31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010 (HMB Jetty)

On the last day of 2010, conditions were similar to Tuesday. The session started late morning to catch the tide falling from an early high so I missed the probably pink again sunrise (another storm is on the way), but the sea was more glassy than last time, at least initially.
Mid-morning glass
A few surfers were already in the water near the Jetty, and I choose a peak farther down the beach so I wouldn't have to share. This time I was only able to link one wave into a reform, but I got a lot of little rides and a few fun drops as the tide dropped. Coming up on two hours in the water, the south wind turned on. It was a light steady breeze, enough to send me shivering in to the beach as soon as I could get a ride suitable enough to be the last of the year.

My goal for 2011: to get barreled. It's time.

Surfline: Easing short to mid period West-NW swell is good for waist-head high waves and occasional slightly larger sets at standout spots. Cleaner overall but possibly some leftover surface lump and bump for many areas. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 12.1 s NW 98 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.7 s NW / WVHT: 6.6

30 December 2010

Don't Miss the Boat for Mavericks

Riding the beast at the last contest
Control of the Mavericks big wave surf contest has changed hands, and the new organizers of the re-christened Jay at Mavericks are taking greater care to ensure that the spectator injuries of prior contests are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the consequence of Mavericks Surf Ventures' previous poor planning is that now everyone, except press, is barred from access to the beach and bluffs, leaving only the water for live viewing. Sure, you could watch the contest on a big screen someplace, beer in hand, but where's the magic in that? It's happening right here, in our own backyard, not hundreds or thousands of miles away. I want to see it directly, with my own eyes.

Although I was granted media credentials for the February '10 contest and have applied again, I'm fairly sure the 38 spots on the Huli Cat press boat will go to main stream media over a lowly local blogger like me. A press pass will get me to the media area on the bluff, but I'd still like to be up close to the action (especially since Santa brought me a Nikon D3100 D-SLR camera). Here are the options I've found for watching the contest from a boat. All depart from Pillar Point Harbor.
  • Huck Fin Center coordinates up to 7 boats for contest viewing. There is no official contest boat this year, but the Jay organizers are sending inquirers to HFC. Contact Peggy to be added to their email list. This is not a solid reservation because boat availability varies with the uncertain date, but you'll be notified when the contest is called and have the opportunity at that time to make a nonrefundable reservation with a credit card. Most of the boats will be $200 per section (am/pm) or $375 for the whole day; others will be $250 per section. 
  • Queen of Hearts is a 50-foot boat, capacity 43 people, that is taking confirmed reservations. Cost is $195 for the first or second trip (am/pm), or $350 for the whole day. The advance payment is nonrefundable unless the 2010/2011 contest doesn't happen, in which case they keep $10.
  • Tigerfish, another 50-footer, takes 40 spectators at a cost of $200 with $100 charged for "re-ride." They "reserve the right to overbook all trips by 5 persons" so some folks might get left at the dock.
Boats generally operate a morning slot and another in the afternoon, so if you're keen to see the Finals, book the latter. I've got feelers out to some other local operators, so if I find more on-the-water viewing options, I'll post them here.

28 December 2010

Mush for Breakfast (HMB Jetty)

I thought there would be more going on at the Jetty this morning, but as I pulled up at the side of the road in the dim pre-dawn light, I was happy to see there were rideable waves. With a short window of surf opportunity before going back to work after the holiday, I didn't have time for a wave hunt.

The beach was peacefully deserted and I paddled out alone, although two and then two more joined me later. They kept their distance but somehow it felt like a crowd, as I've been enjoying the solitude of recent dawn patrols. The waves were waist- to chest-high and mushy. Many would start to break and then dissipate, as if it was too much trouble to push all the way in to the beach. To catch them I had to be at the breaking peak, and even then they would often decline to carry me very far.
Just after I shot this sunrise video*, I rode a nice right for my buddy Luke, who is sadly landlocked for the holidays. No lefts at all for me today, but I caught two bigger rights that had more energy, and worked them through the flat section into another little drop for long rides that ended near shore. Then it was back to work with a stoked smile on my face, where my lead surprised me with a present, a used copy of "Step Into Liquid." That great movie, plus "Blue Crush," got me into surfing in Cocoa Beach way back in '03. I can't wait to watch it again.

*There's a saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Supposedly there's some truth to it, and in fact, since afternoon it's been raining and strong winds are forecast.

Surfline: Fading mid-period WNW (270-310) swell is mixing with some small SW windswell that is dropping out. Better breaks are in the waist-shoulder-head high range on sets while standouts still produce some 1-2' overhead sets. Conditions are clean with light winds but the swell is still a little mixed up and junky overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.9 ft at 11.4 s NW 97 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 6.2 ft / APD: 8.2 s / MWD: 304°

24 December 2010

Poocifica (Linda Mar)

Last Sunday, I searched the San Mateo County coast in a steady rain, looking for surfable waves. The best I found were at Linda Mar, but the water was a disgusting shade of brown, and although there were folks giving it a go, the surf didn't look good enough to risk the contamination [video]. It wasn't until Wednesday that I learned why the water looked so filthy: Pacifica State Beach was closed along with 3 others due to an overflow of the oxymoronic "sanitary" sewer on Sunday. So Linda Mar was my last choice this morning, but unfortunately the Half Moon Bay breaks were sloppy or lackluster. Montara looked clean but solidly overhead with a hard paddle out, so I drove on to Poocifica.
Linda Mar was having a good day, and - after walking past signs warning of contamination - there were already plenty of people out taking advantage of it. Why do we surf despite the risk of illness from dirty water? It's hard to explain to non-surfers, but when the waves are good, or at least decent, and you need to get in a surf between storms, well... we just go and hope for the best. Perhaps they haven't re-tested recently, and the water's OK now. It looks clean, and doesn't smell bad. For sure I won't swallow (nevermind that seawater gets forced into my sinuses and drips out later). I'll take some extra vitamin C. Little lies we tell ourselves, and then we paddle out, and hope we don't get sick.
I've just found an article from yesterday saying the beach remains closed through the weekend, because they won't test the water again until Monday. Here's hoping no invisible beasties are about to wage war in my body. For now, I have to say it was worth it. I first joined the pack on a left just south of the pumphouse. (The pumphouse contains restrooms and a little-known women's changing area. It's also the mechanism for disgorging putrid water into the lineup though gates that open without warning even in dry weather. I've never seen it, but I've heard it's pretty smelly.) I snared one nice ride from the crowd but grew tired of the competition, so I got out and walked past the trickle of water emanating from under the pumphouse to another peak farther north. Surfers were spread out there, and although the waves were closing out more, they were doing so gently on the rising tide and were a bit bigger than at the crowded peak. I rode some nice lefts and rights chest- to shoulder-high. The offshore grew strong and gave me some good practice getting Emm over the lip and down the face against the wind.

I wore my Hotline 4/3 this morning since the Rip Curl was still wet, but it's leaky and not as warm, and I was getting quite chilled with the wind blowing hard at times. I caught a fun left in close to the beach, dogging a sponger who was frozen like a reindeer in the headlights, and called it a Happy Holiday.

