Nobody listens to Turtle

When it all goes quite behind my eyes.


Swell height to Surf height depends on wave period and (this is the tricky part) local spot characteristics.

  • Swell height – Wave height in open ocean.
  • Surf height – Wave height when breaking.

Wind waves, being shorter in length, feel the bottom of the ocean less. This makes them peakier and not wrap around points very well. Long ground swells will usually break all at once at a beach break and close out. Points and reefs are better for ground swell. All the water moving in a ground swell piles up on itself when it breaks and will make the surf height significantly bigger than the open water swell height.


Every break has it’s favored tides, which is mainly due to the bathymetry of that specific break. However, usually most spots favor a ‘low going high’ or when the tide is on the rise, ‘filling in’. This is the believed “tidal push” which may help the forward momentum of waves. The tide is pushing in as the waves move in, toward a common direction, a surge if you will. Whereas, an outgoing tide may counter the the incoming momentum of waves to a very small degree.

  • spring tide – when moon and sun are lined up, pulling in the same direction creating high high tides and low low tides
  • neap tide – moon and sun are working against each other, creating low high tides and high low tides

El Nino/La Nina

Usually the “trade winds” blow west along the equator, but sometimes that gets disrupted by El Nino or La Nina (ENSO – El Nino-Southern Oscillation).

El Nino weakens the trade winds.

  • Warm water pushed east.
  • Pacific jetstream moves south which brings rain south.
  • Amplifies Pacific storm track so bigger swell.

La Nina strengthens the trade winds.

  • Warm water pushed west (so colder water near San Diego).
  • Jetstream moves north, meaning dryer.
  • Blocking high pressure over the Pacific during winter typically means fewer chances of significant swell (but also maybe less wind local).

Episodes of El Niño and La Niña typically last nine to 12 months, but can sometimes last for years. El Niño and La Niña events occur every two to seven years, on average, but they don’t occur on a regular schedule. Generally, El Niño occurs more frequently than La Niña.

North County

There is pretty much a name for every 100 yards of beach in San Diego. Here are a few of them. Surfers generally don’t think too hard when they name a break, usually based on the first thing they see when they look back toward shore.

* San Onofre
  * Trestles
* Oceanside
* Carlsbad
  * Tamarack
  * Terra Mar -- Little point break.
  * Dip in the Road
  * North Ponto
  * South Ponto
* Leucadia
  * Grandview
  * Avocados -- Consistently inconsistent. Keeps the crowds away!
  * Round House -- In front of a house which can only be described as "round".
  * Beacons
  * Stonesteps -- At the end of S El Portal.
* Encinitas
  * Moonlight
  * D Street
  * Boneyards -- I Street viewpoint looks out over Boneyards.
  * Swamis
* Cardiff (San Elijo/Campgrounds)
  * Brown House
  * Pipes
  * Traps
  * Turtles
  * 85s
  * Suckouts
  * Cardiff Reef
* Solana Beach
  * Seaside
  * Tabletops -- Entrance is at the end of Solana Vista.
  * Pillbox
* Del Mar
  * Beachbreaks
  * 15th Street
  * 11th Street
  * 8th Street
* La Jolla
  * Blacks

From north to south

Read the Buoys

For San Diego, look out for Point Conception wind swells (4-12 seconds, 275-330), the window of opportunity will be smaller than a big ground swell, but any waves are better than no waves.


What I talk about when I talk about surfing.

pop up

  • Paddling into position is much more efficient than paddling hard.
    • Go deeper into the wave.
    • Lower chest for final paddles to help plane and keep momentum.
  • Set the line and angle the takeoff.
    • Just go for it, no changin last moment else lose all momentum.
    • Look down the line where you want to go (top of the wave).
    • Keep pressure on the inside rail throughout pop up, this is a speed generator, but the board needs to be flat during the pop up (don’t turn too hard).
  • Pause and gain speed.
    • Pause for a second with hands on the board to keep it planing, cobra position.
    • High speed makes it easier to balance, so easier pop up and take off and in general look like you know what you are doing.
    • Smooth the plane or the board’s tail becomes a big brake.
  • Smooth movement.
    • Don’t “jump” to a stand position, keep it smooth and low center of gravity, goal is to land feet in right spots without losing speed.
    • Focus on getting front foot all the way up to in-between hands.
    • Rotate the hips, front foot side down, in order to stay low and balanced.
    • Low center of gravity into bottom turn, helps keep inside rail pressure which generates speed.
  • Pros in slomo.

