28 February 2009

27 February 2009

Boardless in Santa Monica

Damn the airline board fees! There were some fun waves to be had this morning near my second hotel in Santa Monica and I really really wish I'd been able to bring my fish. I couldn't find a surfboard rental place open that early, and although D had offered to lend me a board, with the 20-minute, 15-mile drive to his South Bay house ballooning to an hour and 20 minutes during rush hour, he might as well have been living on the other side of the moon.

So instead I walked on the beach and took envious pix. (Apologies for the crookedness; I need to find some free photo editing software, since Apple won't let me buy iPhoto standalone and Picasa won't work with my older non-Intel Mac.)

I guess the beach is a good place to call home if you're homeless.
The sign in the background warns of contaminated water.
Ruins the peace of the morning. And is there is more trash because people expect someone to rake it up?
Spending time at the despoiled beaches of LA made me really appreciate my home breaks. The Bay area coast is so much cleaner and more peaceful, unsullied and natural. I plan to go appreciate it Saturday morning before the next winter storm blows in.

25 February 2009

The Park (El Porto), 25 February 2008

I spent last night in the hotel from hell, the Holiday Inn at Santa Monica Pier. Thin walls and noisy neighbors, room-rumbling trucks, and a 1 am evacuation for a false fire alarm left me sleep-deprived, but got me up early for dawn patrol with my old surf buddy D and his roommate R.

So very, very tired, but the cold water woke me up. I had to borrow D's funshape because bringing my own board would've cost $200 roundtrip. (Ridiculous, and if you haven't signed the petition against discriminatory airline surfboard fees, go now.) After sticking to shortboards for so long, only rarely taking out my longboard on tiny days, the funshape felt ungainly and uncomfortable in the messy short-period 3-4'+ surf. But I managed to get the beast out to the lineup right behind D on his shortboard, due more to luck than skill I'm certain.

Sitting outside of D, shivering in the light breeze, my heart paused for a nanosecond when a fin breached the surface of the water 30 feet away and then vanished. But it quickly reappeared attached to the smooth blue-gray body of a dolphin, who cruised with two friends along the back of the lineup, passing within 6 feet of me. It was awesome to see them so close, majestic water-beings wild and free in the wide sea.

Conditions were marginal but D and R pulled off some decent rides, marking the difference between skilled regular practitioners of the art and a once- or twice-weekly dabbler on a strange board. I didn't ride anything but some fast whitewater in, losing it nanoseconds after the popup, but at least now I've surfed So Cal. And have a bruise to show for it, a huge one on the back on my thigh from a fin impact when I didn't quite make it over the top of an outside wave. I'll have some splainin' to do when I get home.

21 February 2009

Linda Mar, 21 February 2009

Surfpulse described this morning at Ocean Beach like this:
Today is one of those days where I sat and stared at the surf for 20 minutes or so trying to find an inspirational wave and I'm happy to report I did, they're just really hard to find and track down unfortunately....On occasion, a nice inspirational wave moves through, but the odds of tracking one down sort of look like the odds of winning the lottery, possible but not really. Overall, the weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse this weekend, so if you're like me and about to go crazy from not being able to paddle in awhile, this may be the last shot you'll have to save your sanity.
And so, after far too many dry days, today I was getting in the water no matter what. Linda Mar already had a growing crowd when I arrived at 7 a.m. and was mushy on the high tide, more of a longboard day when I'd brought my fish - but no matter.

I saw M and R in the parking lot and then caught up with them in the water, and introduced myself to cyber-friend E on the middle peak. Since I was on Nemo, she advised me to stay where the waves looked like they would break right on me, since they were so moundy and powerless. Notwithstanding that "about to break on me" is a scary place for me to sit generally, with a south drift, a crowd, and inconsistent surf, it was a hard spot to find. I caught one wave, but backed off when it closed out, and in hindsight I wish I'd pushed my weight forward instead and tried to make it, since that was the best of the session.

As I walked to the showers on numb feet, C called my name, recognizing Nemo. It was nice to meet some of my e-friends in the real world, and enjoy another second of my fifteen minutes of fame.

