Friday, December 24, 2010

Of Sparkplugs, Sandbars, and Seasons Greetings

I love it when this:
Turns into this:
6' Sparkplug for bicoastal surf enthusiast/surfboard sketch artist Kevin, who's flying out from the East Coast, grabbing his new stick, celebrating X-Mas with the in-laws, then jetting to Mexico all in about a 12 hour period.
Five Futures finboxes of fun. The Sparkplug is packed full of curves and designed for maximum rippage in small to a-lot-larger-than-small sized surf. It works well as a three or four finner. Up north, e. shreds his gen 1 Sparkplug with a bonzer-inspired setup.
Speaking of the East Coast, Mrs. HHG, the little HHGitas and I just arrived here and you know what? It's freaking freezing and I've gotten no fewer than 10 emails in the last 12 hours informing me that my homebreak is totally snapping and everyone is getting so pitted and it's the best, cleanest surf of the winter and the agricultural runoff from the rain isn't that bad as long as you've had your hepatitis shots...etc.
Still, as I write this, stuffed into more fleece than in an entire REI catalog, parked in front of a space heater, sucking down hot tea as if it's the elixir of life itself and contemplating how soft I've gotten, I can still muster enough holiday spirit to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. And coming from a semi-frozen Jew, you know it's real.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Orange Egg

Does anyone remember the van with the external speakers in Robert Altman's (brilliant) Nashville? For some reason it was a highlight for me, as was seeing Elliott Gould in full 70s, gold-necklaced, hairy-chested glory. The van, a rolling audio advertisement for Hal Philip Walker's political ambitions, asks the question, "does Christmas smell like oranges to you?"
Well, for local wave-enthusiast Lucas, international shredder and dashing man about town, Christmas came a bit early this year, and it's definitely orange.
7' something egg, glassed with the lovely lady-hands of Leslie Anderson at Fatty Fiberglass. Lots of finboxes for lots of fin options.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Yeller

A typical conversation with Unde starts with some stoked screaming. “Yeeeuuuuuwwww, Murray!” he’ll belt into the phone, Rhode Island accent unmistakable through the slurry of vowels. Sometimes the exchange won’t progress any futher. There’ll be a click and a dead line and you’re left wondering if Unde got shacked bodysurfing Ruggles, or if Unde scored a new pair of Birdwell trunks, or maybe he just pulled some hapless, waterlogged tourist out of Narragansett Bay. Sometimes there’ll be follow up—Unde will be on a new aquatic trip and will want to share. Taco Bell tray sliding. Prone surfing in a flowered Esther Williams swim cap. A new Van Duyne rowing surf boat to play with once the lifesaving season is over.
True Unde Story #1. I knew Unde for two years before I discovered he had a real name: Jimi.
True Unde Story #2. When Unde lived, taught, and shredded in Japan, his students called him Pantsu which, I believe, means Undies in Japanese.
True Unde Story #3. Unde loves the ocean more than anyone I’ve ever met. East Coast. West Coast. Whatever.
This latest of Unde’s aquatic schralp machines measures in at 7’2 x thick x wide. Leslie lay down a beautiful classic yellow tint with matching deck patch inlay. Dark brown resin pinline to match the cedar stringer. This five fin-boxed egg is designed for anything Unde cares to paddle into. Which is just about everything.
Unde: more stoked than my one-year-old about a grasshopper. Pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Man who Loved Water

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who loves water more than Tim Palmer. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who loves the natural world more than Tim Palmer, who has authored twenty books on rivers, river conservation, mountains, California, the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite...etc. He grew up canoeing the waters of Pennsylvania, then bought a rad van (pictured in below photo), converted it into a mobile outdoor-lover/writer/photographer transport module, and set to exploring America's wild places.
Tim's as hardcore as it gets. He walks, runs, wades, backpacks, paddles, drifts, or floats every inch of his subject material. The guy's up before dawn each day, and has probably seen more sunrises than Robert Downey Jr. He is understated about his lifetime of adventures, but his speaking and slideshow tours always reveal some true narrative gems.
His new book, Rivers of California, is a gorgeous display of photography and writing at its finest and would make a great holiday gift for any nature lover. Check it here!
Our own Russian River even makes it into the edition.
Tim is currently touring with a slideshow. He's in Sonoma County tonight at Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol at 7pm. He'll have a mindblowing presentation, his new book Rivers of California, as well as some of his other offerings. They're all great. He can even sign one for you.
If you can't make it tonight, he'll be at Guerneville's River Reader at 7pm for the same deal. Still can't make it? Here are some tour dates.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

