30 March 2008

Surfless Road Trip

Heeere's Lizzie, my new 2008 MINI Cooper S surf-chariot (surf-mobile sounds too slow and stodgy, and she's fast and soooo cute). Watching the kites fly at Waddell.

For the last week or so, the spring winds have returned with a vengeance, crapping out the western-exposure breaks, so the only choice today was sheltered Santa Cruz. I decided to have a funner drive in my new car by taking winding Highway 84 through the mountains and then 1 along the coast. We were having a blast on 84's curves until Skyline Drive, when a Chevy SUV pulled out in front of me. It was going at a respectable speed, but not as fast I could and would like to go. Unfortunately the jerk driver refused to use the turnouts though he damn well knew I wanted to pass. Yo, dude, maybe you're jealous, or pissed off that you have to be driving a stupid butt-ugly Chevy thing instead of a totally cute MINI with racing stripes, but why are you holding me back?!! After ten or so miles there was finally a passing lane and I left him in the dust.

When I came in view of the coast at San Gregorio, I could see serious whitecaps on the ocean. I kept driving south, stopping at Waddell and Davenport to check the surf, which was both empty and messy.
The dinosaur of Davenport.

Unfortunately, I badly misunderestimated (Bushism) the extra time the coast road would take to Santa Cruz, when I had to be back up in Half Moon Bay in the early afternoon for a meeting. This caused me to create an exception to the Tyrfing rule: The surfboard does not have to get wet if, for whatever reason, water time would be less than time spent changing, and the conditions are such that the odds of scoring at least one wave are nearly nil. It's just not worth it if it takes longer to struggle into and out of the wetsuit than I'd be surfing without real hope of reward. Unregrettably, the surf was infrequent and only waist high at the Slot, and crowded for the conditions.

We had the perfect door-ding-safe spot overlooking Cowells.

At least I had nice drive in the new car, but to make the trip at least partly worthwhile, I stopped at a parking lot sale at the Surf Outlet and bought an itsy-bitsy teeny-weenie little pink Ripcurl bikini. I definitely won't wear it when I'm surfing in Hawaii in a few weeks. Pros can, but I'd run a serious risk of surfacing without it after a wipeout. A naked paddle-in would be entertaining for the lineup but not my idea of fun!

27 March 2008

So how cold is it?

I can't believe the NY Times wrote this long article on cold cold cold surfing in Ireland, without bothering to mention just how cold it is. I bet it's warmer here in NorCal, but I'd like to know how much crazier those folks are than us with our hooded 5/4s and hot water bottles. Lately the water here's been hovering around 50 degrees, brrr.
On to an even colder place (Bering Sea), isn't this just the wildest seal you've ever seen?

18 March 2008

The Slot, 18 March 2008

Today I had one of those disappointing sessions that leaves me feeling discouraged instead of stoked. Indicators wasn't breaking, so I headed farther west to the Slot. (Turns out I've been surfing Steamer Lane and didn't even know it. I'm such a hotshot.) The tide was very low so there was a lot of paddling through kelp, which is a lot like jogging in dry sand, but it's good exercise. A lot of surfers were jammed into a small area, so I stayed near the fringe as usual. I'd seen the crowd from the cliff, so I'd decided to bring out the waterproof wrist camera, a first-gen Go Pro Digital Hero (stupid name).

Which leads me to why I almost never use the surfcam anymore:
  1. It's distracting. I need to concentrate on surfing, since my time to surf is limited, and I don't want to miss a wave because I'm snapping a picture.
  2. It takes lousy pictures. See the ones on this post (easy to tell which they are).
  3. It's distracting. Several times after taking a photo I'll look seaward to find an outside set on imminent approach, then have to quickly paddle and duck-dive with the darn camera unsecured and flapping around on my wrist.
  4. It has a long lag time. Press the shutter and waaaiiiitt. Oops, missed the action shot. Or oops, moved it to soon and got a nice shot of the sky.
  5. It's distracting. While I'm paddling, it sometimes whacks my board.
  6. It eats batteries.

Did I mention it's distracting? I wasn't ready for my first wave because it came up on me as I finished snapping a photo. I turned quickly and caught it, but blew it. Then it was a long wait for another empty wave to come my way, and as I started to pop up, I saw a guy getting it on my right, so I bailed. Then I realized, wait a minute, that was my wave! He was dropping in on me! Dammit, I'm just too polite, not agressive enough.

And that was it, no more opportunities on such a crowded day. On the whole, just a discouraging afternoon. Usually I manage to keep it positive and enjoy the time on the water whatever it brings, but when it’s been so long since I’ve had a good ride, I get a bit down. It’s not that I don’t see I’m making progress in my surfing, it’s that it’s so very slow and incremental, by millimeters not miles. For instance, I noticed recently that now when I’m sitting on the Xanadu, its nose is no longer sticking way in the air; my balance is more stable and easy so I’m keeping the board flatter to the water and don’t look like such a kook. And I am catching more waves, although I often act like I don’t know what to do with them when I do. I just wish I could progress faster to a point where I’m more consistently surfing every time I go out, where I have the confidence to stay on my wave when someone drops in. At least in a month I’ll be in Hawaii, where hopefully the Xanadu and I can get some quality water time and give my skills a push forward.

