I Paddle for the Monotony

Posted in Paddleboard with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2011 by crystalvoyager

Standing in the registration line for a paddleboard race a few years ago, I was talking to the guy behind us in line.  He asked me what class I paddle.  I explained that while I do paddle, I don’t race.  I was just standing in line with my wife who was racing.  A friend interrupted to let the guy know that I don’t race, I just paddle for the monotony.

I guess that’s true.  Fitness is a big part of it but it did make me think about why it is that I enjoy paddling.  There is a lot of time spent staring at the Bark logo on the nose of my board.  Chasing the nose of my board couldn’t be the real reason I paddle, could it?

Perhaps not specifically staring at the end of the board but I do think the mindlessness of the sport has some appeal.  It’s no different than riding a bike or running marathons.  At the end of the day, it’s a lot of time spent listening to an iPod (if you choose) and starting straight ahead.  I never identified with marathon runners, but now I think I can understand them.

There is peace in the monotony.

It’s not always monotonous.  Days with big swell, lots of wind or wildlife all result in dynamic environments.  They require continual attention.  But even those days fall into some sort of rhythm.  Ride one wave, paddle into the next.  Ride that wave.  Maybe it is the monotony.


“Your what?”

Posted in Surfmat with tags , , , , on April 10, 2011 by crystalvoyager

“My surfmat guy…”  That’s usually as far as I get before being interrupted.  The interruptions are not always spoken.  Often, they are blank looks.  That’s not an intro most people have heard before.  It turns out not everyone has a surfmat guy.  Fortunately, I do.

His name is Dale.  He lives in coastal Oregon.  He makes the most badass surfmats on the planet.  That is an undisputed fact.  Evidence: other people who make mats ride Dale’s mats.

What makes one mat better than another?  That’s a common follow up question.  To be honest, I don’t know that I can answer that question accurately.  I know the materials matter.  I think the rocker – that’s right, Dale’s mats have rocker – matters.  I believe the size relative to the rider matters.  I can tell you the level of inflation matters.  I know when I ride one that is dialed in, I can absolutely tell the difference.  That matters.

Surfmats are not for everyone.  That’s ok.  They’re frustrating, decidedly uncool and really hard to get wired.  But that’s ok.  Dale can only make so many mats.  His is not a production process that can be mass replicated.  They are hand constructed.  Each Neumatic Surfmat receives custom laminations and even a “name”.  They receive love, from both Dale and their owner.

Considering he spends hours just building each custom mat, let alone planning each mat with the eventual owner, I am not sure he could handle much more.

This post is probably not much use to anyone.  If you ride mats, you know of Dale.  (You should also be riding one of his mats.)  If you don’t ride mats, you really don’t care.  That’s ok.  Surfmats are uncool.  It’s better that way.

If you didn’t know of Dale and you want a top caliber  surfmat, check out Neumatic Surfmats.


Facing off with OB

Posted in Surfing with tags , , , , on April 5, 2011 by crystalvoyager

When I moved to The Peninsula, as locals call it, I didn’t know where my spot was going to be.  It was late October and we were headed toward the North Pacific winter. Despite being early in the year, there was a big swell in the water.  I figured I would start north and work my way down until I saw something I liked.  I started at Ocean Beach.

75, sunny, no wind and solid surf.  There was barely anyone out and it was firing.  I looked no further.  In fact, I didn’t even stop for long enough to look at the other people paddling out.  I found a spot near Noriega, suited up and paddled out on my 6’4”.

Half way through the lines of white water, I realized why there were few people out.  I realized that I might not even make it out.  Ocean Beach is punishing.  The paddle is like nothing I have ever experienced.  I come from the land of perfect pointbreaks where even on double overhead days you can get out without getting your hair wet.

I was undergunned by a long shot and I was way out of shape.  A summer of not paddling or surfing much left me in inferior surf shape.  Any normal year I would slowly work myself back into shape with a bunch of longboard sessions before the real winter swells started.  This year was months of no surf and straight into triple overhead surf.

An hour into my attempt, I abandoned ship, conceded defeat and headed in, knowing that this would probably not be the last time OB kicked my ass.  On the beach I noticed what should have been a sign before I headed out.  Everyone was riding 8’+ boards, most in the 9 range.  Though I could barely lift my arms, I got in touch with Rincon Designs and ordered a 7’6” immediately.

I was out of my element, out of shape and thoroughly defeated.  Despite the ordeal, I took an instant shine to OB.  There’s something to the challenge of raw open ocean that hooked me on the first day.  It immediately became my spot.


One Year Later

Posted in Surfing with tags , , on April 2, 2011 by crystalvoyager

When this site was started almost a year ago, the thought was that it would be an insight into what surfing and ocean activities, for that matter, are in Santa Barbara.  All was off to a great start.  Then, within the month, I agreed to move way far away from Santa Barbara – to the landlocked environs of the Silicon Valley, no less.  45 minutes to San Francisco.  45 minutes to Half Moon Bay.  45 minutes to Santa Cruz.  As a surfer, 45 minutes toward Hell.

