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Lost then Found - sternwake - 06-12-2019

Last month, I went to the ocean early afternoon for a surf session, as it is at its least crowded at that time of day.  The risk of sun damage to one's skin is higher too. These onshores mess up the surface texture of the ocean, and makes the waves lesser quality, and harder to ride.  The UV damage to my skin being in the ocean at noon near the Equinox, well, you only live once, and it was somewhat cloudy, and I do not sunburn easily, own sunscreen, and I despise crowds with the white hot passion of a thousand suns.

So,  I pull up to a favored surfspot to find a surprising amount of prime oceanfront parking available. Freaking YeeeHAWWWWWW!!!  I hate not getting front row parking at this particular spot, as the view out the windshield from this elevation is incredible when one does land one.

There are no Surfers out! Nobody!  WHO freaking HOOOOO!. Homer would have been proud.

 I did not even see any surfers in the parking lot checking it.  Highly unusual!!! Especially considering the well hyped reinforcing burst of long period groundswell that even makes the local nightly news around here.  The previous days were comprised of overrunning south swells, and this day was supposed to have a fresh unusually long period  groundswell  forerunners(which travel across oceans faster and break with more size and fury)  filling in atop of the other South Pacific derived groundswells, and building in size all afternoon.  The Buoys positioned to the south were indeed indicating its arrival.  Multiple overrunning swells from the same direction means lots of waves, and when those waves combine, constructive interference, some waves can be significantly larger and more powerful than the average.  Whooooooohoo and Yeeeeee freaking hawwwwwww!!!!

 The onshore wind is up, there is some surface texture and wind chop. It's hardly clean and perfect, but there is NOBODY out!!!!! There is some good size, not huge and daunting, but big enough and consistent enough  to make the paddle out difficult, and  reduce the numbers of takers considerably, as one can not hope for uncrowded fun conditions to stay that way.

I tend to get all overexcited at the prospect of not having a couple dozen competitors hassling me for waves,  following me around like I've got a wave magnet on my ass, and/or getting in the way.  I am not a fan of crowds on land, or in the water, and my contempt for most of humanity in general, and lots of individuals with whom I have to share space, has been pegged in the red/ approaching the purple/white, for a long while now.  So seeing good ground swell, and nobody out, even if slightly choppy, had me well and truly excited.  Frothing, in surfspeak.

So I take my Dog for the presurf walk ritual. She is so good now when I am going surfing, that she pushes out a poop quickly and a few yellow puddles,  and then makes a beeline back for the van,  rather than dawdling around sniffing everything and placing 3 drops of urine on it, as she does on a regular walk.  Really, she wants to go onto the beach herself and chase tennis balls into the shorebreak and do her own underwater cartwheels, but she is also wise enough to know that we only do that in the evening when the lifeguards are offduty and the 350$+ fine for a dog on the beach,  is less likely to be incurred. 

With the front row parking, and a northwest facing window with fans in it, and her dedicated perch resting on the front passneger seat's armrest at window height, she has a milion dollar view behind some vinyl static cling mirror one way window tint, a great breeze across her in a cool van, and can't be seen.

 While I am setting up my fans and window shades, getting in my wetsuit, rocking out the tunes, pulling my board from the ceiling, waxing it up,  someone else pulls up, and parks right next to me, despite their being at least  10 other open parking spots on either side of me.  Highly irritated at first, I recognize the truck, then him as a friend of a friend, whome I consider an acquaintance.  He proceeds to complain about the wind chop, and I was like:
 'I don't freaking care, there are good size set waves coming in, and there is NO BODY out!!!, lets go!" 

I might have had a little bit of mad dog frothy spittle in the corners of my mouth and surely he had never seen me animated before, and was taken aback, but convinced.

 I'll surf alone no issues, but one other person out who is not an etiquette free douchebag, makes for better odds lest the man in the grey suit is hungry and hunting.

 I continue to prepare to head out, and he starts doing the same, infected with my excitement, taking my word for it that there are good size sets, not wasting time, as it is unlikely to stay uncrowded for long. 

When the surf gets bigger I ride the hollow Cedar surfboard I made most recently, a multifin higher performance board, in which I have been experimenting with unusual fin shapes and designs.  Very Unorthodox fin designs  that appear to have little in common with what everybody expects a surfboard fin to look like.   

