Bing Lotus in 1.5-2x Overhead – Fall 2019

8’0 Bing Lotus – Lovin’ it

I pulled out the Bing Lotus for this week’s swell, which I think turned out to be just the right call for Thursday and Friday morning’s head high super plus sets in southern Maine. I didn’t think to capture the visual report/forecast for those days, but my MSW forecast screenshot (below) shows that even the fading swell is still solid, long period, and head high!

MSW surf report screenshot for Gooch's beach, Saturday, October 12.

I’m working out lots of kinks on that board, but it is performing really well out there in the heavy stuff. It’s an 8′ long single fin and has lots of volume under my chest. I can’t duck dive it, which makes it tough to get out past the shorebreak – or under the cleanup bombs. But it paddles almost as well as a longboard, has pronounced entry rocker and a beak nose, and exudes the image of speed. (Besides, I can’t duck dive anyway!)

I managed perhaps 4 nice, long overhead waves in about an hour on Thursday before work. Friday’s legitimate wave count was only 2, but they were really fun, long, massively overhead lefts. In an environment where strong surfers were not even able to get past the shore break and giving up before they got outside, I really had great sessions.

Even the regular sets were overhead on Thursday morning. The outside bombs were 10-12′.

My rights on Friday just weren’t happening. Partly, it was wave selection. But there’s also the matter of learning to let the board run down the face to make the bottom turn and not trying to force a turn on the wall. Twice I attempted to force a right while dropping in. As one might predict, the fin gave out and the rail couldn’t hold.

The board rewards – indeed, demands – flow and style. I’m learning that with the lefts; the rights, not so much. I want to imagine that had I found a third right on Friday, I might have managed to relax on the back side and let things develop. But there’s a contradictory mental thing going on when dropping into a 10-12′ wave face: There’s the excitement/fear that accompanies the all out scramble to get into a massive breaking wave that can swallow you whole, coupled with the board’s demand that one relax and go for the ride it offers.

My New Rack

Surfboard Rack image.
My new 8 Board Rack, mounted in the surf shed and partially loaded.

It was time. Boards were getting stacked in corners, bungie corded to walls, or worse.

Surfboards in a heap image.
What the… Men down!

I love my first rack. It holds 6 boards, is made of wood, and has a gorgeous blue paint job. I made it in just a few hours.

But it had a problem: The dowels were horizontal, and my yard squirrels were a serious threat to the quiver. The photo to the right shows what I found one morning when I forgot to attach my “locking strap” to the rack. My Weber Performer had a 2″ gash all the way into the foam. I never forgot to secure the strap after that day.

I settled on an 8-board rack that put the boards on an angle that offered more piece of mind than my 6-board rack. Over three weeks and a bit a time, I created an expanded, improved re-make of the original rack.

Photo of new board rack in process.
New and improved – in process.

It’s massive. I’ve spaced the dowels 12″ apart to accommodate the big ‘ole fins on my logs. The dowels are a bit beefier than the original, which is overkill without being inelegant. And the finished product is a very similar blue to the original. I think of it as a taller, stronger, and handsomer version of Surfboard Rack 1.0.

New surf rack image - installed.
Loading up Surfboard Rack 2.0. (Yes, I added a restraining strap for added security.)

This rack holds 8 boards – longboards. It’s fully loaded now, but the above photo shows just 6 of the boards in it. From top: DC Sam (’60s pig); Hanlon Straws Noserider (classic style and custom); Trimcraft Haley Pin (midlength); Dewey Weber Legend (a very early Walker-foam model); Bing Lotus (transition era midlength); Hilbers Fineline “Golden Girl” (’50s pig). I need a stool to get a board on or off the top shelf, but that’s ok.

First Big Swell of Season (Dorian – 4, 3, 2, 1)

The three boards I rode during the Dorian swell.

