By Ken McKnight
"If ever there was a mad hatter then it is Greg Deets. He is a natural water brother and the king of the Shitpipe. He walks, he talks, and he hangs out on the ragged edge of an artificial reef and smiles at the world that bows before him. He samples our water, raises Dahlia's, and rides waves on anything and everything. Deets is the hero to many a military man for he has gone to Washington and he makes bar none the best swim fins on the face of the earth..."
I sometimes wonder if Greg Deets is of this world. I almost think he belongs in the oceans of the earth swimming with the creatures that go the fastest and exploring the aqueous areas that mere mortals can't get to. If ever there was a natural water brother then this guy is it. One of the Wedge-Men who pioneered a new era and way of riding the warping, sand-sucking, ass thumping monster that exists in Newport Beach on South Swells, Deets rides the spot as though he invented it. Many of his followers swear he did.
He has surfed big Pipe and Lunada Bay on his chest. He takes incredible photos, studies the lineage of fish, raises amazing Dahlia's and loves to surf on anything and everything.
Greg Deets walks, talks, and hangs out on the ragged edge of an artificial reef he calls home, making him the unheralded king of the Shitpipe in LA. He is the hero to many a military man as he makes bar none the finest power swim fin on the face of the earth, The UDT. And if you're not smart enough to figure that out, it means Underwater Demolition Team and that spells Frogman as in SEAL. His fins are in high demand the world over.
Greg runs fast these days and is very busy with everything from hybridizing Dahlia's, to studying and testing water quality, to maintaining the UDT fins he has religiously resurrected from the dead. He surfs daily on everything from his Neumatic "Triscuit" mats, to Toby Quads, and of course his amazing ability to bodysurf. Deets must have gills for as much time as he spends in the ocean. Here, in his own words (and a few of his admirers), is how this human BS (Body Surfing) Seal has seen it all from out in the line-up because that is usually where you'll find him.
- Ken McKnight
Diversification - A Segue to Resurrection
Holy mother of God, has it really been this long? I sit here typing up part of this invited interview, trying to find a way to make a semi-relevant watered-down autobiography of my life half-way interesting to the web-addicted out there in cyberburbia, and I realize... Christ almighty, I am in my 38th year of wave riding!!
I started at the age of 11 down in the then often empty waves of 40th Street El Porto, having absolutely no idea where that first wave bodysurfed straight in to shore with one shoe-fin (Cressi-Rondine dive fin) would inevitably lead. But for now, it will suffice to say, that the defining moment took me much further than the shoreline and it seems I haven't pulled out of that foamer yet. It magically seems to keep reforming.
Funny, I'm not sure how to kick off an autobiography concentrating on bodysurfing, fins, and other wave riding methods. In any case, it begins in the summer of 1969; I think... how's that Brian Eno song go again...
The passage of time
Is flicking dimly up on the screen
I can't see the lines
I used to think I could read between
And we're pulling out of the summer of love era and into glitter.
The AM radios all over the beach nearly create a stereo-effect as one cannot escape the constant barrage of KHJ blasting Crystal Blue Persuasion (which I immediately associated with my ocean love and life). I have an incredible love for bodysurfing. The feeling of the waves, the swimming, the sun, the sunsets, the organisms...I like the various weird marine invertebrates. One thing i really liked to do was to fill my mouth up with sand crabs and run up on the beach where our little group of guys and gals hung out and just lay next to one of the girls and open my mouth and have all the sand crabs come wiggling' out!! God, they would scream and run. Yeah! The girls just couldn't get enough of me...
As I matured, less sand crab events happened. Then my first pair of green Churchill's came. A gift from my now deceased parents on Christmas morning when I was 15. It was obvious that some vector, if not the vector, in my life was set. The summer of 1972 found me completely obsessed. 16 years old, long hair, blasting Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and really becoming a bit wild and socially unacceptable. My bodysurfing ability exponentially leaped that summer for one or two reasons... or both.
