26 September 2008

Governor Terminates Funds for Water Quality Monitoring

Schwarzenegger has decided that the people of Calee-for-nee-ah don't need to know if the water we surf in is polluted.

It's a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for the ocean. Surf at your own risk.

Better yet, do something about it! Surfrider has an Action Alert here. Go on, it'll take you less than two minutes.

23 September 2008

Linda Mar, 23 September 2008

Dawn is coming later and later these days; the street lights were still glowing as S and I crested the hill above Linda Mar beach. It took some dragging to get my ass out of bed this morning, even if it wasn't super early. But I had extra motivation, since I planned to meet up with T and her friend L2, who pulled into the parking lot right after I zipped up my wetsuit. L2 had her red longboard, I brought my orange fish, and T had her shortboard, but we all started out on the south end.

With my headstart, I had to wait a bit for them to reach the lineup, and it was c-c-c-old. Air only 50 degrees with a light breeze, water cool though not freezing yet - summer's over, baby. I was hoping to wring a few more sessions out of my old 4/3, but it's time to break in the new one now.

The waves on the south end were on the moundy side, with the tide filling in to high, so while L2 headed farther down to Boatdocks, T and I decided to paddle north of the bathhouse, where we'd seen a couple decent shoulders from the parking lot. Unfortunately, the waves there were also generally moundy, just bigger. T suggested sitting farther in just as another head-high closeout dumped on the inside with a crash of spray. Mmm, nooo. Instead we paddled back south to near our original spot - hey, all that paddling's good exercise, and the only workout I'll get today - preferring to sit inside of smaller waves and take less of a beating. Oh, if only we hadn't fallen into grass-is-greener syndrome. It was a better spot, but I was nearly out of time. A few promising ones came my way, close but no cigar, and then it was time to leave. As I paddled for shore, a wave broke behind me and I popped up in the whitewater, just to ride something. But it's always a tricky maneauver on a shorter board due to its inherent instability and the turbulence, so I wasn't surprised when I fell. Lucky T caught the next one and rode it a little past me, then went back out for one more.

As I was changing by my MINI, a dripping longboarder started doing the same at his van in the next spot. He was wearing a Matuse wetsuit, which I'd read is intriguingly made from limestone. It's supposed to be warmer, lighter, and more flexible than a standard neoprene suit, so I asked him about it. He started raving that it's all of the above, plus it dries in only 2 hours. Sounds awesome (though no doubt expensive), but as I predicted, they don't make them in my size. Even worse, Matuse apparently doesn't realize women surf, since they only make wetsuits for men. Dudes, get out of the office, head down to the nearest break, and count the women surfers - hello!

Stuck in traffic on the way out of town.

22 September 2008


I'm going to have to try this when we're in South Australia. But not in shorts.

Thanks to Matt for the trip report.

17 September 2008


My planned summer Sunday surf sesh at Montara was canceled because my old Linda Mar back injury was acting up, but S and I had a nice beach walk there anyway. The waves were looking fun but gentle, and I wish I could've gone out and played.

I saw the weirdest thing, though: tow-skimboarding. A guy was sitting on a 4-wheeled lawnmower engine with a cable winch on the front, using it to pull a skimboarder along the edge of the water. When I first saw the skimboarder without noticing the line, I was amazed at his speed and skill. It looked fun, but then there's the stinky noisy motor, polluting the beach experience for everyone else. And the sandburn must be horrendous.

16 September 2008

Palin Also Into Water Sports

Gosh darn it, she's looking very presidential in this photo. And who needs a flag pin when you can wear a flag bikini? Though I did think conservatives frowned on such desecration.

As a liberal, unpatriotic city dweller, I must admit I'm unfamiliar with the frontier pastime of shoot-n-swim. The pool does look rather murky (no chlorine up in those parts?), so perhaps in small-town Alaska they fire off a few rounds at the water snakes before diving in. It kind of fits with this quote from Bill Parker, a former state legislator:
"People in Anchorage tend to think of people from Wasilla as toothless hicks, living on dope and poached moose."
Scary that she could end up an ancient heartbeat from the Presidency.

