30 August 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 30 August 2009

Another session at the Jetty bookended my weekend. It pays to get up early; I had the break all to myself for about 15 minutes. It was interesting to observe the few people who checked it while I was changing into my wetsuit. One guy watched the waves for less than 30 seconds before heading back to his car. A woman looked a little longer before driving away, but she was back again after I surfed, so I guess it was slim pickings elsewhere. Granted, there wasn't a lot to work with at the Jetty, only 2-4' and closing out a fair bit with the occasional shoulder, but I didn't have time to drive around this morning since I need to get some stuff (besides surfing) done today. And in my first 15 minutes alone, I caught a couple of nanorides on Nemo. Then two longboarders paddled out, and one immediately parked himself deeper than me and took over the peak. He obviously hadn't read SurfingStoke's Rules of Etiquette. I wasn't able to find a sweet spot again, and cumulative fatigue from 3 days of surfing plus a chill from the suddenly colder ocean pushed me back to the beach after about an hour. But the weekend has left me seawaterlogged, with achy paddling muscles and a mostly contented feeling. Aaahh.

Kelly Ave Surf Check

Sorry about the jiggling; apparently image stabilization doesn't work for walking or shivering.

29 August 2009

Davenport & Capitola, 29 August 2009


La Roca*
Oops, S2 got the tides backwards; too much water on it this morning. But the three and a half of us - me, L, S2 and his young daughter M - had 11 boards between us, ready for anything, so we kept driving south.

Satellite Beach*

As a blond surfer who was leaving said, "Big and gnarly, dude!" (OK, he didn't really say "dude." But he did say "gnarly.")


The waves were a lot bigger and more powerful than I realized looking from the beach. Although mushy on the high tide, they were going up to 2-3 feet overhead. I got in some duck-diving practice on the fish, and had a couple oh-shit moments in the face of huge breakers when I just ditched my board and dove under (after looking around to make sure no one was nearby, of course), but I was too scared to try to catch anything. I lost track of L for a bit but when we reconnected, we both agreed it was a good idea to follow his original suggestion that "if it's too big, let's try Eastside Santa Cruz."

The Hook

Can you say "party wave"?

Having abandoned the more skilled S2 at Davenport (and we hope he got some good ones), L and I landed at waist- to shoulder-high Capitola, my favorite longboard break. I borrowed his wife's new board (thank you B) since I hadn't packed Big Blue. A sunny Saturday brought out all the fair-weather surfers, but L and I sat next to a clueless clump of surf-schoolers close to the jetty, inside of what he aptly named "the kook line," and picked off the waves they were missing. Putting into practice S2 and L's advice that I need to dig deeper when I paddle, I quickly dialed in to ride about five nice waves. Re-stoked!

*Pseudonyms. You can try to guess, but I ain't sayin.'

28 August 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 28 August 2009

Today was hot and sunny, with swell in the water and glassy conditions, so the Jetty was packed when I met up with L and S2 for a sunset sesh. I caught one wave but threw it back (i.e. backed off) when I realized it was imminently closing out, so I'll count that as a half. Hope to do better on dawn patrol tomorrow, at a secret spot somewhere on the Lonely Coast.
Halfway through the sesh, L paddled up to announce that now he knows what a barrel feels like - when it goes over the falls at Niagara. Ha! Always good to get wet, enjoy the company of a couple surf buddies, and watch a sea lion, pelican, and dolphin show from the water with a spectacular sunset as a backdrop.
I think I have the video on the new Pentax set to highest quality now, but it's still not as good as I expected. I'll have to thumb through the 1/2-inch thick manual again. And damn those water spots.

22 August 2009

Four Mile, 22 August 2009

Another south swell started building in yesterday, and I was looking forward to catching some lefts this morning. A little surf posse coalesced, including L, J, S2 and me. We met up at Gazos Creek and did a surf check at a secret spot (big and a bit blown), then kept heading down the coast in search of something better. We checked a second secret spot (huge closeouts)... and Waddell (packed)... and a third secret spot (meh)... then thought about checking yet another secret spot well off the road - but a few of us had had enough searching and just wanted to get wet already! Almost from the start, J seemed to have her heart set on Four Mile, her favorite and frequent break. So we drove south some more, nearly to Santa Cruz, then geared up and hiked in without so much as a look-see from the bluff across the highway.

I hadn't been to Four Mile since my old surf buddy D moved to SoCal almost two years ago, but it was much as I remembered. A pretty spot, but crowded; a couple dozen people were in the water. The aggro surfer who maligned me on a past visit has been replaced by a pack of white trash in beach chairs at the base of the cliff, who drink beer and holler at the surfers. This does not improve the ambiance. Unfortunately our long surf safari had delayed us until the tide was getting close to a high, and the break wasn't working well. I saw J get a nice ride, but the wave count for S2, L and me was 2, 1, 0. The spot needed less water and less crowd. And maybe swell from a different direction. According to Surfer Mag's Guide to NorCal Surf Spots, "at least one local surfer contends that Four Mile 'sucks piehole on a south swell, mushier than a plate of whipped potatoes.'" Yep. Shoulda tried secret spot #4 instead.

The one consolation - aside from seeing a dolphin - is that I had a chance to play with my new waterproof camera, a Pentax Optio W80, and try out the surf camera case in undemanding point break conditions. The upper chest-mounted case works fairly well, although its tightness makes it hard to insert and remove the camera. Attaching the case required poking two holes through my wetsuit so I'd tried it on an old one first, but last year's suit is so leaky I honestly couldn't tell if the new holes were contributing. I had the camera's video resolution on a medium setting, supposedly "suitable for viewing on a computer," which I obviously need to increase for next time. On the current settings, zooming all the way in made the picture badly pixelated. The color also looks off, although I'm sure there's an adjustment for that to be found somewhere in the 270-page manual. But I didn't have any trouble using the control buttons while wearing gloves, and the large LCD screen was easy see. Once the kinks are out, I think the setup will work well. And the case has a window, so I'll be able take hands-free video while I surf - waaay cool.

