31 December 2010

Goodbye 2010 (HMB Jetty)

On the last day of 2010, conditions were similar to Tuesday. The session started late morning to catch the tide falling from an early high so I missed the probably pink again sunrise (another storm is on the way), but the sea was more glassy than last time, at least initially.
Mid-morning glass
A few surfers were already in the water near the Jetty, and I choose a peak farther down the beach so I wouldn't have to share. This time I was only able to link one wave into a reform, but I got a lot of little rides and a few fun drops as the tide dropped. Coming up on two hours in the water, the south wind turned on. It was a light steady breeze, enough to send me shivering in to the beach as soon as I could get a ride suitable enough to be the last of the year.

My goal for 2011: to get barreled. It's time.

Surfline: Easing short to mid period West-NW swell is good for waist-head high waves and occasional slightly larger sets at standout spots. Cleaner overall but possibly some leftover surface lump and bump for many areas. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 12.1 s NW 98 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.7 s NW / WVHT: 6.6

30 December 2010

Don't Miss the Boat for Mavericks

Riding the beast at the last contest
Control of the Mavericks big wave surf contest has changed hands, and the new organizers of the re-christened Jay at Mavericks are taking greater care to ensure that the spectator injuries of prior contests are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the consequence of Mavericks Surf Ventures' previous poor planning is that now everyone, except press, is barred from access to the beach and bluffs, leaving only the water for live viewing. Sure, you could watch the contest on a big screen someplace, beer in hand, but where's the magic in that? It's happening right here, in our own backyard, not hundreds or thousands of miles away. I want to see it directly, with my own eyes.

Although I was granted media credentials for the February '10 contest and have applied again, I'm fairly sure the 38 spots on the Huli Cat press boat will go to main stream media over a lowly local blogger like me. A press pass will get me to the media area on the bluff, but I'd still like to be up close to the action (especially since Santa brought me a Nikon D3100 D-SLR camera). Here are the options I've found for watching the contest from a boat. All depart from Pillar Point Harbor.
  • Huck Fin Center coordinates up to 7 boats for contest viewing. There is no official contest boat this year, but the Jay organizers are sending inquirers to HFC. Contact Peggy to be added to their email list. This is not a solid reservation because boat availability varies with the uncertain date, but you'll be notified when the contest is called and have the opportunity at that time to make a nonrefundable reservation with a credit card. Most of the boats will be $200 per section (am/pm) or $375 for the whole day; others will be $250 per section. 
  • Queen of Hearts is a 50-foot boat, capacity 43 people, that is taking confirmed reservations. Cost is $195 for the first or second trip (am/pm), or $350 for the whole day. The advance payment is nonrefundable unless the 2010/2011 contest doesn't happen, in which case they keep $10.
  • Tigerfish, another 50-footer, takes 40 spectators at a cost of $200 with $100 charged for "re-ride." They "reserve the right to overbook all trips by 5 persons" so some folks might get left at the dock.
Boats generally operate a morning slot and another in the afternoon, so if you're keen to see the Finals, book the latter. I've got feelers out to some other local operators, so if I find more on-the-water viewing options, I'll post them here.

28 December 2010

Mush for Breakfast (HMB Jetty)

I thought there would be more going on at the Jetty this morning, but as I pulled up at the side of the road in the dim pre-dawn light, I was happy to see there were rideable waves. With a short window of surf opportunity before going back to work after the holiday, I didn't have time for a wave hunt.

The beach was peacefully deserted and I paddled out alone, although two and then two more joined me later. They kept their distance but somehow it felt like a crowd, as I've been enjoying the solitude of recent dawn patrols. The waves were waist- to chest-high and mushy. Many would start to break and then dissipate, as if it was too much trouble to push all the way in to the beach. To catch them I had to be at the breaking peak, and even then they would often decline to carry me very far.
Just after I shot this sunrise video*, I rode a nice right for my buddy Luke, who is sadly landlocked for the holidays. No lefts at all for me today, but I caught two bigger rights that had more energy, and worked them through the flat section into another little drop for long rides that ended near shore. Then it was back to work with a stoked smile on my face, where my lead surprised me with a present, a used copy of "Step Into Liquid." That great movie, plus "Blue Crush," got me into surfing in Cocoa Beach way back in '03. I can't wait to watch it again.

