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Waves and Desire

Dion Mattison
Dion MattisonPublished on January 05, 2023

Welcome to the new calendar year! Here's a shot of CSC friend and long time mentee, Bryan Doring, cruising along a Playa Hermosa (del sur) wall on the 7'6" Brian Bulkley tri fin hybrid I have down here at the compound. Truth be told, there are three 7'6"s down here: this Bulkley, a Wooster, and a CSC x Barahona (the old standard). The Wooster is wider than the other two and a bit more user friendly for the person just transitioning down from a longboard for the first time. The Bulkley has a thinner rails and is a great step up for a person who has developed a funky style by going to a shortboard too soon. The CSC is midway between the two, so in a sense the best all around. I prefer it and Bulkley to the Wooster. The Wooster is too wide for my small feet and frame to push around like I want to, whereas the other two have more nuance to their rails and tail shapes so I can more easily get them to go where I want (from the tail of course). I do see, however, that this same responsivity is what can make them a wee bit more difficult for aforementioned person in need of more stability. Now that a new crew is here I'm back to riding the larger of the smaller boards: a 5'10" Joe Falcone fish and a 6'0" Kookbox single fin egg shaped by Hoy Runnels. I do this to give myself a break on board loading and unloading and because Bryan and I can easily switch between riding 7'6"s and these larger shorter boards. It's also counter productive for his surfing to ride my 5'3"s. We're also targeting smaller, mushier breaks most of the time, and while I can surf those on a low volume board, it's not always worth the extra work of putting them up on the roof racks. Plus it gives my hips a break from pumping. And while I love riding my 5'3"s in general, I have been impressed over the past few days with just how well the larger volume shorter boards and 7'6"s do many of the maneuvers one could ever want to do on a surfboard.

Here's an off the lip on the 5'10" fish. Take note of foot placement over the tail, the wider stance more generally, and the arms lined up with the feet. These are always the keys for turning any manner of board, and become even more crucial whenever you size up. In order to push around a relatively large chunk of foam one is forced to find these nuanced techniques and comply to them. This is a bulk of the reason why I recommend most "shortboarders" size way up to smooth out their styles. Prove to me you can do a roundhouse on a 7'6" and then we can talk about your 5'6" (you're probably better off just giving your 5'6" to me lol). I know I've written that before, but I don't think I can write it enough. The added bonus: you get into waves earlier, which gives you more time to set your line and thus the rest of your ride. The earlier you can see the sections you wanna hit or race, the more time you have to apply the correct bits of pressure to the board to do the things you need to do for those maneuvers to happen.

Why do maneuvers at all? Gotta say, they're so much fun! I haven't yet given my hand to a full phenomenology of the distinct sense of well being that comes along with chucking a bunch of spray, linking one move to the next, or finishing a ride with an airdrop floater. We see surfers doing all manner of moves live at local beaches, on surf vids, mags, and on the socials. As a viewer there is an immediate sense of awe when you see someone doing these things. Such moves strike us immediately as memes worth repeating. Perhaps from the viewer side, the awe we feel when we see the moves sets off a chain of thoughts that communicate to us that if seeing such things is feels fantastic, doing them might be exponentially more fantastic: we'd become an idealized version of ourselves. Put differently, we would successfully imitate and embody the meme that so impressed us as worth copying. Our intuition would certainly be correct if that's the case.

How to copy the memes, or embody the knowledge required to imitate them, however, is a whole 'nother can of worms. There's always a space between desire and its object. The size of that space depends greatly on the desire, the object, and the embodied intelligent form of life doing the desiring (every me and every you). As an educator in this realm, it is my job to help people name these desires and objects, and figure out the best ways to make surfing dreams become reality. Or in many cases, how to reconfigure the dream, the fantasy of the desired object, so that it can become more realizable. Want to walk the nose? Well there are a great many things to achieve before you just start running up there. Like first knowing how to take off on the kinds of waves that are best for nose riding. Or knowing how to use the tail of the board to slow down, speed up, and change direction. These are constituent parts of the ride that can go unnoticed if one is completely bowled over by the noseriding meme alone. We can get even more basic here. What about the act of standing on the board itself? Being able to do this is premised on at least ten other key components, none of which comprise the "actual standing." And in some cases, even if you can stand, if you can't go along the green part, why even stand at all? That's definitely not a meme worth repeating. But body boarding or body surfing on the green wall are. Why? Couple of reasons. One, it's is exponentially more fun to ride on the green part of the wave. Waves have green parts to ride, and you'll go faster and ride longer if you figure out how to access that part of the wave. The speed and quasi freedom we feel from that speed is definitely a large part of the phenomenology of "fun" that we experience when we surf. So access to the green part is waaaay more important than standing on a board. Knowing how to access that green part also makes standing on the board easier! Thus we have a double upshot of figuring out that wave knowledge is a more important component to "knowing how to surf" than standing on the board is: 1. it's more fun to go on the green on all manner of craft (even if the "craft" is just our bodies); 2. if your desire is to ride a surfboard in the standing position, learning to access the green wall is a large component of obtaining this objective. How do we learn this? We study waves from a variety of angles.

