28 February 2010

A Fine Summer Day in February (Capitola)

Sunny and in the 60s, with a good swell in the water. Who could ask for anything more? But to top it off, there was a light crowd, perhaps due to the US-Canada Olympic hockey match. I love it when TV sports empty the lineup.
Lowering tide made the break quite kelpy. One promising ride was brought to an early and abrupt end when kelp grabbed my fins, stopping my board dead in the water while I continued, flying off the front to a hard water landing. Happily, the crowd continued to fall with the tide, which was nearing a negative low by the time I left. I was able to move into a better position, catching waves inside or very near the breaking peak, then turning onto the unbroken face. I got a nice left and two long and fun rights, plus a gaggle of other rides. Très stoked!
Surfline: 3-5 ft. WNW(265-295) swell is our source of surf. Plenty of waves on tap this afternoon with solid 6-10'+ surf making it through. S wind is creating slightly textured/crumbly conditions, but most areas remain plenty rideable. Buoy 46012: 11.8 ft @ 14.3 sec.
 ~ ~ ~
Yesterday the California coast was under a tsunami advisory after the huge earthquake in Chile. Per the National Weather Service, "Tsunami advisories mean that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near water is imminent of expected. Significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas in an advisory." So of course we drove to Half Moon Bay at the anticipated time of arrival to watch from a safe distance. But nothing happened. And that's a good thing.

25 February 2010

Bye-Bye Boardie (HMB Jetty)

As I stared down a four-foot cliff from the top of a closeout, I knew it was unlikely I'd land the drop. A brief thrashing later, I surfaced without that familiar tug on my ankle, and saw my Magic board receding as the waves pushed it toward the riprap wall. I felt bereft, so small and alone in the wide ocean.
It was only the second time my leash has ever come undone. The first time my surf buddy Dwayne was there to help me retrieve my wayward surfboard. This time I had to swim all the way in for it. Luckily the waves dissipated in the shallows, sparing it from a beating on the rocks. Reunited, we headed back out for more.

Surfline: Solid WNW groundswell is easing this afternoon but good breaks continue to see head high+ waves while standouts are up to double overhead and occasionally larger on sets. Buoy 46012: 7.9 ft @ 11.1 sec.

20 February 2010

Board, Bike & Boats (Cowells/Indicators)

Wish I'd gotten one like the guy in the video. But it was crowded where it was decent, and too mushy/blown out where it wasn't crowded - plus for whatever reason I was kooking it up today. So I got only one good wave. On the up side, with my new board I'm feeling more comfortable on slightly OH waves, as long as they're on the gentle side.

A little Magic... but it was a better day for sailing.
 Hers 'n' his toys... making the MINI Cooper turn even more heads.
Surfline: W swell picked up further this morning with overhead waves at many breaks and sets to double overhead at standout spots. W wind is on the rise and will hurt surface conditions. Buoy 46012: 9.2 ft @ 12.5 sec.

17 February 2010

A Rare Treat (HMB Jetty)

A power outage this morning caused my company to shut down and free us from our cubicles for the day. While I'm saddened by the cause (a nearby fatal small plane crash), I appreciated the opportunity for a rare surf session in the middle of a work day. Even better, it was sunny, warm, and almost windless, so I shed rubber down to a 4/3.

Nikki said she'd be there but I arrived a bit late and had to try to find her in the water. About a dozen surfers were clustered at the main peak near the Jetty, with a few that didn't look like her scattered farther down the beach. I got denied trying to get out at the main with my 8'3" - I almost made it to the lineup, but then a bigger outside closeout tumbled me ass-over-teakettle nearly back to the beach, exhausted and gasping from the holddown.
Anyway it looked better on another peak (really!), farther south and sans crowd, with the bonus of a little rip to help me out. Still, I was only successful getting through the whitewater twice. At beach breaks on shorter period, bigger swell days like today, I think I'm going to have to leave the Magic at home and take out a shorter board. It's too big to duck-dive and turtle-rolling, while mildly helpful, sends obscene amounts of water up my nose, plus I can't get back on board in time to make much headway before the next wave comes.

