Fernandina Beach Surf League – Fall 2015

Fernandina Beach Surf League

Surf Asylum is having a great time this summer with our surf camps, private lessons and events. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response from the community. Thank you! The main questions we field at the end of a lesson or a week of camp are, “What now?” “How do I keep surfing?” “How do I build on what I learned at camp?”

The easy answer is, spend as much time in the water as possible. However, we appreciate and respect that for families new to surfing or working parents, more water time isn’t always easy to come by. Following through with our commitment to taking surfing as seriously as more mainstream sports, Surf Asylum is excited to introduce the Fernandina Beach Surf League. FBSL gives young surfers the opportunity for weekly, focused practice. Surfers continue getting time in the ocean through the fall, building on what they learned over the summer and receive coaching to help them achieve personal surf goals.

While the FBSL initially came to fruition as a place for beginners to continue surfing, it is also a place for kids who already have experience and want to improve on things like cutbacks, snaps and executing a proper bottom turn. Advanced coaching tools like personal video review and studying top athletes are regularly employed by professional surfers. One of the goals of FBSL is to make these tools available locally to those who want to take their surfing further. The league is multidisciplinary and encourages shortboarders, longboarders and cross over athletes to participate.

For more details click here: Fernandina Beach Surf League

No Shortage of Female Surfing Role Models

Surf Asylum All Girls Surf Camp, Photo: Stephanie Nichols

While 6 young girls were refining their surfing at the 2015 Surf Asylum “Girls Week” here in Fernandina Beach the World Surf League’s top 17 women were pushing the limits of surfing at the Fiji Pro on the island of Namotu. Our girls showed up on day 1 to a swell that made the front page of surfline, learned to handle 9 – 10 foot surfboards, and contended with jellyfish stings. On the other side of the world Sally Fitzgibbons perforated her ear drum during a wipeout and continued on through three more rounds of the Women’s Fiji Pro to eventually be crowned champion. Watch the final day highlights here. (We borrowed the lunges and sumo squats for our camp’s morning stretch from a video of Sally’s pre-surf routine.)

There’s far too many to name or recognize in one blog post, but we compiled a shortlist of women surfers that we look up to both as incredible surfers and positive role models for young girls. These women represent the many ways in which any girl with enough determination can progress in the sport of surfing.


Rell Sunn – You can’t compile a list of surfing role models without mentioning Rell because women’s surfing wouldn’t be where it is without her influence. Her surfing was the epitome of grace and style, but she was also co-founder of the current women’s pro tour and spread the spirit of aloha everywhere she went.


Leah Dawson – The epitome of “girls just wanna have fun” amongst surf personalities. This video is from the perspective of her surfboard. If we’re not mistaken she’s going on her second summer (southern-hemisphere winter) in Indonesia this year. You can get a better idea of her approach to waves from this video (incredible old school bottom turn at :22)


Courtney Conlogue – Courtney is one of the hardest working, most committed competitive surfers of our time. The surfing above is some of the most playful we’ve seen from her as she’s usually the definition of power. Check out her ‘day in the life’ surfline feature here if you want to know more about her routine.


Paige Alms – You have to LOVE surfing to persevere to the point where you’re ready to attempt the recently pioneered, paddle-in tube rides at Maui’s infamous big wave surf break Jaws. The video above shows Paige’s genuine sense of accomplishment and pure joy.


Sophie Falzone – Sophie is a young, dedicated, competitive surfer from just down the road in Jacksonville. We wanted to share this fun video of one of her trips to Costa Rica so young girls learning to surf in Florida know what they can achieve in a few years if they put their minds to it. Follow along with her at sophiefalzone.com

Let’s Go Surfing!

 

Betsy at the Coastal Crusaders Beach Clean Up, Main Beach, Fernandina Beach, FL. Photo: Sarah Ashley

One of the moments that David and I have put a lot of energy into the last six months is here. Tomorrow is our first day of summer surf camp and I could not be more excited (with just a touch of nervousness)! Not only is it our first day of camp, but it is also one of two ALL GIRLS weeks of camp. I could not be happier or more proud that David and I have brought this to fruition. The response we have received over these two designated weeks has been overwhelming. I see all of our students as an honor and a privilege, but the opportunity to share surfing, something I credit as both being one of the best things that ever happened to me and a life changer, with young girls is something I will cherish forever. I haven’t even met them and I love them all.

