Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ode to a Beater Board

I have owned a few new surfboards. Shiny , glossy perfect and free of wax, dings and salt water. They are untested and like a new car you almost hate to wax them up or maybe you think twice of riding it because the surf is rough and closing out.

And then at some point it gets the first ding or scratch and another it maybe the newness is replaced by another. Maybe it gets traded in and becomes someone else's new board.

Surfboards should be ridden and though cared for and repaired , still taken out and enjoyed. So... The lowly beater board has found this place where , if you get over the fact that its not shiny and new. Or perhaps it's some old style and design... It's also carefree. It's ridden with gusto and chance is thrown to the waves. It's ridden and enjoyed just like the surf shop fresh off the rack beauty you saved up for but are afraid to ride s supposed to be...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A birthday near he ocean is as good of a way to get things rolling on the blog again as any. Surfed twice yesterday in small shorebreak. The cold water trickling in the wetsuit was a reminder of how removed I feel from the ocean when I'm in a wetsuit. On the way back up the boardwalk I talked to a group of women who were curious about the water temperature and wetsuit. They even got a group picture with me... Somewhere I suppose I am immortalized in a phone's memory...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Taming the Wild East

Flying in to the city of San Salvador, as you descend you see in a nutshell the small, Latin American country of El Salvador with the dense city surrounded by rugged , volcanic landscaped hills, farmland and yes…some very inviting coastline . Similar in size to Massachusetts, El Salvador has nearly 200 miles of south facing pacific coastline complete with lots of right hand point breaks. The coastal city of La Libertad, a relatively short distance from the airport, make it easy for some surfers to not look any farther for their fix…but then this was a Wrightsville Beach Longboard Association surf trip and we were headed east…the Wild East of El Salvador with sights on not only surfing, but also hopefully making a little difference in the lives of the people of our temporary home away from home. And “home” it was…complete with home cooking, the family dog and the motherly care of our hostess.
Our group was gathered up at the airport by Lisette the proprietor of Azul Surf Club, Manuel our surf guide and the magician behind the wheel of our surfmobile for the week, and Marvin , a local surfer, fisherman and semi-pro soccer player who also happened to be Lisette’s significant other.
Throughout our stay our hosts would share information about the things we passed by, local traditions, and history of El Salvador, including the Civil war. The 20 years of what proved to be a very visible war for many Americans caused more than a few strange looks and worrisome comments from friends and family as I talked about the upcoming trip. And sure, the war scarred the land and impacted the culture you see today in El Salvador, but this was a place I always felt safe, where the people seemed happy despite the low wages and sparse living conditions, and the group seemed to agree that El Salvador had a really good vibe. Even many years in its past, the civil war seems to have an ongoing impact on tourism but you can see and sense that this is changing too. From a surfers perspective at least, if you have some negative or dangerous image of this country, you should reconsider and add this to your potential surf trip list. One example was a pretty significant sewer installation project going on during our stay in the nearby town of El Cuco. Within the surfboard laden van passing us by 4 or more times a day to surf, we watched as the collection lines and manholes were installed in what for the US would be record time…and this from guys gladly working for 7 dollars a day, the El Salvadorian minimum wage.
Our group of nine (including our adopted WBLA member from Minnesota) hit the road from the airport on a little less travelled surf route with our new found friends and guides headed to El Cuco about 2 hours east. Upon arrival, we were welcomed to the oasis that is the Azul Surf Club …literally and figuratively and were greeted with the first of many delicious treats, watermelon juice in huge glasses.
In fact the food on the entire trip was spectacular and plentiful…by the second day we had to ask them to cut out the lunch. The normal meal plan included in the surf package consisted of a surfer’s breakfast, then a real breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lissette’s mother, a Cuban who now runs an El Salvadorian restaurant in the states wanted to make sure that when the surf club was started that the guests were fed “latin style” and were expected to gain weight on the trip. I can affirm that they succeeded. Even something simple like pancakes were some of the best anywhere. Interestingly among the many local superstitions are ones related to people with bad “flour” karma which resulted in one of our gracious caretakers, Carlita to be banned by her peers from making pancakes for us. One memorable meal of traditional Salvadorian dishes took place not far from the high tide mark at Los Flores, a beautiful rocky point with a powerful right hand wave and scene of many surf sessions.
Despite the food and excellent care of our hosts, this was after all a surf trip and we came for waves. Los Flores is a great right point break and while it is sandy bottomed, the extreme outside take off point more or less required you to make the drop or end up pounded into the big rocks nearby. The short boarding part of the delegation had a blast at this break which was working well as the swell increased and the other beach breaks were losing their form. Longboarders caught clean faces and long rides to the beach. Other spots we explored included Punta Mango another right point best accessible by boat, with a rock bottom that was a little more serious of a wave; El Toro, a wide beach break with fun rides on the first few days of the trip located more to the west; and even the El Cuco beach break out front of the surf club provided a few fun evening sessions. With various other breaks nearby that work in different swells or directions…there is always surf somewhere. The water was warm and inviting and we were glad to shed the wetsuits that were still being worn back home.
Often we were alone as a group, but even on the most crowded days at a given session, there wasn’t really a “crowd” and within range of a quick boat ride or down a dusty dirt road there was probably a good wave with no one surfing it at all. At one of the other nearby accommodations we heard that Donavan Frankenreiter was arriving the day most of us were leaving. Sessions were usually followed up by a dip in the pool, more food than I had earned from surfing probably and a little R & R in one of the many hammocks of which there seemed to be more of than chairs.
Both on the trip in from the airport and on a daytrip to San Miguel, the nearest major city that serves as commercial hub in the eastern part of El Salvador, we passed amazing views of grand Volcanoes soaring above the rest of the landscape. The last eruption was in 1912 but it’s a safe bet that still counts as an active volcano in geologic terms. There were lots of hills and rocky outcrops lush with palms, mango and cashew trees and fields of sugar cane. Despite being near the end of the dry season, things still looked pretty tropical and one can imagine just how lush and green a few days of rain would make.
In the little town just west, and maybe a 15 or 20 minute walk on the beach west sits El Cuco which doubles as a fishing village and commercial hub of the nearby residents, but also turns into a local hot spot on the weekends. Just as we might head to the beach with our families on a Saturday or Sunday, so did the many El Salvadorian people arriving by the truck and busload that flocked to the palapas …simple palm frond shelters from the sun… that stretched for a mile along the nearby beach to eat, drink and enjoy the dueling mariachi bands.
While we arrive with the purpose of surfing squarely in our sights, we were spoiled with the great treatment from people like Manuel working to keep us in good waves and good spirits, or Nelson cooking us some amazing meals, or Carlita taking care of just about everything else for us (except pancakes) and at the heart of it all is our hostess Lisette. Motherly in her instincts to care for us and her other visitors, she at just 29 is a savvy business woman, dreamer, planner, and catalyst for a lot of good things going on in this area. Lisette is highly respected by the locals and even as an “outsider” herself being born and raised in Los Angeles, she is firmly ingrained in El Cuco and would seem to be part of many extended families that she has helped. These include staff who works for her at the Azul Surf club, and the many children attending the 4 local schools that she helps support with meals, uniforms and supplies. We were lucky to meet some great school kids who flocked around her for hugs and to show off their homework. There are others she has helped to get dental or medical assistance to as well and all of these examples are part of her “Soul Project”. Essentially, the surf club’s visitors are helping to fund the many charitable efforts she has introduced to allow the community to develop and improve on its own. She is very much of the “teach them to fish” mind set and not just providing handouts to those in need. She also described how one Texas dentist came for 10 days for a combined surf trip, and outreach dental clinic treating many of the locals. He worked on teeth, and got a great place to stay and surf in exchange. (Worth noting if you are a surfer that can provide such dental or medical services…). It’s this kind of Soul Project combined with great surf that brought us to this place as a the WBLA club and I suspect more trips may follow to this home away from home.
Our Surfari to El Salvador and its “wild east” is worth a trip back not only for the waves, but for the gifts of being with great people and being treated so well by our hosts. You can find out more about El Salvador’s Wild East, its waves, Azul Surf Club and the good work of Lisette at . Tell her the WBLA and Local Sessions sent you!