One reason is sort of funny, well at least with hindsight it is. My friends Hugh Berenger, Sick, Troy Atkeson, Paul Koppleman, Mike Parks, Tuna - the gay mahoney, Cumson, Greg Lappen and I would often get to the beach just before sunrise to get the morning glass. It was in these early hours a few older men of very questionable sexual affiliation would come over to us and sit by our towels and talk to us with their eyes glazed over!!! We knew something was not right and scary so we would flip on our fins and tear out into the water bodysurfing or kneeboarding. We would stay out for hours and hours and hours and hours until they finally shimmied away... we became very strong swimmers and good wave riders since we were too scared to go back on land!!!
The second reason my personal ability jumped was having the chance to go to the Wedge for the first time. My friend's mom took us down and dumped us off at 5 AM. Never seeing this place before except in magazines and movies I was expecting to see the beach strewn with dead and debilitated people. Then I heard the thunder, the thunder of a crashing pounding wave. Down we went and there it was, this wondrous thick deep emerald peak as if carved and chipped from glass or ice.
Putting on my Churchill swim fins and swimming out there was an event I'll never forget (and why I never wore Churchill's again either). To make a long story short, I did quite well on my first wave, but orbited the earth twice on my second!
Later that morning a longhaired crazed guy wearing duck feet showed up and entered the water and what I witnessed literally changed my life (the second reason from the aforementioned). This person was obviously not a part of the local crew in the rocks. He was strangely cocky and irreverent, but out he swam and did things on a wave I never thought possible. It was absolute fusion and beauty. His name was Hal Handley.
Back home that night I couldn't stop thinking of what I saw this Seal-man do... I must become the Seal-man. I awoke the next morning and quickly headed out to 40th street El Porto with superstar knee rider Troy Atkeson... and in utter disbelief, the first thing we see on this beautiful left is the Seal-man from the Wedge, laid-out in a beautiful left. How could anything so coincidental be, yet it was true. We talked about style, school, waves, everything. Life's vector increased. Simply stated, Hal Handley PH.D, influenced me to not only pursue bodysurfing to its fullest but to also pursue anything you pursue to its fullest. Handley was not unlike Steve Jobs, another one of my idols, who has often implied that things are not worth pursuing if you are not going to put the effort into making those pursuits change the world. These are words I live by.
Message from Nyko
I had BS Shitpipe with Greg and I know what are you talking about. This Greg is Number One. When I saw him, I think "nyko you had a lot To, learn."
He is like a seal, something fantastic. And I know the feeling of "touch" the pipe... lol, if you touch it for sure you have some blood That was a nice session for me and you had pass a nice day whis Greg and Deb, is good to see that some people never change.
Greg, don't change and still BS (bodysurf) like that, you're The Seal!
In 1974 I graduated from High School with one of the highest GPA's in the class. Yippee Doo, all I wanted was get my Voit Duck Feet on and get in the water. That is exactly what I did. By 1975 Terry Wade (a knee rider then) and I had sort of become the nucleus of the next generation Wedge crew, with both of us wanting to excel to the highest levels we could. We were blessed in being able to talk to the outgoing crew and learn from them. It was an honor to meet and befriend the likes of Kevin Egan, Charlie Green, Time Rydesdale, and both Steve Metcalf and Bill "the beachball" Sinner, who personally took us under their wings.
The end of 1975 found us out in the largest waves imaginable, trying to ride the monster from New Zealand, the Swell of September 1975. The waves from that day are still hard to describe. Peaks that would shift from 6-8 foot side waves, about 50 yards in a few seconds, the mass, the speed, the power, the size... I can remember going over the top of one massive set and actually looking back at the beach and seeing the sailboats scooting about in the harbor BEHIND the peninsula... just amazing!
By 1976 I was sentenced to UCLA for a life of slide rules and gas laws... I was going to be a meteorologist... specifically a marine meteorologist to study wave formation, dynamics etc. But after a summer of Wedge and that first warm Santa Ana and its accompanying west swell, I found myself in a 747 flying to the north shore of Oahu with my duck feet, Brad Clark from El Segundo, and Chris Robinson from the Wedge (who STILL hasn't returned yet!). I basically lived in the water at Pipeline from 7:30 Am till 5 PM every day.
