31 July 2010

The Grass is Always Greener... (Hook/38th/Pleasure Point)

...and the waves are always better at the next break. This morning I started at the Hook, and got a few fun rights.
When Nikki arrived at about low tide, we paddled west to 38th Ave, where it was looking more consistently fun - and turned out to be so in fact. There were plenty of waves to be had, both rights and short lefts. I got my best wave of the day, an outside right that I worked through a sluggish section to an inside reform for a long ride.

Nikki waiting for a wave at 38th Ave

By the time Nikki left, 38th was crowded and Pleasure Point was beckoning with unridden waves, so westward ho! Some head-high sneakers were coming through at 1st Peak. Although I pulled off a quick ride with a decent drop, the peak was shifty with a short takeoff zone and greedy shortboarders.
I paddled back to 2nd Peak, where I got a few more waves, cursing the thick kelp that cut the rides short by stopping my fins. Wave by wave, I worked my way east toward the 38th Ave stairs, where I caught an inside right to the beach. Stoked!

Surfline: Glassy, inconsistent little lines. Clean but weak overall. Small SSW (185-200) energy fades as new SSW (195-205) Southern Hemi swell slowly builds through the day. Things start off pretty slow with generally waist high and below surf. Top southerly exposures see a rare +. Look for a bit more size/consistency as we move into the afternoon. Clean conditions early thanks to light/variable morning wind. Buoy 46012: NW 6.2 ft @ 9.1 sec.

Paws on the Nose

I think our kitten Zoe wants to surf. She's always jumping into my surf gear box and climbing on my board bag.

When I went to get a wax comb yesterday, she popped up on my board and walked straight to the nose.

25 July 2010

Just Me & My Crew (Rachel's Point)

This morning Luke, Manabu, Steve and I had "Rachel's Point" all to ourselves, which made the session even more fun. The waves were inconsistent and again shifty but less scary-powerful than the last time, so today I tried to position myself in the short takeoff zone.

For a little while I was kooking it up. As I took a drop, I got distracted by a rock boil in the shallow water under my board's nose. So what did I do? I fell on it! Then I did a split on a cock-eyed landing, fortunately without injurious results. And Luke almost ran me over once (guess the red helmet isn't attention-getting enough). But then I got dialed in and things turned fun. I rode several fast lefts with fun drops, one head-high and another half a foot over my head (by Luke's estimate).

Luke's wife Beth took some video from the beach early on, and didn't get my best rides (it seems those are never recorded, except in memory).
I almost got a three-fer video with all of the guys riding in succession: Luke on a wave, then Manabu on the next... but Steve didn't catch the third one.
After an hour and a half, the rising tide started to kill the waves, so we called the session and paddled in. On the way I caught an interesting wave: as I started the drop, it broke on both sides of me, whitewater meeting in the middle when I reached the bottom. But hey, at least I caught one in!

Surfline: New SSW (180-200) energy fills in today, mixing with old SSW (190-205) swell and minor NW windswell. Expect inconsistent surf in the knee-chest high range early on, with bigger sets showing later today. Generally light wind on tap right now. Buoy 46012: SSW 3.6 ft @ 13.8 sec.

21 July 2010

Glad to be Goofy (38th Ave)

