29 June 2008

Waddell Creek, 29 June 2008

With a south swell filling in, S and I headed down Highway 1, destination Waddell Creek. On the way, we stopped for a picnic on scenic Whaler's Cove beach by Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

The Surfline forcast for Santa Cruz was 3-4' with the tide pretty high all day and the cams showing small, so I decided to try a more exposed spot with easier high-water entry. I'd forgotten, though, that Surfline lies, and Waddell was more like 4-6', pushing the edge of my comfort level and better suited for the Xanadu. Serendipity again, I ran into N as I was checking out the surf and he was leaving the beach. As he said when I told him what board I'd brought, it would've been a good day for "not-the-fish." Maybe now that I have two shorter boards, I should start bringing them both, just in case, but I was with fish only, couldn't go anyplace else, and hadn't driven for an hour just to watch, so I was going in anyway.

Fortunately the swell was long-period with lulls, so Waddell didn't deny me entry as it has sometimes in the past. Unfortunately, it was more crowded than I've ever seen it. The parking lot was nearly full and there were several dozen surfers in the water clustered around a handful of breaks. I paddled out to one just north of the creek, with the sun thinking of emerging from the overcast sky. The waves felt powerful, reminding me of Hawaii. Glassy peelers intermingled with mushy rollers and slightly overhead crashing closeouts. When I tried for one wave, my instincts said "no go" and I attempted to back off, but the wave had my board already and took us over the falls. I don't know if it was the beaminess of the fish or just the power of the waves, but it seemed like I really should've been able to abort that one.

The size and power of the waves were intimidating, and maybe I wasn't trying as hard as I could've out of trepidation, but I got none. I'm still working out my paddling position on Nemo too, trying to find the sweet spot between too far back, stalling - where I usually am - and too far forward, pearling. The waves were fast too; surfers were racing down the line with the skilled ones getting in some nice turns and lip-smacking. D would've had a blast. But with the crowd and skill level, I had to give way often. And some of the good people were just jerks too. One shortboarder was paddling for the same wave as me, and I'd seen him riding and knew he was pretty good, plus he was arguably closer to the peak. So okay, I let him have it, thinking for pretty sure he'd get a ride, which he did, while my chances were... less. But later the same thing happened with our positions reversed, and he cut close in front of me so I had to back off. Dude, that was just rude. It was one ride of many for you, but if I'd gotten it, it would've made my day. So next time, think about sharing, OK? To counter him, there was a longboarder encouraging me to "paddle, paddle, paddle!" and another guy, who looked like he'd been in a cream-pie fight (it was sunscreen), telling me I shouldn't have yielded another wave to a dude who was on it farther down. At least there are some nice folks out there, but maybe I am too timid.

Every so often, an outside set would roll through, head high+ walled up closeouts, and somehow I managed to duck-dive them adequately. I was pleasantly surprised when one broke right in front of me and I thought I blew it, had the board ripped from my hands and rolled, but when I surfaced, I hadn't lost much ground. I count that as a success, even it if wasn't pretty.

After a while, I started to get discouraged, but then I have to remember why I surf. It's not just to ride waves, or I would've quit long ago since I don't get to do that too often. It's the feeling of being in the ocean, floating on a massive untamed body of liquid filled with unseen creatures, some who might look at you curiously and others who might eat you. It's the sensuous flow of water around my body, the sun on my face and the sea spray in my eyes, the view of the shore from outside that few see, the encounters with dolphins and otters and kelp. It's paddling hard at a wave about to break and feeling the power of the ocean as it lifts me up at the crest and drops me safe on the other side, and the thought of the sea's indifference as tumbles me like a bit of flotsam when I mess up. And it's having to set aside my worries and cares and live in the moment.

