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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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.

Why Marine Protected Areas Benefit Surfers

Cabrillo MPA in Point Loma, San Diego.

Any North County or southern Baja vet most likely has run into Garth Murphy intensely evaluating surf conditions from shore and gracefully riding the best waves of the season. A California icon who partnered with Mike Doyle and Rusty Miller in their infamous and pioneering Surf Research company, Garth is the author of the epic novel of California, The Indian Lover, and the son of noted fisheries biologist Garth I. Murphy, who was La Jolla’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography‘s first PhD, and a professor at the University of Hawaii.

Garth, who has lived, surfed and advocated for coastal and marine protection in Hawaii, Australia and Baja California, was a member of the California Department of Fish and Game‘s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) Regional Stakeholder Group.

As a result of that effort a new network of marine protected areas (MPAs) was established in Southern California with reserves at Swami’s, Black’s-Scripps, South La Jolla, Cabrillo-Point Loma and the Tijuana River Mouth. These MPAs conserve key marine ecosystems such as kelp beds, reefs, sea grass beds – the ecological features that provide the foundation for some of our very best waves.

Serge Dedina: Why should surfers care about marine conservation and creating MPAs in Southern California?

Garth Murphy: Because we have 300 wave-rich surf spots to choose from and over a million Southern California surfers average 20 surfs a year – for 20 million yearly immersions in what usually happens to be our ocean’s most bio-diverse coastal marine habitats. The Marine Life Protection Act recognizes traditional surfing as a compatible recreational use of the ocean resource, permitted in protected areas except at mammal haul-outs, bird roosts and estuaries. A network of Marine Protected Areas, by protecting and conserving complete coastal ecosystems and habitat, enhances the biodiversity and abundance of marine life, enriching our experience, while minimizing and controlling potential habitat-destructive human activities, which directly affect us.

Looking toward the San Diego-Scripps MPA and Black’s Beach in La Jolla.

Dedina: Why is preserving marine ecosystems of Southern California so important for surfers?

Murphy: Southern California surfers and marine life share natural coastal ocean habitats of every important class: estuaries and river mouths, beaches and inter-tidal zones, surf grass and eel grass beds on composite reefs like Cardiff; rare cobble reefs like Trestles, Rincon and Malibu; rocky reefs like Windansea and Laguna; submarine canyons like Blacks, and sand bars at Newport and Pacific Beach; as well as man-made habitats like the Piers at Huntington and Imperial Beach, rock jetties like the Wedge and Hollywood by the Sea, and artificial reefs.

As a boon to surfers, thick coastal kelp forest canopies, which shelter the greatest biodiversity of coastal marine species, also protect us from the afternoon winds, refining ocean surface texture and grooming the swells to extend our surfing hours and the carrying capacity of affected surf spots. Habitat-based marine protected areas preserve everything within their boundaries, including our cherished surf spots.

Dedina: What about water quality? Would marine reserves help our efforts to keep beaches free from polluted runoff?

Murphy: Coastal ocean water quality is not just a function of land pollution runoff. Over-exploitation and depletion or collapse of important food web components causes imbalances that degrade marine ecosystems and make the ocean more vulnerable to disease outbreaks and opportunistic invasive species like stinging jellyfish, algae blooms and toxic red tides, diminishing water quality and habitat suitability for marine life and surfers.

On the contrary, robust, bio-diverse marine ecosystems with intact food webs are resilient, resisting and adapting to environmental change and pollution, maintaining water and habitat quality. Estuaries are marine life nurseries, fresh/salt water interfaces that empty into many of our finest surf spots. We absorb that same water through our eyes, ears, nose and mouths on duck-dives and wipeouts. Rebuilding and maintaining bio-diverse estuaries with a full range of marine life creates healthier nurseries, and encourages upstream compliance with pollution regulations. The result is better water quality for all of us.

Dedina: So in the end, how does preserving our marine heritage in Southern California benefit surfers?

Murphy: The California surfing style evolved in a unique marine environment of glassy peeling waves. Stylish surfing and our beach lifestyle have become an important part of California history and culture –and media focus – generating an endless wave of glossy-color surf magazines, surf videos and feature films. The success of the $7-plus billion surfing industry, centered in Southern California, depends on maintaining the high cultural value of the traditional California surfing experience: as exciting, invigorating exercise, as a get-away, as a sport, a meditation, a dance, a family get-together and photo opportunity –enhanced by a vibrantly alive and healthy ocean.

The ocean is Earth’s largest and most accessible enduring wilderness. Regular contact with wilderness is a human, and especially American, cultural value, manifested today in the ocean by the popularity of surfing. A full and abundant spectrum of marine species – from whales to hermit crabs to phytoplankton – is an integral part of our ocean-wilderness experience.

