Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Social Surf Intelligence 2

Social Surf Intelligence 2

There has been a lot of buzz about what is proper etiquette in the water. As an Anthropologist, I have noticed that surfers have their own set of un-said rules. These rules are set far apart from common law and are overlaid on public surf areas. I am not saying they are correct or incorrect. I just wish to indicate to a beginner what they are as they are customary.

1. When you paddle out at a semi uncrowded spot don't bring a “crew”. A crew is a bunch of people. Their is nothing worse to some surfers than seeing five people, Stand Ups or Regular Surfers paddling out at once if you are in the break. The usual rule is two people max. Three is pushing it but is possible. A trick to avoiding this unsaid rule is that if you come with a crew of 3+ people, paddle out in a staggered manner. Everyone trickles out, one or two people at a time with around 10 minute intervals. When it comes to myself, I usually surf by myself. This makes me popular.

2. If you are new to a break, start your surf off from the inside of the break. Many people don't realize that there is a line of people waiting for the waves. As we would not cut in line at the supermarket, we should not cut in line while waiting for the waves at the surf break. One off the most offensive infractions to some surfers is to observe another surfer paddle out and not wait in line and by sitting in front of everyone.

3. If you are on a Longboard or SUP you need to realize that you have an exponentially easy time catching waves. Because of this, make sure to observe who is getting waves and who is not getting waves. When a nice wave comes in, let the guy or girl not getting waves have it, even if you are in line to get the next set. People notice little “cool” acts like this and you will develop a good reputation.

4. Think in the long term. As I am on a longboard, I get waves easier than others. I can literally snake every single set that comes in during a 2 hour session and have a wonderful time at the cost of others. Yet that two hour greed-pig-out will make everyone hate me forever. I can take that same 2 hour session and wait in line share waves and cheer people on and be welcomed every time I choose to surf for the rest of my life.

Which will you choose?

Len Barrow

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to install fins on a Stand Up board and which fins to use.

If you have a new SUP or surf board and are not sure how to properly install and set up the fins, watch this video for tips on how to properly install them, different set up options, and how to set up the fins for different conditions.

Click here for more information on some of the fins shown in this video.

If you have fins that don't fit well, also check this post:
"If the fin don't fit"

Monday, January 13, 2014

Group downwind run videos with voice over coaching tips

Downwind coaching runs are most effective with one on one instructions but doing downwinders as a group is fun as well and a great way for those newer to downwind paddling to get into the sport and learn the fundamentals in a safe environment.  When we have enough people interested in a group run, I offer coached runs for groups of up to 5 people.  Last week we did two group downwinders, the first with five participants, the second with two (plus myself).  Watch the videos for some tips for the fun downwind run from Portlock to Kahala.

Here are two videos of group downwinders from last week with coaching tips voiced over:

January 7th downwinder with Peter, Kyle, Allan, Linda, and Patricia: 

January 10th downwinder with Sean and Hopper:

January 29th downwind group with: 

Kyle, Jenn, Brett, Robert, Natalie, Sean 

for more information on coached downwinders, visit this post:http://zenwaterman.blogspot.com/2013/10/information-on-coached-downwind-runs.html

Robert Stehlik

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Short Water Poem: Tears in the Rain

Here is a fairly random freestyle poem that I thought about while I was surfing. I thought that it would be nice to share on our blog. Enjoy!

Tears in the Rain

There was a tear.
The tear was angry, sad, frustrated and full of misunderstanding and fear
One day the tear realized that it was a drop of water in its original nature
Yet the tear was still angry, sad, frustrated and full of misunderstanding and fear

One day the tear saw the ocean
The tear angrily asked the ocean
Why are you so large?
Why are you so vast?
I hate you!
Why do you only have the nature of infinity while I must disappear?

The Ocean smiled in loving compassion and told the tear. “Those are only signs and symbols that you apply to me. Dear tear, do you not know that language makes all obscure. I am but you and you but me”.

The tear was startled yet with deep courage and tremendous
compassion; the tear dove in to the sea and found the truth.
No longer to suffer in anger, sadness, frustration and misunderstanding
Serenely and playfully abiding in inter-being and bliss.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Paddle Technique Part 8: Buoy Turn, Pivot turn, Crossbow turn

Buoy turns

In SUP races with many turns you will find that most changes in positioning often happen in the turns, not in the straightaways, where it can take a huge amount of physical effort to pass another competitor.  Fast turns require mostly good technique, balance and skill and less physical conditioning, so practice is important.
In Hawaii, most races are straight downwind with few turns involved.  When I went to my first Battle of the Paddle, I realized how important the turns and transitions were in these races and how my skills were lacking in that department.  I started to really focus on practicing faster turns.

