Monday, November 30, 2015

Overdue update

Wow, I haven't written on here since August, time for an update. Lots of travelling, surfing and work has had me busy over the last few months. We've had some nice waves over that time, a bit more inconsistent than usual for this season, but some excellent days nonetheless. A couple of big late October storms blew the sand down the beach at Kako, shifting the peak quite a bit. We had a couple big days in November, and I blew my back out on one of them...happily back in saddle after a couple of weeks off though, and have enjoyed a number of cold sunny small days at Gyokyo in late November. I'm sitting at 212 sessions for the season, it would be nice to hit 220, but we'll see... It's December 1st today and the snow is falling, time to get out the hood and shift to winter surfing. Here's some autumn pics that capture the season here in Iburi...

The Kako right has emerged with the shifting sand

Nice Gyokyo

Tight lines at Kako
Autumn sake

Washibetsu gyokyo shrine, the place to pray for waves

In Japan even the graffiti is nice...gotta love this place 


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Great August waves and my itago

Very nice surf last week thanks to Typhoons 15 and 16. Friday at Kako was perfect, a little over head high and really clean… Kako closed out Saturday so I headed over the Gyokyo for another great session. On Sunday and Monday it was breaking in Funka Bay…all in all, it feels like the typhoon season arrived a month early, which is great as August is usually pretty small. After the nice stretch of waves, the winds shifted onshore, and it’s been pretty junky since...

This year I pulled back on my board building activities mainly due to a lack of space, and quite frankly, a lack of need. I ride about 6 boards somewhat regularly, of which three are my own builds. On top of that, I have a few more boards that are gathering dust, so I really can’t justify making any more at the moment.

But, as I really dig the process of taking on new projects, I’ve decided to try to replicate some traditional surfcraft and see how they turn out. Even if they don’t turn out to be rideable boards, I thought they would be a tangible way to explore surfing history.

The first thing I wanted to make was an “itago (板子), a traditional Japanese surfcraft similar to a paipo board. These types of boards were used for wave riding in Japan from about 150 years ago up until the 1960s. 
Originally, itago were “found” surfcraft; with kids using the removable floor boards from fishing boats to ride waves. Later itago were purpose-built, and adorned with advertisements for products or departments stores, and available for rent at popular public beaches throughout Japan. An excellent history of the itago, including numerous board examples and historical pictures, is available at Nobbywood Surfboards:

The itago I made is a replica of one of the boards in Nobby’s archives/collection, an example of a rental board used in Kanagawa in the late 1960s.
About 20 years ago after a surf session in Toyoura an old fisherman came up to me for a chat, and he told me that he used to surf in Rebunge as a kid on "boards". I hadn't given that conversation much thought until I started reading more about the history of the itago. It now makes me wonder how far back surfing culture goes in Hokkaido.     

Old school Japanese itago surfing

Japanese girls with an itago

The replica

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hot in the summer

It's been hot and humid in Iburi this summer, today it reached 30 in Muroran for the first time this year, and Sapporo even hit 37. That's hot stuff for us Dosanko. Thankfully we have the ocean, and although the waves have dropped in size, it feels so nice to cool off before and after work. Today I even trunked it (with a vest), and it was a little slice of heaven. It's so Honshu summerish here that I even had a kuwagata (beetle) in the yard. It looks like the waves will pick up Friday with the Typhoon 13 swell, can't wait to surf some decent waves in just trunks and a rashie. Hopefully I'll have some decent pics to post next week.    

After work this evening

Ms Kuwagata

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Typhoons 9,10, 11

Consecutive typhoons (9,10 & 11) have been spinning their way down south, moving incredibly slowly, and producing a couple weeks of long-period swell. The conditions up here in Hokkaido have been fantastic, sunny blue skies and clean faces. Up until yesterday, I had logged 18 sessions in the first 14 days of July. I finally took a day off today to kind of rest up for another bump in the swell tomorrow. I'm throwing up a few pics from the last week, we had bigger days, but the pics kinda capture the mood...Many thanks to Hiroyasu for the action shots...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Official End of Rainy Season

They say there's no rainy season in Hokkaido, but in each of the 15 Junes I've been here, it's rained like hell. Today we got a reprieve after nine days of sog...With the sun, we had a nice a bit of swell, and a low low tide...which all added up to an awesome morning. Long may the sun last...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Triple digits

Hit the 100 session mark for the year on Wednesday...and a mighty fine session it was too. I headed out to Gyokyo after work just as the wind was backing off. There were some really fun peaks, and a nice mellow crowd.
The following morning the swell was still up and Kako was great, clean head-high waves off the tetras all the way to the sand. Two sessions that day, before and after work, unfortunately no photographs...I was too excited to get in the water to take pics. Awesome couple of days this week!