Four Sessions, Three Boards, Two Days, One Hurricane

That was fast! After sitting over the Bahamas for days, wreaking destruction, and nearly threatening Alabama (so I saw in some reports but not others), Dorian sped up the coast. We had about 48 hours of decent swell and conditions that – fortunately – coincided with the weekend.

I took the opportunity to work several of my wave tools:

  • 9’5″ Hilbers-shaped “The Golden Girl” based on the famous Yater ’59 pig named “The Gray Lady” (top in photo);
  • 8’0″ Calvani-shaped Bing “The Lotus” based on an early ’70s transition-era template (middle in photo);
  • 9’6″ Harold Iggy-shaped O.G. Weber “Feather” that isn’t based on any vintage thingie because it is a ’67 longboard (bottom in photo).

Starting on Saturday morning with “The Golden Girl,” I paddled into chest-to-head high, clean surf at a local break that had yet to be inundated with visitors from neighboring states. After a really fun session of long, peeling lefts – and much shorter rights – I headed back home for the work of the day. I might have ridden the “Lotus,” but I didn’t.

Later Saturday afternoon, as the swell built, I had planned to surf Gooch’s on the “Lotus.” When I went to check out the conditions, though, I found a break with well over 80 people in the water. I headed back to a semi-secret spot to ply the break without the crowds. Alas, there were dozens of out-of-staters at my little local spot as well. I picked a second-tier peak between the masses of surfers and had loads of fun on the Lotus for a couple hours. The size was up quite a bit, with head-high plus conditions and little wind.

Then, on Sunday morning, I pulled old “Black Sheep” out of the den rafters, hoping to catch waist-high sets at another secret spot. But Dorian had already blown by and died down. Conditions were more in the knee-to-thigh range. But the Weber Feather was still loads of fun – and heavy.

I went back out late Sunday afternoon to catch just a bit more of the leftover swell. Alas, the winds had shifted and I found myself surfing onshore-to-sideshore chop that really confused the tiny swell still coming in from Dorian. It basically sucked.

Winter Session, Caught on Film

A couple weeks ago, Pat told me about an Instagram video that caught me surfing Gooch’s sometime in November or December 2018. Shot by Evan Loignon (evanloignon), the clips are part of an edit that spotlights a decent-sized day with howling offshore winds.

Gooch’s Beach, Winter 2018 – Shot by evanloignon

Once I saw the footage, it brought me back. I remember the day pretty well because there were just a few surfers out. It was pretty tough going. The combination of chop and gusts that made it hard to get the nose down to make the drop.

I’m riding my Driftwood Caravan “Sam,” a board based on the “Magic Sam” ridden by Nat Young in the 1966 World Surfing Championships. His win that year helped propel a new “involvement” surfing style, which eventually leads into the shortboard revolution.

Like many so-called “Son of Sam” boards, my Sam is basically a traditional pig template (narrow nose, wide point aft) with very little nose rocker, a bit more tail rocker, and a gorgeous redwood stringer. It has very pinched soft rails throughout and, as required for a Sam, a long, narrow, swept flex fin. It’s nice for me to see that I mostly surf it in the pocket, where it belongs.

Supermoon Surf Session

After an awesome September for fall surf and a mostly satisfying October, November brought a sort of doldrums of surf to southern Maine. With fewer sessions available, and decent swell seemingly more rare than a snow leopard, I have been hunting down 2′ waves in 35mph offshore winds just to get on something – or so it has seemed.

Just before dinner on Sunday, December 3, my friend and colleague Matthew called to ask if I’m planning a session under the supermoon. I could see the moon through the trees across my street because I was out grilling at the time. But I quickly dismissed him: it was already quite dark and I was about to head in for the family Sunday dinner.

But over the course of dinner, the thought sat in the not-quite-back of my head. I hadn’t caught a really good wave in more than a week, and the moon was, as our president might say, “YUGE!”