I drove south in the dark this morning to reach Santa Cruz by 5:30, arriving with the first hints of daylight in the sky. Since there's yet another hyped south swell in the water, I shouldn't have been surprised to see the Hook parking lot already half full. There were only a few folks out at 38th initially, but the crowd increased quickly as the sun rose unseen behind misting clouds. Lucky for me, nearly everyone wanted to ride the longer but sectiony right, leaving me with the nice left almost to myself. I got a lot of fun long rides on chest- to shoulder-high waves, with plenty of time for gentle turns on the face. Very stokeful!
There were extended lulls between sets, and a pair of surfers amused themselves (and the rest of us) by playing longboard chicken, paddling fast toward each other, popping up, and trying to push the other person off of their board. An otter and a sea lion (or seal; I wasn't close enough to see ears) also swam by to check out the human compliment in the water. And I got to finally meet Darren, who I hope will join me again for dawn patrol. It's easier to find the early morning motivation when you're meeting someone for surf.
It was nearly time to go and I'd already told myself "just one more" when I got my best ride of the session, which put me almost at the bottom of the stairs west of Jack O'Neill's green house. I should've left the water then, but that wave was so much fun I wanted another: one more one more. When I started to paddle back out, I found my leash had been thoroughly entangled by thick kelp, which held me in the impact zone during the rest of the set until I managed to unwind from it. Then a lull stretched seemingly to infinity as I waited for that last wave, until finally I had to start paddling in lest I be really late for work.
After a quick stop at Whole Foods for vegan donuts, I was on the road back north, with a happy stoked smile on my face.

Surfline: Sectiony, soft lines working through, occasional workable corners. Mostly clean surf prevails this morning as our Southern Hemi SSW (190-205) swell continues to fill in, mixing with some modest NW windswell. Better breaks are good for chest-shoulder-head high surf, as top exposures are pulling in some 1-2'+ overhead sets. Winds are light early. Buoy 46012: NW 8.2 ft @ 10 sec, S 8.2 ft @ 17.4 sec.

18 July 2010

Gloveless (HMB Jetty)

Dunes was blown out already by the time the tide came back up in the early afternoon, so Luke and I joined the masses at the Jetty, where at least the strong breeze was sideshore. The sun was shining, the parking lot was packed, and the sea was warm, close to 60 degrees F (15C). Luke was trunking it again, wearing only board shorts and a neoprene vest, so I decided to leave my gloves in the car. My hands were freezing at first, but it's like walking barefoot at the ocean's edge: you do get used to it after a little while. I liked it, think I'll do it again.
I managed to video Luke on a couple of waves as I was heading back out. Once in the lineup, Luke was about to introduce me when he took off on a wave, so Tom paddled over to say hello. It's always nice to meet one of the Tweeple in the real world, and interesting that while surfing with friends, as in no other social situation, it's perfectly acceptable to abruptly leave during a conversation.
Yet again, despite less than ideal conditions, my Magic surfboard did not disappoint. I had a good wave count with some really fun rides, mostly rights with a couple lefts. One fast right had me "woo-hoo!-ing down the line. Stokeful fun in the sun!

Surfline: Textured, crumbly surf in the waist-chest high range on tap this afternoon. Top breaks see a few larger sets on occasion, but shape stays pretty poor. Westerly wind around 10kts keeps things pretty ugly overall. Buoy 46012: NW 6.2 ft @ 8.3 sec.

14 July 2010

Putting the Dawn in Dawn Patrol (Cowells)

My plan for this morning was to be up at 4 and in the water in SC by 5:45. I was running a few minutes behind, but caught the first wave of many at 6 am.

Cowells was in fine form nearing a negative low tide, with regular waist- to chest-high waves and no wind. The Lane looked to be working nicely too, but I wasn't in the mood to compete for waves with hotshot shortboarders. And Cowells turned out to be mega-fun, with plenty of waves to go around. The crowd filled in as dawn became morning, and I sat inside of the outer peak to get more of the smaller waves all to myself. (Selfish, I know, but I only enjoy party waves when they're shared with friends.) I've noticed I'm not turning enough onto the face on my backside, so I decided to challenge myself to see how far I could stay on each wave, as measured by distance traveled along the shore. A few times I extended the ride quite a ways toward the wharf by linking to a inside reform.

When the crowd thickened to a heavy peppering of black wetsuits on the main peaks, I moved to a break closer to the beach with only two guys on it. My arms were getting tired by then anyway; it's a long paddle back to the lineup after a long ride, and I had a lot of long rides. The waves were a little steeper there, making for some fun drops and more face time. Stoked!

