30 September 2009

Quick Wetsuit Changes

The ocean here in NorCal is always cold. While the water temperature at Santa Cruz breaks may warm to around 60ยบ F in summer, winter temps can fall below 50 degrees at my usual spots in San Mateo County south of San Francisco. Although a hardy few drop the rubber for boardshorts on hot sunny days, a 4/3 or 5/4 wetsuit is obligatory year-round for the rest of us, especially shortboarders who spend more time partially submerged.

Wetsuits keep a surfer warm by minimizing flushing, the flow of new cold water into the suit. When you first enter the ocean, the initial inrush of chilly seawater is soon warmed by your body, and a good-fitting wetsuit will prevent more from entering during your session. That means the neoprene must be form-fitting and fairly tight. And that makes changing into and out of a wetsuit a time-consuming chore.

When I'm squeezing in dawn patrol before work, less prep and cleanup time means more surf time. Not to mention that when the air temperature is in the 40s on those cold days in January, I don't want to linger outside post-surf, shivering and dripping. So I've learned a few tricks to speed up the process of changing. It would be great if surfing wetsuit manufacturers lined their products with a slick fabric, but since they somehow haven't thought of that, I provide my own. Under my wetsuit, I wear a workout bikini, long-sleeved rashguard and black tights. Neoprene slides off of these fabrics instead of sticking stubbornly to uncovered damp skin. (Most guys may not consider the last item an option, but my brother is a diver who has taken to buying queen-size pantyhose "for his wife" after I gave him this tip.)

It's always nice to have a jug of fresh water, especially hot, available for rinsing off after a session. And water can also help you to get out of a wetsuit faster. Something akin to a vacuum appears to form in booties while surfing, but a little water poured into the top breaks the seal so the booties pull off more easily. Water dumped into the neck opening of the wetsuit loosens it up as well.

A key point to remember is to keep the wetsuit from bunching up as you remove it. Although it may seem obvious to the more experienced, don't try to take both arms out of the sleeves at the same time; free one first, then help the other. And remember that booties, hood and gloves are last on, first off.

If you use a changing robe instead of tasking one hand with holding up a towel, that speeds the process as well, so you can get quickly out of that cold wetsuit and on with the rest of your day.

This post first appeared on The Surfing Blog.

08 September 2009

Let's Just Get Lost (Bag of Toys)

No, I'm not lost. I haven't chucked the cubicle life and the weekly paycheck for carefree surf and sun on some remote tropical coast. Rather, I've stepped offline to take care of some real-world responsibilities. I'll be posting from time to time as a guest writer on The Surfing Blog and uploading the occasional video to Vimeo. And still surfing, of course. Maybe I'll see you in the water.

Really makes me miss Costa Rica. And wish I could ditch it all, move down there, and just surf.

Why Weren't Women Invited to Mavericks?

The Mavericks Surf Contest recently announced the 2009 invitees, and all 26 are men. WTF?! Sarah Gerhardt, the focus of One Winter Story, has been surfing the big waves of Mavericks for more than 10 years. She was invited to the contest in 2001, but only as an alternate. Jenny Useldinger and Jamilah Star are also Mavs regulars.

The Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards aren't so sexist. Maya Gabeira, who charges with the guys on massive waves, is up for Biggest Wave and Monster Paddle for riding Dungeons (photo), and for Ride of the Year and Monster Tube at Teahupoo. Women's surfing icon Layne Beachley is in the running for Ride of the Year for taking on a big one at Ours. Mercedes Maidana has entries for Monster Paddle at Waimea Bay and Biggest Wave at El Buey. And Jamilah is up for Ride of the Year at Puerto Escondido and Monster Paddle at Mavericks itself.

I asked Keir Beadling, Mavericks CEO, why no women are on the invitee list. His answer? "Hmm..." C'mon, we want to know why the contest is ignoring half the population. Are you afraid a woman might win?

05 September 2009

Kelly Ave, 5 September 2009

With just a little lingering NW swell, I expected the waves to be small this morning and drove to Half Moon Bay with 8' Big Blue strapped to the roof. There was no one in the water at Kelly but one peak was working, offering up some waist-high rights and lefts. T was late so I headed out alone. It was cool to be the only human in the water, with pelicans splashing down around me and sea lions cruising by as they breakfasted. One curious sea lion surfaced about 15 feet away and checked me out a couple times before getting back to her meal. Wish I could have gotten her on video, but since I forgot to charge my camera battery, today was all about the surfing.

The only thing better than surfing a break alone is surfing it with just a friend. When T paddled out to join me, she told me Linda Mar was already looking crowded, with nothing much happening wave-wise. Yet here we were, alone on our own peak. I'll take an empty break with lower-quality waves over a crowded epic one any day. And the waves weren't bad. With patience, there were shoulders to be had, and I needed to rely entirely on myself to be in the right spot to catch them. No looking at where other surfers were lining up, as is often my lazy habit; just drawing on my many hours (days? weeks?) of water time to get it right. After a few pearls on the slightly steep waves, I got plugged into the longboard again for some nice rides both front- and back-side. The best was a sweeet left: nice bottom turn, right in the pocket, and up and out the back at the end of the ride. Stoked!

04 September 2009

Surf Flick Reviews

I've just indulged in a mini surf film fest, watching four surf movies in less than a week. The first was Newcastle, a recent Australian movie. I wasted 40 minutes of my life on it, before I couldn't take another second of unlikeable aggro teenagers who surf.

Next I watched One Winter Story, about Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks. I've long admired her, and this was a short but interesting story set on our local big-wave break with some Hawaii North Shore and central California thrown in. Unfortunately, the artsy cinematography was distracting. The coastline in the Bay Area is, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful in the world, and to turn the blues and greens of sky and sea and the tans and blacks of sand and rock into a pallete of grays is a great disservice. Worse were the attempts at making the video look old by peppering it with speckles and graininess. I like to see the world not as it might have been recorded in my grandparents' time, but as it is, in all its gorgeous color and clarity (or famous fog). But the true story kept me watching. Although I don't aspire to take on big waves like Sarah, she echoed my thoughts as she described the freedom surfing brings, how it focuses the mind, troubles melt away and one lives in the moment on the waves.

The best movie of the lot was Siestas & Olas (naps and waves), recommended by S2. It logs the surf safari of Tom Wegener and a few buddies as they surf and camp down the coast of Mexico. The narrator has a wry sense of humor and keeps the story rolling along with the old truck that carries the surfers on their journey of exploration. They happen upon many deliciously empty waves spotted from the rutted roads. It almost made me want to go on a Mexico surf safari myself... almost. But the comments about constant mosquito bites, accommodations without beds, not showering for weeks - well, I guess I'm just soft, but that doesn't sound like all that much fun. Fly me to a remote but comfortable resort fronting a warm left point break instead.

As I write this, I'm less than half watching My Eyes Won't Dry, basic wordless surf porn set to so-so tunes. The inside-the-tube footage initially made me catch my breath, thinking what it will be like to someday experience that for myself. But with no story to hold my interest, my mind soon drifted away. There's a lot of footage from boardcams, but that too gets old after a while. And now I see that it's over. Oh well, time to watch CSI on Netflix Instant. Or better yet, to check the surf forecast for tomorrow one more time. I'm looking forward to a mellow longboard session to melt away the stress of the workweek.