Last night at dinner we were talking about how on these surf trips students are able to log way more time simply watching waves from a variety of angles. There's no work to go to. No family outing to attend. No dates. No friends. We organize the days around the best tides and winds and spend hours at the beach watching waves. Then we come home and watch more videos of waves. We watch ourselves watching waves. And all of this wave watching adds up to a continued analysis of them as the objects of our desire. Not all waves are equal, nor is everyone's desire and ability to actualize it. So we also pay attention to the kinds of waves and situations that we may want to avoid in this endeavor. Closeouts and collisions are top of the list here. But so are scratching for shoulders we'll never catch, going for the first wave of a set and missing it only to have three perfect waves nail us on the head, turning too soon and losing the section, and looking down at the board rather than up at the lip line. The board has no visual information for you! All the information the board communicates is in the sensation of speed and flow which radiates up through your feet and into your whole body. That info needs to sync with the visual information you're getting from yep, you guessed it, the object of your desire, the wave itself.

Tip Videos: New Go Pro Footy

These are best viewed in your SubKit. No voiceovers, some intro talking and then lots of funny slo mo water sounds. My holiday present to myself and CSC was the new GoPro Hero 11 Black. My prior GoPro (the 5) still kind of works, but the battery and SD card door is almost completely corroded with weather damage, so it was time to invest in a new one. There are a lot of new settings and different components on the 11, so it has taken me a while to figure the thing out. When I first went to film students it kept flipping between modes! Then I watched some YouTubes and learned that I had to lock the screen when surfing. I tried it out with the mouth mount (not pictured) in Dominical and that equated to the same POV I was getting with the 5. I'm not impressed with the mouth mount footage unless the tubes are pretty damn big. These two vids I'm using the handle. I have to paddle with it in my mouth, stand up, then put in one of my two hands to film me surfing. You'll notice a few clips where I toss it from one hand to the other to get the shot. Overall the image quality is insane. These are shot in 4k @ 60 fps, Superview lens (12mm), with 2x slo mo capability, a far cry from what this camera is capable of. I tried some of its even more information heavy settings, but alas the 2015 Macbook I brought with me to CR struggles even with the 4k, so I'll wait until I'm back to my desktop in NY to mess with the larger files. Short review: the thing is insane and I still have a ton more to learn. It is a lot of extra work for me to use when I surf, and whether I'm using the handle or the mouth mount it takes away from my ordered breathing when I'm paddling through the surf. I noticed that I have a (good) habit of breathing out when I duckdive (so that water doesn't enter my face) and having a large object in my mouth definitely fucks with that. Beyond these notes I want to focus more on the surf takeaways for this letter. Beginners need to focus on where my eyes are always at, i.e., way down the line. I never look at my board. Eyes are always averted up at the lip line. Pause the vid a few times and look at the formation of the wave, its curvature, and how the wall builds up. That's what you should be seeing when you surf. Not the shoreline. Not the tip of the board. The wave, the lip, the wave, the lip. Intermediates should notice the crouching techniques for pumping, and how early I prepare for turns. Same idea as for beginners with the eyes up and down the line. To do the most basic moves in surfing you have to prepare ahead of time. In both these vids I'm riding a 5'3" Falcone fish. These were shot the week I had off between retreat cycles. In the first vid, when Sophia says she's "sad about Pipo," that was a chihuahua that went missing at the private beach. We were sad but also the people ditched Pipo at their campsite when they went for a walk down the beach. I'd never expect T. Rock to stay put, so it was sad, but what did you think would happen people?! Hot tip: don't leave your dog on its own without a leash and a collar. I'm sure this is common sense to most of you. Now that I am a bit more confident with this camera and its capabilities, I'll be producing more content with it. One other thing that is really cool is that the app has a still frame feature where you can grab a still from any of the clips and it comes out super duper sharp. The app itself is pretty damn sweet. Forget cloud uploading in Costa Rica though. Overall I'm having trouble with GoPro's new cloud settings. To be continued . . .

