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The Trick to Popping Up on a Surfboard

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment
Popping up on a surfboard

Put your best foot forward when you try to pop up on a surfboard.

The soft, spilling waves of southwest Costa Rica are perfect for learning to surf.  Even so, many beginners struggle  before mastering the art of standing up on the board.  Whether you are surfing in Costa Rica or anywhere else, learning to “pop up”, is the first challenge in surfing.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

To pop up successfully, you will need to put your best foot forward.  The question is: Which is your best foot?  You will need to determine if you are going to be riding “natural”, meaning you balance better with your left foot forward, or “goofy”, with your right foot forward.  It’s not a simple matter of being right-handed or left-handed.  Many right-handers, for example, are more comfortable balancing with their left foot forward.

To figure this out, imagine what you would do if you were walking on ice.  Most people will slide one foot forward in order to maintain balance.  Which foot is that?  That’s the foot you will put forward when surfing.

Popping up on a Surfboard – the Skinny

“Popping up” is getting to a standing position on your surfboard with the correct foot forward as quickly as possible.  It is the key to successful surfing.  To pop up successfully, grab the edges of the board just above your rib cage.  Arch your back and lift your shoulders and chest.  If you are a practitioner of yoga, the position you are in before popping up is similar to the cobra pose.

Keep looking forward.  Then in one fluid motion, bring your correct foot forward placing it on the board where your belly button was.  Turn your back foot down to your instep.  When you stand, you will be facing out to one side.  Remain in a low crouching position and ride.

Keep in mind that the correct motion consists of bringing your foot forward to be under your body.  If you find yourself kneeling on the board you are probably shifting your weight back over your feet.  To avoid this, try to keep your butt down and your head high.

Practice Makes Perfect

Before heading out to the waves, practice popping up on the beach.  Use a stick to draw the shape of the surfboard in the sand.  Lie down and try it a few times.

Once you head out to the waves don’t get too discouraged if you don’t master it right away.  Most beginning surfers experience a rite of passage when it comes to popping up.  Keep at it until you master it.

Few beaches are as forgiving to beginners as the beaches of southwest Costa Rica, but even surfing in Costa Rica will be a challenge until you master the art of popping up.

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Surfing in Costa Rica: The Truth About Stingrays and Jellyfish

August 6, 2011 2 comments
Cautious about stingrays

While incidents are rare, it’s best to be cautious about stingrays.

A common question among surfers new to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is whether there are any dangerous marine animals to be aware of.  In a word, yes.

The coast from Dominical down to Bahia Ballena is part of the eastern Pacific tropics, a lush region that is home to many exotic species of animal life, some of which can cause you pain if you’re not careful.  The two to be most wary of when surfing are stringrays and jellyfish.

Stingrays are found lying in the sand of costal waters.  If you step on one, it will whip around and sting you with its muscular tail, driving as many as 4 sharp, barbed stingers into your sorry self.

The resulting pain will intensify over 2 hours before beginning to subside.  You may also become nauseous and experience muscle cramping.  It is unlikely that the sting will kill you unless it strikes you directly in the heart or severs an artery.  The vast majority of stingray stings occur on the lower leg or foot.

Stingrays are not aggressive.  They will not seek you out to sting you.  But if you step on one it will act defensively and give you something to remember it by.

Stingray

The trick to avoiding stringrays while surfing is to let them find you.

The trick to avoiding stingrays is to let them find you before you find them.  You are advised to shuffle your feet in the sand as you wade out to surf.  The stingray will detect the agitation and take off.

At the Uvita Surf School in Playa Uvita there has not been a stingray incident in several years.  Nevertheless, Tito, the lead surf instructor, always advises his students to practice caution by using the foot shuffling method when heading out into the waves.

If stingray stings are rare, it is even less likely that you will encounter a jellyfish, but it is possible.  Jellyfish are a potential hazard on beaches throughout the world and jellyfish stings are the most common marine injury on the planet.