trimmin and carvin

  • Front hand over rail to keep shoulders open and balanced.
    • Face down the stringer.
  • Back foot pivot’d forward, so not a complete 90 degree with stringer.
    • Helps allow back knee to bend forward and face down stringer.
  • Trim gets down the line, “up the wave”.
    • Rail-to-rail for speed, not pumping up and down.
    • Bend knees towards each other, shift weight back and forth.
  • Carve needs to lift the nose to pivot on the back, else catch a rail.
  • Need to capture the physics of building speed from my own energy: squat before a turn, stand up out of it.

single fin style

  • Single fin sittin parallel to the stringer minimizes drag.
  • Wide arc’d turns vs. tight.
  • Cannot generate as much speed rail-to-rail as a thruster or twinny.

duck dive

  • Plan is to go with the momentum of the natural “tumble” of white water.
    • If the wave is big enough, you will feel turbulance no matter how perfect the duck dive.
  • Face where you want to go and do a push up.
  • Very soon after, backfoot pushes down hard on the tail to flatten the board.
    • It’s not 2 separate motions, cause if you take too long you lose the forward momentum and end up bobbing butt up.
  • Next up, move the board forward just a bit.
    • This keeps momentum in the right direction (forward, past the wave).
    • Pull yourself to the board, elbows to board.
  • At all points just remember the goal: get this board on the other side of the wave; helps guide the motions.

cut back

  • Get back into the good section of the wave, instead of lost ahead of the wave out on the shoulder.
  • Gotta carve, back foot back.
    • Front side have to sit the butt through the turn.
    • Leading hand where you want to go (touch the water).
  • Want to work on the arc of the turn be tighter and tighter.
  • Top of the wave target after turn.


  • Go over the white wash to keep up speed and get past a bad section.
  • Make sure nose on top of whitewash.
    • Wheely by lifting hands and pulling weight off front foot.


Pretty much every aspect of board is a trade off between speed (which brings stability) and control (maneuverability). Surfboards and airplane wings share a lot of the same physics, but only one has been extensively studied over the past one hundred years…and that would be airplane wings.


  • Surface area brings drag and stability.
  • The engaged rail has more of an influence than overall surface area.
    • Shorter rail line will have less drag, less wetted area, and accelerate more quickly.
  • Reaction time from rail-to-rail is directly related to width (narrow is faster).
  • Foil – Is the placement of the thickness through the board (e.g. thicker up front).
  • Outline – Straight vs. curvy == drive (moving water) vs. loose.


  • Surfboards grip a wave with the rail.
  • Thicker rails help keep you “on top” of the water in small waves, but are more sluggish in turns.
  • Soft rails give speed boosties down the line.
  • A high line will engage the rail at a steep angle producing more speed.
  • 50/50 – Soft rails, more bouancy.
  • 60/40 – Medium rails, more control.

Hull Contours

  • Flats
    • Match water line, for speed, no control.
  • Concave
    • Rise “above” the water line (as in towards the board).
    • Add lift and speed.
  • Convex
    • Sink “below” the water line (as in away from the board).
    • Rail-to-rail rolling.
    • Creates drag, reduces hold of “tracking”.
  • Single concave
    • Creates a channel, moving more water to tail == lift and speed.
    • “Tracks” a.k.a. goes in the same line.
    • Concave adds grip on rail, increasing speed.
  • Vee
    • Fast response rail-to-rail.
    • Less planing area, slower.
  • Double Concave
    • Doesn’t track as much as single concave, better rail-to-rail.
    • Little bit of both?
  • Want speed up front for paddling (single concave), want control in back for turning (rail-to-rail) so vee or double concave.
  • Coanda Effect and contours – Fluid attaches itself to a curved surface.


Small, mushy and weak waves, choose surfboards with less rocker. Good, powerful and steep waves, choose surfboards with more rocker.

  • Front rocker
    • More rocker = easier to maneuver.
    • Helps late takeoffs in hollow waves (big waves).
  • Tail rocker
    • More pivot, slower in general.


Wider tails offer more stability and float, and will give you a faster planing speed. While, narrower tails are going to make rolling from rail to rail a little easier. They can also help hold a board steadier on a steeper faced wave. The shape of the tail’s edges make a difference too. A tail that has rounder angles or no angles at all, is going to help you ‘hold’ the water for a little longer. This means that you will have more control of the board. When a tail has harder angles, more water will “release” and you will have a looser, more snappy feel to the board.

Pin or rounded pin offers hold as well as flexibility in bigger waves, but the lack of volume makes it tougher to catch waves.