15 March 2008

Indicators, 15 March 2008

This weekend it looked like there would be only a small window of surfing opportunity, Santa Cruz on Saturday morning. After that, even the protected areas were forecast to be blown out by too much wind through early next week. Unfortunately, hitting it early was impossible because we had a long-lead-time appointment with an home alarm installer. Yes, now we have a burglar alarm on our house, like some paranoid yuppies. Not that we have a lot of valuables to protect - S, the cats, and my shortboard would be the only things I'd be sure to grab in a fire - but on the rare occasions when S travels, I don't feel especially secure here. There are so many accessible windows and sliding glass doors, even I could probably break in. And S's mom spooked him with the story of one of her friends who was tied up in a home invasion robbery. So now we're supposedly protected from all bogeymen, real or imagined.

Anyway, by the time the installer left and we could jump into the loaded and ready rental car, it was already 11 am. We reached Santa Cruz an hour later right at a slightly negative low tide, but fortunately the wind was still light. Unfortunately there was a kayak surfing contest going on at Steamer Lane. (Don't you think that's something Surfline ought to mention in it's forecast? I'm just sayin'.) The kayakers had the Lane shut down for surfing, displacing a lot of surfers east, since shelter from the wind was requisite. I set my expectations low due to the crowd factor and paddled out at Indicators, past a large sea otter who was using his tummy as a dining table.

The weather was unsettled, alternating between sun and rain, with some sleet thrown in. Waves were up to head high on the bigger sets but mushy. The crowds had me off the main peak, but I caught a couple waves. On the first I remembered to stay low, but I'm amending that to add not too low. In my overly-low stance I had my butt sticking out which threw my c.g. off and made for an overly-short ride. On the next, I didn't realize it was possible to pearl the Xanadu, but apparently that's what I did, when I started my pop-up late and found myself being projected over the front of my board, hands over my head and diving down to avoid it as the wave and surfboard came up from behind. Still, it was a fun wipeout. Maybe I'm strange but I enjoy ones like that, little danger, being spun about like a bit of flotsam by the power of the ocean. It makes me feel satisfyingly insignificant and alive.

Normally I don't see kayakers in the lineup, although every once in a while there will be one or two, usually sitting outside. Today there were several, and worse, there was a big red PWC marked "Rescue" that was being used to ferry kayakers from the beach to the contest zone. It was driving right through the lineup at Indicators, spewing fumes and noise. Now that just ain't right. Bad enough that they took over the waves, but if they can't paddle their own damn boats out there, they should stay onshore. Which brings me to another observation: many of the kayakers were big fat guys. Including one who almost ran me over. Yo, dude, I'm on a red surfboard, I know you can see me, hello?! Surf kayaking, like paddleboarding and bodyboarding, just seems kind of lame. I could be wrong about this, but unlike surfing and in particular shortboarding, I don't think you need to be particularly physically fit, agile or skilled to do it. It just seems so much easier. A lot of the kayakers looked like they couldn't pop up if their lives depended on it. In fact, according to this article, one of the typical taunts is "Stand up and surf like a man!" - although for sure surfing like a girl would be better too. But S watched the kayak surfers for a while and said it looked fun. And I agreed to try it with him in Hawaii next month. Hmm.

10 March 2008

Indicators, 10 March 2008

If not for my new rule, I might have skipped surfing after work today, and then I would have missed out. But I've decided that once I've planned to surf, I'm going to surf. No excuses. Kind of like the sword Tyrfing that has to draw blood every time it's unsheathed, my board has to get wet every time it leaves the house. Even if the conditions/crowd aren't ideal, I always learn something, which makes it worthwhile. And after all, to paraphrase Mark Twain, you always regret more the things you didn't do than the things you did.

There I was sitting in my cubicle this afternoon, checking the cams and current weather, and it was looking like it might be too small in Santa Cruz and too windy everywhere else. But no excuses, right? So I went anyway. And it wasn't too small or too windy at Indicators, it was just right. Yay for the new rule!

I made a dry-hair paddle out to the lineup, which was lightly populated at first. There were some long lulls, but enough waves to go around, although the long/funboarders were getting a better chance at them than me on my shortboard. On the first wave I caught, I popped up and did a sharp left turn into a faceplant - arrgh! I was determined not to do that again. On the second wave, I started to turn left - no! no! no! - corrected to the right, too sharply, and fell backward. Damn! Then I remembered the advice to stay low. Thanks a lot, slow brain! But this is good practice, getting the hang of the shortboard's quick responsiveness, which means I need to dial up my responsiveness 'cause I'm not riding a big blue Cadillac anymore, I'm on a little red MINI.

Sadly then a small pack of guy-friends on longboards paddled out and took over the peak for themselves. They weren't sharing, and the lulls were getting longer, so I headed in. It was a fun sesh and a beautiful late afternoon at the beach, and now I'm thinking maybe Daylight Savings isn't so bad after all...

