Fin Quiver: Jonathan Steinberg

unnamedJonathan Steinberg is a dedicated mat rider on the Westside of Santa Cruz. With many years of fin wearing experience, Jonathan’s collection and knowledge are unlike any others. He recently had an art show at The Great Highway Gallery in Ocean Beach, SF with Mark Cunningham. The show, titled “Shorepound Lost & Found” featured treasures found by Cunningham on the North Shore of Oahu and swim fin artwork created by Steinberg.

Jonathan’s fin story:

Fins? I really like fins. Always have. My first fins were an adjustable pair I had when I was a kid. Sorta mini Duckfeet pattern with a nice graphic of a sailfish on them. We used to bodysurf, mat surf and ride foamies (Styrofoam paipos) at Zuma when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s. I kept the sailfish fins long enough to give them to my son. They disappeared in Kauai on a visit 20 years ago. Next, I had a pair of green soft Churchills. I got them at the Goleta Flea Market in maybe 1977 (or 76 or 78). I still have then. Really soft and comfy but not much thrust.


Next, I had a nice mismatched pair of Churchills. Black and Yellow Boogie Fin and a classic Makapuu. Those where my warmer water fins. Good all round and a solid choice. Not bad on the feet without socks. When it got cold I would wear trimmed down Duckfeet (Super XL) over surf booties: good thrust, not too heavy but not a great fit. Then I started wearing Redleys with booties. Good thrust, good fit and comfy. A little heavy but that was the jam for several years.

Then I started wearing Dafins in warmer water maybe 5 years ago. Again good all around fins. I especially enjoy their lightness. Instead of the Redleys I started wearing Viper MS fins over 3 mil surf booties. Really liked the feel, the thrust, weight and fit over boots. Viper and Dafin are core surf companies, I liked supporting them.


Recently I have started wearing the new formula Duckfeet (green and blue) and have become a convert. The fit (with thin fin socks), the weight, the thrust all fantastic. I surf long righthand points, with the ducks I can cover a lot over ground on the swim back.

Untitled1I also use fins in my art. My friends kick over found singles, orphan, outgrown and broken fins. I now have hundreds. The neighborhood groms know they can come by if they lose a fin or grow out of their pair. Someone gave me a nice pair of red Redleys. They are lighter with a better fit without a fin sock so I am looking forward to trying those.

Fins I tried and didn’t like? UDTs, Classic Vipers, the new yellow and orange vipers, most oddball boogie fins. I have super long narrow feet. Not everything works for me.

Check out more from Jonathan at:

Jonathan Steinberg

Mythology of the Orange Cap

I asked a guy who obviously knew his way around NorCal lineups…

“Ever see any other bodysurfers around?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen a couple. Always the orange swim cap. Or is it pink? Well, whatever color it is, she shows up when it’s biggest and heaviest and most perfect…she swims and plays when the local tough guys are salivating but scared on the beach.

IMG_4741She gracefully and joyfully swims around giant, swirling, relentless Ocean Beach and maxed out, draining Fort Point when the Coast Guard plucked a couple surfers headed for Potato Patch. I’ve heard she swims laps through the impact zone at solid Mavericks just to see it and feel it.”

The mythology states she was a swimmer before she was a waverider. She swam La Jolla Cove with the masses but when the NPAC threw heaps down the Canyon, she became the lone swimmer…getting kicks and fun licks in big surf. Locals gave her fins and taught her to glide. Now she quietly dominates heavy lineups all over Nor-Cen California.

Search at Kellys“I pulled up to OB one February morning- predawn. Buoys read 20ft at 20sec. High pressure Santa Lucia winds whistled offshore A-frame, all-time perfection. She appeared…orange cap moonlit with the swell lines…way outside. The horizon accordioned with XXL energy. She swam to the set’s very apex and gracefully swam into myth.

Other guys in the lot that morning still talk about it reverently- Greg Noll Makaha like Story. The Sun rose shortly after, most local experts couldn’t get outside, too big too perfect too much. But there she was, perfectly pocketed in the most perfect wave. Maybe she has webbed digits and mutated gills…Anyway, she’s super radical. Maybe she doesn’t even exist.”

She is either a mythological creature or one of most radical waveriders in California. There are plenty of extreme heavywater, “orange cap” stories around to make the case.IMG_5177

Tripping Fins: Dynamic Coast

Depart Encinitas 8:30pm Friday evening: seven hours straight to Eastside Santa Cruz urban camp. Breakfast with Homeboy Eric and Homegirl Rachel then northbound to Ocean Beach, San Francisco to meet up with our buddy Dallas. Sloat St. swim: overhead and super fun. Snagged a couple solid peaks in the strong drift. Dinner and spectating in the Haight. Chat with Child: coffee shop drug dealer representing “Dead Nation.” Vibrant humanity.