Special Olympics Surf Camp, 2011, Photo Amanda Tapley

In a short essay for Women of Waves 2014, I wrote, “Surfing at once gives me a self confidence I’d always denied, a humbleness as vast as the ocean herself, joy that knows no boundaries and a gratitude for which there are not words.” Confidence, joy and gratitude. If I have one student leave camp at the end of the summer with these feelings, I will consider us a success.

Betsy, prepping for Surf Camp 2015. Photo: Eddie Pitts, 911SurfReport.com

Getting to this point has already brought us some of our own confidences, joys and gratitude. We owe a huge thank you to our friends and family, not one of whom so much as raised an eyebrow, what less crowed, “what are you thinking?!?” when I resigned from my very dependable and even somewhat enjoyable job last fall. The support everyone has shown us over the past eight months has itself boosted our confidence and we are eternally grateful for it. We’ve also gained confidence, and quite a bit of joy, by having the luxury to solely focus on this project. And focus we did. I think I speak for the both of us in saying that we’ve never been more committed to something.

Pools Beach, Puerto Rico, 2015.

We’ve spent months hashing out our camp program. We’ve read guides to surfing, watched innumerable online videos of everything from popping up to duckdiving, we’ve surfed as much as possible ourselves and critiqued our every move and talked about every aspect of surfing, almost every moment of the day. We want to provide the highest quality instruction possible and ensure that every camper has a great time. From the start we realized that we wouldn’t be satisfied simply pushing kids into waves. We are dedicated to creating confident surfers who will be able to assess conditions on their own, handle their own surfboard and select their own waves. We believe that through building their own confidences, students can then enjoy the ocean and ultimately, appreciate what a gift it is to spend time in it.

Now, Let’s Go Surfing!

International Surfing Day Celebration!

International Surfing Day  2015

We’re hosting an event to celebrate International Surfing Day and our local surfing community!

10:00 a.m. – Bring your board and meet at Main Beach for a casual event honoring the sport of surfing. Surf Asylum will have a beach canopy, snacks, a slackline, music and we’ll be filming everyone surfing to show later at the movie night.

7:00 p.m. – Community Potluck and Surf Movie night in the green space at Pirate Playground. Bring a dish and a blanket and join us for a community potluck at 7:00 p.m. Surf Movies will start around 8:30. If there were waves in the morning, we’ll start by showing that footage.

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1081676005180500/

Meet the Beach – Sea Turtle Nesting Season

There are seven sea turtle nests at this early stage in the 2015 nesting season. While surfing yesterday a curious juvenile sea turtle, just over a foot in length, poked his head out of the water on three separate occasions to see what I was up to. I saw another slightly larger turtle 20 minutes later. The day before in the distance I spotted a head so large I thought it must belong to a leatherback but loggerheads get quite large as well.

For a lot of people Fernandina Beach is just the right size. One might say that our seasonal nesting sea turtle population is just the right size if you want to learn a lot about sea turtles. If you go down to Melbourne, FL, in the vicinity of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, they get so many nests that they don’t identify or mark them all (http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/). Up here we have a dedicated group of volunteers walking the beach every morning for several months in hopes of spotting the distinctive, tractor-like trail left by a nesting female sea turtle. I used hours accumulated on turtle walks for a good portion of the service hours I needed to qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarship. Assistant principal Mary Duffy, also president of the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch (AISTW), was more than happy to sign off on them for me. I was determined not to miss a nest but I can’t say that I didn’t watch the occasional set wave roll through.

Last year I picked up hours waiting tables at Slider’s for some extra income. I only live about 5 or 6 blocks South of the restaurant so I walked to work and always took the beach way. More than once while walking home from a long night (the employees there earn every penny) I saw the definitive tracks of a nesting sea turtle. The night I saw a nesting leatherback was unforgettable. The turtle sunk her massive body just over halfway under the sand where you could only see the top of her shell while digging the nest cavity. As she finished covering the eggs and rose up out of the sand I was humbled by her size and the process that took her several hours from start to finish.