Surfline: LINDA MAR AND ROCKAWAY BEACHES CLOSED TO SWIMMING FOLLOWING SEWER OVERFLOWS (12/22) Clean, crumbly, sectiony lines with some slow but workable corners/sections to pick off. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 10.0 s W 96 / WIND WAVE: 3.9 ft at 5.9 s SW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 5.7 s / MWD: 277°

23 December 2010

A Festivus Miracle (HMB Jetty)

After suffering through an interminable wave drought caused by a chain of storms that brought heavy rain and strong south winds to NorCal, I was hoping for a Festivus Miracle, but prepared to have plenty to say at the Airing of Grievances if the surf once again disappointed. Happily, a Miracle was delivered, in the form of empty, clean, waist- to shoulder-high+ waves at the Jetty.
A wave formed up behind me, but it was sectiony and I couldn't get a read on it: right or left? A goofy-footed fan of lefts, I adjusted my paddle angle for the latter, but as the wave lifted me I felt it wanted to go right instead. I popped up and with just a thought, body and board effortlessly changed tack and carved rightward down the near head-high face into one of the longer rides of the morning. Woo hoo!

I had to get to work and left the water before eating my complete fill of tasty waves, but one great ride plus a whole lot of other good ones left me satisfyingly stoked. Breath visible in the 40-degree air and wetsuit steaming in the cold sunshine, I changed with a broad smile on my face, wishing a Happy Festivus to a couple of surfers who pulled up for a wave check. No Grievances here!

Surfline: Mid period West-NW is easing through the day with small SW windswell mixing in. Look for waist-chest high surf at good spots with sets to shoulder-head high at standouts. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.2 ft at 9.1 s WNW 95 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.3 s NW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 7.1 s / MWD: 296°

18 December 2010

Why I Prefer Surfing to Snowboarding

Getting there isn't long and often treacherous.

There are no lines or tickets at the beach.

The mountain just lies there.

Wildlife checks you out.

The sea offers solitude.

It's cold, but not that cold.

Water is softer than packed snow.

The ocean playground is ever-changing.

But mostly, because surfing is much much more fun!

15 December 2010

Tread (HMB Jetty)

This morning I was kooking my pop-ups, and it took me little while to figure out why. It's sunny but cold outside, so I geared up for it, adding the hood to my 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit (wise move), thicker gloves (should've checked for holes before throwing 'em in my box though), and 5 mil instead of 3 mil O'Neill booties. The 3 mils are actually made for women so they fit better, but I figured I could use the extra thickness of the men's. However, I didn't reckon on the different treads. While the 5 mils have a lot of ridges, the 3 mils are fairly smooth on the bottom and allow for quick semi-sliding adjustment of misplanted feet. Wherever my feet landed on the board this morning in the frictiony 5 mils, they weren't moving anywhere easily. Coupled with the greater sensitivity to bad popups of my new 7'0" as compared to my 8'3", that spelled a lot of crash and burns. Yet somehow, having sorted this out, I started to get more rides, taking greater care on my popups and trying hard to be less sloppy. Emm is whipping me into shape.

Surfline: NW-WNW (280-300) swell backs down through the day as small/continued SW (200-220) groundswell mixes in. Better breaks are good for chest-shoulder-head high surf, with top NW exposures pulling in some overhead sets. Conditions remain on the jumbled side this morning as we come off a deep high tide, but winds are light out of the ENE, so expect conditions to clean up as the tide backs out from a 6am high. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s NW 94/ WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s WNW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 8.9 s / MWD: 304°

10 December 2010

Trusting the Sun to Rise (Sharks/Hook)

I got to the beach a bit too early this morning. It was still dark, and drizzling to boot, but at least it was warmer than some of my recent dawn sessions. There were already half a dozen cars in the lot and surfers heading for the stairs, with a few in the water. After a quick surf check, I changed into my wetsuit and reached the beach as twilight yielded to the day.
The swell was down from yesterday, with waves under head-high and below. I caught a short ride at the Hook but it was cluttering up with shortboarders so I made my way east to Sharks. Although there was a smaller pack there, I saw an empty peak farther over toward Privates and paddled on. Unfortunately that peak was juiceless and unsatisfying. With the clock ticking down toward my departure time for work, I bit the bullet and joined the lineup at Sharks. The mostly longboard crowd was friendly, with one guy even calling me into a wave. I got some nice rides, and one especially fine right that gave me good shoulder time. Woo hoo! I also got schooled in one of the ways my 7'0" is different - and harder - than my 8'3": I can't make a lazy late whitewater drop on my belly because it's very hard to hold the nose up out of the water. Trying it made for some exciting wipeouts, though.
Still mindful that part of the cliff fell onto the beach recently, I paddled back toward the stairs at the Hook. On the way I was treated to a close-up view of a couple of sea otters wrestling, and this time I managed to capture the wildlife show on video.

Surfline: W-WNW (260-300) groundswell fades through the day, with the most size holding on early. Dense fog is making it very difficult to get a good look at the size/conditions again this morning. Expect better breaks to be seeing waist-shoulder-head high surf, with top NW spots pulling in some occasional overhead+ sets. Winds are light/variable for mostly clean conditions. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 12.1 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.7 s WSW / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 8.1 s / MWD: 288°

05 December 2010

Never Trust the Meteorologist (Linda Mar)

Earlier in the week, I'd planned to surf in Half Moon Bay around mid-day to catch the dropping tide, since there was a 7' high tide around 9 am. However, in the intervening days, the wind forecast changed from light to blowing from the south all day, with an advisory starting at 2 pm for predicted southeast winds of 20-30 mph, gusting to 45 mph. Expecting HMB to be blown out, I decided I'd better get on it early and at Linda Mar, where a south wind blows offshore.

When I arrived at first light, the parking lot was already filling up as usual, with small clots of surfers on the three main peaks. Head-high closeout sets were marching through periodically, also typical, but there were smaller shoulders to be found and the breeze was offshore. Luke and I joined the crowd at the middle peak. As the wind increased and the tide rose higher, I had trouble getting over the lip on sometimes mushy waves with the offshore push-back. But I found my way into a nice right and a couple of sweet lefts, with a handful of whitewater rides in the mix, and was glad to have them as the crowd grew a bit ridiculous.
Sadly, after the best ride, I found myself at the edge of a trench near the cobblestone-studded beach. Collecting my new surfboard, I was tumbled nearer to the shore and knocked down in shallow water by the next wave. As soon as I stood up and started pulling my board toward me by the leash, another wave thrashed me, throwing Emm onto the cobblestones where she incurred her first dings, a couple of pressure dents on the business side near the nose. Damn. I don't like Linda Mar, and Linda Mar doesn't like me.
On his way home, Luke stopped for a second session at a beach break in Half Moon Bay and found that instead of being blown out, it was offshore with good head-high+ waves, although there was a hard shorepound entry on the very high tide. While I got a few nice waves at Linda Mar, I guess I should've made my own observations instead of trusting the weather forecast and reports.

C'est la vie; you rolls the dice and you takes your chances. But I'm itching to ride Emm in some well-formed bigger waves. Maybe later this week.

Surfline: 3-4 ft+, fair conditions. Clean, peaky lines staying a bit inconsistent this morning. Light ESE wind now. Big 7'+ high tide swamps it out later on. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 13.8 s NW / WIND WAVE: 3.6 ft at 6.2 s SSW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 6.2 s / MWD: 312°

01 December 2010

Sea Lions and Rabbits and Cats, Oh My (Melon Camp)

Actually I saw only one of each critter: a curious sea lion, pushing his head and upper body out of the water to stare at me; a timid rabbit, hopping off the path and pausing briefly under a bush before dashing away; and a friendly fluffy cat, who kept me company while I changed into and out of my wetsuit. Aside from them, plus my husband and a couple of other walkers passing by on the beach, I was alone.
But then there was the time I sensed a large presence in the opaque water beneath my board as I was paddling to keep position against a strong southward current, the feeling that something big was directly under me, slowing and lifting my board slightly, a brief unnatural sensation that I wasn't moving with the swell. It must be my imagination, I told myself, or else the sea lion; quite unlikely it's the Man in Gray. Still, I sat up quietly to ride the next wave - any wave - away from that spot.

