29 May 2010

A Little Stoke to Tide Me Over (38th Ave & Pleasure Point)

Since I'll be out of the water for a week while I'm on a business trip to Moscow, I had to get in the water for a little stoke infusion this morning. I also wanted to catch the Memorial Day parking lot sale at O'Neill for some new gloves to replace my holey ones. So a trip to eaststide Santa Cruz was in order. Luke suggested 38th Ave, and he and Tracey planned to meet me in the water.

As I paddled out at 38th, a set came through with some nice waves aimed at an empty spot to the right of the crowd. I parked myself there, hanging on to kelp strands to keep from being blown eastward by the light breeze. Unfortunately, between sets, the waves were amorphous mushy blobs, suitable only for big floaty planks. On my Magic hybrid longboard, I had to wait impatiently for the inconsistent set waves which had more shape and push.
My first wave was a fine long right that bumped up the Stoke-O-Meter. The next ride on a little left was abruptly cut short when clump of kelp stopped my fins cold, and I caught one more right that ran out of gas soon after I popped up. Luke and Tracey still hadn't shown up, so I thought I'd paddle over to Pleasure Point to try my luck on some slightly bigger waves.
Second Peak was packed, and although promising waves would start walling up in my direction, they kept mushing out. I had just decided to paddle back to my spot at 38th when King Neptune sent a well-formed wave right to me. I rushed to catch it, popped up and surprised myself by making the 4' drop which steepened suddenly, getting a speedy and fun ride that I worked through most of the kelpy inner section. Woo-hoo! A couple more short ones got me nearly to the shore, replete with enough stoke to (hopefully) tide me over for a land-locked week.

After a tasty lunch outdoors at Paradise Beach Grill in Capitola, Scott and I went for a 5-mile hike in Portola Redwoods State Park before I rushed home to pack. My journey to Moscow beings in the morning!
Surfline: 2-3 feet. Inconsistent, glassy peaks with fun, workable corners. Buoy 46012: NW 5.6 ft @ 8.3 sec.

24 May 2010

It Looked Smaller from the Cliff (Rachel's Point)

Luke left work before me and scouted the breaks, reporting that a lonely spot I call "Rachel's Point" was clean, breaking nicely, and chest- to occasionally head-high, with only one guy out. Sounded great, especially since it's a left. It's not a spot that feels comfortable to surf alone though; lots of shark food swimming about (we saw a couple of seals), opaque water with UFOs (unidentified floating objects) that give one a bit of a start when touched while paddling (OK, probably just seaweed, but still), and on this late afternoon, gloomy skies for added creepiness.
When we'd reached the deserted beach via a steepish dirt track, Luke remarked that the now-empty waves had looked smaller from above (as they always do). Up close, they were in fact several feet over his head, and he's more than six feet tall. The scary factor was somewhat diminished by high-tide mushiness, but the takeoff zone was narrow, shifty and steep. At that size, the waves packed a lot of power, and the few times I braved being close to the meandering takeoff spot, I got royally tumbled. Away from it, the waves were too moundy for me to get into them. Luke pulled off some rides on his longboard and I saw him make an impossible drop on a wave he said may be his biggest yet. But I managed only one fast left on Magic, a whitewater reform into a short shoulder ride. It's good to push my comfort zone from time to time, but we'll have to try the spot again on a smaller day at a mid-tide.

Surfline: Easing NW windswell mixed with peaking SSW groundswell today. Good breaks saw chest-head high waves, standout exposed spots were a bit overhead on sets. Buoy 46012: 3.6 ft @ 16.7 sec.

21 May 2010

Sharing the Stoke (Canoes)

On our last morning in Hawaii, Scott joined me for the first half of a two-hour session. Since Koa doesn't open until 10 am (I guess they dawn patrol every day), we got surfboards from Moku, which starts renting at 6:30. Once again the 8'2" NSP was already claimed, but they had an 8'6" NSP for me and a 9'0" for Scott.
The waves were a little more closed out than yesterday but I got countless fun rides, and Scott caught a nice left down the line. It was hard to force myself to come in when my two hours were nearly up. I squeezed in just one more, and then another that took me through a surf school and close to shore. I'll miss the warm water, consistent fun waves, and island aloha. But the stoke goes on!

