28 March 2010

Playing with the Bull (HMB Jetty)

Daylight Savings Time, afternoon winds, and a busy work schedule conspired to keep me out of the water during the past week, and yesterday I swam for SurfAid. So I just had to get wet today, especially since winter is about to hurl perhaps its last storm at us.

The storm is being preceded by 20-second period groundswell that was forecast to start filling in this afternoon. I hoped for a mellow Magic session, a preview of summer, at one of the Half Moon Bay State Beaches. But Buoy 46012, which had been steady at just over 4 feet, jumped almost 3 feet from 8 to 9 am, and by the time I reached the beach in the late morning, it was reading over 8 feet and still rising. When I saw waves breaking on the outer bars, I knew mellow was out, but I checked Dunes anyway. There were a few surfers in the water and some head-high+ shoulders to be had, if you stayed out of the way of the big pitching closeouts. But it was no place for me with my 8'3" hybrid, so I drove on to the Jetty in search of less size.

Video and photo taken with my new Google Nexus One smartphone. Yeah, it's pretty cool.

The Jetty wasn't that much smaller on sets, and seemed more disorganized. Despite being just past high tide, the waves were steep, and shoulders were shifty and elusive. Starting near the jetty proper, I crashed and rolled on some powerful closeouts, then locked into a fast fun left. It was my best (and only) ride, but I kept trying, until one mighty wave rag-dolled me, dragging me by the ankle behind my longboard. It was such a strong and long tumble that the immortal words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy flashed in my mind ("DON'T PANIC"), and I had to will calm, reminding myself it would be over soon so I'd be able to breathe again. I later heard from Manabu that two surfers broke their longboards this morning on one of the well-overhead cleanout sets. Powerful swell.

Humbled, I moved farther down the beach in search of a smaller bull (or perhaps a tame cow) to play with, but didn't find anything but unruly closeouts. Still, that one nice left re-upped my stoke. And it was another lovely California day, so I ain't complainin'.

Surfline: Steadily building new WNW swell fills in with bigger surf, plenty of head high+ waves. Buoy 46012: 8.2 ft @ 20 sec - 11.8 ft @ 16.7 sec.

22 March 2010

Women Who Surf Big Waves: Billabong XXL Video Highlights

Billabong XXL entries include locals Savannah Shaughnessy and Jamilah Star riding California bombs.

For a while, I've been asking why no women are invited to compete at Mavericks. This can be at least partly explained by the insular (incestuous?) method for choosing the competitors. According to @Mavericks_Surf, contestants from the prior year automatically return, and they select the rest. This doesn't give up-and-comers, including female big-wave chargers, much of a chance.

20 March 2010

A Taste of Summer (HMB Jetty)


The first day of spring brought a hint of summer, with small waves and nice weather. Since I'd tried unsuccessfully to get out for a surf Thursday (stuck at work) and Friday (stuck in traffic), I was determined to make it to the beach today.

The diminutive size of the swell removed the figurative "Closed for Winter" signs from many breaks that have been too big and unruly for months, opening up the possibilities for surfing in Half Moon Bay and beyond. I checked Dunes first, but late in the day, an onshore breeze was crumbling the waves. I drove north to the Jetty to find a little more shelter. The swell was crossed up and positioning was a bit of a challenge, but it was good to wash away the stresses of a busy week on some fun waves.

Surfline: Fun zone mix of WNW and SSW groundswells set up waist-shoulder high surf for lots of spots while top breaks were hitting head high plus. Buoy 46012: 4.6 ft @ 16.7 sec.

16 March 2010

Please Support Me in SurfAid's Swim 4 Humanity

Thanks to all who supported me in this effort, donating over $700 to SurfAid. That's a lot of mosquito nets!

Did you know only $10 will provide a mosquito net to protect a family from malaria for 5 years?

Swim 4 Humanity is a fundraising event benefiting SurfAid International. Hosted in eight U.S. cities on the west and east coasts from March to May 2010, monies raised will go towards SurfAid's humanitarian programs. Prior to the event, participating teams and individuals get sponsored by friends and family for a 30-minute swim at one of the swimming pool venues. Please click here to sponsor me.

SurfAid International is a non-profit humanitarian organization whose aim is to improve the health, well-being and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.


14 March 2010

I Heart My Gath Surf Helmet (Cowells/Indicators)

Today I had a fun 3-hour session on the Magic with Luke, Tracey and Veronica, plus Jen, but it would have been a much different afternoon if I wasn't wearing my Gath surf helmet. Cowells was ridiculously crowded on a sunny Sunday. Early on, a kook on a SoftTop launched his board right at my head when he tried to catch a closeout. Though I put my hands up to fend off his board, it still conked me hard on the side of my head. But I was able to yell at him and paddle on, instead of falling unconscious or bruised and bleeding, thanks to my Gath.

Jen at the end of a ride.

At Cowells, I was surfing with 100 of my closest friends (video) - 102 if you count the surfing dogs. In the course of the long session, the head hit was followed by a softish neck blow from a gromette's small SoftTop, which ended up resting sideways on the nose of my board. The little girl just minutes before had said admiringly, "Nice helmet!" but the Gath does not offer neck protection. Toward the end, when Tracey and I were taking off on the same wave, I ran into her rail with my fin and dinged it - D'oh! - but not too badly though I felt bad for taking out her board. Good thing also that I have Pro Teck fins, or the damage would've been worse. She sprinted back to Luke's truck, in which the four of us had carpooled, grabbed the Petty from which my Magic is cloned, and came back for more.

