Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rubber in the Hood


That's what dorky white guys from California used to say back in the 80's when they wanted to sound cool and Hawaiian. More recently they've said things like, "Shoots" and "Stoked" (but in that sort of Canadian goes Pidgin accent...so it's more like StOOOOOked). Whatever, it all sounds retarded.

Anyhow, BRAH...

Work has been completely insane and the waves have been really good - consistently good now for, jeeze, close to a month - so updating this thing has been tough. However, with any luck, I'll be laid off soon, cash out some stock options, dump some severance in the bank, and spend the next 6 months surfing every day, hanging out with my son, writing, and doing the odd freelance gig.

In the meantime though, a few random recollections, observations, frustrations, and random ramblings...

After a couple of weeks of insanely warm water - it actually got up to 73 degrees in HB early last week - it's starting to cool down. That means it's getting close to wetsuit time, which as it tends to do, got me thinking about the second most important tool in our collection of surf gear - the wetty (hey, look, now I'm Australian).

First off, does everyone check out the "wetsuit guide" in Surfer Magazine every year? Yeah, me too. Anyhow, on the off chance you don't know this, it's not actually a "guide". It's what's called in the publishing world an "Advertorial", which is essentially an advertisement disguised as editorial content.

Now, while most magazines display just enough honesty to label such crap with a tiny 8 point header and footer on each page that says, "Paid Advertisement", Surfer has never found itself beset by such notions of integrity.

Nope, this is just their yearly "Guide" to the latest models of stitched, glued, and molded rubber. And the only thing they write is the intro...and that's usually just a half-assed, half-page history of the wetsuit with a few rambling quotes by the ever crazier and more senile Jack O'neill. The rest is all supplied by the manufacturers. It's literally just 6 brochures, laid out as 12 pages of "content", pretty much identical to their "Design Forum", which is the same fucking thing only it's in every damn issue and features surfboards instead of wetsuits.

Just a head's up in case you wondered why every year after reading the "Wetsuit Guide" you had no more insight as to which suit to buy than you did beforehand.

Now, if Surfer or Surfing or any of the other magazines had any balls...or any journalistic integrity for that matter...they could actually put together a legitimate guide, which might actually be useful.

Imagine something like this for just a minute...

"The 2004 Rip Curl Ultimate Elasto was by far the stretchiest, softest, and most flexible suit we tried. It didn't seal out water nearly as well as the O'neill Psycho II, but it was more comfortable because the rubber tape they use is a bit more flexible, especially around the shoulders. The one clear drawback of the Elasto is its durability. Over the course of our 3 month test run, it began to crack, tear, and decompose much faster than the other 12 suits..."

See what I'm talking about? I mean, that would be a great fucking article. I hate trying on suits and, since I know what size I wear, I pretty much just buy the same damn thing every year, except when, every 5 years or so, some friend grabs me and screams about how he bought some new generation suit and how fucking warm and fucking soft and fucking stretchy it is, and then I go buy THAT suit every year for the next five years.

Not that my tried and true system doesn't work, but I for one think an unbiased, Consumer Reports style review of wetsuits each year would be very fucking cool...and very useful. And if Hurley doesn't like the fact that Ben Marcus called their suits "awkward fitting" and "strangely uncomfortable in the nutsack area thanks to overly thick stitching", well, tough shit. They can either suck it up and continue to shell out advertising dollars, or they can go buy ad space in Guns & Ammo.

Next order of business: wetsuit trends.

Out - longsleeve springsuits.
In - comps.
Also in - wearing fullsuits in the middle of summer.

So, the first two I get. Trends come, trends go, even with something as utilitarian and functional as a wetsuit, but whatever. The longsleeve spring - a throwback to the beavertail days - was the big trendy retro event of the mid-90's, along with the fish. Obviously that's lame-o now, and it's back to mid-80's shortsleeve fulls (also known as "comps", thanks to some clever marketing by the wetsuit makers about 20 years ago...it's a "competition" wetsuit which keeps you warm like a fullsuit, but has short arms so you can paddle for that priority buoy, bro, and that, like, got all the rippers buying them, bro, and that, like, in turn, got all the wannabes buying them because they too wanted to be seen as a COMPetitive level surfer, y'know).

