Summer Is Here! Updates/Summer Wetsuit Review/And More!

Water bound humans of New York! Summer season has officially started. This means small waves, the occasional hurricane or tropical storm pulse, restricted beaches, traffic, warm weather and water, and tons of fun navigating the urban surfing jungle. Long Beach has the same deal this year as last year: Pacific, Lincoln, and one rotating beach that changes according to this schedule. It's $15 a person to get on the beach past 9a, but if you surf with us we have passes for you. Of course if you surf before 9a then you don't have to worry about it. The surfing beaches at Rockaway this year are 61-69 and 87-92. All other beaches are "closed" for surfers from 10a-6p. Usually the lifeguards will open the beaches to us if the swell is big enough/too dangerous for swimmers, but otherwise if you surf at a non surfing beach past 10a this summer expect a hassle with the authorities. Cramming us all together presents a variety of ethical dilemmas so we all need to practice patience with one another. We must also work to communicate with NYC parks and gov't to change the outdated surfing beach schedule in the future.   

The water is now in the low 60s, which is fine for a 3/2mm full suit (no gloves, no booties, no hood). For the perfect summer wetsuit quiver I recommend a 3/2mm fullsuit, a 2mm long or short sleeve spring suit (your choice depending on tan line preferences), and a 2mm jacket to be worn with boardshorts or a bathing suit. Any combination of these suits should get you through October, and after that you will need to invest in a 4/3mm full suit with a hood. 

Recenty, like many surfers, I was targeted by a company called Need Essentials through Facebook ads. They claim to have paired down the whole process and branding of making a wetsuit to bring the average surfer a top of the line suit at a fraction of cost. I went to their store and my jaw dropped. The 3/2mm is $150 and includes tax and shipping. Winter suits are around $200. This is literally half to 1/3 the price of all other suits. I had to try them out so I bought a standard 3/2mm. It came a week ago and I have used it twice now. I am thoroughly impressed. Sturdier zipper than on my Ripcurl and Quiksilver suits. Same great kevlar kneepads. Fully taped seams. Water wicks off the outer layer. Unfortunately, for the ladies, NE only makes mens suits (for now). If you have narrower hips, however, the suits should fit and are not overtly masculine or feminine -- they're basically just plain black surfing leotards. I cannot speak to the manufacturing practices or the eco footprint of the NE suits. That bit is not yet transparent on their site. More research forthcoming. If you want to be involved with the eco movement Patagonia is developing a more earth-friendly neoprene called Yulex/Nexkin, but it is pricey (5x the cost of an NE suit). If you are looking for logos and color, however, neither Patagonia nor NE are your jam. All of the mainstream brands -- Ripcurl, Quiksilver, Oneill, Billabong, Xcel, Matuse, and Hurley --  have different aesthetics and use different colorways. They also allow you to feel a kinship with the professional surfing elite. In addition, there are plenty of new wetsuit companies cropping up everywhere like Vissla, Adelio, Isurus, Janga, etc. 

Speaking of new wetsuit companies, an exciting one for women is professional surfer, Kassia Meador's, new venture, Kassia+Surf. They are a bit more fashion forward and pricey but seem to be made with vision and integrity. A perennial favorite is Nineplus. They have a variety of long arm short leg styles with a functional retro vibe. And again, all of the major brands have their own styles, colorways, and prices. The same suit rule applies for women as it does for men: a 3/2mm full suit for those crispy morning or uncanny upwelling surfs and a 2mm long sleeve spring suit will last you through October.

For those that have been following our progress, you may notice a few changes to the site. We have updated the look, the store, and and some of our other pages. We are working towards getting the store fully functional and t shirts and hats will also be on offer at some point this summer. Currently, the most important change is to our packages on our Lessons page. There are new prices for weekends and weekdays and we've added a 10 lesson package for those that realize the value of quality instruction. I will post about important changes when they occur. Stay tuned for tons of good stuff! 

CSC + RDA March Retreat Recap

Ocean lovers! 

