Mar 11, 2016

Greeting From Ragland...Electronic Edition !!!

Hi Paul,

How are you? I spoke to Rob back home in San Francisco who said it had been a very satisfying winter for waves thus far, and others have told me it's  been nice and rainy, so I'm trusting you've been having fun and getting some relief from the drought down your way. I've been able to look at Surfmatters often, and things are looking fun with the extended community too! Good.

Things are great here. I'm just finishing a little cat sitting gig in town, with such luxuries as refrigeration, indoor plumbing, power points and internet, which I got right back into "surfing" with all the self-control of an untended two-year-old with an open bag of marshmallows. 

So much for my Unibomber commitment to off-the-grid living... will see how it goes when I get home in May. But it does give me the chance to give another Raglan report, some ride reports and, er hum, contest results, all in gloriously pristine digital legibility. 

Things have been great. The stuff I've been doing has shifted from rarefied novelty to pleasant routine- working in the vegetable garden on Hillbilly Hill (what I've taken to calling my host Mike's compound of converted school buses), a lot of clearing of invasive vine-y stuff for various people and working in the little bookstore once in a while.
Hitchhiking always offers interesting encounters with the sort of generally wonderful people who I can safely categorize as hitchhiker picker-uppers. No great stories, but atmospheric little encounters... like the trashed dude in rags who swerved aggressively to scoop me up. He was blasting what I later learned was Rob Zombie at a volume that made conversation impossible, and smoking, as we drove straight into the setting sun, effectively cauterizing three of my senses.

But beggars can't be choosers, and honestly, both of us would have benefited from a woman's touch.... He turned down the hideous noise and growled that he was going further, but he was going to stop and swap cars. Fine. We pulled off Wainui Road to a long driveway which led to an unexpectedly posh, tidy house, and hard up against a beat-up van. "You'll hop out here and get in the van. Don't want to let my mastiffs see you" he muttered, and I noticed two giant hounds raising their meaty heads on the porch of the house. 
A bit of business, then he was back in the decrepit van and we were off. This time, to my surprise, the music was Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", playing softly through a completely blown speaker that kept shorting out, and was in its own way even more unpleasant, abrasive and disorienting than the death metal. Nice enough guy; another hitcher picker upper.

Keep seeing a young woman in town with what seems to be a Frisbee-sized black and white tattoo of Burt Reynolds on her thigh. 

It's been unseasonably warm and humid, and now with autumn officially here, is only now cooling down a bit. The water has been bath-warm, around 72. Not my favorite weather because of the humidity. but I am enjoying the warmth at night.

One full-moon weekend last month was particularly special. A good small groundswell was corresponding with a high tide at Manu Bay at around 11 PM. I had been sick with a mild fever and was in and out of consciousness all day. But come evening, I made myself get up, have a cup of tea, and set out on foot down the road to where my board was stashed at Whale Bay, about a 20 minute walk. The gravel road through the trees was dappled in the moonlight, and here and there in the blackest patches of bush you could see surreal greenish constellations of glow worms. The air was warm. I was listening to Nick Drake's Pink Moon, which is magic music, and settled into an  enchanted, moon-struck, slowed-down state of bliss.


The whole thing just became more and more dreamy and episodic. My friends at their home in Whale Bay were in the final stage of a late night conversation, three beautiful women on pillows in a pool of dim orange light. They wished me well. Now I was crunching along the road with the Liddle under my arm, peering into the night over the cliff to see the ocean- it was glassy, and there was swell! A short walk further and there was Manu Bay. 

Well. I won't go into too much detail, but it was really sweet. My only moonlight surfing experience had been that one time the month before, and that was heading into dawn. This was different. The sets, when they approached, were about head high, and really dark! Once you were up and riding there was moonlight on the face, brilliant white glassy Rick Griffin delineated curves, but you couldn't really see the paddlers, and there were some close calls! Yep, there were people out- about eight French tourist beginner surfer girls! Really surreal and fun crew, calling out to each other from the lineup to the carpark- "Est-ce vous, Eugenie?", laughing giddily with stoke and nervousness. Lovely, but yeah, you had to be on your toes! Still- it was perfect. And what a great lesson on the hull. With my sense of sight  diminished, I  had to depend more on feel, feedback from wave to board and fin to feet and body. All those non-visual sensations felt magnified. A real breakthrough for understanding the board. Just delightful.