N said he'd been out for 3 hours, but I don't know how I could possibly last that long. After an hour I was getting chilled, due to inactivity as the lulls were getting long, and perhaps it was the two duck-dives in a row, but suddenly I feel nauseated. (I've been going out with just the seasickness wristbands - psychosomatic wristbands, according to S - and that's worked pretty well, but maybe I need to add the earplugs back in too. Unless it's just seawater ingestion, in which case I suppose I'm screwed!) So I paddled toward the beach and caught some whitewater, which was surprisingly difficult to ride prone, very rough and hard to hold onto the board, but it pushed me fast to shore. In trying to stop before my fins smashed the sand, I executed a 360-degree roll over my board, which S said looked like I'd done on purpose. Uh, yeah...right.

And now, my first attempt at video. Obviously next time I need to increase the resolution, but if you look real close, there's a guy going left.

27 June 2008

Linda Mar, 27 June 2008

When S and I arrived at Linda Mar this morning, there was a clump of surfers on the south end and another on the north. In between, a lonely 3-4' peak was going unridden. Yeah! That would be my spot. I went back to the car to change, and when I returned to the beach fifteen minutes later, the empty slot was filled with - counted 'em - 13 surfers. Damn. I used the rip and paddled out to the peak anyway, and right up next to N. It was some kind of serendipity to bump into someone I knew in the Linda Mar throng. As it turned out, R and M were there as well, although I only saw M's car.

Still, it wasn't too terribly crowded (yet), and I tried for a couple waves but found myself hesitating at the critical moment when commitment is required. It was a silly fear of the unknown. I just didn't know what the new fish would do when I popped up on it. Okay, maybe stupid, but I needed to get past it. So I messed around in the whitewater for a little while, just to get the feel of the board under my feet. And it was a worthwhile exercise, since it made me realize I need to have my weight farther forward on the fish than on the shortboard, which makes sense given the fish's fatness up front. Nemo is only 4" shorter than the Xanadu, so in some ways they feel similar, but in others they're quite different. One way they're similar is that I can duck-dive Nemo (at least as well as I can duck-dive anything). I'm happy about that, since the longboard could be a real hassle to get through breaking waves.

Niggling fears put to rest, I paddled back out, this time trying the less-crowded south end. Unfortunately there was a reason it was less crowded. The waves weren't breaking well at all there, mostly forming up briefly and then quickly dying to reform too close to the beach. Not to mention there was a loud guy yelling toward the horizon, "C'mon, give me a fucking wave!" C'mon dude, have a little respect for the ocean. I decided to try the middle peak again. Lots of paddling today, my shoulders are killing me.

Finally then I caught a wave, made the pop up and was riding oh so briefly - but in my excitement I'd forgotten to check for traffic first, and there was a longboardess coming up fast on my right. She'd been farther outside and I was pretty sure I'd dropped in, so I bailed and let her have it. Soon after I got another, but had to back off for a dude already on it. Darn crowds. Next time I'm doing dawn patrol at Linda Mar, I need to get there actually at dawn, which this time of year will mean dragging myself out of bed at 4 am - ugh, but it would've been so worth it this morning to be first on that peak and have it to myself for a little while.

Not bad for my first real session on the new fish. I think I'm going to like it!

Still smoky....

25 June 2008

California's Burning

S and I were in Carmel on Saturday when it was hit by freak thundershower (very rare in coastal California), and we saw flames licking the mountains as we drove north home. Lighting sparked numerous wildfires and this morning the air is acrid, with the oddly red sunrise obscured by smoke.

22 June 2008

Sea of Trash - Rise Above Plastics

Sad to think that all the beach cleanups in the world barely make a dent in the sea of trash fouling our oceans and coastlines.
...“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean,” Moore later wrote in an essay for Natural History, “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.” ... The Garbage Patch wasn’t merely a cosmetic problem, nor merely a symbolic one, Moore contended. For one thing, it was a threat to wildlife. Scientists estimate that every year at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when they entangle themselves in debris or ingest it. ...Plastic polymers, as has long been known, absorb hydrophobic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, like dioxin, P.C.B.’s and D.D.T. ... since such toxins concentrate, or “bioaccumulate,” in fatty tissues as they move up the chain of predation — so that the “contaminant burden” of a swordfish is greater than a mackerel’s and a mackerel’s greater than a shrimp’s — this plastic could be poisoning people too....

