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Conatus Surfing Services

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Dion Mattison
Dion MattisonPublished on June 21, 2021

Updates 6.21.21

Yello! First of all, thank you for following my newsletters throughout this crazy pandemic. It's insane that we're finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking of light at the end of tunnels, how about that tube shot from NJ in 2018 above? Getting into and out of tubes is an elusive grail quest for many surfers, but I'm starting to see a few of my more dedicated students get down the form and the vision required to make it happen.

The wave I grew up at in CA tubes pretty heavily, and from a very young age it was a physical and social necessity to learn how to get myself underneath that lip. Turns out the safest place to be is inside the tube. On the physical level, it is actually where the crazy energy of the wave is all around you and should you fall you go into the circular vortex and in most cases get pushed out the back of the wave to safety. This is far better than having the lip come down on your head, rail, or back, which can break a lot of things. On the social level, every dedicated surfer wants to get the tubing waves so we get bummed when we see someone catch a tubing wave and not "pull in." This is the arch foul we call "barrel dodging." There's even an instagram account dedicated to it. Then there's the claim that one "got barreled" when one only saw the lip. Getting barreled is a delicate and crucial matter in surfing. Does it matter whether one was really barreled or not? I think it does. This simply has to do with the truth that surfing has standards and norms that transcend any individual surfer. Surfing, like all human activity, is a primarily social endeavor, so when you do get really tubed and make it out the rest of us are not only stoked for you, but we're stoked for ourselves at getting to see such a sight! And I gotta tell you from experience, getting really tubed is far more fun than just seeing the lip, although that is still a nice thing. The joy of this experience is exponentially magnified when someone paddles up to you and gives you a compliment. Getting in there is easier said than done. There are myriads of little techniques from knowing that the wave will tube before you even take off, to pulling up the butt, to pumping inside the tube. All of these (and many more techniques) aid one's potential success in this endeavor. Add to this the fact that since waves go both left and right, we're all potentially capable of getting tubed backside and frontside, and there are different techniques for both!

The greatest thing about surfing, like all hard things, is that the learning process is never over. As Spinoza writes at the end of the Ethics, "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." I founded Conatus to help people in their striving to become better surfers, whatever that might look like for wherever they are in life and in their surfing practice. And I have been using this newsletter form to give you all tips and insights on how to make this happen, whether or not you actually physically do coaching with me. I have mentioned in some of the recent newsletters that I would be moving them over here to Subkit, which is a platform aimed to help solo entrepreneurs like me streamline and scale our intellectual content. And so here is the first one.

This newsletter is free, and there will be a few more free, but infrequent, newsletters throughout the year. But if you really want to stay up to date and dialed in check out the surfing support plans I have worked up here on Subkit! There are 4 main plans:

1. A monthly newsletter @ $3 a month. This is everything you got from the old newsletter: updates on swells, water temps, and retreats, high quality pics, highlights of Conatus students' successes, gear reviews, links to interesting vids and podcasts that I come across in my research . . . you know, basically the newsletter you're reading right now.

2. A weekly newsletter plus virtual surfing support @ $25 a month. This takes the place of the "Active Client Email List". With this plan you'll get weekly insights from me on local and global surf forecasts, surfing advice, insights on board design, private tip videos, weekly "challenges" to add into your practice, super advanced notice of my thoughts on swells in NY and abroad, and a 1x monthly community Q & A Zoom.

3. Book Club subscription @ $10 a month. We have read some awesome stuff so far: Tides by Jonathan White, The Critical Surf Studies Reader edited by Alexander Sotelo Eastman and Dexter Zavalza Hough-Snee, Waves of Resistance by Isaiah Helekunihi Walker, Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli, and the Ethics by Benedict Spinoza. You wanna get really critical with your surfing and your knowledge of philosophy, science, and surf culture? Then you need to be in book club. We are currently reading World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing by Peter Neushul and Peter Westwick, and our first meeting is tonight at 730p. Current book clubbers don't worry about not having subscribed here yet. I'll talk you through getting off of Patreon and onto SubKit.

4. Everything Conatus Digital Plan @ $35 a month. If you want all of the above, this is the plan for you.

Think about what makes the most sense for you. You can always cancel or add a different plan.

More Updates

I began this letter on the theme of darkness, light, and tunnels, but did not mention that I am seeing the light at one of the longest, darkest tunnels that I have ever gotten myself into (and now out of)! My dissertation has been accepted by my committee and I am scheduled to defend it on August 25th, which happens to be two days after my birthday. It has taken me 11 years to get my PhD in philosophy. That's a really long time, but it's how it shook out. I'm just stoked that the New School for Social Research was flexible enough to let me stay so long and that they're still willing to award me my degree. I am also really stoked on the work of philo-surfing that I have created. I decided to name it Philosophy of Surfing instead of a 'phenomenology' because it gives me a wider methodological scope. I do invoke the phenomenological method, especially in the fourth and fifth chapters, but it is not accurate to say that I use the method throughout the work. My advisor believes that it is publishable, so we'll be shopping it out to publishers after the defense. I will of course keep you all updated with the progress on that front. Perhaps I will be able to get discount codes for my subscribers when the book finally does come out! One thing is for sure, it will become required reading for all new CSC students and hopefully will become a handbook for those that I hope to train to coach in this style.

