The best thing there is to do on this planet is surf. There's just nothing else that even comes close to generating the feeling you experience as you paddle like crazy to catch a wave, drop down the face, crank a hard bottom turn in the pit, and pull into the barrel as the lip throws out over your head. The desire for those perfect waves wreaks holy hell with the rest of your life. It makes you spend all your dough on plane tickets to crazy places just so you can risk your butt paddling over jagged reef and camping out on lonely beaches.

The chaos involved with this travel makes for some amusing stories, and there is no better place on the net to talk story then the alt.surfing newsgroup. I've contributed a few over the years and you can read some of them if you'd like a taste of the surf story genre. A good example is "Hieta Pea Pea", which means "no problem" in Tahitian. Hawaii is still my favorite surf trip, and you'll have a good idea why if you read "Alohaole" and "Maui". When you've got an itch for some warm water barrels but your wallet is saying "no way," you can still turn to Mexico, where your money goes a long way, but not as long as your time. Whether it's a bouncy ride down the peninsula, "BajaHaHa", or two weeks in Michoacan, "Mainland Mex", Mexico is always a land of extremes.

Surfing Asphalt

When the waves are flat in back of the house, there's always the thousand foot stationary wave of Mt. Soledad sitting there in front, perfect for downhill skateboarding. But there's a problem... those damn automobiles think the roads are just there for them and they don't always get out of your way as you're bombing through an intersection. So I needed a way to stop the board that was better than the classic method of diving into a patch of iceplant at full speed, so... the SKATEBRAKE. I put some brain sweat into designing a pedal actuated disk brake system for the back of a skateboard. A lab monkey and expert machinist friend, Dave Schurig, helped put it together and the brake is the bomb. We smoked the wheels on the prototype before figuring out adequate heat dissipation, but now it rocks. Efforts to manufacture them seem to have dissipated as well, but the possibility is still on the back burner.

Surfing Snow

Yah, yah, another punk snowboarder gonna talk about the latest half-pipe tricks. Nope. For this punk, the game is not defying gravity, it's bending it. Alpine snowboarding is all about the art of the carve... getting low and laying some deep S. This requires some rather unusual equipment: the boards are narrow (~18cm), long (~180cm) and stiff, the boots are hard, like ski boots, and angled forward on the board at around 70 degrees. Unfortunately, I kept breaking my bindings until I bought a pair of Bombers, which are indestructible and work great. They were a pain to clamp on at the top of each lift though, so I drilled the base plate and attached a heel piece for an Intec step-in binding, so I guess I had the first pair of Bomber step-in bindings on the planet. Now Fin at Bomber turns out mostly step-ins -- and I get no royalties.

Here's a recent snowboarding movie.

Surfing the Sky

Now that I've tried to fake being a bird, it absolutely amazes me how much capability is programmed into those little feathered skulls. That little bird brain knows all about air. As a bird you have to think about air in an entirely different way, you watch the ground for signs of thermals, you sense temperature changes and changes of air pressure and variations of lift in your wings and spiral around in the centers of rising air bubbles to stay aloft. The air becomes a very active physical medium rather than a mere background presence, a medium full of power and motion that can lift you to the clouds or slam you against a hill. There is nothing but hang gliding that is so much like being a bird. Soaring around above the hills, sniffing out thermals and surfing the air currents, you start feeling unusual urges to swoop down and snatch up unsuspecting rodents and carry them back to your nest. I used to think that flying was beyond my reach, that I was going to have to spend thousands to get a private pilot's license and maybe sell my soul to the corporate world to get a plane. But then my friend Brandyn got me into hang gliding. I dished out $400 for a used kite (yes, that is a patch of tape on my leading edge) and a little more for some lessons from a good local instructor (after I tried jumping off a hill on my own, which was fun but frightening enough to make me pay for an instructor) and after a bumpy education I was flying around making crowing noises. Great fun. (Here are some more pictures that Rich took.)

Surfing Wind

The wind is blowing a steady twenty, you're sheeted out and dumping air to keep from losing it, then you sheet in the jib, head into a close reach, sheet in the main, and crank out the tiller extension as you clip into the harness line, swing out over the water with your feet planted on the side of the hull and feel the cat rocket forward -- the windward hull slowly raising you higher above the water as the leeward hull slices through the chop. (Then nearly capsize as you try to snap the stoopid picture...) Cat sailing is a blast, you get to eat monohulls for breakfast and even give the windsurfers a run for their money. There are so many elements to balance -- and all have to be locked in to make it work, otherwise you'll find yourself floating backwards in irons or flying head over heels into your sails as you pitch-pole. Cats are great, and I used to have a nice one before the City of San Diego crushed it with a garbage truck.

Look mom! I moved to Maui and learned how to windsurf -- the adventure continues in "The Mauitian Chronicles."

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