Back in the shallows, I shook off shivers that had nothing to do with the cold, walked down the beach to my rip current ride to the outside, and went back for more. I was trying to stay with a left shoulder, but the current kept pulling me into a closeout section. I got some decent rides and one nice long stokeful shoulder-high left. I also got mugged by a few head-high closeouts, and rolled in the shorepound.

I still have sand in my ears, but I ain't complainin'. There's something about a solo surf session at a lovely deserted beach that's a bit magical, if sometimes spooky. My eerie experience in mind, I exited the water as the sun kissed the sea at the horizon, washing the sky with color.

Surfline: Looking fun across the region this afternoon as new NW swell-mix moves in and small SW swell continues. Better breaks are up in the knee-waist-shoulder high zone, with top NW exposures pulling in some head high+ sets. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.6 ft at 10.8 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 4.3 s WSW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 7.9 s / MWD: 283°

28 November 2010

Kicks (Hook/Sharks/Privates)

After about a week of flat surf and/or bad weather, and on a holiday weekend to boot, the Hook was predictably loaded with surfers. As I paddled around the pack on the outside, looking for a more open spot farther east, a nearly head-high wave started to wall up behind me. I wasn't intending to try for any in that crowd, but the wave was aimed right at me and the takeoff zone was somehow clear - an opportunity too good to pass up. I spun quickly and paddled for it, making the drop beside a swarm of surprised shortboarders, who were milling about like juvenile koi in a pond, wondering where I came from. Forced left to avoid them, my ride was short but oh so sweet.
I continued to make my way east to Sharks, where I found Luke in the lineup on his longboard. The waves were smaller and sluggish, so we moved inside and then even farther east close to Privates, where we had a little peak all to ourselves, except for a seal and an otter. I was getting some rides but other waves were passing me by, and Luke again suggested that I kick my feet since I'm now on a shorter board. As I paddled for my next wave, I felt it starting to move on without me, so I kicked fast, felt the wave grab my board, popped up and rode a nice right. Woot! Thanks for the advice, buddy.

It was great to have a private peak, though that's not why they call it Privates. We got lots of waves, small but fun and all ours. Part of the cliff had collapsed shortly before I arrived, so we paddled back to the new Hook stairs instead of walking along the narrow beach and rocks at the base. Stopping on the far side of the lineup in front of the stairs, I caught one in for a stylin' exit. Stoked!

Surfline: NW swell mix provides head high+ to well overhead+ surf at well exposed breaks today although steady NW winds kept conditions poor for exposed spots. The more South facing breaks were much cleaner but much smaller as well. Weak Southern hemi energy continues to limp in also. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 8.9 ft at 12.9 s NW / WIND WAVE: 6.2 ft at 7.7 s WNW / WVHT: 10.5 ft / APD: 7.7 s / MWD: 317°

25 November 2010

Iced Coffey (Melon Camp)

Frost on the beach
We're having record low temperatures now, and today was the coldest I've ever surfed. When the air hovered just above freezing on the Washington Coast, I couldn't bring myself to make the 5-hour roundtrip drive from Seattle. Here in NorCal, I've gone out a few times in just below 40 F, but never this cold before. As I drove over the hill to Half Moon Bay before dawn, my car thermometer briefly displayed 31 F (less than 0 C). It wasn't much warmer at the beach. There was frost on the plants alongside the path, and even on the sand. Brrr! The 53-degree water was noticeably warmer than the air. I added the detachable hood to my 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit for the first time, and it greatly minimized flushing, helping to retain my body heat longer.

While the less (fool)hardy burrowed under their blankets and slept in, Luke and I had the break to ourselves. It's a locals spot, which I'll call "Melon Camp." The waves were glassy, waist- to shoulder-high and peeling nicely. But the swell has dropped considerably since yesterday, the tide was rising from a fat low, and the waves were unenthusiastic and lazily ambling toward shore. I found I needed to be quite close to the peak when it broke to get onto the wave, which was good practice on Emm. I'd brought Magic just in case, but the 8' stayed in its bag while I rode the new 7' Coffey. After Luke found himself cross-stepping on his 7' Coffey, he made the switch to a longboard and started getting more waves.
The rides were long when we could get them, and I found my way onto a couple of good lefts and a nice right, working them close to the beach. A handful of other waves didn't carry me so far, but one let me stick a fun drop. Surprisingly, I lasted about an hour and a half in the cold, before I was shivering and couldn't feel my hands or feet. Dawn was again beautiful and the sun brought a little warmth as I changed out of my wetsuit in the frigid air. Adding the hood had kept my hair, arms and upper body partly dry. I was thankful for my jug of hot water and the seat heater in my MINI Cooper, and for fun waves surfed with only a buddy. And especially for my husband, who was home cooking me a big tasty post-surf breakfast. Happy Tofurky Day!

Surfline: A clean combo of NW swell-mix and minimal SSW energy prevails this morning. Most breaks are good for knee-waist high+ surf, with some larger sets working through at top NW exposures to shoulder/head high at times. Conditions are nice and clean as the tide comes off a 3'+ low tide. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 8.3 s NW / WIND WAVE: 2.6 ft at 5.0 s NW / WVHT: 5.2 ft / APD: 5.8 s / MWD: 316°

22 November 2010

Bonding (HMB Jetty)

Full moon at dawn
On our third session this morning, I really clicked with Emm, my new 7'0" Ward Coffey surfboard. The waves at the Jetty were fairly clean and chest- to shoulder-high (waist- to chest-high relative to Luke), but a bit jumbled and funky after the stormy weekend. We shared the break with only a shy harbor seal who peered at us from a safe distance. I rode a bunch of fun lefts as close as I dared to the rip-rap wall bordering the road, and a couple of rights as well. Once Luke and I split a peak; it's always nice sharing a wave with a buddy.

The sunrise and moonset were lovely in the cold dawn air. Just as recent studies have shown, wave-riding greatly improved my mood. Stoked!
Surfline: NW (290-330) swell mix eases, with some reinforcing NW swell moving in later in the day, as small SSW (185-210) energy continues to mix in. Most exposed breaks are good for at least waist-chest-head high surf, with top NW spots pulling in some head high to 2-3' overhead sets at times. Conditions are an issue in most areas with plenty of residual lump and bump to the surface, as well as steady onshore flow. The tide hits a 6'+ high right around 10am. (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.6 ft at 4.0 s W / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 7.4 s / MWD: 301°

18 November 2010

A Couple of Coffeys in the Morning (HMB Jetty)

Luke found his narrower and thinner Coffey (left) on Craigslist around the time I ordered mine.
Quite a difference in climate from my surf sessions last week in Hawaii. It was only 48 degrees at the beach, with the water slightly warmer than the air, and darn it, I forgot my gloves. Just after I paddled out with Luke in the growing daylight, I rode a sweet long right on my new board. J-Bird and Jacob soon joined us, and waves were caught by all, with Luke even seeing the inside of the green room from a low crouch. The tide was quite high, making for a bounce off the riprap wall that was sometimes helpful and sometimes funky. I got a passel of passable rides, but the first was the best.
Surfline: WNW groundswell holds up inconsistent waist-shoulder high+ sets at top exposed breaks. Swell is strongest in the morning but the big high tide slows many spots for the dawn patrol, best on the dropping tide through the morning. SSW swell offers occasional knee-waist-chest zone sets. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.6 ft at 11.4 s NW / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 4.0 s NW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 7.9 s / MWD: 309°

14 November 2010

Birthday Present (Davenport)

My birthday present to myself this year was a new surfboard. After I met with him just over a month ago, Ward Coffey designed and shaped a transition board to help me move down more smoothly from my 8'3" hybrid (which I surf well) to my 5'8" shortboard (with which I've had only random successes). Basically, he scaled the 8'3" down to 7' and added performance features such as a speedier concave. And so, Enhanced Mini-Magic (Emm) was born.

