Dawn Patrol:

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about all the different ways people are riding waves, from body surfing to tow-in boards, and I misspoke when I said that kneeboarding had disappeared long ago.

I was thinking of the George-Greenough-era-type boards with foam rails and all glass bottom that The Greek and some others made as well during the early 70s. Local kneeboarder and inventor Randall Stockstill put me in the picture. I learned there is a group of avid kneeboarders that is very much alive and well. When I looked at the pictures he sent me I realized I’d seen the modern kneeboards before but mistook them for really short surfboards.

They’re rocket shaped with a wider than normal tail. Randy told me the KUSA recently held a major contest in Huntington Beach. His company, Stonefish Skegs offers specialized, uniquely shaped fins for high-performance tube riding along with others products.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn about state-of-the-art kneeboarding and Randy’s fins.

I got onto this topic of alternative wave riding when I stumbled upon some world-class skimboarders in South Laguna doing amazing things I’d never seen before. That epic session, spring and the south swells ramping up remind me of some of the great sessions I’ve had body surfing and body boarding, and a conversation I had this winter with my friend John Wilson, a Corona del Mar native who’s still an avid body surfer.

Many of us first learned to ride waves body surfing and we talked about what a cool thing it is. We traded stories and he had some of insightful reflections which he later put in writing for me. As John describes, “Sliding along on your shoulder and back and being pushed by a large wall of surging water is still one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve ever come across and is one of the things that continues to make my life worth living. I’ve never gotten over that feeling. Partly, it’s the sense of some kind of union with a wild aspect of nature, that, if not taken seriously, and if not handled with skill, well, it could hurt you. Especially when several large waves are breaking, one after the other, and all you can do is dive under them, grab some sand and not come up until the washing machine like white water, has rushed over you … I find myself again, suspended for that eternal moment in perfect balance immersed in the powerful surge, the sound of the white water pounding behind me and the shoulder of the wave lifting up before me. It’s astounding!”

I haven’t been bodysurfing for quite a while and this year. I’m going to make a point of getting reacquainted.


JOHN BURTON’S surf column appears Fridays. He may be reached by e-mail at hot_dogger@mac.com.

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