*There's a saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Supposedly there's some truth to it, and in fact, since afternoon it's been raining and strong winds are forecast.

Surfline: Fading mid-period WNW (270-310) swell is mixing with some small SW windswell that is dropping out. Better breaks are in the waist-shoulder-head high range on sets while standouts still produce some 1-2' overhead sets. Conditions are clean with light winds but the swell is still a little mixed up and junky overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.9 ft at 11.4 s NW 97 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 6.2 ft / APD: 8.2 s / MWD: 304°

24 December 2010

Poocifica (Linda Mar)

Last Sunday, I searched the San Mateo County coast in a steady rain, looking for surfable waves. The best I found were at Linda Mar, but the water was a disgusting shade of brown, and although there were folks giving it a go, the surf didn't look good enough to risk the contamination [video]. It wasn't until Wednesday that I learned why the water looked so filthy: Pacifica State Beach was closed along with 3 others due to an overflow of the oxymoronic "sanitary" sewer on Sunday. So Linda Mar was my last choice this morning, but unfortunately the Half Moon Bay breaks were sloppy or lackluster. Montara looked clean but solidly overhead with a hard paddle out, so I drove on to Poocifica.
Linda Mar was having a good day, and - after walking past signs warning of contamination - there were already plenty of people out taking advantage of it. Why do we surf despite the risk of illness from dirty water? It's hard to explain to non-surfers, but when the waves are good, or at least decent, and you need to get in a surf between storms, well... we just go and hope for the best. Perhaps they haven't re-tested recently, and the water's OK now. It looks clean, and doesn't smell bad. For sure I won't swallow (nevermind that seawater gets forced into my sinuses and drips out later). I'll take some extra vitamin C. Little lies we tell ourselves, and then we paddle out, and hope we don't get sick.
I've just found an article from yesterday saying the beach remains closed through the weekend, because they won't test the water again until Monday. Here's hoping no invisible beasties are about to wage war in my body. For now, I have to say it was worth it. I first joined the pack on a left just south of the pumphouse. (The pumphouse contains restrooms and a little-known women's changing area. It's also the mechanism for disgorging putrid water into the lineup though gates that open without warning even in dry weather. I've never seen it, but I've heard it's pretty smelly.) I snared one nice ride from the crowd but grew tired of the competition, so I got out and walked past the trickle of water emanating from under the pumphouse to another peak farther north. Surfers were spread out there, and although the waves were closing out more, they were doing so gently on the rising tide and were a bit bigger than at the crowded peak. I rode some nice lefts and rights chest- to shoulder-high. The offshore grew strong and gave me some good practice getting Emm over the lip and down the face against the wind.

I wore my Hotline 4/3 this morning since the Rip Curl was still wet, but it's leaky and not as warm, and I was getting quite chilled with the wind blowing hard at times. I caught a fun left in close to the beach, dogging a sponger who was frozen like a reindeer in the headlights, and called it a Happy Holiday.

Surfline: LINDA MAR AND ROCKAWAY BEACHES CLOSED TO SWIMMING FOLLOWING SEWER OVERFLOWS (12/22) Clean, crumbly, sectiony lines with some slow but workable corners/sections to pick off. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.6 ft at 10.0 s W 96 / WIND WAVE: 3.9 ft at 5.9 s SW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 5.7 s / MWD: 277°

23 December 2010

A Festivus Miracle (HMB Jetty)

After suffering through an interminable wave drought caused by a chain of storms that brought heavy rain and strong south winds to NorCal, I was hoping for a Festivus Miracle, but prepared to have plenty to say at the Airing of Grievances if the surf once again disappointed. Happily, a Miracle was delivered, in the form of empty, clean, waist- to shoulder-high+ waves at the Jetty.
A wave formed up behind me, but it was sectiony and I couldn't get a read on it: right or left? A goofy-footed fan of lefts, I adjusted my paddle angle for the latter, but as the wave lifted me I felt it wanted to go right instead. I popped up and with just a thought, body and board effortlessly changed tack and carved rightward down the near head-high face into one of the longer rides of the morning. Woo hoo!