For the next 5 months, preparations were made to move us and the business.  End result is relocation to Menlo Park, a boat (still) for sale and many surfboards left behind in an undisclosed location in Santa Barbara County.

Six months into the Menlo Park Experiment I have learned a lot.  The highlights:

  1. The water is every bit as cold up here as I thought.  There are times when it is painfully cold.  The 5 or so degrees colder here than south of Point Conception is a critical 5 degrees.
  2. There is a lot of good surf here.  And there are many days with good conditions.  Everyone knows about Santa Cruz but I have been pleasantly surprised by other places, including Ocean Beach, which I thought was always too windy to be good.  That is usually not the case, but don’t tell anyone.
  3. The ocean is big.  It will kick your ass.  You will be Tombstoned.  Prepare for it.
  4. There are a whole lot of Santa Barbara connections up here.  It is rare that I surf up here without seeing someone I know.  Despite the flood of new surfers in the past 15 years, the core surf world is small.

For me, surfing whenever there is a swell is out.  I can’t get to the beach, surf and get back from the beach before work.  That is a major lifestyle change and is a major adjustment.  However, there is a lot of surf up here.  There is even good surf up here.  It just takes some adjustment.

Never Ending Spring

Posted in Surfing with tags , , , on May 29, 2010 by crystalvoyager

Spring seems to last forever in Santa Barbara.  Most places in the world, that would probably be considered a good thing.  The temperature is good, flowers are out, not too many bugs.  But it Santa Barbara, the Spring has always been a bit painful for me.  We get a lot of wind which puts a damper on surfing,  paddling and boating.  Our water is the coldest it gets all year.  And it is long, often stretching from February until May or June .

Josh Farberow, Rincon Fall 2009

With the winter surf season over, the sheltered beaches of Santa Barbara are not due for a rideable swell until October.  The wait begins…

Real Men Paddle Prone

Posted in Paddleboard, Shapers with tags , , , , on May 23, 2010 by crystalvoyager

Endurance sports have never been of interest to me.  I run to maintain fitness but ultimately it is all with the goal of being ready when the first 8 hour surf session is available come fall.  For some reason, paddling is different.  (Note: prone paddling = the real paddling)

Catalina 2009 - 32 Miles to Manhattan Beach

The world of paddling is small.  While it has grown in the five or so years I have been involved, it remains tiny in comparison to surfing, or even, though I hate to admit it, Sweeping.  New board shapers have emerged but there is still only one name in California paddleboards:  Joe Bark.

I recently had the pleasure of getting a board from Joe.  The man is on it – quick, personable and highly skilled.  Having experienced the good and the bad of the surfboard industry, I truly appreciate a guy who not only has his board shaping skills dialed but can also run a business.

Making the purchasing process smooth is great but if the product is inferior, it doesn’t matter.  Joe has paddleboard construction down.  Despite producing thousands over the years, they keep getting faster and better.  Paddling a new Bark is quite an experience.  They are solid upwind (always the painful part) and they surf downwind with amazing speed.  Linking swells together is actually easy.  Of course, as the boards get faster and higher performance, staying on them while riding swells is a whole other matter.

Bark Paddleboard, pre-race

Aside from the production of boards, Joe is the ultimate ambassador for the sport.  He has finished Catalina something like 25 times.  He organizes much of the Catalina race, cooks at the barbecue, then gets up at 5 am to paddle back to Manhattan Beach.  At a recent race, he rolled in with his box truck full of boards and kids.  He delivered new boards to people, picked up boards to be fixed, wrangled his kids who were also paddling, shook everyone’s hand, and made the salsa.

Joe Bark is paddling in Southern California.   In most industries, having one person dominate the way he does would be detrimental.  Paddling is lucky to have him.

Fresh 2010 Bark Paddleboard

If you are looking for a world class paddleboard, there is no need to search.  Get a Bark and save your time.  You will own one eventually.
Bark Paddleboards

Oh, and I have it on good authority from South Bay guys that Joe dominates on a surfboard too.  So there’s that.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 5, 2010 by crystalvoyager

Regardless of the location you pick, where there are surfers, there are regional influences.  Skip Frye in San Diego, Dora at Malibu, Lopez on the North Shore.  In areas with prolific histories, there are likely several.

Santa Barbara is just such a town.  While Rennie Yater and Tom Curren are common options from the area, George Greenough has had the deepest influence on my development.  Without ever having met him in person, he has contributed to my boards, the fins in those boards, my surfmat, my boat, my swim fins, my favorite surf films – likely even my disdain for shoes.  The people who shape my boards and create my favorite art cite him as early influences.

If you are from the area and do anything related to the ocean, he has touched it.  And all of this from a guy who has only been back a handful of times since he departed in search of empty waves on a boat he built in his backyard.

With that we commence the Crystal Voyager blog.  General subjects will cover the life aquatic on the south coast of Santa Barbara.

What does surfing mean to people in the area?  Who knows.  Perhaps we’ll find out.

Here we go.