29 September 2010

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun (38th Ave)

The Hook looked really nice but awfully crowded in the late afternoon.
38th Ave was a bit less clean, but there were only a few surfers out and waves were going unridden. It was an easy choice.
I lost count after eight solid rides. My wave of the day was two-for-one, a right I pumped through a flat section into a left for an amazing fun ride. Stoked!
The crowd had swelled to more than two dozen by the time Luke and J-Bird arrived. As the sun set, they rode a wave in together. 

Surfline: 2-3 ft+ occ. 4 ft. Solid WNW swell slowly eases as small SW swell and old WNW swell continue to mix in. Good breaks see shoulder-head high+ surf, as top exposures pull in mainly 2-3' overhead surf, with some lingering plus sets. Conditions remain semi-mostly clean across the region this afternoon, with only the most exposed breaks showing some light surface bump/texture. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 12.9 s W / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.8 s NW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 9.3 s / MWD: 277°

25 September 2010

Third Time's the Charm (Waddell)

This morning our little surf posse formed up in Half Moon Bay and we drove in caravan down Highway 1: Luke in his big truck, just-arrived-yesterday East Coast transplants J-Bird and Jacob, me and Scott, and Nikki in her new Subaru. We checked Tres Rocas and Gazos Creek (not necessarily in that order), but neither was tempting and they had some nasty shorepound. Continuing south, Luke pulled over just before the Waddell parking lot, where some tasty waves were breaking beside the road. We suited up, clambered down the boulders armoring the highway, and hit the water on a hot sunny day at the start of Autumn.
The only crowd was us.
Nikki, Luke and J-Bird
For a change Waddell was good to me. Quite good, in fact. It was a bit lully which let me get to the outside without much difficulty. The waves were shoulder- to head-high with decent form, and I rode a bunch of nice lefts. Stokeful! A good time was had by all.

Tyler was already in the water on his orange shortboard when we paddled out. Luke swapped boards with him for a bit but didn't get much joy, and went back to his Strive. I was trying out my brand new Pentax Optio W90 waterproof camera (replacing the flooded W80), but sadly, video of one of Luke's good rides fell victim to operator error, stop/start mixup due to difficulty reading the LCD screen in sunlight. (Sorry, buddy. Next time.)

Surfline: Building new NW groundswell set up head high to overhead surf at well exposed spots, while other areas saw a smaller share of that swell along with a minor mix of NW windswell and trace SW groundswell. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 12.1 s NW / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.3 s NW / WVHT: 5.2 ft / APD: 6.8 s / MWD: 318°

24 September 2010

R.I.P. Pentax Optio W80

In August '09, I bought a waterproof point-and-shoot camera, a Pentax Optio W80. Most of the photos and video on this blog since then were taken with the W80, and I'm generally pleased with the quality. But it lasted barely over a year before it flooded, never to start up again.

Within a couple months of my purchase, a small leak corroded the computer connector port, forcing me to remove the SD memory card each time to transfer files. Why not have this repaired, since the warranty period was still in effect? Because waterproof cameras aren't warranted for water damage. Or damage from sand. Or from any of the other hazards a waterproof camera will experience if used in, well, water. Go figure.

Although I've been careful to rinse the camera post-surf and to clean sand from the seals, the latest leak was serious, with water fogging the inside of the LCD screen. I dried the camera out, to no avail, then surveyed the available options, and bought the latest Pentax waterproof model, the W90. A gamble? Perhaps, but most of these waterproof cameras aren't designed with surfing in NorCal in mind. (I'm not a fan of Go Pros, although supposedly they've improved.) I considered the Panasonic Lumix TS2, but the Pentax seems to have the best button design compatibility with gloves, and I'm hopeful that the redesign fixed the leakage issue I had with the W80. Pentax recommends yearly replacement of the rubber packing that forms the waterproof seals on the battery and connector compartments, and this time I'll heed that suggestion.

Having a camera with me on the water enhances my surfing experience, and, I think, that of my buddies as well, who enjoy seeing themselves in action when I manage to catch it. My priority is always on surfing first, with photography as a secondary hobby. A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video, ten thousand. One day I'll get a cool wildlife shot too, although, if a shark ever charges me, I will not be taking photos.

21 September 2010

Ride, Rinse and Repeat (HMB Jetty)

My waterproof camera wasn't this morning; it flooded. I'll try to paint a picture with words.