If you brush up against a jellyfish, you will be pierced with a cluster of needlelike filaments that discharges a nasty venom.  The stinging sensation will be immediate and the pain will increase over 10 minutes before leveling off.  You will experience a redness of the skin, itchiness and minor swelling.  You may become nauseous or experience muscle spasms.

You can lessen the trauma by treating the sting properly.  Don’t wash it in fresh water.  That will only stimulate the imbedded needles to secrete more venom.  Instead, apply vinegar to the wound.  Don’t brush at the wound.  Instead try to lift the needles away or shave them away with shaving cream and a razor.  Take an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to lessen your body’s allergic reaction to the venom.  The effects of the sting may last from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the toxicity of the venom.

The good news for Costa Rican surfers is that jellyfish tend to proliferate in areas of over-fishing and marine contamination, neither of which are a problem in the clean, fish-friendly waters of southwest Costa Rica.  Jellyfish sightings along the beaches of southwest Costa Rica are quite infrequent.

So the likelihood that you will be stung by a stingray or a jellyfish while surfing in Costa Rica is rare, but not unheard of, so it’s best to be prepared with proper knowledge of how to avoid them and what to do if a sting occurs.  ♦

Author and Client:  This post was written by Malcolm Logan for Uvita Surf School at Uvitasurfcamp.com

Image Credits:

Looking out while surfing, Ceiling; Stingray, Gary Rinaldi

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The Best Waves for Beginning Surfers to Learn On

March 23, 2011 1 comment
Beach Break

A spilling wave breaks for a longer period of time than a plunging wave.

When it comes to learning how to surf, some waves are better than others.  For the beginning surfer, spilling waves are the best.

A spilling wave occurs when a gradually sloping ocean floor causes the wave to become steeper and steeper until the crest spills down the face of the wave in a rush of foaming whitewater.  The wave continues in this manner until its energy is dissipated in a froth near the shore.

Spilling waves break for a longer time than other waves, providing ample energy at the start of the ride and a gentle decrease in power as the wave nears the shore.  For beginners who are just learning to stand and balance on the board this is ideal.

When a wave breaks over a sandy bottom, it’s called a beach break.  When a wave breaks over an obstruction, like a rocky bottom or a reef, it’s called a reef break.  Reef breaks produce plunging waves which, while they are highly favored by experienced surfers, are difficult for beginners.

Plunging waves rise quickly and become steeper, almost vertical at the crest, before plunging suddenly into the trough, creating a barrel or tube as they break along their line.  To catch a ride inside that tube is the ultimate surfing experience.

However, the suddenness and force of a reef break can be too much for a beginner.  What’s more, the rocky bottom can result in a painful battering if the wave crashes down full force on a fallen surfer.

Finding the right beach to learn on should be one of the chief concerns for aspiring surfers. Yet many surf schools make no mention of the importance of learning on the right waves, taking all levels of surfers to the same beach.

At the Uvita Surf School, in Bahia Uvita, Costa Rica, beginners are taught at Colonia Beach in Ballena National Marine Park. Colonia has a beach break and produces plenty of vigorous spilling waves to learn on. The gradually sloping sandy bottom at Colonia is most forgiving to surfers who fall in the course of their lessons, dramatically reducing the chance of cuts and abrasions, and Colonia is not frequented by experienced surfers, who prefer the plunging waves further up the coast at Dominical.

Waves are not all the same. Some are better than others. For beginners, a spilling wave that results from a beach break is the best kind of wave to learn on.  ♦

Author and Client:  This post was written by Malcolm Logan for Uvita Surf School at Uvitasurfcamp.com

A Truly Super Super Bowl

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment
A Super Super Bowl

The potential lethality of The Blue Angels could be constructively employed

Check this out.  This is amazing.  Out of the blue the NFL sent me a letter asking me to take over the running of the league.  At first I was reluctant (it seemed like such a big responsibility) but then when I considered the screwy way the playoffs are run and the tiresome bombast that has become the Super Bowl, I decided to step up and make some changes.  I fired off this letter to the league, and here is what it said:

Dear League:

Starting next year we’re going to do things a little differently.  Although I am respectful of the League and it’s storied past I look at the League as essentially innovative and therefore trust that these changes will be embraced in the right spirit.