Marine Protected Areas enhance ecosystem awareness by exposing us to a broad diversity of marine life. They encourage monitoring of potential problems and upstream compliance with complementary air and water quality regulations. The positive water quality and life-giving effects of marine protected areas are a valuable gift to the surfers and marine species who share them.

Deep Design: Daniel Thomson on Surfboards, Physics and Simmons

Dan Thomson putting it on a rail. Photo courtesy of Tomo Surfboards.

Daniel Thomson of Tomo Surboards is a young and innovative surfer who is part of a core group of San Diego shapers pushing the edge of design and development to move surfing to the next level. He has been affiliated with Richard Kenvin’s Hydrodynamica project that is based on the influence and theories of San Diego’s legendary surfing innovator Bob Simmons.

Serge Dedina: Why did you starting shaping surfboards? And what is it about creating surfboards that you love?

Daniel Thomson: I was fortunate enough to grow up in a surfing family so I pretty much have been surfing since I can remember. My dad (Mark Thomson) is a respected shaper in Australia so ever since he made me my first board, I was involved in the shaping process. As I evolved as a surfer, my desire to shape more specialized equipment became apparent so I continued to follow my passion for exploring the connection between creative art specialized for performance surfing.

Dedina: Who are your shaping and surfing influences?

Thomson: My dad obviously. George Greenough was a family friend during my younger years so his work definitely made an imprint on me.  More recently the work of Bob Simmons uncovered by the research of Richard Kenvin has been inspiring. Also, I like to look outside of surfing for inspiration: modern aviation, quantum physics and the universe challenge the mind to think deeper for new ideas.

Carl Eckstrom and Daniel Thomson at the Hydronamica opening in San Diego earlier this year.

Dedina: How did you end up shaping and surfing in San Diego?

Thomson: After making a few trips out to San Diego from 2004-2010, I realized that the market for progressive designs was stronger in California. Also, I was ready for a change of pace in my life.

Dedina: Your boards have been associated with the hydrodynamic theory and movement espoused by Richard Kenvin that was directly influenced by the design of Bob Simmons? How did you interest in the legacy of Simmons and the partnership with Kenvin occur?

Thomson: Richard was visiting in Australia back in 2003 on one of his first Hydrodynamica missions. He was looking to connect with Dave Rastovich.

In hope that he would be able to film him riding some of the keel fin fish boards he had brought over, Richard tracked down my dad as a support filmer and naturally my dad suggested to Richard that ‘I give these fishes a go.’

A few sessions later, we had some awesome footage of Rasta and me riding these boards. After that I kept in close contact with RK and continued my natural progression in refining the fish design.

Dedina: What are the types of surfboards you are shaping now and specifically what are the designs that you see working best in Southern California?

Thomson: Generally all my boards are fairly suited to California because of the straighter curves and wider tails. The boards that I am currently most excited about are my new Next Generation Modern Planing Hulls (MPH).

They are basically 21st century adaptations of the original Bob Simmons plaining hulls mixed with wakeboards technology. They seem to be very functional designs with a whole bunch of potential to be seen as an apex high performance design in the future.

One of Dan’s Simmon’s inspired planing hulls.

Dedina: Explain what the hydrodynamic principle means for surfboard design and surfing in general?

Thomson: Broadly speaking, you can apply some sort of hydrodynamic principle to any surfboard. More specially describing a hydrodynamic planning hull is a board designed to minimize drag through several different streamlining methods including utilizing a parallel rail line from nose to tail with a wider nose tail profile and straight-line fin placements

Dedina: What materials are you working with right now?

Thomson: I have always been a firm believer in epoxy resin for its strength, durabilty and flex memory. I am currently working with XTR (closed cell styrofoam) Epoxy and several applications of vacuum bag carbon fiber.

Dedina: You are shaping boards for WQS surfer Stu Kennedy. How did that relationship come about and how do you work with him in terms of giving and receiving feedback?

Stu Kennedy with his Tomo quiver. Photo courtesy Tomo Surfboards.

Thomson: Stu has been a close friend from my hometown of Lennox Head so I have shaped for him quite a bit in the past. When I was home visiting in March, I showed Stu some of the latest boards. He was pretty blown away on how they surfed, and he has barely set foot on a regular short board since he tried one.

Since I shaped him a new quiver of the MPH’s he has been dedicated to riding them in high-level completion as he feels he can achieve his best performances on these boards. He recently placed 9th in the 6 star WQS in England and a 17th in the U.S Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

Dedina: Are most pro surfers too conservative with the boards they are riding?