I have been back from Costa Rica going on 72 hours now and am still replaying all of the amazing rides and meals and waterfall jumps in my head. The second inaugural CSC + RDA surf retreat was a total smash hit. We were blessed with plentiful swell and gorgeous weather. We stayed on the video and everyone saw dramatic improvement. After this retreat I feel now, more than ever, that hiring a coach is the only way to fast track your surfing. All the pros have them, why not people who are just starting out? Some of the people on this retreat have only been surfing since August and October 2015 and are now dropping into overhead (for them) waves with style. It's truly impressive. Below is a highlight reel followed by a few more words: 

There are many highlights in this video, but I have to say that Beni's wave at Pavones — the long left pictured in the screen saver — is one of the best waves I have ever seen a beginning/intermediate surfer ride. Working with back siders, it is imperative to make sure that head and shoulders are turned down the line and opened up to the wave face. The grab rail technique is not always necessary but it is a good skill to have in one's arsenal to help manage the drop and pull the rail into the water. There's a nice close up of Beni using this technique in the GoPro footage of the wave we shared at a secret spot near the Rancho towards the end of the video. That wave is hilarious because she kept looking back at me and I had to keep pointing to the shoulder so that she would turn her head to make the wave. I must admit that I cannot take full credit for Beni's success. She has a naturally quick pop up that she has honed at a variety of surf camps and schools around the world. This is simply more to the point that new surfers who seek out instruction improve more quickly than those that don't. 

I like to think, however, that starting with a technique like ours gives one an even faster advantage than the other techniques. Helena, Mariza, and Christina are all perfect examples. Helena has been surfing with me since August and Mariza since October 2015; and Christina only started during the first retreat in January 2016. Both Mariza and Helena are taking off at the peak and managing really tricky drops with style. In one day Christina went from a labored pop up with a little too much bend at the waist to a fast pop up with the weight shifted back over her right foot. Beyond particulars, all these women absolutely charged. The waves were not small during this retreat and everyone came to the table ready to play. Unfortunately Mariza and Christina had to leave this trip early before we got all the insane left handers, which is why we only see Beni and Helena towards the end of the video. 

The other people in the video, Bryan and Juan, were there to help Andrew and I out with camp particulars and lineup safety. Juan is a very competent bodyboarder from Puerto Rico who has also been learning to surf since working with Andrew. He in fact got the best stand up wave of his life on this trip and was invaluable when it came to preparing meals and logging footage. Bryan has been surfing for 5+ years. He is one of the heads of the NY Surfing Buddies meetup group and is a general good vibing frother who has has gotten into shaping his own alaia surfboards with the help of Jon Wegener. I was particularly glad Bry brought the alaia because I got some of my best waves of the trip on it. I put one particularly long one in the video. The alaia is all about picking the right wave and being in position. It takes so much energy to swim that piece of wood around a lineup, so you don't want to kill yourself going for bad waves. I saw Bry have some particularly masochistic alaia sessions where he went for a lot of closeouts or sectioning waves. He has seen the video and knows that he needs to work on patience. The upside to Bryan's impatience is that he is just so stoked to surf. Beyond his surfing stoke, Bryan brought a lighthearted presence to the retreat and made some of the best and most creative margaritas any of us have ever had. He also did some really valuable filming and commentary for our spoof reel. 

Moving towards heavy video review has made a huge difference both in my teaching style and in the students' improvement. We did not miss one wave on video all trip and people could take what they were seeing — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and improve upon it the next day. Plus we got really good at improv commentary which made the nightly video reviews as entertaining as they were educational. A spoof Youtube channel or Instagram may result . . . . 

I know that in this age of internet ADD I am supposed to only provide videos that are 3 minutes and under, but we got so much good footage that 7 min 30 secs was the best I could do on this one. The waves we scored were so long and I wanted to highlight that our crew were getting 30 sec plus rides. You put five of those on a video and that's 2.5 minutes long already with none of the fun lifestyle stuff, which I think adds so much flavor and depth to what we do down there. I cannot express in words how great it feels to swim in a cool freshwater waterfall pool after surfing all day. Definitely a top 5 life experience. 

We're in the early phases of planning our future retreats for 2016 and 2017. Until the dates are up, please feel free to email about Conatus-style lessons and mini retreats in Costa Rica. Andrew is down there and he has all the skills and video equipment necessary to help out 1-3 people at a time. We are also gearing up for the New York season, which is soon to be upon us. I am starting to book up for when the water gets warmer, so make sure you get on the schedule asap. I'm also solidifying some great plans for CSC mini excursions to RI, LI, and NJ for the summer. And don't forget that Chris is out in Montauk if you need lessons out there. 

I am really stoked that CSC is growing organically and finding its niche in the flourishing surf community. For those that have believed in us and continue to, I thank you with all of my heart. Hopefully we'll see you in New York or Costa Rica soon! 

Committing to the Vertical

Hi Everyone! Looks like I've slipped up on my goal to blog once a week. Well a lot has been going on here at Conatus headquarters, not least of which has been teaching surfing every day of the week. We've had some great windswell pulses through the end of July into the start of August. Monday was the biggest I've seen Rockaway in a long time. It made for challenging conditions for one of my bravest students, but he handled it like a champ and even managed to drop into some solid four foot waves. It's all about patience and enjoying the adrenaline that fear produces.

