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! 

Mini Missions and Vids

What a great first two weeks of November! Conditions have been tricky to nail down, but there have been at least 1-3 quality windows for surf every week. I recently ran two off the cuff surgical strike missions with my current roster of students who have purchased packages. Both times we scored empty waves for hours and they were huge successes overall. The first trip was to Asbury Park followed by lunch and a second surf in Long Beach. Both times we found a peak with no one on it and scored it all to ourselves. The second was a one day trip to Montauk where we went into full search mode, settled on a fun little beach break (again, no one out), ate steaming cups of clam chowder on the side of the road, and then traveled back to New York. I dropped everyone off at the subway stops I picked them up at (the Franklin 2/3/4/5 and the Bedford/Nostrand G) and went home and started editing video. 

In between these two extremely rad mini surf trips we had a great day of surf in Long Beach. That was Wednesday this week. One of my most dedicated acolytes, Beccy, got in a lesson in the morning before heading to work. I picked her up at the LIRR in LB at 6:22a and dropped her off at 8:30a. She charged hard and I managed to get her best waves on video. In a relatively short amount of time, Beccy has come a really long way with wave judgment and timing and overall surfing ability. After I dropped her off at the train I went back to the beach to try to get a few clips of the super smooth surfing of my friends Gus and Bennet, who were also getting in a session before they had to run off to their work life obligations. This I did and then I got so excited by their surfing that I had to paddle out again. My friends Bryan and Kyungmi joined in for the second surf and JP was also there. We took a short break in the middle of the day. I downloaded footage onto my computer and ate some bananas. Then we went for our third and final surf. The waves were still glassy and clean. We were joined by my great friend, Juan, who proceeded to shred it up all over. 

These little surf missions, along with more video, are definitely the direction that CSC is headed (along with lots of other cool stuff to be sure). In fact, this is a good example of how I plan for the Costa Rica camps to play out except that there will be a bit less driving and the water will be a lot warmer! There are still plenty of spots for the January camps, and I would like to get them booked asap. If you want to be cruising down the line by the time summer rolls around you need to get involved with these!  

And to cap off this post I'm going to leave you with two little edits that I have recently completed. The first is a compilation of the past two weeks, excepting the Montauk trip. It features JP, Beccy, Mariza, Paul, Bennet, Gus, Bryan, and Juan. The second was taken on a clean day the last week in October and features JP, husband and wife super team Maiko and Shigeru, and a local Long Beach guy named Justin. 

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!