Standing in the dirt lot in the dim half-light before the cool crack of dawn, I knock three times on the window of Luke's big blue truck to wake him from the nap he's taking after dropping a friend at the airport for an early flight. As he stretches, I dash across the road to check the surf at the Jetty. A sideshore breeze blows my long brown hair in my face, and I push it aside, watching the empty, fun-size waves roll in. The wind is dappling a light chop on the water, and nice left is waiting just for me.

My new 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit still feels slightly damp from Sunday's surf as I hurry into it, shivering a little in the chill breeze. The sky has lightened as we cross the road and carefully step down the worn bluff to the sand. The wind pushes against my longboard and I repoint it more parallel to the riprap wall bounding the beach. A pause to leash up, glove up, helmet up, and I'm ready to follow Luke into the cold water. The ocean is brownish with red tide and sporting clumps of loose kelp. A seabird bobs near the jetty, but there are no mammals in sight, except us. Slivers of blue sky peek between streaks of white and dark clouds above Pillar Point.

The waves are mixed up on crossing swells, doubling up, shifty. Luke catches one and rides off to the right, leaving me floating patiently, searching the near horizon for a sufficiently walled wave, hoping for a left. I paddle for a few, but they are too mushy. Or I am too far outside, passed by; too far inside, rolled by whitewater. Then a shoulder-high wave rises behind me, wanting to break left. I turn and stroke for it, feel it lift me, pop to my feet and ride down the face, bottom turning with the sizzle of whitewater at my back. I turn near the top and ride down again, enjoying the rhythm of being with the wave, feeling where it wants to take me and moving in response. Too soon the wave breaks fully, bubbles hissing at my tail, but I ride it a little farther, finally falling flat to the side as the rock-studded shallows approach. I splash down and cool water hits my face, trickling into my wetsuit. I plant my feet on the sand, collect my board and point it seaward once again. Ride, rinse and repeat.

Surfline: WNW (295-310) swell peaks, as some NW windswell, and fading SSW swell mix in. Most good exposures across the region are good for waist-chest-shoulder high surf, as top spots are good for some occasional head high+ sets. Winds are moderate out of the WNW, putting some pretty heavy bump/texture to the surf in most areas. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.0 ft at 13.8 s WSW / WIND WAVE: 5.2 ft at 5.9 s WNW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 5.3 s / MWD: 303°

19 September 2010

Feels Like Flying (Tres Rocas)

Update: Now with pix taken from the beach by Danielle. View them all here.
Chased by overhead whitewater
Holding the handrail
Luke polishing his backside
~ ~ ~
I posited to my buddies that today we surf someplace uncrowded on the south swell, and after checking another spot that was blowing more onshore, Luke's goofy-foot friend Austin took us to a great place on the Lonely Coast. I will pseudonymously call it "Tres Rocas," a name intended to give no clue whatsoever as to its location, although there are indeed three rocks there. I'm afraid it was that good, and that empty on a day that saw most other local breaks either packed or sloppy with southwest wind, that I don't want to risk exposing it. Luke, Austin and I were joined by Austin's buddy Mark, and his wife Danielle took pix from the beach (photographic evidence of my OH rides may be coming).
The shorepound getting out to the left point break was gnarly. I got denied a couple of times before moving farther down the beach and paddling like hell during a lull to get past it. Once there, the first half hour was a dismal exercise in frustration, as promising waves would mound up unrideably or I'd catch them only to fail getting over the lip as they crossed a deeper section and mushed out. The key, as Luke pointed out, was to be right on the peak as the wave broke. But unlike at Rachel's Point, where the waves jacked up steep at the peak, these waves offered a gradual drop; they were not out to kill me, despite being overhead. After half an hour of nothing, I looked at the spot where the waves were first breaking, clearly indicated by the lingering surface bubbles, and told myself to Get. Over. There. Now.

 Luke rides one in

The first wave I rode was tandem with Luke, taking the drop on my belly when he was already riding to my left, but I popped up at the bottom and hooted; it was FAST. The next was similar but solo, and then I really committed. I took one that Luke said was a foot-and-a-half over my head, riding it into a reform, and then too far into the shore break, falling the wrong way (beachward) as it sucked up sand, the wave bouncing me off the bottom and pushing Magic (not too hard) into my ribs. I got another wave with probably my biggest drop yet, riding frontside and flying down the line just past a hooting Austin - with me again joyously calling WOO HOO! - but this time not taking it all the way in. Paddling back for a couple more, I asked him how high the wave had been, and he first said, "Dunno, 10 feet?" but then backed off to a couple feet over my head. No matter, it was big and awesome and soooo much fun!
I truly hope there is another south swell before the season ends. I know where I want to surf it!

