Story Behind the Shot: May 2, 2020

Same as the last story behind the shot, timing is everything in surfing – timing and patience.

I woke up around 6am on this morning and checked all my usual spots. Nothing seemed to be working right. It was smaller than it should have been, the mix of swells was all jumbled up, and the tide was wrong. I spent a few hours watching the waves at a bunch of different beaches and ended up going back home to eat breakfast a little after 9am.

By 10am I was back on the beach and the tide had just switched. I felt like the low tide push would help things out, but at first it seemed to be a bust again. I drove around for a while and shot this photo at one of my stops. I didn’t actually surf this spot though and ended up back at the first spot I checked, which was now fully firing! Surfed there for over three hours and got a wicked wetsuit hood tan. It was a good day to say the least.

Story Behind the Shot: April 14, 2020

This swell was churned up by the previous day’s storm (and crazy wind) and by 6am on the morning of the 14th, the buoys were reading over 10 feet! The swell was south which is good for most breaks in this area. Low tide was early, around 7:30am. Low tide can also be great around here, but for some reason early on this morning it just looked dumpy and weird everywhere I looked for the first two hours. Between my usual spots either not breaking, closing out, or just looking pretty damn tricky to surf, I decided to stay on the beach for a bit.

A bit later, almost 3 hours after I left the house on this morning, at a spot I almost never surf, I saw this wave. It was one of the last waves of a real standout set that I somehow witnessed just as I walked up the beach. Call it luck, but it was really just great timing – when it comes to surfing, timing is everything. I came back to the beach right after I shot this and scored fun waves for the next few hours.

Story Behind the Shot: March 7, 2020

After the Cold War Surf contest, I met up with a couple friends a bit further north on LBI. They’re locals and knew the area really well, so I knew the spot they suggested would probably be firing. Turns out it was! Unfortunately, I didn’t have any gear with me to surf, so I stayed on the beach and shot a few photos. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The current on this day was absolutely ripping out of the north. I stood in one place and watched as countless surfers went drifting past me – the current seemed to be moving even faster than anyone could paddle. That said, the conditions were stellar and I also watched countless perfect lefts go unridden with a few lucky guys getting sweet barrels.

I shot a lot of photos while I stood there watching, and got some shots I really liked. I feel like this one kinda captures the mood of the day – endlessly walking back up the beach, exhausted from fighting the current, watching as perfection goes by just out of reach. I bet these two guys were both thinking the same thing – damn.

Story Behind the Shot: Cold War Surf 2020

This year’s Cold War Surf contest (@coldwarsurf) was held on March 7th at one of the most well-known surf spots on Long Beach Island. As with every year, the contest is team-based with Sam Hammer (@hammered_sam) and Andrew Gesler (@gesler) each leading hand-picked teams of local pro surfers. The rosters are the who’s who of NJ heavy hitters so you’re pretty much always guaranteed to witness some top tier surfing.

Timing is everything in surfing and for this year’s contest, the timing was just right. The morning of the 7th saw chest- to head-high surf with a few larger sets sneaking in. The shape was a bit jumbled thanks to a mix of a few different swell directions and periods, but there were definitely some gems to be had. As heats were run and the day continued, the surf actually grew – by the end of the contest there were head-high to 1-2’ overhead sets.

This photo was taken during the last heat of the day. I think it was the gnarliest wave of the entire contest – just look how thick that lip is! Sam Hammer dropped into this one and somehow came flying out as the chandelier and foam ball surrounded him. If I was a judge this would have been a 10, but it wasn’t enough and Team Hammer ended up losing the contest. Still, it was a great day all around with some epic rides from both teams. Check out the full sequence of photos on my Instagram.

Story Behind the Shot: September 20, 2019

This swell was was courtesy of one of many lucky storms we got in Hurricane Seasons 2019 – lucky in the sense that we got solid swell but didn’t get steamrolled by the storm itself like so many other places did. The storm was Hurricane Humberto. It produced very solid East swell and by the morning of this day, max buoy readings were around 8-9ft at 12 seconds. Since this was a major storm, forecasters were tracking it for quite a while and as it approached, the forecast certainty was pretty good – we were going to get swell.

