30 July 2008

The Unfriendly Skies

Delta just raised its fee for carrying a surfboard on a single flight, after disclaiming any responsibility for the board's well-being, to $175! For that, you might as well buy your shortboard a round-trip seat next to you in coach. Unlike the airline, you'd handle it with care - plus you'd get a second package of pretzels.

British Airways has even banned surfboards, while on most airlines, golf and ski equipment still travels for free. I cannot understand how the airlines continue to get away with such blatant discrimination against surfers. If there is any silver lining to be found in our increasing numbers, maybe it will be eventually achieving parity with pot-bellied, gray-haired duffers when we check our toys.

Now, here's a quiz: Who can tell me how much Qantas charges to bring a surfboard to Sydney from SFO, using only the information provided on the Qantas website? (And yes, I may soon need to know - woo hoo!)

OK, no one's playing, so here's the answer: around $50. But it was like pulling teeth to get that info from Qantas. An actual amount was not available on the website or through email. It took a phone call with the typical 5 minutes on hold before an agent would give me that estimate.

28 July 2008

38th Ave, 28 July 2008

Saturday and Sunday were quintessential California beach days, sunny and warm in Santa Cruz with only a hint of a breeze. In Capitola on Sunday, a sizable clump of wannabes waited for infrequent microwaves on their Softtops. With the tide pretty high, a group of kids were bodyboarding and even surfing the backwash from waves hitting the vertical base of the walkway, since that was creating bigger waves than the ones rolling in from the open ocean. It looked pretty cool, and fun if you only weighed 40 pounds. There wasn't much on offer for anyone bigger. S and I walked on the wharf where I petted a pelican - the feathers were surprisingly soft, like my long-haired cat's fur - and then I climbed a tree. Sometimes after a week of being all respectabiggle, it's nice to just act like a kid.

With such fine beach weather drawing the teaming masses, I didn't bother trying to surf on the weekend. Instead, I chose to do a cool misty Monday morning dawn patrol, and my patience was rewarded.

It's been a long time since I've done a real, leave-in-the-dark dawn patrol, but I wanted to get on it early this time before it crowded up. So I set my alarm for 4:30 am and was out of the house before 5:30. I do envy N being mere minutes from the surf, though not his commute to work . The sky had brightened by the time I passed Scott's Valley, and it was fully light when I parked at the Hook. By 6:50, I was in the lineup with only 5 other people, and for a time it dropped to only me plus 3 guys on longboards. One of them, an older dude with a French accent, told me that on Sunday there were 75 surfers chasing sets coming only every 45 minutes. Sooo glad I waited.

The waves were inconsistent and small, knee- to waist-high, but with little competition, I was able to catch my share. I lost count after about half a dozen. The first ride was the best, and I did some small turns with the fish, then got a few more short rides. Woo hoo! I'm started to get dialed in to the fish now, just need some more fun days like today.

When I got back to my car, I was amused to see an out-of-shape ugly guy buck-naked in the parking lot, changing in the open wing of his truck's door. This was maybe 10 feet from the window of a house adjacent to the parking lot. There was a fence in between and the way he was blocking with his truck, I don't think anyone could see the full frontal, but still. I remember reading about a town on the east coast that just passed a law prohibiting surfers from changing near the beach, and if they have a lot of people doing it the way this guy was, I can see why. Although in my 5 years of surfing, this is the first time I've seen anyone so au naturale. I'm not a prude, but I do think there should be a rule: no naked changing unless you have a nice body.

And now to the shower. My hair feels skanky and my skin smells like seaweed.

The Hook. Too many people out already, but I love this tree, still hanging on.

20 July 2008

Capitola, 20 July 2008

Short story: Caught a handful of waves on the fish, got one decent ride (yay!), and pulled off some respectable duck-dives.

Long story: Even on a cloudy and cool day, the Pleasure Point vicinity was packed, so I decided to try Nemo on my favorite longboard wave at Capitola. Even when it's crowded there, there's still a friendly vibe, and it's a nice wave. S found a perfect parking spot in town in view of the water. By the time I got suited up and down to the beach, I was dismayed to see a surf school heading out and a bunch of foamies in the water. But later I turned that to advantage.

To start I sat on the right shoulder at the edge of the crowd. As I paddled for one wave, a couple of boys were paddling out right in my way and I couldn't help but complain at them. Usually I try to maintain a spirit of aloha on the water, but they totally didn't get basic etiquette. Listen up kids, when you see someone paddling for a wave, move away from their takeoff zone! Still, I wasn't catching anything there, despite feeling like I had the right paddling position on the board. I tried shifting my weight even farther forward, but still nada. Then I thought perhaps it's not where I am on my board, but where I am on the wave: too far on the shoulder. The left end had a little pack of kooks on bright blue softtops, so hey, why not sit inside and catch what they don't know how to catch? Sure enough, this turned out to be a good plan, and I caught a handful of waves. I popped up perfectly on one and was ready to try some turns, but unfortunately a kook caught it to my right and I had no choice but to ride straight toward the cliff along with him, since he didn't fall soon enough for me to turn down the line. Later I got caught inside when a bigger set rolled through - damn! I missed them all - but I pulled off a series of respectable duck-dives, definitely getting better at that. And definitely getting the feel of the fish; I'm looking forward to next time.

