Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surfing, Lake Style

It’s been weeks since I’ve been in the water. Well, that’s not entirely true. I bathe (most) days so I have technically been in water, just not salt water, i.e. the ocean. Last week however I spent the week in Lake Tahoe and not only spent a lot of time in the water but was introduced to an activity that resembled surfing.

My first introduction to wake surfing was years ago, watching Phil Edwards do it casually and elegantly in one of Bruce Brown’s movies. I hadn’t really seen it since but as you can imagine, wake surfing (just like surfing) has progressed considerably since the 60’s. It’s no longer done on a longboard using a long tow rope, moving in and out of the wake like traditional water skiing. Today, ski boats (I assume) have adjustable ballast tanks so that one side of a boat will sag on one side and therefore generate a stronger wake or wave on that side. For example, if you surf front side, the boat’s aft (rear) can be adjusted using ballast tanks to sit farther down on the port (left) side, creating a bigger “wave” that you can surf. Don’t worry, the video will help demonstrate what I’m trying to describe.

Liquid Force Custom
Anyway, while the wave is modified, so is the board. I rode a 4’10” polyurethane surfboard specifically designed for wake surfing. It was shaped by Jimmy Redmon of Liquid Force. It was 20.5” wide and couldn’t have been thicker than 1”. It looked essentially like a thick, fiberglassed skimboard with traction pads. Other features: very low rocker; sharp rails; single, concave hull finished off with a bolt on carbon graphite single fin which resembled more of a semi-circle than traditional raked fin.

Getting pulled out of the water was interesting as you’re much closer to the boat than on a traditional water ski tow rope and the board is horizontal to the boat rather than in-line (again, think water skiing). So when you’re up, you essentially swing the nose around so you’re in-line with the boat. It takes less force to pull you out of the water because I assume you have more surface area to stand on.

Once you’re out of the wake and in the pocket, it’s a series of carves and cutbacks. In other words, woo hoo! I got winded pretty easily given the higher altitude and the fact that I normally don’t surf on a single wave for 5-10 minutes. This video gives you an idea of what wake surfing is like:

I had a lot of fun wake surfing and while it was close to surfing and I’d enjoy doing it again, it will never replace the feeling of surfing on a wave generated by Mother Nature.

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.