Even having volunteered with AISTW when I was in highschool I held on to some major misconceptions until just recently. The first being that hatching/emergence happens on the full moon. The hatching date followed by the emergence a couple days later is determined by an incubation period which varies depending on the temperature of the nest and the surrounding sand. On average the loggerhead incubation last about 55 days from the mother laying the eggs while leatherback nests go about 70 days. If you follow the nesting data at AISTW (an annual tradition for Surf Asylum) you’ll discover that they can go sooner or much later often depending on the month when the eggs were laid.

Another misconception I had was that once the baby turtles hatch there is a non-stop mad dash for the surface. I discovered after “listening” to nests (by putting my ear to a piece of paper on the ground outside of the volunteer marked nest boundaries) that a few turtles start digging and then everyone else joins in. It creates a sound similar to a breaking wave which typically lasts 20 to 40 seconds after which they rest. They rest a lot. It’s an unimaginably challenging synchronized effort and obstacles like buried trash or plant roots can complicate the baby sea turtles’ efforts. If you want to have a chance to witness an actual emergence, a remarkably fast event that some liken to a sea turtle volcano our best advice would be to join AISTW and soak up all their great local knowledge like a sponge and even then it’ll take a lot of patience and luck.

The importance of Respect for these original “locals” can’t be overstated. Things we take for granted in our daily lives become major obstacles to this ancient ritual that happens on our beaches every summer. Our moonlit beaches are generally safe and enjoyable at night but things like innocently dug holes, beach canopies and chairs left out, bright lights, traffic that sounds like the white noise created by water, unleashed pets, single use plastics, etc. complicate this ancient ritual of nature. We gained a new appreciation for the challenges facing sea turtles when we realized that the peak of nesting season often coincides with the 4th of July.

We have seen emerging hatchlings seem to head South toward the dim light of Jacksonville on the horizon before correcting East toward the ocean and a couple years ago several hatchlings from a disoriented nest met their end in the Sadler roundabout. At Surf Asylum we worry that even responsibly disposed of single use plastic as it spills out, overflows, or catches wind at various points in our waste stream (disposal routes) will end up in our waterways as the infamous jellyfish mimics. This is why we support initiatives like Fernandina’s Bag the Bag and hope for a day when every item of clothing that comes into a retail store isn’t individually wrapped in plastic. Sea turtle nesting season inspires us to make small meaningful changes in our lives and to be mindful of the effects of our choices and actions. When one observes the labor (very much on the order of human child birth) required for the nesting mother to make it far enough up the beach that her eggs are safe from the fall storms, filling a hole on the beach or carrying a canopy off the beach on a daily basis pale in comparison. Here’s to Mary Duffy, Len and Pat Kreger, and the many other dedicated volunteers with AISTW for helping us understand and care for our natural heritage.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Wild Amelia also do a great job of increasing sea turtle awareness.

Zack Sjuggerud

Zack Sjuggerud is a kid after our own heart. We recently got to spend a little time with him while we were down at ESA Southeast Regionals and if there was anything we walked away with, it was knowing that Zack LOVES surfing. Scratch that, Zack loves the ocean. From shortboarding to bodyboarding, with SUP and longboarding in between, he competed in every single division he could enter, earning him the Youth Iron Surfer Award. He also placed 3rd in Menehune Longboard and 2nd in Bodyboarding. We asked him for an interview to find out how he got started in surfing and what his competition strategies were.

How long have you been surfing? When did you get your first board?

I started getting interested in surfing when I was in Australia when I was about 4 or 5 years old, with my dad pushing me on flat water on his longboard. I had a great time even without waves. When we got back from Australia, we bought a 4’2″ Liquid Shredder at Surf Station. I loved it.

Who has had the biggest influence in your surfing?

This is a tough one. I do really enjoy watching all types of surfing, but I like watching older logging single fin movies like The Endless Summer. I have no doubt I have seen that movie more than 50 times. I also really enjoy watching people like Craig Anderson and sometimes try to mimic his smooth tuck knee style, haha.

Favorite post surf meal?

Any meal after surfing is amazing. The after surf munchies are awful, haha. I definitely have a craving for Barberitos more than anything after a nice long surf.

Shortboard, longboard or SUP?

I have no preference. Any time in the water is a good time, and it really depends on the conditions. I have been really into bodysurfing recently too.