As nearly everyone I spoke to about marine debris agrees, the best way to get trash out of our waterways is, of course, to keep it from entering them in the first place. But experts disagree about what that will take. The argument, like so many in American politics, pits individual freedom against the common good. “Don’t you tell me I can’t have a plastic bag,” Seba Sheavly, the marine-debris researcher, says, alluding to plastic-bag bans like the one San Francisco enacted last year. “I know how to dispose of it responsibly.” But proponents of bag bans insist that there is no way to use a plastic bag responsibly. Lorena Rios, an environmental chemist at the University of the Pacific, says: “If you go to Subway, and they give you the plastic bag, how long do you use the plastic bag? One minute. And how long will the polymers in that bag last? Hundreds of years.”...
So here's something you can do - take the Surfrider Rise Above Plastics pledge:

I commit to do my part to rise above plastics and protect the world's oceans, waves and beaches from plastic pollution. I will do this by:

- Using reusable bottles for my water and other drinks. By using just one reusable bottle, I will keep 167 single-use plastic bottles from entering the environment.

- Using cloth bags for groceries and other purchases. For each reusable bag I use, I will save approximately 400 plastics from being used.

- Recycling the plastic bags and bottles I already have. For every thirteen plastic bags I don't use, I will save enough petroleum to drive a car one mile.

Then at least there will be a little less trash to clean up.

20 June 2008

Linda Mar, 20 June 2008

The wind behaved itself on International Surfing Day, but the waves weren't cooperating. On a day when inland temperatures hit 100 degrees, the two small breaks that were working at Linda Mar were clogged with surfers. But I was there anyway, and I just had to get my new fish "Nemo" wet for the first time. At least I got to paddle around and get the feel of the board, but the crowd kept me too far on the shoulder to catch any waves. So far on the shoulder, in fact, that a few times I found myself in the region where the water is coated with smelly scum - and as of course there are no waves to be had in the ripcurrent, I'd have to paddle back north a bit closer to the crowd. Still it was a lovely sunny day, so warm that I was overheating in my 4/3 and needed to dunk periodically to cool off. DO joined me in the water for a bit, and it was nice to have someone to chat with out there. Still, I need to give Nemo a real trial in real waves with a real opportunity for catching them, hopefully in the next few days.

Afterwards I picked up some trash as part of the Surfrider beach cleanup, and noticed that I usually don't notice how much junk people leave behind on the sand. I guess it's just something I block out. But when I looked for it with a trash bag in hand, I found there really is quite a lot. My most unusual find was a sandwich, intact in its plastic store wrapper.

The sunset over the ocean was glorious, closing out the bittersweet longest day of the year.

19 June 2008

Applying a Traction Pad

If you want to learn how to apply a traction pad to a surfboard, you could watch this video by a guy who's obviously done waaay too many of them:

Or you could follow these easy steps:

1) Drink a glass of something alcoholic. I like a nice chilled glass of Viognier ("combines exotic, perfumed aromas with a scent of peaches and cream"). It gives a nice boost of confidence (or "what-the-hell" attitude) that is useful when permanently affixing something to an expensive object. Be sure to stop at one drink; you don't want to get sloppy.

2) Wipe the tail of the board with alcohol (the rubbing kind).

3) Remove the traction pad from the packaging. Then Google "how to apply a traction pad" and find out that you were supposed to leave it under the plastic overlay to keep the pieces together. But hey, what the hell, I have a wide-assed fish so I really wanted to spread them apart anyway!

4) Lay the pieces out on the tail of the board. Wonder what the extra two little flat pieces are for, then set them aside. Align the pad so it's straight and centered, ignoring any wavy decorative lines in the surfboard's paint scheme. Use masking tape to mark out the edges so you can put the pieces back in the right spots after removing the backing.

5) Take a deep breath, and take off the backing that covers the adhesive. Remember, you only get one shot at this; when it's down, it's down. Carefully set the pad in place using the tape guidelines, and press it down.

