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 Should Take That Trip

Have you ever thought to yourself there’s more out there than a job? More than money? More than working hard for little gain, frustrated by sitting in the same place for hours on end? I have.

Lately I’ve been getting pretty restless. When I say lately I mean for like the last two years. It frustrates me that the life I have been working towards isn’t what I want. Sure, college is fun and making money is good, but what is the point? Life is about a journey, not a goal. I don’t necessarily want some boring office job even if the pay is good, and I don’t want to waste time killing myself over achieving things I don’t really want. I want to get out there and enjoy life in full. I keep thinking that this is the time to grab life by the plums and go do something radical.

Maybe at the moment I’m feeling a little extra inspired. I just watched a great documentary called Maidentrip (check out the trailer below). It’s about a 16-year-old Dutch girl named Laura Dekker who sailed around the globe by herself. Despite the fact that Laura said she didn’t love the documentary, I took a lot of inspiration from it. The fact that she had the courage to turn away from everything she knew and go out on her own, literally into the great unknown, speaks volumes to me. I had to ask, “What am I doing?” My answer made me sad.

It obviously takes a lot to face the unknown like Laura did. Yet, I’d rather push myself and fight my fears than sit here, doing the same things every day, just waiting and waiting for a vacation or some fleeting moment of freedom. I need adventure and new experiences. That’s what life is really about to me: experience. If your whole life is aimed at one goal, like getting a job, house, paycheck, or car, you will never be truly happy even if you get all those things. What comes next? Making more money? Buying more stuff? Sure, money is necessary in this life, but it can only get you so far. It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you do. That’s what will have lasting impact on your life.

Maybe I’m just impatient. Maybe I’m just ambitious. Either way, this is to say that you should go, no matter how or where, you should go. Take a trip, take a risk, just make sure you don’t regret anything. It’s your life, and you only get one, so why let society or other people tell you how you should go through it?

First Impressions: Winter Park

I just got back from an epic few days snowboarding in Colorado. Before this, Pennsylvania is probably the farthest west I’ve ever been to snowboard. Let me tell you, nothing on the east coast compares to the Rockies. Winter Park is actually made up of seven different areas, each about the size of an average east coast mountain. Each area has different terrain, from moguls to glades to bowls to chutes.

If you ask locals, they’ll all tell you different when it comes to the best time of year to ride or ski in Colorado. I’ve heard mid March is usually a great time to score some powder, but according to the locals this year was a little odd. Every local I spoke to mentioned the sub-par winter and meager snow conditions. They complained about the ice and suggested I sleep in (and drink some beers) to give everything enough time to soften up. I thought to myself, nothing out here in the west could be as bad as east coast ice.

Photo Mar 20, 3 12 01 PM
View from the top of Parsenns Bowl, Winter Park, CO

On the first morning, I woke up to about 4 inches of fresh. It snowed most of the day too. Above 10,000 feet, the sun hid itself behind the clouds all day which meant the ice I had been warned about stayed solid underneath the little bit of powder. That made many spots a bit hard and chundery. That said, the Parsenns Bowl area actually had a good bit of powder on this day, if you could find it. The center section of the bowl was incredible with all the powder mixed in with the trees. As you got farther down the bowl, the trees got tighter but the powder stayed the same. The right side (rider’s right) of the bowl had some sick tree sections also. Every run I found new, untouched lines through these sections right through the end of the day. By that time, everything below 10,000 feet had warmed up enough that there were spring conditions. I’d never experienced such a difference in conditions at one mountain during one day, but that’s how the weather works in the mountains.

Despite being a snowboarder, I like riding in tight trees and moguls, so I spent most of my time on the trip riding the Mary Jane area. On my second day riding, I did explore some other parts though. I immediately noticed conditions were better in general because there were no clouds at all. The sun had all day to soften things up. When I did get over to Mary Jane I was expecting softer snow, yet there were still lots of icy patches. Parsenns Bowl suffered from the same conditions. It sort of felt like an east coast day until I hit the trees. Somehow, conditions in there stayed pretty ice-free. Again, I spent most of my time at Mary Jane, bombing from powder pile to powder pile.

I had some unreal runs on both days, despite the wonky conditions. One local I spoke to was baffled by them, but I had to think he was just jaded after living and skiing there his whole life. I’m sure he had scored some insane powder days at Winter Park, but unfortunately I didn’t. I will definitely be back to Colorado with my snowboard, and hopefully a big dumping of powder follows me there.

Skateboard, Don’t Commute

As someone who lives in a really crowded area in the most crowded state in the USA, I hit traffic constantly while driving. Never is this worse than at rush hours. I hate it. People in my area cannot drive well at all. As the roads get crowded, these people totally fall apart. That’s why I skate to class and work whenever it’s nice enough outside.

Beating traffic and avoiding idiotic drivers isn’t the only reason to skate to work or school. Skateboards are pretty small and light. They also don’t need any special parking or storage. All you need to do is throw it under a desk, in a locker, or in a corner somewhere. Skateboards can be carried anywhere too. If you need to take a train or bus, you can easily take a board with you. In that way, skateboards can go places bikes can’t. Just ask the skateboarding professor. This guy is a 69 year old professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and he’s been skateboarding to work since 1993. Check him out in this video.

Taken from Jenken Mag.

Besides being practical and portable, skateboards are fun. Commuting isn’t fun, no matter what car you drive. On top of that, skateboarding is a sick workout, especially if you need to go up any hills. If you don’t like the sound of that, just think….you get to bomb those hills going home. As if you needed another reason to skateboard, it’s also cheaper than commuting. You don’t need gas, and you don’t need to pay to park. Give it a try on the next nice day.

