27 August 2010

Gray Drizzly Dawn (Cowells)

I figured Cowells would be decent on the low tide early this morning. Trouble is, a whole lot of other people figured the same thing. When I drove past in the dim pre-dawn light, I could already see a small clot of surfers in the water. By the time I'd suited up and paddled out, they numbered two dozen, and within half an hour the pack had swollen to more than 40. Why so many folks came out in the chilly misty dawn is a mystery. There were more waves to go around yesterday afternoon at 38th Ave, and it was warm and sunny.
I sat on the inside and took scraps discarded by the crowd, mostly rights with a few lefts, a lot of them gutless waves that couldn't hold up to the beach. I partook of one better party wave with five others, riding in sync behind the rightmost surfer, and congratulated the guy next to me when he managed to stay up on it longer than the rest of us (and just a bit farther than me).
Surfline: Knee to waist high, poor to fair conditions. Mostly clean, workable little lines for the small wave gear. SSW-S (180-200) swell fades through the day as some small NW windswell energy mixes in. Better breaks are good for knee-waist-chest high surf, as top exposures are in the shoulder-head high+ zone, with some occasional sets running slightly overhead. Conditions are mostly clean with light winds early and a low incoming tide. Buoy 46012:  (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 14.8 s S / WIND WAVE: 8.5 ft at 9.1 s NW / WVHT: 9.5 ft / APD: 6.7 s / MWD: 320° / (Met) WSPD: 19 kts / GST: 23 kts / WDIR: 310.0° / ATMP: 56.1° F / WTMP: 56.8° F.

26 August 2010

Bright Sunshiny Day (38th Ave)

Crowded and sectiony but I got some fun ones. Plus it was so warm that I left my gloves on the beach.
And now to sleep, perchance to dream of waves, and to be ready for dawn patrol!
Pleasure at Pleasure Point

Surfline: SSW-S swell slowly starts to eases this afternoon as small NW windswell mix continues. Most breaks stay down in the knee-waist high+ zone for the most part, as top exposures are in the shoulder-head high+ zone. Building Westerly winds are putting some slight bump/texture to the surface as the tide drops. Buoy 46012 (now more chatty!): (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 14.8 s S / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 7.1 s WNW / WVHT: 5.2 ft / APD: 6.3 s / MWD: 188° / (Met) WSPD: 17 kts / GST: 19 kts / WDIR: 310.0° / WTMP: 58.1° F.

24 August 2010

On Fear

I envy my buddies who have never had a serious surfing injury and can charge waves fearlessly. For me, fear is an unwanted and constant companion that holds me back.

On a Sunday in July four years ago, I went over the falls at Linda Mar on a wave that was around shoulder high, sucked forward and down with the breaking lip as it closed out hard. I pushed my funshape board out of the way so as not to land on it, and hit the water head first. The lip still had my feet, and continued to push them forward while my head was stalled in the water at the bottom of the wave.This forced me into a deep back-bend, a hyper-extension beyond my physical limits, which compressed a disc in my lumbar spine between two vertebrae. The pain was intense, and I could barely drag myself back onto my surfboard and paddle in to the beach. Once there, I found I was unable to stand upright while I tried to get the attention of my surf buddy, who had unfortunately left her keys in my car. Sitting for the drive home was also difficult, and I suffered through the night until a chiropractor's office opened Monday morning.

The excellent Dr. Alex Callister got me standing up straight again, but for weeks I could not sit in a chair and spent considerable time with ice on my lower back, sprawled face down across an ottoman in the only position that offered some relief from the pain. I used up my limited new-employee sick time and started burning vacation until, with frequent chiropractic appointments, I progressed to sitting atop an exercise ball for short periods.

Then followed physical therapy, visits to physiatrists, an MRI, more chiropractors, more doctors, more tests, more physical therapy, until it seems I exhausted the limits of what medicine can do and resigned myself to living with disability. For three years, I have been unable to sit comfortably in a chair without good back support, and even then must frequently squirm to relieve the discomfort. Lost forever are the days when I could flop down on a sofa or sprawl in a beanbag chair. As I cannot bend low for more than a few minutes, my husband is permanently delegated tasks such as weeding and scrubbing stubborn stains off the kitchen floor. I need to swim at least a couple times a week to relieve the ache. I can't sit in a kayak so I bought a SUP to keep paddling, and switched to a comfort bike since I can't lean over the low handlebars on a regular one. On the bright side, Dr. Callister accomplished the goal I set for him when I first shuffled through his door: he got me surfing again in about six weeks, and the after-effects of the injury now rarely affect a session.

