User Avatar

Conatus Surfing

Blast Off: Summer 2021 Comin In Hot

Dion Mattison
Dion MattisonPublished on August 08, 2021

Thoughts and Updates 8.8.21

I love waves shaped like the above. Where I grew up in California we have a few names for them: nugget, nug, corner, wedge, spinner, bowl, ramp. You can even combine some of the words: corner nug, wedgy nugget, nugging spinner. Some other descriptors for wave that looks like this are 'bowly' or 'rampy'. These latter of course are adjectives and not nouns, but they can be used in combination in phrases such as, "Dang, look at that bowly left corner nug!" When such a phrase is uttered it comes bearing memories and future projections of what bowly nuggets make possible. They come in all sizes, but what distinguishes them is that they have a more vertical face and a shape that suggests that the wave is spinning back on itself, which means that it has more potential for creating the conditions for speed and therefore for radical surfing. It also means you have options. You could stuff yourself into the little pocket part for a head dip. You could just race that whole section looking for the air or turn blast ramp that is inevitably coming. You could also bang the lip at that moment pictured and then project out into the next turn. Or you could race the section and perform a round house cutback to the white water. When waves have speed and open face you have options! The wave above isn't very big -- probably about 2ft -- but it's hitting the sand bar in such a way that causes it to stand up or jack up. It's an inside wave -- an inner nug -- no one in the lineup sees it -- and therefore no one is surfing it. These are the kinds of waves I try to train people to see. These are the waves that I'm always looking for on my surf checks. The upshot: there are usually way more of them than many realize. Plenty to go around in fact. At beach breaks they tend to happen all around the lineup, not in one particular area, so the only people who find themselves on them are a.) those that know to look for them and b.) those that move around the lineup looking for them. It makes sense that I'm keen on these waves because I grew up surfing beach break and welp, I still find myself at one most of the time. We can still call point break and reef break waves 'bowls' and 'nuggets' but they rarely have this same 'wedgy' quality that beach breaks have. This is because at points and reefs the wave is going in one direction. It may spin back on itself and have a vertical face but it usually ends in a taper or a closeout/section off/runs off on ya. At a beach break you have a varying bottom that refracts (technical term for 'bends') the swell bands into peaks. Furthermore if the swell is from locally generated winds, like most of ours are here in Rockaway, the swell bands themselves will already have broken, peakier lines. Peaky lines plus peaky bottom contours equals wedging inside nuggets. I should say a few things about the term 'wedge'. We can think of a wedge of cheese that has that triangular, thick shape. We use the term to describe a vertical peaking wave that runs into another wave coming at it from the opposite direction. So a left goes into a right or a right goes into a left. This provides the opportunity to 'hit the wedge' section.

Of course you can't do this if you don't see that it will wedge or don't see the oncoming wedge well ahead of time. Like basically when you pop up. In a few tip videos I have talked about hitting these sections as part of complete surfing. And it all starts with being able to recognize them from shore. In my experience surfing beach breaks all over the world, even if there is a dominant wave direction -- lefts in New York, rights in California, for example -- there are always 'against the grain' wedges that offer you an opportunity to ride either frontside or backside depending on your stance. As a goofy foot in New York I love finding the rights that come off the west ends of the jetties after I have surfed a left into that direction. I call this 'ping-ponging' around the line up. It's like I'm the ping pong ball and the waves are the rackets hitting me back and forth over the table.

Surfing like this also helps avoid the 'Zoolander effect' which is when a person can only ride waves in one direction. So if a regular foot in NY gets too used to going backside all of the time then they are simply not using the whole line up correctly. There are plenty of rights for them to get opportunities to surf frontside. Vice versa for anywhere with right dominant beach breaks. It is literally not a thing to say, "I can only go right," or, "I can only go left." Just no. It is of course more common for people to favor frontside surfing. But think of your forehand and backhand as you would in tennis. No excuses. You need to develop both. Good waves come in both directions. You need to learn to surf in both directions. Backside and frontside offer different challenges and feelings, all of which make a full surfing practice flourish when you unlock them.