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.

Why Your Gear Doesn’t Matter

This is something that has continually pissed me off for a long time. Especially in snowboarding (because lots of fools do that one) I feel like it’s impossible to go ride without seeing someone who can barely stand, let alone ride, with a setup worth upwards of $700. That is the perfect illustration of why gear doesn’t matter, and I could stop there. But I won’t.

Gear does not make you better whatsoever. The reality is, if you don’t know anything about something like surfing and you buy a fancy step-up board with crazy design features, you are cheating yourself. Same goes for snowboarding. If you buy a stiff ripper of a board with some crazy camber/rocker combo and you’re a beginner, you might as well ride a plank. You won’t be able to tell the difference. Not only are you wasting money on stuff that you don’t need at a low ability level that won’t help you, you might actually be making it worse for yourself. Surfing is a good example because a thin, skinny step-up will be tougher to ride than a longboard in pretty much any scenario.

Gear can’t help you until you have the skill to notice the differences between the top-end shit and the basic shit. Personally, in longboarding I find that wheels and bushings have the biggest effect on how a board feels. Fact is though, I couldn’t notice differences in how wheels slide until recently. It takes time to get comfortable enough in a boardsport that you begin to notice the intricacies of your equipment. Then, when you change your equipment up, the differences are obvious.

Bottom line? It takes a bit of skill to even notice the fancy features of a board, or fins, or wheels, or bushings, or whatever. Once you have that skill, feel free to go crazy customizing your setups. But until then, do yourself a favor and buy something basic.

Burton Toe Strap Swap for Union & Ride Bindings

If the toe straps on your bindings are broken or just aren’t doing it for you, I would highly recommend that you swap on some Burton toe straps. It’s a quick and easy mod and it will make your bindings much better. The straps I’m talking about are called Burton Gettagrip Capstraps. You can get them for around $40. These bad boys hug the toes of your boots like nothing else. I’m talking total contact with less of that painful, uneven pressure you get from other toe straps (I mean you, Union). Check the video for a quick tutorial.

Why I Wear a Helmet

A while back, I had an accident riding my longboard. It was really dumb. I fell off it. I hit my head on a metal railing. I blacked out for ten minutes.

To this day, I still have a bump on the left side of my forehead. Needless to say, I had a really solid concussion. The effects of it really messed me up for a long time, and still mess with me today. For at least a year afterward, I was really irritable, forgetful, and my memory was generally fuzzy. I actually would have moments where I would completely lose my train of thought while talking. That was freaky. I would see spots, and actually still do sometimes. I still struggle with my memory, but it is slowly improving. I still have trouble keeping a train of thought sometimes though.

The bottom line for me is, none of that is worth not wearing a helmet. The way in which I fell was dumb because I was just pushing around, I was riding somewhere easy and mellow, and I could have avoided the whole thing. Wearing a helmet isn’t a good idea, its literally the best idea you could have, especially if you’re really going for it.

Just do it, it’s not uncool or whatever. Wear it on snow, and especially on pavement. Find one that’s comfortable and stylish. Put stickers on it and make it obnoxious. Just wear one and save yourself from my mistake!

Music for Shredding // Pt. 2

To see part 1, click here.

For a playlist of songs, click here.

In the last “Music for Shredding” post, I threw out some suggestions for what to listen to if you just want to vibe out, cruise a little and shred. Nothing too intense in that post. This time it’s different. Last time I broke my playlist into two general categories: “Cruising It,” and “Pushing It.” These songs are…

For When You’re Pushing It..

Music is my favorite way to get into “the zone.” It helps me quiet the parts of my brain that second guess, throw up doubts, and generally cause hesitation. For when I’m pushing my own limits, I like to listen to something heavier and driving. Probably my favorite band along those lines is Rage Against the Machine. I love funk. I love it so much. So, Rage is up there on my list.

This song is called Wake Up, from RATM’s self-titled debut. I love the funkiness of the guitar riff. The rapping over top adds to the funky drive of the song. I can lose myself grooving to this easily, which is exactly why it’s the perfect song for getting in “the zone” and shredding hard. Other RATM songs on my playlist are Sleep Now In The Fire and Bombtrack.

Another less known, but still kick-ass band is Radio Moscow..

These guys are sick. I think I found them on Pandora a while back. They’ve got a fast and driving type of psychedelic rock going on and I really like it. The song above, Hold On Me, is off their album Brain Cycles. Rancho Tehama Airport is a great track from their most recent album, Magical Dirt.

Middle Class Rut is an amazing band I first heard on an old radio station in the NYC area called 101.9 WRXP. They’ve got a pretty hard style of rock, but they do have some mellower songs as well. Dead End (above) is a great track, but these guys have so many more. Leech and Sad To Know are two tracks that are definitely worth checking out.

This song, called Burnin’ In, is by a band called Spirit Caravan. This group has a more guitar driven hard rock sound. I think this track was released in 1999 but I found it the other day and I think it still rocks. Another good song by them is Dreamwheel. If you want even more to listen to, Them Crooked Vultures is a ridiculous super group made up of John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme. What a combo. Check out Scumbag Blues. Another band worth looking into is The Dead Weather. This is actually a Jack White side project, but they have quite a different, interesting sound compared to his other bands. Treat Me Like Your Mother is a great song.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I will add songs to the playlist sometimes that aren’t in any of the posts, so keep an eye on it.

Now go shred.