The following information was written way back in 2004. A lot has changed since then, so, when you read this, keep that in mind:
The purpose of this blog is simple: I wanted to document my progression as a beginner/novice surfer and answer common questions that newbies may have in their quest to learn about this sport and increase their abilities as a surfer. This information is not generally available. I want to change that.
That being said...
This is my first post so I thought I'd tell you a little bit about myself. I live in Los Angeles and have a love affair with surfing. I started way back in 1984 while living in Jacksonville, Florida. It was more of a weekend/summer hobby for me back then. After moving there from Louisiana, my friends turned me on to it for no other reason than to take the redneck out of me. Now that's kind of an ironic since Jacksonville, for the most part, is just a big city full of rednecks but, being close to the beach (or on the beach for some), there are some folks there who manage to eek out of their redneckiness for brief moments of higher planes of consciousness so as to actually exist as surfers. These are my roots.
I lived in Jax for about 2 years and surfed maybe two dozen times. Grant it, using the word "surfed" is a stretch as I spent most of my time in the wash trying to either, paddle out, stand up or make a turn. I honestly didn't actually fall for it back then, since I didn't 'get it', and spent 18 years in surf hiatus - 13 of those years in L.A. - avoiding the beach at all costs while concentrating on a music career. Well, the career is now over - successfully in retrospect - and as of 2002, I picked up the sport again.
My Recent History
I rekindled my surfing bug in June of 2002 by purchasing an 8ft fun board with a thruster set (3 fins, same size) frequenting a local point break at the intersection of Sunset Blvd and PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). There's a popular restaurant, Gladstones, sitting on top of the point if you're familiar with this break. It's known as a beginner break - some in the community won't even consider it a break since it's soooo fickle and depends [way too much] on the tides. Anywhere near high tide and the place turns in to a lake with most swells. The waves are mushy, meaning that they lack the power in a wave that most advanced surfers look for. Trust me, if you are a beginner, you want a mushy wave if you ever want to get the feel of standing up and riding anything other than the white wash. Otherwise, you will be subjected to tough paddle-outs and perpetual nose dives (pearling) that may get you discouraged. These two issues, for me, were the crux of my frustration. I think you may experience the same. I want to help.
I now surf about 3 times a week. I manage to find the time by hitting up dawn patrol before - and on the way - to work in West Hollywood. This is a recent change in my routine. Before discovering I could get in an hour or so before work I've been limited to weekends and an occasional Friday or holiday. Of course, everyone is out during those times and you'll never be able to concentrate with 80 other surfers around you. Dawn Patrol is a blessing and a curse (sometimes 4:45am wake ups) but something that has increased my abilities exponentially. I recommend it if you want to progress and are short on time.
At this point, I can paddle out without much problem. Beach breaks present the most hurdles for this skill because they rarely have lulls in between waves and the waves may break over several sandbars in the vicinity of where you want to paddle out. This creates some problems for the newbie as you have other surfers to consider (more on this important rule later) who may be surfing the surrounding peaks. These are people who would rather not have to deal with you being in their way and rightly so. Reef and point breaks can provide a more predictable environment in which to time your paddle out since the wave generally breaks in one or two spots at the most. You can navigate more easily.
For the most part, I can stand up and make my intial turn down the face of the wave with about 80% accuracy. I think my self-consciousness about performing around better surfers is my biggest setback. I move, choose a wave and carry myself in the water with confidence and blowing a takeoff is out of the question since those around me will give me credit for being able to make the drop and will pull out or off in most cases. The last thing you want to do is blow a takeoff on a wave that someone else may have made with ease - yet gave you the benefit of the doubt and let you have it. Consider yourself a kook at that point, tuck your tail and move away to another part of the beach. Another very important rule that I live by - if you can't hang, get out, go home, or move down the beach. Don't ruin anyone else's surfing experience. Know your abilities and confine yourself to them when there are others to consider.
OK, this is definitely a stretch since my 3 boards hardly deem being considered a "quiver" and are so close in performance and wave intention that they might as well be considered one type - at least for those of us who don't know how to maximize - or even realize - the fact that different boards perform differently in different conditions. Here's what I've got:
An 8ft Raw funboard with a thruster set (3 fins/same size) from ZJs Boarding House in Santa Monica. An awesome board to learn on. This is ZJs house brand. $350.
A Hawaiian Islands Creations (HIC) 8'2" funboard/mini-gun hybrid twin fin with a trailer fin. Similar to a thruster with the exception that the trailer (or center) fin is longer. The "box" can accomodate any size fin I want so I could make it a thruster if I chose to.
An ET "Kingfish" 6'11" fish hybrid twin-fin with a center box. This is a stinger/swallow shaped tail. Sound confusing? Well, it may be but doesn't have to be. A fish is a retro styled board that is generally short in length but very thick and has a very flat bottom (lay it on the ground and the nose, tail and middle don't curve up much at all). I say "hybrid" because mine is a little longer and the stinger/swallow shape comes in to play which really breaks it out from the traditional fish shape. Fish generally have the swallow or "V" tail. The stinger shape interupts the "V" shape by drastically narrowing the rear rails first before the "V" starts. Look it up. :-)
Both the Raw and HIC generally perform, for me, very similar with the exception that the HIC is slightly harder to paddle since it's less thick. This is offset by the fact that it reacts a little better to your body with it's thinner rails - you can turn better.
The ET is more like a shortboard for me with the added benefit of being very easy to paddle since it's roughly as thick as my Raw board. It has a softly pointed nose which allows me to duck dive - something else that will help your paddling-out frustrations.
That's it for now. I'll follow up with some experiences that I'd like to share with some descriptions of problems I encountered and how I came to overcome them, if at all!