The blog has been resurrected. Here's a video from our fifth retreat at Rancho Diandrew in Costa Rica starring me, Dion, my brother, Andrew, our right hand man, Eric, and CSC students, Scott Ferguson, Anya Ferring, Mariza Daras, and Evonne Huang. Filming done by me, Andrew, Eric, and Tessa. Music is from some obscure 80s compilation record I discovered. Costa Rica continues to blow my mind. There are always waves there. There seems to be a spot for every swell size and direction. The variety of surf mixed with our pack-it-up-and-find-another-spot-if-it-isn't-doing-its-thing ethos has an ROI that is through the roof. That and everyone gets better at surfing, has breakfast made for them beachside, cools off in outdoor cold water pools, and does business emails staring out across the jungle. It's a pretty sweet trip. We are headed back March 15-25. There are two spots left. Swell is usually a bit bigger than in January. We have a game plan for all different sizes of swell, one of which includes a trip to Pavones if it's absolutely macking (additional cost, but worth it). Discovered a protected left sand point last year that we'd like to investigate further. The search is still real. Hit us up if you would like to get involved. Andrew is available for private stuff (1-4 ppl) throughout the year.
Beautiful Human Beings: Writing to share with you an amazing day we had before the summer beach season kicked into full effect on the East Coast. Friday, May 26, was the day before Memorial Day weekend, which marks the start of lifeguards, beach fees, restricted surfing zones, diminished swell, and mobs of people flocking East Coast beaches. The swell was pretty well hyped across the surf forecasting websites. Many people woke up early and surfed NY while the winds were favorably from the NW. We held back in Brooklyn while CSC crew filtered into our home base. When everyone was assembled we piled into the van and headed south across the Verrazano and Outer Bay Crossing bridges towards the plentiful peaks of northern NJ. The crew was Bryce Vaughan, Brendan Lynch, Bryan Doring, Christina Nizar, Helena Cortes, Juan Heredia, and me (Dion). We were also joined in NJ by Phil Tabuas and Brad Schiller.
We hit a bit of traffic on the way down, but the vibes and conversations and music in the van were so good it seemed like a tiny hiccup. The waves that greeted us also justified our patience through the road work infested highways: it was chest to head high, offshore, perfect, and empty at the first place we checked. Following our "never leave waves" philosophy, we got our gear together, commandeered a lifeguard tower, and settled in for the day. In true Conatus fashion, Juan, Bryan, Helena, and I all took turns manning the handy Sony a6000, to document the whole epic affair.
It was definitely a more advanced day. For this reason we only brought two students — Christina and Helena — who have proven that they are willing to push their limits in stuff with a bit more power (we have other students of this caliber, but they had to work :( . . . ). Conditions did prove to be challenging, but both of the women managed to bag a few gems.
This all day surf was fueled by water and beach snacks. Big shout out to Helena for making tuna and egg empanadas. I brought hard boiled eggs, bbq peanuts, and bananas. Juan made a coffee run midday, just before we were hit with a small rain squall, which passed quickly, and made the light incredible. We kept pinching ourselves because no one else seemed to want to surf this beach. Perhaps it was so much better elsewhere, but it didn't matter to us. We had found a slice of heaven and were happy to stay there. Brendan was especially stoked because this was one week before he set off for a two month stint in Mexico City where he will be producing a body of art work for a show he has there in October.
We left the beach at around 8p and took a bee line for Brooklyn. Then we had a pizza and video viewing party at Conatus HQ, where we were joined by Mariza Daras, Anya Ferring, and Kaitlin Ward. Truly an epic day. Enjoy more of the photos below.
Greetings sea lovers! Posting today from Rancho Diandrew at our second retreat here in 2017. Just before this we did our first ever mini retreat to the south coast of Barbados. This trip came about because CSC mentee Jo Becker had vacation days at work that she needed to spend or lose. She told me she could do a trip on her own but would prefer to do a CSC thing if others were interested. I sent out a few texts. The erratic east coast winter had people frothing to go somewhere warm and consistent and we had a crew together in a matter of hours. I scouted locations and Barbados came up gold for price of plane tickets and odds on scoring surf. And score we did.
