place in the business, its just different from my philosophy for why I shape.

Dedina: What is it that you love most about creating surfboards?

Hall: Well, without getting too romantic about it all, you take this fairly crude foam core and literally sculpt it with various tools by hand in to this visually pleasing foil, that is actually beyond super functional in a really inconsistent medium. And the phone calls you get from a customer right after that first session on a new board. The stoke in their voice is extremely satisfying.

Dedina: What kind of shapes do you see working the best in San Diego and Southern California?

Hall: Well, I’m a fish guy. In the various lengths, forms and fins set up, a fish can be the most versatile shape in the universe. My other creed is that everyone in San Diego should own an 8-foot egg. It’s the panacea of surfing. A short board for a long boarder and a long board for a short boarder!

Dedina: In your role as the President of the Pacific Beach Surf Club you’ve helped to continue the club’s role in coastal stewardship and giving back. Why is it important for surfers to take responsibility for safeguarding the beaches we use?

Hall: Well first off the ocean is the biggest resource we have in the entire world, and if we continue to treat it the way we have been IT WONT BE HERE for future generations. So part of the goal of the club is to help further along that thought.

We need to do everything we can to help keep it clean. We do about four annual beach cleanups a year and donate to organizations who are able to do more with it than just our little club in PB. Raising awareness is something I learned from Donna and Skip back in the Harry’s days.

Dedina: You have spent a lot of time in Spain, studying and now surfing and shaping. How did your interest in Spain develop and what is it about northern Spain that has you spending so much time there?

Hall: Well I got a degree in Spanish Literature from SDSU in 2003, and lived in Salamanca, Spain for one year during my undergrad. The love for Spain first came about because my best friend and my former Coronado High School Spanish teacher Smoky Bayless took a group of us kids to Spain. That trip changed my whole life.

Besides many other reasons (friends, family, food, wine, surf, culture) the Basque Region is where the majority of the Spanish and French surf industry lives. So that’s why I stay there so often. My friend Peta has a factory in Irun that I shape at and then the boards get glassed in Soustons, France.

Josh and surfing innovator Carl Eckstrom at last year’s Sacred Craft Expo

Dedina: : You also spend a lot of quality time off the grid in deep Baja. How does the wildness of surfing in Baja contribute to your evolution as a shaper and surfer?

Hall: Baja brings to me a peace of mind. It is paradise down there. As far as shaping goes, depending on the swell and spot, you can have more actual time surfing on a wave in one trip then you do here for an entire season. That alone is worth gold for R&D purposes.

Dedina: Anything else you want to add?

Hall: I’ve only been able to get here with the help of a whole heap of different people and so for that I am humbled and appreciative. I just hope that I am but a small reflection of all those influences. Slide the glide!

Art and Soul at the Sacred Craft

Upon entering Exhibition Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for the Sacred Craft Consumer Surf Expo I ran into San Diego surfing pioneers, Jack “Woody” Ekstrom of Leucadia and Carl Knox of Carlsbad.

Both are regular attendees at the Sacred Craft that is underway this weekend (and continues from 10am-4pm on Sunday). Expo organizer Scott Bass estimates about 3,500 will attend the two day event.

Carl Knox and Woody Ekstrom

I was a friend of and had written about big wave surfing legend Dempsey Holder, an old surfing buddy of Woody and Carl.

“I surfed with Dempsey back in 1954,” said Knox.

Woody’s brother Carl (the brothers grew up down the street from Windansea in La Jolla), an innovative surfboard designer, was being honored in a “Tribute to the Masters Shape-off.”

Josh Hall and Carl Ekstrom

The developer of the off-kilter asymmetrical surfboard design, Ekstrom selected esteemed shapers such as Matt Biolos, Tim Bessell, Ryan Burch, George Gall, Wayne Rich, and Daniel Thomson to compete for a $1,000 prize by shaping their own asymmetrical surfboard blanks.

The final products will be judged by Rusty Preisendorfer, Stanley Pleskunas, and Carl himself.

“It is like judging art,” said Ekstrom. “These guys are like sculptors.”

I joined Kevin Stuckey of Imperial Beach and his son Kevin Jr. to observe George Gall of Point Loma’s Plus One Surfboards fine-tune his asymmetrical design in the see-through shaping bay complimented by its own mini-grandstand.

George Gall of Plus One Surfboards at the Shape-off

“He’s also my shaper,” said Stuckey.

With over 150 booths representing surfboard shapers, surf artists and blank companies, Sacred Craft is all about the surfboard.

The economic downturn combined with the threat of mass-manufactured boards in China and Taiwan has made it harder than ever to make a living selling handcrafted surfboards.

But no one makes surfboards expecting to make money.

Coronado’s Dan Mann, was hawking his innovative inCide foam blank with a carbon fiber core.

“I just want to help make surfboards better and better,” said Mann. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what is possible.”

Dan Mann and his inCide carbon core foam blanks.

“For me, the Sacred Craft is a great event,” said Mann. “It gets users and manufacturers face to face.”

“Handcrafted surfboards are a niche market,”  said Joe Virgilio of Plus One. “Sacred Craft brings the community together.”

For the average surfer, Sacred Craft provides an opportunity to catch a glimpse of surfing legends past and present.

Surfing ambassador and Hall of Famer Rob Machado was on hand watching a glassing demonstration.

Big wave charger Greg Long authographed posters for a long line of admirers. Mickey Munoz, surfing’s version of Forrest Gump, signed copies of his new book, “No Bad Waves,” at the Patagonia Booth.

Big wave charger Greg Long

And 1960s surfing stylist John Peck wandered in while I was leaving.

A very popular part of the expo was the Collective Surfboard and Memorabilia Appraisals, a surfing version of the PBS program “Antique Roadshow.”

I found Dave Lopez and his teenage son Loukas there waiting to have a couple of 1970s era single fins evaluated.

Dave was admiring a 1976 7’8” mint condition Gerry Lopez Lightning Bolt rounded pintail gun that was on exhibition.

Dave and Loukas Lopez

“That is such a nice board,” said Lopez who spent years cutting his teeth on Oahu’s North Shore.

Thomas Meyerhoffer, an innovative and award winning designer originally from Sweden and now based in Half Moon Bay, had his uniquely shaped surfboards on display.

“I make about 1,000 units a year,” said Meyerhoffer of his longboards that have a widepoint further back than traditional surfboards.

“That allows it to feel like a shortboard,” Meyerhoffer said.

The Swedish designer ultimately doesn’t need to make surfboards. “Shaping boards allows me to get to do what I love,” he said.

Super designer Thomas Meyerhoffer and his eclectic surfboard shapes.

Paddle for Clean Water

On Sunday September 18th, my sons and I participated in the 20th Annual Paddle for Clean Water organized by the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. It is a fun event with hundreds of surfers from around San Diego County paddling a variety of watercraft around the Ocean Beach Pier. The OB Geriatric Surf Club and the PB Surf Club chaired by shaper and Baja vet Josh Hall provided water safety in 80’s style pink painter caps.

Even though it was sort of a windy, overcast morning with horrible surf conditions (small and closed out), the crowd was stoked and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.  Thanks to Surfrider San Diego for demonstrating their passion for clean water and a healthy ocean.

IB surfer and environmental activist Jeff Knox with my sons Israel and Daniel.

Surfrider's Rise Against Plastic Coordinator Bill Hickman, ocean champion and former City of SD councilmember Donna Frye, environmental attorney Rory Wicks and an unidentified friend.

Legendary surfer and shaper Skip Frye and friends.

Piper Bob playing a rousing version of the Star Spangled Banner.

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