06 March 2008

Linda Mar, 6 March 2008

Just after dawn, the air was only 48 degrees, and the water not much warmer. There were only a few guys in the water when I paddled out at one of the several spots along the beach breaking around 3-4'. Mostly the waves would look to be forming up, then mush out into big round unridable mounds, probably due to coming up to a high high tide. Happily I caught one though, popped up fine, stuck the landing - and if the wave had been a bit more powerful and less mushy, or I was a bit better surfer to compensate for its lacks, it would have been a good ride. As it was, a second into the ride the wave continued without me. But I didn't screw up anything stupid, and I feel good about that. I just need to ride more waves.

Mushy waves, inactive long waits between sets, the frigid air/water and the sun's lazy slowness in rising above the hills, all combined to get me chilled much quicker than usual. Shivering and numb feet forced me back to the beach within the hour, by which time the crowd had swelled to usual Linda Mar proportions anyway. I passed my friend N just heading out, and saw M's SUV in the parking lot but missed him while trying to chase down S who had the rental car keys. It'll be so nice in a few weeks to have the new Mini Cooper S, which had better come with a plastic surfing-proof key or I'm sending it back (not!). One good thing about surfing in cold NorCal is that the hot water in the jug that's waiting in the car, particularly when dumped overhead and down the front of one's wetsuit, feels soooo good!
Some nice pix by guest photog S. Yeah, that's me waiting for a wave.

I'm glad I got in one last dawn patrol before Daylight Savings Time arrives. The days are getting longer and warmer now, but on Sunday we lose an hour of morning light. Really, I can't understand what daylight we're supposedly saving, or what conceivable purpose is served by changing the clocks twice a year, except perhaps the government just likes to periodically fuck with our minds. At any rate, it pretty much precludes dawn patrol for me for a while, since I need to turn up at work at a somewhat reasonable hour, not just before lunch.

04 March 2008

Sick Surfing in Santa Cruz

Surfer Health Study Kicks Off Ever wonder if that sinus infection you caught had anything to do with the red tide you've been surfing in all week? Well the folks over at UC Berkeley are wondering the same thing and have launched a study that examines the correlation between water quality and surfers' health. If you live in the Santa Cruz area, surf "good waves" at least 30 minutes a week and have access to a computer ... you're golden. Contact surferhealth@gmail.com to get started. You could even win some cool surf gear and cash prizes up to $500. For more information on the study, including its confidentiality policy, go to www.surferhealth.blogspot.com.

Hmm, an excuse to have to go surf once a week in SC. But what do they mean by "good" waves? And are good waves guaranteed once a week? Then sign me up!

02 March 2008

38th Ave, 2 March 2008

I'm glad I took a pass on Saturday and waited until Sunday dawned clear and warm with better surf. An early high high tide pushed my sesh to late morning. I decided to try the Pleasure Point vicinity, on the theory that it might be more protected from the NW wind. As it turned out it was breezy, but not too much. The crowds were out of course, but from the bluff near 38th I saw an open slot beckoning me.

It looked like getting out would be easy, but my timing was off and I’d just started paddling when a long set came through. Ah, well, it was another chance to practice duck-diving. Each time, I think I’m doing more of them closer to right, and not totally screwing up too often any more. Or maybe the waves were just going easy on me! Still, I was getting tired and worse by the time I reached the lineup, just as a large sea lion cruised by. My open slot had disappeared with the shifting crowd, but I found some less cluttered space right in front of the big green house, which I’ve heard belongs to Jack O’Neill of the wetsuit company. (Hey, Jack, how about making some more women's’ size 2s?!)

For the most part the waves were smaller and mushier than the shoulder-high set I’d seen from the bluff. Those bigger sets were arriving randomly every 10-15 minutes, and I got caught inside a few times thinking Damn! Wish I’d been in the right place for those. But good for more duck-diving practice. Remembering advice from the Pavones surf camp instructor, I paddled to the edge of the bubbly remnants showing where the last set wave had begun to break. Then I did catch one, felt it take me and started to pop up – then slid off the backside as the wave continued without me. I think either I shifted my weight too far aft and stalled the board, or the wind pushed me back. Either way, so sad, since that's the only wave I got. Then I just have to remind myself again about Pavones, and how easy it was to catch those uncrowded, consistent and quality waves, which I don't often luck into around here.

Toward the end of my sesh, a very friendly teenage boy, I'm guessing 17, paddled close and started chatting me up, trying to impress me with tales of his surfing prowess at Steamer Lane. All while sitting on a Cobalt Fusion longboard, just like mine but more than a foot longer, pristine with snowy white wax. We got separated by the waves for a few minutes, but then he came back and continued the conversation. Which makes me wonder, just how young do I look when I’m covered head to toe in neoprene?!

01 March 2008

Kelly Ave, 1 March 2008

Not a surf day, but I already knew the stiffy NW wind would be crapping out the surf when S and I drove to the coast for a walk by the beach and lunch at the Half Moon Bay Inn. At least, I was hoping Surfline and the NWS weren't wrong, leaving me cursing that I'd left my gear at home. Fortunately it was blowing hard as forecast.

But there's always tomorrow, and there's always Santa Cruz...