First, we’re going to do away with the AFC/NFC divisions.  All the teams will be playing in a single conference and playoff seeding will be based solely on win-loss records.  In round one, the first seed will play the tenth seed, the second seed will play the ninth seed, and so on.  There will be no wild card teams.  There will be no playoff byes.  And there will be no teams with losing records getting into the playoffs while other teams with better records are denied.

While it may come as a shock and a disappointment to advertisers, there will no longer be a week off before the Super Bowl.  This will reduce the ridiculous media circus surrounding the event and cut down on the tedious media exercise of trying to say the same thing over and over again in different ways.  More than that, it will relieve the athletes of having to trot out the same weary, clichéd responses to the same vapid questions.

We are going to do away with the unfair and inauthentic system of holding the Super Bowl exclusively in domed stadiums in warm climates.  From coast to coast, at every level, all season long, football it is played outdoors in every kind of weather condition.  This adds a dimension of excitement to the game that should not be brushed aside just because a bunch of wealthy executives don’t want to get their tootsies frozen.  If they can’t take it, they might want to think about giving up their tickets to real fans who regularly brave adverse weather conditions all season long to root for their heroes.

A round robin system that allows every NFL city to host the Super Bowl is fairer to the fans and the team owners and insures an economic windfall to each city that supports a team.  If it so happens that a Buffalo or St. Louis seem a little too dull to be worthy of a big party like the Super Bowl, than maybe the league ought to consider moving teams to more exciting places currently without teams, like Los Angeles or San Antonio.

To some extent the League has lived in a vacuum.  Except for a keen understanding of the value to itself of advertising dollars, the League has failed to recognize that the Super Bowl is no longer a mere sporting event.  It has become a national holiday.  More American productivity is lost on the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year (with the exception of the day after Thanksgiving).

This would seem to cry out for rescheduling the event to Saturday.  But a better solution would be to simply move the Super Bowl up two weeks so that it coincides with the Martin Luther King holiday.  Yes, this means that the season will have to start a week earlier but think of the benefits.  Opening weekend will then fall on Labor Day weekend and the first round of the playoffs will occur during the Christmas weekend when, at present, crappy second-rate college bowl games are the only offerings.

I feel confident these changes will make for a more competitive game and a more enjoyable Super Bowl experience for all concerned.  Any loss of revenue that may briefly occur due to the shock of breaking with past traditions will soon be made up by having a more engaged and enthusiastic audience.

Oh, and by the way, if you could arrange to have the Blue Angels fly low enough to kill whoever is performing the overblown, lip-synched halftime show, I think a lot of fans would appreciate that.

Sincerely,

Your New Commissioner,

Malcolm

Categories: Sports Tags: ,

Roller Derby is for Real – and it Rocks!

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment
Roller Derby

Roller derby requires athleticism and grace - as well as a willingness to take a beating.

The clock was running out.  The crowd was on its feet.  A pixieish, saucer-eyed girl in a tattered black skirt and purple tights rubbed her hands together and crouched low.  Elbows thrust back, poised on the nose of one skate, she waited.  Listening intently for the screech of the whistle, intensity written on her face.  Her name was Peg Legs.

It would be her task to skate up to the pack and maneuver through, jostling and feinting, while her teammates bumped and checked, trying to open a path for her.  Once she cleared them, she would have to skate her heart out to make it around the track once more, lapping the pack and starting the process again.  Only when she passed her opponents the second time would she score points, one for each opponent she passed.

The bout was nearly over.  After having trailed all night – once by as much as 23 points – her team, The Double-Crossers, had managed to scratch and claw their way back and now, with less than a minute left, the bout was tied.  All they needed was a single point to claim a miraculous come-from-behind victory.  Could Peg Legs do it?

The whistle blew, a single sustained screech, the signal for the pack to begin moving, a clutch of eight girls, four from each team, jostling and maneuvering, casting furtive glances over their shoulders.  And then a double screech, the signal for the “jammer” to come up.