When the Weird sisters, foretellers of Macbeth’s fate in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, describe Scotland with, “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” they may as well have been talking about surfing the Northcoast. Surfers get absolutely jazzed about conditions up here that are, by most standards, terrible. Wind, cold, rain, wind, cold, fog, wind, thunder, whitecaps, monstrous sucking beachbreak dumpers, sharks, wind. Whatever.
The first year I surfed up here I made the mistake of bitching about the wind to another surfer as we hunkered in the lineup, sideshores blowing so hard we had to keep our eyes squeezed shut. “Not a big fan of whitecaps,” I confessed after an hour of this nonsense.
“Whitecaps?” he asked, spinning his board and clawing into an absurdly thick double-up. “Up here we call ‘em glassycaps!” he shouted, then disappeared over the ledge.
Several years ago I was checking a sandbar at one of our local beachbreaks on a typical day: windy, blown-to-bits closeouts, glassycaps galore, and not even the hint of an open face. Still, five guys were on it.
As I watched, absolute in my decision to head back home to a hot cup of coffee, all five spun on their boards and made haste to the beach. Not a common sight up here, but not an uncommon one, either.
“See a fin?” I stupidly asked one of the guys as we stood on the shore, squinting toward the ocean.
“Couple,” he said.
“Gonna pack it in?” I asked.
He shot me a what-you-talking-about-Willis face and said, “and miss out on this?” His hand gestured to the malevolent shorebreak, the pounders beyond unloading onto an ill-formed sandbar barely visible through the pea-soup air.
Five minutes later the five men huddled, agreed the two sharks were long gone, then paddled straight back into the fog. I made my way back to the parking lot, quickly pulled on my wetsuit, and agreed with the dude on the beach: who would miss out on this?
It’s not until the fourth act that the Northcoast/Macbeth parallel dissolves.
“Such welcome and unwelcome things at once,” says McDuff, the play’s moral champion. “’tis hard to reconcile.”
If he were a surfer up here, it wouldn’t be hard to reconcile at all.
This 9’something LB is for local shredder/teacher JL, stranger neither to The Bard nor our frigid waters. Shaping boards for teachers is a pleasure—these guys understand community better than almost anyone I can think of. Plus, you can say something like, “let’s screw our courage to the sticking place” when suiting up on a big day and they don’t think you’re insane.
Win win.
As per usual, all color is pigmented resin, and all glasswork by Leslie Anderson at Fatty Fiberglass who may or may not be making out with some dude in Alaska at this very moment. Much to give thanks for this year!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Semi-Conductor

Shaping boards for smaller waves is groovy. The ouija-board dance of wave, wavecraft, and rider is vast, and projecting what lines the surfer will take is an exercise in limitlessness—over the wave, under the wave, on top of, through, around, out, in, whatever.
It’s a different experience in the shaping room with a bigger-wave board on the racks. The lines a surfer takes on gun or semi-gun are more prescribed, the choices fewer. The drop. The turn. The race for the shoulder. The paddle back to the peak.
Rather than possibility, the bigger-wave board is about the experience itself. The fierce, watery thing of it. It’s about size, and about the fingernails-into-the-palms grip of fear and adrenaline and pure marine energy.
This 7’5 for MendoShredder BigL isn’t meant for the biggest our coast can handle, but rather for long paddles through coves thick with urchin-encrusted rocks and kelp. For thick, riotous masses of salwater pumping onto rock reefs that are about 600,000 years shy of perfect. And the cold of the Northcoast--not just the fog or the wind or the rain, but the cold of not knowing when the next cleanup set is coming through or how long you’re going to float, legs dangling, in water as dark as iodine for the right wave to come.
And, of course, the warmth: the joy and relief of putting the head down and feeling the unmistakable surge of water pushing surfboard. The moment when everything is crisp and decided, and the head only chants, quietly now, “go, go, go.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Three Fin Twin Pin