Comment from Chris Robinson
Using the new improved UDT at Pipeline last season Greg rigged up the new UDT's went for a spin had to do it at Pipe for some reason, astounding power, it felt like I was swimming over the top of the wind chop as opposed to through it I just started laughing today I hope to fly them at Panics a small south is expected.
I made a good friend in fantastic bodysurfer Charlie Halemano (now deceased) from Wahiawa where I lived. I was lucky enough to ride one of the largest rideable swells at Pipeline with my Aussie cohort, the Kadaitcha Man. Its a legendary tale and best told by someone else. I do remember the Smirnoff was being held that day and it was too big for the pros to go out, but two bodysurfers from opposite cultures and sides of the Pacific did. It is a small piece of bodysurfing history and lore was made.
Spring semester called me back and by then I had decided to shift my efforts into Natural History / Marine Biology since that really was what I was... a strange hybrid sea/land creature, much more comfortable and at home in a pair of fins and speedos than anywhere on land. I longed to rid myself somehow from any association with my terrestrial heritage / baggage. Hoping somehow I would awake with gills and just swim away.
Yet... I kept thinking about diving into industrial design and plastics, and thinking about... fins. A better fin!
This segues into an interesting era where I meet so many people and rode so many waves. Locally, I am heavily influenced by the pure grace of Joe Neally, truly a non-human who understood something maybe none of us will ever understand, although I studied and endeavored... Joe rode waves like no one else. It sort of transcends words; I would love to see him back in the water again.
Concomitantly, I met the recently deceased Craig Bowman... holy mother of god, here was this huge, huge, bizarre, aberrant thing in little tiny speedos with a David Bowie hair-do. He walked up on the beach, and looked out at these massive waves and started laughing with this crazed look in his eyes... I'm thinking... Oh Christ. I'm going to have to go out and rescue this nut. He dives in powers through like its a one foot day... waits for the biggest ugliest set with backwash, pulls off a spinner at the take off and comes around facing the beach, back to the wave, butt sliding straight down the face with his feet below like some praying religious figure... the Bowman Butt-Slide.
Bowman was the most crazed, irreverent thing one could imagine. Mix those two influences together, throw in a little ultra-aggro Romo, and you see what I am imprinting on, well almost.
That same year I meet the amazing Jeff Noah and Riley Smith at the Wedge from O'ahu. Jeff and Riley both rode Point Panic with Riley a competitive swimmer and lifeguard at Sandy Beach. They rode waves really different... that loose crawling Hawaiian style with Speedo training paddles. We became very good friends and they forced me one day in the water to wear the training paddles. Interestingly, the paddles allowed me to augment a few components of my repertoire and offered a better work out. I still wear paddles more often than not! I am still honored to have Jeff Noah pick me up at the airport and drive us straight out to pipeline and ride. Jeff if you are out there or Riley, please say hi!
By now the Wedge crew has evolved into a really wild, out of control, no limits, no holds barred, no wave too ugly, no free dive too deep, no swim too long, no drink too strong, no Speedo too small, tribe. It grows with the likes of Mel, James Dawson, Brian Dawson, Rabbit Dawson, Kwok, Stack, Pinkie, the Larson's, Rick "the Pearman" Wagner, the Timmerman's, with Mike Timmerman being an all time great... coincidentally forgotten in the media as has been all of the aforementioned.
Notes from Mike Timmerman
My name is Mike Timmerman; I'm 47 years old and an ex-wedge bodysurfer. I started riding wedge in 1974, figured it out in 1976 and I rode there consistently through 1988... I kept at it, off and on, through the mid 1990's and I still bodysurf in Huntington Beach, San Clemente and occasionally at Greg's home spot of shitpipe in El Segundo. I also rode Pipeline, Sandy Beach and several other spots in Hawaii in the late 70's and early 80's.
I used Duck Feet and the old UDT's for years until Fred Simpson gave me my first pair of Vipers. I swore by Vipers for 25 years... I promoted them and made sure all my friends and family used them, too... but when Greg got me my first pair of DeeTs I realized how inadequate the Vipers really are. UDeeTs are the most powerful pair of fins I've ever pulled on... critical, late take-offs no longer exist due to the incredible thrust and power generated by these fins. I routinely make waves I NEVER could have made before... my only complaint is I wish I had them 25 years ago when I rode bigger surf!
