29 June 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 29 June 2009

When he called me with a report in the midafternoon, L had already surfed his first session of the day at the Jetty and said it was 2-3' and punchy enough for a fish/shortboard. (He also said he'd surfed in the upper 50-degree water wearing only boardshorts and a vest - either crazy or telling tales - and I said I'd believe it when I saw it. I have yet to see it, as he put on a wetsuit for his second sesh, claiming the first outfit was too wet. Hmm.)

By the time S and I reached the beach after work and met up with L and his newbie friend R, the SW swell had come up a lot more, with some set waves overhead+ on the main peak. Unfortunately there were also a lot of people cluttering the best waves. This video was recorded near dusk when a bunch of them had left.

Because of the crowd (which had me almost longing for a shark sighting to empty the lineup), I ended up on the less-ideal second peak, where I searched for shoulders among the close-outs and high-tide mushburgers. I caught a couple closeouts that threw me, but got in some got in some good duck-diving practice. My duck-diving is starting to feel more right, and both L and S remarked that it looked right too. Still, another sesh without a good ride. Sigh. I'm going to have to haul out my longboard soon to bring my wavecount back up, and my stoke along with it.

27 June 2009

Seal Beach, 27 June 2009

Since a migraine ruined last week's surf session at Seal Beach, I wanted to go back and make up for it. And on my first day without my morning soy mocha (since they say caffeine is a headache trigger), I needed some cold duck dives just to wake up. After S and I went on a hot forest hike at Butano State Park, I was more than ready for a dip in the chilly Seal Beach water.

This time I took Nemo instead of the shortboard, and got a couple little lefts. L rode the wave of the day on his longboard, solidly in the pocket on a long right. In the face of a near head-high crashing closeout, I made my worst ever attempted duck-dive, sucked over the falls with my lower legs shooting into the air as the wave spun me ass over teakettle. But still, it was a fun non-scary tumble. Shortly after, I surprised myself with one perfect duck dive on an admittedly easier just-breaking wave.

It was a fun surf session on an absolutely gorgeous sunny summer day on the NorCal coast!

Butano State Park

21 June 2009

Seal Beach, 21 June 2009

It's true, the water is much colder at Seal Beach.

Most of the coast was blown out like Pomponio.

18 June 2009

Roosevelt, 18 June 2009

The west winds are back, sadly here to stay for the foreseeable future. And the south swell that brought those nice lefts has departed, replaced by short-period windswell garnished with chop. Sigh.

As long-time surfer J had room in his schedule to give me some duck-diving pointers, we planned to meet up in HMB after work, with L joining us. But J was not having a good evening, arriving late and sans board and wetsuit, after discovering his wife took the key to his gear locker on an out-of-state trip. L pulled an extra wetsuit from his cavernous truck and offered to share his shortboard, so we were still on, sort of.

J gave me some duck-diving advice on the beach, including the observation that most people start too early, so I should wait a beat longer before pushing the nose down. He also said sinking the back of the board is best done with the knee rather than the foot as I've been doing.

There's some disagreement on the knee vs. foot question, and I think it may just come down to what feels comfortable and works for each individual surfer. A friend pointed me to this article, where Coco Ho, a woman about my size, says "using your foot instead of your knee will allow you to push the tail deeper," something I've found true as well. Using my knee never felt right and the times I've executed perfect duck-dives were with my foot sinking the tail. Yet I plunged past the shorepound to give the knee another chance. That change threw me off and wasn't working for me, so I went back to my old style and just tried to better-time the entries.

When I joined L in our lineup of two, I had no success catching any of the fickle waves. Poor J's evening kept getting worse once he borrowed L's shortboard and started to paddle out. Indecisive in the face of a breaking wave (over or under?), he got sucked up over the falls; the board's tail hit him hard in the ribs and he lost his wedding ring. Sidelined back onto the beach, he lamented that "Those who can - do. Those who can't - teach."

Not that bad, J, and I appreciate the tips, although I think I'll stick with Coco and keep using my foot. On the plus side, I didn't smack my mouth or chin on my board as I'm wont to do on bad duck-dives. No breakthroughs, but I'll keep working on it.

It was a bit disconcerting to see Harvey the Headless Sea Lion on the beach.

13 June 2009

Seal Point, 13 June 2009

The Surf Bloggers' Code requires concealing the identity of any break that is not well known or clearly visible from a main road. Today's break names are pseudonyms and I'll only say that they are somewhere on the Lonely Coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.

L and I thought Seal Beach might be a good choice for our mid-morning board meeting, but it needed more water. Just past low tide, the overhead wave was breaking heavy and hollow in the shallows - above our skill and comfort level.