Where have you traveled to surf?

Southern California, Costa Rica quite a few times, Spain, and Hawaii.

Tell us about your favorite trip.

First time in Costa Rica, we had a guy take us to a secret right point. I was only ten, so I did end up standing on the shallow reef, jumping over walls of whitewater. That got the message through that reef doesn’t feel good on your feet. I cut my foot pretty bad, but the waves were amazing so I had no choice but to keep surfing, hahaha. Definitely scored some great waves that week.

What do you consider to be the most challenging part of Regionals?

No doubt confidence and keeping cool under pressure. I know you have to surf your game, try not to fall on maneuvers and try not to surf above your abilities.

Do you find it helpful to know who your competition is before going into Regionals? How do you keep up with them?

I would say that there are advantages and disadvantages to knowing your competitor’s abilities. Pros are knowing that you are going to surf smart and catch the better waves and surf as a better contest surfer than the opponent. Cons are like I said above, nerves are a big deal. I’ve seen friends try too hard, thinking that their opponents were better surfers than they really are. I prefer to know who my competitors are to know what contest tactics you would want to use.

Do you cross-train to improve your surfing?

I don’t. I just surf to become a better surfer. I think that when you are younger, (maybe below 19 or 20) training and eating well for surfing is less important for your surfing. What’s more important is learning how to judge waves and knowing which waves to catch. As you get a bit older, fitness becomes a bigger factor in your surfing.

Shout-outs?

Where do I start? Thanks to my family for supporting my surfing and taking me other places to surf. Thanks to Sean Poynter for so much help, advice, and positive stoke over many years. Thanks to David and Betsy at Surf Asylum for your contest advice during Regionals this year. Thanks to Mike Nichols and Pedro for everything over the years. Thank you to Starboard for including me in your world. Thanks to Driftwood Surf Shop and Pipeline Surf Shop. Thanks to Barberitos… to SurfSkate… and Dummy Mount. Also thanks to all the Fernandina locals who’ve supported me and looked out for me over the years.

I’ll be proud to represent Fernandina at the Eastern Surfing Championships in Cape Hatteras, if I get to go. I hope to bring home a 1st Place trophy in longboarding back to Fernandina! Yewww!

ESA Southeast Regional Surfing Championships

Last weekend Surf Asylum had the privilege of traveling down to Melbourne, FL to see the current level of amateur competitive surfing in Florida. We wanted a benchmark, something to aspire to as we teach a new generation of surfers. Friday we got to see an in form Freida Zamba riding a quad and executing precision backhand snaps, carves, and foam climbs in somewhat weak choppy surf. She was coaching Rachel Presti, one of the event’s standout performers, on wave reading and selection. The surf picked up for Saturday and Sunday with Pete Mendia and Shea Lopez joining the line-up with the kids who will soon be following in their footsteps. Below are images from the weekend and video of the final two days of competition:


Rod Logan’s power surfing distanced him from competitors half his age and younger in his first Open Shortboard heat.


Kaleb Kirshenbaum surfed with remarkable precision in the Menehune division.


Competitors in the Girls and Junior Womens divisions had a great read on the somewhat mushy waves.


Several  Menehune (11 & under) competitors exhibited polished, mature style.


Kaleb Kirshenbaum showing commitment.


Kelton Beardall was spending a lot of time in the water in the lead up to the event and it showed. (We didn’t get his 9 point air reverse off of a wave that looked like a giant close out on film).


It took a couple tries in his heats but Charlie Current nailed this one and rode out clean.


Nick Groshell was getting a lot of extension out of his turns while managing stay over his board and complete his waves.


Freida Zamba’s protege Rachel Presti linking turns like a pro.


Autumn Cockrill showing solid, traditional rail work.


Lily Whatley spending plenty of time on the nose in the Junior Womens Longboard Final.


Ryan Conklin pulling off one of the steeper noserides in competiton.

Video of Saturday and Sunday:

Buying Local

Our 10'2 Rozo log can get anyone up and riding.

David and I do our best to place a priority on shopping local and starting our own business has brought that concept closer to us than ever before. We aren’t selling a locally crafted, handmade good to take home, but we are essentially trying to sell ‘local’ knowledge and greatly appreciate when people choose to use our services over the same service provided by outlets with little to no surfing experience or worse, no respect for the local surfing community.