Ward phoned the day before my birthday to say the new board was ready, but alas (!), we were in Hawaii. So I picked up Emm today, and since Ward assured me there was no need to wait for it to cure further, we were off for a surf. But first, Ward took control of putting on the traction pad, using a few tricks not listed in the instructions (lightly abrading the board surface and wiping it with acetone, and heating the pad's adhesive with a hair dryer before mounting it). Then Scott and I drove up the coast, since it was too small and crowded in town. A surf kayak contest was being held on the north end of Davenport but the south end was empty with occasional rideable waves. It seemed the onshore wind was rising and likely that farther north would have worse conditions, so I ended my surf search and finished dressing my new board with nose and tail guards, a leash, and layers of basecoat and cold-water wax. It was unusually warm for November - near 70 degrees - and by the time I finished, I was ready to jump in cold water.

Design by Birdswell
Two guys and a girl paddled out to the empty break just before me. They were a smiling, friendly lot, but as one of the guys pointed out, conditions were "challenging." The chop was 1-3 feet, making it a little hard to see the shoulder- to head-high waves approaching, and I was a bit uncomfortable out there on an unfamiliar board. But after a getting-to-know-you period with several mini-rides and a handful of wipeouts, plus getting caught inside disconcertingly close to dry reef, I nailed a solid head-high right on Emm and called it a day. I think we're going to be very good friends. Woot!
Surfline: Fading NW swell and rising NW windswell combined to keep good breaks in the chest-head high+ range while standouts were a couple to a few feet overhead on sets. Tiny SSW swell was in the water as well. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s NW / WIND WAVE: 7.2 ft at 8.3 s NW / WVHT: 10.8 ft / APD: 7.4 s / MWD: 315°

12 November 2010

Do We Really Have to Leave? (Pinetrees)

Since our flight home wasn't until 2 pm, there was time for a last surf in the morning. I skipped the paddle to the reef in favor of the closer beach break in Hanalei Bay. Every once in a while a head-high cleanup set would come through, but mostly the waves were smaller.
I rode a bunch, finishing up with a long left almost to the sand, and then it was time to go. Mahalo nui loa, Kauai, for the fun surf!
Surfline: A small-scale, fading NNW provides mainly waist-chest high sets this morning at the better spots with clean conditions. Select reefs still produce occasional waves up to shoulder-head high. Kauai Ocean Explorer: 2-4 feet.

10 November 2010

Hau`oli la Hanau (Hanalei Bay)

For my birthday surf, I returned to Hanalei Bay and made the paddle out to the reef. I arrived a bit earlier this time hoping to beat the crowd, but if anything, there were more people on it than yesterday. And I had to join the pack since my inside left wasn't working, perhaps because the tide was higher. The tidal variation is much less than in NorCal, only about 0-2.5 feet while we were there, but the small change seemed to make a difference on the reef. Surfline mostly neglects Kauai, but the LOLA forecast was totally wrong, calling for 2-3' when the waves were larger than yesterday, solidly overhead at the main peak.
On one head-high wave, I stuck the nose on the drop and sailed through the air before taking a tumble in the spin cycle. I can now confirm that the Ola Chica "wipeout-proof" bikini isn't. When I surfaced, both the bikini top and my rashguard were bunched under my armpits. Fortunately no one was nearby to take in the view.
The reef beneath my board

Although I didn't get as many rides as yesterday and only a couple of long ones, the thrilling drops more than made up for it. The best was a slightly overhead right. I hooted down the face in a fast swoop and rode for a few seconds before the whitewater crashed down everwhere, throwing me into the warm water with a big stoked smile on my face.

Surfline: Waist- to chest-high, small NW swell. Kauai Ocean Explorer: 2-3 feet.

09 November 2010

Bali Hai (Hanalei Bay)

As we drove north from Lihue Airport in Kauai, the first surfer I saw launched himself several feet into the air and did a flip. Later, in the sand-bottomed condo hot tub, I met a group of Canadians on the island for a wedding. The goofyfoot groom told me he'd surfed a 4-5' left called Grampas that day in Hanelei. I was itching to get in the water.

Memorials to Andy Irons were everywhere on the north shore of Kauai, where he grew up. The proprietor of a surf shop near our hotel pointed at the FreeSurf magazine in my hand and rued the irony that he was on the cover. The rental boards at his place as well as a few others were sad wrecks, but outside a shop in Hanalei, a particular epoxy board called to me. I pulled it from the rack and guessed its length correctly at 7 feet. It felt good in my hands, so I made it mine for the duration of our stay.

At the east end of Hanalei Bay, with deliciously bare feet, I walked out on a sandy and silty river bar, then made a long paddle to the reef break. The water flowing from the Hanalei River was cool, but the water over the reef was warm, clear and shallow. It was delightful to surf sans rubber, in a rashguard and boardshorts. The main peak was going head-high+ but was infested with janitors. It seems SUPs were invented so guys can keep surfing when they've grown to fat and/or old to use a real board, but some of them could rip.
I employed my frequent Santa Cruz strategy, taking the shorter lefts when most everyone else was going right, and sitting inside to catch the neglected smaller waves, which were waist- to shoulder-high. The 7' Channin was a perfect fit and I got many, many fun long rides. It was lovely to watch the reef speed by underneath while surrounded by steep green mountains.
 Surfline: 4-5 feet, NNW swell.

03 November 2010

"Magic Will Sing" (Cowells)

"Magic will sing at Cowells tonight." That was Luke's prediction when we chatted earlier in the day about our planned sunset surf session, and he was right. I got a bunch of fun rides, long lefts and even longer rights, with plenty of time for wave-dancing on the face. Stoked!
From the top of the cliff, Luke shot a photo sequence of me catching and riding a left, and out on the water, I took this little video of him.
It was great surfing in NorCal on a fine summer day in November, but I'm looking forward to my next session - in Hawaii!

Surfline:4-6 ft. Solid WNW groundswell eases slightly this afternoon. Most breaks continue to see solid head high+ to overhead surf, with top exposures still holding in the double-triple overhead zone. Conditions are mostly clean at all but the most exposed breaks, which are generally maxed/washed out and unrideable. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 10.8 ft at 14.8 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 3.0 ft at 5.3 s W / WVHT: 11.2 ft / APD: 9.9 s / MWD: 297°

Women Who Surf Big Waves: Baby Steps

It's good to see women making a little progress, with one spot on the Big Wave World Tour adding an exhibition: "For the 1st time ever in a big wave Event, a women’s exhibition will take place with 7 of the world best charging women coming to tackle Nelscott Reef."
But why are the women's names smaller and linkless?
Perhaps the Jay at Mavericks could go a step farther and invite the best women to compete.