I highly recommend UDeeTs to anyone who is serious about wave riding, whether they are a bodysurfer, knee rider or bodyboarder (or skin/scuba diver).
I don't know how well you know Greg Deets or what you know about his prowess as a bodysurfer, but let me say this... it is very logical to me that he came up with the best bodysurfing fin of all time because he is the best bodysurfer I have ever seen in my life.
As I said before, I was a serious big wave bodysurfer at wedge and at several big wave spots in Hawaii for years. In my generation at wedge (1976-1990) there were a lot of us who were very good bodysurfers...and one of us, Terry Wade, rode the biggest wedge waves ever ridden (shredded two waves with over 30 ft. faces) that I know of, but Greg Deets was, and is, head and shoulders above the rest of us in talent and wave riding ability.
It's hard to explain, but he is just a beautiful bodysurfer. His style is so fluid it looks effortless. We all tried to emulate his style, his extreme layouts, wide hand planning and slow, graceful spinners. And while riding at Pipeline in 1983, a few locals who had begrudgingly given me some waves for a few hours said to me "hey, you ride like Greg, that other haole From the Wedge... you his brother?"... Which was amusing to me... here we are, among the best bodysurfers that exist, and THEY know enough about Deets to see his style in another blond headed white boy from California. Truly amazing. He is a true dedicated waterman; a lover of the ocean and especially bodysurfing and it really shows when he is out there. Don't tell him I said anything nice about him or it would ruin my nasty reputation. And always remember, Wedgemen never pull out.
We ride hard and critically, no water drop unnoticed. Romo recently claims this era produced the best waves of all time, the most insane tribe ever, and collectively unsurpassed in skill. Hell, Wade threw the kneeboard away and certainly bodysurfed the largest, fastest, most powerful waves of all time... although this unique feat may be in jeopardy now from my good friend Matt Larson. Interesting sidebar here during this era: Mel and I bodysurfed big Lunada Bay twice... good Christ what a wave, like a giant fat Point Panic, now there's a wave like Pipeline that should be blackballed and kept for bodysurfing.
Never satisfied with anything that I do or am in life, the late 70's or early 80's produced an updated retooled mold of the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team/Navy Seals) Duck Foot fin by Voit, or the Macho Duck or Pipeline Power Duck as it was also called. It was a pretty thing, natural brown... could it be better than the great Duck feet we all used?
I put the things on and exploded in the water like I had never exploded before... I was a new animal once again. The fin was so much more powerful and longer allowing me to catch more waves. I'm also able to hang into steep sections, maintaining trim, where a shorter bladed fin would pop out and cause side slippage. Additionally, the fin was great for snorkeling and diving, delivering much more power and speed than conventional dive fins. Obsessed and hooked. Life's wave reforms again.
Message from a military man
Hello Greg, I understand you are producing the famous UDT Duck Feet. I manage the SOCOM Store (www.socomstore.com) and many of our customers have expressed interest in purchasing your fins. Our store caters to prospective BUD/S students, and since duck feet are still used in BUD/S, many of these would-be SEAL/s would like to get the gear they will use in BUD/s in order to get a leg up. I would like information on becoming a dealer.
Tony Vernetti SOCOM Store Manager,
The new wave 80's are here and I am almost into my second decade of riding Wedge. The tribe is fragmenting for various reasons. I am finishing up a Master's in marine biology under the world famous Dr. Ho, and am about to be invited into a PHD program at the University of British Columbia (the Cambridge of Canada) in systematics, evolution, and statistical thermodynamics... because despite all of this wave stuff... I actually do pretty well in academia.
In 1986 I am in my PhD program at UBC... that's ok, I'm teaching Invert Zoo - torturing sponges and horse shoe crabs - and general Bio Labs - gassing' rats and chopping their guts out - but... I'm not where I should be... my power center is off, the culture, the weather, ...just not right. It's a challenge, the odds seem way against me... and that's when I seem to be at my best. My dad dies while I am studying for my qualification exams. My mom is in intensive care for health problems... The pressure is crushing.