I am in the business of facilitating flourishing surfing practices. That's why you're reading this newsletter! And there have been so many updates to how I'm facilitating this flourishing that it warrants making this newsletter/post free for all the people who both subscribe to advanced plans and to those who used to get the old squarespace jobs. First of all, I want to thank the people who have successfully subscribed to the advanced plans on SubKit. I know that change can be annoying and cumbersome, but I really appreciate your initiative. So from the $3 monthly subscribers to the $280 monthly Clubhouse Silver members, and everything in between and beyond, I salute you! Now, about the between and beyond I have some explaining to do.

As of right now there are basically 3 tiers of subscription:

1. The newsletters. As I wrote in the first public post/newsletter, I will send out a free one quarterly or so. These go to all the leads from the old Squarespace letters I used to send out. If you want one monthly that's the $3 plan. I also have weekly plans. $25 a month gets you one newsletter a week, and $35 a month gets you the weekly newsletter plus Book Club attendance privileges. Both of these come with discounts to stays and co works at the NY clubhouse.

2. NY Clubhouse memberships. The CSC clubhouse is located on 68th St in Rockaway, just a few blocks from the main breaks of the 60s and 70s, and a short distance to the 80s, 90s, plus just a 20 minute drive to Long Beach. There is a shower, a fridge, a full kitchen, TV, fast wifi, three co-work/nightly stay rooms, a yoga/pop up clinic studio, and a garage and basement for board and wetsuit storage. The different tiers -- Bronze, Silver, and Gold -- give you different access and ability to store gear. They include co-work days, overnights, and discounts on surf coaching packages. They also include all newsletters and book club membership. Space is limited for these, so please get in touch with me personally before subscribing. For example, space capacity can only handle 4-5 Gold members.

3. Global Video Analysis Support. This one is new and is aimed at growing international and self-sustaining surf practices. It's basically virtual surf lessons through video analysis. You can be anywhere in the world, on a surf trip, or even just a 'local-ish' surfer, say in NJ, Long Island, or Rhode Island, and can't make it to Rockaway or Long Beach for coaching. It's on you to get me your video clips. I'll make two edited, voiced over surf vids of your practice per month, and will set up two Zoom support calls to reinforce my analysis in the video and to answer any more of your surfing questions. This one is best served using a SoloShot3 camera. SoloShot doesn't pay me. They just make the only robot cam out there. I've made a YouTube vid on how to use the SoloShot3 and edit the clips to send. I will also be getting a SoloShot3 for the clubhouse to rent. Stay tuned for that.

Here is an overview of the plans:

Conatus Surfing Services Subscription Plans

Conatus Philosurf-y Monthly Newsletter

$3 /month

Conatus Philosurf-y Plus Weekly Plan

$25 /month

Everything Conatus Digital Plan

$35 /month

NY Clubhouse Bronze Membership

$130 /month

NY Clubhouse Silver Membership

$280 /month

Global Video Analysis Support

$400 /month

NY Clubhouse Gold Membership

$500 /month

More Radness

1. You can save on your subscription by referring people! Check it out.

Invite your friends, everybody saves.

For every friend that subscribes using your referral link, you'll get 15% from their payments as credit toward your own subscription. They'll get 10% off for 6 months too!

2. Upgrades are now smooth. At a $3 plan and want to move to a $25 or even a Clubhouse Bronze? No problem. Just click on the higher priced plan and press 'Change Plan'. It should upgrade ya.

3. Are you a solo entrepreneur that wants to use this platform? Do it! You'll get a discount using my referral code.

4. The 'stay logged in' feature. The back end folks realize that getting the magic link can be annoying. They also realize that dealing with password and username issues on the back end is also annoying. To limit the annoyingness for everyone they've made it possible to just stay logged in. This will not compromise your financial or identity security. Everything is encrypted for your safety. If you want to log out and get the magic link, great. If you don't want to bother then just stay logged in.

Surf Fitness

The completion of the garage and basement storage at the clubhouse has enabled me to create a new room for co-working and overnights and add a yoga/work out studio. I've already done one Pop Up and Visualization Clinic in there with Roger Hodge and Rebecca Parker and it was game-changing. Rebecca said that it immediately helped her surfing and that she received a style compliment in her subsequent surf session!

