My Recent Surf Lesson

So usually, I try to stick with surf-crafty things on here, but hey, it’s my blog, so I do what I want.

Damn right

So, lately, I’ve decided to take up surf lessons again. I feel I’ve hit a plateau (going on about 5 years now, sheesh), and I wanted to try and improve.

The difference this time is, it’s just for me. No particular goals. No contests, no sponsorships, no accumulating gnar gnar photos of me ripping. After all, I’ve reached middle age, and my need for others’ approval has greatly declined.

If there is a goal, I’d just like more of that momentary feeling of glide on a wave, more often, with a better understanding of how to get there again and again. One day, I won’t be able to surf anymore, so I want to have as many memories built up in my head to replay over and over, good and bad.

My new coach is an interesting guy to say the least . He’s well known in the surfing community, and he has earned his “cred” on massive Hawaiian waves I’d never dare to surf- and lived. If you’ve got the time, read his stories. They’ve definitely given me a new perspective.

In my first lesson this week, the waves were near flat, so he talked to me about mindfulness. This applies to anything you wish to learn, not just surfing. I tend to joke around and laugh a lot, because things are just NEVER as critical as people create them to be. However, I should resolve myself to focus more on learning than being silly and goofy when trying to improve my surfing skills.

Ok, I’ll still do a little of this


With the improvement in surfing, the fun naturally follows. He told me an example of a concert pianist at Carnegie Hall performing solemnly, intently, to his audience, yet to him, he is experiencing he height of enjoyment. He becomes fully immersed in his passion.

No, I’m not aiming for Carnegie Hall level mastery of surfing. Perhaps more of a regular late night soul jam session in the garage on the weekends, but I’m not quitting my day job.

In the second half of my lesson, he actually pushed me into waves so I could learn how to angle into a wave better- no paddling- just a focus on ONE cross step. It was a humbling experience to be pushed in, but did it ever work. When I popped up, I was able to crosstep easier than I had in my many attempts over the years. Wave after wave. Focused on the task. I’m beginning to see what he’s talking about. I’m already stoked for my next lesson.

Walking up the beach, some random guy on the beach walked up to me and said, “You surfed really good.”

Oh. Sorry, I didn’t even realize there was anyone there….

Keepin’ it real

The Cross Stepper Trainer 3000

I’m bound and determined to learn this mystical trick they call cross stepping. It’s where you nimbly step, foot over foot, down the center of the board to control speed and to show off some style and skill while surfing. Here’s an example of a cross step, mid-step, by an expert, Kassia Meador:

Kassia Meador showing style even on a larger wave.

I watched the movie “The Walkabout” and Kassia noted that she would practice cross stepping with a 2″x 4″ on the ground, using it as a low balance beam. I thought this would be a cheap, easy, low tech DIY, but I’m going to finish one out a bit to my liking and for safety as well. I also want to use this indoors with the rest of my small workout gear.
I found a piece of pine out in the garage from a scaffolding project that was a 1.5″ by 3.5″, and approximately 32 inches long. Good enough. If you have bigger feet than mine, get a wider beam.
The pine was pretty rough, so I wanted to give it a good sanding before I painted it. Since I have zero patience (you knew that already) I hit it with the power sander for a few passes on each side, and made quick work of that task. If you use power tools, PLEASE follow all instructions that come with the tools and use safety equipment!

One end clamped to work on the other end.
Work slowly! It doesn’t take long overall.

After sanding it down with some 100 and 120 grit, I was ready to paint it with some extra acrylic paint I had lying around. I went ahead and painted all sides, including the top, using up the paint and also ensuring the beam would be smooth and wouldn’t bow slightly on one side if I had painted just on the bottom. Next, I cut a scrap piece of SeaDek traction in a rectangle 3.5″ by 32″ to adhere to the top of the beam when it dries. The traction is about 3 mm thick foam, so not only will it provide traction, it will give the beam some cushion on my feet.

Painted beam and the cut traction to go on top.

If you don’t have access to this kind of traction, you can get some 3M grip tape at the hardware store. The type I got is made from textured rubber, NOT that gritty, scratchy stuff, so I can use it indoors barefoot if I wanted, which is the intention.

3M textured rubber grip tape from the local hardware store

I used the foam traction for this project, and here’s what it looks like attached, trimmed, and with some flair….

Harder than it looks.

Super easy to make. I set mine on a grippy mat, but if you’re setting yours on a slick surface spring for some rubberized grip tape on the bottom or some grip dots so it doesn’t slip out from under you.
Actually, for being so simplistic, this is a good exercise, and really tests your balance without you crashing to the ground if you mess up.
The next thing Kassia advised was to NEVER shuffle on the board- only go for it and step. Kassia, I like to ride a wave once in a while for more than a millisecond….let just try this first.

Surfing Cheat Sheet

A neighbor’s sister came out surfing with me a couple of weeks back when she was visiting from California. Although she’s an avid windsurfer, she never tried surfing. I gave her my longboard to use and gave her some help (Lord, help her, she’s in the wrong hands), and she did pretty well. However, she commented that there was a lot to remember when going for a wave.
I started considering that which we take for granted. When I was first learning and teaching myself, I always thought it would be nice to have a few instructions with me, but alas, the conditions weren’t quite ideal for a manual or an iPhone app. So I thought an old school solution would work to help her out the next time she visits.
I picked up some index cards at the drugstore, although blank business cards or a small piece of cardstock would work also.

Super cheap! .99 cents

You can either print out for handwrite some instructions or tips for yourself, if you’re learning, or for a newbie friend. My tips also include a suggestion point for chin placement when paddling that you can determine on the sand before you go out and position in place on the board- the instructions will be easily read above it. The chin mark tip I learned from Deb at Natural Art Surfboards. My favorite board is from there. 😉 Here’s my little reminders instead of annoyingly saying them over and over:

DON’T FALL? Thanks Captain Obvious….

Reminders to place your hands on the deck instead of the rails when popping up was a step my friend kept forgetting, so I made sure to put that in, as well as “BEND YOUR KNEES!” I know they’re not going to read this novel whilst dropping in, but when you’re teaching yourself and sitting waiting for waves, it’s some good reading to memorize.
Next, you can place the card into a laminate sleeve, or just seal it up with clear packing tape, like I do. Hey, it works. I cut the card above out and trimmed off the excess.
Next, take their board and find the area where you’re going to place the card and scrape the wax off and even take some of the wax grease of with mineral oil. This will help the card mount better when you tape over the top and bottom of the card to the deck of the board with some more clear packing tape.

A little scrapin’ and some mineral oil

You can even wax over this, as long as it doesn’t obscure the text too much. If you’ve got a foam (soft) board, I would get quilter’s pins (found at the craft store) and tack the card in on each corner into the foam (it won’t break through to the back if you angle it in slightly). And no, they won’t leave gaping holes in the board. Just take them out after each session so they don’t get rusty.

Quilter’s pin

So here’s my card attached to the surfboard, waxed over:

Read it and weep, really….

Unfortunately, I follow the “Chin Here” advice quite a bit- but only after I wipeout on a wave….