Most surfboard fins look like the dorsal fin of a Dolphin, a nice graceful raked sweep backwards to a tapered tip ending well behind the trailing edge of the base of the fin. Very pleasant to look at.  If one sees a dolphin dorsal fin breaking the waters surface nearby, nobody freaks out for more than an instant. One cannot say the same about a triangular shaped dorsal fin.

  My unconventional shaped rail fins look more like the pectoral and dorsal fins of a Shark, much more upright and triangular.  Scary looking. My center fin looks more like the pectoral fin of a humpback whale, very upright, leading edge bumps/turbucles  and all. More upright/higher aspect ratio fins, have less drag at surfing speeds, and also present less resistance to quick directional changes.  Less stability and self centering tendencies, but...... well, always inclined to say 'the emperor wears no clothes', I now have come to the conclusion that the emperor is a naked dribbling fool stuck in the past.

  I've been experimenting with these unorthodox fin designs for a while now, and these particular fins and their positions within my board had at that point last month, been refined to a certain predictable feel. I have been very excited with them.  They are Very fast/low drag and loose and responsive. They raise mocking and doubtful eyebrows the multitudes of  sheeplike surfers who infest California, all of whome know what a surfboard fin 'should' look like and imply mine can't possibly yield potential performance improvements.

I'd have to respect such people, to place any weight on their opinions.
Neither occurs anymore.
Since the waves were a bit bigger than what I had been riding recently, with occasional  8 to 12 foot faces( i was guessing, nobody out no perspective on size) on the bigger sets, I wanted a bit of a bigger fin in my center fin box. At that point I had 3 of these 'whale fins' modified to fit this surfboard, and the 2 slightly bigger versions, which also reside farther back in the fin box, were originally intended to be rail fins. I had never tried either of these larger ones in the center finbox position before, but was finding their slightly smaller more forward positioned whale like  brother could be a bit squirrelly when I pushed harder during turns at speed in juicier conditions.

 There are supposed to be these little flat receptacles on the fin base for the 2 angled grub screws to press down upon and keep the fin base recessed tightly in the receptacle within the board.  On rail fins both grub screws are on one side of the fin, on center fins the grub screws are on opposing sides.  So this rail fin, installed in a center fin box, was not really secured properly, and I never bothered making these fit perfectly in the boxes anyway, as I decided i would do that only if they performed well enough to invest more time/labor into.

  These slightly larger more rearward whale brother fins were a bit weird installed in the rail boxes, so that additional labor towards a perfect fit never occured, and the idea that i could place them in my center finbox had just occurred.   I just cranked the opposing  grub screw down a bit tighter, so that it dug into the 3D printed plastic base covered in epoxy and hoped for the best regarding its retention in the board.

So I paddle out with my acquaintenance, and proceed to start having all sorts of fun rides, catching 3 waves to his one.  I am very much liking this slightly larger whale fin moved further back in my board with my unconventional Sharky rail fins.  It is a very positive confidence inspiring feel with this fin set up, and I start taking off deeper, later, making waves I did not expect to make, soon becoming overconfident and cocky, while being uncontested for any wave I wanted, with my acquaitenance viewing my rides from the shoulder, secretly hoping I'd fall so he could take the wave.  I was laughing like a maniac after I kicked out of a wave or came up the other side after having to straighten out in front of it or being taken down by it.

   Kid in a candy store, bull in a china shop. 

So this one bigger set wave comes in, and it is very peaky, meaning once on my feet,  I would not have to quickly turn parallel to the beach in order to make the wave, I can take my time and drop straight towards the beach and then place the hard bottom turn in the best spot, to be determined when I get there. There no concern of not making the drop, nor being able to get to open face.  Long period groundswells generally are super long lines and can break so fast, all at once, that the surfer hoping to stay in front of them has little chance of doing so.  This is called being 'walled', or 'closed out', and this day many waves are indeed closing out, especially the larger longer period ones.   This particular wave there was no danger of closing out as I was on the very edge of the line of groundswell as it felt the bottom below.