Tracey going for it.

There were fun moments in the pack, like the time I was forced left by another rider to my right, and threaded the needle between two grom spongers screaming "Aaaaah!" With the Magic 8'3", I'm much more comfortable in a mob of surfers. I have confidence because I have control, and so long as my takeoff zone is clear, I can turn my way through the obstacle course in the water. And I managed many fine rides, including a nice long one all to myself, out on the smooth shoulder.

Tiring of the slalom, Tracey and I for a time sought out some shorter and kelpy but emptier rides at Indicators (video). Though I got a good long ride there as well and a handful of quick ones, it was windier and cooler around the corner, so we came back for a last round of surfing in the chaotic camaraderie of Cowells. Then, famished, we all quietly scarfed Mexican food followed by fro-yo (no-dairy Rocky Road for me). A heartily satisfying half-day of surfing!

Surfline: A fading, but solid WNW-NW groundswell is on tap across the region. Many of the better North Hemi exposed locations offer head high to 2-3' overhead waves this morning with calm to light offshore winds for most of the region, whereas a seabreeze prevails this afternoon. Buoy 46012: 7.2 ft @ 12.5 sec.

09 March 2010

2 Seconds (Indicators)

Crap on a cracker, it was crowded at Steamer Lane today! You would've thought it was a summer holiday weekend, instead of a cool though sunny weekday in early spring. The waves were nice, but it was frustrating mostly just watching people riding past. I could've used a little Magic, but due to the logistics of the day, I had my 5'8" Xanadu, which I haven't ridden in a while.

I had trouble getting the shortboard over the lip when an empty wave infrequently came my way. And when I did manage to catch a few, I experienced the usual initial crashes from switching to a now-unfamiliar and more skittish board. But finally, after an hour, I got a ride that lasted more than nanoseconds - at least 2 whole seconds - before the wave broke and tossed me off in the turbulence.

Funny how a couple seconds can make it all worthwhile.

Surfline: NW-WNW swell peaked this morning, and will slowly start to fade this afternoon, as some small SSW swell mixes in. Better breaks have chest-head high+ surf, with 2-3'+ overhead sets for the top NW exposures. Overall conditions are still looking really fun across the region. Incoming tide for the remainder of the afternoon is looking good. Buoy 46012: 9.2 ft @ 14.3 sec.

06 March 2010

I Like Sharks (The Hook/Sharks)

I like Sharks. Not the toothy kind, but the eastside Santa Cruz break.

I haven't been to the Eastside since they started the coastal armoring project. It's ugly and I really hope it doesn't ruin the waves. Unfortunately it seems no one in California likes the concept of managed retreat, least of all those cliff edge homeowners with the multimillion-dollar views.

The hotshots were tearing it up at the Hook as usual (from-the-beach video here). I managed to find a secondary peak mostly to myself off the shoulder of the main one, but it offered an inconsistent short right into a boil of colliding waves that knocked me off every time. Luke turned up and I just happened to be taking a video when he caught this wave (he's the first guy, in a red-trimmed wetsuit).
Tired of backing off occupied waves and the quick rights I was eking out, I paddled east to less-crowded, funner and friendlier Sharks, where I caught a batch of nicer rides, including a good long one. I've been going left a lot lately at other breaks, but this is Rightland, and I was forced to work on my backside. With so many waves, I had a chance to experiment a bit. I ended up chatting with a guy who was having a birthday surf with his daughter, and filmed him from the back on this wave (nice dismount).
(Happy Birthday, dude! I hope your kids got you that waterproof camera you want.)

Surfline: Fun, workable waves continue to make it through thanks to that steep shot of NW energy. Conditions remain semi-clean out there with light N wind, and the surf runs in the waist-head high+ range. Buoy 46012: 11.8 ft @ 14.3 sec.

04 March 2010

Two Nice Lefts & a Fine Sunset (HMB Jetty)

The waves were a bit jumbled in between storms once again, but I got a couple good ones.
And there's no better place to watch the sun set than from a surfboard!
Surfline: Old, fading WNW groundswell offered head to double overead waves at well exposed breaks today. Buoy 46012: 9.5 ft @ 12.5 sec.

01 March 2010

My Dream Surf Trip

My dream surf trip would be a repeat visit to the second longest left in the world, at Pavones, Costa Rica, near the border with Panama. I attended a surf camp there almost 3 years ago, and found it to be the finest wave I've ever ridden.Three-minute long rides are possible on the right swell, and it's just a fine-shaped, consistent wave, with difficulty level increasing closer to the point. Goofy-foot heaven. This time I'd return with my quiver, my husband and a few of my best surfing buddies on a private jet (hey, this is a dream trip, right?). We'd rent a luxury house overlooking the bathtub-warm blue Pacific, with a pool and a full staff, including a vegan chef to make good use of local produce such as tasty tamarinds. The kitchen would be stocked with my favorite chips, not available in the States: platano verde con limon y sal (green plantains with lemon and salt). Mornings and evenings would be spent in extended surf sessions, with a friendly instructor to help me and my buddies advance our shortboarding skills and teach my husband to surf. Between sessions, we'd go hiking in the jungle and be screamed at by monkeys while looking for exotic and colorful birds and butterflies, then relax in the pool and take a siesta until the second daily sesh. Since Pavones is a place at the end of the road, with no internet, a single pay phone, and nothing much in the way of nightlife, we'd have to make our own entertainment. Fortunately the late show is dazzling; at night we'd look up at the dark velvet sky filled with more stars than I could have imagined. Rinse, sleep, and repeat.