Having watched the sunrise over the hills, bobbing gently in the swell, laughing at the micro-fright of a bird suddenly surfacing two feet from my board, smelling sugary churros baking at the Taco Bell, and feeling the exhilaration of paddling toward open ocean and cresting a wave just before it broke - it felt so good to just be in the sea. I could never leave the coast.

Now it seems like a heavy blanket has fallen over the Penisula, a close overcast of gray clouds, waiting for the storm. Unless a window opens in the weather, my next session will be the second half of next week in SoCal with old surf buddy D. Perhaps a night surf, if we can brave Santa Monica Bay in the dark. But if Keanu can do it, why not?

19 February 2009

Can't See Surfing Tomorrow Either

Still beached.

A few people have asked what's wrong with my eyes. The main problem is that I'm seriously myopic; I literally can't see more than 6 inches without correction. (Now that I'm getting older, I can't see up close either, so my naked-eye depth-of-view is from about 5-6 inches. Ugh.) Normally my near-sightedness is fixed with soft contact lenses (and I worship their inventor), but for a week I haven't been able to wear them. Last Tuesday, S and I went for routine eye exams at Eyeworks of San Mateo, and a few days later, we both had eye infections. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I doubt it, and after shelling out for another exam and a $50 prescription copay, I'm not going to risk a return visit.

Regardless, I can't see well enough to surf without contacts, and of course I can't surf in glasses. And I can't snowboard or swim. Or even drive without added risk (no peripheral vision, objects closer than they appear). It wasn't so bad over the weekend, with heavy rain and storms chopping up big surf, but now that conditions have cleaned up and the swell is fun-sized, I'm getting very angry about this situation. My gills are all dried up and I need to get in the water and ride some waves. I'm afraid my eyes will not be well enough tomorrow, but fortunately it looks like Saturday will still have good surf on offer. And I'd better be better by then.

15 February 2009

Longest Lefts

Since I can't surf for several more days (and it's Victory at Sea conditions anyway, with wind and torrential rain), I've had plenty of time this weekend to sit by a cheery fire and catch up on reading the stack of surf mags that have piled up. Somehow I've managed to subscribe to Surfer, Surfing, and Surfers Path. The first two are cheap but half ads, and too phallocentric. They focus almost exclusively on male surfers, including interviews with pros' hottie beach-bunny girlfriends and annual skimpy-swimsuit issues. I'm dropping those mags when the subscriptions expire.

Expensive, ad-lean Surfers Path still exudes male bias but is more intelligent, with articles on the science of surfing and lengthy travel features accompanied by stunning photos. Issue 69 had an article on surfing the world's longest left, Chicama in Peru (pic at left), where linked rides can go on for a mile. Sounds like paradise to a goofy-foot, so I read "A Peruvian Appreciation" straight through. Unfortunately I can't find the article online to link to.

I've surfed the second longest left, Costa Rica's Pavones (my pic at right), and would love to go back there with friends. But while Pavones seemed like a place at the end of the road, with no internet, a single pay phone, and nothing much in the way of nightlife, Chicama sounds like a place at the end of the earth. S.C. Sipman described abandoning veganism - something I could never do; I'd just have to live on Cliff Bars - because of warnings that salads were unsafe. Despite trying to avoid the dirty water, he became ill and spent time in a grim 3rd-world clinic. And there were warnings about omnipresent crime too, from nighttime road bandits to women who drug tourists' drinks to rob them. Strike 1.

On the beach at Chicama, hunters bean birds with bottles, then sever their heads and wings, leaving the appendages strewn on the beach. "The biodegradeable carnage amidst the beautiful red marble beach rocks was a vivid scene to walk barefoot through on the way out to the point." Eww! Strike 2.

A companion article talked about the growing use of boats to ferry surfers back to the point, saving them a half-hour beach walk (through bird parts). So, noisy, smelly boats polluting the lineup and ruining the peace of the ocean. Strike 3.

The wave at Chicama may be goofy-foot heaven, and maybe I'm a yuppified wuss, but it's not going on my surf trip list.
Hmm, IW over at Wave Journal of a Surfer in Peru tells me that it's really not as bad as all that. Perhaps this is an attempt to keep crowds down?!