Thomson: Most definitely. The cutthroat nature of competition doesn’t nurture experimentation. Most elite surfers have grown up there whole lives riding one style of design and is not confident riding something unorthodox. Most are jaded to the fact that there could be a left field design out there capable of performing better, so they tend not to have faith in something new. Things are changing though.

Dedina: There’s a photo with Kelly Slater and you when you were a grom and more recently Kelly commented on the boards you shape for Kennedy. How has Kelly’s surfing and his own departure from pro surfing surfboard orthodoxy influenced your own career as a shaper and a surfer?

Thomson: I have always been experimental in nature with my equipment so I haven’t so much been following Kelly design wise. However his surfing is what inspires me most to figure out ways to improve my design to allow me to surf at higher levels.

Dedina: Where do you see yourself going with your shaping career? Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Thomson: I would obviously like to be successful. I am more of a surfer/designer than a ‘shaper’ so hopefully I will be surfing more and not be a slave to the shaping room. I have always done it for the love of surfing and a healthy creative outlet. So as long as I am doing that, I will be happy.

Padding the Loop

“In 16 years, this was the best Loop ever,” said Dan Mann, of Mannkine Surfboardsand organizer of the annual Memorial Day weekend 11.4-mile paddleboard race around Coronado Island.

More than 70 paddlers enjoyed the finest ocean and weather conditions in more than two weeks with light winds, sunny skies and calm ocean conditions.

The ocean athletes paddled from Gator Beach at the south end of the Coronado Shores out to Zuñiga Jetty at the entrance to San Diego Bay. They then headed back down around the Naval ships docked at the North Island Naval Air Station, past the bayside homes and restaurants of Coronado, and the high rises of downtown San Diego.

The last leg of the endurance race had them pass through the Coronado Bay Bridge before arriving at Glorietta Bay, a grassy beach park, ringed by awaiting family members and friends.

Back in the 1940 and 1950s many surfers who competed in surfing competitions also raced paddleboards. Tom Blake is credited with developing the sport back in 1926 when he built a redwood board for the Bishop Museum that was a replica and ode to ancient Hawaiian “olo” surfboards.

Along with Blake, watermen such as George Downing, Pete Peterson, and Mike Doyle were as accomplished on paddleboards as they were on surfboards.

Today, the popularity of prone paddleboarding has been eclipsed by the trendier and more female-friendly sport of stand-up-paddling (both are great workouts).

Elite paddelboarders such as Jamie Mitchell and Kyle Daniels are famed for their athletic prowess and dominance of the Molokai to Oahu Paddleboard Race and the Catalina Classic. Both 32-mile events require ocean crossings in rough conditions and are the ultimate ocean endurance paddle test.

Moloka‘i Paddleboard race

Additionally the Hennessey’s SUP and Paddle Board Racing Series offers up the U.S. Championships in Dana Point on June 2nd.

Paddleboards are long, sleek and built with traditional fiberglass or lighter carbon fiber or epoxy. A new custom board unlimited class board (over 18’) can cost over well over two thousand dollars and are outfitted with tillers, and small racks that hold water bottles and waterproof GPS devices. Shorter boards (12’ and 14’) are also raced.

Roch Frey of Encinitas dominated the Loop field winning overall and the unlimited division by more than three minutes. Sean Richardson and Dan VanDyck followed him.

Event winner Roche Frey.

Geoffrey Page of Imperial Beach placed first in the 50 and Over division with a time of 2.00.06. “I actually didn’t train enough for the race,” said Geoff. “I just had a good start and tried to hang on until the finish. I was really struggling at the end.”

Big wave charger Jim Montalbano, also of Imperial Beach, placed third in the Stock class. “I’m training for the Molokai to Oahu race,” he said before the race commenced. The Hawaiian event takes places on July 29.

My eldest son Israel, 16, entered the race the morning of the event. Borrowing a 12’ custom stock board from Jeff Knox, he started out the race fast ignoring dad’s advice to start slow and carry food and water.

Israel at the finish.

“Halfway through the race I began to fully realize my mistake,” wrote Israel. “My arms became harder and harder to move and I began to fantasize about fast food. I still had six miles to go. The only thing in my mind was the thought of eating incredibly large amounts of food that were waiting for me at the finish line. I passed the finish line and immediately started eating.”

The Loop perpetual trophy.

Coronado’s Dougie Mann of clothing company URT has competed in the Loop since its inception back when he was 12. “It is always worth getting in the ocean. It always makes your day better,” he said.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. He is the author of Wild Sea and Saving the Gray Whale.