31 October 2010

Happy Halloween (Linda Mar)

The perfect wetsuit for surfing on Halloween
Linda Mar was offering up lots and lots of small fun waves this morning. Quite a few even had short shoulders, and the high tide was forging the usual pitching closeouts into gentle mush. It was crowded of course, but I found a peak between Taco Bell and the bathrooms that gave me enough room to play. It helped that a lot of folks were sitting far outside, waiting for the bigger sets, plus there were many kooks not catching anything. More for me!

I got so many rides that when it was almost time to go, instead of thinking my usual "OK, just one more," I bumped it up to "just five more," and then added a bonus 6th wave. Happy Halloween!

Surfline: 2-3 ft+. Mostly clean, but shape stays pretty soft/sectiony overall. Expect the occasional shoulder that stays semi-workable to the inside. WNW (270-305) energy continues to fade today as small Southern Hemi swell mixes in. Semi-clean waist-shoulder high surf is fairly common early on. Wind is currently light out of the S. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 11.4 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s SSW / WVHT: 4.6 ft / APD: 7.4 s / MWD: 282°

29 October 2010

Friday Night Rights and Lefts (Capitola)

I really wanted Capitola to be working today. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was feeling lazy and in need of a mellow sesh, without worrying about getting in and out on slimy, inundated stairs at one of the other Eastside breaks on a high tide. Or maybe it was just because I hadn't surfed there in a while.
Happily, my wish was granted. There were notable lulls and the waves were a little shifty and sometimes doubled up, but on the sets they were shoulder- to head-high. Though the crowd swelled as the after-work crew filled in, I still got a bunch of rides, both rights and lefts. The drops were fun, and I'm glad I managed not to land on a polite tween boy in a holey wetsuit who kept planting his ill-suited shortboard directly in my path.
My best waves were a few head-high lefts, swooping with a woo-hoo down the unsteep drop, once slotting between the aforementioned tween and a couple of grayhairs, into a fast fun ride. The set waves had punch, and I worked them through a slow section into another drop, riding in close to the base of the cliff. Stoked!

Surfline: 2-3 ft. Sizeable new WNW swell builds further this afternoon, mixing with some leftover WNW and South swell energy. Most breaks see solid shoulder-head high+ surf, with sets running 2-3'+ overhead at top WNW exposures, nearing double overhead at times. Conditions are mostly clean, although a bit jumbled at the most openly exposed breaks. Look for our new WNW swell to peak through the afternoon and start to back off slightly. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 12.1 ft at 13.8 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.3 s SSW / WVHT: 12.1 ft / APD: 10.6 s / MWD: 295°

27 October 2010

Salty Rain (HMB Jetty)

Working late last night gave me a pass to get into work late this morning, so I took the opportunity for one more dawn patrol before they again muck with the clocks and turn off Daylight Savings Time in a couple weeks. The sky doesn't brighten until after 7 am right now, too late to surf and still make work by a respectable hour. Happily today I didn't need to rush.

J-Bird was going to meet me at the Jetty, but she and Jacob, stuck in traffic, decided Rockaway would be better. I had more time this morning, but not that much more, so I stayed put, although the Jetty waves looked small and lackluster. If Highway 1 southbound wasn't stop-and-go, I'd have checked out Roosevelt or Kelly.
I wouldn't have minded a solo session, but a few others though it was worth a go.
It turned out that the waves were bigger than they looked empty from shore, about chest- to head-high, but mixed up, and sometimes making sudden changes of direction. The mid-high tide wasn't mushing out the waves, and the drops were steep. I got a few short rides with fun drops, but then someone turned on the wind machine, and it started blowing hard offshore. When a large closeout crashed down at my back, the spray fell all around me like a heavy downpour of salty rain. With the stiff breeze blowing in my face, I had trouble making it over the lip and even getting enough speed to catch waves. Once, as I scooted back on my board, swinging the nose up to turn around, the wind pushed it so hard I tumbled off into the water. And I wasn't the only surfer in the lineup who did that. (It does look quite funny!)

I stayed out longer than I should've, trying for one more good ride, but it was not forthcoming. On the way home, two deer were grazing next to the busy road in a residential area, adding to my wildlife count for the cold, clear morning, which included two harbor seals (or the same one twice).

Surfline: W-WNW (270-310) swell eases further as some small S-SE (170-190) swell continues to mix in. Most breaks are seeing surf in the chest-shoulder-head high+ zone, as top W-WNW exposures are seeing head high to well overhead+ surf, with some occasional sets still pushing double overhead. The tide will slowly build through the morning. Winds are light/variable offshore early for mostly clean conditions across the region. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.6 ft at 4.8 s WNW / WVHT: 8.2 ft / APD: 8.7 s / MWD: 300°

21 October 2010

Kelp Slalom (38th Ave)

Although the late afternoon low tide was probably perfect for Cowells, westside Santa Cruz has been taken over for an entire week by the Coldwater Classic surf contest. Grrr. So we ended up doing the kelp slalom on the eastside.
Luke brought the latest addition to his quiver, a 7'0" Ward Coffey, a remarkable $75 Craigslist find. It's probably similar to the custom board Ward is shaping for me right now, although I think a bit narrower, so I was eager to try it out and swapped him for my 8'3" as soon as he joined me and J-Bird in the lineup. I caught a few short rides with it, and I can't wait to get mine - it's going to be fun!
Pleasure Point from the water at 38th Ave
Back on Magic, I got a lot of long fun rides, both lefts and rights. J-Bird and I shared one right, while Luke paddled his new stick all the way to Pleasure Point to try for some bigger waves. The water was so clear that I had a fascinating glimpse of the world beneath the waves as I flew over the kelpy reef, turning to avoid the thickest clumps of seaweed. As I paddled back out after a nice left, a harbor seal popped up 10 feet away and stared at me with wide eyes before ducking under a wave.

We stayed out until the sun set and it was getting hard to see the surf. Had the clouds parted to let the nearly full moon shine down, the session might've gone longer, although a light breeze was chilling in the dim twilight.

Surfline: A fun sized mix of holding mid period and new/building NW swell is on offer this afternoon as some minimal SW-SSW swell mixes in. Most breaks are good for waist-chest-head high surf, with top exposures pulling in some overhead+ sets. Winds remain light offering up mostly clean conditions as the tide heads for a 4:30pm low. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 14.8 s NW / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 2.9 s SSE / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 9.8 s / MWD: 314°

17 October 2010

Sunrise Service (HMB Jetty)

Attendance was sparse for the sunrise service at the Church of Surf, just me near the front and a couple of dolphins in the back pew.
Today's sermon: When life seems mixed up, your troubles are doubling up and washing back at you, and opportunities are closing out, you can still find a shoulder to lean on and something to make you smile.