I know there are many who believe that philosophy is no longer relevant in our modern world, but I disagree with them. In our age of technological saturation and instant gratification, we need it more than ever. If you're here reading this then you're already one of those special souls who value deep thinking and education. This forms the kernel of the Conatus surfing community. Some may notice that I endeavor not to "tokenize" my diverse client base. As much as I understand structural issues of inequality I firmly believe that in order to achieve a better future we do have to practice a certain kind of "blindness" to superficial differences if we are going to get there. For me a large part of this practice is finding those things we have in common. In terms of the CSC community, that's the desire to unlock more of our human potential both in regards to surfing and to being human more generally. They're intertwined of course and in a very interesting ways. Being good at surfing doesn't mean you're good at being human if by being good at surfing we mean being able to perform x, y, z maneuvers. That certainly speaks to a certain amount of surfing skill, but if we're speaking overall surfing virtue we need a higher standard. I suggest in my dissertation a standard of "reasonableness" when it comes both to achieving one's fullest athletic potential and becoming a conscientious lineup citizen. And of course reasonableness is something we have to work at too! We are after all beings predominantly governed by our emotions.

Ok, that thought isn't technically an "update", but you know how these things work for me. I get going on some philosophical point . . .

Summer is here! Lifeguards are hitting the towers at 10a and blowing surfers out of the water so that two bathers can stand in knee deep water outside of the surf zone. I just tell myself, "It's only two and a half months." Seems to do the trick. I also target 430-10a and 6-9p, but will surf midday in the crowds if it's called for. There's a way to deal with most situations.

Yesterday was International Surfing Day. Not a fan of "_________ Days" and never cave to social media posting about them. Most of the commemorative themes are usually just stuff we should honor more or less generally. And like most philosophers I tend to be a bit of a contrarian, or just a pragmatist, depending on the view you take. There aren't always waves on ISD, and I'm going to read, write, do chores, or play tennis if it's flat. This year, however, there was a little wave, and I had a fun and productive session with book clubber Fialka Semeniuk.

Looks like we will continue to have a little surfable bump here in NY from all this near shore storm activity, including tropical storm Claudette, which after hitting landfall in the gulf, looks to head over the southern states then track off the Carolinas and up into our zone. Could be pretty fun sized for advanced intermediates and experts come Tuesday or Wednesday. In my recent oceanography intakes I have seen lots of storm activity around the globe. Storms in the North Atlantic, South Pacific, and it seems Australia is getting its winter run. Water is in the upper 60s here in NY. True to my last newsletter, I've been toggling between my 2mm long sleeve spring suit and my 3/2 full suits.

This suit exchange is clear in the recent content I've been putting out on Instagram, shot with my new Solo Shot 3. Holy smackerels is this thing a game changer. I don't have to arrange for a photographer for any session. I've figured out how to calibrate it so that it tracks me perfectly, barring issues with SD cards and batteries, which do happen. When you're surfing with me in a session, it captures most of your rides when you're not wearing a tag because you're surfing next to me and it's just filming the whole time. It will zoom in when I'm up and riding but when I'm not it's filming a panned out view. In other cases, I can put the tag on you, and be in the water with you helping with tips and wave judgment while the super robot captures your rides. Editing is a breeze. Not as easy as when I'm beach coaching with the Sony, which I still do and enjoy, especially because it allows me to compile files of your individual clips over time, and it's good for you to be in the water doing wave judgment on your own in some coaching sessions. I highly recommend the Solo Shot 3 for people who don't live in NY and want my insight into their surfing. I will be making posts about how to use it and edit the footage in a fast and streamlined manner. It only takes me about 30 minutes to log and find the best clips in a session.

To give you a strong sense of what this bad boy can do, check out this video I put together from a recent session (and for those that subscribe to the weekly newsletter you can expect a lot of vids like this one):

I still love working with all manner of photographers and videographers when the surf is bigger and more dynamic. I've put a call out for collaborators in this regard, and people have been in touch. We'll just stay in touch via text and email for swell events. I'm only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of my video production and content creation. If you want to be involved in any way, shape, or form -- beach or water photography and videography, editing, brainstorming, production -- do get in touch.

Last Lines

People have started booking nights at the clubhouse! I'm so stoked about that, and hope it continues through the summer. The garage is almost done and that will free up more space for board storage and will create an additional room to crash in. Please note that booking and paying for stays through the website is currently not working. I'm working on it. Right now text and email to request nights and Venmo @conatussurfclub is the best way to make it happen. I'm thinking up clubhouse memberships that will have various privileges like co-work, board and bike rentals, storage, and overnight stays. They will be limited, so I have to find the right way to configure and manage them. Everything I do is centered around when the waves line up, so I try to build flexibility and communication into all of my "products".

I'm excited to start looking at travel opportunities for the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. Of course we need to go back to Costa Rica and do a retreat with Andrew. I'm also itching for a trip back to CA and Portugal. New destinations like Iceland, Alaska, Chile, Peru, Spain/France and Indonesia are all swirling around in my imagination as well. And we definitely need to (re)visit the surfing meccas of Hawaii, Australia, and South Africa sometime sooner than later. I'd love to organize a "surfing history" trip to Hawaii where we speak to surfing historians, visit the Bishop Museum, and watch the Hawaiians dominate their own surf on the North Shore.

In closing I'll leave with you a few images from the past month in NY. You'll see one with the local grommets from the Laru Beya Club. Juan Jose Heredia and I are coaching them this summer and fall (I put expired sessions towards their scholarship). It's exciting helping all the new stewards of the surf environment take their surfing to the next level (that includes you)!

Thanks again for your continued belief in CSC! I'm stoked to be able to use this platform to support more and more flourishing surf practices at home and abroad.

More Waves More Joy,


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