The Loop 2012 Results

Unlimited

  1. Roch Frey, 1.51.17
  2. Sean Richardson, 1.54.35
  3. Dan VanDyck, 1.58.13

Women

  1. Shannon Delaney, 2.19.14
  2. Aimee Spector, 2.22.35
  3. Kristin Thomas, 2.32.52

50 and Over

  1. Geoffrey Page, 2.00.06
  2. Ron Nelson, 2.03.42
  3. Wally Buckingham, 2.05.04

14’

  1. Jay Scheckman, 2.04.40
  2. Reno Caldwell, 2.06.34
  3. Brant Bingham, 2.13.07

Stock

  1. Steve Schlens, `2.02.01
  2. Rodney Ellis, 2.05.27
  3. Jimmy Montalbano, 2.07.12

IB’s Mark “Kiwi” Fields. Kiwi had never raced a prone paddleboard event. He typically races SUPs.

Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin

Israel starts the paddle portion.

 

Yesterday, my son Israel and I participated in the first ever Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: URT Swim-Paddle-Fin race at Center Beach in Coronado.

City of Huntington Beach Lifeguard Nick Sullivan rounds the final buoy on the paddle portion of the event.

“The Waterman’s Endurance Challenge: The URT Swim, Paddle, Fin competition featured three consecutive open-water events, conducted in the standard triathlon fashion, with the start, transition area, and finish all occurring at Center Beach,” said James Kehaya of North American Athletics who organized the event in partnership with URT.

Men’s finalists from left to right: Serge Dedina (me)-4th, Ryan Pingree-3rd, Israel Dedina-2nd, Nick Sullivan 1st.

“The competition was designed to test traditional waterman skills, through a competitive endurance event.Event gifts and prizes were provided by URT, Emerald City, James&Joseph, Suunto, Ocean Minded and T3.The event began with a 500 meter swim, followed by a 3000 meter open water paddle (SUP or Prone), and finished with a 1000 meter open water swim with fins.”

Women’s finalists: Carrie Lingo (3rd), Carter Graves-2nd; and Gracie Van der Byl 1st. Gracie put on a great performance and passed me in the final leg of the swim, but I caught a set wave on the way in and passed her. She is fast!!

“Challenging conditions and great athletes were the hallmarks of the first ever Swim, Paddle, Fin,” said Kehaya. “The building surf, wind, and chop challenged even the most seasoned watermen and women.  Congrats to everyone who came out to challenge the course, and battle it out in tough weather.”

It was a tough but fun race and another great event hosted by Ian Urtnowski and Dougie Mann of the URT clothing company.

The URT Team won the relay. They killed it!!!

“The contest was split into 2 divisions; open and relay, ” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. ” The Open division was defined by one contestant completing all the legs, while the Relay division assigned one person to each leg of the race.”

It was good to see longtime friends in the race including the Mann brothers, the legendary Kiwi and Adam Wraight. My son Israel came in second behind City of Huntington Ocean Lifeguard Nick Sullivan who proved that you had to be a fast paddler and swimmer to place in the event. Ryan Pingree came in third.

Coronado Beach LIfeguard team came in second.

Gracie Van der Byl put in impressive performance placing first in the women’s division, followed by Carter Graves and Carrie Lingo.

Team URT came in first in the relay division followed by the Coronado Lifeguards. The Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

Imperial Beach Lifeguard team placed third.

“The URT SPF was a pilot contest of more Watermen Endurance Triathlon Events to come,” said Ian Urtnowski of URT. “So to keep your ear to the ground go to www.urturt.com or www.northamericanatletics.com for more details and pictures. ”

Mens Results:
  • 1st: (0:37:51) – Sullivan, Nick
  • 2nd: (0:40:02) – Dedina, Israel
  • 3rd: (0:42:33) – Pingree, Ryan
Womens Results:
  • 1st: (0:44:09) – Van der Byl, Gracie
  • 2nd: (0:46:27) – Graves, Carter
  • 3rd: (1:07:29) – Lingo, Carrie

Team Relay

  • 1st:  0:37:06- Team URT
  • 2nd 0:40:38 – Coronado Beach Lifeguards
  • 3rd 0:46:11  – Imperial Beach Lifeguards

Israel Dedina heading out for the last leg, a 1K swim with fins.

Steve Pendarvis on Creativity in Surfboard Design

Steve Pendarvis. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Anyone who surfs the reefs and beaches of Central San Diego has come across the original shapes of Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex line of  surfboards. The irreverant and innovative Sunset Cliffs surfer is part of the long line of unique San Diego shapers and designers that includes Skip Frye and especially Steve Lis.