Update: Turns out the photo is a fake. (But if I was of a different political persuasion, I wouldn't tell you that.) So body-surfer Obama is still the best pick if your criteria is water sports. Or anything else. Funny to think I'll find out who's been chosen as our next President while I'm in Australia. I'm curious to see how much interest the result generates outside of this country.

11 September 2008

More Closet Cleaning

Now that my funshape's gone to a better place where it will not be relegated to wall art, its never-used travel boardbag is just taking up space. See it for sale on Craigslist: Prolite Rhino Travel Longboard/Funshape Surfboard Bag 7'6"

Big Chill Out

Well, the world didn't end and fall's still around the corner. Darn, I don't even want to think about the cold short days ahead. But at least the surf will improve and the crowds will thin. And in two months, I get to have spring again in Australia!
I might watch but I'm a free surfer and a shortboarder so you won't see me competing. More info here.

09 September 2008

The Hook, 9 September 2008

I had to get in one last surf just in case the world ends at half past midnight when they fire up the Large Hadron Collider. After all, you never know what might happen when you create a black hole or some stranglet particles. My original plan was to head to one of the Peninsula spots, followed by dinner at our favorite coastside restaurant, the Kitchen & Cocktails at HMB Inn, and a sunset walk on the beach. But the wind forecast changed from calm to breezy, and the restaurant closed abruptly a couple weeks ago after a bitter legal dispute with the Inn. So S and I headed down south instead, escaping our cubicles in the mid-afternoon.

Driving by Cowells, I saw one of the few surfers out catch a good ride on a chest-high wave. Farther west, Steamer Lane was firing and loaded with experts, way out of my league, but nothing was happening at Indicators. Perhaps it was the very high tide and/or the fairly southerly swell angle, but the waves weren't breaking until just before they smashed into the cliff. I decided on Cowells and suited up, but when I walked back within view I realized the folly of making a decision based on a two-second glimpse from a moving car. I'd seen a 3-sigma set wave, and what was rolling through the rest of the time was bowly longboard waves. No wonder there were only 3 Soft-toppers out. I got back in the car in my wetsuit, drove into town to collect S from his ramble, and made the slow rush-hour crawl to the Eastside.

Claiming the wave at Steamer Lane.

By the time we parked at the Hook, it was nearly 6 pm and the after-work crew was already out in force. I really should listen to myself; it was insanely, ridiculously crowded. And the near 6' high tide was making access look tricky everywhere. At 38th, I saw guys jumping off the rocks to get in. OK...but then how do you get out? Still, no way was I taking off my wetsuit without first getting it wet.

From the Hook stairs, I watched a guy heading out, trying to pick his way through the large rocks in the tiny strip of wet sand that was regularly inundated with whitewater. Watched him trying to keep his balance as the waves hit, watched him fall, watched him checking his dropped board for damage. Ugh. But I was going in, dammit! I timed it just right and got into deep enough water before I needed to duck-dive (which went better since I stopped thinking about it), and paddled hard to the outside. Then I made my way east from the peak, where the rockstars were clustered, looking for a little space to call my own. No such luck. Did I mention the huge crowd? I caught a few waves, but had to back off 'cause they were already taken, often by more than one person. There was a lot of yelling going on, a lot of angry testosterone in the water, with too many people and too few fine waves to go around. I felt like a kid who's not invited to the party, peering in the window at all the happy faces munching fresh-baked cookies, smelling the gooey chocloate but denied even one bite. And seeing the waves breaking against the base of the cliff, there was the constant trepidation, How am I going to get out the water intact? It was, in short, not fun, though I'm glad I faced my fears and went out.