Pleasure Point party wave, 38th Ave.

18 July 2008

Shark Gets Some Air in the Lineup

New Smyrna Beach, just up the road from where I first stood up on a 10' foamie. More photos here. Closer to home, Whitey made a recent appearance at Grey Whale Cove, north of Montara.

15 July 2008

The Hook/38th Ave, 15 July 2008

I've been really, really needing to get wet, so with a small SW swell coming in, S and I made the drive to Santa Cruz this morning before work. Surfline posited that as the storm generating the swell was "sawed in half by New Zealand and never set up a great fetch," (what the hell is a fetch?), surf would be inconsistent and "pulsey" with long waits between the best waves. For once, Surfline was right.

After checking the Hook and 38th, I went out first at the Hook, where the waves looked a little punchier, getting up to shoulder high. But the wait on flat water was loooong between sets, seemed like 20 minutes, and the set waves were being snapped up by the handful of guys already out. Since I only had an hour, I decided to paddle over to 38th, where at least some small waves were coming through in the interim between the good sets. The water was so smooth and glassy, it was like gliding across a lake.

The soul-soothing effects of being on the water can't be overstated. Sitting on my board in the calm water, gently rising and falling with tiny swells, I felt the stress melting away. Perhaps it harks back in some deeper sense to the earliest moments of existence, the pleasant reassurance of floating in the womb. Whatever, it's just good.

I'm still iterating on proper body position on the fish, since it's extremely sensitive to small changes in cg location. Over time I've been inching forward on the board, paddling with my knees bent (a constant position since movement of my lower legs has a large and unintuitive effect), and I think I almost have it dialed in to the right wave-catching position. After a number of misses, I caught a wave but had to back off for a longboarder already on it. Then I caught another, popped up and rode it - yay! - but I was riding on the crest and couldn't seem to get the board to head down the face. Perhaps positioning again. I'll get there!

14 July 2008

Woody Would

"Surfing saved my life because I'd go out all day; Waikiki. I'd just go out on my board in the morning and sit out there all day long and surf. Lunch time, I'd dive down and get seaweed off the bottom to eat and just stay there 'till late evening; sunset." -Woody Brown


12 July 2008

Still Jonesin'

This morning, Surfpulse reported that at Ocean Beach:
If you have nice big floaty long board or fish, preferably with a motor attached to the back, you might be able to score a slow, crumbling shoulder.
So I had only a tiny (though fervent) hope that I'd find waves when S and I drove over the hill. The first glimpse of Pacifica Pier showed hardly a ripple. At Linda Mar, there were a few narrow sections breaking with weak knee-to-waist high crumblers. A surf contest had staked a claim to the best of the lot, and the other breaks were thick with surfers like flies on shit. Montara was sadly similar. Even at the flat Jetty, a handful of beginners were hopefully bobbing on their big foamies. So I still really really need to get wet...

Looking down at Montara, about as close as I want to get to the edge.
Interestingly, our next door neighbors just got married - in their backyard, which is overlooked by our house. It seems a bit odd, but there is nice view of the Bay. We barely know any of the neighbors, of course (this is California), but we could watch the whole ceremony from our living room. And now there's a crowd in their yard for the reception, some of them possibly staring back at us. Kinda makes me wish we had curtains.

07 July 2008

Linda Mar, 7 July 2008

S on the beach.

It was Monday. And it was Linda Mar. That pretty much sums it up.

03 July 2008

38th Ave/The Hook, 3 July 2008

For some reason, my company decided 4th of July eve should be a holiday, but I won't complain about getting off on an ordinary weekday. I figured it would be a great day to surf, after the Santa Cruz breaks emptied out of the poor saps who had to go to work. Silly me. On a warm sunny summer day, even a nondescript Thursday, there was a crowd on the Eastside. Still, there looked to be opportunities at both the Hook and 38th, so I suited up. This time conditions were better for a fish, waist to shoulder high.

I went out around 38th first, sitting on the shoulder but inside. Later I paddled east to the Hook. A thick brown column of smoke was rising from a ridge at the south end of Monterey Bay and I noticed a lot of small black bits in the water, which someone said were ashes from the wildfires. The water has warmed up to the high 50s and I was hot in my Hotline 4/3, so next time I'll wear the leaky new O'Neill 4/3 instead.

I'm learning that on the fish, my body position while paddling is very important, especially what I'm doing with my lower legs. When I paddle for a wave, I'm in the habit of bending my knees up to shift my c.g. forward and push the nose down slightly to get into the wave and not stall. On the fish, doing that actually raises the nose; lowering my legs to straight sinks it underwater. I'm not entirely clear on the mechanics of that, so next time I surf with a friend, I'll have to ask what's going on. Nevertheless, that makes it a bit tricky to get Nemo properly balanced to catch waves, as it is so sensitive to even a slight shift in position. The fish may be able to get longboard waves, but it's not so easy and forgiving as a longboard. I'm starting to get the feel of it though, and did catch several waves, although I had to back off most of them for traffic and fell soon on the others. On the best one, I popped up and immediately did a cool top turn - it felt great! - but I was not at all in control and couldn't stay on it. Still, it was a teaser of the fun to come when I really get the hang of the board. And it's funny how 1 second out of an hour and half can make it worthwhile.

Hangin' Paw

Toes on the nose at the surf dog competition.