At the end of dinner, I pulled up the Wells Beach cam to see what – if anything – I might see. Not much. I pulled up a swell, wind, and tide report, and things looked semi-promising. After checking in with the family, I threw gear in the car and a board on the roof before driving to Wells on a semi-hope for a 3′ wave. Was I ever rewarded.

It was hours after sunset when I arrived, of course, but the sea, sand, and sky were nicely lit by Supermoon. It was tough to gauge the size of the waves from the lot, but it was clear that I’d at least get on clean, 2′ waves while bathing in moonlight and ocean temps in the mid-40s.

Supermoon over Wells Beach, December 3, 2017
Supermoon over Wells Beach, December 3, 2017

But it wasn’t 2′; it was a solid, consistent 3-4′! And clean. It was a bit tough to really judge position and time the waves. While the moon carve a long, runway-like swath of bright light across the narrow band of the ocean, outside of that band it was really tough to see the incoming swell. When I dialed it in, though, the near-dark drops were exhilarating. I caught perhaps half a dozen rights and at least as many lefts. Partly owing to the vision penalty, I often struggled to get the most from the waves, and there was a bit of a rip where I was set up, which pulled me too far outside over and over. But also got my share of 10-second rides complete with cutbacks.

The hardest part of it all, I think, involved finding and maintaining trim position on the face. The supermoon lit the lip right up, leaving a really dark (practically black) face and trough, which made it really difficult to judge position on the face. Going left, especially, I found myself riding up the face (towards the lit lip) and even off the wave – even with some conscious efforts to avoid that problem. It was interesting – and weird.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I liken it to driving a car into a pronounced curve. If you look to the inside of the curve, you’ll drive right in and round nicely. If you let yourself look to the outside of the curve, you find yourself battling an outward drift that can actually be dangerous. I think my eyes were drawn to the light of the lip, and the board just followed.

December 3, 2017: 1 hour of night surfing under the supermoon at Wells Beach, Maine.

Nexus to Pixel – Hopes? Headaches?

Silver Pixel from GoogleI picked up a new-to-me Google Pixel to replace my aging, beloved Nexus 5. I grabbed it off Swappa, my first-ever use of this great little marketplace. The seller offered a great price on a pristine 128GB silver version, complete with all packaging and the Daydream VR headset and four cases.

I like the Nexus (or Nexi?), but Google abandoned the Nexus line of reasonably priced “pure” Android phones before rebranding its flagship phone as a Pixel. The Nexus phone had a run through “Nexus 6.” (Bladerunner, anyone?) For me, it seemed that everything went all phablet after the Nexus 5, or so it seemed. I’m not interested in a two-hander that won’t fit in my front pocket. This explains my choice of the Pixel over the XL version, even though the XL seems easier to acquire aftermarket. (It’s hard to get ANY Pixel direct from Google; they have a production problem.)

All was wonderful with my purchase, until I found the phone had an unlocked bootloader, which threw up cautions when the phone booted up. Turning a problem into an opportunity, I took a couple hours to research the issue. The seller was also helpful.

No biggie. I just needed to install Android Studio on my computer, open a Terminal, hook up my Pixel, and lock it down. It was a little more complicated since I didn’t know the commands. But the Internet came to the rescue – again. Obstacle one overcome.

And overcoming that obstacle forced me to do some things I’ve been wanting to try for years: install some tools on my Mac that will enable me to root a phone to put newer versions of Android on it. I think I’ll try that with the Nexus 5 down the road.

Project Fi was on my radar for a while. I figured I’d free up some shared data for the kids and the cost would mostly be a wash in the move. (I could be on Fi for $30/month, I think.) But it turned out that moving my number off the family’s plan to play with Fi would not save me money. (Funny. I was sure it would.) Curses!


HTTPS Going Forward

Going forward, my site uses HTTPS encryption for greater security. I’m not engaged in eCommerce here, but who doesn’t like more security in webbed environs? Besides, my webhost (Reclaim Hosting) made it too easy to ignore.

Homepage for Reclaim Hosting.
Reclaim Hosting’s homepage. Take control is right!