But what the fuck is up with all the guys wearing fullsuits when the water is 69 degrees? There's a whole crew of guys who surf the pier every day, and every day, rain or shine, 59 degrees or 73 degrees, they're wearing fullsuits. Some of them are wearing comps, but they're all fullsuits.

Is this a "I'm hardcore and surf all day long and even if it's warm you'll eventually get cold so I wear full rubber so I can put in 7 hours of water time?"

Or is it a, "I'm hardcore and need to show off the all-black and show how unfazed I am by BAKING myself in black rubber at noon in the middle of summer, just like those homeboys in Oakland who used to walk around in July wearing giant Raiders parkas with the fur-lined hoods pulled up?"

When the water's warm the only reason I even wear my wetsuit top is for the afternoon wind chill, or because my wife isn't around to put sunblock on my back. Otherwise, I mean, c'mon...isn't skinning it in your trunks half the fun of summer in Socal? It's what makes us NOT NORCAL. It's getting back to your house with salt crusting all over your skin, with nothing to rinse off but your trunks. It's paddling twice as fast and lasting twice as long. It's later drops, crazier turns, easier duck dives...it's SURFING IN YOUR TRUNKS FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

I honestly don't get it, so somebody please help me out on this one. What am I missing?

Oh, and one more question - why are springsuits so uncool? Pretty much the exclusive domain of the longboarding weekend warrior since the early 90's, traditional springsuits - short arms, short legs - have been a total fashion faux pas in the water for about 10 years now.

I guess they just don't look that cool, but I think they're underrated and due for a comeback.

Now that we're on the subject, let's rattle of a few unwritten surf faux pas just for the hell of it...

- Wrapping one's leash around one's fins is NOT cool. Tossing it flippantly over the top rail and then grasping it in the same hand that's holding the bottom rail, well, THAT'S cool. As is untethering it altogether and carrying it separate from your board. I think this originated from really good surfers that had big quivers and might transfer a leash from board to board over the course of a day or several sessions.

- Surf racks on your car, unless you're in another country, are NOT cool. This is an old one, but has somehow managed to stick around for years. Doesn't matter if you drive a fucking Geo Metro...stick your stick in the car. It's what the cool guys who surf real good do. And if you have to put it on the roof, God forbid, don't strap it down nose forward. Even though some guy proved years ago that boards on the roof, deck down and nose forward, are the most aerodynamic and provide the best gas mileage...nope, stick 'em tail first and be cool.

- Paddling with chest puffed out and your back arched like a trained seal is cool. How the fuck this became cool is beyond me. Maybe because it's the exact opposite of beginners who paddle flopped on their boards like rag dolls, all four limbs dangling off the sides. "Hi, I'm little ripper man, and I shall paddle with my chest puffed out, craning my neck like a prairie dog, and looking nothing like the kook floating in the impact zone, facing sideways and looking tired and confused." Forget that its been proven that this back-arched, water polo style of paddling is only half as efficient as paddling while completely prone with your head down (imagine a swimmer, okay?), but it's also terrible for your spine.

Alrighty, that's enough for now. There's plenty more where those came from.

BTW, to end on a positive note, let me just quickly gush about the waves last week. Monday afternoon was hideous -big, overhead, blownout, sideways-breaking, heavy current, mixed up, junky, closed-out, ass-kicking crap. Then, Tuesday morning rolls around and it's head high, offshore, lined up, incredible shape without being too peaky, and warm. It was INCREDIBLE - some of the best conditions I've ever seen in HB, and I personally had one of the best sessions I've ever had. Tube after tube, turn after turn, wave after wave...just unreal. And, while it was only amazing that one day, it was still great the rest of the week.

It's why we surf. It was freedom, it was fun, it was exciting, it was challenging, it was "fuck the rest of the world, I'm in the ocean", it was amazing to look at it, amazing to be a part of, amazing to just be a surfer last week.

Even if your board was on the roof, your leash was wrapped around the fins, and you were in a springsuit.

The Colonel says, "At ease."