Oct 15, 2008
Touching 3rd Gear ... Part II
"3rd Gear" is a term Greenough uses frequently in describing high speed mat surfing. In simple terms, riding straight-off is 1st gear, while trimming across a wave at curl speed is 2nd gear. 3rd gear is moving beyond simple trim speed and running past one section, over a flat area, and through the next section.
One of George's favorite descriptions of a ride on a small wave is, "I touched 3rd Gear." What he means is that just for a moment, he was able to break loose from trim speed, hit 3rd gear, and shoot around a distant section... only to have to drop back into 2nd as the wave slowed.
What makes 3rd gear a challenge -- especially in smaller waves -- is that no single inside-rail-tension (the amount of air forced onto the inside rail by the rider) will net a 3rd gear run. A constantly fluctuating level of firmness yields speed from moment to moment as the wave changes. I would compare this to a musician playing a song...the notes, rhythm, and volume vary from bar to bar. Each bit has to be learned and practiced before the performer brings it all together in a way that ultimately tells the story the composer intended.
If you look at the second frame in "Touching 3rd Gear, Part I," you'd be hard pressed to explain what Greenough is doing at that moment. His weight is forward, yet the nose of the mat is elevated. The rear of the mat is firm, and clearly not in "flattened-out-trim." All this may seem counter-intuitive, but he's extracting an incredible amount of power from the wave. This level of sophistication is along the lines of what Jamie did on the ride he described...
"The unexpected bit came when I took the third wave of a set, which didn't double up, but rather had a nice right wall with more taper and peel. I took off easily down the open line and I simultaneously squeezed the front end and pushed the mat down against the face...instead of the usual lifting of the outside corner. (See B/W photo for an example of these opposing techniques being used.) The back end foiled out completely and I jumped up into the next gear and drifted out sideways across the face. It was easy to regain traction by slightly lifting the outside corner and giving another squeeze to finish out the section and fly over the back cleanly.
For as small and relatively gutless as the waves were, it was great to feel the freedom and speed that I've until today only experienced in much larger, more powerful waves!"
What Jamie is describing is touching 3rd gear...and it was on a waist high wave!