Fast turns require skill, strategy, the right equipment, and luck. 

Pivot Turn

Turning fast is an important skill to practice.  Training for speed in the straightaways is not enough to do well in many races, you need to practice the turns and transitions as well.  Good turning skills will also help in the surf.  Generally speaking, the more you can move your weight back on the board, the easier it will be to turn it.  The goal is to move your weight to the back of the board, with the back foot close to the fin and lifting the front of the board out or the water.  This will allow you to swing the board around quickly.  The pivot turn takes good balance and lots of practice. The goal is to smoothly walk or jump your feet back without rocking the board side to side while keeping your weight over the centerline of the board to keep it level in the water.  You use your paddle to make a sweeping steering stroke to swivel the board around the fin and then quickly move your weight back forward to your trim position to accelerate out of the turn.  Brace with your paddle and bend your knees to stay low for balance.   The pivot turn takes a lot of practice to master so if you are not comfortable with it yet, use the crossbow turn until you are.

Crossbow Turn

While the pivot turn is the fastest, it is also risky ask it puts you in a tippy positions where you can lose your balance or get knocked off.  Whatever you do, you want to avoid falling in, so depending on your equipment, conditions and skill level, it may be safer to keep your weight forward in a parallel or slightly staggered stance and complete the turn using your paddle.  The goal is to avoid paddling backwards at all costs as this will really slow down your forward momentum.  The crossbow or cross-over turn works well to initiate the turn.  The paddle is reached past the nose to the other side of the board without changing the grip position.  The blade is pulled towards the nose of the board then lifted over the nose and followed by a sweeping steering stroke.  The angle of the blade to the water is very important when turning and you want the steering action to be as close to the front of the board as possible to make it most effective.

Strategy and luck come into play when many competitors try to make a turn at the same time.  Generally speaking the inside line closest to the buoy is preferable and you should plan ahead and set up your approach to the buoy in a good position relative to your competitors if possible.  Approaching the turn is no time to be feeble, you want to assert your position and not let yourself get pushed aside.  That said, being close to the buoy also puts you at risk of getting rammed, boxed in or stuck behind another board or paddler in the water.  When a turn gets very crowded, a wider turn that avoids others can be the fastest route.  At BOP style races, waves are another factor that need to be considered.   It’s always a good idea to paddle the course as a warm up and make yourself familiar with the turns.  Make sure the rope holding the buoy can’t snag the fin, I have seen that happen a few times.

Equipment is important too, wider boards with wider tails make pivot turn easier while narrow boards with streamlined pintails may be faster in the straightaways, they make it much more difficult to balance on the tail in a pivot turn.  Likewise, big fins with wide bases and lots of rake may make the board track better in a straight line but also make the board harder to turn.  These are some compromises to consider and in a race with lots of turns you may want to sacrifice some straightaway speed and choose a more stable board with a wider tail and a smaller, easier to turn fin.

Races can have many different kinds of turns: left and right hand turns and variables such as wind, current, waves and the angle of the turn, some are 90, others 180 degrees.  It helps to be prepared and practice many variations of turns to make sure you are comfortable turning the board you will race on.  Practice makes perfect.

Here is a video from one of our weekly coaching/ time trials where we practiced buoy turns with narrated coaching tips.  This is not a demonstration of perfect buoy turns but rather a demonstration of common mistakes.

This is a good video of Straboard team rider Beau O'Brian demonstrating the kick turn:

Links to the paddle technique series posts on Zen Waterman:

Paddle Technique Part 0: Introduction to SUP
Paddle Technique Part 1: Choosing the Right Paddle
Paddle Technique Part 2: The Three Ingredients of a Powerful Stroke
Paddle Technique Part 3: Stacking the Shoulders
Paddle Technique Part 4: Reach and Catch
Paddle Technique Part 5: Recovery, Paddle Length and Grip
Paddle Technique Part 6: Turning the Board
Paddle Technique Part 7: Catching Waves

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Zen, Compassion and the Ocean

Zen, Compassion and the Ocean

I came upon a beautiful story. A well to do individual managed to get an audience with the Dalai Lama. He asked the Lama how to become a Buddhist as the individual wanted to become a practitioner. The Dalai Lama gave him an amazing answer that informs me to this day. He stated “We don’t need any more Buddhists, we need more compassionate people". I think this is key to understanding any tradition including Zen Buddhism. In the end, with Zen Buddhism, there really is not too much to talk about. I believe that the Dalai Lama was indicating that we don’t necessarily need more Buddhists or Zen folks,or whatever religion may manifest. What we do need is more kind and compassionate people to solve the problems of our being and the horrendous thing we are doing to the physical and social environment.