Still, the times I did get out were well worth the effort. I caught a couple of long, sweet lefts almost to the beach. So much better than being in the office! 

Surfline: 5-6 ft. Light and variable north winds with smooth seas. Mid-period WNW swell is mixing with a small SW swell today. Well exposed spots are mainly around head high with some overhead sets. Buoy 46012: 8.2 ft @ 12.5 sec.

15 February 2010

Thank You, Mr. Presidents (Capitola)

I got some great rides at Capitola on Presidents' Day afternoon. The best was a long left I worked from the outside through to the inside and almost to the beach.
For my last wave in, I did a two-parter: a right from the outside got me halfway there, then within a minute I caught a left to take me most of the rest of the way.
A large helping of stoke with a lovely sunset on top!

Surfline: 3-5 ft. Mostly sunny skies and pumping surf are on hand this afternoon as WNW swell slowly eases and some underlying SW swell mixes in. The tide is dropping so look for spots that can handle the size and like a lower tide to turn on this afternoon. Better breaks have chest-head high+ surf, with some solid overhead to double-overhead+ sets making it through the most exposed spots. Buoy 46012: 10.5 ft @ 14.3 sec.

13 February 2010

Mavericks Contest '10

I woke up too early on contest day, too excited to sleep longer, but I needed an early start anyway to get into Half Moon Bay ahead of the crowds. I picked up my press badge at a hotel on the way to the break. (Yes, this little ol' blog transforms me into grrrl reporter, respected member of the media. But more on that later.)

Including the hotel stop, it took the better part of half an hour to walk from my car through the closed streets of Princeton-by-the-Sea, past Jeff Clark's surf shop, and along the muddy dirt road to the beach fronting Mavericks.
Just inside the breakwall, the area in front of the scoreboard and stage was a wet and muddy sandpit.
All this would soon be gone.
With the first heat about to start, one guy had just returned from a free surf session.
Luke arrived before dawn to claim a prime viewing spot on the bluff. I clambered up the slippery slope to find him, using my hands in the damp dirt for the last twenty feet to keep from sliding back down the hill. (Along with thousands of spectators, just doing my part to assist natural erosion.)  At the top, the bluff edge was five people deep, and it took me fifteen minutes to locate Luke. He had a DSLR with telephoto lens; photos are here.
I smiled sweetly and wormed my way into a small space behind Luke's chair, making sure to clear it with the folks behind. One nice thing about being short is that I rarely block anyone's view. I stayed a respectable distance from the cliff edge, as it was a long way down.
The bluff was a great vantage point, well worth Luke getting up at 4 am to secure. Binoculars were essential.
The view from the top.
Look at the height of that spray!
Riding the beast.
The tide was rising to a 6-foot high mid-morning, and we watched from above as waves surged multiple times over the breakwall, wondering why people weren't being kept back from the danger zone. Later we heard that more than a dozen people had been knocked down and injured by a large wave (video). Tents were pushed over, and hot dogs floated in the surge.
The aftermath of the flood. Ironically, the red sign warns about rogue waves. It seems this was much bigger news nationally than the contest itself, as my East Coast relatives heard about it and called to make sure I was OK.
Eventually I had to find a Porta Potty which required a trip down the hill. Unfortunately for me (but luckily for the environment) none were located near the water, so I had to walk to the end of the dirt road, past ambulances ferrying out the injured.
Business completed, I tried to return to the bluff by way of the beach, but was stopped by the police, who were not letting anyone back in. As with airport security, the authorities were making a show of protecting the public too late. They should have kept people from the beach and breakwall through the high tide, which carried obvious risks that were borne out by a woman's broken leg and scores of other injuries and damage. But now the tide had turned and the main danger of rogue waves was past; they needed only to keep the public a safe distance from the waterline. Not one to willingly to submit to stupidity, I tried another access point via the dirt parking lot where a lonely volunteer blocked the way. He saw my press badge and waved me through. Halfway down the dirt road I was stopped again by a horse officer, who saw my badge but demanded to know who I worked for before he would authorize me to pass. I contemplated upgrading my blog to "Surfergrrrl Magazine" to seem more credible, but "I'm with the media" was good enough for him. Ha! That little piece of plastic did come in handy. And yet, I saw that the blockade was quite porous, as a bunch of people sans badges were able to slip through to the beach too.