Surfline: Mix of holding short-mid period NW swell and holding SSW groundswell. Look for waist-head high+ surf at good NW exposures and waist-shoulder occasional head high sets at good SSW exposures. Peaky for beachbreaks with a good balance to the swell combo. Cleanest early. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 10.0 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 4.8 s NW / WVHT: 6.9 ft / APD: 6.6 s / MWD: 298°

15 October 2010


Trash and a dead seagull at the waterline
Water is the essential element for a surfer. It is the canvas on which we express ourselves, carving the faces of waves formed by distant winds. The ocean can be playful but also dangerous, and requires our full concentration, driving away the worries and cares we shoulder on land. Each wave is unique, as is each rider's dance upon it. The stoke we receive from this close interaction with the ocean cannot be fully understood by those who have never experienced it. We come to crave this contact with the sea, and when there is no swell, or land obligations prevent us from surfing, we get cranky and talk of our gills drying out or needing to dip our mermaid tails in the sea. The drive to surf becomes a hunger, a deep need ranking high as something we require to nurture our souls, fulfilled only by more time on the water.

Ouflow from an abalone farm
But the same ocean waters that give us such pleasure can also do us harm. They may harbor invisible pathogens that cause illnesses such as gastroenteritis, hepatitis, and MRSA. While some localities test beach water quality, reporting is often spotty or untimely, so surfers usually will not know whether the water is unsafe at their break. Health officials advise that contact with ocean water should be avoided for 72 hours following rain to lessen the risk of contacting potentially contaminated runoff. But if the swell is good, and we are jonesing for surf, this is hard advice to follow. It also seems a vague standard, since much will depend on the amount of rain, whether it is the first rain of the season, and the sources of runoff at the particular location. If we could know for certain, most of us would be deterred, but without concrete information, we may gamble that the water is clean.

The water that made me sick
In seven years of surfing, I've avoided the water for a few days after the first heavy rain in the fall, but have sometimes surfed in the rain or in water that was visibly murky from runoff. Only once was I laid low by gastroenteritis, a case of Montezuma's revenge without the surf trip to Mexico. The longboarders' wave at Cowells beach in Santa Cruz is marred by a drainage pipe spilling runoff onto the beach. Although it hadn't rained very recently, those waters were contaminated and sickened me earlier this year.

Horse and manure on the beach
Agriculture and recreational use of animals are additional sources of local water pollution. Farms dot the lonely rural coastline between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, raising cattle, abalone, strawberries and other produce. There are also several horse rental facilities located close to Half Moon Bay State Beach, which runs for miles along the crescent-shaped bay. I have to hope that their wastewater is properly contained. At the southern end of the state park, horses are allowed on the beach, where they deposit feces that are only removed when rain or tide wash them into the ocean. It mystifies me that dog guardians are required to clean up after even the tiniest chihuahua, yet horse riders are not responsible for the much larger piles dropped by their animals. Does the American infatuation with romanticized notions of our western cowboy past create an exemption for manure? It's unlikely that horse dung is somehow safer than dog poop, acceptable in sand used to build castles before a picnic and in water used for swimming and surfing. Believe it or not, there are actually horse diapers available, or perhaps the rental businesses could send out a worker with a shovel to clean up messes. We shouldn't have our shoreline and ocean fouled by a canter along the sand.

Garbage floating in Pillar Point Harbor
My home break is the Jetty at the north end of Half Moon Bay, where plans are underway to dredge the adjacent Pillar Point Harbor and dump the extracted sand over the breakwall to replenish the beach. This is a temporary solution to the erosion of local beaches and the silting of the harbor caused by the creation of a network of protective riprap walls half a century ago. While some say the harbor sediments are safe and will not harm surfers once deposited at our break, I'm skeptical. I've seen what irresponsible boaters dump overboard, and fifty years is a long time to accumulate toxins in a busy harbor.

The water we surf in may be contaminated by runoff, waste or other toxins, but when we paddle hard to catch a wave, pop to our feet quickly and make the drop down the face, that's the last thing on our minds.

This post is in support of Blog Action Day, an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action.

11 October 2010

Dessert (Steamer Lane)

For my fifth surf session in four days, I feasted on the sweet sweet waves of westside Santa Cruz in the warm afternoon sun. I can't believe Huntington Beach has the audacity to claim the mantle of "Surf City USA" over Santa Cruz. I've never surfed HB, but there's no way a mere beach break can compare with the fine quality waves served up by the myriad of kelp-groomed point and reef breaks at the northern end of Monterey Bay.
The Point looked really fun with set waves a foot or two overhead, but it was packed. Cowells wasn't breaking, although I'm sure it turned on later when the tide dropped. Middle Peak was just right, shoulder- to head-high with a light crowd. After a quick but high wave-count session with Nikki, I dashed over to Arrow Surf Shop to drop off Magic for repairs. Hope she's back soon; I'll miss her.

Surfline: WNW swell mix continues to build as new SSW swell also slowly creeps up. Better breaks see mainly waist-chest-shoulder high surf, with a few larger sets for top exposures running head high to slightly overhead. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.8 ft at 11.4 s NW / WIND WAVE: 3.9 ft at 5.3 s NW / WVHT: 10.8 ft / APD: 7.9 s / MWD: 308°

10 October 2010

Jumbled (HMB Jetty)

The swell had picked up again by this morning, and I met J-Bird, Jacob and Darren at the Jetty for a long session. As we surfed, a thick fog slowly parted to bright sunny skies.
The waves were jumbled, doubled- and even tripled-up at times. I rode a couple of fun long lefts and caught a batch of meh waves that quickly closed out or dumped me in a crash. One beautiful head-high left was lost (damn!) when my left hand slipped off on the pop-up; I was gloveless and somehow the wax had disappeared just from that side of my board, perhaps melted in the recent heat. Maybe I'll try sticking a little piece of wax in my keypocket from now on, just in case. Or make sure I'm thoroughly covered before I paddle out, duh.

Cold, tired and hungry, we caravaned to It's Italia for a tasty but slow-serviced lunch. Funny how food always tastes better when you're lightly salted from the ocean.

Surfline: New WNW (280-300) swell builds through the day as small SW swell continues to mix in. Dense coastal fog is making it impossible to get a good look at the surf this morning. Expect better breaks to see generally chest-shoulder-head high surf, as top exposures pull in some occasional larger sets. Winds are steady out of the NW making for mostly jumbled surf. Look for a 6.5'+ high tide to swamp things out by late this morning, peaking just before 1pm. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.2 ft at 12.9 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 5.6 s NW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 7.7 s / MWD: 289°

09 October 2010

My First Custom Surfboard: Enhanced Mini-Magic

My surfing has greatly improved since I got Magic a year ago, but I still have a dream to eventually be a shortboarder, and 8'3" is starting to feel too long at times. I tried my 5'8" Xanadu Rocky hybrid shortboard again recently, and it's a big step down from the longboard. I need a transition board, something in between, to help me get smaller more gradually without sacrificing wave count.

So this afternoon I spent an hour with Santa Cruz shaper Ward Coffey, who was recommended with rave reviews by several friends. Although Magic was shaped by Bob Pearson at Arrow Surf Shop, it's an exact clone of Luke's wife's surfboard, so he didn't need to put any thought into designing it. My new board will be truly custom, shaped with my size, skills and goals in mind.

Ward asked me to bring in all three of my surfboards, and then spent a good amount of time quizzing me on where and how I surf, and where I want to go from here. With the 5'4", 5'8" and 8'3" laid out side-by-side in front of his shop, it was clear that there is a hole in my quiver. On a sad note, he said the crack near Magic's stringer needs to be repaired soon, as the wood could start to suck up water and expand. He told me that if the board wasn't epoxy, the same hit would have caused much more extensive damage. Not that I need any convincing to stick with epoxy for the new board; I like the durability, but I also like that it's lighter and feels more lively under my feet.