Surfline: Good SSW swell held strong this morning with chest-head high+ waves with some modest WNW windswell mixing in. Standout spots were still producing some 1-2' overhead sets. That swell mix is starting to fade this afternoon. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 16.0 s SSW / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.3 s WSW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 6.8 s / MWD: 213°

17 September 2010

South Swell Stoke (HMB Jetty)

"Surf session this morning brought to you by the color grey and the letter S for South Swell." -Luke
Too long without any good waves, I really needed to find some on Magic this morning. At the Jetty, the combo swell with a nice portion of south did not disappoint. Luke and I arrived at first light and were the second and third surfers in the water, although the crowd built to a dozen with the brightening day. Manabu was suiting up when we left the beach, and he shot this video just before my last ride.

In the short hour I had to surf between dawn and work, I got a handful of nice lefts off of the A-framing chest- to head-high waves, with some fun and challenging backwash moguls. South swell stoke!

Surfline: 2-3 ft (not!). Long period SSW (190-205) swell continues to build in this morning, mixing with a decent shot of WNW windswell. Most breaks see surf running in the waist-chest-shoulder high+ zone, as top exposures are getting up into the head high zone on some of the sets. Winds are light onshore out of the WNW, putting some decent bump/texture to the surface in most areas. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.3 ft at 17.4 s WSW / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.8 s NW / WVHT: 4.6 ft / APD: 6.9 s / MWD: 245°

12 September 2010

The "S" Words (Montara)

"S" is for Sharks. There have been an uncomfortable number of shark sightings in San Mateo County recently. First Linda Mar a couple of weeks ago, then Montara last Monday, and just yesterday John saw a 10-footer in the lineup at Poplar in Half Moon Bay. Most years there are none sighted close to my usual spots, much less at them; I'm not sure why we're seeing so many Men in Gray Suits now, but I don't like it. A crazy dude in Florida actually stopped to take a pic when a shark charged him, but I'm sure my camera would be quite forgotten were I ever (hopefully never!) in that situation. While we were in the water at Montara this morning, Manabu dared to utter the "S" word, and I cut him off. We don't mention the Landlord in the lineup; only happy dolphin talk is allowed.
"S" is also for Short-period, Shortboard, and Skunked, which pretty much sums up my session. With my Magic 8'3" in the shop for repairs (a stupid home accident involving the corner of a door), I was on my 5'8" Rocky. Luke offered me his wife's 8'3" from which Magic is cloned, but I would've had a lot of trouble getting it to the lineup through the short-period whitewater. As it was, it took lots of duck-diving to get Rocky out. Once there, I couldn't find the right spot at the right time. The waves seemed to be either jacking closeouts or - even after Luke called me farther inside (thanks, buddy) - too mushy for me to paddle into, a situation that worsened as the tide rose. I caught two and popped up, only to fail on the closing-out drop, one time quite spectacularly. Luke and Manabu did alright, as befits their better surfing skills, but I am left jonesing for waves worse than before.

As a consolation, "S" is for suit. After the session, Luke and I stopped by his favorite surf shop, Sonlight in Pacifica, where he said they had 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit that might fit me with a trim color to match Magic's flower. Luke's been raving about his Insulator, and although Rip Curl only goes down to women's size 4, they run small. This is my first Rip Curl wetsuit, as I've been wearing size 2 Hotlines since we moved to NorCal. Unfortunately, the Hotline 4/3 I bought about six months ago hasn't held up well and is in for warranty repairs for the 2nd time. The Rip Curl Insulator seems to fit pretty well, and I hope to try it out in some better waves reputedly coming at the end of the week (yet another lauded south swell).

Surfline: NW windswell on tap this morning as small S swell slowly starts to creep up. Average areas go knee-waist high, while the better NW exposures see + sets. Light westerly wind early for semi-clean conditions overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 10.8 s W / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.6 s WNW / WVHT: 4.6 ft / APD: 7.1 s; (Met) WSPD: 6 kts / GST: 8 kts / WDIR: 180.0° / ATMP: 54.5° F / WTMP: 55.9° F.