These are $150 a pop and they're under 'Consultation' on the online store on my website. I thought about doing clinics with up to 4 people but that's not going to work. These max at 2 ppl because everyone has specific issues with their pop up that needs concerted attention. To schedule one just purchase a consultation and get in touch. I am still doing virtual consults for surf forecasting and video review. It's the same product, just a different location (online v physical). I will also be adding this into surf mentorship packages because nothing beats deepening your at-home practice when it comes to surfing. You can spend all the time in the world in the water beating your head against a wall. If you don't have proper pop up form on land it ain't gonna work.

People often complain about flexibility and strength and ask me how to get more of both. Well my answer is always: yoga. And surf-specific yoga like the kind taught by my coach Evan Perry. To that effect, we're running yoga classes in the studio on Sunday mornings, based around the surf forecasts. So if the surf looks firing early we do the class later in the morning. If it's firing later, we do the class early in the morning.

These are not through me financially. It's $50 a head cash to Evan per class. At least for now. If it changes I will update. Like my surf coaching, Evan's yoga coaching is self-sustaining and meant to equip you with the techniques necessary to establish an at-home practice. I practice 3-6 days a week using the techniques Evan has taught me, and cannot rave enough about my increased strength, flexibility, and ability to focus on intellectual tasks! We're running one this morning at 1130a in fact and there are still two spots if you're interested. For the yoga, get in touch via text or email. You need to be fully vaccinated for anything inside the clubhouse. Byo mat, blocks, and change of clothes. It gets sweaty!

Tip Vid: High Chest

Those getting the weekly newsletters are in the know and expect one of these a week. You're getting this one for free. I've also listed it on YouTube. This brings up another cool feature of SubKit: every newsletter doubles as a post. Want to return to a previous Tip Video from a previous week? Just check the 'posts'. The videos all live in the posts. They don't go away. So you have an archive here of videos aimed at improving your surfing. The above video is something we work on constantly and it's really come to my attention just how important the high chest before pop up is. It is premised on lower body control of the board. I'm not working very hard with my arms because my butt and thighs are stabilizing me over the board. Eyes are always looking where I'm going. It's crucial to notice that I'm also not holding this position so long that I pearl. It's a 1/2 second tops on most take offs. For mushier waves where you can play with it longer then you can suss it out. This video also exemplifies the sheer variety of pop ups available in surfing: low, high, grab rail backside, pushing into a bottom turn frontside, etc. There is no such thing as one pop up! And stop surfing in that middle stance that surf school teach (the power stance)! It doesn't work. All the way low or all the way high. If you can't go low without bending at your waist learn to surf tall first. Bending in surfing is done with your legs and knees, not with your waist or your arms.

Weekly Challenge

Another staple of the advanced plans. I give you one surf challenge per week. Per today's theme, this week's challenge is to practice identifying wedges and to get at least 1 left and 1 right in your next session at a beach break. See them first, then go get em. Advanced surfers want to try riding over the wedge, also known as 'bashing the section' (see frontside and backside examples above).

Surf Report(s)

Oh geez July and August have been soooo consistent out here. Tons of little swells in the 1-3ft @ 7-10 seconds range. These are so perfect for NY sandbars, if you can find the right bars. That part has been a little tricky and has had me scoping around for bars that work on a variety of tides and which also are kind to lifeguard and surf school occupation of our summer beaches. Staying mobile and not getting tied to one break out of habit is my game when the sandbars start shifting. Been trying out a number of new locations to great effect. I'll be back at the local when it's truly on but for now I'll let the creatures of habit face plant on closeouts.

Here's Phil Bohlman at a wave we found last week! I checked the local just after this session and it was crowded and closed out. So I went back here to score more lined up lefts and rights with no one out. Where? Not telling. You gotta be in sessions to find out. I find the sand bars. You pay me to tell you where they are.

This coming week I'm seeing more local windswell action. Nothing too crazy. People have been sending me hype about an overactive hurricane season. Some people even sending way long term forecasts of hurricanes developing off Bermuda. I don't really care about long term forecasts. The ocean is too tricky for that. In the short term, I don't see any hurricane swells yet. I will alert weekly followers when I do.