I asked the one friendly face I saw nearby if the stairs was the best exit point, and he suggested that instead I paddle east to the next beach, which I believe would have been Privates. It's hard to believe you'd need a key to get out as well as to get in, but it would totally suck to paddle at that way and hike up the stairs only to find a locked gate a street level. I didn't find out though, as a minute later he pointed to a small strip of sand almost directly in from us. I headed for it, not factoring in the sideshore current, and found myself barely inside the impact zone, being swept close to a beachless cliff face. I couldn't get to the beach against the current, so I made my way back to the lineup and set up an approach that would let the current take me to the strip of sand. This time I caught some helpful whitewater that pushed me right to my destination - the ocean was spitting me out, gently. Once I reached land, a scramble over slimy sandstone was required to get back to the stairs. Just as sea urchins over time bore holes into rock faces with their spiny bodies, decades of surfers making the same trek has worn a path of footholds. Still, I had to time my advances with the waves, which were breaking across the path. In one section, a couple guys were using the slimy green algae-coated boulders as a natural water slide. It looked fun and they invited me to join them, but I was just looking forward to a nice dinner and a glass of wine to salvage the evening. As the sun had declined to appear, we contented ourselves with sitting by a warm fire at Paradise Beach Grill, watching birds bathing in the overfull high-tide lagoon at the mouth of Soquel Creek.

08 September 2008

Under the Sun

Ooo, ooo, ooo! I have to see this one. "Under the Sun explores the commercialization of surfing through two seemingly opposite coastal towns on Australia’s east coast." The West Coast tour is underway now, with a San Francisco stop Saturday, September 20th, 7pm @ 111 Minna Gallery.

But darn, I'll be in Las Vegas.

05 September 2008

The Hook, 5 September 2008

This morning's sesh started with an act of faith that there were waves somewhere in the thick fog. I could hear them breaking and the forecasts had all promised 3-5' SSW swell. Plus the parking lot at the end of 41st was already filling up at first light. From the stairs near 38th, all I could see was some large shorepound and no other surfers even heading out into the white shrouded unknown. I was getting a niggling bad vibe, so I walked back to the Hook and had an almost dry-hair paddle out between sets. Even that early, there were a dozen surfers on the main peak, which swelled to more than two dozen by an hour later. Damn Surfline for calling conditions "Fair-Good." (Early next week is the rare orange "Good." Oh, the party waves we'll have then!)

Unlike Linda Mar, at the Hook my relative skill level is on the lower side; there are a lot of real hotshots there. It's fun to watch but frustrating when they're claiming all the waves. I found a less-crowded spot a bit to the east and waited inside for the smaller waves. The sets were getting up to head high, which made for mad-dash paddling and duck-diving every ten minutes or so. Unfortunately, today many of my duck dives went horribly wrong. In retrospect, it's probably because I was overthinking it, concentrating on the board positions, nose-down, flat, nose-up, and not actually doing them with the right timing, so I was pulling up too soon and getting pushed back. I need to stop thinking so much and just feel myself doing it. Like parallel parking, which I learned only a couple years ago. I was hopelessly bad as long as I was trying to think through the angle changes, but as soon as I let go of my conscious mind and just did it, I was able to get into spots on the first try.

My little gap in the crowd didn't get rideable waves all that often, but I caught a few. No good rides though, as I had to exit from the best one because a longboarder was on my tail, I just blew another after a few seconds, and a third weak wave melted away under me almost as soon as I got on it. But the sun came up and burned off the fog, and it was a beautiful warm morning on the water. If I could've, I would've stayed out for hours.

Labor Day Sale

Update: Sold! I'm down to 3 boards again: fish, shortboard and longboard - although I'm keeping the LB just for others to borrow, or for when I need an easy stoke boost. The shorter boards definitely are more challenging at this point. When the guy with the girl who bought the funshape asked what I'm riding now and I told him about the 5'4" fish, I could tell he was impressed. I hadn't thought about it until that moment, but I guess it is a little impressive; I've come a long way from the first time I stood up on a 10' foamie in Cocoa Beach 5 years ago. But still a ways to go before I rip.
Let's face facts, I'm a shortboarder now, and I just can't see myself ever using my funshape again, even though it has a really cool underwater scene nose graphic. So it's up on Craigslist, along with the almost new 4/3 O'Neill wetsuit I bought about a year ago, which is only warm enough for me if the air temperature's 80 and the water's above 60 - a rare event around here. Check 'em out if you want to help me free up some wall and closet space:
7'2" Becker Supermodel Funshape
O'Neill 4/3 Dlux Women's Size 2