Judging by the predicted conditions, I knew there was really only one spot in my area that would be able to handle the energy. Problem was, most other surfers knew this too. I didn’t check anywhere else and drove right to this spot. I pulled up around 8am and shot this photo during my initial surf check. The crowd was surprisingly light at that time, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Conditions were definitely best early with the tide and swell size – waves like this were seemingly everywhere for the first couple hours. The swell slowly died over the day with conditions deteriorating as the tide filled in, but overall it was an epic day. I surfed for almost 5 hours.

Story Behind the Shot: April 27, 2019

Full disclosure – I did not take this photo. It’s probably the best photo anyone has ever taken of me while surfing. It was taken by local photographer Tony Costa (@astronautjonesnj). Thank you Tony for the amazing capture and for sending it my way!

The spot where this was taken is probably one of the best, but also one of the most fickle spots in my local area. It needs very specific conditions to work right, but when it’s on it absolutely fires. It’s one of the closest things to a righthand point break we have here. On this day, things lined up just right – the tide was low and buoys showed a 10ft at 9 second south swell the morning of this session. The wind was gusting hard offshore which made for very hollow but somewhat challenging conditions.

I surfed at this spot all morning and actually ran into an old friend, Kyle Latch, out in the lineup. We used to surf together during our college days but he moved away after graduation. It was crazy running into him at one of the old spots! He was helping coach a few surfers with Robbie Nelson, owner and head coach of Pro Surf Coaches (@pro_surf_coaches_official). Robbie is a staple in the water around here and is a good guy, always stoked and always sharing knowledge.

In total there were five of us in the water – shockingly, no other surfers came out despite the amazing conditions. We surfed this spot to ourselves until the wind came up too much and our arms stopped working. Robbie claimed this was the best he’s seen this spot in a few years.

Gear Review: LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper

Did you hear? Lib Tech and …Lost have teamed up! My god, what is this? Snow and surf companies can’t collaborate! That’s like, so backward dude.

Incorrect. It’s actually very much forward in a few ways.

To start, this is not the first time snow and surf companies have collaborated on a product. Back in 2015, Bataleon Snowboards put out a special version of its Camel Toe powder board in partnership with legendary longboard pioneer Bill Stewart. I’m sure there have been others as well, especially in the pow riding department.

That said, this might be the first time a snowboard company has contributed something new to the surfing world. If you don’t know what all this hype is about, let me explain.

When Lib Tech first announced they were making surfboards a few years back, I for one was not sold on the idea. Others would agree – I spoke to several surfers who hated the shapes that LIB came out with originally. That’s because LIB decided to make their own shapes, without any help from experienced surfboard shapers.

LIB had one big thing going for them though, and I saw this first hand on a surf trip to Cape Cod in 2015. I walked into a surf shop and was checking out the new LIB boards – one of the salesmen saw me and came over to give me a run-down of the boards. Before I knew what happened, he took a board out, threw it on the ground fins up, and stomped directly in the center with both feet. Everyone in the shop who saw this had a look of horror on their faces – that is, until the board popped back into shape perfectly about a half second later.

I say this because LIB’s surfboard construction is truly insane – what other surfboard material is capable of popping back into shape after a board-snapping blow like that? Nothing I know of. Firewire? Yea ok, test that theory and see what happens.

Lib Tech’s surfboard material is no doubt a heavily guarded industry secret – that said, they explain what they can here on their website. I can tell you from experience that it is lighter than foam/fiberglass, slightly more buoyant, and much better at not snapping in half. Also, the material doesn’t absorb water. That’s key since the material does puncture relatively easily, so be careful when putting it down on pavement or rocks. The good news is you can cover any punctures with stickers and be totally fine thanks to the material.

puddle jumper web 2

The Review

Around the time I saw proof of LIB’s insane materials, LIB went and teamed up with …Lost to produce some of …Lost’s shapes with LIB’s insane space-age construction. The result was a line of boards that performed really well (just ask surfers) but were virtually indestructible. The best part? When I got my LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper, prices for these boards were about the same as your average brand-name fiberglass shaped board.

I own a 5’3” x 20” x 2.32” LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper with a volume of 28cl. Keep in mind that because of LIB’s materials, you could get a LIB board with a little bit less volume than you normally would and it would still float just fine. I am a smaller guy, and this is the shortest surfboard I have ever ridden, but this thing floats and rips even better than my 5’6” stubbie with the same volume. For someone who mainly surfs in New Jersey, I ride this board during 90% of my sessions. It will make a 2-foot day into something amazing, but that is what they designed this shape for. Credit where it’s due, hats off to Matt Biolos and …Lost for this shape. Best small wave board I have ever ridden.