Steve has worked with Canyon Surfboards, Classic Glass, Superior Glass, and Diamond Glassing. Some of the surfers who have ridden Steve’s boards include Buttons, Dave Rastovish, Dan Malloy and Gavin Beschen.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Serge Dedina: When did you first start shaping surfboards?

Steve Pendarvis: In the 1960s when I was in my early teens, I started shaping and building surfboards. I was always tinkering with projects: boards, model airplanes, boats, bikes, all finely tuned.

Dedina: How did your interest in shaping begin? Did you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a shaper.”

Pendarvis: Having projects naturally led to building surfboards. Not to mention 2 dollars for resin, 40 cents per yard for cloth, skateboard marine plywood for fins, blanks from Ridout plastics or G&S for about 8 bucks. Yeah baby! $20 dollars or less to make a new toy, now we’re talk’n!

Steve field testing his Pendoflex design in Baja. Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: With all the pop-out surfboards made in China and computer-shaped boards, is the role of the underground shaper still even relevant?

Pendarvis: Yeah, I still have my planers and sanding blocks humming, hands on is key for me. A lot of the innovation comes from underground shapers. If a design becomes trendy, it is often picked up by corporations and mass-produced and may eventually be popped-out overseas.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Given the market forces that are forcing the consolidation of the surfboard industry into a more corporate structure, why are you still handcrafting surfboards?

Pendarvis: To each their own. I prefer the work ethic of making a carefully hand-crafted surfboard.

Dedina: What is the value of a handcrafted surfboard?

Pendarvis: Absolutely custom for the client is what it’s all about!! Hand-crafted surfboards are built for the customer, thus the word custom!!

Dedina: Your shaping and surfboards have been associated with Central San Diego and especially the Sunset Cliffs. Why have the Cliffs been such a hotbed of surfboard innovation and design?

Pendarvis: Can’t really say, except for beaches and reefs a plenty!

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Many of your Pendoxflex designs have used alternative surfboard technology and building techniques. Can you describe some of the alternative ways you are designing and building boards and what materials you are using?

Pendarvis: The Pendoflex has a high torque, high speed, tail design built into the tails; it’s a stand-up derivative of a Greenough shell, which I then back-fill with foam to bring the deck flush with the rest of the board. A Pendoflex taps more of the available energy, sort of like a Fiberflex skateboard, weighting and unweighting,building speed on speed. It’s really cool.Subtle flex characteristics fuel powerful rail turns, while the board conforms to the wave face.

Generally my boards have a foam core, for instance US Blanks (PU), and WNC or Marko foam (EPS), and here and there, balsa, agave, cork and veneers.

Photo: Steve Pendarvis.

Dedina: Who are the surfers and shapers who are inspiring you to think differently and continue to progress in your shaping?

Pendarvis: Some are Skipper (Skip Frye), Stevie (Steve Lis), Greenough, Paul Gross, Dan Hess, the Campbells, the Thompsons, Brian Conley and the Murpheys, legless.tv, and others. And everyone and thing that comes across your senses helps define your relativity.

Dedina: You and your wife Cher are known as super positive and a stoked couple who continually look on the bright side of life.  Since the members of Sunset Cliffs surfing crew have not always been known for their laughter and good cheers (at least with outsiders) why do you think it is important for surfers to be positive and create connections outside their local surf spots?

Pendarvis: As you know every dog’s gotta leave his mark on the fire hydrant. Hey, that’s my hydrant! And you can use it too mate! I dunno, share and share alike. I still get my poker face going from time to time when the bait ball shows up, loading up the zone, Yikes!

We look for the positives, and appreciate friendship and kindness among people.

Steve and his wife Cher.

*****

You can find out more information on Steve Pendarvis and his Pendoflex surfboards here.

More from the Blue Tour in Mexico

Just a few odds and ends from my recent trip to the Mexican states of Guerrero and Oaxaca to give talks and show the Blue Ocean Film Festival.

Areceli Oregon, the Mayor of Barra de Potos at our press conference opposing the placement of a FONATUR cruise ship terminal on top of the village and mangrove lagoon.

This is Julio, a sea turtle conservationist giving a talk to kids in Barra de Potosi about why it is important to conserve sea turtles and not eat their eggs.

This is in Zihuatanejo. Fishermen are mad about being displaced there. It is a lovely city--that has not kept pace in terms of managing its rapid growth.

I gave a talk in Saladita at Lourdes's Bungalows. From left to right: Irwin of Azulita, Kristy Murphy of Siren Surf Adventures, Lourdes, Pato of Azulita, me, Cat of Siren Surf Adventures, and Natalia of Costasalvaje.