In roller derby only the “jammer” is allowed to score.  Normally there are two jammers, one from each team, and the initial competition is between the two jammers to see which one of them can clear the pack first.  It’s an important determination because the first to clear is allowed to lead the race around the track to lap the pack and begin the scoring.  But in this case the jammer for the other team, The Fury, had been sent to the penalty box for elbowing and Peg Legs was on her own.  Her enemy was no longer the opposing jammer.  It was the clock.

With the seconds ticking off, she raced up to the pack and awaited the good offices of her teammate Blossom Bruiso in delivering a hip check that sent Carnage Wilson of the Fury, slamming into the wall.  Then she slipped past Ivana Riot on the inside of the curve and did a mincing double-step to dash between Pyscho Sis and Juanna Rumbel (who had won the honor of Dirtiest Player of the Year) Peg Legs had broken free and cleared the pack.  The crowd went wild.  There were 30 seconds left.  And now she had to pour it on.

I was surprised by several things during my first experience with roller derby.  The first was that in spite of the generous helping of hokum attending the event there was a genuine competition going on.  These girls were real athletes and the competition they were engaged in called for strength, agility and stamina.

Weaned as I had been on the farcical roller derby of the 60’s, which had featured the kind of blood spurting mayhem associated with All Star Wrestling, I’d expected something a little more clownish.  I would not have been disappointed if the outcome had been fixed.  But that was not what was going on here.  These girls were actually competing.

Another surprise was the appearance of the girls.  I had been anticipating primarily mannish-types with perhaps here and there a stunner thrown in as a sop to the male fans.  But in actuality the majority of the girls were moderately attractive twenty-somethings, not unlike the young women you might find shopping at an organic grocery store in a university town.

How they had gotten swept up in roller derby was a mystery but one thing was clear, they were having an awfully good time.  I have rarely seen such easy, smiling camaraderie among teammates on a sports bench.  And since many of the five hundred or so fans in attendance were friends or relatives of the girls, there was lots of waving and smiling and winking at the stands.  Taken altogether, I had never seen such charming women who, in the next moment, would be slamming into each other, knocking each other down, falling over each other and sprawling face first into a row of folding chairs.

Make no mistake, roller derby is violent.  There were no less than three injuries that required stoppage of play during the event, accompanied by at least one slap to the mouth, a hard fall on a tail bone and a near donnybrook that the refs broke up in the nick of time.  None of this was faked.  These girls were intensely competitive and in a sport where blocking, checking and otherwise thwarting your opponents is the main defense, tempers are bound to flare.

But roller derby also requires a certain athletic finesse and Peg Legs was demonstrating it now, holding hard down on her outside skate as she swung around the turn, fighting the centrifugal force, reverting quickly to cross-overs as soon as the laws of physics would allow, hustling through the straights.  The clock was winding down.  She was gaining… gaining.  The PA announcer began to count down the final seconds.  Peg Legs was closing in.  The crowd was going out of its mind.   She only needed to pass one last opponent to score the winning point and secure the victory.  Naturally, that opponent would try to block her.  The Fury would not surrender so easily to this humiliation.

Five… Peg Legs came up on the pack.  The last girl in the pack slid over to block her.  Four… One of Peg Leg’s teammates (I think it was Hoosier Mama) dropped back to interfere.  Three… The curve of the turn caused the whole pack to swing wide.  Two girls toppled over and went crashing into the corner.  The main blocker slipped slightly out of position.  Hoosier Mama lowered her shoulder and opened a gap.  Peg Leg’s saw her chance.  Two… She dashed up on the inside.  One… She wedged past.  And then the drone of the buzzer!

The verdict?

Peg Legs and The Double-Crossers had won!  By one stinking point!  After fighting back from a 23 point deficit!

Wild jubilation!  The whole team in a delirious cluster in the middle of the floor, hugging and shouting and jumping on top of one another!

What fun!

I am told this doesn’t always happen at the roller derby.  As with any sporting event you always have the potential for a yawner.  So I feel lucky to have witnessed such a great bout.  But I know one thing for sure.

Roller derby is for real.

And it rocks!