An incident reminded me of the need for more kind folks in the world. In our current social state, many people are concerned only about their selves. It is very difficult to come across a truly compassionate person. When I do run in to a wonderful being like this I really take time out to see how they are helping the world. This should be one of the inspirations of any person who is studying the Zen path, as Zen done for one’s own self benefit exclusively is akin to drinking the worst poison to destroy your life. Therefore, If we are on the Zen path, let us become filled with compassion and dedicate ourselves to the others wellbeing in the fashion of a bodhisattva, or being of great compassion.

The following story is a wonderful vision that I had some time ago which involved a very ill girl and a kind man. My observation of this behavior filled me with joy. It was as if I was watching a saint or bodhisattva at work. This is how the experience played out.

One day recently, a woman asked me if I worked with Na Kama Kai (A Foundation to promote Hawaiian culture and ocean awareness and safety). She said that I looked familiar. I quickly remembered that she was the mother of a severely ill and handicapped girl of about 10. She had come to NaKamaKai as no one would take her child into the water due to liability/fear or what have you. No School, no one. The child really wanted to get into the water. Despite her illness she was very bright minded and sought Duane Desoto out as she was determined to attain her goal. The little girl literally asked Duane if she could take her out into the water. Without hesitation, Duane quickly responded “of course” and grabbed a large board. He gently placed her on the board and began paddling with one hand. She sat securely with Duane holding on to her with his right arm as he used his left arm to paddle the board. I was watching intently at Duane’s behavior and I was delighted by it. I observed him quietly teaching her about the ocean in a soft tone of voice. They went out quite a distance in Moanalua bay. It was so beautiful that it happily brought tears to my eyes.

The mother has since told me that her daughter was unfortunately quite ill and in hospice. But she told her mother something wonderful and this is the message that she wanted me to convey to Duane Desoto. The mother said that,Duane taking her into the water was a changing point in her life. She told her mother “I was never able to walk, I was never able to stand up, but I got to be in the beautiful ocean thanks to that nice man.” Duane, you are a saint, bodhisattva or what have you.

It really does not matter what religion you are. Again as the Dalai Lama said, we don’t need any more Buddhists (or what have you) we need more compassionate people. Right on Duane. Let’s all take a little time to go out of our way and consider the other that is less fortunate than us, and follow the examples that kind people set all over the world. Let us make this one of the foundations of our precious life. I believe that this is one of the keys to Zen.

My father’s last words: “You find the truth in yourself, kindness and compassion”. We will all be on our deathbeds. Let us live well so we may manifest the seeds of kindness beyond death. It is really quite simple.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Information on Coached Downwind Runs with Robert Stehlik

If you are interested in learning how to do downwinders on Oahu or want to improve your bump riding skills and timing to go faster with less effort, please consider a private downwind coaching session on Oahu's south shore with Robert Stehlik.  The most common south shore run for experienced paddlers is the Hawaii Kai to Kaimana Beach (Waikiki) run.

For beginner downwind paddlers, the Hawaii Kai to Kahala run is better suited for learning downwind paddling as going around Black Point and Diamond Head can be very challenging when you are starting out.
Hawaii Kai to Kahala downwinder GPS track, approx. 5 miles

For the coached Kahala run, we usually meet in Kahala at the Waialae beach park and take a look at the the reef to go over where the channel is and what to look for when coming in.  Coming in through the reef at Kahala is one of the most challenging parts of the run and can be dangerous, especially on a low tide, so please don't attempt this by yourself without someone that knows where to go.
We leave one car at the finish in Kahala then drive to Portlock where the downwind run starts.  We then spend some time going over some downwind basics, tips, drills, equipment, and stretching before going into the water.  Below is a map of the meeting place in Kahala and a google map that shows the run.  You can zoom into the meeting place called Waialae Beach Park, just before the Kahala Mandarin Hotel.
Waialae Beach Park, the meeting place for the Hawaii Kai to Kahala Run

View Kahala beach downwind coaching meet here in a larger map

Below is a video of a recent coached downwind run:

If you are planning to do a coached downwinder, click the link and watch the videos with downwind tips for the Hawaii Kai to Kaimana run:

The cost of a coached downwind run is $60 per hour.  A typical Hawaii Kai to Kahala run takes about 2.5 hours including transportation so the cost is usually $150.  The coaching fee is the same whether there is one person or several participants and can be split between the participants but keep in mind that you will get the most value from a one on one coaching session.  You can bring your own gear or you can rent a downwind board, paddle and leash through Blue Planet for $30 for the downwinder, which includes transportation to and from the downwinder.  If you don't have a car, additional transportation charges may incur for a shuttle or taxi ride.  To check available dates and times for downwind coaching, please call Blue Planet Surf Shop at 808 596 7755 or send a message through the contact us page on blueplanetsurf.com:

Once you have confirmed availability for a date and time, you can complete the reservation with a $75 deposit through BluePlanetSurf.com here:

A  video of your downwinder is available on request (please ask to have it filmed at the time of booking).  