After a few hours, the tide change began to tell on the waves, and my fever was asserting itself, and I got out. This time I had my bike, and I can report that the trip up the hill, when peddling sick and slow in a pool of grey headlamp, takes exactly the length of Visions of Johanna and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

And the next night was exactly the same, but fearing GBH on my beautiful surfboard, I took a mat. This time there were a few more locals including, to my delight, Morty, the boogie-riding gardener with the cross-dressing kindergartner son that I'd written about previously. 

The waves were smaller. The mat did great, but I won't report on this session; there have been better for that purpose. I did at one point hear a huge, fiberglass-crunching full-on collision on takeoff, so I will heartily recommend a mat for a crowded night session, folks!

Paul, I so want to give you a perceptive, detailed mat report for the new mat you sent me, but pretty much all I can say is that the things I first noticed- improved hold during trim/less unwanted breakaway sideslips, increased "positivity" during turns- are holding true in every condition I've been in so far. I've been choosing to ride the mat mostly on the bigger days. Sticking mostly to 3/5 inflation, though it feels great with less air and firmer 90° inflations too. One day with two surfs last week still stands out- fat but flawless Manu, choppy side/offshore blowing into the face, 3-6 foot with bigger bomb set waves, and later on, pumping 5-8 foot Indicator with the same blustery wind, but much steeper and faster. Standard both sessions. Just no glitches in the way the mat handled- mainly, no getting left behind fast sections. None. For some reason consistently find myself doing banking (left) turns dipping both fins in the water, not just inner fin (for what that bit of info is worth)... and maybe most strikingly, i dunno- the chop from that wind direction, which has previously been a bit annoying in past years at Manu wasn't a problem, the mat seemed to handle it better. That was especially true on one memorable ride at Indicator. Late, late drop on an outside bomb. I couldn't see a thing with the spray, and I felt nada underneath me, it must have been an air drop. Arms around rails, just blind. But something happened that was "just right"; no slamming down speed loss at all, I got an incredible whoosh of speed that morphed into a full on run down the line as fast of faster than I've ever experienced on a mat; flashing on those jet boats that race on lakes, just bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaa on a choppy medium steep big perfect wall, no skipping (which had happened the wave before, must have been fractionally less gusty wind on this one).  UNREAL!!!!! I wanted to write you that night, because the buzz of that ride stayed with me all night and damned if I don't feel it again right now! Whee. 

Still, I wish I could be of more value with technical feedback. I am however, doing my part to "represent" the agenda. A few weeks ago, the local boardriders club hosted a retro single fin contest- no boards past 1980 allowed.

The meet was open to all willing to plunk down the entry fee. And there was an "anything goes" category too. Perfect! A chance to show off (...maybe?) the 4GF to the world, well, some locals, in the arena, put the money where the mouth is- and maybe surf Manu Bay with a light crowd. It turned out to be a beautiful day- building groundswell, pretty windy but fun looking, a whole array of cool NZ single fins on proud display, and a light, irreverent atmosphere- it was kind of a given that the local rippers were to be handicapped by the crude equipment.
Well, it turned out that the Anything Goes heat was mainly a chance to let the groms ride their normal modern shortboards- there was one bodysurfer, a guy on a kickboard, a few moldy singlefins and 30 or so children. It was an hour long heat, which made sense, and I guess the normal interference rules weren't being enforced.

Saw a classic move that seemed choreographed- a guy dressed as a pirate took off waving twin swords, causing the fellow that dropped in on him to look back and do a massive double take, which made him plow heavily into a paddler.... That pretty much was the vibe for Anything Goes.

On my first ride, the local worst offender bratty grom burned me, turning back repeatedly at my head shouting something that sounded like like "Bubbele Bubeble! (I never did decipher that one). I was quite self-conscious though of wanting to do my best, and honestly, just made a few waves, riding one superman-style, arms back. But apparently, they were enough to bag the heat. Yup- I beat on the brat, the pirate, the lot. I must say, I have no clue what the criteria was, but one judge said "mate you won it just for showing up with a lilo".

So I want to tell you all, all my mat sisters and brothers: we are in the golden age of mat appreciation by the surfing world at large. Someday, when there's a gazillion of us clogging the lineups of the world, we may be as reviled as SUPs are now, but for now, milk it for all it's worth.
OK, that's it for now. Enjoying Surfmatters, Steiny's blog and Electric Sunshine- It feels like I'm able to stay in touch with my friends in the little community that you've made for us. Hope all is well.

-- Jonathan


harmless neighborhood eccentric said...

Such an update!

tuskedbeast said...

Hahaha!!! Love the images Paul!
And jesus i can't believe it, you must have found THEE tattoo; I can't believe two humans would have it....
Much love, J.