Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meet the SLSA Directors - Melian Catronis

I got the chance to talk to Melian Catronis, one of the newest directors for the Second Life Surfing Association (SLSA).

SurfWatch:  Tell us how you got involved in Second Life (SL) surfing?
Melian Catronis: Last Spring (2011) I was simply bored and wanted to find something fun to do in SL that I hadn't done before. I'd seen some items in the search about Golf and my first thought was, 'There's GOLF in Second Life?' So on a whim I looked in Search for Surfing, just to see. And what came back was entry after entry of surf sims! So I went to place called Hoodoo with one of those beginner boards I found in my inventory, I guess from one of those freebie boxes you get as a newbie, and even without the board doing anything I got instantly hooked.

SW:  What prompted your decision to run for SLSA Director this term?  What qualifications, skills, competencies, traits, etc. do you bring as a director?
Melian: Sorry, this is going to be a long answer, but I wanted to take your through the process.

I've had people asking me for awhile and for a while I didn't think I'd been at it long enough to even consider it, then I wasn't sure I could dedicate the time to it. 

What got me to do it now was when Syx announced he was closing Monkey Cove. It scared me. Because we'd already lost Bundoran Reef and Tsunami Beach (which had just returned). And with  Monkey Cove I knew it also meant Pelican Bay and Bells Beach (Rayzza Rubble's sim) were gone. That was an enormous chunk of surf culture in SL that was going to be wiped out. So I asked some questions of the board in the SLSA forums, and the answers I got back were...strangely reassuring, talking about the number of new surf sims that were popping up and that things really weren't as bad as it may have seemed. That's when I started realizing there was probably a huge disconnect between what the Board knew was going on, and what the surfers in the general membership may have thought was going on.

I don't know if I have any special qualifications other than that I want to help. And if there's something I can do and be in a position to help alleviate any sense of panic going on in the general membership, I'd like to try.

SW: How long have you been competing in SLSA competitions? Do you participate in other competitions? What is your favorite thing about comps and what do you like least?
Melian: I just finished my first full year of competing. My first competition was at Tsunami Beach the final comp of the 1st half of the 2011 season. And I just competed at Encinitas to wrap up the 1st  half of the 2012 season. I like doing minicomps too.

My favorite thing about the comps is getting to ask questions. If I see someone do something in my heat, for instance, like a flip, I love that in the stands afterwards you can usually ask that person in IM 'How did you do that?' and they have no problems with telling you. It's not like they're keeping some big secret. It's the same thing for boards, or swimsuits, or anything, really.

My least favorite thing about comps: ME. I know it's for fun, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to find some level of improvement. no matter how small, and if I can't find that it's crushing. Plus I get very, very nervous beforehand and sometimes I will get very quiet in the stands before my heat and sometimes that can appear like I'm being snobby and not talking to people. I'm not, I promise. Don't take it personally if I don't talk to you before my heat sometimes, or if afterward I don't feel I did that well.

SW:  What areas of improvement do you currently see for the SLSA as an organization and what do you see as your first priority as an SLSA director?
Melian: Communication between the board and the membership, hands down.  #1 issue for me. Like I said before, I feel there is a huge disconnect between what the membership thinks is going on and what the Board knows is going on. I also think there's a disconnect between what the Board sometimes thinks the membership believes are the big issues, and what the membership thinks the Board thinks are the big issues. I think that can lead to people freaking out when there's no need to freak out.  I think a priority for me would be to try and communicate better with the membership in general and hope they don't get a perception that the Board is some House of Lords who won't listen to them.

#2 issue for me is membership participation, especially in elections. I'd like to find a way  to help improve that. The SLSA apparently has over 1000 members, and do you know how many people actually voted in this election? 19, and three of them were the three people who ran for director's positions. That's scary when you have an election where people have up to 24 hours to vote, and only 16 people with no vested interest in the outcome decide who's going to run things in a 6-month block. For not wanting a House of Lords who won't listen to the membership, having that few even bother to vote can create that very situation.