Carl Ekstrom developed the first asymmetrical surfboard in 1965. He was twenty-four years old. Although the concept of asymmetry never really gained traction in the surfing mainstream, sailboards and snowboards have been capitalizing on the design idea for decades.
Re-inspired by fish designs of the last few years, Ekstrom again put planer to foam and has been coming up with some cool asymmetrical stuff. This board is inspired by Ekstrom, a low-rockered EPS blank that I’ve had lying around for years, and a demo fish that was returned to me with one keel fin missing. Not broken, just gone.
When I asked the borrower if the board looked at all off, he took a hard look, scratched his head, and said, “well, the color’s kinda girlie.”
So, what to do with an EPS fish blank and one keel fin?
And this.
And this.
Resin pigment work by Leslie Anderson of Fatty Fiberglass. When I asked her what she thought of the board she said, "who cares? I'm in love."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Best Fiance You Never Had

The title of this post refers to a short story by Pam Houston, selected by none other than John Updike for his Greatest American Short Stories of the Century anthology. Upon completion of a writing class with Ms. Houston many years ago, I was left with two memorable bits: the first is that if you ever get a novel published, make sure that the cover is blue. They sell better.
Next, she really likes dogs.
That's about it, but not a bad takeaway as far as writing workshops go.
The spirit of the post refers to soon to be married SF surf enthusiast Sara, who ordered this longboard for her fiance. What a lady!
Let's get technical in our discussion of the pigment work on this board: all color except the orange stripes were added via resin tinting during the lamination.
Ok, not really that technical, but impressive nonetheless.
Speaking of love, Fatty's got it bad, and in her ardor has been flipping boards at a fever pitch. Good time to add a new stick to her queue.
Pictured alongside 9'2" surfboard is a 33"tall 3 1/2 year old (seated) for perspective.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rastaman Vibrations

Tofurkris's new acquisition comes from Northern California, and has rasta resin pinlines by Leslie Anderson. A beachbreak slasher of the Broadsword variety.
My family's new acquisition comes from the pound, and has a killer dogstache. Ben's a fuzzy wolfhound of the toe-licking variety.

Friday, September 24, 2010

War Pony Chronicles: Cars and Stripes

Aloha amigos, much going on up here NoTB. For starters, the recent south swell seemed to offer many things to many surfers—from glassy peelers to dredging sphincter bombs, depending on where, when, and whether or not there were any eyewitnesses. The Gulf of Alaska is quietly waking up, eyeing the California coastline lying next to him in bed, and thinking, “Let's do this.”
It’s been many moons since we’ve seen ‘overhead++’ on Surfline’s Northern California forecast (though not so many moons, perhaps, since Surfline overcalled a swell), so our fingers are crossed, our minds already selecting boards, breaks, and tidal conditions.
As if this isn’t enough—the bounty of Fall is indeed colossal!—the fourth annual Great Handcar Regatta takes place this Sunday, September 26th, from 10am until 6pm in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square. In case you’ve been stuck on the 101 for a year, the Handcar Regatta is like a shot of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade dropped into a hot glass of Burning Man, then chased with a nose-clearing dose of what would happen if Federico Fellini and Tom Waits made a baby. Handmade and handpowered rail cars, unwholesome costumes, belly dancers, freaks on stilts, outmoded facial hair combinations, nipples, and more ass cleavage than a whole season of NASCAR.
This year’s theme is Magical India, whatever the hell that means.
Here’s a sample :

This turning of the seasons also requires a tuning of the quiver, and Dr. J’s new War Pony will take him through all of Autumn’s graces—from doily, bubblegum and lace southswell playthings to, stomach-churning, sawed-off, deep water discharges.
Plus, it’s got stripes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Golden Load

The opening lines to William Blake's To Autumn read:
O Autumn, laden with fruit and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof.
Sounds familiar to those of up here NotB: we've got fruit in gross abundance, we're up to our nips in grapes, and we'd like nothing more than autumn to park her lush keester under our roofs for a while and end our run of uninspiring windswell.
This autumn's bounty includes Paul's new golden 8' Broadsword pintail, just about ripe and ready for some steep Northcoast beachbreak.
Blake was regarded by many, incuding himself, as nuts. He concludes his poem with autumn rising, dusting off his boots, then:
o'er the bleak hills fled from our sight;
but left his golden load.
It is precisely because of these last lines that I no longer give this poem to high school students.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love's Labour's Gained