2015 100th session

2015 100th session

Painting the fence and ran into this guy

Thinking I need a VW Type1

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Typhoon 7

Well, I'm blissfully exhausted after logging some serious water time last week. The week started off with smallish clean and fun waves and things just kept building until Friday when, thanks to Typhoon 7, things got big, especially at Kako. Here's a couple of shots from early in the week.

Breaking off the tetras, clean all the way down the line

The Boss taking off in the boneyards

Did he make it? Tune in next week...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Golden Week

We had a great Golden Week here in Hokkaido, sunny all days but one, and some nice waves. The local break (Kako) felt a bit crowded a couple days, peaking at about 12 people, but was pretty empty otherwise. Us local surfers got together for our annual beach clean up and BBQ, good fun all around. There's an awesome sense of community at the local break, it is a real pleasure to live and surf here.

The waves have dropped, but the sand at the Kako rivermouth is really good this year so even on small days the waves have nice shape.
Below are some pics from this morning, small and nicely lined up. I took out the Big Red Simmons I made last year and it was a blast ... the board is so fast and just fired down the line, can't wait to give it a run tomorrow as well.

Little peelers
Big Red Simmons

Re-painted the tank on my MR. Looking good!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back to Work

Back into the swing of another semester here. Three weeks of teaching in April, then a nice 11 day break over Golden Week. The spring semester is always enjoyable, new students, increasingly warm weather, good morning low tides, and south swells make it an awesome season. I've been out steadily four or five times a week the last month, and have had a ton of fun days...had a really nice clean morning last week on my big 47th birthday.

Enjoyed a couple of sessions on my wood boards. Basically giving them a run for half a session and switching off to poly boards later. It's nice getting back on wood, but I feel I'm giving up a lot performance-wise compared to my other boards. Still early in the season, I think when I get down to thinner wetsuits and no gloves, it should make the wood boards easier to deal with.

I'm currently collecting materials for a different kind of surf-related build (a Japanese Itago belly board), once I get it started I'll post my progress. I'm really exciting about this one, it's a great chance to dip into the history of Japanese surf culture and re-examine some of the principles and characteristics of prone boards and planing shapes.
Lab testing: comparing my new Stewart fish and my wooden mini NR

Happy birthday to me: small but clean and empty

My new beach conveyance: 1979 Yamaha MR50
Currently shopping around for a surf rack for it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Early Spring

This has been an incredible March. It's been unseasonably mild and we've had a variety of nice waves, lots of small stuff, but several good days as well. Usually this is the season of dirty slush as the winter snow melts off and all the muck and sand kicked up by the snow plows muddy the roads. Not this year. Everything is clean, it's warm, and the south swell is already somewhat consistent. Here's some pics of what it's been like on the smaller days, long may it last.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Iburi warming?

While other parts of Hokkaido have been hit with cold, windy and snowy weather this winter, we've had it really mild here in Iburi. I've only had to shovel snow a few times this year, whereas most years it's a dreaded daily activity. I don't know what's going on, but Iburi is warm, and I'm loving it. I felt really blessed this morning surfing in plus 4 degree weather, without a hood, and with the kind of south swell we usually get in summer. Looks like the nice weather will continue into next week...long may it last.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Belated Happy New Year

Boy, January sure is going fast. After getting in for my first surf of the year on New Year’s day, I headed off for a week in Hawaii. Town was pretty consistent for this time of year, so I happily got my fill out at Three’s and Kaiser’s… it was so nice to shed the winter wetsuit. This year I was stoked to run across Eddie Aikau’s board at the Quikilver shop on Kalakaua. I spent probably an hour looking at it and running my hands along the rails…just a thing of beauty and power. It’s so nice of the Aikau’s to let the public see it. Each year I go into that shop to look at the beautiful Takayama “Pacific System’s Homes” styled board they have in there, and now they’ve also got a nice agave gun (I think it’s a Downing). Really nice stuff. Gets me thinking about what to build this year.

New Year's day surf...

 Eddie's board. It's crazy watching tourists walk past this without a second glance, it's probably the most famous board in the history of surfing. When I saw it I stopped dead in my tracks. I feel so lucky, I never thought I'd actually get to see it.
My builds for 2014. What to make in 2015?...hmmmmm...