Then one day at school I receive a coconut addressed to me from my long time great friend Chris Robinson on the North Shore, saying "Get over here." Within 2 months I'm riding pipeline with him and Mel, my fiancé / now wife Deb joins in, and I get to write it all off as I am there examining the holotype of the first megamouth shark for parasitic crustacea in its gills at the Bishop museum in Honolulu. In short, I finish the dissertation back in So Cal with an adjunct professorship from Long Beach State, my mom dies and life is never quite the same.
The sociology at the Wedge is no longer what it used to be... degrading into a black hole of people associating themselves with a spot... not the art, and how to get into the media at anybody's and everybody's expense.
Since I am Greg first, a bodysurfer a distant second, and really someone who doesn't see any label fitting. This was a society that I had to now leave. Additionally, how many peaks do I have to ride, and how many spinners do I have to do? I felt I badly needed a new canvas, the creativity, the mysticism... were just no longer there... hell even David Bowie and Keith Richards had to leave their bands for creative/artistic inspiration.
This segues into the next phase of whatever... I return to El Segundo, and my home break Shitpipe and get really sliced up and bloody on the bottom - my hands are bloody from hitting the barnacles and muscles, my swim fins look like they just got attacked by a cheese grater, and at low tide these rusty metal daggers would appear inside... this strange mutating scary challenge was my new canvas, I hadn't felt this way since my early days at the Wedge. Many days over several years were rode with just me knee boarding or bodysurfing with fellow Wedge ex-patriots and soul and truth searchers Rick Wagner and Richard Santangelo.
This was great fun, and we rode many spots from Blacks to Point Mugu in an effort to expand and diversify our respective bodysurfing experience horizons.
A Shitpipe story from Hugh
I was greeted by friendly women at the entrance to Shitpipe parking lot asking for $5.00 to park. It was Sunday morning and barely light out, just before 7:00 am. I guess LA runs 24/7. Well I came this far so I coughed up the $ and parked. An old friend of mine from way back, Tom Blair, was the only one there checking the surf. We both looked at it and decided to go out. The 2 of us traded waves and conversation for about a ½ hour. I took out my surfboard at first. I got about 7 waves in that ½ hour loosing my board 4 times! A little frustrating but still fun.
On the beach Greg Deets was fining up. I was expecting him and stoked he made it so early. I gave him a wave hello and realized I had not placed my parking receipt on my dash. So I came in, said hi, went to the car, took out the parking receipt from my shorts and placed it on my dash. No worries. Walking back to the shore I talked to a local photographer as he set up. Deets was in the water and began ripping off a few sweet pipe mutants. He was really charged up getting wave after wave. In the 5 minutes I was on the shore he got some great waves. Actually he got some decent waves but he rode them great. I was blown away by how good he was riding. I'm not kidding he was going off!!!
At that point I figured I was swimming most of the time anyway and finned up myself. I swam out, joined Greg and he had this weird look on his face. I asked him if he was OK and he said he didn't know. Turns out he had twisted his knee and was in some pain. He got out and limped up the beach. I came to ride it with him. But now he was out. I stayed out for at least an hour more. Standing on the pipe in knee-deep water, taking off on fun and surprisingly powerful mutants and going left or right. My UDT's got there first initiation to the razor sharp Shitpipe. It really tears up fins! The pipe is so jagged and sharp it makes the bottom at Boomer look like a slip and slide.
It got my knees a few times too and the blood was flowing. Overall the Shitpipe experience was delightful. That is if you like being tumbled over and onto razor sharp surfaces. I just can't say or describe it enough, Greg was RIPPING! I guess he just busted out of the gate a little too fast and hurt the knee. His bodysurfing on a scale of 1-10 is most definitely a 10. I give myself a score of 6 so that gives you some idea of his expertise. A real thing of beauty. I'm still can't get over the explosive yet graceful approach Greg has to riding the wave at Shitpipe. A treat and an honor to see. Too bad his session was cut short because of the knee. Sure more waves for me but I would have rather seen him ride more waves. Just another day in the life of a couple of bodysurfers.
