Sea Notes

Paddleboards take surfers beyond traditional barriers

Surfers love the ocean, and yet their (our) knowledge of it generally extends no further than a few hundred yards off shore. Riding waves has proven so fun that most of us stay mesmerized and never move beyond the break, and into deeper water where new words await.
Recently the interest in paddleboards has sent some of the more experienced among us out beyond the kelp, where they can move more than 30 feet on a single stroke on boards up to 16 feet long. This, according to paddlers, produces feelings some thought could only be achieved by riding a wave.
Unlike surfers, paddleboarders enjoy a little company, and can often be seen out most any time of day, drafting each other as they move in tight packs of up to a dozen, stroking for miles on their sleek craft, some produced by twice winner of the Catalina Classic in the stock division, North County’s own Brian Szymanski and his partner, former Navy Seal Matt Friedman. Their locally grown company, North County Paddleboards, or NCP, is often seen in the winner’s circle along with boards by Palos Verdes board builder Joe Bark, whose last name is stamped on his product, and surf/paddleboard legend Mike Eaton, who recently moved from San Diego to Hawaii.
The recent revival in ocean paddling has encouraged longtime practitioners of the sport like Eaton and former Catalina Champion and local Roy Bream to get and stay in superior shape. Bream, who is the owner of paddling’s version of the Holy Grail, a 16-foot balsawood Joe Quigg, one of three made in the 1950s, can often be spotted either racing his bike down Coast Highway, or moving over the Pacific, on his craft of choice, which could include anything from a fast paddleboard, to one of his Donald Takayama Noseriders, to a Swan 66, which he sometimes pilots for those who play in bigger leagues than my own.
While few of us can afford a Swan Yacht, most of us have what it takes to get out and explore the local kelp. For the moderately fit and the adventurous, this requires nothing more than desire. Accessories to make the journey easier include: fins, goggles and wetsuit vest. For those not comfortable making the swim alone, there are a variety of manually powered vehicles, including surfboards, bodyboards, standup paddleboards and kayaks. A decent dive mask and snorkel is also a good idea, since what is going on beneath the surface can be at least as interesting as what’s happening above it. Those taking fishing rods and spears are advised to know size limits and observe obvious safety rules — I have nearly been speared more than once by overly enthusiastic kids who mistake anything floating in the water as fair game.
With the water warming up and the surf flattening out, I find the kelp and areas beyond more and more intriguing. If you haven’t made the trip, you’ll find that the ocean has far more to offer than you might imagine. Find your vehicle of choice and move out into deeper water. See you there.
Note: Longtime Cardiff surfer/surf filmmaker Bryan Ingraham is in need of a kidney transplant. You can help Ingraham by attending a fundraiser at the Belly Up Tavern from 4 to 8 p.m. July 31. Legendary surfer Rob Machado and surf/musician Jon Swift will be playing as well as many of our surf friends.

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