22 April 2016

Review: The Chawel Hybrid HD

Bonus: looking like a Jedi
When I reviewed the Chawel last summer, I concluded that it offered a nice 5-in-1 package (towel, neck pillow, blanket, sleeping bag liner, changing room) for those traveling light or with limited space in their gear bags. While it did nothing perfectly, it handled its multiple functions well with exceptional portability.

The company made improvements to the design and sent me a Hybrid HD Chawel to try out. This Chawel addresses minor complaints I raised in my original review. The side pocket is now big enough to stow it instead of using a separate included carry bag, although I couldn't zip the pocket closed. With a larger neck hole, I was able to change fully under the Chawel, slipping out of my swimsuit and into a T-shirt and shorts.

The back panel of the Hybrid HD is a thick fleecy material, making it more useful as a blanket and providing greater warmth while changing on chilly days. This Chawel is also longer, almost too long for me (I'm 5'3"), but that increases its utility as a blanket or sleeping bag/liner.

I had some concern that the large arm openings would enable passersby to glimpse more of me that I care to show in public, but my surf buddy assured me nothing private was visible.

The Hybrid HD Chawel is a step up, and it's now my changing room/towel of choice for surf trips.

05 April 2016

Central Coast

Saturday I caught a ride up to Ventura with Hilary and Cori, and we surfed C Street. I got frustrated trying to catch soft waves, scraps left by the longboarders, on my 5'2", but then a grom on a shortboard shared his stoke with me and I finally got one ride – those things made it a lot better.
C Street
On Sunday, I surfed with the rest of the San Diego Surf Ladies team in the Rincon Invitational a.k.a. Sharing the Stoke contest, an un-competition that awards points for party waves and having fun. Jimil loaned me her 7'8" and I rode one wave in between two other Surf Ladies, hooting all the way.
San Diego Surf Ladies at Rincon
Brad watched the contest from the beach and then drove me north. We surfed Pismo Beach Monday morning near the pier, and watched the sun go down from the water at Wilmar on Tuesday. The water was much colder than San Diego, and I felt every leak in my best but old 4/3.

Pismo Beach from the pier, earlier on Tuesday
Again, I struggled to catch waves on my shortboard, and Brad graciously swapped me for his wide Firewire quad fish. He sank up to his chest sitting on my Firewire Spitfire and I was starting to feel guilty about keeping his board too long when I finally got a short ride. After we switched back, I caught a couple more waves. The best was last, after the sun had disappeared behind the cliffs that line the stunningly beautiful coast.

01 April 2016

Adventures in Baja

Jason picked me up after sunrise and in less than fifteen minutes we were in Mexico, heading to a house Roger is renting with his friend Mario. By 8 a.m. we passed through the guarded gate into a community near K-55. When we couldn't rouse anyone in the house, we drove a little farther south to check the surf at La Mision. Everywhere it was jumbled, a mix of swells that unfortunately included short-period.
Mario, his rescued puppy, Reyna, and his friend were awake when we returned, and the four of us humans suited up. I followed Jason down the long flight of stairs from the clifftop to the sand and a short distance into the ocean. Then a sideshore current caught me and pushed me far south while I paddled and duck-dived my way to the outside through overhead waves. Almost 15 minutes later, I made it past the whitewater and stopped to rest. My shoulders were burning, but I don't accept denial easily. It took a little more than 5 minutes to paddle north to rejoin the guys, past the only two other surfers out along the sandy and stony beach.

I failed to catch several waves I paddled for and within ten minutes got caught inside by a set. Pointing my board shoreward, I caught whitewater and popped up to ride for a second or two, so yeah, I can say I surfed there. I tried for another five minutes to get back out, cussing the ocean, then acknowledged this wasn't fun and let the ocean spit me out onto the beach.

On the ride back, I listened with a bit of envy as Jason told his wife on speakerphone about his fun rides. But the adventure wasn't over yet. The low tire-pressure light was illuminated on his car's dashboard, and we found there was a screw in one of his tires. Fortunately Jason is fluent in Spanish, an a Mexican operating the air pump at a Pemex directed him to a mechanic.