Contestants get jetski rides to the break, half a mile offshore.
Non-contestants, like this woman, have to paddle out on their own. It didn't look easy to get a big wave gun through the sizeable whitewater. I've been trying to get in touch with some of the women who ride mountains, and I'd heard that Maya Gabeira was coming to Mavericks with a photographer. I hoped to somehow find her, or perhaps get to talk to contestant and finalist Carlos Burle, her big-wave surfing buddy from Brazil. But that seemed impossible on the day, especially when I saw women heading for the break. D'oh! Of course, she came to surf, not to watch.

More freesurfers heading out as the contest wound down. Unfortunately the early heats had better waves.
Some equipment didn't make it through the finals.
I think this is Alex Martins, a local surfer from San Francisco.
Another woman on her way to surf Mavericks after the contest, maybe Savannah Shaughnessy, a 20-year-old big wave charger from Santa Cruz. By the finals, they had opened the road to the beach again, and a newly-arrived woman behind me mentioned that her daughter Savannah was out in the water. Hopefully next time the contest organizers will invite women to compete, instead of de facto insisting that the surfers must have balls literally as well as figuratively. 
The results.

11 February 2010

Mavericks is On! Know Before You Go

The not-quite-annual big wave contest is on for this Saturday in my own backyard, just around the corner from my home break. I'll be there, of course.

If you go, bring binoculars because Mavericks is a good distance offshore. The streets of Princeton-by-the-Sea will be closed, so be prepared for bad traffic and a long walk, or you can pay $15 to park at the Half Moon Bay airport and take a "free" shuttle in. The contest takes place in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the shoreline and cliffs are fragile, sensitive ecosystems; please remember to tread lightly and pack out your trash.

There are plenty of other viewing options if you're not local or want to skip the hassles: webcast, FLO TV, Facebook, and a huge screen at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Check the Mavericks website for more info.

Women Who Surf Mountains

I've lamented before that women are excluded from the invitees' list of big wave surf contests such as Mavericks, and the recent Quiksilver Eddie as well. It's not as if there are no qualified female surfers. For example, Maya Gabeira, Layne Beachley (retired), Sarah Gerhardt, Jenny Useldinger, Jamilah Star, Savannah Shaughnessy, Keala Kennelly, Kim Hamrock, Mercedes Maidana, and Maria Souza are all big-wave riders. They're not named, but this Surfline video shows "quite a few women were out charging" Waimea on a day with large waves but conditions too poor to hold the Eddie contest. And here' s Jamilah on a Mavericks bomb in '08. Yet the Eddie in December was male only, no grrrls allowed; likewise for the Mavericks contest, which may run this weekend.

Watch Maya at Teahupoo:

Maya began surfing 3-story waves at Waimea, site of the Eddie contest. She was inspired by Jamilah Starr, who in 2004 had to catch one more monster wave and paddle in, ceding the break to the male invitees of the Eddie. Maya has also paddled into 25-footers at Mavericks, and traveled the world to ride at other major big-wave breaks. Are all the male invitees of the Eddie and Mavericks contests as qualified as she to compete on monster waves? Hmm.

This article details Maya's accomplishments but also suggests that she's at the forefront of women breaking into the boys' big wave-riding club. That may be so, as others such as Keala Kennelly haven't been able to line up essential sponsor support. I would posit this has less to do with the womens' skill and potential than with their gender, as the boys' club draws from the boys' pool. Like any profession where sexism is entrenched, it tends to self-perpetuate.

The Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards just added a Girls Performance category. Check out these women who surf mountains. And let's hope that the next year brings some female faces to the lineups of the big wave contests.

10 February 2010

Moguls (HMB Jetty)

I almost put off dawn patrol until tomorrow, but I'm glad I didn't. I met up with Nikki and Luke and we had fun at the Jetty, where there were 3 peaks working to various degrees. I had my eye on the best one farthest to the south, but by the time we got out it was already taken.
Me, pointing to the nicer peak: It looks better over there, but there's already 5 people on it.
Luke: Yeah, it's always better over there. No matter where  "there" is, it's always better.
The air was only in the 40s but I was toasty in my new 5/4 Hotline PhoenixX wetsuit. With the tide very high, around 6 feet, there was a lot of backwash to keep thing interesting. I got some nice rides, mostly lefts. One wave had a bunch of water moguls, but I rode through them. Fun! It's so great that I'm not getting skunked anymore since I got my new Magic board, and in fact usually pull some pretty fine rides from even middling conditions.

Surfline: A deep high tide just before 8am keeps most breaks jumbled and slow through mid-morning as mid period WNW(270-290) swell continues. Better breaks across the region have waist-chest-head high surf, while top exposures pull in some overhead+ sets. Buoy 46012: 7.9 ft @ 11.1 sec.

07 February 2010

Super Surf Sunday (Cowells/Indicators)

While the masses were engaged in the trivial pursuit of watching men in tights chase a pointy ball around a big field, I went surfing. I was rewarded with a peak to myself at Cowells, a rare treat indeed.

Luke was leaving as I headed out. In response to the standard query, "How was it?" he replied, "Weird." It wasn't weird so much as just different. The winter storms have piled up sand at the base of the cliff, forming a new beach and changing the way the wave breaks at Cowells. 
From the Cowells stairs it's a short paddle to the new beach, which provides entry to Indicators and outer Cowells. I started off there but kept thinking about the inner Cowells wave I'd seen from the stairs. It was occassionally A-framing and as the crowd thinned, there was no one left on it. I paddled inside and found that the wave was shifty and inconsistent, with the small take-off zone a moving target. It was good practice with no worries about traffic, and I got a bunch of short rights, including a couple I didn't think I'd make as the waves broke pretty much on top of me. On one, I closed my eyes as the whitewater crashed down around my head, but pulled the nose up and landed the drop on my belly, so I jumped up and rode. Paddling back, I saw something yellow bobbing in the water. Part of an old boat fender, maybe? Then I looked at my armband and saw it was missing the yellow camera float - and the camera too! I snatched the yellow float from the water and was relieved to see the Pentax still attached. Whew, lucky. Next time, I need a redundant strap holding the camera to my person.

Past kickoff time for the Super Bowl, I noticed the crowd had much diminished farther out. I made the long paddle back towards Indicators wanting to catch a nicer wave as my last of the session. A closeout bomb detonated outside of me and I turned to catch it, a sizzling fast ride past and alongside the new beach.

The drive home along the coast offered the usual stunning scenery, and a sky show too.
Waddell Creek near sunset
Surfline: Textured, crumbly surf on tap this afternoon. Waves are still going shoulder high to several feet overhead. Mix of mid period WNW swell and building, long period NW swell. Buoy 46012: 8.9 ft @ 12.5 sec.

03 February 2010

Ahead of the Storm (HMB Jetty)

Windy wet weather is forecast tomorrow into the weekend, so I got in another surf session before the storm.
The sectiony waves made it challenging, but I pulled off three solid rides and re-upped my stoke.
Surfline: WNW swell was easing through the day as well exposed breaks picked up chest-head high+ surf while standouts produced well overhead waves and some larger sets at times. Buoy 46012: 6.9 ft @ 12.5 sec.