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Life's a waste of time and surfing's as good a way to waste it as anything. Miki Dora

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
We think of wealth and fame in terms of dollars, lavish material things and how widely your name is known or what magazine covers you picture is on. It’s easy to be captivated by all of that or at the least just curious about the fairy tale lifestyles of Kelly Slater, Lady GaGa (that one is for the Mrs.), Michael Jordan, Bill Gates or the Jonas Brothers (and that one was for my littlest surfer girl). This desire for a little piece of that world is how we sell things…being “cool” by association is a marketing miracle. It is why you can find more kids wearing Hurly, Billabong and Quicksilver in landlocked Midwest states than you probably can find here in the coastal east. And who can blame them...the surfing lifestyle can be as addictive as the act of riding a wave. Not quite, but close.
The true surfer, dedicated to the surfing spirit and lifestyle may live a life more adventurous, but I certainly don’t mind the tradeoffs I have made in life to give my family a little security. No, I don’t make every good day of surf (I still can’t believe I missed last Tuesday), but I can measure my trek to the beach in minutes not hours, I have a little quiver, I have my health and yes, I surf whenever I can which is enough to fuel my stoke. I am not captivated by movie stars nearly as much as I am of those expat soul surfers that roam the globe or make due with a camper under a palapa and take their spot in the lineup next to the locals. I can imagine that life…not 100% sure I want it for myself, but I can understand the draw of the waves…and the lifestyle.
My surfing lifestyle is about the little adventures, all the people, places I now know or will, and experiences I have in and out of the water. It’s about seeing the sea life in their home, sharing waves with family and friends, it’s about that cup of coffee with a friend in the parking lot while our boards and board shorts are still dripping, or pulling my dress shirt on at the beach access as I ready myself for the office after a dawn patrol session. Everything seems to evolve and connect to surfing for me now…or more appropriately the surfing lifestyle. And sure, I do have some surf brand clothes, I have surf racks (that I use) on my car, and in fact I can proudly report that an 11’2” board will fit inside the minivan…oops…I mean the Surfari Wagon. Maybe the most rewarding part of the surfing life is all the powerfully good work that surfers and surfing related organizations do for our neighbors in need, the environment and for children who could use a little hope in life. Show me a group that is more giving. Yes, surfing is giving me the life of the rich and famous…a rich surfing life and my son thinks I writing for Local Sessions makes me famous. Send comments, suggestions, complaints, and requests for how to pimp your minivan to …see you in the water.

Water Time by Weisbecker...check it out!