Although it's illegal to plug a tire in the U.S. due either to the influence of tire manufacturers or safety issues, that's not a problem south of the border. In less than 15 minutes and for only $2.50, we were back on the road. The SENTI line had only a handful of cars ahead of us, and we Trusted Travelers crossed back into the States after waiting just a few minutes.

24 March 2016

Moonset in Mission Beach

Jess needed to surf early today, and Kevin suggested the jetty at Mission Beach just past sunrise. A full moon hung in the sky on its way to setting into the ocean. The air was cold for San Diego, with the sand like burning ice on bare feet. After a dash across the beach, the channel next to the jetty made for an easy paddle out in water that felt a few degrees colder than earlier in the week.
The waves were bigger than forecast, overhead on the sets. Since there was a lot of current, it was hard to be in the right spot to catch one of the peaky lefts. I only rode one on my 5'4" and my feet landed a bit far apart, but it was fast and fun. Kevin got a few but unfortunately one of his fins whacked into his leg, cutting it. With four of my fingers too numb to cup while paddling, I caught a belly-ride in to the beach. The moon was gone but the sun was up and a little warming. Great way to start the day!

20 March 2016

Accidental Twin-Fin

Entry and exit are tricky at my home break, except on the smallest days. This morning the cobblestones at the base of the cliff were in a steep pile, and shorepound sent them tumbling up the slope. I mistimed my approach and was pushed back to the shallows while paddling out. The fins scraped the bottom ominously and I rolled off, took two steps forward to deep water, and continued out. Past the shorebreak, I flipped Rocket over to look for damage. The deck was unharmed, but then I saw something was missing – my center fin. Crap! The fin box was fine with the screw still in place, but my 6'2" had only side fins now. I told Jess about the loss and went back to the beach to search the shoreline in vain, peering into the murky green-blue water. My fin was gone, forever. There's no way I could feel worse about littering plastic into the ocean.
I rejoined Jess on the secondary peak, shaking my head, and she graciously offered to swap boards with me after a while. Nah, it would be an experiment. On the first wave I caught, I made a cautious bottom turn, but the tail slid out on the top turn. Squirrelly! 
The waves were up to shoulder-high on the off-peak, which was far less crowded than the better main peak on a late Sunday morning. The functional stance I learned at Surf Simply once again proved its magic, as that first wave was the only time I lost control of the board. It was sensitive to the most subtle adjustments of weight and positioning, but I worked it out. Really, I think I could surf a door, just like Kelly Slater. 
I rode a lot of fun waves on my newly-minted twin-fin before I had my fill. Now I'm curious to try my fish as a twinny again. Stoked!

18 March 2016

Old Man's Reunion

Last night I hosted a gathering of five Surf Simply friends from last November's camp. Ian and other Mike flew down from cold Calgary and rainy Seattle, respectively, and San Diego locals Jess and Mike joined us to watch Point Break.

My local buddies and I are going to see Point Break Live at the Belly Up in a couple weeks so re-watching the campy original was prerequisite. I'd forgotten that it's a grom who delivers this so-true line:
"Surfing's the source. Can change your life. Swear to god."
This morning, Jess and I drove to San Onofre to meet up with Ian, other Mike, and Lauren, another friend from camp who lives in Orange County. On the beach, the Surf Network was filming the dance-like moves of a pair of tandem surfers.

The waves at Old Man's were small, only three feet on the biggest sets, but plenty of fun on longboards. With the tide low and going negative, we had a long wade across cobblestones to and from the break. Rides were short for SanO but longer than many places, and I got in some nice carving turns on several of them. There are few things better than surfing mellow waves with good friends on a warm, sunny day.
My blue 7'2" and Jess's coral one
Lauren and Mike sharing laughs
Me, Jess (back), Ian, Lauren and other Mike (front)
It's a long walk over stones at negative low tide