National holidays always give me pause. First of all, it's unsettling to have garbage pickup on Tuesday instead of Monday.
Second, holidays have a tendency to nag us with the message to think of others instead of ourselves. Who needs it?
Finally, a day off pretty much guarantees horrendous surf conditions.
But each of these dark clouds have their silver linings and Labor Day, unlike other holidays that wrack me with guilt as I pour lukewarm Tecates down my gizzard like they were the elixir of life itself, is designed for selfishness. What's not to love? Labor Day celebrates us, the American worker, just as we are.
It's an interesting choice to give us the day off to celebrate work, but whatever--we're supposed to drink cheap beer and let the littler ones run around with the bigger ones until their shapes are hard to distinguish in the waning light of evening. We're supposed to slap at mosquitoes or marvel at fireflies or vaguely wonder where our sweatshirts or spouses or dogs are as we stand around a bbq grill or sit around a fire pit or, if we're really lucky, stare into the gently pulsing embers as a beach bonfire fades into the fog.
All this because of American labor and all it stands for.
And up here North of the Bridge, it still stands for something. This 6'4 Lil' Pill, e-winged, cedar stringered, built for speed, inspired by the Campbell Brothers, and finned with bamboo was designed, shaped, glassed, finned, sanded, and polished by two people.
Four hands.
A singular desire to build something good.
It is also colored with resin in Laphroaig-bottle green.
My neighborhood sports a genuine old school steakhouse with a mind-boggling, wallet-draining single malt scotch menu. Surfboard building business has been conducted there through the years, and single malts have been sampled, extoled, heralded, cursed the next morning. The language of Scotland's chief export occasionally makes its way onto order cards: highland butterscotch opaque; Speyside honey tint; Lagavulin 16yr old yellow.
After a recent evening lush with liquid peat, smoke, and brine, the words Laphroaig-bottle green were jotted down. Leslie called soon thereafter.
"What the hell does that mean?" She demanded by way of introduction.
I directed her toward the Google.
"Got it," she said. "You could have just written pine, but--"and this was one of those moments that made the weekly hours-long drive to her glassing studio all the more worth it, "I'm glad you didn't."
Hope you had a great day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

California Gothic

K&N sped up from Points South, dropped off a delicious MacMurray Pinot Noir (no relation, though I have indisputable ties to this clan), picked up an 8’ Broadsword in EPS for her, a 6’something Lil’ Pill for him, and loaded them up before the cork was popped or sardines tossed onto a hot grill.
Rumor had them gobbling up south swell peelers in Santa Cruz before heading toward Point Conception, giggling as every surf forecast on the planet pointed to fun, solid surf headed their way.
Their dour expressions are just a quiet consideration of the merits of riding her board as a single fin, 2+1, or quad.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Of MiniLongboards, Minivans, and Mail

Aloha Amigos, the Postal Service may rest on Sundays, but HHG does not. This is why the last Sunday of every month is Full Disclosure Day, where I fling wide the doors to the HHG inbox to allow you, faithful reader, a glimpse into the innerworkings of a machine so complex, so forceful, that Newton's Second and Third Laws barely apply.
I also give you boardporn. Like this 8'0 Broadsword which may or may not be headed to Hawaii in the near future.
Onto the first letter!
Dear HHG,
Last week my boyfriend of six years bought a pair of Crocs, which he now wears all the time. When I asked him where he got such a dumb idea, he cited a blog post where you claimed, “real watermen wear Crocs.” Not cool, brah.
Croc Blocker

Dear Croc Blocker, anyone who disparages Crocs should immediately be strapped to a carseat and forced by a three-year-old girl to listen to "Micheal Row The Boat Ashore" on repeat for, like, ten straight hours. Wait, that's my current life, but still.
The same applies to those ridiculing minivans, midlength surfboards, or sleeping in boardshorts when you don’t ‘have’ to. It is open season, however, on those allowing 'brah' to sneak into their correspendence.
Full board 'honey' tint with a chocolate resin pinline. Delicious.
Onto the next letter!
Dear HHG,
In recent posts, I’ve seen a sprinkling of what looks like a white powder on some of the surfboards on your blog. Is there dust on your lens, or should we be concerned? Mom's already called twice.
Also, you owe me $22 for pizza.
Love, L____.