6) Wax and go surf!

17 June 2008

Fish is here!

Yay! On to accessorizing...
...with tail guards (actually one tailguard cut in half), women's Dakine Leash (6' was the shortest I could find), Shark Camo (of course! but I had to cut off the bottom to fit little Nemo). The nose guard is too pointy and the traction pad is icky yellowed instead of clear, so I'll return them to Surfco Hawaii and find those locally. Then I'll get waxed up - mmmm, waaax - and go surf!

HMB @ Jetty, 17 June 2008

After months of trying to get our schedules to mesh, MC and I finally got together for dawn patrol at the Jetty. And for sure it was one of those times when I needed the thought of a surfing buddy waiting for me to get me out of bed. One of our cats is deeply into one of his nocturnal yowling phases, and I haven't had a good night's sleep in days. (If anyone has humane suggestions for getting a cat to be quiet at 3 am, please share.) So but for MC, I probably would've slept in a little and gone swimming instead. Glad I didn't.

It's always good to get out, but frankly this morning was mostly duck-diving practice. Fortunately the water isn't quite as cold as last week, and of course I do need the practice. I've been getting sloppy, bad form with my leg slipping off the board, so I made a point to really concentrate on what I needed to do. After a couple fairly decent duck dives, I guess I was getting a little overconfident, which is exactly when the ocean chooses to remind you not to be. OK, so I'll just stay humble and keep practicing.

There weren't many people out, but the waves were mixed up and inconsistent. I saw MT in the parking lot and once in the water as he wooshed by on a wave. Maybe one day I'll be that good.

16 June 2008

International Surfing Day is Friday

Summer solstice marks International Surfing Day. Get out and show your beach some love by picking up a little trash after you surf on the bittersweet longest day of the year. I'll be at the Surfrider SMC surf sesh/cleanup at Linda Mar, but if you're not local, check out this website for events around the world. There are cool prizes in categories like most interesting piece of trash, most butts (of the cigarette variety), best trash skateboard, and most interesting alternative material ridden on a wave.

With any luck, I'll have my new fish by then...

13 June 2008

40 Degrees and Killer Tomatoes

This may be my last post. I'm about to do something very brave - eat a raw tomato.

It never ceases to amaze me how the collective conscious blows tiny risks completely out of proportion while ignoring larger ones. 200 people over 2 months have been sickened by tomatoes – out of untold tomato eaters across the country who enjoyed their meals without incident – and suddenly we cannot purchase any tomatoes at all? One clueless crazy guy tries to light off his shoe on a plane, and forevermore we must walk barefoot through airport security? Not to mention the fear of men in gray suits, who in reality attack very infrequently. Apply this logic to cars, and we would all be walking everywhere; they are far more dangerous than vegetables and flip-flops. Strangely I cannot recall ever hearing that restaurants stopped serving all beef products during the more frequent outbreaks of meat-borne illness. Society is wildly irrational, but I object when it imposes its silly fears on my life.

Two restaurants this week have prevented me from taking the dangerous risk of consuming a tomato, but my Tofurky sandwich just wouldn’t be the same without a juicy red slice. Fortunately we still have a few illicit vegetables in the refrigerator, purchased nearly a week ago before the irrational fear of produce reached its frothy pinnacle of panic. And we surfers are risk takers, after all, so here I go, taking a nice big bite of killer tomato! Mmmm.

Yesterday I planned to surf HMB again or Linda Mar, before the Surfrider meeting at the Montara Lighthouse. And indeed, the wind and waves looked to be amenable. But at the last minute S decided to come with me, so I took him to dinner at the Half Moon Bay Inn instead. When we left Palo Alto, it was 95 degrees and sunny. Thirty miles away, the coast was 55 degrees and partly foggy. No wondering the wind howls so often at this time of year.

Alas, not only was the HMB Inn Kitchen & Cocktails restaurant still out of ciabatta bread as they have been for a month, they were also out of aioli, and had rid their kitchen of all traces of evil tomatoes. None for sandwiches and no tomato vegetable soup – although ketchup was somehow still on offer. Our vegan burgers were thus pathetic shadows of their former delicious selves. It may be time to find another favorite coastside restaurant.

