31 January 2010

Kelp-elicious (Capitola)

The tides were extreme today (Dogman explains why here), falling quickly from nearly a 7-foot high in the late morning to a negative 1-foot low at sunset. The swell on the San Mateo County coast was looking to big for me, so I made the trek to Santa Cruz for a low-tide session, this time to the Eastside, since I haven't been there in a while and was missing my favorite beach town. After so much stormy weather, it was nice to have to put on sunscreen and to spend a warm sunny afternoon on the water.
I started off messing around on inside reforms, generally going left since almost everyone else was going right, and got some fun rides. I was happy when I rode my board over the edge into a 3' drop, made the landing (yay!) and bottom-turned into a nice left.
After a while I wanted some clean greenwater and paddled to the the outside. I'd forgotten what a drag (literally) the kelp can be on low tide at Capitola, and coming up on the ultra-low made it even worse. I found a fairly clear spot where I could turn for a wave without my legs becoming ensnared, but the few waves I caught were marred by kelp speed bumps, so I made my way back to the funner ones on the inside where there was considerably less seaweed. I stayed out for two hours, until the time was up on my parking meter - really a little past, but luckily I drove away just as the parking patrol came by. Smiles all around!

Surfline: 1-2 ft, ankle to knee high occ. 3 ft. Some fun waves out there this afternoon from fading but solid West-WNW swell, most areas stay soft and swampy overall. Expect overhead sets at the decent locations with generally light wind and semi-clean conditions. Buoy 46012: 6.9 ft @ 11.1 sec.

27 January 2010

Surfing in Cold Tea (HMB Jetty)

There's no better way to start the day than in the ocean, watching the sunrise from my surfboard.

The water this morning was like old tea with leaves floating in it. And branches, water-logged planks, kelp floats and other debris big and small. Again I had the Jetty all to myself, since my buddy made the poor decision to sleep instead of surf. The 4-5' waves had significantly cleaned up (in the other sense of the word) but were still a bit disorganized and shifty, with high-tide backwash. I lined up with the "Contaminated Water" sign and got a handful of rides in a short time, and had partial success landing some late-takeoff drops. The new Magic surfboard continues to live up to its name.

Surfline: The surf has cleaned up quite a bit overnight as WSW/WNW (primarily 280-290+) swell fades. Most better breaks across the region are seeing surf in the shoulder high to overhead zone. Winds are light early, although this mornings nearly 7' high tide is adding some bump/warble to the mix. Water temp: 32°F (whaaa?!!) Buoy 46012: 6.9 ft @ 11.1 sec.

24 January 2010

Any Wave in a Drought (HMB Jetty)

This year hasn't started out well surfwise. It's almost the end of the month, and counting today, I've only surfed 3 times. On the first session I hurt my arm, and the second was likely where I contracted a bacterial infection, Montezuma's Revenge without the Mexican vacation, that laid me low for more than a week. Then California was pounded by "a siege of storms," as the New York Times put it, which made the surf wild and dirty. The rains finally stopped early yesterday and are due to start up again imminently, so I just had to get wet this morning.

The empty Jetty looked hungover, still disorganized and sloppy, and the water had an unhealthy red-brown hue. But there were a few shoulders showing and the wind was light. Plus I hadn't surfed in 15 long days, so it looked good (enough) to me. Walking out, I found the high wave action has rearranged the bottom, exposing rocks, building sandbars and digging trenches. I hadn't realized how weak and unconditioned I am after my illness, but I lacked the strength to fight to the outside. I gave up and caught inside whitewater reforms, riding a couple badly and then nailing a fine right. The current kept sucking me south until I reached a spot with easy outside access, but the shoulders were shifty and elusive, and my strength was about spent. I bodyboarded in to the rock-studded beach with a smile on my face. Ah, I feel much better now!

Surfline: Surf from W swell was still good size today, but definitely down from the past few days. Wind was fairly light out of the S/SE and many breaks picked up at least head high waves, while top breaks were up to double overhad in the morning.

09 January 2010

A Rant and A Rave (Cowells)

Rave first: My new 8'3" Arrow-Petty hybrid board continues to deliver lots of fun rides. Even in the crowd, I had a bunch of really good ones today, mostly lefts with the odd right. The best was a broken outside wave that I caught into a long and fast reform. It sent me flying down the line all the way to the beach, where I ditched before the shallows into surprisingly warm water and surfaced with a stoked smile and a "woo hoo!" Luke got some good rides too, like this one.