I paddled at the oncoming wave, and a bit further to the south, in order to  get a bit deeper,  to get a longer ride from the juicier part of the wave.  I was still paddling in this direction as it started lifting me, when I stopped paddling, sat on my board and sunk it into the wave face as I rotated its nose towards shore, and then pivoted the board on my inner thighs to get back into a paddling position.  The buoyancy of the board  when pushed into the oncoming wave,  helps one accellerate, requiring much less paddling in order to catch the wave.  This type of buoyancy assisted  take off also causes a wake off the back of one's board and body, which then catches up to the surfer and helps them propel them even faster, making it easier to catch the wave earlier and with less effort.  Cultivating the stern's wake, if you will.
I can do this maneuver on my longboard, and not even paddle with my arms, and catch waves, Just wait for the oncoming wave, swing the board around while sinking its tail and fin deep into the wave, prone out, and wave and sternwake incurred by buoyancy assisted take off and boom, a no paddle take off.  Amazing how much more space people give me when I do one of these. 
 On this particular wave, I could have paddled harder and got into the wave and to my feet much earlier, but I wanted the wave to stand up and get steeper first, so I was barely paddling, just teetering at the very top, letting the wave grow and get steeper, before I paddled myself over the ledge, pushed the board down the face as I popped to my feet, milking the steep drop for all the speed I possibly could.  My feet landed in the exact right spots, fore and aft for maximum control, hardly a given, I am now doing Mach 2.73 when I approach the trough, and start looking over my shoulder at the rest of the wave, watching  as it feels the shoaling bottom below and starts standing up and stretching out.  I am coiled like  a spring for the bottom turn and then lay the board down, sinking the rail, it and the fins working in conjunction to accellerate me northward/ i was pushing slowly at first, but then harder and harder, and accellerating as expected, watching the lip of the wave and deciding where on the wave's crest that I am going to place my top turn and throw buckets of water towards the sky.......... when the board skips out and I fall on my ass and bounce twice before penetrating.

  It felt like all three fins sheared clean off at the same time.

  The wave rolls me under, and then I am doing underwater cartwheels for several seconds.  When the turbulence dissipates, and I swim to the surface, I grab my legrope, reel my board back to me expecting to see at best one fin, on the outside rail, but only the center fin is gone.

This was a relief, as while my turbucled 3d printed modified 'whale' fin was labor intensive to modify in order to fit my particular removeable fin system, I have an exact copy ( but for the grub screw receptacles) originally  made for the other rail, and my sharky cedar rail fins were much more labor intensive and would be much harder to replace. Also, If I lost that particular inside rail fin, then it would be impossible to keep surfing as this day one could not go right, there were only lefts and without an inside rail fin, There was no hope of doing anything but riding a wave straight to shore, which is not surfing, and not fun for a surfer, despite what beginnners think.

With just the two unorthodox 'sharky' rail fins I could keep surfing, even though My board as a twin fin is simply way too unstable. I would have to approach riding waves as if I were driving my van on ice in a windstorm downhill chased by a rally car with studded tires and a submachine gun, but I would not have to go in.  Whohoo!

Twin fin surfboards are making a popular comeback, especially in smaller weaker waves, as they are very fast and loose without the drag of a center fin, but the twinny surfboard has its larger sized fins placed  much further back compared  a board intended to be ridden with three fins, and very few opt for a twinfin board in larger more powerful conditions.

So I paddle back out, tell my acquaintance that I am going to have to be much more selective on what waves I choose riding my board as a highly unstable unintentional  twin fin. Basically passing the torch to him, and expecting him to take the 'pole position' sitting farthest outside at the peak of the wave, and I would sit a bit further in, take the smaller slightly  less challenging waves, as he had been doing.

My acquaintenance wanted nothing to do with the outside and deeper 'pole' position, he was fine sitting further down the line, and I was like EFF it, I'll go take pole position again.   So I am waiting outside and deeper with prioroty. Basically surfing etiquette dictates if there is several surfers, the one who catches the wave closer to where it first breaks has priority and surfers should not simply paddle past other surfers to get 'priority, they 'should' wait in line., but with just two of us the only rule is basically 'don't drop in' and dont paddle past the other surfer and sit 'just' on the other side of them.  He did not want to sit where i had been sitting, and I did not want to sit just on the other side of him giving him priority or alongside him and taking priority from him, that would be rude. 