Dear Big Sis,
That white powder is, in fact, foam dust, which has the interesting distinction of getting everywhere. As I write this, there are foamdust footprints on the living room carpet, there is a fine mist of foam in the laundry room where I shake out my shaping duds, and even, inexplicably, in my undies. The minivan is the worst, as it looks either like a box of powdered donuts exploded into its rich, carpeted 1996 interior, or like it was recently used as a setpiece in a Miami Vice episode.
A $20 dollar check is in the mail. I’m keeping the $2 as recompense for the googlie-eyed stickers you jacked from me in first grade.
Dear HHG,
My buddy just got back from an Alaskan fishing trip, and his freezer is rumored to be packed with over 200lbs of halibut. How can I subtly ask him to share the wealth without getting my ass kicked?

Haliburgular, if we are thinking of the same dude, it’s no use to ask. There is only action. It’s quite possible that this dude’s family is usually at the park around 11am on Saturdays. It is also quite possible that the unlocked freezer sits patiently, innocently, in a garage whose key code may or may not be 2225. It has also been reported that said bro’s dog can be pacified with beef jerky and a dirty tennis ball.
Remember: you didn’t hear this from me.
Also remember: Fish Taco Tuesdays. I’m coming over.

And with that, I will close tight the inbox until next time.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School

Spotted at my local beachbreak the other day. I may be wrong, but this doesn't seem like the best idea.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sword Also Rises

Christofuer, a serious devotee of trim and glide, likes to surf our chilly waters without a leash, booties, or concern for his person. And although he is patently opposed to razor blades and eating animals, he is clearly enthused about the idea of quiver expansion.
This 7’11” Broadsword should fit nicely into steep beachbreaky stuff that is ill-suited for traditional logs.
While hashing out ideas for the new stick, we discovered we’d both spent four years feeding our minds (and bodies, thanks to a shared, unrestrained passion for the school's frozen yogurt dispensers) at the same tiny Mid-Atlantic college. It's comforting to know I wasn't the only freshman with a surfboard stuffed into a Central Pennsylvania dorm closet during the Clinton years.
Christofuer catches more waves in an hour than I do in a month. I seriously considered jimmying the bottom contours to slow him down and create more waveriding opportunities for the rest of us.
Tailblock of yellowheart, bloodwood, and balsa. Foiling tailblocks smells a lot better than foiling foam.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bread in the Bone

Summer’s like renting a shitty house—it’s a little sketchy, you never fully unpack, the lease is strictly short term, and you’re always left wondering what happened to your money at the end of it.
On the positive side, you don’t really care when stuff breaks, catches on fire, or gets stolen by someone’s pervy shut-in cousin.
Last week saw a fun run of small surf up here North of the Bridge, with classic summer conditions: cool, foggy, and small peelers against a palate of gray water and sky. Pelicans, dolphins, and a whale or two were spotted cruising through lineups, and hoods—and, in one case, booties—were shed to welcome the warming water. It’s good to be back in California!
Foam was mowed, as well, including this 6’6 Lil’ Pill with an e-wing and five fin setup. Good for summer waves and beyond.
Damn, that's a terrible photo!
Still, you get the point--a little pulled in, a touch more rocker, a bit sleeker foil throughout.
Lots of fun stuff in the trunk.
Another terrible photo! This one's going to Leslie later this week for some laying on of hands, resin, and fiberglass. I've also seen her lay beers, glasses of wine, and bearded iguanas on surfboards. And corn snakes.
It's good to be back in California!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Greymember

William Shakespeare didn't live in Northern California. If he had, his Sonnet 18, which compares his beloved to a summer's day, would have mentioned northwest winds, coastal fog, and dry riesling before 5pm. He redeems himself at the beginning of the third stanza, however, by introducing the concept of the 'eternal summer' inside us. He concludes the stanza with a reference to 'eternal lines' as well. Perhaps The Bard was a surfer after all...?
Anyway, stoked Bay Area shredder Dan has a plan for the eternal lines of summer: The Greymember.
The board stands a diminutive, yet fleshy 5'4" with a slimming dark cedar stringer and Member-specific keels.
The slate gray opaque reverse wrap (tapered!) reinforces the tombstone likeness, and just a hint of swallow tail keeps things lively in the back.
The "S" deck: meat where you want it, neat where you don't.
When I told Dan this was strictly a head high and under board, he said, "I'm gonna ride it in overhead Ocean Beach."
The kid's got moxie!