We had over 200 people attend our event in Puerto Escondido.A great crowd.

That's me addressing the kids in Barra de la Cruz, a village in Oaxaca.

Maybe the most surreal moment of the trip to Zihuatanejo was going to visit Dr. Enrique Rodriguez, wildlife and animal rights activist and not realizing until I walked into his small office on the second floor of building just off the malecon that he was a small animal vet. He was of course in the middle of spaying a cat (which he does for free)
He offered to let me watch the operation, but I really didn't want to.
Just another surreal magical moment in Mexico.
Always expect the unexpected.

Into the Mangroves

Jose Antonio Oregon, lifelong fishermen guided us into the pango, a wooden handmade pirogue covered with a coat of fiberglass and resin.

“A panga won’t work,” he said. “The lagoon is too shallow. This gets us around better.”

I was in the Laguna de Potosi, located just south of the Zihuatanejo airport on the Costa Grande of the Mexican state of Guerrero.

The 1,200-mangrove lagoon sits behind nesting beaches for endangered leatherback sea turtles. Humpback whales can be found in the sea outside the lagoon. During south swell season surfers visit Barra to surf lined up point lefts.

Jose Antonio gently pushed the pango out into the lagoon.

“There’s a kingfisher,” he said pointing to the small bird with a large oversize beak that was flitting and darting across a lagoon channel into the mangroves.

My companions, Sergio Flores and Natalia Parra, the WiLDCOAST Southern Mexico Coordinators, know this coast well. They have spent the last seven years working here in an effort to preserve sea turtle nesting beaches and to reduce the illegal trade in sea turtle meat and eggs.

I was in Barra de Potosi to support the village’s effort to halt the proposal by Mexico’s National Fund for Tourism (FONATUR) from placing a cruise ship terminal on top of the lagoon and the 900-person ramshackle pueblito.

Sergio, Natalia and I were also Barra to launch the first stop of the second year of Blue Ocean Film Festival tour of Mexco to screen ocean documentaries free of charge to Mexico’s fishing communities and coastal residents.

“I don’t see how they can build the project without destroying the lagoon and our village,” said Jose Antonio pointing to the colorful fishermen’s palapas that line the nearby surf beach and the lagoon entrance.

This small and friendly village of brightly colored fishermen’s home’s, sandy streets replete with handmade terrayas (throw nets) and numerous shrines to the Virgen de Guadalupe, is the latest casualty in FONATUR’s efforts to create new mega-resorts on top of some of the loveliest and most pristine coastal villages, coral reefs, and mangrove lagoons in Mexico.

Every weekend and especially during Semana Santa, Mexican families flock to the surfside palapas to pass the day eating sumptuous ceviche de abulon, empanadas de pescado, and grilled fish, freshly harvested from the nearby lagoon and sea.

Aracelia Oregon, the mayor of Barra and Sergio Flores of Wildcoast.

“Barra has some of the best seafood in Mexico,” said Sergio. “And it is a nostalgia trip for so many of Guerrero’s families who come her to relive the old ways, spend time with their families and reconnect with the fishing folk they have known for generations.”

The pango glided through a narrow channel lined with green mangroves that are home to more than 200 bird species. We spotted blue herons, flocks of cormorants, night herons, and scores of kingfishers.

“Those guys are fishing for corvina and lisa (mullet),” said Jose Antonio pointing to a pango manned by two fishermen in broad billed straw sombreros about a hundred yards out. The pescadores pushed their pango through the lagoon with a palanca or modified pole and paddle.

These are Mexico’s original stand-up-paddlers.

One of the fishermen balanced precariously in the pango and launched his terraya. Later we observed them silently perched next to the mangrove hand lining for snook and pargo.

At a break in the mangroves, Jose Antonio guided the pango on to a small mud bank. We disembarked to inspect the community’s salt making operations.

The salt makers use plastic sheets to hold lagoon water that is pumped into holding basins accelerates the process. Piles of artisanal salt lined the sides of the saltpans. “We collect the salt and then sell it,” said Jose Antonio.

Upon our return to the village, we greeted Jose Antonio’s sister, Areceli, the local mayor under the palapa restaurant her family owns. Her mother Linda, was already preparing thick pancake style tortillas de maiz, a pot of beans on the traditional adobe wood fire stove, and freshly caught snapper.

I walked into the kitchen to snap a photo of Linda’s kitchen. “Have another tortilla with beans,” she said while plopping beans into a freshly made tortilla.