I've learned that I need to protect my back by supporting it with my core muscles, and now have abs of steel, or at least aluminum. I also have fear. Every time my mind directs me to move off of the shoulder and closer to the peak, or to go for a larger wave or one that could break on me as I catch it, or even to paddle out on a bigger day, there's the wordless scream of fear telling me not to go. Would I have paddled into that overhead wave two months ago if I'd known it would rise up into a 7-foot face as I took the drop? I doubt it; I likely would have quickly paddled in the opposite direction to get out of its way. Whether I think about it consciously or not, the fear of being hurt again is always with me, holding me back. If it was completely irrational, it would be easy to dismiss it, but that's not the case. My dysfunctional and uncomfortable lower back reminds me constantly every day of the power of the ocean and the consequence of a mistake.

And so I watch my unscathed, charging friends with envy. I hope to one day conquer this fear, but it is a hard road.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
- Litany Against Fear from Dune

22 August 2010

Stoked Giggles (38th Ave)

What a difference a day makes. On Saturday the south swell filled in, lighting up the Jetty with head-high+ waves and giving Luke his 3rd barrel (woot!), with the swell holding into today. While I'd love some more overhead waves, I'm not keen to seek out the big pitching ones. So I drove to Santa Cruz in the pre-dawn darkness to find gentler waves before the crowd and tide rose, and it was well worth getting up at 4 am.
There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and a similar number of surfers in the lineup when I paddled out. I got one nice long right before the pack grew too thick, then moved to the inside left edge of the lineup in front of Jack O'Neill's house to pick off the mostly unwanted lefts. Surfline called it wrong again (at least they're consistent); the waves were shoulder- to head-high on the sets. The left was working very well and I rode a lot of good waves nearly to the beach, working through reforms and playing on the face. At the end of one ride, my stoked smile escalated into giggles, I was having so much fun! I got a couple waves that were at least head high, carving down the drop and back up onto the face, with another surfer hooting in appreciation. When I paddled back to the lineup, he congratulated me on a great ride. I don't think a stranger's ever sincerely complimented me like that before. Maybe I'm getting a little good at this surfing thing after all.

Surfline: Inconsistent ankle to waist high, clean, glassy lines looking fun for the bigger boards. New SSW (180-200) groundswell peaks as old SW (200-220) energy fades. Average areas go waist-shoulder-head high, while the better spots see inconsistent overhead sets. Clean conditions early thanks to light wind. Expect the building tide to eventually swamp things out later this morning. Buoy 46012: SSW 4.3 ft @ 16 sec.

20 August 2010

Summer? What Summer? (HMB Jetty)

When I reached the beach it was barely dawn, 53 degrees and drizzling under gray skies. Summer's nearly over, and it seems like we're still waiting for it. This has been one of the coolest summers ever, or so it seems, and the south groundswells have been as scarce as the warm sunshine. But there was a little south swell in the water, underneath a NW windswell, giving some hope for the Jetty after a pretty flat week. It didn't look like much from the road, but neither Darren nor I had time before work to drive around on a wave quest, so we paddled out anyway. The water too was colder than it should be in August.

Darren got the wave of the day as soon as he got in position - it was more than waist-high! I pulled off my requisite three decent rides, plus a few rather fun wipeouts from getting too close to the lip of a closeout wave on (attempted) takeoff. Luke and John turned up after a bit, and then it was just the four of us sharing the break. Manabu stopped by to video his surf report just as I rode my last left in. The bottoms of my feet were icy clods. I shivered as I changed, and cranked up the seat heater in the MINI as soon as I started driving - aahhh.
The waves may have been small and inconsistent, but there's no better way to start the day than a surf with just my buddies.