We tried a nearby well-known beach break, but it was jam-packed with surfers, so we drove a little to a new spot I'd never heard about until this morning. A couple guys were just leaving Seal Point and we had it all to ourselves. It was a long walk in carrying my shortboard, and I got hot in my top-down 4/3 wetsuit traipsing over dunes in the soft sand. At my approach, a startled deer bounded away from the path into the tall grass, turned and peered back at me.

Can you see the deer in this photo?
The beach at the end of the hike was gorgeous, as they all are on the Lonely Coast, with nice lefts peeling alongside in infrequent sets. Close to the rock-guarded Point, the waves were overhead, so we went in father down the beach where they dropped to (mostly) under head-high.

I caught only one wave, but it was AWESOME! One of my best rides EVER! In a land of rights, I think it was the first time I rode a left on my shortboard. It's so much nicer to be facing the wave instead of having it at my back, and I was totally dialed in for a great ride. I wanna do it again! WOO HOO!!!

08 June 2009

Sexism in Surfing

Yesterday at the Jetty I was waiting for waves in a sizable patch of questionable water, brown-tinged foam mixed with feathers floating on the surface, from which I should have paddled away, fast. Today I left work early and am trying to calm my queasy stomach by nibbling saltine crackers and blogging for distraction.
I've long been troubled by the entrenched sexism in surfing. Flip through any surfing magazine, and the only women you'll see will be in bikinis on the beach, not riding the waves in glossy photo spreads. The articles are overwhelmingly by, for, and about male surfers. Carissa Moore recently made history as only the fourth woman ever to make the cover of Surfer; number three was 12 years ago. The rare women who make the cut to be pictured surfing instead of sunning must be pretty, clad in a bikini and preferably blond.

The July 2009 issue of Surfing has a good crop of examples. A female subscriber from Santa Cruz is mocked and dismissed by the editor for expressing discomfort with the annual swimsuit issue and questioning its purpose. A surfing event calendar features a chest-up photo of bikini-clad women and exhorts (male) readers to go to the beach on International Surfing Day because "there may even be girls. Real. Live. Girls. Enjoy." The regular "Whipped" section has a sexy shot of a real (male) surfer's girlfriend/wife/beach bunny (bikini again, so tiresome). On one of the final pages, two-time women's Pipeline pro champion Alana Blanchard is photographed, not demonstrating her prowess on a wave, but on the beach from the back, faceless, in a tiny bikini.

Contrast this with snowboarding magazines, which seem to feature the genders roughly in balance, and give recognition to skilled women in the field. Perhaps the explanation is that the newer sport of snowboarding does not have surfing's history as a male bastion, but it makes me sad that in 2009 we have made so little progress from the 1950s.

Compare the women on the ASP world tour to the more numerous and higher-paid men. It seems a de facto requirement to be model pretty to make it as a top female surfer, but the guys can be hard on the eyes and need only to surf well. Surfline makes a nod to women, but keeps them segregated in a special section with liberal use of pink text. "Surfing, The Manual: Advanced," a book I picked up recently, has 18 contributors, but not one woman. Not one!

It isn't just the media that is phallocentric. As I've said before, I have a hell of time finding decent wetsuits designed to fit a woman my size. O'Neill fails for example, and Hotline is my only source, until this winter when Matuse will stop catering to men only by adding a female wetsuit to their line. I've also ranted that all gloves and adequate booties are made for men so they don't fit properly and lead to shorter winter sessions. The lack of options is puzzling since, according to this article last year in the NY Times (curiously not updated), women comprised up to 5% of surfers in 1990 but by 2000 had doubled or tripled that percentage. Google has failed me in finding a current figure, but 25% seems reasonable. Surf gear outfitters are missing a substantial segment of their potential market in choosing to market bikinis to women over serious water gear.

But what's the reality in the water? I personally haven't experienced overt gender discrimination while surfing. I don't believe my encounter with Angry Guy at Pleasure Point would have gone any differently if I'd been male (perhaps he would've hit me, but I was already bleeding so there was no point). I guess we just need the surf media and manufacturers to catch up to the times. Women are surfing in increasing numbers and we're not going to just sit on the beach watching the guys, so give us some respect and recognition and sell us what we need to have fun out there.

07 June 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 7 June 2009

Same spot, different day. The SSW swell is fading, so I was playing "How Low Can You Go?" and it turns out I can catch some pretty small waves on the fish, as long as they have recognizable wave-shape. I leave the amorphous blobs to the longboarders, like L, rising from the sea and riding a little one:

[I don't understand why the video looks so much better on my computer than after upload to Vimeo or Blogger, nor why when I crop out the last second showing a sky shot and re-export the avi, iMovie enlarges the file substantially but quality seems to degrade. If there are any Mac movie-makers reading this who've figured it out, please let me know.]

05 June 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 5 June 2009

I don't have time to write about today's dawn patrol, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be worth a million. Here are two.

C catches a wave. Nice to finally meet an e-friend in meatspace.
He recognized my board (Nemo is distinctive), paddled up and said "hi."