Meanwhile, though it's always nice to get wet, I am seriously jonesing to ride some waves!

18 August 2009

Linda Mar, 18 August 2009

This morning I surfed for the first time with J, a sometime reader of this little ol' blog. Impressively, she pulled up next to me in the parking lot at Linda Mar right on time. (A, on the other hand, probably forgot to set her alarm again.)

J reported that Rockaway was looking pretty flat and not breaking in the usual spot. Although the NW swell had dropped some, Linda Mar was still offering weak shoulders with light wind. We headed to the north end and got a peak mostly to ourselves. J caught a handful of rides on her fish which, at 6'4", had a foot on mine. I could've used some more board under me, but pulled off a short left on Nemo for a good start to the day. And a little warm up for the south swell coming this weekend!

16 August 2009

Stranded Sea Lion

Today S and I went for a walk along the Half Moon Bay coast (with a little geocaching on the side to make it more interesting). The waves were small, and with only a light chop on the surface of the ocean, it was easy to see the plethora of wildlife in the water. A multitude of pelicans were making dive-bombing runs over a dark area undoubtedly teeming with fish. And dozens of sea lions jumped and arced like dolphins over the same movable feast.

Sadly, on a thin low-tide strip of sand next to the Jetty, we passed a skinny young sea lion who hadn't been finding food so easily. She lifted her head and looked right at me, intelligence and hopelessness in her eyes. I was the second to report the stranding to the Marine Mammal Center, which said help was on the way. I hope she makes it.

Grab your cellphone now and save the MMC's number: 415-289-SEAL. (That's the one to call from San Luis Obispo to Mendocino County, but in Monterey and Santa Cruz, phone 813-633-6298.) And here's what to do if you find a stranded seal, sea lion, sea otter, dolphin or other marine mammal.

15 August 2009

Gazos Creek, 15 August 2009

It's been quite windy lately but at least that's brought us some NW windswell. L and I planned to surf at one of our secret spots on the Lonely Coast this morning before the wind ramped back up, but on the way south, we diverted to a new break that looked good from the highway.

There was a small group of guys out at Gazos Creek on the main peak, which was sometimes overhead. A second peak appeared a bit less daunting but I admit to a niggling aprehension as I suited up and walked to the beach with my shortboard. One good thing about surfing with L, as when I surfed with SoCal deserter D, is that it forces me to push my boundaries, both of comfort and skill.

Although the short-period windswell had the waves stacked up to the beach, we lucked into a slot and I got out the back with only one (successful) duckdive. Returning from the inside was not so easy other times, and an outside bomb later sent me spinning when I couldn't get deep enough under it. The waves were often moundy and hard to get into, but then jacked up very steep - close to vertical - in the blink of an eye. L pulled off several rides, nearly free-falling to the bottom, and I just tried to make the drops. L gave me some tips: angle more, shift weight back immediately after popping up to flatten the board so the nose doesn't drop, be quick. I didn't land any this time, but next time I will!

On the way home, S and I bought a warm loaf of artichoke garlic herb bread from the Country Bakery in Pescadero. Two thumbs up as a post-surf snack.

The air was smoky from the large wildfire burning north of Santa Cruz.
Speakers on for an audio preview of The Time Traveler's Wife by L.

04 August 2009

Half Moon Bay @ Jetty, 4 August 2009

With a southwest swell filling in and after being high and dry for a week and a half (there's something a little sad about pulling on completely dry booties), I had high hopes for today's sunset session at the Jetty, but they were dashed by the crowd. Perhaps instead I should have chosen cold dawn patrol on a less favorable tide.

Surfline said 2-3 feet, so naturally it was going overhead frequently on the first peak. The size dropped farther from the riprap jetty, but the closeouts increased. The waves were shifty and steep. And there were a lot of people out. From the road I saw a gap in the pack with some waves passing through unridden, but by the time I got in the water, the emptyish slot had already clotted up with more surfers.

L and his friend D joined me after a little while and I saw some friendly familiar and new faces in the full lineup, plus a sea lion from this year's baby boom. But all I got was cold and some good ducks dives; no waves for me. Heavy, heavy sigh. I need to be less timid in crowds, or find emptier breaks.
Dude, next time go around the bush and out of sight. We don't want to watch you pee from the parking lot. Look what happened: you're on the Internet for all to see.

The City of Half Moon Bay really should put in some toilets here, instead of allowing untreated waste from people like this guy to be discharged near the public beach. And people like me wouldn't have to stop so often at Starbucks before surfing, just to use the restroom. (Not to mention the guys - and I think it is mostly guys- who discharge directly into their wetsuits while in the ocean. Eww.)

02 August 2009

Waterproof Band-Aids Aren't Enough?

On Friday, while BUI (Biking Under the Influence), I wiped out next to the San Francisco Aquatic Park when I hit an uneven patch of sidewalk during a fast turn. The unforgiving pavement shredded off many layers of skin just below my knee. Within moments, almost before the pain set in, a park ranger appeared like a guardian angel to offer first aid supplies. S and my big brother M bandaged me up, then administered a couple more glasses of pinot grigio (for purely medicinal purposes) on the way back to the train station.

Sadly, notwithstanding my purchase of jumbo-sized waterproof band-aids, on S's stern advice I have to stay out of the ocean a while longer until my wound has healed some. Life had already kept me from surfing for more than a week and my gills are getting very, very dry. Fortunately the waves are tiny now anyway.

So... nothing to report here, but how about some eye candy from last weekend's big swell?