16 August 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different

Saturday – as book research – I got a taste of the mermaid life with Mermaid Island Tours. Two young mergirls were already by the pool when I arrived at Bryn's house.

While Bryn helped a couple of other women get dolled up, I merely brushed a little blush on my cheeks. Makeup's not my style. Then Bryn coached me into a mermaid costume – sort of a stretchy tube, in blue green with "scales" that nicely matched my bikini top – and a Finis Aquarius monofin tail. Swimming with, in effect, only one big leg took a bit of getting used to, but once I'd mastered using my abs to propel the tail, I was swimming the length of the pool underwater in one breath. Bryn instructed me through mermaid maneuvers like a handstand into a tail slap, which knocked the fin strap off of my left ankle and left me floundering like a mermaid with a broken tail.

When they'd finished their makeup, the other two women joined us in the pool and Bryn staged a bunch of photo ops. (Stayed tuned for photos which will be added when she uploads them.) We pearl-dived (the good kind, not the surfing kind), swam sideways and spun and did summersaults. It was more fun than I expected. I tried swimming with a monofin years ago but it strained my bad lower back – this time, though, I engaged my abs enough to avoid hurting myself. Bryn's assistant told me my movements were fluid and thoughtful – and that was despite the fact that I was swimming blind with my eyes closed because I wear contact lenses.
Two latecomers become mermaids with Bryn's help
At the end, I peeled off my costume and tried swimming with a Mahina monofin. In addition to staying on, it had the advantage of being more powerful than the Finis. Plus it's made from recycled rubber by an environmentally-conscious company, which is why I'm buying one. For lap swimming. And maybe to excite the tourists a La Jolla Cove. (If you can't beat 'em, entertain 'em?)
That's a Mahina monofin
From The Princess Bride
Sunday it was on to swordplay – which possibly could be book research too but just seemed interesting. The Scholars of Acala put on a course for the Geek Girls of San Diego based on fencing from The Princess Bride, which I re-watched ahead of time.
"You seem a decent fellow," Inigo said. "I hate to kill you."
You seem a decent fellow," answered the man in black. "I hate to die.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride
The Scholars brought an assortment of swords, daggers, shields and other defensive gear, and explained their histories and features along with the methods of Renaissance sword-fighting in several European countries according to various masters. One thing I found intriguing was that a sword was considered a fashion accessory as well as a weapon, and therefore a well-dressed man was expected to hew to the style of the time even if it wasn't the best functional design. Kind of like women's shoes, but with potential consequences including death instead of bunions.
Scholars vs. Geek Girls, thrust and parry
We were armed with blunted swords and led through a series of exercises called by archaic names that I've already forgotten. Supposedly the swords weighed only 2-3 lbs but mine got so heavy by the end of the three-hour class that I couldn't hold it up anymore. My arms are strong from swimming and surfing but this uses a different set of muscles. One exercise involved only gloves, used to slap the opponent before taking only one step away – a step that was supposed to put you out of the reach of her slap, but let you move back with one step to hit her. Bit tricky.

I plan to join the Scholars to learn more of this ancient art. Next month jumps up to the time of Sherlock Holmes for defensive tactics, such as proper use of a ladies' parasol. Now that could come in handy one day.

14 August 2015

Summer Sun

I rode my bike to surf south of the pier in Pacific Beach, cameraless and camless, and it didn't look like this:
but I wore my sleeveless 2-mil Billabong Salty Jane and had a blast in waves that were occasionally chest high. And there were dolphins! After the wave drought, it was true fun under the summer sun.

07 August 2015

When September Comes...

... most of the tourists will go home and we should have better surf.
from the Surline cam rewind
I'm looking forward to it. But this morning's grovel was better than nothing.

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!

27 July 2015

Inspiration and Incongruities at the Supergirl Pro

At the Supergirl Pro each July, over 100 of the world’s best female surfers compete for three days. I came to Oceanside, California, primed to be inspired. Unfortunately, the waves on the first day were not what the world’s best deserved, and the surf barely rallied during the next two days of the contest. Still, it was exciting to watch the women compete from the VIP booth (my access was comped by the organizers). On the last day, Courtney Conlogue of southern California successfully shot the pier to the amazement of spectators. Several of the heats were nail biters, with waves caught barely ahead of the horn and scores too close to call.
The final was a goofyfoot vs. a regular foot, Tatiana Weston-Webb against Conlogue. In the end, Weston-Webb was awarded the hot pink winner’s cape, with Sage Erickson and Nikki Van Dijk tying for third.
If I have a complaint about the Supergirl Pro, other than the lackluster performance of the Pacific Ocean, it’s that there was too much to see this time around. The vendor booth area expanded greatly over last year, with another parking lot taken over. A beer garden was added. The stage hosted speakers, bands and other entertainment. A half pipe was added for a female skateboarding competition, which I missed to watch the last heats of surfing. Seeing tiny girls drop in fearlessly from the top of the half-pipe during warm-ups was almost exciting enough, especially as I have yet to master smaller plunges on my skateboard. There was also a medium-sized tent, tucked away at the back, where women’s surf films were playing. When I stumbled upon it by accident, only one person was inside – kicking back on a folding chair with her phone and paying the screen no mind. I wasn’t surprised at her lack of attention because the sound quality was poor, but hopefully that will be ironed out by next year. With so much going on all at the same time, there was something for everyone, but too much for any one person to see everything.
Watching the best female surfers make hay of the marginally rideable waves was inspiring, as was a short talk by Girls Riders Organization founder Courtney Paine-Taylor. Whether it’s taking the drop from the top of a wave or from the rim of a skatepark ramp, “The moment you believe in yourself that ‘I can do this’ is when you can do it!” she said. It’s the belief in the Supergirl inside each of us, plus the courage to continue when you know you’re going to fall sometimes, that turns ordinary girls and women into extraordinary ones, said Paine-Taylor.
Inspiration from the female speakers, surfers and skaters was discolored by a few incongruities. First, there was the new “bikini fashion show”, which culminated in a “Miss Surfer Girl 2015” on the final day. Although I missed the show because I was watching the concurrent surf competition, I can’t image that it came off without an element of reducing women to sexual objects. And that makes me sad, because three days of women competing to show who has the most skill at surfing – talents that took years of training and hard work to build – shouldn’t be degraded by a competition for who looks best in a bikini. There were so many young girls thronging the contestants as they left the water, eager for an autograph on their surfboards or hats, that I’m sad to think they were getting mixed messages. Be a great athlete, sure, but make sure you look hot in next-to-nothing. When a scant few women and girls match up to the ideal female body image, that’s not something I’d want an 8-year-old Sage Erikson fan taking to heart.
No matter how many women’s surf contests I watch in person or online, I continue to be surprised at the dearth of female voices. The Supergirl Pro was sadly no exception. Although the athlete interviewer was a woman, all of the contest judges and the announcer were male. On stage at the awards ceremony, it was all men again, congratulating the four top competitors at the all-female surf contest. Surely there are retired pro woman surfers who are more than qualified to serve as judges and announcers.
I was also disappointed in the event’s lack of sincere concern for the environment. Although many surf contests are conforming to Sustainable Surf's Deep Blue standards, creating event which “address issues directly related to the local contest area including waste reduction, protection of natural resources, and the building of stronger communities,” the Supergirl Pro made little effort in that regard.
Here’s hoping the Supergirl Pro organizers take a cue from Payne-Taylor’s talk and have the courage to make the event extraordinary next year, by maximizing the inspiration and minimizing the incongruities.