The full crew was Jo Becker, Mariza Daras, Ali Malipica, Catee Lalonde, Kim Corchia, Christina Nizar, Juan Heredia and me. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, got straight to Zed's — an excellent lodging and surf complex in Inch Marlow — got the crew situated in their apartments, loaded boards on the rental cars, and then we headed to a local left hand reef break that's sheltered from the NE trade winds. It was chest to head high and rifling down the reef. All the ladies got a few fun ones before dark. We sketchily drove the right hand side drive cars back to our pads, showered, and ate an excellent meal at Surfer's Bar, on recommendation from Claudia, Zed's wife and all around awesome guide and coordinator of all things Barbados.
The next morning Juan and I had an instructor dawn patrol scout mission to a wave called South Point. It was high tide and a little wonky but there was a double rainbow and some fun surf. I shot Juan with the GoPro. Then we all had a nice breakfast together before surfing our brains out the remainder of the day. The next three days were not exact carbon copies but they followed the same mold: wake up, eat breakfast, do a bit of video review and on land coaching, then hit the surf. As you can see in the video, everyone made huge improvements to their surfing. We worked on the high/low alternation for speed generation, the backside rail grab in the critical section, catching waves in the power source, finding alternate peaks away from the crowd, and setting the foundation for solid bottom turn/high line combinations (essentially an outgrowth of the high/low alternation). As always, we were diligent about improving paddling technique and form because it is the key to solid surfing.
All in all Barbados was a total success. The people at Zed's were incredibly accommodating. They let us swap out boards daily. We focused on finding the optimal board for each surfer and for the women to feel the difference in different fin set ups, outlines, lengths, materials, and rocker contours. The favorite board of the trip, however, was the trusty Joe Falcone 7'10" "Dad Board" that Juan and I brought down with us. Juan and I only got to ride that board once before the women had it on lock down. Glad we brought it! Juan and I also brought a 6'4" alaia shaped by Bryan Döring, and a 5'7" asymmetrical board also shaped by Joe. It was a well rounded quiver and fortunately Jet Blue did not charge us for the board bag on the flight home!
In summary, Barbados is going on the roster. We hear there are waves there year round. The water is too beautiful, the people too nice, and the food too good not to!!! We are also planning another LA retreat, and a few more special trips for the spring, summer, and fall. As I wrote in the previous post, these mini retreats are the best way to fast track your surfing. Of course we're still doing private lessons on the east coast (NY/NJ/MA) all spring and into the summer. So whichever you're interested in, shoot us an email and stay tuned for more posts!
More waves more joy!!!!
There has been a lot of moving and shaking in Conatus land. A poor winter of surf has created a thrust for us to explore different locations for intensive mini surf retreats. These trips allow us to help CSC mentees reach new levels in their practice in a brief amount of time. We did this one to the SF/Monterey Bay area at the end of February to get in some quality surfing with Paul Saliba. Paul has been with us since September 2015. He is still in the infancy of his practice, but is putting in the hard work. We are going to continue working on relaxing his style, successfully navigating crowded lineups, gaining confidence exploring new breaks, and staying close to the power source of the wave.
Paul recently moved back to his, and as it turns out, our homeland in January. This stretch of coastline is very dear to my heart. When Andrew and my parents divorced in 1985 our mom, Jory, moved up to Sausalito from where we were living in Moss Landing. This resulted in many many weekend drives throughout our youth. Then when I went to college at UC Berkeley from 2000-2005 I did strike missions before class to any number of the breaks pictured in this video. I will not reveal names of any spots. As you can see there are plenty of empty waves, and also many that are so crowded you pretty much have to expect to ride a wave with others or accept the scraps. Paul and I tread very lightly and did not directly challenge local hierarchies and we obeyed their rules of etiquette: do not jock people at the peak, stay inside and out of the way and when you see your opportunity, seize it, give local surfers the right of way, look for spots and peaks where no one is surfing, and stay positive and smiling in the crowded lineups. We were greeted with smiles and acknowledgement that our strategy was working, and we also happened to score some epic surf. The swell pumped the whole time we were there.