I made a few changes to some basic files, activated the SSL Insecure Content Fixer plugin across my WordPress sites, and voilá!

Where I had been feeling a little out of touch before, I’ve now made the move over to secure encryption.

My best guess is that https will become relatively automatic in the coming years. Reclaim did most of the work for me by setting SSL Certificates as the default on hosted domains. I just needed to tweak a couple files, add a plugin, and relax. If it’s that easy now, it will become even simpler down the road – or so I hope.

I can’t recommend Reclaim highly enough! Their focus is really on hosting for people in educational environments: students, faculty, institutions. They offer free migration if you have a host. Their customer service is personal, rapid, and robust. These folks even reach out about possible issues they see and suggest adjustments before problems occur.

Fall Surf Sessions 2016

Crouching to get under the lip at Gooch's in mid-October.
Crouching to get under the lip at Gooch’s in mid-October.

Autumn has been good for surf, which is a really good thing because the summer was just awful. Hermione produced some really clean head-high to overhead surf at the local break, and Matthew served up some decent sessions as well. I’ve been out in some of my biggest waves, and I’m mostly able to manage the drop, the turn, and the trim – even in lineups packed with surfers.

In between the big storms, we’ve had plenty of long period, midsize swell that’s just great for logging. In late September, I made a commitment to cross step. While it has really compromised the quality and length of many of my rides, I’ve used the relatively consistent 3- and 4-foot surf as an opportunity to get comfortable moving fore and aft. I still head to the nose too early (or too late), but I’m pretty comfortable cross stepping my way around the board. It’s still not pretty; I have a heavy-footed approach that I need to lighten up quite a bit. But I can sense the progress. I see it, feel it, and experience it in the ways I recognize what I need to do on the wave and quickly execute it.

Lil’ House on the Mousam

Lil' House Pose.
After three days on Lil’ House. From left: Roger, Michael and Nate.

Lil’ House comes to life! It’s taken a couple years of stop-and-go tinkering, but our lil’ house on the Mousam is now habitable. It’s certainly still a work-in-progress, but she’s turning into a cool little hangout in the woods.

When we bought our home, it came with this tiny, turn-of-the-century cottage on the back of the lot, in the woods. Mostly, the cottage was slowly rotting away and turning to mulch. Rotting trim and broken windows were letting rain and snow slowly decay the floorboards in the back left corner, and the cool brick chimney (boarded up) leaked, further compounding the problems. But it had charm.

Originally towed from some property in Wells sometime in the mid- or late-80s, the cottage sat precariously balanced on the two pressure-treated 4x4s used as a sled for transport. Under those beams were three old-style railroad ties. Back in 2013, Nate and I spent a day moving and leveling the cottage, then I used plastic sheeting to help slow the onslaught of water damage. But every time I went inside, I was turned away by the sheer magnitude of the interior project, the desire not to spend money on a tiny shack, and confusion about handling the built-in cabinetry. Do I try to salvage and reinstall it? Do I just toss it?

In early summer 2015, at a time when I needed to swing a hammer at something, I took a sledge hammer to the interior walls of Lil’ House and attempted to pull the cabinetry without damaging it. I half succeeded, put all the woodwork under a big tarp, loaded up all the debris for the dump, then let the house sit for another year.

Lil' House picture. Interior
Interior of Lil’ House. Gutted. Skylight openings cut.

Then in August, my son Nate, my father-in-law Roger, and I got a bit busy on the cottage. We stripped the moss-encrusted, leaking asphalt roof, found two cheap skylights at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store store and some shingles. We cut two 2’x2′ holes in the roof, installed the skylights, and re-roofed Lil’ House. Nate took a small sledge to the chimney, which we removed.

Lil' House under construction.
Old windows are out, rotting wood is being cut away, old roof is on the tarp, skylight holes are in, and chimney hole (on left) is covered.