20 May 2010

Drama on the High Seas (Canoes)

In the late morning, I put on my sleeveless shorty and walked the short distance from our hotel on Waikiki Beach to Moku, eager to repeat yesterday's awesome surf session on the 8'2" NSP. Alas, the board was already rented, and the little shop had nothing else to offer that was around 8 feet long and not a soft-top. So I walked another half block to Koa, which had a bigger selection. I passed on an 8' fattie and took out a Koa 8-footer instead. I had only a couple of hours to surf, but it was just $15 for the rest of the day.
The board proved suitable but the surf was not as fabulous as yesterday, though still good, with many fun rides left and right. I got a stoking super long ride all the way in to the swimming area by the beach, and had just paddled back nearly to the lineup when a bigger set wave came through, sending kook boards flying toward me. I caught the whitewater in a little, and collided fairly gently with another board. Tossed into the water, I immediately turned toward the other rider with a "Sorry! Are you OK?" To my horror, he was floating face down and motionless. OMG! Dude, are you dead?! I swam over and touched his arm, and was relieved when he flipped himself and said he was alright. But still, he wasn't moving. I asked if I could help him, but he waved me off. Then I glanced at his longboard, which was modified with foam paddling and straps, and it dawned on me that he was in some way partly paralyzed. I offered to help him get back on his board, but he again refused. By then a couple of muscular Aussies had swum out to us from the beach, and he let them take charge of putting him right again. Guess maybe he just didn't want assistance from a girl. Feeling useless, I paddled back out. I saw the guy later in the lineup, lying facedown on his board, with another surfer pushing him at times. Of all the people to run into at a crowded break - and he was the only one - I had to hit a disabled guy! Bah.

While I was chatting with a woman from Vancouver (Darelle?), a sea turtle swam under my board, then took up brief residence under hers. Unfortunately he took a fancy to her leash, first nibbling it and then getting entangled so Darelle had to take off her leash to free him. After being so close to turtles in the ocean the last few days, it made me sad to see one later on TV, surfacing in a patch of spilled oil in the Gulf.

19 May 2010

South Shore Stoke (Canoes)

On a gorgeous sunny afternoon in paradise, I rented an 8'2" NSP from Moku (only $14 for 2 hours) and carried it a block to the beach, past the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, to the warm inviting waters of Waikiki.
What followed was surely one of my best surf sessions ever. It was crowded like a tropical Cowells, but not too crowded. Also like Cowells, there were many beginners who were imitating buoys and letting waves pass unridden. I found a clear slot and caught wave after wave, mostly lefts, long rides that shifted as they passed over different sections of the reef. I could really feel what the wave wanted me to do to keep riding, and the NSP was a good vehicle, turning with a thought to follow the wave. STOKED!!!

18 May 2010

What GoeSUP, Must Come Down

I've found Mother Ocean always tends to slap me down when I start getting a little too cocky, like crowing about not falling once my first time paddleboarding. And she didn't have to try very hard when we took SUPs out in ocean waves instead of on flat water. I didn't even make it halfway to the lineup at Canoes before I was knocked off the board by a little broken wave. But at least the water was translucent blue instead of murky green.
Then again, sometimes it is the equipment, at least partly, The SUPs we rented on the North Shore yesterday were much better, but Moku only had two for rent (cheaper than on Waikiki Beach), and I was stuck with a soft-top. I loathe soft-tops. The leash was too long; every time I fell, it seemed the board ended up far, far away. And the paddle wasn't scoop-shaped, just flat on both sides, which is a less efficient design (although I saw others using the same, so perhaps there's some reason for it?). I did manage to catch a couple waves, but didn't get my feet shifted from the parallel paddler's stance to surfing position in time to ride them, instead being tossed off the back as the board went forward without me. I think I'll save the waves for regular surfing and confine my janitorial activities to flat waters.