06 September 2010

Groundhog Day, Almost (HMB Jetty)

This morning was nearly a repeat of yesterday. Same surf checks, same result. But conditions were a bit better - or maybe it just seemed that way in the warm bright sunshine. My shortboarding skills were better too, with several rides measurable in full seconds. I don't think they would've been much longer on Magic, with the waves mostly closing out and breaking close to shore. And this time, I did find a couple of short shoulders. Fun!
I was only alone for about 40 minutes, and then another shortboarder paddled out. He chose another peak, but two others soon came out and sat on either side of me. Somehow it felt like a crowd. By the time I left there were more than half a dozen in the water, and no doubt the break will be packed later with fair-weather holiday waveriders.
It looks like we may be heading into an even worse wave drought, so I'm glad I got in 3 days of surfing this long weekend. And especially glad I got in enough water-time to bring my shortboarding up to halfway decent. Bring on the Fall!
Surfline: A bumpy, lumpy mix of mostly NW windswell and some trace S-SSE swell prevails this morning. Better exposures are good for waist-chest-shoulder high surf, as standout spots pull in some occasional head high+ sets. Winds are light/variable out of the NNW putting just some slight texture to the surface in most areas. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.9 ft at 10.0 s NW / WIND WAVE: 4.6 ft at 6.7 s NW / WVHT: 8.2 ft / APD: 7.0 s / MWD: 320°; (Met) WSPD: 14 kts / GST: 17 kts / WDIR: 330.0° / ATMP: 54.3° F / WTMP: 55.9° F.

05 September 2010

Solitary Shortboard Practice (HMB Jetty)

"Cool fins" -Dogwalking Dude
This morning I planned to repeat yesterday's surf quest, with last resort Linda Mar as the possible end of the journey. Forsaking the Sunday New York Times, I got an early start to beat the wind and the traffic.

Overnight the windswell had come up considerably. At my first stop, Kelly Ave, the waves were head-high and sectiony. A couple of spongers were making them but I didn't see the lone surfer get any. There was already a little onshore breeze and the paddle out looked challenging. At any rate, I wanted to practice shortboarding in waves that wouldn't kill me, and figured the Jetty would have a little something.

Although it wasn't flat like yesterday, the waves were maybe waist high and lackluster. Still, it was pretty clean and I thought I could make a go of it on Rocky. Better yet, there was no one else there. Paddling out, I suffered through the initial shock of cold water on my bare hands; I'm really starting to prefer going gloveless and we'll see how long I can keep it up. While I'm sure I saw some workable shoulders from the beach, I'll be damned if I could find any in the water. The waves mostly closed out but I caught a bunch and managed a handful of short rides. I still need to work on my foot placement when I pop up as I'm landing too far back most of the time and stalling the board.

On the way home I stopped to check Dunes, thinking it might offer intermediate waves, smaller than Kelly but punchier than the Jetty. By then the onshores had kicked up a notch, justifying my choice. It's just slim pickings out there today, surfwise. I'm glad to have gotten some!

Surfline: NW windswell is our main source of waves today, mixing with a touch of old S/SSE (160-180) energy. Waist-head high surf is fairly common, while top spots go slightly bigger on occasion. Shape stays mixed-up/crumbly with some light onshore texture @ the open areas. Look for the building tide to swamp things out mid-morning. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 8.2 ft at 10.0 s NW / WIND WAVE: 7.2 ft at 7.1 s NW / WVHT: 10.8 ft / APD: 7.0 s / MWD: 314°; (Met) WSPD: 17 kts / GST: 21 kts / WDIR: 320.0° / ATMP: 55.0° F / WTMP: 55.6° F.

04 September 2010

Honey on the Water (Linda Mar)

After another hot streak, this morning dawned gray and dreary, along with my mood. But with a small windswell in the water, there was bound to be surf somewhere, and every surfer knows that surfing makes you feel good.

I checked the beach breaks in Half Moon Bay first, but the breeze was onshore and that's where the waves were breaking too. The Jetty was nearly a lake, but as always, there were some kooks out there trying to make a go of it. Montara was also onshore and choppy, with a dozen surfers looking a shoulder in the sectiony waves. I wasn't inspired to slog through the short-period shorepound for that, so I kept driving north. At Devil's Slide, the clouds were being sucked up the mountain and crossing the road at a forty-five degree angle to continue their ascent; I should have stopped to take a video.