11 June 2008

HMB @ Jetty, 11 June 2008

I was planning on a trip to Santa Cruz this morning, but M reported that the Jetty's been fun, so I took the shorter drive there instead. There were only a few people out when I arrived, and it was a beautiful sunny morning, nearing 60 degrees. Thankfully I had also headed M's warning about the upwelling and came kitted out in my warmest layers, because the water was damn COLD! Quite a contrast from Santa Cruz. As I paddled out on the Xanadu, whitewash heading towards me, my brain said "I should duck-dive this for practice," but my body said "Nooo! Too cold!" And indeed when my head did get submerged later, I got a huge instant icecream headache.

The waves were up to about shoulder-high but inconsistent and mixed up, with many looking paddly-worthy that would just mound into mushy humps. It was a bit of a challenge finding a good place to sit, but eventually I caught a wave, popped up a little early but made the drop - it was only 4', OK maybe only 3', but it was steep, and it felt exhilarating to make it! - then the wave closed out in a crash and tossed me. It was followed by a couple friends I tried to duck-dive; made one, blew the other, and got the aforementioned headache from the icy water. About then there was an invasion of SUPers - well, only 2, but they were taking most of the waves, dammit, making me back off. The regular surfer crowd was growing too. When I looked at my new watch, I was surprised that only half an hour had passed, but I could no longer feel my pinkies and several of my toes. I lasted a bit longer, till my teeth were chattering, and went in. I know, I'm a wimp. I really should put on some body fat like a seal so I can better stand the cold. Nah.

10 June 2008

Tide Watches, Part II

Over a month ago, I bought a new tide watch to replace the analog Rip Curl Pacific Tidemaster I've have for a few years. The pickings are slim for girls' tide watches, unfortunately, and I have very small wrists so guys' watches are just too big. The silver Tidemaster looks pretty, dressy enough for work, but it's always been hard to read, since the hands don't contrast enough with the mother-of-pearl face. And forget reading it at night; the luminescence wears off quickly, and only lights up the outer ring of dots, not the hands, which is useless. Worse, the tides are not all that accurate, only ballparkish, with the best correlation if I set the tide dial during the middle of a moon cycle (between new and full).So I decided to go digital, and Rip Curl still seemed to offer the best choices. The womens' Waikiki Tide (above right) is much more readable than the Tidemaster, which is a plus, but unfortunately the face is not all that small and it has a wide band, like they just molded a men's band from white plastic instead of black. Hello - it's a girl's watch, how about sizing it for girl's wrists? I must have misread the description because I thought I'd be able to set the tides to a certain location, but instead I have to program a future high tide and it just times it from that. So it's no more accurate than the analog. With all the computing power they can jam into an iPhone, I don't understand why they can't get more features into a watch. And make it smaller.

Well, it turns out they can, and Freestyle has, the Tide 3.0G (above left). In Part I, did say I'd never buy a Freestyle watch because I found their ad insulting, but after Chad from Freestyle left a comment, I decided not to hold their ad agency's poor wording against them. And I think that was a good decision. In a way it was fortunate that Rip Curl makes a defective product, because I ended up with a much better watch from Freestyle.

Here's what went wrong with the Rip Curl Waikiki Tide. The watch comes in white or light blue, neither of which got me excited, but I bought the white one. Within weeks of normal use, I noticed the exterior of the band was looking gray and dirty. I tried to clean it with various products but it still looked like crap, so I contacted Rip Curl to ask if there was something else I should try. The company responded with this:
"Unfortunately nothing can be done to restore the band back to its original color besides replacing the band. Its nothing that your [sic] doing wrong. The light color of the band causes it to get dirty alot easier than most bands."

I was surprised that they were seemingly admitting to a design defect, but it still left me stuck with a dirty-looking watch. And what - I'm supposed to send it in to Rip Curl once a month to have the custom band replaced? Against their protests, I'll return the watch to the online retailer who sold it to me, and try to get a credit from Visa.