Now the rant: Santa Cruz Surf School needs to teach its instructors some surf manners. As I rode a left past a group of their orange-shirted newbies, I heard an instructor to my left calling "Paddle! Paddle!" before he and one of his students caught my wave, forcing me to turn straight toward the beach. Fortunately the newbie quickly fell and the instructor bailed with him so I was able continue my ride, but come on! It's right on the sign they passed on their way to the break: "First surfer on wave has right of way." I could forgive a beginner the mistake, but shame on the instructor. Santa Cruz Surfing School gets an "F" in basic surf etiquette.

Surfline: A strong storm has been whipping up a solid shot of W-WNW groundswell. Surf will be on the rise throughout California on Friday with good swell and conditions holding throughout the weekend. Wind NNW at 3 kts.

05 January 2010

On Being More Like My Kitten

When we adopted 4-month-old Zoe from the shelter two weeks ago, she quickly revealed the basic tenets of her young life:
  1. Be fearless.
  2. Take risks.
  3. Break things.
These were demonstrated by her enthusiastic and thorough examination of the bathroom where she had been temporarily sequestered, which culminated in the crashing of glass as she toppled a vase we thought was out of reach. (Bad kitty parents!)

I decided to emulate Zoe's first two tenets in my surfing. I am often timid, especially since I permanently injured my back going over the falls at Linda Mar, and I don't push myself to take chances. Consequently, my skills progress is slow, at times seemingly glacial. I occasionally surprise myself when I pull off a move I didn't think I could do, which makes me wonder what I could accomplish I only I didn't tend to wait for the almost perfect situations.

So, for surfing in the new year, I will be fearless and take risks. But hopefully I won't break things.

04 January 2010

Dolphins: The Cove Movie

Friday morning was cool, overcast and gloomy, and the coast at Three Mile was deserted. Due to the high high tide, Rus and I had to make a long paddle out to the point from the nearest available strip of sand. He outpaced me with his webbed gloves and longer board, and I found myself pulling steadily alone across murky green-blue water punctuated by the odd kelp plant, da dum, da dum theme music playing in my head. And then - a fin! It broke the surface between me and my distant buddy and was gone. Rapid-fire mental fin identification pegged it as dolphin (right? I hope?!), which Rus confirmed when I reached him at the lineup. Whew. Friend, not foe.

And some time ago there was the magical day at Linda Mar that prompted this soliloquy:
Dawn at the beach. Air almost 50 degrees, water slightly warmer. Full moon hanging over the ocean, sun rising from the hills. Swell gently lifting my surfboard a little closer to the sky as it passes by on its way to touch the beach. Icy water trickling down the front of my wetsuit. Feet going numb from the cold despite neoprene booties and thermal socks. Two dolphins in the lineup chase silver fish, who leap into the air in a swirling mass, sparkling in the first rays of the sun. Then "pwwwfff!" as another dolphin surfaces and exhales not a dozen feet from me, before gracefully sliding back under the water. What a great way to start the day!
If you've likewise enjoyed the companionship of wild dolphins while surfing, you should see this movie, which I watched on the flight to Sydney. Check out the trailer below and get more info here.

01 January 2010

Feliz Año Nuevo - Although I Didn't Surf There* (Three Mile)

Our new kitten woke me up when the new year was just four hours old, a bit earlier than necessary for the first dawn patrol of 2010. I left my new surfboard on the wall and put my fish in the car. With my iPod filled with new music, I drove dark and empty highways to Santa Cruz to meet my new surf buddy Rus, the DogMan. We watched the clouds turn pink at Steamer Lane as the sun rose on the new year, then made our way out of town to a new break for me, Three Mile. The tide was high and going higher, and a new swell was building in.

Remembering my new resolutions - no, let's call them aspirations - to be more like the new kitten (Take Risks. Be Fearless), I followed Rus on a long paddle out to the right point break, and tried to take off on some head-high waves.

On the first one, I went over the falls and whacked my upper arm hard into one of Nemo's fins. I'm grateful for the protection of 3mm of neoprene plus a rash guard since I wasn't cut, just majorly bruised. I tried for some more waves while Rus rode a handful, including one with a massive drop he happily landed. But despite the cold water, my arm started to protest being forced to do any work, and it was time to bag it for the long paddle back to the beach. My 2010 rides will come another day.   

*Title borrowed from the Stokemaster.

Surfline: Fresh new West-WNW swell move into California for the New Year. A small SW swell will also be running in the background. Wind NNE at 3 kts.