Posing after a successful Kahala run with our 14' Blue Planet Bump Rider boards

For referrals from past participants, please check some of the reviews on Tripadvisor:

Friday, September 27, 2013

3D tour of the Blue Planet Surf Shop

You can now virtually visit our shop on Google, move around the shop, and get a 360 degree view as you move around.  Make sure to check out the vintage surfboard collection on the roof of the garage.  

Click here for the 3D shop tour on Google maps


Or just use the window below.  To move around, click on the floor where you want to go next.  Can you find the vintage surfboards hanging from the garage ceiling?


View Larger Map

Friday, September 6, 2013

Grand Canyon SUP River Trip- August 2013

I recently returned from a River trip through the Grand Canyon.  It was truly a trip of a lifetime.  I put together two videos documenting the trip.  The first is video is the shorter one, showing just the most difficult rapid in the Grand Canyon, called Lava Falls.  I went through the rapid with my Stand Up Paddleboard (note: I said with the board, not on the board :).   My 14 year old niece, Emily Williams rowed through it on a big raft and may be the youngest girl to have rowed through Lava Falls rapid.

To see how not to go through Lava Falls, watch this video which shows what happens if you drift into the biggest hole sideways instead of punching through the wave nose or tail first.  You can watch it happen to two rafts in a row, major carnage.

Here is the longer (33 minute) video documenting the whole trip with many of the rapids with my commentary on the trip and some takeaways from whitewater SUP'ing.

I'm planning to add more information to this post, so if you are interested in a SUP trip through the Grand Canyon, please check back as I plan to post more information.  For now, here are some helpful links:

National Park Service information on permits and the River Trip orientation video:

PRO river outfitters, this is the company that supplied our food, gear and logistics for our group of 16 for 16 days, which is not something you want to do on your own:

I purchased this River Guide which had good maps as well as lots of interesting historical and geological  information on the Grand Canyon:

Aloha, Robert Stehlik

The group celebrating on Tequila beach after making it through Lava Falls

Sitting on a perch under Deer Creek Falls is amazing

My daughter, Jaime Stehlik at Havasu Creek

Shist Camp in the inner gorge

Panoramic Shot at Nankoweep Camp

Havasupai Creek
Going into Horn Creek Rapid on the Grand Canyon SUP river trip

The SUP's were great for crossing the river when we camped across Deer Creek Falls

Monday, July 29, 2013

How Do Surfers and Waterpeople Utilize Zen Ideas Honestly? Part 2

Author Studying Buddhism in the Barrel!

Zen for Surfers and Water people. How Do We Utilize Zen Ideas In An Honest Manner?
By Dr. Len Barrow (Asian/Polynesian Religion Specialist)

Note Please Read Part One as this Article Is Prefaced by It

Part 2

The historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) noticed and elaborated on a linguistic mismatch between how reality is described by language and how reality actually manifested. As an example he noticed that a chair is not actually a chair even though it was represented by the word- ”chair”. The chair was just a linguistic convention, a common referent, that everyone agreed upon (in common language convention) to call this otherwise random “pile of wood”. The Buddha rather saw the chair as it was in the ultimate reality of inter-being or emptiness which is explained in part one of this series.

(Note: A chair is used as a approximate example for explanation purposes)

Buddhist Logic reveals the following. The chair is actually an amazingly vast ecosystem of sorts. The chair included parts of the tree that it was made from. The tree itself, from which the chair was made, needed the nutrients of the earth for it to grow. The nutrients needed the geology of the whole earth to manifest! The tree also needed the sun to grow. The tree needed a woodsman and a craftsman to make the chair and all their ancestors to bring the craftsman to be hence the chair into being. The sun needed other stars to hold it in perfect position (via gravity) to shine on the tree. The list of inter-relationships, ecosystems,social ecosystems and interbeing are endless. In this manner the Buddha rather saw the chair not as a chair but rather as "interbeing" or as what is called emptiness.