I had been collecting old, vertical sash windows from the side of the road for a couple years, knowing that I did NOT want to spend much money on this project. I mostly hoarded them in Lil’ House, waiting for the day when I would actually put some windows in. But salvaged windows aren’t uniform, and they typically don’t match.

We made the best of it by greatly expanding the glass area of the house. Including the skylights, there is easily more than 24 square feet of glass in this tiny, 10×9 cottage. We kept just one window – itself a replacement, vertical-sash frame from an old double-hung – and put in four additional, fairly large windows. Two open in, suspended from the rafters. Two open out. And one is fixed.

Roofing Lil' House.
Skylights are in, shingles are on. All that’s left is the ridge cap.

I salvaged screen material and built fixed screens for the windows that open. Where Lil’ House was once a dark, dank shack with low ceilings, boarded up, missing, and broken windows, she is now a small room with tons of light, a breeze, and a view of the woods.

It made little sense to try to reinstall the built-in cabinet: it took up about 25% of the square footage and a good portion of the wood was damaged in the removal. Instead, I committed to re-using it where I could. It became exterior trim board, replacement sill plating and structural beams, and more.

And I decided to use the biggest “counter” piece to make a built-in, drop-down desk/table. While the desktop is way overbuilt, coming in around 50 pounds, it gives me a good feeling to keep it. It folds down and out of the way, helping to maximize the 90 square feet of floor space, but then it pops right back up to become a five-foot-long desktop.

Lil' House Interior.
Looking in on Lil’ House from the front door, floor view. Notice all the light.

Next came some wiring. There’s nothing fancy here because I’m delivering power via extension cord. I picked up a couple interior wall sconces and wired them together and to a plug. I even found a free front porch light that I mounted right outside.

I had picked up a stereo receiver/tuner and a CD changer from the transfer station Treasure Chest a couple months ago. And last year I picked up a couple bookshelf Realistic speakers at Treasure Chest. I built a small shelf in the corner and above the desk, where I put the stereo system. I mounted the speakers up in the peak. This little cottage is coming along!

Lil' House.
View from the back side, with outward swinging windows.

Much of the site is still a construction zone, with tools in boxes in the cottage and piles of debris scattered about. And she still looks just awful from the exterior because I need to get busy on some sanding and painting. She’s all trimmed up on the outside now, though I still need to replace a couple rotting trim boards around the doorway. But this Lil’ House is now a legitimate cottage. I could bring a cot out and easily use it as a three-season shelter.



Humanism’s Surf Wax

In a moment of wild enthusiasm, I decided to develop a surf wax brand: Humanism’s Surf Wax. It’s a great wax for New England, and it has a history dating back to the gods and titans.

Humanism's Surf Wax image.

The Legend of Humanism’s Surf Wax:

Invented by Hephaestus, god of fire and woodstoves, this wax helped Poseidon surf the ancient seas. Stolen from Olympus by Prometheus, the formula contributed to human flourishing for millenia. Its loss ushered in the Dark Ages. But fortune favors the curious, and Renaissance scholars found the lost formula while translating Homer’s third epic, Kymatistá. This wax – now forged in New Hampshire for those strong in spirit, free in thought, and sound in body – may have failed Icarus. But it is perfect for New England. Enjoy!

The back story involves a trip to a local surf shop and discovery of the option for surf wax custom branding options out of New Hampshire.

I reached out to Jim at Jimbo’s Surf Wax to get a case of “private label” Cold Water wax and got busy with a design. Along the way, I got a bit overzealous and ended up designing three distinct private labels (Lil’ Crippsy Surf Wax and Ma Em’s Noogis Surf Wax are the others) and getting Jimbo to put his special blend in my wrappers. Fun stuff.

To put it mildly, I won’t be wanting for wax anytime soon!

The inspiration for my “legend” is the legend that appears on every carton of Newman’s Roadside Virgin Lemonade, a great lemonade that pairs well with brewed tea in the Maine summer.