Linda Mar was cleaner than the other spots, with the breeze side-shore, but already there was a mass of surfers in the water, including a glob of red-shirted surf schoolers. Boat Docks was mercifully empty, and surprisingly so; at most I shared it with four others. I took out 8'3" Magic instead of 5'8" Rocky because the waves were soft and I needed some good rides.
At first the others in the lineup were surfers, but then a couple of janitors joined us, and one of them was sweeping in from far outside, taking wave after wave. He reminded me in some way of an unshaven Robert Downey Jr, but I resented his priority on so many waves, and was thinking evil thoughts about SUPs. My mother used to quote me the adage, "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Leaving aside why you would want to catch flies, there is some truth to the idiom. After I tried to paddle out of "Robert's" path by heading for the breaking part of the wave he'd just caught, he inexplicably turned in the same direction, and when he returned to the lineup, I apologized for "getting in his way," citing my confusion on his course change. A few minutes later, I backed off another wave he'd taken, and then he told me to feel free to drop in on any of his waves, and he'd just go the other way. Hmm, honey does work, although I didn't have the chance to take him up on it. After about two hours in the water, I'd eaten my fill of cold longboard waves and soon exited on icy feet, in a much better mood than when I'd started.

Surfline: Soft, sectiony lines getting up to about chest high on the better sets. Weak surf on tap this morning as a mix of NW windswell and fading Southern Hemi swell provides knee-chest high waves. Most areas see semi-bumpy surface conditions thanks to light onshore wind. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 8.3 s NW / WIND WAVE: 3.6 ft at 6.2 s NW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 6.0 s / MWD: 309°; (Met) WSPD: 14 kts / GST: 16 kts / WDIR: 310.0° / ATMP: 54.0° F / WTMP: 57.2° F.

02 September 2010

Sharkcifica (Linda Mar)

Darren was already in the water south of Taco Bell with just a few others when I arrived, and I saw him get a nice shoulder-high left. When I said I was regretting that I'd left my gloves in the car, he assured me (correctly) that my hands would numb up in a few minutes. After a short chat, I excused myself and paddled to the kiddie-pool end of the beach at Boat Docks; I needed smaller waves to knock the kook out of my shortboarding. There was no one else around initially, and I couldn't help thinking about the shark attack on a sea lion a few days ago, just outside the lineup right there in Pacifica. Nearby surfers had seen a lot of thrashing with bloody water thrown into the air, reportedly an 18-25 foot great white shark violently taking her lunch. (Yes, 18-25 feet! Several news organizations reported this statement completely uncritically, while my fast Wiki search revealed that if true, this was one of the largest sharks ever. Doesn't the media do even the most basic fact-checking anymore?!)

As I paddled alone across opaque waters still darkish in the new day, fingertips brushing seaweed, my shark-riddled thoughts turned to a dream I had last night, of coming to Linda Mar to surf but finding it infested with dozens of sharks, jumping and roiling the water, and hurling themselves out of the ocean to snap at people on the beach. When I sprinted away from the snapping jaws of an 18-25 footer, I woke up and looked at the alarm clock: almost time to get up to drive to Linda Mar for dawn patrol. On actual arrival, I saw no sharks, and took this as proof that there were none (as I must or I would have to stay on the beach). Fortunately, it seems many of the usual hordes haven't put the death of the sea lion behind them; the crowds stayed light as the sun rose in the sky.

Interestingly, Surfline's best board for today looks rather like the one I took out. I've been riding my 8'3" Magic hybrid longboard almost exclusively since I got it last December, and it's quite a switch dropping straight to my 5'8" Xanadu Rocky hybrid shortboard. My experience this morning was almost like starting over on the shortboard, but with an accelerated learning curve. At first I was a bit tippy just sitting in the lineup, my duck-dives were ineffectual, and my pop-ups were horrible, sloppy and too far back on the board. But soon I was catching whitewater and standing for milliseconds, then getting into the wave closer to the peak and riding a little longer. By the end, I managed a decent short ride. Yes!
With nothing on offer this weekend but more short-period windswell, I'm planning to concentrate on getting up to speed with the shortboard to be ready for winter. I think Magic has honed my surfing skills, but it's time to get back to driving a sports car. Zoom, zoom!

Surfline: 2-3 ft+ with fair conditions. Clean, peaky lines with some scattered, workable corners. Occasional slightly larger sets. Patchy coastal fog with light winds. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 9.1 s NW / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 6.9 ft / APD: 6.9 s / MWD: 315° / 07:00a PDT; (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 10 kts / WDIR: 310.0° / ATMP: 52.7° F / WTMP: 55.4° F / PRES: 1010.5 hPa / PTDY: +0.8 hPa / 06:50a PDT.