And now for a shark joke, courtesy of Luke:
A boat capsizes in the ocean and sinks. The survivors are floating around on the surface when two great white sharks spot them, a daddy great white and his son. The daddy says to his son, "Let's circle around them a few times with just one fin out of the water," and they do. Then the daddy great white says to his son "Good job! Now let's do it again, this time with all our fins showing," and they do. Then the daddy great white shark says "Good job son! Now let's go feast," and they do. After they have gorged themselves, the son asks, "Daddy, how come we circled them so many times instead of just going at them right away?" The daddy great white answers, "Because they taste better without the shit in them."
Surfline: Mix of holding SW groundswell, some minor NW windswell, and slow building long-period forerunners of a new SSW groundswell. Good SW exposed breaks offered 2-3' occasional 4' surf. Beachbreaks exposed to the SW/NW combo are peaky. Buoy 46012: NW 4.3 ft @ 7.7 sec.

17 August 2010

Sharks Are Everywhere

The number of great white sharks off of the California coast is on the rise. I'm sure you've seen this viral video by now.
If you do encounter the Landlord, here's how to punch a shark. Or you might just try singing the Shark Song.
Or you could be like this dude in Florida, and just don't believe in sharks!

14 August 2010

"So Fun!" (Montara)

"...Get out there if you have a board!" That's what a passing wet surfer told me in response to my query as I trotted to the edge of the bluff for a surf check. And indeed it was fun. Who would have thought I'd satisfy a little of my craving for bigger waves on a day Surfline forecast as 2-3'? The surf was actually chest- to head-high and sometimes a bit overhead, with steep fast drops.
With solid power in the water from a shorter-period windswell, I had some trouble getting my 8'3" to the lineup. But the third time was a charm, when I found an entry point on the very north end with a small rip current and timed it to a lull. The crowds were clumped farther down the beach, with only a few shortboarders on the far end. It was a bit frustrating at first as it took me a bit to get dialed in to the steep drops. Then I rode some fun lefts and rights, but the wave of the day was a fast head-high right with facetime that seemed to go on forever, speeding me along the bluffs all the way to the beach. Stoked!

Surfline: A small pulse of SSW (180-200) swell is on tap this morning as our small NW swell-mix continues to work in. Most breaks are good for knee-waist high+ surf, as top exposures pull in some chest/shoulder high sets. Conditions are lightly bumpy/textured for most areas thanks to light/variable SW winds early. Buoy 46012 NNW 3.9 ft @ 9.1 sec.

09 August 2010

Sole Surfer (38th Ave)

Yes, that's right: I surfed an in-town Santa Cruz break all by myself.

If I'd paid more attention to the tide, I would probably have gone to Cowells instead of 38th Avenue this morning for dawn patrol, since the water level was very low when I arrived. And maybe that's where everyone else went. But I didn't have time to waste driving to the Westside.
Morning glass
Although another woman joined me for about fifteen minutes and a couple guys showed up just before my last wave in, I was otherwise alone. Just me, an otter and a shy but curious sea lion. The lulls between inconsistent sets were long, but then a series of chest-high rollers were mine for the taking. Sometimes I could catch the first set wave and make it back out in time to get another before the next lull began. When the sea wall construction paused briefly, I closed my eyes and enjoyed a peaceful moment, bobbing gently on a glassy ocean, a faint breeze brushing my cheeks.

Surfline: Glassy, inconsistent lines working through this morning. SW (200-215) groundswell holds early, then begins to ease, with the largest surf on tap early. Better breaks are good for knee-waist-chest high waves, as top spots pull in some occasional shoulder-head high sets. Conditions remain fairly clean early on thanks to light wind. Buoy 46012: NW 4.3 ft @ 8.3 sec.

08 August 2010

Tri-County Surf Weekend (Bolinas)

If the original surf posse had held, I was going to title this post "Five Surfer Girls...and Luke." But Tracey brought her buddy Andrew, and Beth, Angie, Emily and I were also joined by Deepak and his friend Evan, so Luke wasn't the only guy. Then I thought I might go with "Bloody in Bolinas" after I bashed my lip on my board. A woman surfing right on the shoulder inexplicably turned into the whitewater I was trying to catch left, and I had to pull my board back hard to avoid being run over, with sadly predictable results. Although I was then bleeding slightly while surfing in notoriously sharky* waters, that title seemed overly dramatic for such a tiny lip wound. So I chose the one above, since I've surfed three counties in three days: Santa Cruz, San Mateo and now Marin.