“We already lost the right to have our palapa here,” said Areceli. “And now FONATUR says that it has the right to grant our fishermen access to the sea. If they build their project, we’ll lose everything.”

While we talk, Linda places a plate of grilled fish prepared butterfly style in front of me. I gingerly forkful of fish in my favor and close my eyes while savoring its sweet freshness.

Later that evening more than a hundred of the town’s residents gather for the film festival. Chairs line a sandy tree-lined street. We displayed the documentaries on the wall of an elementary school. Children squealed with delight and received prizes when they answered questions about sea turtles and other ocean trivia.

“It would be a shame to lose this,” said Areceli, who will soon travel to Mexico City to discuss the fate of her village and home with Mexico’s media, elected officials and government agencies.

I hope for the sake of the people of Barra and the wildlife they protect, that Araceli and her family and friends will be able to defend their mangrove lagoon, their community and their way of life.

Thanks to Eugen of Villas Tuparaiso, Adriana Luna Parra of Casa de la Luna, the Oregon family, Irwin and Pato of Azulita, Siren Surf Adventures, Lainie and Mike, and Lourdes for their hospitality.

What it Takes to be a U.S. Navy SEAL

US Navy SEALS Fire Exercise

With the release of the film Act of Valor, and the recent success of SEAL Team members in killing Osama bin Laden and rescuing hostages from the clutches of Somali pirates, a lot of attention has been focused on our most elite U.S. special forces.

Having grown up in Imperial Beach, just down the beach from where SEALs train at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, I have observed their ocean training first-hand.

Although I work out or surf with a few current or former SEALs, I knew very little about what it takes to be a member of the world’s toughest team.

To get more of an idea of what it takes to become a SEAL and how they train, I checked in with an active-duty SEAL who has worked as a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) instructor. In recognition and respect for the SEAL ethos not to seek recognition, he requested he remain anonymous.

Serge Dedina: Why did you become a SEAL?

SEAL: I joined for the excitement and the challenge. I liked the idea of getting paid to work out. I didn’t expect to stay in as long as I have. I have always said that I will get out when I quit having fun or didn’t enjoy the work anymore.

The caliber of men that you are associated with is a big draw as well, obviously due to the selection process to become a SEAL. The work is always challenging and the opportunity to lead SEALs is very rewarding. I also stay in with the commitment that I will stay in as long as I can effectively contribute to the war on terror with the hope that our kids won’t have to deal with it.

Dedina: With the Department of Defense looking to increase the presence and numbers of special forces, the Navy will want more SEALs. What type of recruit makes an outstanding SEAL candidate?

SEAL: In the last decade, there has been a great deal of research to determine what kind of background successful SEAL graduates have that would make them more likely to graduate so as to target those types of BUD/S candidates.

Studies have shown that those individuals that have participated in high school sports such as wrestling, swimming, water polo and track and field have a higher probability to make it through BUD/S training. Essentially, any type of endurance athlete has a greater probability to make it to graduation. Much of what we do requires a strong athletic ability with strong cardiovascular system.

Dedina: What are the physical requirements to become a SEAL?

SEAL: The Physical Screening Test (PST) is only a test to ensure you are fit enough to start physical training as part of the SEAL training process. The PST is strictly administered with no waiver allowed and no deviation from the format. The test is strictly enforced – no exceptions.

Dedina: How do SEAL instructors know how to push recruits to the edge without going over the edge?

SEAL: Having been through the exact same training themselves, as well as being recent combat veterans, the instructors have a keen sense of knowing the limits that the human body can take and regulate accordingly. There are always medical personnel on hand during all training evolutions to keep a close medical eye on the condition of students during training, especially during Hell Week.  They pick up on initial signs of potential injury and treat as appropriate to avoid aggravating further.

Dedina: Is training more advanced now for SEALs than it was a decade ago? It seems as though SEALs must have to master fairly advanced and high-tech equipment.

SEAL: Training is definitely more advanced now than a decade ago. This is largely because of the advanced technological equipment available and used by SEALs today, giving them the tactical advantage. To adapt to the complex nature of our missions today, tactics, techniques and procedures have also advanced to be able to more effectively find and fix our enemies that hide among the population.

Dedina: With the release of Act of Valor and the recent success of SEALs in killing Osama bin Laden and hostage rescues off of Africa, do you think SEALs run the risk of being viewed as modern day superheroes that can do anything? Could that help set the SEALs up for future failures if they somehow don’t continue to do the impossible?

SEAL: I don’t think the release of Act of Valor, taking out Bin Laden, or counter-piracy successes off Somalia will put SEALs at risk of being viewed as something they are not. If you talk to any SEAL today, you will find that they don’t view themselves that way. Most look at what they do as “just a job” that they enjoy because of the challenging work, patriotism, fighting terrorism to preserve democracy and our way of life, and the camaraderie from tightly knit teams.