I explained that I'm looking for perhaps a shorter version of Magic, with 7'0" as a starting length just because it's about halfway down to my 5'8". Other than that, the board design was in his hands. Ward grabbed a blank and drew an outline of his concept using a number of wood templates, his French curves. Ward agreed that 7'0" is a good length since I swim laps for a mile several times a week and have good paddling strength and endurance. Magic's dimensions will be scaled down, shorter and a little narrower, with similar rocker. The new board will also have a squash tail for more confident turn control over the fins. Instead of Magic's traditional bottom, he's adding a more high-performance type of concave, but nothing as radical as on my 5'8" Rocky. He'll put on Pro Teck Future fins, same as Magic's, so I don't have to order them separately. He was more flexible about color than Pearson since he saw I take good care of my boards, but still wanted to keep it light since epoxy is more heat sensitive. We went inside and he unfurled a thick stack of color samples. The blue I picked is aptly named "By the Ocean."

Ward says the board will be ready in about 4 weeks, in time for my birthday (it's a present to myself). There's a rule that you should double the shaper's estimate, but I'm going to be hopeful that I'll be riding my blue enhanced mini-Magic on my special day.

A Shadow of Yesterday (Kelly Ave)

Thankfully Darren hadn't made it to Davenport to meet up with us yesterday afternoon, but he was keen to do dawn patrol today, and I talked him into Kelly over Linda Mar (eww!) since it had been so much fun at the start of our surf safari. Arriving at the sunny beach half an hour past dawn, I was dismayed to see my car displaying the outside temperature as a nippy 48 degrees. But at least I had a dry wetsuit, falling back on my old Hotline.

The waves still looked decent, if a bit smaller, and again there was no one else out. We rode the friendly rip to the outside, and caught a handful of waves each as the current pushed us northward. The tide was incoming and started to shut it down after a while, causing backwashy mush or jacking closeouts. We paddled our way back to the south where we'd started out, pausing to try for any promising waves, and eating it good a few times. I came up with an inelegant maneuver for backing off of a closeout, which is to simply sit-scoot off the back end of the board into the water, and although it was sucessful I'm grateful Darren didn't have a camera to record it for posterity.
Near our entry point we ended up sharing a peak with the only other guys in the water, a crowd of two. The lulls seemed endless and while Darren caught a wave most of the way in, I ended up paddling myself close to the beach. I was tired on my third surf in just over 24 hours, and cold in my 4/3 Hotline, which seems more leaky than my new Rip Curl. Once out of the water, we saw that the scene had changed dramatically since our session began, with only one peak really working, and a light chop replacing glass.

Surfline: Clean conditions and a small NW/SW swell mix prevailed today. Most breaks were topping out around waist high, while breaks wide open to the swell mix were up to chest-shoulder high on the larger waves. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.0 ft at 10.0 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 0.3 ft at 2.9 s NNW / WVHT: 3.3 ft / APD: 8.7 s / MWD: 296°

08 October 2010

Blowin' in the Wind (Davenport)

After lunch in Half Moon Bay, Dwayne, J-Bird and I parted ways with Dwayne's friend Rush and his East Bay buddy and began to meander down the coast on Highway 1. We knew we had time to kill before the high tide stopped killing the waves, so we stopped off to see the latest coastside tourist attraction, a dead 80-foot blue whale and her fetus. Scientists, who carved a chunk out of her body, believe she was a victim of a nautical hit and run. It was very sad, and very, very smelly. The odor permeated our clothes and lingered in the car for hours.

We checked just about all the spots I know along the Lonely Coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, including Tres Rocas, which wasn't getting enough south swell to break properly. Having exhausted the little known, we turned to the well known breaks. The forecasters had lied, and the wind was coming up, but Davenport looked the best of the lot. Unfortunately, there were already about five surfers on it, and four more headed out as we did a surf check. So we continued on south, all the way to Eastside Santa Cruz, which was next to flat. The Hook was was only waist-high but crowded, with other hopefuls dotting 38th and Pleasure Point, waiting for little waves. Arrgh.
C'mon, let me carry your fish!

Back to Davenport we went, since surely the other surfers must be done by now! Indeed they were; the lineup was empty. We felt a breeze where we parked the car and suited up, but it wasn't until we reached the part of the beach unprotected by the headland that we felt the full force of the sideshore wind. J-Bird and I had trouble holding on to our longboards, and Dwayne only laughed when I suggested we swap so I could carry his fish instead. (Chivarly is dead.) We made it out to the break, then struggled against the wind pushing us away from the peak and down the coast. The water was choppy and whitecaping all around us, truly the windiest surf session I've ever experienced. I was beginning to think this might be my first skunking on Magic since I got it a year ago, but then I paid attention to Dwayne.
The last time I surfed Davenport with Dwayne was 3 years ago, and he kept trying to coax me into moving off of the shoulder and closer to the peak, where he was catching waves. Timid on large waves, unskilled on a shortboard, and lacking in confidence, I didn't do it then. This time I observed that, as at Rachel's Point, you had to be at the peak to catch the wave; shoulder-sitting would get you nada, and Dwayne was proving it out. I paddled to the edge of the broken-wave bubbles near him and waited, and sure enough, a wave came to me and I caught it. A clump of kelp near the shallow take-off zone proved a useful anchor against the near-gale. I got a few more waves, some from too far inside, riding the whitewater down on my belly until the spray cleared enough for me see the way forward and pop up, but one nice long right along the cliff to the shallows of the reef, dropping off the back in a flat-fall over sea grasses. Magic's reputation and my stoke were preserved.
Shivering as I stood on the reef after my last ride, I filmed Dwayne riding, then J-Bird. A windsurfer was sailing out from the beach as we vacated the peak, and he soon took over the spot, using the wind to get onto the waves and surf.

Surfline: Well exposed combo beach-breaks continue to see a fun, peaky mix of mid-period NW swell and old, fading Southerly swell with waist-chest zone waves and occasional shoulder high+ sets. The more sheltered spots are seeing much smaller surf overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 10.0 s NW / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 5.0 s WSW / WVHT: 3.9 ft / APD: 8.2 s / MWD: 307°

Better with Buddies (Kelly Ave)

My first and bestest surf buddy, Dwayne, drove up from SoCal for a wedding this weekend, arriving a day early to surf with me. It was a great excuse to take a day off and comb the coast for surf. With a deep high tide around noon, we needed to get out early, kill some time at midday, and then hit it again on the falling afternoon tide.

Dwayne wanted to see my secret spots, so I thought we'd start our surf safari at "Rachel's Point" and work our way south from there.  In Half Moon Bay we met up with my newest buddy J-Bird, who we also crammed into my MINI, and Dwayne's friend Rush, but Rush had come with an East Bay dude named John, and I wasn't too keen on sharing the special spots with a local stranger. Luckily, I didn't have to. Rachel's Point was looking too mushy for the shortboarders and John knew of it already, so we drove south, stopping at Kelly Ave in Half Moon Bay. It's not a secret spot, but the $10 parking fee for the state park is a deterrent. The guys looked at the waves for barely a minute before figuratively jumping up and down and striding back to our respective vehicles to get suited up. There was no one out, it was glassy under the warm sun, and the waves were around shoulder-high.