The west coast, however, is a different story. Every time I check Windfinder I'm seeing one new hurricane or another off of the coast of Mexico. None of them look too huge to produce gargantuan south swells, but there's definitely plenty of swell on the left coast this summer. I've also been seeing tons of action in the North Atlantic which must mean an above average summer for European, Moroccan, English, Welsh, and Irish surfers.

Important Dates

August 23: it's my birthday. 41. Getting up there but feeling spry!

August 27: the day I defend my dissertation. It's not public. It's on Zoom with my committee. Yes it means that I finished it. Will update when I have a publisher and it becomes a book for everyone to read!

Sept 1-7: I am out of town visiting family. Pretty sure Juan will be watching the clubhouse and maintaining the facilities. No sessions that week, even if there's a hurricane swell. I'll miss it. But family is important. Large room of clubhouse is already booked, but the smaller rooms are open.

Book Club

More awesome than ever. We're reading Heidegger's "Question Concerning Technology" for the next two weeks. My current philosophical question is the relationship between 'man', 'nature', and 'technology'. I loathe purity ethics in surfing and in general, and we're starting with Heidegger to look at how futile they are. For example, when people say, "Surfing is the best because you're close to nature," I'm calling bullshit. I don't think people know what they mean when they use the word 'nature' in this context or just what constitutes 'nature' insofar as it is something we are more and less close to at any given time. You're on a surfboard. Is that nature? There are jetties. Is that nature? There are tankers going by out to sea? Do the tankers make you feel "closer to nature"? Just as fascinating is our desire for things to be "pure" or more "natural". What kind of metaphysical essence are we searching for? What would be therapeutic (or seemingly therapeutic) about finding such an essence? Can't we just have fun and not have it all figured out? These are some topics that we discuss. To get in on it you need a Conatus Everything Plan or higher. Book Club meets via Zoom on Mondays at 730p. Sign up via the Sessions.

Last Lines

Well this has certainly been a humungous newsletter/post! I have five things that I want to leave you with in closing.

1. Remember that if you're a subscriber and you like these letters, to train your inbox to keep them in the primary box, so that you do indeed get them. I made a post about this.

2. Check out my friend Bob's newsletter "Society of the Self." It's not through SubKit just fyi. Not yet anyway. Bob does an awesome job with his, and it's a really fun read with a lot of fun links. We're not always on the same page about capitalism or protesting, but I appreciate his deep dives into all kinds of critical terrain.

3. Salps. OMG Salps!!! What the hell is a salp you ask? Well if you've been surfing in NY or NJ this summer you have an intimate relationship with them. They're those strange jelly-like creatures that have been showing up in our waters like big pools of primal jizz. They feel really disgusting to surf in, but they don't sting or bite. What is more, they are an evolutionary wonder! I now feel bad popping them every time I scoop up a handful in the water. Let's get a few things straight. They're not jellyfish! They're not baby jellyfish. They are nothing of the kind. A jellyfish is in the family Cnidia. A salp, on the other hand, is in the family Chordata. They're not in the same family and not even the same sub family. In 2017 the NYT did a fantastic write up on them. Once you read it a.) your mind will be blown about salp's radical diversity in terms of reproduction and autonomy and b.) bummed you kills salps too. They have jet propulsion! I recommend clicking the links in the article to learn more.

4. I'm going to be doing a Philo-surfy podcast! Swell Season will host it. So that's just an extra thing to stay excited about. I don't have exact info right now. But it's happening. You've all liked my appearances on other podcasts, so it's time to get more air time to talk the nerdy stuff we love talking about and listening to.

5. Juan is helping me design hats and tees. There will be Conatus swag SOON! Stay tuned.

Stoked that you're on this philo-surfy journey with me, in whichever way you're involved. To get the latest and greatest get on a plan and stay involved. Say hi when you see me in the water or at the beach. Keep the eyes down the line and the chest up high!

More waves more joy,


Conatus Surfing Newsletter

Get occasional updates from Conatus Surfing in your inbox