01 September 2008

Linda Mar, 1 September 2008

I know, Linda Mar again. But Santa Cruz has been small. Plus a little group from the NorCal Surfing Yahoo group was getting together there for Workers' Surf Day, with both petit bourgeoisie and lumpenproletariat welcome. It was a mix of a few longboarders and some shortboarders, so I spent a little time with both, at the south end and closer to the middle of the beach.

It was a glorious summer day, warm and sunny - I went hoodless, woo hoo! - and correspondingly crowded. I headed out just south of the creek with longboarder C, but didn't follow her all the way to Boat Docks where we planned to meet up with J; it was looking too small and moundy for the fish that far south. But I stopped in a good spot, a bit of a break in the crowd, and caught a few waves. I got one nice ride and worked it till it ran of out juice, too soon. When M3 paddled by on his yellow board with S3 and another shortboarder, I followed them south to the rest of the group.

Those of us on shorter boards weren't getting anything, so I joined the guys in paddling north of Taco Bell. Good exercise, all that paddling. It was bigger there, shoulder to head high, and not closing out quite as much as last time, but many of the waves were still looking promising at first but then fading into mushy mounds. Finally I caught one, with Max shouting "paddle, paddle!" and popping up right beside me. It was nice to catch a wave with a friend. He got the ride but unfortunately I didn't make the drop as the wave broke. That darn leg-straightening problem surfaced in another context and made me fall instead of riding it down. I'm thinking maybe I can apply some of what I learned in my Endless Slope snowboarding lesson about getting off a lift. In some sense, it's a similar maneauver. Now I just have to go test that theory.

A little while later a bigger set rolled through and I was caught inside, trying to duckdive it. I saw M3 and his friend get a couple nice rides - they're pretty good. And they're also better at duckdiving, paddling past me and out, while I kept getting more tired and sloppy with each wave, till I'd been pushed way inside. I was also feeling a bit queasy, I guess from the duckdiving as well as (I saw later) one of my seasickness wristbands had shifted far off the accupressure point. I didn't have much time left, since I had to get my cat to the vet, so I got out and walked back to my original spot to have an easier re-entry. I reached the lineup in time for a lull, which lasted (of course) until I was halfway into the so-called "paddle of shame."
I was talking about the "paddle of shame" with T on Wednesday, and I really don't think there should be any such thing. I mean, I stay out until the very last minute, sometimes even a few minutes beyond, and if that means I have to paddle in, there's no shame in that. If I have to be back at the car at a certain time to get to work, etc, and I get an absolutely fantastic ride 10 minutes before it's time to leave, I'm not going to quit then - I'm heading back out for more. And if then there's a lull and I have to make my way to shore on arm-power, what's so wrong with that? I'd like to know who surfs perfectly on such perfect uncrowded waves that they can always ride a good one in right on time. Maybe to them it's a paddle of shame, but not to me.

Dear Mr. O'Neill

Hi, Jack. I stopped by the Labor Day parking lot sale at your store in Santa Cruz yesterday, and picked up a pair of 6/5/4 booties for half price. There's this great quote by you on the inside of the box: "I just wanted to surf longer." See, I just want to surf longer too. But I'm a girl, and your company doesn't make gear to keep women warm in the winter in NorCal. So the booties are for men and don't fit terribly well, though I'm hoping to make them work with some thermal socks. But why doesn't O'Neill sell the good thick stuff for women? Do you think we only go out in the summertime when it's warm and sunny? Or are you trying to keep our water time down in the winter, to leave more room out there for the guys? Because right now, my January dawn patrols are limited to just over an hour because that's when I can't feel my frozen feet anymore in my 3mm O'Neill women's booties. Maybe these men's 6/5/4s will let me extend that, but it sure would be nice if you'd sell me some that actually fit. And I'll pay full price for those.