Surfline: Knee to chest high, fair conditions. Clean, peaky lines with some slow but open and workable shoulders under hazy, overcast skies with light winds. Mix of modest SW groundswell and NW wind/groundswell wrap is providing fun zone surf in the knee-waist-chest zone range at the better breaks through town today. Top exposed spots are even pulling in some shoulder high sets. Winds are light and the surf should only improve a little on the morning tide push. Buoy 46012: NW 6.2 ft @ 12.9 sec.

11 July 2010

Here Be Waves (Kelly Ave)

It was supposed to be nearly flat today. From the forecasts and reports, I was expecting weak knee- to waist-high waves. Still, since the winds were light, I thought I'd check some of the exposed beaches. In fact, Kelly was offering punchy and not quite head-high waves periodically.

Sadly, there was this backwashy thing going on; probably the tide was too high (3' rising to 4') for the available swell. Far too often, I'd see a wave start to wall up nicely, but then a fast-moving backwash would run past me from the shore to meet up with the wave and sap its form and energy. Or I'd catch a wave, pop up and then watch it merge with the backwash into an unsurfable mound.

I did get one nice left though - it was fast and fun! And for my last wave in, I caught a right, popped up and wiped out spectacularly, tumbling ass-over-teakettle nearly to the beach. I exited the shorepound coated in sand, like a cold wet serving of shake-n-bake, but with a smile.
Surfline: Small again this morning as NW windswell combines with weak S/SW energy. Most areas see inconsistent knee-waist high surf, while top breaks occasionally go bigger. It's generally rideable out there, just not all that great. Light wind, overcast skies. Buoy 46012: S 3.9 ft @ 11.4 sec, NNW 3.9 ft @ 7.7 sec.

Wrist Shot Camera Case Review

I've been using my Pentax Optio W80 waterproof camera to take photos and video on the water for almost a year, but hadn't found a good case to keep it secure yet accessible while I'm surfing. Until now.

First I tried the Surfing Camera Case, an abject failure that I reviewed here. Next was the Olympus Neoprene Armband Case, which made re-stowing so difficult with one gloved hand that I became hesitant to use the camera, lest I end up missing waves while fumbling to get it back into the case.

A few weeks ago, the San Francisco-based company Golden Hour sent me a Wrist Shot case. It's primarily made of neoprene, velcro, and what appears to be seatbelt strapping. One strap wraps around your wrist and attaches with velcro, with two extra velcro tabs additionally securing it. The camera mounts via its tripod socket, and another padded strap wraps over the top of the camera and attaches with more velcro. Because the W80's tripod mount is off to one side, I had to use the farthest of the three riveted holes to attach it; while the camera is not centered, the lens is mostly covered by the outer strap.

So how does it perform? The camera's position on the back of my wrist isn't uncomfortable, and It doesn't get in the way while paddling. I've taken the Wrist Shot out in overhead waves, and it kept my camera secure during wipeouts. With all that velcro, I have no worries that the case will detach from my wrist, and with it screwed firmly to the camera through the tripod mount, it's not going to let go of my camera. At the same time, it's quick work to pull off the velcro strap that covers the camera face, flip the camera up, and take photos or video on the water. And if I see a wave coming that I want to catch, I simply wrap the strap back over the camera and velcro it down, then turn around and paddle for the wave. My only minor complaint is that the Wrist Shot has perhaps too much velcro; it doesn't seem needed on top of the tab on the outer strap, where it tends to catch on my wetsuit and collect wax and sand.

I'd still love to see a chest-mount arrangement that would allow forward POV filming while riding a wave (a viable incarnation of the Surf Camera Case). But until that product arrives, I recommend the Wrist Shot to anyone who wants to record their surf sessions on the water.