  • PU – Polyurethane
    • Can come in different densities.
  • EPS – Expanded Polystyrene Foam
    • PU alt, cheaper and stiffer.
    • Difficult to shape, little better for env.
  • Fiberglass is soaked in resin: polyester or epoxy.
    • Poly is cheap and quick, turns yellow, can’t be used on eps.
    • Epoxy is better, but way more expensive.
  • Carbon fiber strips in strategic locations.
  • Parabolic stringer is along the outside, but serves the same purpose of adding strength to the board.


  1. Fiberglassing
  • The fiberglass cloth weight, 6oz or 4oz, and layers are the biggest factors.
  • Standard is 2 layers on top (4+4), one on bottom (4).
  1. Hot coat (resin)
  • The Hotcoat more or less fills in the gaps left in the weave of the cloth after lamination. This not only gives you a smooth surface, but helps prevent water from seeping into the board over time.
  • Hot coat always sanded.
  1. Gloss coat (not required)
  • Can be polished or sanded, sanded a little lighter/faster.
  • Gloss finish is heavier, old school, but protects a little more than sanded.
  • Small patches of cloth can be used to strengthen sections (like the fin boxes).

Groveler, Daily Driver, and Step Up

  • groveler – For the little days.
    • When you find your regular shortboard starting to bog, switch to your groveler.
    • Low rocker, something that has a lot of lift, and can generate speed easily.
    • Shorter and wider.
    • Slower rail to rail.
  • daily driver – For the average days.
    • Well rounded.
  • step up – For the big days.
    • A standard shortboard is designed to create speed. A step-up is designed to control speed.
    • Foam under the chest gives you a little extra paddle power for safer, earlier take offs.
    • Added length is essential to help match your paddle power.
    • Might be glassed heavier to help lifespan in the big waves (4+6x6).
    • Little more rocker.


  • Two functions: stability and lift.
    • Lift is towards the waveface, giving more hold.
    • Both functions increase drag.
  • Formations
    • single – Stability and pivot point.
    • twin – Provide lift (rail engagement), less pivot points than thruster so looser.
    • thruster – More pivot points with rail engagement, more drag.
    • quad – Theoretical best of both worlds. The closer and further back the fins are, the more like a thruster. Higher and further apart, more like a twin fin.
  • Characteristics
    • size – Larger has more hold and control, smaller is looser less drag.
    • base – Longer is more control, shorter is looser.
    • rake – Arc of the fin, more arc is good for big strong days, small arc good forweak chop.
    • foil – Aerodynamic shape.
    • cant – Degree of outward angle, more control and less speed.


  • Pyzel Gremlin // Groveler // 5'8" x 20" x 2 1/2" | 31.60L
    • Feels a little slow for some reason, but have taken it out in everything and been successful.
    • The bottom runs from single to double concave, with a nice bit of vee running of the tail.
  • CI Fish // Daily Driver // 5'8" x 20 1/2" x 2 5/16" | 31.6L
    • “Performance fish” – narrower than classic fish.
    • Thin 4+4/4 glass “ultra light”.
    • Can catch 2ft swell at grandview with this thing, wide tail must help.
    • Same volume as the Gremlin…little wider, little thinner.
  • Rusty Sista Brotha // Daily Driver // 5'10" x 19.75" x 2.4" | 30.81L
    • Wave catching machine, good placement of volume.
    • 5-6ft waves is its happy place.
  • Chilli Faded 2.0 // Step Up // 6'2" 19 1/2" 2 5/8" | 32.50L
    • 7-8ft+ waves.
  • Stubbie Single Fin // Alternative // 5’10” x 20.25” x 2.5”
  • Zen LoFi Single Fin // Alternative // 6'3" x 20 5/8" x 2 11/16"
    • Needs at least 5ft, the pintail is a big break for paddle power.
    • NVS Ola 8.5" fin
  • Twin Keel Fish // Alternative // 5’6 20 7/8 x 2 7/16 32.38L


  • JS Lowdown // 6'2" x 19" x 2.375" | 28.4
    • Struggled with this one in big surf, so it was time to go, too little volume or just poorly placed?


  • Is a yamamoto neoprene wetsuit worth it? Sure is warm and flexible, will see how it holds up.
  • Tropical and Warm water wax are harder waxes than Cool and Cold water waxes, Tropical being the hardest wax and cold being the softest wax. Base coat is just super hard wax.
  • Creatures of Leisure makes a solid leash. Reliance line is middle of the road (superlight is $$$ and icon is $). Within a lineup there are sizes (leash thickness): lite < comp < pro < reef. 5mm to 9mm. I think 6mm for smaller wave boards, 7mm for overhead+.