I stopped by REI after work yesterday and picked up a black Freestyle Tide 3.0G. It's way better than the Rip Curl. First, it's preprogrammed with years of tide data for many beaches. Locally, the choices are Ocean Beach and Santa Cruz, with Mavericks thrown in just for the wow factor I suppose (since the number of women - or men for that matter - who need that information is slim indeed). You can downselect a bunch of favorites to easily switch between locations. And you can press a button to advance through upcoming and past tides too, which is very handy. Thus far my only complaint is that the plastic band is stiff and doesn't conform well to my tiny wrist.

My favorite feature, which is purely gimmicky, is on the Big Time display. Big Time increases the font size so the time fills 2/3 of the face, a plus when you need reading glasses like I do. The top 1/3 is left open for a shark fin that "swims" by at the start of every minute - to the right on even minutes, and to the left on odd ones. It's silly, but I know I'll be watching for it when I'm stuck in boring meetings.

The saga continues in Part III.

07 June 2008

38th Ave, 7 June 2008

Once again my old surfing buddy D had good advice for me. I was feeling discouraged since I hadn't ridden a wave in so very very long, and he told me to take out my longboard to get my stoke back. It was an excellent suggestion - stoke restored!

Actually, there wasn't much choice on which surfboard to use if I wanted to get wet this weekend. Strong winds continue to plague San Mateo County beaches, blowing out the head-high surf. Although I later heard HMB Jetty wasn't bad this morning, it's too long of a drive to risk it all on the chance of one break possibly being good. Santa Cruz was forecast to be clean and only 1-3', but with the longboard I figured I'd find something. A negative low in the morning pushed my start into the more crowded time, and I got into the water just west of 38th at around 11 am. I'd relied on N's report that the water's warmed up some, and he was right. The 4/3 wetsuit was just fine and it was nice not to have the bulk of the 5/3. Air temp in the 60s and lots of sunshine helped too.

I caught a wave almost as soon as I got out, popped up perfectly, and was starting to make my bottom turn when - dammit! - there was a kook right in my way. I tried to maneuver around him, but I haven't ridden the LB in so long, I wasn't successful and bailed to keep from hitting him. At least I managed that. He apologized so I couldn't really be mad, but it would've been a sweet ride.

I'd forgotten that I'm not half bad on a longboard. This put me in a unexpected situation: being better than a significant number of people in the crowded lineup. There were a lot of beginners in the water, and I was catching waves they couldn't. A good feeling, and a real confidence-booster.

Even though the tide had risen for a few hours off of the negative low, kelp was really an issue. I had to point out to the kook who blocked my wave that he was trailing a big hunk from his leash, and then found myself having to frequently untangle. Worse, on one wave I ran into a patch of unavoidable kelp speed-bumps; one of them stopped my fin cold and I went flying off the front.

Just like when I try to keep track of laps while swimming, after a while I forgot where I was on my wave count. Somewhere around 6-8 and I was only out a little over an hour, the best sesh I've had in a very long time. Not that they were all good by any means, and most were short since I was sitting inside. But I got one really nice ride with some decent turns, even kicked out the back at the end, although I didn't manage to sit down gracefully on the board. Next time. Woo-hoo!

05 June 2008

On Surflessness and Sharks

I was in Vegas for a long weekend (Vulcan Mind Melds kick ass!), but returned to the spring pattern of too much wind in San Mateo County and too little swell in Santa Cruz. And now it's been - OMG! more than 3 weeks since I've gotten wet, much longer since I've actually caught a ride. That sucks. This weekend promises more of the same, but I'm getting in the water, regardless.

A young guy from San Francisco was recently killed by a shark in Mexico just after he arrived on a surf trip. I didn't know him, but there's a paddle-out at Linda Mar on Monday. Sadly he bled to death, too long from medical attention to be saved. That's one scary thing about surfing in a remote location, or by myself at Montara, for that matter. But it's been so long, I'd risk it now!