17 May 2010


In the late spring and summer, Oahu's North Shore is transformed from a big-wave mecca into a lake-like snorkeler's paradise. The offshore wind was adding a little chop when Scott and I made our first attempt at stand-up paddleboarding. We rented SUPs from Surf-n-Sea in Haleiwa and set out into Waialua Bay. I was a bit unsteady at first and after a while had to consciously release the death grip my toes had on the board, but didn't take long to get the general hang of it.

After an unintended detour through the boat harbor, past a large, decimated floating fish head (I was hoping whatever killed it was long, long gone - and then I really didn't want to fall), we made our way up the Anahulu River. We paddled past riverside shacks than reminded me of a Louisiana bayou. There were many fish and turtles in the shallow and murky green water, and I nearly fell when a large turtle surfaced suddenly within a foot of my board. Thankfully I quieted the board's rocking and made it out of the river and back to the beach without falling once. Yes!

On our way to have lunch with our feet in the sand at Ola in Turtle Bay, we stopped at Shark's Cove, one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu, and I got up close with a sea turtle.

15 May 2010

Better Late (HMB Jetty)

Luke organized a Meetup at the Jetty for 9 this morning. Atypically (as I'm usually a few minutes late to everything), I arrived right on time, but no one else was there. The tide was low and the waves were tiny and uninspiring. I watched for more than 5 minutes, and then decided to check farther south for bigger waves.

Dunes [video] had more going on, but I didn't see either of the two guys out catch any rides. The onshore wind was already on it and would only get worse with time. After a phone consultation, in which late Luke assured me the Jetty would probably turn on in about half an hour with the incoming tide, I drove back north to meet up with him, Deepak, Jason and Ryan. Happily, my trust in a Jetty regular was not misplaced; by 10 am, there were clean and rideable waves that just got better as the tide filled in [video].
I rode too many waves to count, but the lefts were especially fun. A couple of times Luke and I shared an A-frame; regular-foot to the right, goofy-foot to the left. Yeah!

And now I have to finish packing for Hawaii. Aloha!
Luke going right, unattended Magic going over tiny falls
Surfline:Small NW windswell mixes with building SSW(180-200) energy for generally weak waves in the knee-chest-shoulder high range. Light onshore wind and a negative low tide early create textured, drained-out conditions. Buoy 46012: 4.6 ft @ 16.7 sec.

10 May 2010

Worst Booties Ever? O'Neill Superfreak Review

Last fall at O'Neill's parking lot sale, I bought some men's 5/4 booties (because they don't make warm booties for women). My feet are always the first body parts to go numb from the cold, and I thought the extra rubber might help extend my surf sessions in winter - and during late spring upwellings, like now.

Unfortunately, Superfreak external split toe booties are the worst design I've ever put on my feet. The overly long velcro straps are a minor nuisance, collecting sand and trailing on the ground when not secured. But the major flaw is the toe design. Unlike the internal split toe booties I've used for years and prefer over round toes, these booties provide complete separation of the big toe from the littles. Not only did this somewhat uncomfortably squash my index toe, but it made wearing thermal socks impossible; the extra bulk cannot be accommodated without pain. Worse, the split between the toes is bare thinnish neoprene. Walking into the ocean, I immediately felt a flood of chilly water between my toes through the split, and it continued to flush cold water throughout my session.

In sum, these 5/4 Superfreak booties are extra thick summer wear. At least I got them on clearance.