We had the entire break to ourselves for the hour-and-a-half we were out, and it was pretty sweet. Dwayne duck-dived his way to a peak while J-Bird and I rode a handy rip current for a dry-hair paddle-out. My hair didn't stay dry for long, though. Just after I reached the lineup, regular-foot Dwayne took a left, and I rode a nice right backside, bailing out before the sand-sucking shorepound. A good time was had by all, and I snagged some good lefts too. One wave I rode too far in, falling into the shorepound and getting sand everywhere, even in my mouth. I also earned the prize for best wipeout, getting barreled while free-falling. (Sadly, I landed on my board, and while my bruises will heal, it's got a significant ding perilously close to the wood stringer, which I'll have to get repaired soon.) Backwash from the rising tide started to limit the fun after a while, and with the four others watching from the beach, I caught my last wave, sticking the nose on the steep drop (D'oh!) and crashing (too much pressure?!) then getting a fast belly ride in past the shorepound for a graceful exit. It was time for a long lunch break, waiting for the tide to turn.
Surfline: Well exposed combo beach-breaks continue to see a fun, peaky mix of mid-period NW swell and old, fading Southerly swell with waist-chest zone waves and occasional shoulder high+ sets. The more sheltered spots are seeing much smaller surf overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 11.4 s NW / WIND WAVE: 0.3 ft at 3.2 s WSW / WVHT: 3.9 ft / APD: 9.1 s / MWD: 308°

02 October 2010

Pushing Boundaries (Rachel's Point)

When I pulled into the parking lot near "Rachel's Point", Luke was changing into his wetsuit behind his truck. I rolled down my window to ask how the surf looked, and he said, "It's double-overhead." Aaah!
Climbing the hill to survey the ocean myself from the top of the bluff, I found J-Bird and Jacob already checking the waves. I didn't see any roll through that were 2xOH, but they assured me they'd seen some too. Folks on the outer peak, mostly shortboarders, didn't seem to be catching much, and there was an inner peak that was smaller, about head-high+, with no one on it. While we were ruminating, Luke passed by on his way to the surf, gun in hand. J-Bird and Jacob decided to try farther south, and I could have gone to the much smaller but crowded Jetty. But I didn't; I decided to go for it.

There was a time, not long ago, when I would have been scared shitless to paddle out into and try to catch overhead waves. But that barrier has been broken with the handful of bigger waves I've ridden recently, and by my confidence in riding Magic. So I suited up and hauled my 8'3" up and over the hill to the beach. I was surprised and concerned to see Luke already on his way back to the parking lot, but he said he was just tired, and that I'd be fine out there. I felt some trepidation facing DOH waves without a buddy, but I was already on my way.

At the beach, a blond woman was just coming out of the water as I strapped on my leash and helmet, and she walked over to introduce herself. Kerri was a local and said she hadn't seen other girls at that break, which I told her I'd surfed a few times before. She seemed a bit unhappy with her session, having ceded several waves to a particular guy who kept dropping in on her, but she wished me better luck.

Luke about to paddle out
I had a dry hair paddle-out via the channel, dunking underwater when I reached the lineup because I was feeling hot in my new Rip Curl 4/3 on a 60-degree day. Once there, I did paddle for some of the big ones. Trouble was, they were shifty, mushing out and hard to get into, and I wasn't ever in the right spot given the crowd of nine in the lineup. A dude on a big orange SUP was absolutely killing it, but rides were few for everyone else, and I heard some grumbling about it "shutting down", "probably the tide's too low now," and "haven't gotten one since I've been out here." So I don't feel too bad, but I wanted to ride something, and moved to the inside peak.

Just like before at this break, the inside peak was jacking, and I wasn't able to land the steep drops on the few lefts I caught in the greenwater. I got one fun fast ride catching the whitewater reform on an outside bomb, and a few other short ones. The inside was choppier, and my board felt like a skipping stone on a couple waves as I got bounced along and off my ride. But sitting inside has its dangers, when the huge outside sets rolled through. Paddling like mad toward the horizon, I realized I wouldn't make it when a DOH wave detonated just in front of me, and I turtled Magic. But there is no turtling a wave like that. I was flipped and spun, the board soon torn from my grasp, pushed deep and invoking my "DON'T PANIC" mantra when the holddown went on too long. Somehow my leash was in my hand, and I climbed it hand-over-hand to reach my board, the surface, the air. I paddled back out for more, until I was too tired to play with the beast any longer. Muscles aching all over my body, I felt a bit like I'd been in a fight, but it was worth it to push the limits of my comfort zone. Next time, I will go farther.

Surfline: Long period NW groundswell peaks with shoulder-head high to 2-3' overhead range at well exposed spots, although inconsistent at times. Standouts deepwater breaks produce occasional plus sets. Small SW swell mixes in the background. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.2 ft at 14.8 s W / WIND WAVE: 2.0 ft at 5.0 s WNW / WVHT: 7.5 ft / APD: 8.3 s / MWD: 281°

29 September 2010

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun (38th Ave)

The Hook looked really nice but awfully crowded in the late afternoon.
38th Ave was a bit less clean, but there were only a few surfers out and waves were going unridden. It was an easy choice.
I lost count after eight solid rides. My wave of the day was two-for-one, a right I pumped through a flat section into a left for an amazing fun ride. Stoked!
The crowd had swelled to more than two dozen by the time Luke and J-Bird arrived. As the sun set, they rode a wave in together. 

Surfline: 2-3 ft+ occ. 4 ft. Solid WNW swell slowly eases as small SW swell and old WNW swell continue to mix in. Good breaks see shoulder-head high+ surf, as top exposures pull in mainly 2-3' overhead surf, with some lingering plus sets. Conditions remain semi-mostly clean across the region this afternoon, with only the most exposed breaks showing some light surface bump/texture. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 12.9 s W / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.8 s NW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 9.3 s / MWD: 277°

25 September 2010

Third Time's the Charm (Waddell)

This morning our little surf posse formed up in Half Moon Bay and we drove in caravan down Highway 1: Luke in his big truck, just-arrived-yesterday East Coast transplants J-Bird and Jacob, me and Scott, and Nikki in her new Subaru. We checked Tres Rocas and Gazos Creek (not necessarily in that order), but neither was tempting and they had some nasty shorepound. Continuing south, Luke pulled over just before the Waddell parking lot, where some tasty waves were breaking beside the road. We suited up, clambered down the boulders armoring the highway, and hit the water on a hot sunny day at the start of Autumn.
The only crowd was us.
Nikki, Luke and J-Bird
For a change Waddell was good to me. Quite good, in fact. It was a bit lully which let me get to the outside without much difficulty. The waves were shoulder- to head-high with decent form, and I rode a bunch of nice lefts. Stokeful! A good time was had by all.

Tyler was already in the water on his orange shortboard when we paddled out. Luke swapped boards with him for a bit but didn't get much joy, and went back to his Strive. I was trying out my brand new Pentax Optio W90 waterproof camera (replacing the flooded W80), but sadly, video of one of Luke's good rides fell victim to operator error, stop/start mixup due to difficulty reading the LCD screen in sunlight. (Sorry, buddy. Next time.)

Surfline: Building new NW groundswell set up head high to overhead surf at well exposed spots, while other areas saw a smaller share of that swell along with a minor mix of NW windswell and trace SW groundswell. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 12.1 s NW / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.3 s NW / WVHT: 5.2 ft / APD: 6.8 s / MWD: 318°