I had to get to work and left the water before eating my complete fill of tasty waves, but one great ride plus a whole lot of other good ones left me satisfyingly stoked. Breath visible in the 40-degree air and wetsuit steaming in the cold sunshine, I changed with a broad smile on my face, wishing a Happy Festivus to a couple of surfers who pulled up for a wave check. No Grievances here!

Surfline: Mid period West-NW is easing through the day with small SW windswell mixing in. Look for waist-chest high surf at good spots with sets to shoulder-head high at standouts. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.2 ft at 9.1 s WNW 95 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.3 s NW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 7.1 s / MWD: 296°

18 December 2010

Why I Prefer Surfing to Snowboarding

Getting there isn't long and often treacherous.

There are no lines or tickets at the beach.

The mountain just lies there.

Wildlife checks you out.

The sea offers solitude.

It's cold, but not that cold.

Water is softer than packed snow.

The ocean playground is ever-changing.

But mostly, because surfing is much much more fun!

15 December 2010

Tread (HMB Jetty)

This morning I was kooking my pop-ups, and it took me little while to figure out why. It's sunny but cold outside, so I geared up for it, adding the hood to my 4/3 Rip Curl Insulator wetsuit (wise move), thicker gloves (should've checked for holes before throwing 'em in my box though), and 5 mil instead of 3 mil O'Neill booties. The 3 mils are actually made for women so they fit better, but I figured I could use the extra thickness of the men's. However, I didn't reckon on the different treads. While the 5 mils have a lot of ridges, the 3 mils are fairly smooth on the bottom and allow for quick semi-sliding adjustment of misplanted feet. Wherever my feet landed on the board this morning in the frictiony 5 mils, they weren't moving anywhere easily. Coupled with the greater sensitivity to bad popups of my new 7'0" as compared to my 8'3", that spelled a lot of crash and burns. Yet somehow, having sorted this out, I started to get more rides, taking greater care on my popups and trying hard to be less sloppy. Emm is whipping me into shape.

Surfline: NW-WNW (280-300) swell backs down through the day as small/continued SW (200-220) groundswell mixes in. Better breaks are good for chest-shoulder-head high surf, with top NW exposures pulling in some overhead sets. Conditions remain on the jumbled side this morning as we come off a deep high tide, but winds are light out of the ENE, so expect conditions to clean up as the tide backs out from a 6am high. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s NW 94/ WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s WNW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 8.9 s / MWD: 304°

10 December 2010

Trusting the Sun to Rise (Sharks/Hook)

I got to the beach a bit too early this morning. It was still dark, and drizzling to boot, but at least it was warmer than some of my recent dawn sessions. There were already half a dozen cars in the lot and surfers heading for the stairs, with a few in the water. After a quick surf check, I changed into my wetsuit and reached the beach as twilight yielded to the day.
The swell was down from yesterday, with waves under head-high and below. I caught a short ride at the Hook but it was cluttering up with shortboarders so I made my way east to Sharks. Although there was a smaller pack there, I saw an empty peak farther over toward Privates and paddled on. Unfortunately that peak was juiceless and unsatisfying. With the clock ticking down toward my departure time for work, I bit the bullet and joined the lineup at Sharks. The mostly longboard crowd was friendly, with one guy even calling me into a wave. I got some nice rides, and one especially fine right that gave me good shoulder time. Woo hoo! I also got schooled in one of the ways my 7'0" is different - and harder - than my 8'3": I can't make a lazy late whitewater drop on my belly because it's very hard to hold the nose up out of the water. Trying it made for some exciting wipeouts, though.
Still mindful that part of the cliff fell onto the beach recently, I paddled back toward the stairs at the Hook. On the way I was treated to a close-up view of a couple of sea otters wrestling, and this time I managed to capture the wildlife show on video.