Hug-a-Jug Review

I know some people who don't mind wearing The Beach apre-surf, not just the smell but the skankiness, especially on questionable water quality days. But I like to rinse off, and only a few breaks like Linda Mar and Capitola have public showers. Not to mention, after a frigid winter dawn patrol when my feet are numb ice clods and I'm shivering uncontrollably, there's something almost rapturous about the feeling of steaming water poured inside my wetsuit. So for a while I've been filling a gallon drinking water bottle from Safeway with hot water before I leave the house, and keeping it warm during a sesh inside a soft insulated bag that was a freebie gift from a prior employer. But with the cheapo bag falling apart from the stress of carrying something much heavier than a sandwich and some chips, I've been on the lookout for a replacement.

The Hug a Jug seemed like a durable choice. It's 2-gallon jug made of heavy plastic in a nylon carrying bag with insulated sides. Unfortunately, the Jug has several drawbacks that prevent me from recommending it with any enthusiasm. First, it fails at its main purpose: keeping water warm. The top of the bag is uninsulated, and a lot of heat escapes via this obvious path. Also, 2 gallons is more than twice as much water as I need, but if I don't fill it all the way, it gets cool even faster. The unnecessary size of the round Jug make it unwieldy; big isn't always better. In addition, the shoulder strap is not detachable and gets in the way when rinsing off, as does the string-held screw cap.

In sum, another nice idea that needs some more work to make this a truly useful product.

14 February 2009

Everybody Out of the Water!

What a beautiful spot. I wish we'd made it down there. Next time.
But surfing murky water at dusk, not such a good idea. And the sharks nets offer false security.

08 February 2009

Capitola, 8 February 2009

With unruly big storm surf in San Mateo County, I planned to meet M at Cowells for well-past-dawn patrol. But dead on a high high tide, nothing was happening except on the main peak at the Lane.So we headed to the Eastside, where the Hook had decent shape but already a crowd on the peak.38th was emptier but poor and choppy, and I could hear an airhorn from a contest at Pleasure Point.M had already suited up in the 41st parking lot, but I knew from past frustrating experiences that I wouldn't catch anything in that skilled crowd, and couldn't stand the thought of a waveless session watching other people surf. So I ditched him. (Sorry M, but I just don't have the ability or the confidence to compete for waves, especially at a spot like the Hook.) I'd rather have a marginal wave almost to myself than wait for scraps on a good one.

Down the road in Capitola, there was still too much tide, but some apparent potential. A couple longboarders were in front of the cliffs, where the waves were too moundy and mushy for the fish, but right next to the jetty they had enough shape at times when they infrequently rolled in.
S and I went for coffee and a walk to let the tide drop some more, then I claimed the jetty peak all for myself. There were very long lulls between waist-high sets, but I caught a few, and got in a short ride. A longboarder joined me for a bit and we took turns, although he was able to pick off more of the mushy ones. The water was scummy from the rains and it was cold waiting, drizzling sometimes with a light breeze. Then a pack of little brat boys* on shortboards took possession of the wave, totally headless of surf etiquette and acting entitled to every wave. Agro male shortboarders in training, wish I could spank their parents. Time to go, but I was happy to have gotten wet and gotten a ride.
*Sadly, brat boys are everywhere, even in Peru.

05 February 2009

Unusual Surfing

I wouldn't call most of these extreme.

At least my tooth wasn't as bad as the SUPer's. What if you only had a chance at one wave like in the last clip, and you missed it?

04 February 2009

Waves Behind Bars, Part II

Here's the Park's full response to my objection to the gating off of HMB beaches during dawn patrol hours:
As you noted, the park hours for all of our State Parks along the San Mateo coast are from 8 a.m. to sunset. We have a limited budget, which is being cut even more this year, with which to staff and maintain our State Parks. Some staff arrive as early as 7 a.m. to begin opening gates with the expectation that all gates are open for visitors by 8 a.m. There is greater usage of our parks from sometime in the late morning until sunset, so that is why staff are scheduled as they are rather than to be here to open at dawn.