08 May 2010

A Glovely Day (HMB Jetty)

Overheard in the lineup: "It's a glovely day. As in, you really want to have some gloves." Not to mention a hood, 5 mil booties and a 5/4 wetsuit. At least the air was a little warmer, in the low 50s, about the same temperature as the ocean.
Conditions were worse than for Thursday's dawn patrol, with the swell down and the wind and crowd up. I didn't want to fight for scraps on the main peak. Instead I sat on the second peak, which was closing out a lot to the right but had a short shoulder on the left, just for me. I eked out some fun little rides, including one that featured a water mogul I was happy to successfully navigate. The clouds parted as I left the water, and gold flecks in the wet sand sparkled in the sunshine.
Surfline: A mix of fading SSW (185-200) swell and small NW windswell means generally 3-4' surf. NW wind up to about 10kts is on it right now with bumpy, textured conditions at the more openly exposed areas. Buoy 46012: 3.6 ft @ 14.3 sec.

06 May 2010

Ice Cream for Breakfast (HMB Jetty)

Ice cream headaches were on offer this morning in the chilly waters of Half Moon Bay. The wind-driven upwelling continues to push ocean temperatures into the low 50s, and the air was even colder, only 43 degrees when I arrived. What month is it again? Hard to believe the first day of summer is just over 6 weeks away.

I took advantage of a forecast short break in the onslaught of onshores to put in for dawn patrol at the Jetty. Various weather sites reported that winds were either calm or blowing 12-13 mph from the NW, so I took my chances and drove over the hill. In fact there was only a slight breath of breeze, although it started to pick up after my quick session. I'd tossed my 5/4 wetsuit in the car at the last minute in anticipation of the cold, but in a few scatter-brained moments, put on my inadequate 4/3 instead.

There were only a few shortboarders in the water with me on my 8'3" Magic hybrid. The waves were a confused mixture of SSW groundswell and NW windswell, but good things come to those who wait. I snagged three nice rides, a right and two lefts, one particularly fine as it flowed into an inside reform with a decent though brief shoulder. The shivers and my need to get to work at a respectable time drove me out of the water in under an hour, with a stoked smile on my face. Great way to start the day!

Surfline: A mostly clean mix of surf prevails this morning as SSW (185-200) groundswell continues to move in and NW windswell slowly eases. Most breaks hold in the waist-chest-head high+ range, as top breaks are pulling in a few overhead+ sets at times. Conditions are an issue again this morning with light onshore flow and generally textured, crossed-up surf on tap. Buoy 46012: 7.2 ft @ 9.1 sec.

02 May 2010

Eastside Manners (38th Ave)

I had a small hope of surfing closer to home today, but Manabu's timely report sent me south again. The Surfline cams were clear earlier but the fog had rolled in by the time I reached the beach. I checked Capitola first, just because I like the break, but it was teeny tiny with a clot of surfers chasing almost nothing. The Hook seemed fun but crowded (of course), and what I could see of nearby 38th looked smaller but enchantingly almost empty.
The lack of crowd was an illusion of the fog. When I paddled out, I found there were a lot more surfers in the water than I'd been able to see from the bluff top. Still, I found my space on an inside edge, and got some fine rides. Surfline wasn't kidding, though, when it said the Eastside surf was inconsistent. Patience was required to score those sweet rides.
I was pleasantly surprised that the vibe was much different from yesterday's on the Westside. I heard a few surfers apologizing for dropping in or getting in the way, and receiving not a verbal thrashing but a smile and "don't worry about it." When I inadvertently dropped in on and actually collided with a longboarder (on a final check over my shoulder, I could swear I'd seen him backing off), my "So sorry, dude! Is your board okay?" was met with complete silence as he paddled off. (It's a testament to the durability of Arrow's epoxy that Magic was also unscathed.) Party waves were cheerfully accepted, people were hooting strangers into waves, and folks seemed friendly and happy to be on the water on what became a sunny Sunday. Then a garbage truck woman arrived; after snaking me and then complaining that I'd dropped in on her, she deliberately went left on another right in order to narrowly miss clipping the front of my board. By then I was about done anyway, after another nearly 2.5 hour session, so I moved away from her and caught another nice ride in close to the beach. My paddling muscles ache after so much water time this weekend, but the stoke goes on!