Update 19-Feb-11: After months of twice-a-week use, I encountered some wear issues with my Wrist Shot. The fabric was deteriorating adjacent to the attachment hole. Also, the velcro "fingers" had worn off of the end of the top strap to such an extent that it didn't stick well anymore, so the strap would detach during wipeouts, leaving the camera exposed and flopping. Golden Hour sent me a new Wrist Shot from their latest production run, in which they used better materials and made the mounting bracket thicker and stiffer so the camera won't move around as much. I've been testing it for over a month, and the new Wrist Shot does seem to perform even better than before.

Update 2-Jun-11: The Wrist Shot is now called the Wrist Pod (I'd been wondering about trademark issues with the first name). The new case has been performing better than the original, with no issues thus far. Surfing sans wetsuit in Hawaii, I found the strap to be too long, but as I've got unusually small wrists I can't fault the design for that. Visiting Golden Hour's website recently, I realized that the stiffer bracket has an added benefit: it supports the camera in an upright position, so it may be possible to take video while I'm surfing. I plan to try that out soon.

05 July 2010

Early Surfer Gets the Waves (Linda Mar)

I'd planned to surf the over-hyped south swell at the Jetty, but when I arrived early in the morning it wasn't looking too rideable and the wind was already light onshore, so I kept driving north. Montara was bigger and looked doable, but there wasn't a soul out at that spot either, and I'm chicken to go it alone there. That left Linda Mar.
Lindy was looking fun on the south end, with a light crowd on lefts going up to shoulder-high and light offshores, so I paddled out. The slowly increasing crowd was clumped on the outside, waiting patiently for the infrequent big ones, so I sat almost alone on the inside and picked off the smaller waves that came more often. And they were good fun! Especially the ones that reformed farther inside for a second little drop and even longer ride. Stoked!
When I left, the parking lot was overfilled and the wind was starting to rise, though still offshore. In my rush to vacate my parking spot for a waiting surfboard-loaded car, I think I left my cheapo watch behind. Guess that means no more time limits on surf session, eh?

Surfline: Mostly walled lines with inside shoulders that are open and workable. Glassy surface conditions. Mainly SSW groundswell topping out today with small NW windswell mixing in. Many of the better southern hemi exposed locations offer waist-head high surf with the standout spots producing overhead sets. Buoy 46012: NW 7.9 ft @ 10 sec, S 6.6 ft @ 17.4 sec.

04 July 2010

Independent Day (HMB Jetty)

I was on my own surfing this morning since the others in my little posse bailed, and was surprised that for a time I had the break all to myself. Seeking to beat the holiday masses, I'd scurried over the hill early, but the anticipated crowds had not materialized. Whether everyone was sleeping late on a Sunday, getting ready for their barbecues, watching the World Cup or just waiting for the hyped south swell to show, I don't know, but I wasn't complaining that the crowd on my peak maxed out at 3. I enjoyed the relative solitude in the sunshine until the fog rolled in.
Although the waves were lumpy, dumpy, sloppy, and choppy, I had a little fun and got some interesting rides in the mixed-up surf. The infrequent head-high set waves were mostly closed out but I managed to ride that beast a couple of times, though it more often threw me. Most of my good rides, with short but sweet shoulders, came near the start of the session, and I spent the last cold half hour trying to get just one more. When I tried to paddle over a breaking wave and ended up riding it backwards on my belly halfway to the beach, I decided that was the last one, and walked the rest of the way to shore on numb feet. A little light stoke, and tomorrow is another day. Maybe the lauded south swell will grace us with its presence.

Surfline: Mainly NW windswell in the water this morning as a new SSW groundswell slowly builds in through the day. Well exposed NW breaks are in the 3-5' range while the more sheltered spots are smaller. New SSW swell is inconsistent but offering up occasional waist-chest high sets already at the top Southern hemi breaks, with larger sets expected through the afternoon. Light winds prevailed early for mainly clean conditions as well. Buoy 46012: NW 7.5 ft @ 9.1 sec.