Act of Valor was in the works before the bin Laden raid or the piracy hostage rescue. It was made with the permission and oversight of Naval Special Warfare Command and the Navy to be a recruiting tool as we continue to grow our force.

It was seen as an opportunity to portray SEALs accurately, unlike previous Hollywood productions, using real SEALs without divulging close held tactics, techniques and procedures as well as how their personal lives are affected by their chosen profession.

While we have been fortunate to enjoy many highly visible successes, there have been some missions in the last decade that were not so successful, where many SEALs have given the ultimate sacrifice. In the end, SEALs don’t look for the visibility or accolades for their work. In my humble opinion, the visibility comes from the press and their insatiable desire for sensational headlines and those seeking political gain.

Dedina: The most infamous part of SEAL training is “Hell Week”. Can you describe what that involves and what the purpose is of this week that I have heard described as “endless days of pain, cold, and misery.”

SEAL: The first three weeks of training prepares the students for Hell Week (fourth week) where they go through five and a half days of continuous training with only a maximum of four hours sleep. This is designed to test one’s physical and mental motivation. This week proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible. During this week the students learn the value of cool headedness, perseverance, and above all, teamwork.

Dedina: What does the basic SEAL training involve in terms of physical activity and combat preparation?

SEAL: The comprehensive SEAL training process prepares students for the extreme physical and mental challenges of SEAL missions. The standards of qualification require the kind of mental and physical fortitude that few possess. For those making the cut, immense challenges and constant training are a way of life.

The first phase of BUD/S assesses SEAL candidates in physical conditioning, water competency, teamwork and mental tenacity. Physical conditioning utilizes running, swimming and calisthenics and grows harder and harder as the weeks progress. Students participate in weekly four mile timed runs in boots and timed obstacle courses, swim distances up to two miles wearing fins in the ocean and learn small boat seamanship. The second phase of training is the diving phase of BUD/S that trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates as competent basic combat swimmers. Physical conditioning continues and becomes even more intensive.

Students learn two types of SCUBA: open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% Oxygen) including basic dive medicine and medical skills training.

Emphasis is placed on long-distance underwater dives with the goal of training students to become basic combat divers, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their combat objective. This is what separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces.

The third phase of training is Land Warfare that trains, develops and qualifies SEAL candidates in basic weapons, demolition and small-unit tactics. Physical training continues and becomes even more strenuous as the run distance increases and the minimum passing times are lowered for the runs, swims and obstacle course. This third phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, patrolling techniques, rappelling, marksmanship and military explosives. The final three and a half weeks are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.

US Navy SEALS splash into the water in exercise

US Navy SEALS splash into the water in exercise (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

Dedina: SEALs spend a considerable amount of time in the ocean. Is there specific ocean related training that occurs in terms of how to navigate large surf, rip currents, and/or storm conditions, or is it “sink or swim?”

SEAL: First phase of training involves an extensive amount of surf passage training; both individually as a swimmer and with Inflatable Boat Small (IBS) rubber boats, manned with seven students with paddles. Although there is initial classroom training in navigating surf, dealing with rip currents and storm conditions, the true learning/training to navigating the surf is through practical experience in the ocean. During hydrographic reconnaissance training in the first phase, the students learn about tides, currents and wave shape and duration to be able to include that in their hydro reports that go to the Amphibious Ready Group for potential beach landings.

Dedina: It appears that quite a few SEALs are surfers. Are surfers attracted to the SEALs or do you think that SEALs become surfers after spending so much time in the ocean?

SEAL: It has been my experience that more SEALs become surfers after they become a SEAL, most likely because of their increased familiarity with and exposure to the ocean. Many SEALs come from the Midwest and haven’t had that much exposure to the ocean. Being based in coastal communities also lends to SEALs wanting to surf.

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist

US Navy SEALS being exfilled in a single hoist (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

Dedina: According to the SEAL ethos, a SEAL’s training is never complete. How do you motivate team members to continue performing at the highest level over the course of their career?

SEAL: Many SEALs come and go in the teams. It is my experience that SEALs that choose to make a career in the Navy continue to be motivated because the teams attract men that fall into a “warrior class” type of individual. They live a lifestyle of fitness. By the time they start to get operational burnout because of a high op tempo, they take a shore duty job that will give them a break to recharge. Additionally, the more senior a SEAL gets, the more leadership positions they gravitate to where their experience is used to bring up younger SEALs.

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