I also began the serious pursuit of some very diverse projects at this time. I became a serious Dahlia hybridizer, and have released a few commercially in Japan and have just been contacted recently by Corralitos Gardens up by Santa Cruz to start propagating my new varieties. Also, something very important that I have been doing is creating a culture shift in my field of academics.
Although, my PhD was in Evolution and Systematics, specifically working out Phylogenetic relationships of Elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and some plate tectonic patterns based on the Phylogenetic or Cladistic relationships of the host specific parasitic crustaceans found in their gills and nasal lamellae, my job as a biologist in an environmental lab requires us to look at how environmental perturbation (sewage outfalls) affects the sea life. Well interestingly, that a question about change over space and time, and a fancy word for that is... Evolution. Also, many "ecologists" are interested in the whole concept of hierarchy and nested ness in ecosystems, and parsimony or Cladistic analyses developed in the discipline of systematics is more appropriately suited for these questions than that which has been conventionally used for decades.
A striking example is the evolutionary tree or Cladogram of the local outfall station over time and the striking pattern the change the marine organism community went through associated with change / improvement of the treatment process and effluent. It's really quite amazing. Also, the structure of species assemblage data and Phylogenetic data both approximate the logistic j curve, but I don't think either camp has figured that out yet either.
But there was trouble in paradise... my UDT Duck Feet were getting cracked and old, and they could no longer be found in the stores. Voit had left the business of actually producing sporting goods and was just selling the license to various companies that wished to produce
The Navy SEALs were still being supplied from a dive store near Coronado, but the fins were often either too soft or at times rock hard, neither extreme being really functional. The fin was falling from grace. Because of my bodysurfing heritage, my academic background in marine biology, and years of experience with this fin I was asked by the then current VOIT licensee to team up and re-introduce the UDT with an improved look and a more Biomimetic material regime.
This coincided with new co-ownership from a Houston based company of the molding plant in Baja. It was interesting times going to Baja and linking up the new manager who was an ex-marine and ex-Dallas PD cop and we hit off like brothers on the same wave length with regards to practically everything in life. The first few sets or runs of fins were made with different material and loading patterns and good god, i began re-learning everything I thought I knew. It was amazing how extremely different a fin can function coming out of the exact same mold by just a few subtle changes in material and placement. This is where the academic background really helped. But there was trouble in paradise.
Nyko was the first to use pwr's for lifesaving in Canary Islands
Thanks to Greg, to Jason and Dave to be there at Shit Pipe with me. It was a real good session for me. I made new friends from others seas. That's the way it should be, and it happens, so... nice. For the others like Dario, Bruce and the rest sorry for not meet you, I was running from a place to another. What big is that town, F..K. All those cars and only one person inside, crazy.
For the wave, what to said. Is a really easy wave, powerful, easy to ride, glassy, real nice shape, like said Jason. I'd like a lot YEAH. And had in my left hand a little souvenir from the pipe... lol. But I had some new fins so I think that help me a lot. I must say YES to the UDT's. They have more power and you take a lot more speed that with my Viper. They are amazing... In the water Jason is like a little boy having fun with all the waves he get.
Dave is the grand father of us, taking care of us, and taking movies, and what to say about Greg. He has the power of a Bull and the style of a Seal. He knows a lot about BS, BUT he BS whis does ugly SPEEDO... lol
Thanks also to Greg's wife, she is so nice. She takes pictures of us during the session. Thanks. Well, now is to California to come here. Thanks for the UDT'S Thanks for show me your beaches Thanks for friendship and THANKS for all.
Nyko - Islas Canarias
The original co-owners of the plant decided not to pay a very large amount of taxes and back taxes to the government and in came the "military" and shut the plant down, preparing to auction off everything inside in order to reclaim the "dineros dued." Luckily, the good people from Houston had already severed legal ties and returned home safely. We moved quickly to try to regain ownership of the UDT molds... But it wasn't easy.
One attempt by my cohort then was to meet with a lawyer and proceed though the legal channels. A meeting was set up and he went down and met the lawyer in a bar in Tijuana!!! The bar was very, very dark I was told and the lawyer was so drunk that he supposedly kept nodding' off and from what I understand he didn't remember the meeting even took place. After a few months the auction opened and upon entering the facility yet another unbelievable turn or twist occurred... the molds had been stolen! People had disappeared. My heart sunk.