Luke on his new board
It's been a couple of years since I surfed Bolinas, which isn't that much farther than Santa Cruz in miles but takes much longer to get to. First there's the slow slog in surface street traffic through San Francisco, which has declined to let a freeway run through it like any normal city. And then there's the narrow and curvy but beautifully scenic trek down Highway 1, traversing the coast near the top of a ridge with the expanse of the Pacific Coast laid out a long way below. Our four-car caravan linked up in Mill Valley at the start of the winding highway, but alas, the magnificent view was mostly obscured by misting clouds and fog.
The light drizzle and overcast continued when we reached Bolinas but allowed us to park near the beach. Unfortunately, the waves were meh, not really worth the drive. The tide was high and I had trouble getting into the mushy waves; I needed to wait for the bigger ones, and then be right where they were breaking. I got a smattering of decent rides and a couple of good waves, one near the Groin with a nice fast drop, and another long one I worked through reforms into the beach on the east side of the lagoon channel. The current was rushing fast into the Bolinas Lagoon, and I very nearly got sucked in with it. In waist-deep water, it was hard to even walk perpendicular to get out of the strong pull. That inrushing current had me paddling extra strokes even far from the lagoon mouth until I figured it out. After 3 straight days of surfing, my paddling muscles are sore!

Deepak and Evan
It was fun surfing with friends even in so-so conditions, and the unscary mushy waves were good for the newbies in the group. Half of us decamped post-surf to the Coast Cafe, which actually has vegan soup, but I was way more than soup-hungry so went for another ALT sandwich. I was hoping for sunshine and a clear view of the coast on the drive back, but high fog shrouded Marin and obscured the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, not lifting to sunshine until I was nearly home, tired and happy.

*There was a shark sighting here the day before, I learned later, and my buddy Mike reported one a few months ago. Thankfully, Luke didn't mention that he'd been bumped by something in the water until we were out of it.

Surfline: 4-6 ft [not!], light and variable southwest winds with smooth seas. Small long period swell from the southwest. Buoy 46012: NW 6.2 ft @ 7.7 sec. 2 Mile Surf Shop: Coastal cloudiness and overcast conditions start the morning again, broken record, right? Temps are mild but the wind is lightly onshore causing some ocean texture. There is a still a bit of south swell pulse in the water sometimes mixing with the NW windswell. Sets at The Patch were knee high currently. The Channel still has the most surfers out and has waves in the 1-2'+ range and a little bigger.

07 August 2010

South Swell, South Wind & Sunshine (Linda Mar)

This morning I planned to attend Luke's Coastside Surfers Meetup, but I got to the Jetty an hour early and it looked pretty junky with an onshore breeze. Once again, I was blown north by the south wind. There were a lot of surfers in the water at Montara, which looked cleaner but more than head-high, with lots of windswell whitewater to slog through to the outside.
Feral agapanthus at Montara
Look closely: there's a dude trying to make that closeout.
I knew the Kahuna Kupuna contest was on at Linda Mar, but thought I'd check it out anyway since it's a good place to go when the south winds blow. Parking was pretty full but I found a spot and paddled out on the south end, well away from the contest. There were a handful of surfers in the lineup, including a female wave hog (would that be a wave sow?). I was happy to surf in sunshine again, since the weather has been gloomy and drizzly like Seattle most mornings of late. It had been three weeks since I'd surfed under sunny skies.
The waves were moundy and the offshore was strong, and for a while I was getting nada on Magic, but then I realized I was stupidly following the herd. Instead of sitting with the pack, I needed to use my surf sense to figure out where I needed to be in those conditions on that board. I moved to a smaller inner break I'd seen from the beach, where the waves were jacking up a bit, and put myself at the peak. Then I started catching waves, but at first the wind prevented me from riding them, blowing me off the back as soon as I popped up. This is one situation where it's a bit of a handicap to have the extra rocker in Magic's nose, which shaper Bob Pearson wanted to design out, since it catches the wind. It took some iterating and a few pearls, but I worked out how to weight the front of my board enough to push it down the face and get into the wave. One thing that helped was placing my hands farther forward on the board during the pop-up. I got a lot of great rides, including one left that I linked through not just one but two reforms, all the way to the beach.

