24 July 2009

Capitola, 24 July 2009

With the south swell jacking up to overheard at many spots around Santa Cruz and a mob on it already, L and I decided to try Capitola for some more sane-sized waves and at least a friendly crowd. The traffic to Santa Cruz after work was unbelievably bad today, with Highway 1 and part of 17 nearly at a standstill. (No, I'm not making this up to cut down on crowds.) When I finally made it to Capitola I was so very ready to get in the water and wash away all the stress and frustration. It was well worth the drive. I got one nice left and a handful of other short but fun rides on my shortboard on the punchy 4' waves.

And I finally got to witness L surfing in only boardshorts and a vest, so now I'm a believer.

My apologies for the lack of south swell eye candy. I took more pix and video, but the quality was poor, worse than this. I'll have to investigate why. But first to sleep, perchance to dream of waveriding.

19 July 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 19 July 2009

I finally found a locking solution that allows me to readily take my big blue longboard, which won't fit inside my MINI Cooper, along with one of my shorter boards, to give me a quiver selection at the beach. It's a hefty red plastic-encased cable with a cinching lock that may only be available from MINI but would work with any roof rack. And I was glad of it today, since it was definitely a longboard day at the Jetty; Nemo the fish ended up just coming along for the car ride.

L and I lucked out and had the second and then the first peaks mostly to ourselves. A grom posse nominally under a beach-bound instructor's control occasionally formed up obstacle courses for us, but everyone else stayed happily farther down the beach. The waves were a crossed-up mix of several different small swells, and hard to read at times. But glassy conditions and an uncrowded peak on a weekend - who could ask for anything more?

It's been interesting since I started surfing with L last fall to see him progress from newbie to the point that now I'm asking him for tips. This shows the clear benefit of surfing often in all sort of conditions, versus my once or twice a week forays timed for (hopefully) the best waves on offer. He's also spent more time on longboards, whereas (I used to be a lawyer so have to use such words sometimes) I moved on to shorter boards a while ago. He did give me some good pointers for getting into more of today's waves based on observing me, such as to paddle a few more strokes before popping up, and angle more into the wave. Plus the encouraging note that "sometimes it's not you, it's the wave." The tips paid off, and I got a few nice rides. Aahhhh...

L rides a little long right to the beach, dodging groms

15 July 2009

iPhone/iPod Touch Surfing Apps Review

I've been testing out some offerings from the Apple App Store for checking the surf on my iPod Touch. Sadly, there's not one app I'd fully recommend, and I'll keep relying on the superior Surfline Mobile until Surfline - or someone else - comes up with a good one.

For comparison, Surfline's website this morning reported Steamer Lane to be inconsistent, occasional 2 ft, and poor+ conditions, traces to knee high at best. "Looking like a pretty good dawn patrol to skip this morning." Surfline Mobile had the same text sans commentary, and also features the streaming surf cam, this morning obscured by fog. The cam can be rotated and zoomed for a closer look. In addition, the mobile site gives swell, wind and tide info, with LOLA forecast graphs. It provides a substantial slice of the full website distilled for the small screen.

The free Surf Report by Oakley is purportedly "powered by Surfline," but it's a poor shadow of Surfline Mobile. The Today screen for Steamer Lane boasted 2-3' in large print, with 1 ft SSW @ 16 sec in a tiny font below along with "poor+, inconsistent, occasional 2 ft." The quoted text was repeated on the Details screen. So what's this business about 2-3'? The Details screen also gives limited textual tide information, usually in the past and sometimes for yesterday, as well as break info, sunrise/set (more forward looking than the tides), and weather. The Forecast screen is frequently "unavailable" even for well-known breaks like Steamer Lane, and shows only today and tomorrow. There are some nice features to the Oakley app, like finding the nearest breaks to your location, plus access to Surfline's comprehensive list of surf spots. And, hey, it's free, so go ahead and download it; just don't expect too much.