As we were planning out our business, one of the biggest decisions was deciding what type of boards we would use for our lessons and camps. It seems that most camps use either cheap soft tops or epoxy boards, so we went to the internet to see what kind of prices we were looking at to round out our quiver. There was a little bit of sticker shock as some of these factory produced boards might be cheap to produce, but carried price tags almost equal to what we pay our respective shapers.

Local shapes ready for a day's work.

That quickly led to the realization that neither of us would ever recommend to a customer that they invest in one of these boards. Aside from their cheap construction, our concern for the environmental impact of long distance shipping and taking away work from local shapers, these boards are virtually functionless once someone has learned to pop up and ride straight into the beach. They are designed as one size fits all and therefore must simply be as buoyant as possible in order to float both children and adults. They have virtually no design elements other than length and girth. The rails are typically a flat, hard edge, essentially impossible to turn and the bottoms have no contour to speak of. (Eleven custom boards later, when I’m placing a personal order, Rozo and I spend more time talking about the bottom of my boards than any other feature.)

Surf Asylum is now proud to say that we use a mix of custom Rozo and Whisnant shapes for private surf lessons and summer camp. We know from experience with other camps and volunteer events that our boards are no less safe than soft tops or epoxy (if you’ve ever been hit with one of those boards you know what I’m talking about). We also feel that we are providing an experience to know what real surfboards, handcrafted for NE Florida conditions, feel like on a wave for our clients . We’re able to point out design features that customers might want to look for when shopping for their own board. We’re also able to let students experiment with a variety of boards in various shapes and sizes. Best of all, we built on our existing relationships by continuing to support talented local shapers and have a selection of boards filled with years of shaping experience, plus a little heart and soul.

Mac, taking one to the beach on a Whisnant funshape. Photo: Kari Kenner, GoWaxhead.com

Interested in having your own custom board shaped? Contact Rozo or Whisnant Surfboards and tell them Surf Asylum sent you.

Meet the Beach – Honeycomb Worm

Phragmatopoma caudata washed up in Fernandina Beach, Fl.

::WARNING:: This post is potentially full of incorrect information.

On the last Meet the Beach I left off promising to share what I consider the COOLEST thing I’ve ever found on a Florida beach. Here it is! I was wandering the beach one evening after a couple of days of NE winds and spotted a common whelk washed up on the shoreline. As I bent down to pick it up I noticed something I believe to be quite uncommon in this area.  A tiny worm had attached itself and built a home on the whelk. He was slowly moving in and out of his house as I picked the shell up and seemed as interested in checking me out as I was in checking him out.

Phragmatopoma caudata, peeking out of his tube.

I took a few pictures of him and then returned him to the sea with well wishes that he and his shell would find whatever habitat it was that they needed to carry on. I sent one of the pictures over to David’s sister, Emily, who’s work has led to knowing and befriending lots of biologists. She was kind enough to forward it along, but without better pictures and more information, the response that came back was more of an educated “best guess” than a “I can’t believe you found a …”

The best guess was that this little guy was a Phragmatopoma caudata, also known as Honeycomb worm from the family Sabellariid. These are the worms that make up Bathtub Reef in Stuart, Fl. They use special sensory organs around their mouth to find a suitable location to build their home and somehow, through the magic of nature, a thin mucous layer forms around them to which various small particles of minerals, diatom frustules, sponge spicules are then implanted, eventually building the honeycomb, tube like structure they call home. [floridaocean.org]

Phragmatopoma caudata, Fernandina Beach, Fl

As stated, this is a best guess at identification and I have no idea how often they are found on NE Florida area beaches, but if you ever come across one, there’s no denying how cute they are!

P.S. Honeycomb worm is the coolest thing I’ve ever come across in NE Florida, but if you’re curious as to the COOLEST, CUTEST thing I’ve ever come across anywhere, that would be micromelo undata, a species of sea snail. Their  Atlantic habitat range stretches from South America to Florida, but I spotted this guy in Puerto Rico a few months ago. He was no bigger than my pinkie nail and was hanging out on some exposed rocks at Tres Palmas.