The hours of darkness are when many of the crimes occur in the parks including vandalism and violence to individuals. Darkness also contributes to the possibility of injury. By limiting the hours of the parks (closing at sunset) and blocking access with gates during the closure hours, we can limit the number of these problems that we have. This also allows us to schedule more staff to respond to issues during daylight hours when the majority of the park visitors are here rather than spreading staff thinner over a twenty-four hour period.

In addition to the reduction in funding provided to State Parks we have been directed to increase revenue, so the parking fees charged at many of the State Parks were increased last October. The annual passes provide a good value for frequent visitors to the parks. The annual passes are only intended to provide access to parks during the normal park hours. With the Poppy Pass, which we accept here at Half Moon Bay State Beach, if you visit a State Park more than once a month, on average, it will save you money. Some people purchase the passes just for the ease of not having to pay each time they come in. Other people prefer the passes when they use the parking lots that require self-pay so they do not have to have exact change and fill out an envelope each visit. Most people find value in the passes for those reasons.

You asked if State Parks limits access to the waves at Half Moon Bay for up to two daylight hours. The posted hours at some State Park beaches apply to the beach and parking areas while at others the hours may only apply to the parking areas – this depends on the regulation orders for each beach. At Half Moon Bay State Beach the posted hours apply to the parking lots. Therefore, you do have access to the beach and the waves at Half Moon Bay State Beach in the mornings before the gates are open.

I hope this helps you understand that there are a lot of issues considered when making decisions about access provided to parks. If you have other questions please let me know. I will pass your comments and concerns on to our park managers.

Thank you,
Nelle Lyons
Half Moon Bay State Beach
And my reply, with a practical suggestion:
Thank you for your prompt response, Nelle. However, it's not wholly true that the beach and waves are accessible when the parking lots are closed. There are "No Parking" signs outside the entrances which prevent parking along the entry roads for a substantial distance, and even the small dirt lot near the Dunes entrance is marked "No Parking." While it is possible to park a good distance away and hike to the beach carrying gear, the de facto effect is a denial of access.

I understand the desire to close the park during darkness, but a sunrise to sunset policy would not affect that. If budget does not allow, perhaps parking outside the gates could be forbidden only during park open hours and at night?
It's a simple fix which harms no interests that I can see. Dawn-patrollers and other early beachgoers could park legally near the entrance and walk a short distance to the public beach, and the State would not lose any day-use fee revenue. But this is the government, so I have no expectation that the addition of a few words to some signs will happen without a lot of concerted public effort. Unless I get laid off, I won't have that kind of time - but then I won't need to surf that early. Catch-22.

03 February 2009

Waves Behind Bars

I've had plans to surf each of the last three days, but every time have been thwarted. On Sunday, the promised swell failed to arrive before the Super Bowl kickoff. On Monday, S and I were held up at work too late to make it to the beach reasonably ahead of sunset. And this morning, I found that the state of California puts the waves of Half Moon Bay behind bars at night, and doesn't let them out until well past sunrise.
To: info@parks.ca.gov

I recently purchased a Golden Poppy Pass in order to be able to surf more at Half Moon Bay State Beach, but it appears the Pass is of limited value. This morning I arrived at the Francis Beach entrance at dawn (6:45 am) to go surfing, but the gate to the parking lot was closed. The Venice Beach lot was also blocked with a closed gate, as was the Dunes lot in full daylight at 7 am. Signs on the entrance kiosks state the park opens at 8 am.

As a surfer, I often want to reach the waves by first light, in order to surf before work. In the summer, dawn comes well before 6 am. Does the State Park System actually prevent access to the waves of Half Moon Bay for up to two daylight hours? What is the reason for not opening the gates at dawn? In the case of Dunes, there are no campers or residents who might be disturbed, so it is difficult to see any rationale for blocking access. Please explain.
At least the waves were small and uninspired, when we finally got close enough at Dunes to take a look, although distant Kelly appeared to have more going on.

With nowhere to park legally and no time to scout other breaks before work, I didn't get to surf. To make matters worse, the HMB Starbuck's messed up my consolatory short peppermint soy no-whip mocha (the Oracle of Starbucks says this drink means I'm a hippie).

And I still really need to get wet.