SW:  What do you see as the top issues facing SL surfing in general?
Melian: Some of the issues I see are things that the SLSA Board may have little power to fix. Like the closing of surf sims. The RL economy has finally come to Second Life and people simply cannot pay the tier fees involved in operating a surf sim, especially since much of the sim has to be water and you simply don't have the land space for rentals or merchants to recoup the cost. And if you filled up the land space with those merchants or rentals you create so much lag in the sim the wave can't operate properly.  A couple of major issues that have recently developed that SL surfing has to face is the changeover LL is making to new servers, which has caused vendors to go offline, making if very difficult sometimes to buy a surfboard and get delivery. Not to mention what those new servers have been doing to make the surf sims or boards not work properly at times. The home beach at Solace Estates recently had that issue, which has since been repaired, but apparently not without a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

SW:  The SLSA modified the stipulation that a rider could miss one comp each season and not have it count against their rank in order to allow more people to volunteer to judge comps. So if a surfer judges a competition they are "given rank points for that event equal to their averaged surfing place for the season."  Do you feel this will address the issue of getting more surfers to volunteer to judge and how do your feel about everyone still being able to drop their lowest score for the season? 
Melian: I think what will address the issue more would be to offer more judge training sessions. I am a trained marshal, but I've not marshalled a heat yet, so I wouldn't even think of asking to train as a judge. To anyone who's interested in doing a training session, I have been the guinea pig before so the trainees could learn to score, and I can tell you the sessions really are fun and relaxed. You'd have a blast and you'd learn something really cool.

SW: We now have had one event with a non-SSi board (the HP5). What are your thoughts on allowing other scripts into the competition season?
Melian: I love it! I have no problems with SSi boards at all, but there are other boards out there. With the HP5, we got an experience where for the most part, it was an event judging the ability of the surfer, and not just who could learn to do the tricks, because it was such a new experience for many. I'd never been on an HP board before training for Encinitas, and I certainly wasn't the only one. And we got new people to compete because they'd only ever surfed on the HP boards. I'd love to have at least one comp a season (whether half or full) where we can do a non-SSi board. But not against each other in a mix (SSi/non SSi). That's like someone bringing a knife to a gunfight.

SW:  That's it for the tough questions.  (Laughs)
Melian: Well, I certainly didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition....*cue dramatic music and Monty Python actors rushing in wearing Cardinal robes* Wait...NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUSITION! (laughs)

SW: What board is your current favorite and why?
Melian: I have different favorites depending on my mood. I fell in love with my HP5 Gun, it's going to be really fun to see what I can do on other waves with it. If I'm having a real struggle with a wave I'll pull out my Orca board (DW Surf) because it was my first board and it's like slipping on a pair of worn slippers. When I mean absolute business, I'll pull out my  Shark Lemon Stars board. When I have that out, I feel like I'm Tiger Woods with a driver. Or at least Tiger's ex-wife with the 5-iron when she found out about his cheating (laughs). Otherwise, any of my Reaction longboards suit me just fine. I'm developing into a board slut (grins).

SW:  What wave is your current favorite and why?
Melian: When I'm feeling down and blue and doubt my ability to surf, I'll go find a Joaquina wave and pull out the Shark. I can do wondrous things on that board with that wave.

SW:  What are some of your favorite SL surfing spots and why?
Melian: The home beach at Solace Estates is lovely. Nicely laid out and the wave can be changed. What? Surf Park is excellent for the same reason, plus they love running the Joaquina. During the season I will surf almost exclusively at the site of the next comp for at least a couple of weeks leading up to it. It's been awhile since I visited Braata Beach, but I have a soft spot in my heart for that place, it's so pretty.  And the new Tsunami Beach as well.

SW:  Anything else you would like readers to know about you?
Melian: I love taking pictures in SL. I'm not on the level of someone like Bobbi Laval or Dax Verlane, who are both excellent, but there are times when I'll just stop what I'm doing, adjust my Windlight settings and snap away. If you're talking to me somewhere and I suddenly stop talking for a bit, that's what I'm probably doing. Windlight reminds me that there are still times and places when SL can simply blow your mind.

SW: I want to thank for taking the time to talk to us and letting us get to know you a little better.
Melian: Thanks for asking me. Sorry if some of my answers are a bit long or convoluted, but sometimes it takes longer than other times for me to get my thoughts out. And I don't know how things are going to go for me. I'm just glad there are four other board members who can make sure I won't be personally responsible for destroying surfing in SL (laughing)!

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