Heron on the beach path
During the session, I'd exchanged smiles and banalities with a couple of women sitting outside of me. One remarked that she hadn't caught a single wave, and I suggested they sit farther inside. But it was time for them to go, and as she paddled passed me, she said "Do good for us out here!" Linda Mar has given me an unfortunate number of such waveless days when I was a beginner or equipped with the wrong board, and I felt bad for her. Just then I saw a wave approaching and urged them to paddle for it, but it mushed out. Then another came and I called "Paddle! Paddle!" She dug deep, popped up and rode for just a couple seconds until the wind pushed her off the back. She turned around with her arms raised in victory and a big stoked smile, which I returned, knowing those two seconds had turned her inner frown upside down. 

Afterwards I drove back south to El Granada and met up with some of the Coastside Surfers crew to swap surf stories over lunch at Cafe Classique and plan Sunday's expedition to Bolinas. I scarfed down a BLTA, hold the B, but I was still a bit hungry after the surf workout at Lindy. And a lot stoked!

Surfline: Waist to shoulder high, poor to fair conditions. Bumpy, sectiony walls with SW wind blowing around 5-10kts. A mix of NW windswell and building SW (200-215) energy provides 3-4' surf at average breaks this morning, while top spots occasionally hit head high. Onshore flow out of the SW keeps surface conditions textured/crumbly overall. Look for a building tide to swamp out most areas around mid-morning. Buoy 46012: NW 6.9 ft @ 9.1 sec.

06 August 2010

Kelp Baseball & Musical Boards (38th Ave)

Not long after dawn when I arrived at the 41st Ave parking lot, my buddies hadn't yet shown and, so it appeared, neither had the south swell. But after driving all the way to Santa Cruz in the dark, I was getting wet regardless. Darren turned up while I was changing into my wetsuit and Luke pulled into the parking lot with Angie as we were leaving for the beach. Angie didn't have a wetsuit and surf shops aren't open at 6 am, so I loaned her my 3/2. A bit thin, but Luke assured me that since she is, like him, a hardy Canadian, it would be plenty warm, eh.

From the cliff, it still didn't look like there was a lot going on surf-wise. As I put the final touches on my gearing-up, a guy in a wetsuit hurried past me from the beach, and quickly came back the other way, carrying a plastic baseball bat. As he started down the stairs, I asked, "Is that for the sharks?" He laughed and scurried on. When I got to the lineup, I saw its purpose: kelp baseball, using as balls the floaty kelp bulbs which are in over-abundant supply.
Kelp baseball is just one way to pass the time during lulls. According to the Surfing Rule Book Rule No. 232: "If there are more than two stand up paddlers (SUPs) in the lineup, they must joust until only one remains." I was hoping to see some jousting when a phalanx of five SUPers paddled out, but alas, they weren't familiar with Rule #232. Fortunately they didn't take over the peak, and the crowd remained surprisingly light. Perhaps everyone else was holding off for the forecast real arrival of the swell tomorrow, or maybe Surfline's bad report scared them off. Whatever the cause, it was a happy circumstance for in fact, instead of poor ankle-knee high surf, we were treated to decent waves up to shoulder high, both rights and lefts, with plenty to go around since there were only a dozen or so in the lineup. My uninspiring views from the shore had been during lulls, and I'm very glad we paddled out, as a good time was had by all.

Darren at the end of a ride. I wish my camera would start up faster.

Angie had only been surfing a few times and was struggling to balance on her new 7'4" Ward Coffey egg. She's on her way to work at a surf camp in Costa Rica (lucky!) and I'm sure she'll have lots of fun on it later, but it's not a good beginner board. So Luke passed his shiny spankin' new Harbour longboard to Darren, who loaned his longboard to Angie, who gave the egg over to Luke. And I wanted to try the egg, so I swapped Magic for it. I caught a few waves on the egg, but it felt meh, although it gave me more confidence for my next session on my 5'8" Xanadu Rocky. Riding my 8'3" Magic all year, and riding it well, has built up my skills, and I think I'll do much better on the shortboard. I hope to test that theory this weekend.

Surfline: 1-2 ft, ankle to knee high, poor conditions. Clean, inconsistent little lines working through. Starting pretty slow this morning as old SSW (195-205) groundswell drops out, new, long period, SW (200-215) groundswell builds, and some small NW windswell mixes in. Most better Southern Hemi breaks are seeing fairly small scale surf in the knee-thigh high zone, as standout exposures pull in a few inconsistent sets to waist high+. Conditions are mostly clean early. Buoy 46012: NW 4.3 ft @ 7.7 sec.