31 July 2015

All Good Things Must Come to An End

We've had a fun run of southwest swell. Today it was winding down, softer on the high tide, and I had to outlast the longboarders before I could get any set waves. But I finished the week as I started, surfing playful waves alone at my home reef break. And I have no problem taking the advice of Dr. Seuss.

29 July 2015

Why, Yes, I Did

"You caught a lot of good waves!" said a surfer who was getting ready to paddle out, as I climbed up the steep cobblestone beach, smiling.
Why, yes, I did. Stoked!

21 July 2015

Kook Zone

Since my face met my board hard the Sunday before last, I'd only surfed once, the very next day and very carefully at the reef break, where I could mostly avoid having water splash against my painfully swollen left cheek. Then the groundswell faded to nothing and I literally couldn't face the whitewatery splashiness of short-period surf at a beach break.

Just when I could almost face the water again, hurricane Delores brought steep-angled swell (that mostly passed by San Diego) and also rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain.
At Pride last Saturday, before almost enough rain fell for them to swim down the street
With the water dirty from copious amounts of first-flush runoff, I had to wait some more - and it had already been so very long. 48 hours after the deluge, I was finally at the beach on a warm sunny afternoon, in my sleeveless 2-mil long Jane with Rocket under my arm.

In the summer, the lifeguards block off five blocks south of Crystal Pier as a swimming-only zone. 5 blocks! (I looked up the municipal code and found that it authorizes the lifeguards to set up activity zones however they please in the interest of public safety. No way to effectively quibble with that.) I went in a bit farther south of the yellow-and-black checkered flag that marks the swim-surf boundary, trying to avoid a surf school massing on soft-tops, and was dismayed to see the next checkered flag wasn't all that much farther down the beach.

Briefly I had a peak to myself and rode a couple of fun waist-high lefts. They weren't much but I was glad to have them. Then another pack of surf-schoolers came out, and a dozen tourists messing around on Wavestorms - kooks were everywhere. I found another peak that, when not encroached upon by beginners, was sort of a haven for me and the three others who knew how to surf. Then I got to thinking: Wouldn't it be nice if there were three zones - swim, kooks, and real surfers?

My bad attitude melted under the warm sun as I rode more fun little waves. It's hard to stay grumpy in the ocean.

15 July 2015

Sixth Sense

We know. Somehow we know when there's a shark around. It's a kind of sixth sense. I don't think we'll ever be able to document what it is exactly, but if you have it while you're surfing, I'd pay attention to it.
-Peter Pyle, lecture to Surfrider members, San Francisco Chapter, June 10, 2003
With the left side of my face still swollen and painful to the touch, and the southwest groundswell no longer lighting up the reef break beside a calm channel, I'm out of the water, not fit to crash through windswell at the beach. It's given me a chance to finish reading a book by Susan Casey that I picked up as research for the young adult fantasy novel I'm writing (working title: Marinea and the Fountains of the Farallones). The whole of The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks has been interesting to read. But the quote above from the Epilogue really struck me. I've had that feeling before, and blogged about it in An Absence of Dolphins. There's no way to know of course, but I still remember that sense of being watched by something malevolent. I'm both fascinated and viscerally repelled by the Landlords, and hope never to encounter one who's looking to collect the rent.

12 July 2015

The Most Dangerous Thing in Surfing

... is your surfboard.
A fine-looking shoulder-highish set rolled through as I stepped around a sleeping homeless man on the top of the bluff and walked carefully down the steep dirt path. No one else was out yet, and I was anticipating having free choice of those fun waves for a little while. Then I took off in the short space between two sections and had one of those what-the-hell-just-happened wipeouts. I think I'd started to pop up when suddenly I was falling and tumbling and whack! Rocket clocked me on my left check near my eye but I was still rolling underwater and wondering which way was up until the wave finally let me go. I could tell right away that I was bleeding. Crap, how bad? Gently I touched my fingers to my lower eyelid and they came away stained red.

I hadn't even ridden a single one of those nice waves.

My face hurt but I wasn't bleeding that much. When Teresa paddled out with Tim, I asked her how bad it looked, if she thought I needed to go in. "Well, you're bleeding," she said. "It'll probably be worse later so your call if you want to go through that out here or at home."

So not that bad, then.

I just couldn't paddle straight in, not when the waves looked so fun. Maybe just one and done. I caught a nice left and was enjoying multiple turns on the face when Tim came up from behind, out of the whitewater and angling to get onto the peak. He's done that several times in the last few sessions, and it's really annoying. The first time he called me off when I tried to cut back, because he was right there, in my way, and I pulled out while he continued on the wave. The second time (no way, dude!) I stayed in the pocket until he got off. This time (aww, c'mon!) I had to continue down the line instead of cutting back for more power, but I didn't yield.

After he'd slightly ruined it, that couldn't be my last and only wave.

The pain started to intensify but I paddled back out. I needed a good wave and it came to me, with Trailer Tim nowhere near. I took off at the peak, early-morning green-gray water rising beside me as I rode left. I cut back toward the whitewater and swished the tail around to travel left again, up near the top of the wave and down as it steepened while crossing shallower reef, repeating several times until the cobblestone beach neared. Yes!

So fun. I almost paddled back out again, but the throbbing in my cheek and pain of the cuts under my eye insisted that an ice pack be applied post haste. Even so, I'm going to have quite a shiner. Three hours later, it looks like I dipped my finger in ruddy purple paint and smeared it under my eye, like a drunken soldier sloppily applying war paint.

It's been quite a while since I've had a surfing injury worse than a bruise or a small cut, so I guess I was about due. Kind of like we're about due for an earthquake.

And now, a cute kitten to end this post on a cheery note.
This is our 5yo cat Zoe's new kitten, Kaylee (in keeping with the Firefly theme)

09 July 2015


We've been in the surf doldrums for too long, which made today's southwest swell extra fun at my local reef break. I rode my last wave all the way in to the cobblestone beach. Woo hoo!