The sets of waves  were numerous and frequent with the overrunning and building swell, and many times I would have spun around and taken one, if I had not lost the stabilizing center 'whale'  fin.  I had to be more selective as I was now driving on ice.  Sure I could have paddled in, inbetween sets, run back up the bluff to my Van, installed another fin and gone back out, that would only have take a half hour and used up most of my remaining energy. 

The water was still in the 60f range, and all this waiting, being highly selective, without actively riding waves and paddling back out, I was getting cold being in boardshorts and wetsuit vest only, when I decide to  just take the next wave, no matter what, and go in.

Again, as it was consistent with several overrunning swells and a new one building,  the Horizon warbles, turns a little more black, which is a sign of an incoming set of waves.  I also notice a boil form outside of me.  This is water being pushed upwards from underwater structure below, the same structure which also causes the wave to break there.  The boil either occurs after a wave passes, or when a set of waves is approaching.  
Most are aware that if an earthquake occurs, and the ocean recedes, start running for the hills as a tsunami is coming, well this is the same, but on a much smaller scale.  The boil occurring when no set of waves has just passed, is an indication a set is coming. I had seen the boil many times this day, but this boil was looking angrier.  Often one cannot see the horizon warble, or can, but is unsure just how big the set will be, and thus how far outside one should be to be in position to either catch it or not wear it on the head.  The boil can be a great indicator of the size, and seeing the warble and the boil is pretty much a sure thing at this spot.

  This particular location the boil only really forms when it ithe swell bigger with a long period, and at lower tides.  I triangulate my position using my established landmarks, often, and know this location well.  The tide is low, the swell period long, I am sitting very far out already according to my landmarks, but that Boil, is looking quite significant, and a set of waves had not passed.  No doubt this set of incoming waves was a big one, and checking my landmarks again I say screw it, I need to catch the wave even earlier as I am driving on ice so I start bee-lining for deeper water farther offshore.

I glance over my shoulder and look at my acquaintenance, imitating french sirens with a whistle,  indicating a big set was coming in, he'd not yet seen or had not noticed that it was going to be significantly sized. 

Usually with these longer period swells, the first wave of the set will stand up, look like it is catchable and shapely, and trick a surfer into spinning for it, trying to catch it, only to have the wave sort of back off and not allow the surfer in, who then turns around and sees wave number 2 getting ready to break on their head.  When there is a bunch of windchop, this first wave of the set can also pick up all this windchop, and then wave number 2 will break in much less choppy water, have a much cleaner and easier to ride shapley face. 

Since I was basically alone, driving on an icey dicey unintentional  twin fin, and aware of these tendencies, I was being wise and choosing the best wave accordingly.  I'll not know if  wave numbers 4 5 or 6 were better, as 3 looked so good, I had to swing around.  I could not do the buoyancy assisted take off on this one effectively, and had to rely on pure paddling power to match the speed of the wave in order to catch it.

Fins are drag, and having lost 1/3 of my fins i was able to paddle a bit  faster, and catch the wave easier. Still I did not get into it as early as hoped, and as I was paddling into it my acquaintance was way out on the shoulder, still paddling out furiously and at an angle away from me to the north, which told me he saw there were lots more waves in the set which were as big or bigger and they swinging wider.  He started hooting with excitement as I dropped in.  Twin fins in general do not like the bottom of the wave, and this super long period set wave of the newly arriving groundswell was walled and stretching out.  I was not going to get very far down the line before it closed out, but I had a good 30 to 40 yards of open face to travel before I would either have to kick out of the wave, or turn straight toward shore and go in. 

 I was going in no matter what.

So I did not take the drop straight to the beach, but angled a bit to the side on the drop, which is sketchy with not enough fin. These sharky rail fins  on their own needed a bit of speed before they could get traction, so as soon as i got to my feet and started angling sideways, the tail started drifting to shore, Jackknifing,  and I was again in danger of falling on my ass and getting pounded,  but as I accellerated down the ~12 foot wave face the fins  started gripping the water and the drifting ended, and the parallel to shore accelleration began as the inside rail fin really started engaging the wave face.  I slid my back foot further back on the tail, directly over the fins and watched as the wall stretched out in front of me.

  A big beautiful wall. A moving aqueous growing hill in which to extract as much speed as possible, before it overruns itself and turns into an avalanche.   Ahhh, for the  abundance of  simple pleasures.......

