30 April 2008

Steamer Lane, 29 April 2008

The tide was too high in the morning, so I planned to head to Santa Cruz, escaping the howling NW winds, in the early afternoon. I always have a bit of a motivation problem with surf sessions later in the day, since I have most of my energy in the morning. After I down a short peppermint soy no-whip mocha (which the Oracle of Starbucks says makes me a hippie), I'm energized and ready to go surf, swim a mile (my usual workout), whatever. But come afternoon, I feel more like laying in the sun on a comfy chair with a good book, lazy and sleepy. This makes post-lunch meetings a challenge, and also sometimes makes it difficult to drive myself to the beach. That's where a surf buddy can be invaluable. Before D moved away, I'd motivate him to get out of bed for dawn patrols, and he'd keep me going for the afternoon sessions. Now I have to dig deep for my own encouragement. But I did it, getting to Steamer Lane after four at a mid rising tide.

The swell was also rising, going up to head high on the Point, but the waves weren't wrapping in far and the lulls were long. About 20 people were out at the Point/Slot, but nobody at Indicators, where the waves were mostly breaking too close to the cliffs. I watched for a few minutes, and some bigger sets came through a bit farther out that looked makeable. Hmm, overcrowded good waves or empty worse ones? Easy choice. I took careful note of the locations of rocks I could see from the cliffs, and headed down the stairs at Indicators. The waves were breaking at the base of the stairs, covering the bottom half dozen steps, which were coated in slimy green algae. I timed my entry well but after two steps on the slime I feel on my butt and slid down the rest, trying (successfully!) to keep my board from bashing on the concrete or rocks.

Soon after I started to paddle out, I thought of something else I should have noted from the cliff: the location of a path through the kelp. As it was, I ended up kelp-crawling for a fair distance. Hard work but least it's good exercise. Eventually I made it to where I thought I should sit for those empty bigger sets, but I never could find them. Maybe because of the rising tide or the lengthening lulls, or more likely because they were breaking more scary-close to the cliffs than I'd thought and I didn't want to go there. A sea lion (or seal; I don't know if she had ear flaps or not) popped up nearby, and looked at me curiously as I looked at her.

It was a gorgeous warm sunny day but the wind was blowing me east, so I had to constantly keep paddling toward the Point. In addition to looking less of a kook, there's a practical reason for keeping a shortboard as flat as possible in the water, since if the nose is sticking up, the wind pushes it. I'm pretty good at keeping my nose down now though.

After a while I decided to join the gang closer to the Point, ending up I believe at the Slot. I saw one longboarder with long curly blond hair and thought, at least I'm not the only girl out here. I took up my usual position on the shoulder, but didn't catch anything. Still, I don't think I'm really at risk of becoming the World's Most Dedicated Poser. I don't just paddle out and sit there looking cute in my skin-tight wetsuit on my pretty red board; at least I try to catch waves. And I almost caught a couple - if only they weren't so mushy, if only I was deeper. At one point the longboarder, paddling back out after a nice little ride, came near and told me "it's pretty mellow over there if you want to try," coaxing me off the shoulder. Imagine that, at Steamer Lane! And I thought people were only that friendly at Capitola. So I thanked him and moved in a bit closer to the peak, thinking, sorry dude, that I thought you were a girl, but you do have such pretty hair. I was the only girl after all.

The upwelling continues with the water temperature near 50 degrees. Quite a change from Hawaii. My feet and hands were going numb despite the neoprene so I began to examine the potential exit points now that the tide had risen more. Right at the point, guys were getting in by making what looked like a vertical descent down the cliff and leaping from ten feet up into the smashing surf. No exit there. Paddling farther east, I saw both the big rocks to the stairs near the Slot and the stairs at Indicators were looking dicey. I put the risk of injury to body or board if I attempted to get out at Indicators at around 25%. But hey, this was my exercise for the day, so why not paddle around the corner and get out by the stairs at Cowells? Turned out it was a longer paddle than I thought, but the scenery was cool, with crashing waves and caves in the cliffs. I concentrated on setting my trim perfectly for maximum speed, felt the burn in my shoulders and the sun and sea spray in my face. Any day surfing is a good day.

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