Before we got over the Southern California (SoCal) Bill Fitzhugh from BSUPA had put us in contact with some people in California, one person was Ted Rutherford, who, apart from being a full time airline pilot, is also C4 Waterman's US mainland representative.
After a few emails and phone calls we were to meet up early at 6am in the State Beach car park at Cardiff (about 30 minutes drive north from San Diego). Little did I know what a great session this was going to turn into.
Ted is one of the "gang of four" original SoCal stand up paddle surfers, the others are Rick Thomas, Scott Bass and Tom English. As Ted came into the car park it was clear that he knew everyone, and everyone knew him. The word "gentleman" gets thrown around from time to time, but it really does apply to Ted. He is a erudite and witty man, with a huge quantity of stories from his time as a US Navy fighter pilot, mostly unrepeatable in polite company !
Ted came with a selection of C4 boards, and he had sorted out the new 10ft board for me. Cardiff Reef is a really nice left and right hand break, and the waves this morning, like so many in SoCal, were clean and glassy. The swell was small, but it looked so much fun as we paddled out. After a couple of cautious waves I started to get into the rhythm of the session. The Pacific Ocean is very different to the North Atlantic in the way that it serves up waves. Often there are large gaps of time between the bigger sets, so surfing and stand up paddle surfing is a very social sport, with people having plenty of time to talk between set waves.
As the sets came rolling in I started to get to like the C4 10ft more and more. It was a little narrower than I am used to but once you get over that the board is loose and responsive, and not at all adverse to nose riding, having previously owned a C4 10ft 6" I was finding myself at home on the 10ft.
When we first got into the water the weather was cloudy with the coastal haze yet to burn off, but about 1 hour into the session the clouds had gone and the sun came out, at this point Ted scared the life out of me by saying "once the sun comes out you can see all the sharks beneath you on the reef". Given that only weeks ago at the next beach along (Solana) a swimmer was killed by a Great White Shark this sent my imagination into overload. Ted must have seen the expression on my face as he followed it up with "these are leopard sharks and the are harmless". I felt a little better until I saw the classic fin slicing through the water towards me, once again my Pacific Ocean ignorance and my imagination had got the better of me as a pod of dolphins cruised through the line up. This was to become a regular sight for me during my stay in SoCal, but I never really got used to it, like the local guys were. I was acting like a complete tourist, snapping photos and just being amazed by these fantastic creatures. Later at Tourmaline Surf Park (another surf break) someone told me that they liked having dolphins around as they scared the sharks away. I have no idea if this is true or not but it did make me feel better.
Back to the session, the swell had picked up slightly and nice waves were rolling in. I paddled back in and Ted let me take out a C4 Waterman 9' 6" bat wing. This proved to be an interesting experience as I had not paddled anything so narrow before, just as I am doing the indo board wobble at sea impression, Scott Bass paddle past and I was introduced, I suspect that I looked a complete kook ! Scott's first wave that I saw was a fantastic right hander that he immediately pulled a slick 360 helicopter in the critical session. Jeff Warner from Legends Surf Shop, Carlsbad, also paddled out to join in the fun. Jeff is another interesting guy, a free diver, who got a job as a dolphin trainer at San Diego Sea World, he now is a web designer and runs his own surf shop. He is equally at home on a Stand Up Paddle board as he carved his way through the waves.
I had to take afew moments just to sit on my board and watch the guys SUPing, Scott Bass, fluid and aggressive, Rick Thomas, super smooth and on the nose, Phil Rainer, late drops and big turns, Ted with his relaxed soul style, Andre Niemeyer throwing a C4 9ft Poly board around like a 6ft short board, bouncing off the white water sections, the list goes on. It was a feast for the eyes to have so much stand up paddle surfing talent out at one session and it certainly helped me up my game. Back to the 9ft 6" bat wing. I was struggling with the balance on this board, but as soon as I caught a wave I could see why this board is so sought after. It turns fast and really responded when I dropped the paddle into a big turn, it definitely felt like short board surfing, give a a couple of weeks on the paddling front and I am sure that I would have the balance issues sorted out !
After a couple of hours Ted took myself, Jeff, Matt McFarland and Andre to Pipes Cafe, just above the beach in Cardiff. Its a great place to eat after a surf session, its run by surfers and the food certainly hits the spot. After breakfast we went over to Carlsbad to look at Jeff's shop, Legend Surf. Its a great place and it is the centre for Stand Up Paddle Surfing in the Oceanside/Carlsbad/Cardiff area.
After that Ted took me up to the C4/Boardworks warehouse in Oceanside to have a look round, Boardworks CEO Bob Rief and General Manager Phillip Rainey had made it back before us (they were both surfing at Cardiff) and had started work. Its really common in SoCal for people to do a dawn patrol before work as there is usually no wind first thing in the morning and the surf is super glassy. By mid morning the sun has heated up the land and you get the thermal sea breeze coming in, so a dawn patrol is a really good option.
It was a great day and I felt like I had been given a good glimse of the SoCal stand up paddle surfing scene, which is friendly, laidback and has some really talented riders. It was the first of many great SoCal SUP sessions.
Massive thanks to C4 Waterman, Ted Rutherford, Jeff Warner, Andre Niemeyer, Bob Rief and Phillip Rainey.