 Pumping a surfboard for speed is a thrilling feeling. Simply 'feeling the glide' of riding an unbroken wave at an angle to shore, is overwhelmingly addicitive, and has changed the course of many a life forever after, but when one can turn up the wave face towards the lip/crest  of the wave, then push off that lip and use gravity and the fins and rail to gain more speed going back downhill, then repeat the process, pushing off the bottom unweighting as one rises up the wave face,  with even more speed, this is without a doubt the most addicitve and most powerful drug I've ever experienced.  Nailing the timing and placement of these turns on the wave's face, in order to gain speed, is not intuitive to a beginner, and even with 35 years of experience it is quite disappointing when one misses those lovely  sweet spots, or mistimes them even slightly and does not get that orgasmic reward of speed..

My sharky rail fins are very low drag, and a twin fin is the uncontested fastest surfboard in the water.  I was on either an 18 or 20 second piece of groundswell, which is a very fast moving swell, and with enough skill and ability to extract as much speed as possible.  I got those pumping turns placed in the right spot at the right time with my feet in the right spot to extract a much speed as possible on a very fast board. I timed the last top turn high in the wave  face, so that when I was dropping into the trough still at an angle somewhat parallel with the shore, the whole rest of the closed out wave was pitching top to bottom and would land just behind me as I hit the flats at a zillion.67 miles per hour, and then straightened out directly towards the shore.

What an incredible feeling!

The lip of the wave detonated directly behind me and I was engulfed in its spray. blinded by it, and retained my footing as I outran it. But I was out of hill to descend and the avalanche was destined to overrun me, and soon again  I was doing underwater cartwheels again, endorphins and adrenaline coursing through my veins and hoping my board was not going to hit me.

I tried to catch the next rolling line of whitewater too, after reeling in my board and  getting atop and paddling towards shore, but it too was too powerful and turbulent to catch, and I had to ditch my board again hoping to get away from it,  and let the wave roll me towards shore and was held under a surprisingly long time. The next wave I did manage to catch and ride on my belly to the sand, gasping for air, and there were a couple more behind that when I stood up and looked back to sea.

If I were younger and or in better shape, I would have been running up the bluff to my Van for another center fin, but I was done, satiated, but still longing to repeat that experience again and again.

And Again.  It never ends.

That was nearly a month ago.

Last week I tweaked my back surfing my longboard in small conditions, and did not go to the ocean for 6 whole days of hobbling hell. Today, I was mostly recovered and going insane, and went to the same spot. Again I Lucked out with a front row parking spot, saw more swell than I expected given the buoy readings. I put the collar and leash on my dog for her pre surf  evacuations,  and as I looked north, across the trailhead some 8 cars away. Atop the fence post, I saw a peculiar yellow color, the same color as the fin I lost that day.

"NO Way!" I say outloud and start walking towards it.

"No way , No Way, No Freaking WAY! It can' t be! Holy Shit!  It IS!!!!" 


There was my fin I lost nearly a month earlier, the only damage were some scratches and the gouges the grub screws left when the fin was ripped out.

I have no Idea who found it, put it there for all to see, nor how many surfers walked past it and left it alone, nor for how long it laid there, perhaps 5 minutes, perhaps 7 days.

Maybe humans don't suck so much afterall.

RE: Lost then Found - Queen - 06-12-2019

Great surf report!! It almost felt like I was there riding along, thanks.

RE: Lost then Found - rvpopeye - 06-12-2019

Thx for a view of a world I have never seen .
The descriptions are truly amazing too !
You are lucky to have such experiences to remember and share here.

RE: Lost then Found - rvpopeye - 06-12-2019

OH , and for the newer members here.
Stern's posts like this , as well as all his other "product investigations" derived by actual personal experience...
Gunny's (somewhat opinionated) posts as well.....miss ya Bud !


Also the reason the mods attitudes here are a bit different might have experienced on ........other forums. (like we did).

RE: Lost then Found - B and C - 06-12-2019

Wow, just wow. You made me feel like I was there in the moment with you. Great writing.

RE: Lost then Found - RoamerRV428 - 06-12-2019

super cool writing...very enjoyable read! Happy the fin returned to you also Smile

RE: Lost then Found - Scott7022 - 06-12-2019

I really enjoyed that piece of writing Sir. Thank you.