So it wasn’t a good surfing day at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse when I took this photo. The waves were small, and they broke early. So what’s a hard-core surfer who’s not satisfied to go home going to do?
Well, what do you think? She traded her short hardboard for a soft longboard and started surfing whitewater and doing tricks like handstand surfing and one-legged surfing.
Let’s look at the surfboard she’s using, first of all. It’s a CBC 96 softboard. “Softboard” means it’s made of foam, rather than being a hard fiberglass or wood board. These 8′ high volume longboards are typically sold as beginner boards because it’s easier to stand up on them, they’re a far more stable platform due to their length, width, and high floatation value. Furthermore, if the board hits you when you fall off (as might happen if you’re a beginner or you’re doing tricks like handstands on the board), it’s, well, foam, so it doesn’t hurt like being hit by a chunk of fiberglass or wood. Brand new a CBC 96 will run you around $150. This particular CBC 96 is well used, you can’t see the wear and tear on it in this photo but she probably paid $50 for it on Craigslist as an addition to her collection of boards for times when a soft longboard is the only thing that will work. Because this is typically sold as a beginner board, from whence surfers graduate to better boards, there’s usually a lot of used boards like this on the market, and it’s probably been handed down via Craigslist from surfer to surfer as they graduated to better boards for years now.
Still, it was the right board for this day. Because they’re more stable than a hardboard, a softboard is perfect for whitewater. Because they float better than a hardboard, they’ll also let you surf smaller waves. The downside is that if the waves are high, they’re really hard to paddle out to where you start the runs because their profile is too high and the waves end up pushing you backwards (because you can’t duck under the waves like with a hardboard due to their high floatation factor), and because they’re not as heavy as a hardboard, you can’t surf high waves with them because they float too well and don’t drop fast enough to handle staying in front of a big wave. But that’s why she has multiple boards. It was the perfect board for the conditions she was in, doing the things she was trying to do (tricks like handstands and one-legged surfing).
Her wetsuit, on the other hand, was considerably more expensive. You need a wetsuit to surf in Santa Cruz. The water temperature is typically around 55F year round because of the Alaska Current. Cold shock from hitting the cold water would be extremely uncomfortable, and the cold water would result in hypothermia probably within less than an hour, followed within minutes by death since the waves would then smash her into the rocks. Since she was surfing for several hours, clearly that wasn’t in the cards here. A cheap wetsuit can be found for around $150, but a good wetsuit runs around $250 — or roughly 5 times what she paid for the surfboard — and you likely aren’t going to find a usable one in her size used, because the only time they tend to be discarded is when the seams give up the ghost or the surfer outgrows it. She’s a pretty hefty young lady so it’s unlikely she could have found something in her size on the used market in the first place.
The wetsuit she’s wearing is a Roxy Ignite Full Wetsuit, which is not a top of the line wetsuit but is not bargain basement either. They run around $250. It’s what’s called a “3/2″ wetsuit, with 3mm neoprene in the torso area, and 2mm neoprene in the limbs. It’s designed to be flexible and light, just what you want to be wearing if you’re going to be doing tricks and stunts on your surfboard, and is plenty warm for 55F water. It’s a good suit for what she was trying to do on that board, and I suspect she loves every penny that she spent on it.
So: Okay, it’s a cool picture of a young woman surfing in Santa Cruz. But the technology involved is fascinating too. Hopefully those of you who’ve actually surfed before can correct the things I got wrong, but for the rest of you, surfing’s come quite a ways since the 1960′s, and hopefully this gave you a little taste. As for me, I stick resolutely to dry land and let my camera do the surfing. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating what I see out there when I take my camera to Santa Cruz!
(Photo taken with a Pentax K-50 DSLR with 55mm-300mm zoom, at 120mm zoom, with 4.5 aperture and 1/640sec shutter speed at ISO100).
- Badtux the Dry Penguin