Years of darkness followed. Then in May of 2002, a head popped up in Baja and offered to sell the molds to my business cohort and I. All he had to do was take a stake bed truck from his surf and sport company down to... yes... Tijuana with pockets and pockets of money and he can buy the molds back. He drives down and meets this person. This person says follow me, they are at mi rancho. So down this old dirt road they drive about 10 miles east of Tijuana. They drive and drive and soon they pass an old cemetery... my partner is sure this is where the trip ends... he expects to hear the click of a pistol and his head blown off and buried there with his pockets emptied... but no, they drive on. Then as they drive a horrible smell is upon them... the dump... they are at the dump, yes this must be where it ends, no one will ever find or smell my body he thinks... but they drive on. Finally, they come upon an even worse smell... its a hen house!!!
Yes this is where he thinks it will all end, and this time, they pull over. "Welcome to my rancho," the person says. Indeed it is his place and a chicken coup and they walk behind the barn and there is this old huge rustic shed shackled with huge chains and locks. He unlocks the shed... and lo and behold there they are as are the original 1944 UDT FIN molds.
All are purchased, and the first run in years kicks off in Corona, California, October 2002. The fins function wonderfully, the softer rubber in the blade allows for quicker kicking, yet the outer ribs are composed of stiffer material functioning as struts and maintaining the power of the fin that the UDT was always known for.
Additionally, the foot pockets are atypically firmer than other fins allowing all power to be delivered to the blades flexible tip.
Interestingly, this was exactly the same fin concept George Greenough (a born again UDT user now) had been touting independently and unbeknownst to me across the pacific in Australia. I receive e-mails from his cadre of fellow mat-fringies (and my new friends too), namely Warren Pfeiffer and Boyd Kellner, and before long, I receive a call from GG... and Christ almighty that mf'r can out talk me and may be just as aberrant as I!
We hit it off well, and of course he has many ideas on how to improve the fin as do I and we talk concept, Crystal Voyager stuff etc. Then he starts talking about mat riding, I politely pretend I didn't hear him (I mean, I'm a big tough bodysurfer I can't entertain pool toy talk!), and he just comes out of the blue and says "Deets you're a phckn fool, if you don't at least give the Neumatics a try built by Dale Solomonson."
I'm thinking wow. I've got a live one on the line here!! But i have not heard someone talk like that with so much conviction since the Jehovah Witnesses' on my doorstep earlier that week. So what happens... hmmmmm yes that's it... I'll but Deb my wife a mat for her birthday in July. I contact Dale and before long the first Neumatic is here, Deb's first wave (wearing the UDT's) is a closed out 4 foot southern hemi death tube at San Clemente Park, every one goes crazy. Life's wave reforms and I change direction. She loves wave riding more than she ever has because of the mat.
I now own 3 custom Neumatics and working on specs for my fourth concurrently (the T3 II), the Deets (and Bill Wiergever) models are affectionately known as Triscuits as I am larger than most mat riders, hence my mats are larger and wider like a Triscuit, and they simply haul ass. Wider is better. The majority of the growing mat community is also using the UDT as their preferred fin. Mats really like riding point breaks and I owe that experience to my friend and fellow bodysurfer and mat rider Jason Galvan, forcing me to go out at Cotton's Point!!
So where are we now? People who have their fins love their fins. A very nice line of custom loomed T-Shirts with the UDT Logo embroidered on the chest and sleeve will soon be available through dukeofcurl.com (Kahanamoku sons online store), so keep looking for that. The future of the UDT looks bright safe and secure. Not one to sit in one place for too long of a time, I now find myself overly interested in the most contemporary work regarding hydrodynamic function and aquatic propulsion with regard to the production and generation of optimal vortex rings. This will lead I hope to the next best thing in fin design and efficiency.
In closing, the various tacks in life and efforts and people are the inside reforms in the wave of life; they breathe new life into you when you least expect it. Diversity truly is the Segue to Resurrection, be it of ones own being or pursuits, or a product with such incredible heritage and importance such as the UDT Duck Foot.