I have been focusing a lot on the idea of "committing to the vertical" lately. It is very common for beginning and even intermediate surfers to shy away from the takeoff by standing up too early or not paddling hard enough in the first place. It's scary to all of a sudden be almost upside down, but what is crucial is that this verticality provides you the space to get your feet under your arms in a more fluid manner. Standing at this moment also puts the weight into the center/back of the board and aids in managing the drop and picking a clean line down the face. But even if you do not manage to get to your feet you have to commit to this vertical moment usually just to catch the wave. For some softer, spilling, mushy waves you'll have the luxury of just planing forward and in these cases I have been recommending that you get the board going down the line in the "upward dog" position, which is half way between standing and laying down. What is key here is that you're not doing this at the bottom of the wave. If you're down there it's too late for you to get across. You must go to the side at the top and from the beginning. This, like committing to the vertical drop, requires a lot of timing and positioning. You need to move yourself to the apex of the peak -- the point of most power -- to enable an easy entry. Sounds simple but it takes a lot of work and requires that ever-important paddling foundation. 

Another thing I mentioned to a student this week, is that sometimes gifting yourself surfy treats is a good way to stay amped for your next time out. This could be a short john wetsuit (or any wetsuit really), a surf dvd, a bikini, a bar of wax, a magazine or book, just anything surf related. You can get stuff like this online or at a local shop and this kind of contribution to your surf 401K, if you will, will pad your stoke and keep you anxious to get out again. 

On my end, when not taking off under the lip, I'm trying to commit to the drop a little bit more in growing my business. This week and next I will roll out/ announce Conatus Surf Club lessons in Montauk with Chris Blotiau (if you're interested right now simply email me about setting something up out there) and Conatus Surf Club retreats in Costa Rica for this winter (Dec/Jan) at Rancho Diandrew. I'm really excited about both of these growth opportunities, which ultimately stem from a desire to provide intensive surf training experiences for those who are serious and keen about their surfing journey. I will have blog posts about both of them very soon. 

This weekend it looks like we have another run of fun summer surf and fine weather. Remember to both commit to the vertical and stay safe! 

A Gift from the Sea




"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea." —Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

After having recently moved apartments and shuffled my things I came across this book, A Gift from the Sea: An Answer to the Conflicts in Our Lives (1955) by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a former New Jersey native and the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh (and an aviator in her own right). Lindbergh, while talking about how to find the right kind of shell or channelled welk, succinctly nails what the sea teaches. In this way waiting for a shell is no different than waiting for a wave—both are gifts from the sea. 

I have struggled with patience over the years. In fact when I first started teaching surfing about 15 years ago I would often not show up or cancel lessons if the waves were too good. I just was not ready to focus on someone else and to have the patience to aid them in their ocean journey. But then I grew and learned more about teaching and learning and waiting and watching. I started slowing down to speed up.

In surf lessons I spend most of my time focusing on my students and I ride the occasional wave to demonstrate proper technique and as a means to get back to the student to help him or her navigate the white wash on the their way back outside (past the breaking waves). I catch 3-5 waves per 2 hour lesson. When I go surfing on my own greed and impatience often get the better of me and I try to catch 3-5 waves per 15-20 minute periods. But I have noticed that when I just slow down and apply the waiting game I have honed in lessons, along with some strategic paddling, I often find myself in the right spot(s) for a few fun waves. And it only takes one of these to make a whole session, day, or even week or month or year or life.  

Patience takes many forms. Sometimes it's all about just taking the time to be silly and do things like ride waves on your bum! Here I am riding in to meet a student during a lesson at Long Beach. Photo:  Julien Roubinet  

Patience takes many forms. Sometimes it's all about just taking the time to be silly and do things like ride waves on your bum! Here I am riding in to meet a student during a lesson at Long Beach. Photo: Julien Roubinet 

I often teach that maximum lineup mobility and paddling power ensure that one is in position to receive aquatic gifts more than others who do nothing but wait, and this is still true, but is incomplete. Such mobility must be coupled with the ability to wait for the ocean to give you a gift and then to recognize it as such when it comes. This essentially amounts to the never-perfected skill of wave judgment, which is terribly hard when you're starting out, and remains not entirely master-able even when you've achieved expert status. 

But what experts have learned, and why they catch such great waves, is that the more patient you can be with yourself and with the ocean, the faster you're actually going to improve, the more joy you're going to get out of every session. This is because this patience is, like Lindbergh suggests, 'open'—it is a letting oneself be open to both one's powerlessness and to one's hidden powers as these reveal themselves in the process of practicing surfing. 