I say that because this thing generates speed very quickly. That extra volume/float combined with some cool shape features like a concave bottom that transitions to vee in the tail make it almost effortless to fly down the line on a weaker/smaller day. I also love the fact that this thing is shorter than my average shortboard because it makes it so maneuverable, especially on those smaller days. I have been able to do things on this board that I never have before.

I have ridden this board in waves up to 6 feet. For a small wave board, it held its own and frankly, it made me love this board even more. Anything bigger than that though, and I would want something a little longer and skinnier. For waves from 3-6 feet, I ride this board as a thruster (it has 5 fin boxes so you have options). My favorite setup is with the small lightweight FCS PC-3 fins. That’s because for me these fins are the perfect happy medium between twitchy/loose quad and less responsive larger fins. Speed is not an issue as a thruster thanks to the clever shaping by …Lost, and the response and power from these fins are immense.

Keep in mind that LIB’s fin boxes are their own design, but they will accommodate most major brands of fins. LIB’s fin boxes actually have a pretty cool feature – you can adjust the spacing of your fins by sliding them forward and back within the fin boxes.

A closer cluster = more twitchy, quick pivot and loose turns.

A spread-out cluster = more drawn out, gradual turns.

This adjustment actually makes a big difference in the feel of your board, for both thruster and quad setups. Experiment with it, find your sweet spot and mark it with some permanent marker.

Speaking of quads, this board is a riot when ridden as a quad. The first time I set it up like this, I almost got bucked off. The setup was very lively, almost too much. Speed was noticeably faster than the thruster. Turns were easy with instant response and crazy pivot stomping right on the tail. For this, the cluster was closer together than centered. Later, I tried spacing out the cluster as much as possible and it made the twitchiness go away for the most part, but it still had that looser, faster quad feel. Side note – I would love to try this setup with a nub fin as the 5th fin.

Bottom line: I love this shape from …Lost, and I love Lib Tech’s construction. It’s everything I wanted in a small wave board, at a reasonable price, and hopefully with a really long lifetime. That said, I would not recommend you purposefully try to stomp on your board to test its strength.

FCS PC-3 vs. PC-5 – Fin Size Matters

This is sort of a review, sort of a comparison, and sort of some advice for fin choice in general. I say that because fins depend on you – your ability level, weight, height, etc. Even the size of your board comes into play. Keep all this in mind when reading on below…


The reason I am comparing these fins to each other as well as on their own is because of something I learned the hard way – fin size matters. Before I knew what I was doing on a surfboard, I rode almost exclusively the entry-level FCS M-5 thruster (medium size fins), and sometimes as a quad with G-X trailer fins. Down the road, I acquired the PC-5 thruster set and began riding this (same size as M-5 fins). Just in the last year did I finally try the PC-3 set and I can confidently say that these small size fins are the right size for me (I’m about 5’8” 140lbs).

It took me years to realize it but I had been riding the wrong size fins for almost my entire surfing life. Side note – I have found that keeping a journal really helps in all board sports to get your setups dialed in exactly as you like with things like fins, board dimensions, etc.

So, I rode “-5” medium size fins for a long time but they were too big for me. This hurt my progression and my ability didn’t improve that much because I could not make the board turn as fast or as hard. Switching to the PC-3 and the smaller fin size was like putting performance tires on a car – suddenly, I could get the most out of my wave-riding vehicle. This definitely gives me more confidence in the water.


Photo Jun 10, 7 02 58 PM
FCS PC-3 thruster | 5’3″ LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper


The Review

These two fin models from FCS are arguably some of their most popular. They are relatively cheap, solid fins ($82 from FCS directly) with good response and drive through turns. Both feature what FCS calls “performance core”, and FCS says they are lightweight performance fins (can’t argue there). They are both sold as quad and thruster packages, but this review concerns the thruster versions.

Once I found the right size fins, the PC Series became my favorite fin. I have been riding them on a 5’3” LIB x …Lost Puddle Jumper – the PC-3 thruster is my go-to setup for this board. I can get so much power and response out of these fins, it really opens up the possibilities for me. Speed is definitely not an issue, but a quad is still faster with these as side fins. That said, the thruster is good enough to get barreled.