Micromelo undata, Rincon, PR

 

Lacto Fermented Escabeche

 

Carrot escabeche

This recipe came together at the spur of the moment last fall when I was trying to figure out what to do with a few carrots that were hanging around in the fridge. I’m a huge fan of any and all form of vegetable, except carrots. I don’t like them raw or steamed or any other way and for years I’ve thought their only acceptable use was in cake, (the reason I bought them in the first place) until now.

Eager to expand my fermentation prowess beyond kombucha, I had begun to make lacto fermented (Wondering what the heck lacto fermentation is? Click here.)  pickles over the summer with some of the bounty from our garden. Successful with pickling okra and jalapenos, David told me about this condiment of pickled peppers popular in Mexico and asked if I thought I could make it through fermentation. A little research told me that the flavor of his Mexican pickle might have been similar to the flavor of a Cuban relish I had been served (and loved) a few years back. The wheels got to spinning and our version of a Mexi-Cuban escabeche was born. That first batch was so good, I was eating it straight out of the jar, we were applying it to everything we ate and it was gone within a week.

Don't panic, they're organic!

Though I’m not a fan, David and Jonah are, so I kindly threw in a packet of carrots with our fall seed order. We harvested a bumper crop and I immediately got to work making another batch of our escabeche. I still eat some straight from the jar, but we also use it on veggie dogs, tacos and on any other dish that  might be looking for a little jazz of flavor. If you’re new to fermenting, there’s tons of information on-line to get you started. I personally have found Sandor Katz’s ‘The Art of Fermentation‘ book and the online blog, Phickle, inspiring and helpful.

Chopped veggies, ready for fermentation.

I’m one of those “dash of this, pinch of that” cooks and have no true measurements for this recipe except that with most vegetable fermentations, my brine is 1/2 Tbsp sea salt to 2 cups of water. I was using a 4 oz jelly jar as my fermenting vessel, so I just eyeballed what I thought would fit snugly. This escabeche is simply diced carrot, yellow onion, jalapeno and garlic.

Carrot escabeche.

Mix everything together in a bowl and season with your favorite spices. I used chili powder, coriander and cumin. (Never use salt to season, it’s in your brine.)

Escabeche in fermenting vessel.

Pack everything as tightly into your fermenting vessel as possible. Mix 1 Tbsp of sea salt into 1 cup of water to make a brine and slowly start to pour it into the vegetables. Continue pouring in the brine until it covers the top of vegetables.

Marble fermenting weights.

It’s important for the vegetables to stay beneath the brine to prevent mold, so I weigh mine down with something. Sometimes I use clean rocks or stones, this time glass marbles were a perfect fit.

Seal your lid on tight and place in a warm, but dark place. I tuck mine in a  kitchen cabinet. Once a day, pull out your jar, unscrew the lid and then screw it back on. This releases the pressure that builds up as the fermentation occurs. This is a fast ferment and should be ready in three to five days. Taste it after the third day and if you like the flavor, move it the fridge. If you think it’s not quite ready, put it back for another day or two, remembering to release the pressure daily. In the end, you should have a spicy, pickle-y, mouth watering relish.

Carrot escabeche on tacos.

What does any of this have to do with surfing? Not much except that hungry surfers like to eat and in our house, those surfers eat well. Enjoy!

Lacto Fermented Escabeche

(as previously stated, I have no proper recipe, below are my best estimates for making a 4 oz jar)

2 med-large carrots, diced
1/4 – 1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1 cup of water
several dashes of chili powder, coriander and cumin

Mix the vegetables and spices together in a bowl.

Fill a 4 oz glass canning  jar with as much of the vegetable mixture as possible, leaving about a quarter of an inch of breathing room below the rim. Really push down on the veggies, making sure there isn’t a lot of extra space in the jar. You want them packed tight.

Mix the sea salt into the water and slowly pour into the jar of vegetables. Go slow and stop couple of times to allow the water to seep into all the crevices between the vegetables. You should see air bubbles coming to the top. Pour in enough water to cover the veggies, use something to weigh them down beneath the brine and screw the lid on the jar.

Place the jar in a dark, but warm spot. “Burp” the jar once a day by unscrewing the lid to release pressure. Escabeche is ready in 3-5 days. Move the jar into the fridge by the 5th day.