The Buddha was careful to point out that chairs do indeed exist on a conventional level (as we sit on them in conventional reality) but asked us to look beyond the linguistic convention of the chair to the whole universe of inter-relationships behind it (ITS ULTIMATE EXPRESSION) which is termed inter-being by the great Vietnamese Monk Mr. Han and emptiness by his holiness the Dalai Lama.
It is important to note that in this this argument there exists absolutely no “chair substance” that exists in the chair to make it an individuated, individual chair. This is a key point as we progress to Buddhism’s analysis of the self.

Just as the chair manifestation elicited linguistic problems the historical Buddha noticed and elaborated on a similar linguistic mismatch between how the self is conventionally viewed by language and how the self actually manifests in reality. So let us look at this issue like this. We conventionally refer to each other as selves. We have linguistically agreed with each other via shared language that we will call this pile of flesh and bones and so- on a “self”. One must ask if this is a logical view of the self.

Well if a self truly existed on its own power, by itself (as conventional western reality has it), it would have to have a type of “self-substance “; which would allow us to exist as individuals. This is the philosophy of the Westerner Renee Descartes which we blindly accept today. It is summed up “I think therefore I am”. In short this is the philosophy of “individualism and dualism” which is held in such high regard in western society. The self is set apart from nature as an individual on its own power which controls nature and others through manipulation, force and sometimes violence. If you have any doubt about this, look at what western culture (among other cultures) has done to its environment and its tragic history of wars. All cultures (whether Asians or whatever) fight but the westerners took it to another level in WW1 and beyond. This follows the Western philosophy of individualism and dualism. As surfers we have a better chance to see through this profound ignorance which is termed “Avidya” in Buddhism. If this is irritating you, you should stop reading this now as here is where the Buddhist philosophy gets very profound and truly mind blowing.

Buddhist and many hard core surfers like myself find the argument of individualism and dualism to be extremely flawed and a source of great suffering. I suppose Zen Buddhists notice something while meditating while surfers notice some different reality by surfing. Let us take a Buddhist argument of how a self exists in its ultimate logical manifestation.

If I am Len in individualism and its related philosophy, a Len substance or soul must permeate my body in acccepted model of the theory of Renee Descartes. In individualism where the individual cannot be divided, and dualism following the Philosophy of Renee Descartes which we blindly follow; ” what is in my body is called Len” and “what is outside of my body is not Len”. Yet is this reality possible?

Let me do a funny thought experiment to analyze the above question. Let me take my liver or "Len's" liver (My first “Name” is Len) Do the cells have little labels on them that say Len’s Liver? No; that is ludicrous. Does my liver have a little soul or self-substance that exists in it. No. No one has ever found one. In fact the liver can be transplanted into another individual. Let us say that that liver gets transplanted into “Fred”. Does it become Fred’s liver (for it is his body?, or is it?!). Do little signs appear on the transplanted liver cells saying ‘this is now Fred’s liver”? No. Does the Fred’s liver, attain a new Fred’s liver self-substance or soul. No. No one has ever found one.

Thus the liver completely and totally lacks a self or self-substance and can be transplanted into another individual. The kidneys lack a self, soul or self-substance and can be transplanted also. Arms have been transplanted! Arms lack a self and a self-substance or individual soul. IN FACT NO PART OF THE BODY HAS AN INDIVIDUAL SELF SUBSTANCE; THUS A SELF IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC AND DUALISTIC VIEW (AS HELD MY WESTERN MATERIAL REALITY) IS COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE. This is Buddhism’s basis of the idea of Anatta or no self.

In the end we find the self is made totally of non-self-components. Our selves are an inter-being of proteins, minerals, carbons among other amazing nonself things and forces! How exciting. This is amazing to me. Not one part of us can be said to be made of our own self element. We are empty. It is that simple. We are empty as we are filled with everything in the entire universe!

As surfers, I think we can notice this in the ocean. Have you ever been floating in the water and gotten a feeling of complete unity with the universe in the ocean. The self simply disappears into interbeing. This is honestly one of the reasons why I surf. My Roshi (Zen Teacher); the eponymous Zen Master Aitken Roshi once told me “you have some understanding…….because you surf” Maybe? Could it be so? Let’s take our sport and really try to understand what we are doing in a Zen manner. More importantly let us let what we learn in Zen and the surf influence how we treat nature and other humans even if they seem different to us! In the end, let us be honest, kind, devoid of greed and harm. The other alternative is violence against Mother Nature other humans and the like. What kind of world would you like? Look in the mirror.

What I am getting at is very abstract and complex yet really quite simple. I will stop here to keep things at least partially understandable. There is still more to come. Stay tuned for part three in a few days! If you are a bit shocked at the above analysis, don’t worry. I still blow my mind to this day when I think of this matter.

Dr. Len Barrow (Polynesian and Asian Religion Specialist)
Occasional Letters, July 22, 2013