Other highlights of the trip included linking up with my old surfing homies. English professor and speed surfing guru, Jon Kitamura, lent me his 5'9" Pavel surfboards quad fin. I saw Lewis Samuels and Marcus Sanders in the OB parking lot. We had a joke about making a Short Man's Surfing Club for all guys under 5'7". Met up with photographer Paul Ferraris for a surf in Pacifica. Paul's work is spectacular. Another surf friend we ran into is Julie Cox, who has opened a new shop in Pacifica called Traveler. What an awesome shop!!! They have a full surf and swim club locker, shower, and lounge right on the beach, with a heated bench to boot. Great products — I snagged hat for me and a pair of earrings for Sophia. The whole place has a very warm vibe created by a combination of intentional aesthetic choices and an effort to promote conscious and local artisans. Last, we got to surf with two of my all time favorite surfers, Andrew Dolan and Shea Hodges. Shea is not in the video, but she is one of the best vertical small wave surfers I have ever met or surfed with. Andrew is the stringy smooth fellow in the last part of the video. He and I grew up surfing together, frothing on Derek Hynd and Tom Curren parts in surf videos, and generally surfing our brains out as much as humanly possible. Andrew has one of the best styles in the game, likes big tubes, and can lay the board on a rail in his sleep. As Conatus instruction expands, I hope to integrate people like this into the team of gurus. Stay tuned for more info on that, and also be on the look out for another post in the next week about our very recent trip to Barbados.
More waves more joy everyone!
Well here it is folks: Day 10: the culmination of all of our efforts. The last day was the best day. I mean surfing the point was also a highlight but I think this is better because everyone unlocked a new level in his and her surfing. Johan and Mariza were able to successfully change directions and lock into some of the longest, most beautiful waves of the trip. Christina rode a 7'6", which is a very small board for her, and made the mid face adjustment we had been talking about in video review the few nights previous (rather than getting caught behind the section). And Anya caught her first green water wave and successfully made the drop. In addition, she got really comfortable with the larger white waters and just started nailing the popup in a way we have not seen before. To add to this the waves were just on fire this day, and the sunset was, well, unexcelled. Also huge props must go to Andrew because when we pulled up to the spot we had been surfing for the evening session the past few days it was super crowded. We were set to go out there anyhow, but then he was like, "Eff this, let's go up to that other peak where no one is out." That was an excellent call. We got the peak to ourselves while others jockeyed and paddled over one another at the peaks to the south of us. The move also holds true to our philosophy: more waves, more joy. Sometimes to unlock the "more waves" part you need to buck your complacency and find an empty peak. More often than not you will be rewarded. We are almost booked for the March trip, but if you're still interested give us a shout at our email address. Also know that if we fill up Andrew is available to book other weeks this winter and spring for you and your crew. He has the full camera set up now, so Conatus lessons in Costa Rica are a year round possibility!
This day began with a glowing moon over Playa Hermosa where Andrew, Johan, and I practiced pulling into closeout barrels. Hermosa does get really good and does stay open when the tide is right, but we just missed the window on this morning. Nevertheless, pulling into closeouts is the first step to becoming a proficient barrel rider. Andrew and I spent many a summer in Stinson Beach, CA taking off on closeouts and getting pinched just for the few seconds of amazing vision. It also is the case that the best barrels you will get in your life look like they're going to close out when you take off. Despite the messages from your brain telling you to back out, you must go. Johan didn't make it inside of any on this occasion but we commend him on going for it and making a few steep drops. We filled in the low tide portion of the day with Andrew's famous waterfall tour. We offer one waterfall tour per surf retreat, and as you can see here, it is a truly grand aesthetic experience, and a huge bonus to what we offer in Costa Rica. Plus, you do get to get a sense of what it's like to get barreled in the lower rapids. We finished the day with a junky high tide session at Hermosa again. While Christina and Mariza rested Johan and Anya stayed at it. Johan demonstrates some clutch turtling and duckdiving. He actually learned to duckdive on this trip. Important to keep in mind that's something we can help you with if you're keen to learn. First requirement is ability to successfully take off and surf on a board small enough to push under. Until then it's the turtle for you! In addition to Johan's duckdiving skills, you can see that Anya is at this point starting to feel comfortable with the larger white waters, and is managing to get some longer rides. We always emphasize that self sufficient white water mastery is the first step before you're ready to take on the outside green waves.