Weekly/Monthly Challenge: Journal Your Surfing Desires

Write down your surfing goals. Just do it once this week or month. Can be in an iNote or a physical journal or in an email to me or another of your surfing friends. First take stock of your wave judgment though. If you're not catching the kinds of green waves you want, then you need to put that as goal number one. My goal is to pull at least a few airs in 2023. Now that I'm stronger and lighter and have wrapped my head around how to do them, I think it may be in the cards! Here's a small attempt at the end of 2022:

Book Club + Forecasting: Postponed Until I Can Actually Read Again, i.e., Soonish

Yeah in Costa Rica I can't really read or do Zooms. I was ambitious, but it seems that everyone needed a break over the holidays anyhow. I still want to do a recap of the Politeia, and plan to, but will wait probably until the week I'm back in NY. I want to spend some concerted time looking through my notes, and rewatching the YouTube Zoom calls to pull out the best points or most confusing problems we ran up against. A cool note is that over dinner last night we were discussing the war in Ukraine and men like Putin. Putin and his ilk, men who are obsessed with power, are thoroughly dealt with in Plato's text. They can be seen as those who are most "completely" unjust, and prove that the unjust man is the least happy, even though it "seems" that he has everything a human can desire. He can't trust anyone and thus as Socrates says, becomes a slave even to his own slaves and lackeys (because he holds them against their will he must always fear them banding together and turning on him).

Last Lines

Whether or not you yet desire to get tubed, an image of a tubing wave shoud illicit at least a few feelings of wonder and awe. I shot this a few weeks ago in Dominical. It has that "taper" we should all desire in any wave that we endeavor to surf. It starts off tall, with a clearly defined, steeper peak section, then has a softer shoulder with a less defined lip. That's how we know it's a right and that it's going to stay open. After seeing such a wave on a surf check it would be a goal for me to figure out where it's breaking in the lineup, how often waves like this are coming through, and how far inside or outside I need to be in order to find myself sliding into one.

Just a little over a week left here in CR. We're in the gnarly midday high tide cycle, which means lots of sun exposure for all. Waves have been great. Forecast looks great. And I'm looking forward to returning to the dawn and dusk lower UV surfs! There's still one spot for the March 17-26th trip, and one spot for the April 13-20 trip. You're hearing it first. No other trips planned for 2023 yet, but that should change soon. I have to figure out how much I plan to be in Costa Rica versus other locations. Still a lot to do on the house here, and it needs oversight. Upshot is that there are always plenty of waves around and coaching can be done here while I'm waiting for tree trimmers and gutter cleaners to arrive.

New for 2023 is that I'll require a newsletter subscription for any coaching or retreats. Upgrading and downgrading your plans is easy. You just click on a new plan and it will upgrade or downgrade you. It's not possible to be on two plans at once with SubKit. If you're ever charged incorrectly message me personally and we'll get to sorting it out. Bora and the crew have been tops with this over the past year as they seek to streamline the SubKit platform (video uploads super fast this time peeps)!

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Because it's the new year, this is a monthly post, and I opened it also to the "free" subscribers who clicked a link on my website. All you free people, check out what you're missing:

My goal with these letters is to support multiple kinds of surfing practices, from beginner to experts. The people I am looking to reach are those who feel there is something deeper missing from surfing culture and media. There's a lot of great content out there, but not much that pointedly probes into what goes on when we surf or when we think and speak about surfing, especially when we think about optimizing our surfing practices. I'm currently engaged in a longer term project thinking about what optimization looks like across a variety of cases and scenarios, from the semi-pro athlete type like myself to the overworked parent (or person w/out children) with just a few days a month to devote to their practice. Wherever you are on this spectrum my aim is to offer you stories, tips, and content that support your continued endeavor to surf better!

Here's to a wave-rich 2023!

Xalepa ta kala,


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