Surfline: W-WNW (260-300) groundswell fades through the day, with the most size holding on early. Dense fog is making it very difficult to get a good look at the size/conditions again this morning. Expect better breaks to be seeing waist-shoulder-head high surf, with top NW spots pulling in some occasional overhead+ sets. Winds are light/variable for mostly clean conditions. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 12.1 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.7 s WSW / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 8.1 s / MWD: 288°

05 December 2010

Never Trust the Meteorologist (Linda Mar)

Earlier in the week, I'd planned to surf in Half Moon Bay around mid-day to catch the dropping tide, since there was a 7' high tide around 9 am. However, in the intervening days, the wind forecast changed from light to blowing from the south all day, with an advisory starting at 2 pm for predicted southeast winds of 20-30 mph, gusting to 45 mph. Expecting HMB to be blown out, I decided I'd better get on it early and at Linda Mar, where a south wind blows offshore.

When I arrived at first light, the parking lot was already filling up as usual, with small clots of surfers on the three main peaks. Head-high closeout sets were marching through periodically, also typical, but there were smaller shoulders to be found and the breeze was offshore. Luke and I joined the crowd at the middle peak. As the wind increased and the tide rose higher, I had trouble getting over the lip on sometimes mushy waves with the offshore push-back. But I found my way into a nice right and a couple of sweet lefts, with a handful of whitewater rides in the mix, and was glad to have them as the crowd grew a bit ridiculous.
Sadly, after the best ride, I found myself at the edge of a trench near the cobblestone-studded beach. Collecting my new surfboard, I was tumbled nearer to the shore and knocked down in shallow water by the next wave. As soon as I stood up and started pulling my board toward me by the leash, another wave thrashed me, throwing Emm onto the cobblestones where she incurred her first dings, a couple of pressure dents on the business side near the nose. Damn. I don't like Linda Mar, and Linda Mar doesn't like me.
On his way home, Luke stopped for a second session at a beach break in Half Moon Bay and found that instead of being blown out, it was offshore with good head-high+ waves, although there was a hard shorepound entry on the very high tide. While I got a few nice waves at Linda Mar, I guess I should've made my own observations instead of trusting the weather forecast and reports.

C'est la vie; you rolls the dice and you takes your chances. But I'm itching to ride Emm in some well-formed bigger waves. Maybe later this week.

Surfline: 3-4 ft+, fair conditions. Clean, peaky lines staying a bit inconsistent this morning. Light ESE wind now. Big 7'+ high tide swamps it out later on. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 13.8 s NW / WIND WAVE: 3.6 ft at 6.2 s SSW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 6.2 s / MWD: 312°

01 December 2010

Sea Lions and Rabbits and Cats, Oh My (Melon Camp)

Actually I saw only one of each critter: a curious sea lion, pushing his head and upper body out of the water to stare at me; a timid rabbit, hopping off the path and pausing briefly under a bush before dashing away; and a friendly fluffy cat, who kept me company while I changed into and out of my wetsuit. Aside from them, plus my husband and a couple of other walkers passing by on the beach, I was alone.
But then there was the time I sensed a large presence in the opaque water beneath my board as I was paddling to keep position against a strong southward current, the feeling that something big was directly under me, slowing and lifting my board slightly, a brief unnatural sensation that I wasn't moving with the swell. It must be my imagination, I told myself, or else the sea lion; quite unlikely it's the Man in Gray. Still, I sat up quietly to ride the next wave - any wave - away from that spot.

Back in the shallows, I shook off shivers that had nothing to do with the cold, walked down the beach to my rip current ride to the outside, and went back for more. I was trying to stay with a left shoulder, but the current kept pulling me into a closeout section. I got some decent rides and one nice long stokeful shoulder-high left. I also got mugged by a few head-high closeouts, and rolled in the shorepound.

I still have sand in my ears, but I ain't complainin'. There's something about a solo surf session at a lovely deserted beach that's a bit magical, if sometimes spooky. My eerie experience in mind, I exited the water as the sun kissed the sea at the horizon, washing the sky with color.

Surfline: Looking fun across the region this afternoon as new NW swell-mix moves in and small SW swell continues. Better breaks are up in the knee-waist-shoulder high zone, with top NW exposures pulling in some head high+ sets. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.6 ft at 10.8 s WNW / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 4.3 s WSW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 7.9 s / MWD: 283°