A few choice words from friends of Greg...
Subject: New UDT's
Congratulations on finding the molds!! The torque on my ankles was so severe when I tried UDT's the first time that I have been searching for a high propulsion solution ever since. I am back and forth from San Diego to Kailua (Windward O'ahu) and I just heard about the new UDT's. Could you provide a reference where they may be purchased on either side of the Pacific.
Mahalo & alohas,
Dr. Don Weir
Defining Performance on the Pacific Rim
To the casual observer Greg Deets is just an average guy. You wouldn't know just by looking at him what an evolved human being he is. I know him pretty well. Or at least I thought I did. You see, knowing him, he is predictable. He is in my opinion the best human bodysurfer on the planet. Really. So I knowing him and his one of many talents, bodysurfing, expect him to rip. I expect him to ride well every session he surfs. So the other day I was out at Shitpipe expecting him to show up. He does and swims out to the peak.
We greet each other as good old friends do and proceed to catch some waves. I see Greg take off on this nice yet average wave breaking right. He explodes in a butterfly type take off right on the pipe. Shoots out into the wave and continues on in a stunningly ripping/stylish fashion. I know Greg. I expect him to ride well.
But, I'm blown away at what I see. My jaw dropped. It wasn't any one move. It wasn't a big wave. It was just the entire ride itself from start to finish. Like the brush strokes of a master artist, it was beautiful art. Non-human like thrust and speed, flashes of power and body contortions that allowed for effortless looking power carves.
The whole point I try to make with this story is I am still impressed by his abilities. Even after all the years I've known him and seen his act in the waves, I still was struck at how masterfully he played the wave. Seeing him ride the waves as he does makes me want to ride better myself. Just as I did as a young grom growing up. I've known Greg long enough to understand that his #1 passion is bodysurfing. Pure and simple bodysurfing. His resurrection of the UDT Duck feet fins is a good example of his latest contribution to the art of bodysurfing, one of many testaments to his love and passion of bodysurfing.
Sadly, at this stage in our lives, our bodies tend to fall behind the acquired skills and experience we have accumulated to this point. What we could do all day as kids we do now in 1 to 3 hour sessions. We feel the sessions in our bones and muscles. Many years of getting pounded in the surf have taken its toll. He plays through the pain. He fits in his love of bodysurfing between the responsibilities of family, work and life. Nothing can dull this love of bodysurfing at this stage in Greg's life. He is and always will be one of the top representatives in the world of bodysurfing. If there were a bodysurfing Hall of Fame, Greg Deets name would be way up on the list.
- Hugh Berenger
I am the Marine Corps Force Recon Officer who ordered some UDTs from you in Okinawa last year. Hope this email finds you well and bodysurfing.
I am in Iraq ducking bullets right now - but I head back to the States in April. Really looking forward to hitting the surf this summer for bodysurfing and paddleboarding. I want to get two more pair of Black XL UDT Duck Feet (one more for me, one for my son). Can you give me the scoop on how I can get them? They are -without a doubt - the best bodysurfing fins anywhere. I can send you my credit card and address - whatever you need. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Lt Colonel George H. Bristol, USMC
1st Marine Division
Al Anbar Province, Iraq
This has been a tough tour - lots of action and the loss of a few of my Marines. A tough enemy, but we are turning the tide for this country. Lots of time to think and it is unreal how my mind drifts to some clean ocean and the beachcomber lifestyle.
Greg, you are doing a good thing with these fins. I know several of my recon boys who have them. With the basic black, they can (and do) use them on missions as well as for personal use. One of my boys - a tough kid named Ryan - took a pair I gave him and boogie boarded storm surf in Okinawa, about 15 feet with lightning all around him. Total solo action; pure stoke all the way. Told me he trusted those fins due to performance and tradition.
Says it all... I should be back sometime in April. Makes me feel great to know I will have some fins waiting for me. I did get the other ones (they went the long way due to our mail system), but these should be regular shipping.
Thanks much brother - I will be in touch.
- Semper Fi, George