Matt Niswonger

The Surfers Path

Party Wave. Photo courtesy of Neil Pearlberg.

Working the ASJ Roadshow booth at the Surfer’s Path Marathon in Capitola recently, I was mesmerized by the ocean. Wave after shimmering wave was rolling in, and about fifty people were playing in the water right in front of our tent. There was no wind and the sun was blazing.

It occurred to me that just about every age and type of person was represented in this group, from the kids building sandcastles at the water’s edge, to the bodysurfers a bit farther out, and finally the bodyboarders, surfers, and stand up paddlers farthest away.

Each group was a tribe, cooperating within its own game, and working a particular section of every wave.

The SUP crowd was stroking into the waves early, and taking advantage of the ability to catch a ride away from the main break. As the waves reared up, the surfers were next in line, jumping to their feet gracefully and accelerating down the line. The bodyboarders hopped on next, and right afterwards the bodysurfers swam like crazy for a chance at a short tuberide.

I couldn’t help noticing that each tribe had its heroes; individuals who completed spectacular rides through a combination of luck and skill. This was what kept everyone engaged—each and every wave represented a unique opportunity to shine on a public stage. The object of the game was a fleeting moment of grace; a final dance with a pulse of water that traveled thousands of miles.

Comparing the skilled to the unskilled surfers was fascinating, and this difference became a personal metaphor. How often have I expended lots of energy—in surfing as well as life—only to maneuver myself into the wrong place and find success elusive? On the other hand, how often have I waited patiently and keenly observed that success came to me only when I was prepared to take advantage of it? What other lessons were the waves trying to teach me, if I would only slow down long enough to hear their message?

Regardless, the best place to be on a hot day in California is in the water, and we celebrate this fact in the pages of ASJ #73.

In Neil Pearlberg’s feature on Bob Pearson on page 24, we take a look at the growing popularity of stand up paddleboarding through the eyes of a master board shaper. Clearly SUPs have brought a whole new tribe to the water, and their explosion in popularity has been a boon to the surf industry, much like snowboarding was in the late nineties.

Also like snowboarding, SUPs have seen their share of controversy. In Santa Cruz tempers have flared in the lineup as SUPs have caused collisions, especially while being ridden by the unskilled. Exactly like in snowboarding, a relatively small number of individuals have made the controversy seem bigger than it is, and time will tell how it settles out. One thing is for certain, snowboards didn’t go away like many skiers thought they would, and neither will SUPs. Somehow we all have to get along.

Also in this issue, frequent contributor Leonie Sherman takes us to the mountains for a hike down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne on page 20. This unique and breathtaking journey is right near Yosemite Valley, yet sees relatively few visitors. For Leonie, this odyssey is really all about the Tuolumne River as she travels its length through the heart of the Sierra.

Last issue’s featured author Rick Gunn contributes another heartfelt piece about the history of TAMBA, Tahoe’s mountain bike advocacy group. If you haven’t ridden any of the Tahoe trails featured in the article recently, you should. The fun volume has been turned up to “eleven.”

For the craft beer crowd, I profile five lower alcohol alternatives well suited for summer activities on page 16.

Surf instructor Ed Guzman helps readers get started in surfing and SUP, while Derrick Peterman, AKA the Beer Runner, contributes a book review on running coach Erik Orton’s new training manual, The Cool Impossible.

As always the ASJ calendar is chock-filled with inspiring events and races. Feel free to mark your calendar accordingly. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in the water!

— Matt Niswonger