Urban camp at the Pacifica Pier. Sunday 6:00am Kelly’s Cove check: not working and no orange swim cap. Back to Sloat: overhead+, catch a rip way outside. Plentiful swimming, as expected at OB. Sets on the head. Luck into a beauty of a right wall: nice speed, sensational feel.

Photo: Rachel Newton

On to FP- too much tide- Crissy Park nap. Awake to dropping tide-rising swell. The Point woke up. Thought it was novelty, discovered a legitimate wave. Head high and incredibly dynamic. Sets swing swiftly into rocks. EJ charges. Once heard a big-wave icon say he can instantly decipher who truly has the proverbial “Right Stuff” by the way they react to an approaching set…EJ is the guy swimming into the guts of It because It “looks fun.”

EJ under the bridge and dreaming.
EJ under the bridge and dreaming.
Photo: Rachel Newton

Say goodbye to dear friends. Stretch out solo. Cruise the Piers and Wharf: clam chowder and people watching.  Urban camp Stockton St. downtown San Fran. Next morning to Pier 39 for whale-watching cruise to the mythological Farallon Islands: decomposing granite monoliths 28 miles offshore. Homestead of innumerable seabirds, pinnipeds, intrepid biologists and the largest of great white sharks.

No whales today but more than my money’s worth. The reefs at Indianhead and Mirounga Bay firing with 8-10ft of raw NW Ocean energy. Apparently never ridden…the last California wave frontier. It’s out there, if you want it bad enough.

Mirounga Bay- Farallon Islands

Our vessel, The Kitty Kat looks like a plague cruise. Seasick zombies stumble to the “Ralph” spot and unload, immobilized by sheer misery. Make new friends: literature teachers from Paris: Ocèane and Aurelie. They didn’t have much fun on the cruise, but we made plans to discuss Rimbaud and Sartè later in the week. Drive over the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands…overlooking everything. Stunning views abound.

Big Set
Big set from the Marin Headlands through binos.
Dynamic City
Dynamic City

Next morning to Point Reyes National Seashore. San Andreas Fault heartland. Exposed to North Pacific fury like few places in California. Steep blowing sand shorebreak at South Beach. Double overhead+? on the outside…head high warping wedges on the sand. Chilly swim, washed down the beach, exhilarating wompy visions. Cruised the dairy farms way out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rocks. Fascinating physical oceanography.

Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore

Southbound down iconic Route 1 back to the city. Muir Beach sunset. Quick stop back to Fort Point.  Dirtbag shower in the bathroom before meeting up with new friends from France. Found them perusing the poetry at a classic Beat bookstore.  Intellect and cute French accents make for a late night.

Urban camp Pacifica Pier…rocked to sleep by shorebreak energy. Next morning southbound, hike to the Boneyard and pay homage to Mavericks. On to Santa Cruz. A little nook is working on the Westside- waves bounce off the backside and wedge into fast hollow peaks…super fun. Watch The Point get torn apart by a heavy Westside crew including Flea and Nat Young.

Nat Young- Steamer Lane

South to Big Sur’s golden sunset light. Camp: Ocean front forest service road. Glorious dark skies…”What’s that glow in the West?” WOW! The Zodiacal Light!  First observation, been looking for years. Dust in our solar system reflecting light…beautiful!  Morning at head high Big Sur reef.

Big Sur Gold
Big Sur Gold
The Zodiacal Light
The Zodiacal Light

Southbound: Incredible wave potential everywhere. NW swell lingers. Every turn-out offers dynamic new potential. Epicness awaits the extra hearty. Somewhere: big lefts slab over an abrupt rocky reef…mindsurf. The giant elephant seals swimming on the inside have the best view.


Southward. Cayucos is offshore and amazingly walled down the beach…400 yard cylinders. Swim out but avoid the guy getting barreled on a jetski. Pushing South into Morro Bay: volcanic plug geology and peregrine falcons. Camp: Pismo Beach, Oceano Dunes. Put the Tacoma back on sand where she belongs. Sandy sweet sleep.

Central Coast
Central Coast

Headed South early. Straight to SB: to spy enchanting spinners.  Glassy, stomach high turbines roping along the breakwall. Best barrel view in California? SB framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains. Top of the list to score solid. On to the Queen. Glassy, waist to chest and hollow at the Rivermouth. Magic point…everyone should have one in their front yard.

The barrel looks out to a mountain range.
The barrel looks out to a mountain range. Santa Cruz Island out the back.

To Oxnard with the wind and fog. Cool town and I didn’t get punched in the face…bonus. Down the 1 through the wave potential of Pt. Mugu. Here the coast changes. No more secret nooks, not much open space…masses of concrete from here to Baja.  Stop at Surfrider Beach, fogged in but can see knee high waves peeling across First Point.

Dynamic coast, excellent adventure!