Frothing, Forecasts, and Fool's Gold

It's been a record June for Conatus Surf Club. I want to start this post off by thanking everyone that has taken lessons with me and also give a huge shout out to those of you who have recommended your friends. 

The waves have been consistently in the 1-3 foot range. A few days have been better than others, but I've seen a lot of the same crumbly small waves that are great for beginning, and well, pretty terrible for people who prefer bigger, cleaner, juicier surf. I cannot lie, I love the bigger, cleaner, juicier stuff just as much as anyone else who has been surfing for 20+ years, and unless it's over waist high or I have a lesson I won't drive out to the beach. Instead I'll swim laps at the pool and work on my dissertation. Regardless, I'm in the water 5-7 days a week, and usually 1-4 of those days I end up driving to the beach. But how do I decide? 

I rely a lot upon websites like Surfline and Magic Seaweed and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) buoy number 44025 and their marine forecast link. And so do a lot of other surfers, which is why when the websites are calling for waves above 3 feet and coding them with 'green' and the words 'fair' or 'good' it creates a hype, especially here in New York where all information travels like wildfire. The truth of the matter is, the forecasts are not entirely reliable, nor are the realtime cameras. It's often either a lot smaller and junkier than predicted, which is a total bummer; or shockingly way better, either the conditions or the wave size or both, which is a total score. The only way to truly find out, is to go to the beach.

Of course driving to the beach every day in New York is (almost) totally unreasonable unless you move out there. What I want to suggest is that if you only have that one or two days to go, go anyway. Don't get stuck in the trap of only going when it reads 2-3+ and fair. Go those days too if you have time, of course, but don't become a 'surf snob' before you know how to surf. And let's be real, if you're just starting now, you need all the practice you can get. If you only wait for the days when the forecast reads 'good' you'll end up surfing like 10 times a year! 

So my friends, get your froth on and while you're at it start documenting your sessions. I love to take 'fool's gold' pics every session and text them to my friends. Sometimes they are real gold, and sometimes they're not. I mostly only take pictures of empty waves. If it's too crowded I usually hunt for a beach or peak where there are plenty of waves going unridden. On the small days the key to fool's gold pics to wait for the best sets and snap it at the right time--the wave is it at its most mind-surfable--just throwing over, the line of the shoulder well defined, no drops of water out of place. On the larger, more crowded days, the key is finding those waves that no one else is on. I call these #emptyinsidenuggets. These are medium sized waves that usually scoot past everyone because they're all out the back waiting for the most obvious and coveted set waves. I mean, don't get me wrong, the set of the day photographs well too--it's just more likely that someone will be on it, which diminishes the allure of an empty lineup. Doing this might also help you read waves. Where are the best peaks? Predominantly rights or lefts? Both? If it's crowded are there peaks or spots no one is surfing/waves no one is seeing? Use your camera like you would your surfboard. 

The point of all this is really to say that even if you cannot be on vacation all of the time, you can find moments of surf trip perfection right in your own backyard. Like anything good--anything worth striving for--this takes time and work, but the rewards are tremendous, worth more than gold.

Long Beach, New York. This day was pretty crowded but here an #emptyinsidenugget left slides by unridden. 

Long Beach, New York. This day was pretty crowded but here an #emptyinsidenugget left slides by unridden. 

An A-frame peak in New Jersey. Just a 1.5 hour drive from New York. No one out. 

An A-frame peak in New Jersey. Just a 1.5 hour drive from New York. No one out. 

Rockaway. Was it good? Or is this fools gold? One thing is for sure, no one is out. 

Rockaway. Was it good? Or is this fools gold? One thing is for sure, no one is out. 

Fantastic Surfing Story in the New Yorker

Stoked to open this week's New Yorker and find a story by William Finnegan about surfing on the South Shore of Oahu in the 1960s.  Finnegan accurately portrays an organic experience of being new to a break and figuring it out. He watches the other surfers in the water and stays away from the main peak until he has built up his abilities and has made friends with some of the local Hawaiians. He also writes a succinct paragraph on wave dynamics that I could not have written better myself. I did a little googling and found out that Finnegan is on staff at the New Yorker, and that he surfs on Long Island when he's in town. Finnegan is on the move a lot covering issues of social unrest. This focus on the social is apparent in his sensitive illustration of race relations in mid-century Hawaii. The fact that someone like Finnegan lives and surfs here is a testament to the depth of the New York surfing community.