Surfline: Mix of a decent size/holding NW windswell and minor/easing SW groundswell. Clean and looking pretty fun for a big board. Expect inconsistent, workable lines to waist high that will slow down as the tide fills back in. Buoy 46012: 8.5 ft @ 10 sec.

01 May 2010

Close Encounters (Cowells)

April showers may bring May flowers, but May brings wind. It's been screaming from the northwest for days, with no real end in sight. That means a run for the shelter of the north end of Monterey Bay, where the coastline curves like the top of a reverse "C" to block the nefarious winds. But there's no way to hide from the upwelling of chilly water pulled from the depths by days of strong steady wind, and the water was c-c-c-old.

I met up with Luke and Beth near Cowells, and finally the original Petty surfboard got to meet its clone. We were joined by Laurie, who they'd picked up along the road to save her a walk with her rental board, and I figuratively bumped into Mike for the first time on the water. Our little crew added to the crazy masses at the break on a sunny Saturday. Periodically the best waves would be seized by a "train" consisting of a disabled person and a surfer on a modified super-longboard, plus a gaggle of other green-shirted surfers yelling encouragement (see the video). And of course the surf schools were out in force for a while, but I got a lot of good rides sitting inside of them and taking the waves they frequently missed.

In almost 2.5 hours I got countless rides, many of them long, and a few particularly fine from the outside connecting to an inside reform all the way in with some nice shoulder time. On one of these, a boy was standing in the shallows with his kook board, stationary like a deer in the headlights. If the wave had broken a second later I would've been well clear of him down the line, but when the whitewater knocked me off, my board ended up near him in the water. He said he was OK and I started back out, but his father, who had been nowhere close, came running after me as best he could in waist-deep water, hollering that I shouldn't surf "right at a little kid and ditch my board" and that I should look where I was going instead of at my feet (which I wasn't). To which I replied, "How could you know where I was looking? I'm wearing sunglasses." I explained and apologized, but he wasn't listening, and kept ranting at me. I realized that the guy was a garbage truck (read about it here), so I smiled, said have a nice day and told his son that I hoped he'd catch a lot of waves, then paddled away.

Unfortunately that was not the only bad parent encounter. With the crowd, I sometimes had to call people off with a loud "HEY!" (and quietly to myself, "this is my wave!"), and for the most part I didn't get dropped in on. But when I was riding a rare left, I saw a kook kid going for my wave, though my expectation of him making it was so small I didn't call out. Then I felt/heard a knock on the back of my board, and I was in the water. A quick inspection showed no apparent damage to Magic (phew!). I told the kid and his mother that he'd dropped in on me and his board had hit mine. She asked if it was OK, then said "that happens all the time at Cowells on a Saturday" and I should go surf someplace else if I had a problem with it. WTF?! I pointed out that the rules of etiquette still apply (I should have said especially at a crowded break), and told her to have a nice day, too. Just like bad Dad (hmm, maybe they're married to each other), she kept ranting as I moved away. When I reached Beth, who'd seen the incident, she told me the woman had pushed her son into me. Oh, yeah right, lady, that was somehow my fault?! I take it back; I hope you have a lousy day.

I tried to leave all that misplaced parental garbage with its owners near the beach and paddled back to the lineup for some more great waves. But too soon, the cold water had numbed my feet almost completely and chilled my body through my leaky old wetsuit. I rode one more in, picked up my repaired wetsuit at Hotline (kudos for the under-a-week turnaround), and rendezvoused with Luke, Beth and Laurie for Mexican food, a great post- great-surf lunch.

Surfline: Slow fading SW Southern Hemi swell with NW windswell for exposures. 2-3 ft occ. 4 ft, fair to good conditions. Clean, workable lines staying fun on the low tide. Occasional + sets, light NW wind. Buoy 46012: 7.2 ft @ 10 sec.