Surf by Wavewatch promises more than it delivers and has some obvious flaws which make $4.99 too high of a price. There are only 3 NorCal spots covered: Steamer Lane, Pleasure Point and Ocean Beach. A NorCal overview screen provides an undated text forecast which is frequently interspersed with odd characters, like a capital A with a hat, making it less readable. Each break screen has a tiny streaming cam - it can't be viewed lengthwise - and current swell, tide and wind information. This morning's swell for Steamer Lane read 5.5 ft @15 sec, 210 deg, deviating widely from reality. Rotating the iTouch/iPhone shifts the screen from the cam to graphs for today and the next five days of break height/direction, tide, and wind speed/direction, with a simplistic weather icon taking up valuable real estate at the bottom. Tides are undoubtedly the most (perhaps only) useful information displayed, since the break height is fantastical. The graphs are less helpful than they could be, since they have odd, squished scales that make it difficult to determine what values the plotted lines represent. One advantage over Oakley is that Wavewatch retains loaded information when off the grid, while Oakley insists on having a WiFi connection.

I just came across another app, Green Room Surf Forecast, which looks pretty good at only $2.99. The bar chart for Today at Steamer Lane shows 2' and fair. There are 5 days of hourly forecasts plus a 7-day outlook, as well as graphical tides. Unlike Oakley, which doesn't predict anything past tomorrow, and Wavewatch, which thinks the near-flat swell is 5 ft now going to double-overhead in a few days, Green Room is properly capturing the forecast bump up in swell for the weekend. However, one key piece of missing data is the swell direction. Other features include Map to locate the break in Google Maps, and Share which lets you email the forecast. Santa Cruz breaks are well covered, but San Mateo County has only Linda Mar and the Jetty. (Just as well, the better to keep my uncrowded spots uncrowded.) I'll have to try it out a bit more, but so far, Green Room may be the best of the apps, especially if they add swell direction and wind information. Update 7/24/09: Sadly, a little use dashed my hopes for Spitcast's Green Room. In the face of a (perhaps overhyped) big south swell heading into the weekend, it's forecasting Pleasure Point at a constant 2-3' for the next week, while the Jetty is reportedly double-overhead but dropping to 2' tomorrow. Huh?

All of these apps are flawed in some ways; a mashup of the best bits would make a fine surf tool. But for now, Surfline Mobile still rules.

Bombora was not reviewed because new version 1.0.2 still has too limited coverage of NorCal to be worth even the reduced price of $6.99.

13 July 2009

Kelly Ave, 13 July 2009

Who turned winter back on? It was only 46 degrees F (8 C) at the beach this morning.

08 July 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 7 July 2009

Just what I needed... sunset surf session... incredible lightness of being.

Dinnertime show: dive-bombing pelicans, frightened fish fleeing, sinuous seals sliding in the sea.
Partly-clouded sun low in the sky, warm light reflecting from the cool water, its glassy surface dimpled by the wind's light breath, as the day fades to night.

04 July 2009

Surf Etiquette

Surf etiquette, from the wall at Capitola Beach:
  • Don't drop in
  • Don't paddle through the middle of the break
  • Take turns
  • First one up has the right of way
  • Communicate your direction
  • Respect the ocean, the beach, other surfers
  • Aloha

03 July 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 3 July 2009

This wasn't quite the high wave-count longboard session I had in mind. The Jetty was bigger than the 2-3' forecast (thanks for nothin' Surfline) and it wasn't serving up mushy mellow longboard waves. Rather, the up to shoulder-high waves were steep and curling, and made me wish I'd brought the fish instead.

It didn't take long to realize that the reason I was pearling so much was that surfing steep waves on the LB was a skill I didn't master before moving to shorter boards. The 8' plank is just a different beast, and it was hard to keep the nose up. I was getting a bit frustrated but it felt good when I finally managed to land a drop for a nice ride. And I got a few more decent ones as well. So stoke is somewhat restored. Although, as always, I'm still thirsty for more.

Apologies, but technical difficulties ruined the best video, of a raucous party wave.