The PC Series material is definitely snappier than the old M Series I had been riding for years. The snap is more aggressive as well, so a hard bottom turn is essential if you want to get these to release a bit. That is kind of the fun of it though – you really have to lay into it sometimes. If you do it well, the rewards are priceless. This forces you to work on technique and perfect every step – the drop, your line, the bottom turn, etc.

That said, I could never get this out of the PC Series when I rode the PC-5 due to the size. The PC-5 felt much less responsive and much less snappy. Even if I laid into turns on these fins, I never felt the flex doing any work to help me out. That’s really why size matter when it comes to fins – when the size is right, the fins respond and you can actually feel the flex working. That’s how it should be.

Overall, I would recommend the PC Series fins for intermediate-advanced surfers who want something predictable and responsive. They are priced right and widely available. I would say these fins work best in rippable, punchier waves where you want to go hard off the lip – the snap and response really helps these fins come into their own here. Don’t be afraid to really lay into these fins, as they will respond.

Just make sure you have the right size.

Gear Review: FCS Mark Richards TFX Fins

So, first thing’s first. These are some carbon FCS twin fins with MR’s name on them. I have the tri set, which includes a small third fin for some extra drive and control. I’ll talk more about the differences between two and three a little later. I have been riding these fins for about a year at this point on my 5’6″ Pyzel Pyzalien. The Pyzalien is a sick board. It’s a little shorter, fatter, and thicker than your standard shortboard since it’s a “stubbie” basically meant for summer surf. That said, I’ve ridden it in waves a few feet overhead and it still works although the speed wobbles get intense if the face is bumpy.

I would not recommend riding these fins in 8 foot waves though, at least not on the Pyzalien. Any twin fin setup is going to make a board feel loose, so combine that with the Pyzalien’s nimble shape and you have a really rippable, but sorta twitchy setup. In head high waves the twitchy-ness is manageable and adds to the fun. Anything smaller than that and these fins are exactly what you want. I would describe the feeling like riding a skateboard on a wave just because of how nimble and fast these fins make a setup feel. Turns become almost effortless and the speed is immense.

As for the difference between two and three of these fins, I’ll put it like this. With two fins in you may get more speed but you’ll slide around way more, especially when you don’t mean to like during hard bottom turns. Three fins holds much better and the speed and drive are just as good. Unfortunately, I think the three fin option is a few more dollars but I would say it’s worth it.

The bottom line: I would recommend these fins for a small wave board, but they’re good up to head high. The main thing with the TFX fins is that they will make your setup feel pretty loose, which I like but some may not.

Why You Need More Boards

This may seem a little contradictory since my last post was a rant about why you really don’t need high end gear. But, that’s because this post is for people who could actually benefit from some better gear.

Why do you think there are so many different skateboards, longboards, surfboards, and snowboards for sale? Sure, every company is trying to get a piece of the cash flow, but in doing that some actually come up with unique ideas for shredding in specific conditions. Basically, that’s why you need more boards.

Surfing is a great example. There are boards for all wave conditions with all types of dimensions, rail profiles, and tail shapes. Each of these will dramatically affect the way a board performs, given that you have the ability to notice subtle differences in ride. Short, fat, thick boards are ideal for small waves. Longer, thinner, skinnier boards (called a step-up or “gun”) are better in larger waves. Some step-ups also have channeled bottoms, which give you more speed and drive in big, perfect surf. You’d get pretty frustrated trying to ride a step-up board in 2 foot shorebreak though. That’s a basic explanation, but you should get the idea.

Snowboarding is pretty much the same. To tear up a park, I prefer a really flexy, shorter board. These boards will be symmetrical for easy switch riding and are generally lighter than stiff boards, which makes them easier to press and spin. Powder boards are usually directional, meaning each has a dedicated nose and tail and is intended to be ridden in one direction. These boards are generally longer and stiffer, and many incorporate some type of unique swallow tail design for a really surfy feel in deep pow. Regardless of all of this, every snowboard also has a distinct camber profile. Cambered, rockered, and flat boards are the most common, but many companies combine these to create hybrids. That’s an explanation for another post though.

To sum it all up, more boards equals more fun. Riding the wrong board for the conditions is a pain in the ass, no matter your skill. As you improve, experiment with different boards from what you’re used to. You’ll probably find a new favorite setup.