28 November 2009

Barefoot Surfing (North and South Steyne)

We had planned two nights in Australia's Blue Mountains but bailed a day early to get back to the beach. Although Coastalwatch claimed the surf was only 0.5m, a morning walk in Manly toward the south end of the beach brought the eye candy of guys getting barreled in translucent green-blue water. (Sad to say, operator error botched the videos.)
Don, Australia's Mr. Realsurf and a transplanted Santa Barbaran, joined me mid-morning for a surf at North Steyne where the waves were a bit smaller and more suited to my skill level. It was a glorious warm sunny day, and a treat to surf without gloves, hood or booties. Unfortunately, aside from the unaccustomed 70-degree water, the break reminded me of Linda Mar on a typical day. It was crowded, with many waves that either looked promising but turned into moundy mush, or sucked up sand and closed out with a crash. Alas, I caught nada. But tomorrow is another day, and there's time for one last surf before we fly home to SFO.
I did get to try out the Ola Chica "wipeout-proof" bikini while bodysurfing, and can report that it passed that test with no wardrobe malfunctions. The real trial will have to be on a tropical surf vacation, perhaps in Hawaii.

To beat the crowds, Don agreed to meet me for a 5:30 am dawn patrol and showed up on the dot. The swell had dropped considerably but still offered up waist- to shoulder-high waves. At that early hour on a Saturday, the crowd was much lighter, and we picked an empty peak at South Steyne for ourselves. It didn't have a catchable shoulder and we had to paddle constantly against a south drift to stay right on the peak where it was makeable. Oz showed me a little love on my last day; I got a couple decent though short rides, pulling off one turn and then two.

In front of the camera: above with Don by Scott, below by Don with his waterproof Panasonic Lumix.
Bare feet on the board was a pleasure, and I've become quite spoiled on warm-water surfing. But all good things (and vacations) must come to an end, and now it's back to cold autumn in NorCal. There was a picture in the Sydney newspaper this morning of supposedly 9m waves at Ocean Beach, so surf's up, waaay up. Crossing the International Date Line makes me live Saturday twice, just like Groundhog Day. So in theory, having surfed Australia Saturday morning, I could surf Santa Cruz Saturday afternoon - both Hemis in one day. But I'll have to see how I feel after 13 hours trapped in a flying tin can.

Much to my dismay, when it came time to pack up my surfboard for the flight home, the fitted foam rail guards (pipe insulation) and giant bubble wrap bag were nowhere to be found. I must have left them behind at the hotel in Bondi. D'oh! All of our t-shirts and other soft clothes pulled from the dirty laundry will hopefully provide enough protection within the travel board bag.

I'd like to go back to Oz again sometime, but not until the exchange rate improves considerably. Since our visit last year, the Aussie dollar rose 40% against US currency. We had to pay nearly US$2 for a single banana! One thing for sure, I'm not eager to fly Qantas again. Not only did they temporarily lose our checked bags, the in-flight entertainment systems malfunctioned on both trans-Pacific flights, partially on the way there and nearly completely on the way back. Fortunately I've learned to bring my own entertainment as well as food and water as the airlines can't be relied upon anymore for even the basics. On the plus side, Qantas never charged me a surfboard fee, and mostly forgot to have me sign the damage waiver as well.

Update: Nemo made it home on time and in good health. The wax didn't even melt, so it's on with some cold water Matunas and back into the chilly NorCal surf for the both of us.


  1. Thanks for sharing some of your adventures in Oz. Glad you got some surfs in, but never enough. Although this is still a great country it has become very expensive, even for its residents. We get really ripped off in West Oz because Coles and Woolworths hold the monopoly and we don't have a government body with balls enough to sort them out. Australia is fast becoming a different place.

  2. Well, when the exchange rate adjusts again to your satisfaction, you will have to make sure you make it over to south west corner of Australia next time and come for a surf with Michelle and I!

  3. For sure I'll try to make it over there on the next trip to Oz. Now's a good time for y'all to visit NorCal though - exchange rate in your favor and we've got waves!