31 March 2011

Misty Morning (HMB Jetty)

A late Daylight Savings Time sunrise and a mid-morning meeting constrained my pre-work surf session. I arrived in the dim light of almost dawn, but was still the third surfer in the water. The waves were bigger than they'd looked from the low bluff, fun-sized at about shoulder-high. They were doubling and sometimes tripling up, making for an energetic paddle out and demanding patience in wave selection. Three was my lucky number as my third wave was the best, a nice left with a lot of playtime and turns on the shoulder. It took me a bit far inside where I landed too close to submerged rocks for comfort and thinking maybe I should've kicked out earlier. But woot! It was a fun ride. There were a lot of fun waves this morning, but that was the most stokeful.
While I was bright-eyed for dawn patrol, my buddies didn't arrive until the sun was well up. I said hello and goodbye to J-Bird in the lineup, and saw Luke's truck in the parking lot but not the man himself. I hope they got some good ones, but you know what they say about the early bird...

Surfline: There is a clean mix of building WNW (290-300) swell and modest SSW (190-210) groundswell in the water this morning. Size for most breaks is in the chest-head high range, as top exposures pull in sets in the overhead to 2-3' overhead zone, with more size building in through the day. Conditions are nice and clean, although the building tide is keeping most breaks a little slow. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 14.8 s WNW 26 / WIND WAVE: 3.9 ft at 6.2 s NW / WVHT: 8.9 ft / APD: 7.8 s / MWD: 291° (Met) WSPD: 14 kts / GST: 16 kts / WVHT: 8.9 ft / DPD: 15.0 s / WDIR: 340° / ATMP: 54.0° F / WTMP: 53.6° F. Tide: 3' rising to 4'.

27 March 2011

Snow Day (38th Ave & Cowells)

We've had an almost solid week of rain with pretty steady south winds messing up the surf. My buddies and I have been jonesing for waves, taking whatever we can get in the small weather windows that have popped up. But a side benefit of all that rain is that the storms dumped a substantial amount of powdery snow in the local mountains. I think that's one reason the Santa Cruz breaks were so atypically uncrowded today, because the segment of the surfing community that also likes their water frozen was hitting the slopes instead of the surf. Others may have been deterred by the distinct brownish hue of the not-so-clean waves.
No matter. When Luke and I paddled out at 38th Ave mid-morning, there were just 3 guys on it, increasing to only a dozen by the time I left. Sweet.

The tide was still a bit high for the break, so the longboarders had an advantage getting into the mushy waves over me on my 7'0". I sat inside and closer to the peak, and caught a nice shoulder-high wave with Luke. Following our footedness, I went left and he went right. The left shoulder held up for a little while and I rode through a reform to the inside. When I turned to paddle back out, I saw Luke was still riding, and riding, and riding... He had quite a long paddle back, but the great wave was worth it.

The outside waves were coming too infrequently for me and then mostly being snatched up by the longboarders before I could make a run at them, so when I'd landed inside again, I staked out an empty inner peak that was breaking more often. It was a bit sectiony, but I got a bunch of fun drops into short rides. Woot!

My niece's daughter Kerra sent me a Flat Stanley last week as part of a school project. I decided right away that part of his adventure in the Bay Area would be learning to surf, and I fashioned a little wetsuit for him (out of foam board, which is also part of the support system to hold him standing on a surfboard). Since the best beginner break in the area is Cowells, I took Stanley there for his first lesson, driving in my Surf-Fur over my wet wetsuit. Unfortunately, due to an equipment malfunction (i.e. I got the tape wet), Stanley couldn't surf Cowells this morning, but I went out and caught a handful of waist-high+ waves on my own in distinctly muddy water. Stoke tank is topped off! The fog started to roll in as I left, but it sure was nice to see the sun for a little while.
Surfline: Some fun, clean lines working through this morning with sets running head high and occasionally bigger at the decent spots. Our source of surf stems from a blend of building mid-period NW-WNW (270+305+) groundswell and holding S (180-210) energy. Wind is currently offshore with smooth surface conditions. Things speed up as the tide drops through the morning. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 11.2 ft at 14.8 s WNW 26 / WIND WAVE: 1.6 ft at 4.3 s W 25 / WVHT: 11.5 ft / APD: 9.4 s / MWD: 295° (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 8 kts / WVHT: 11.5 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 210° / ATMP: 51.8° F / WTMP: 52.7° F Tide: 3' dropping to 0.5'.

22 March 2011

The Dawn Between The Storms (Cowells)

A stormy weekend had kept me out of the water, so I was eager to surf as soon as a small window opened up. Winds have been a big issue lately, but they were predicted to be light this morning ahead of the next front blowing in this afternoon. I arrived in westside Santa Cruz in semi-darkness, but there were already 3 surfers in the water at Cowells. The crowd grew steadily with the daylight, but for a while it was delightfully light, and I was happily surprised when Tracey and Chris joined me in the lineup. The mellow waves were sectiony and only around waist-high, but I caught some nice long rides to the inside and put some stoke in my tank. The onshore wind cranked up as I was leaving, so I'm glad I got on it early. No better way to start the day!
Surfline: Lightly textured, small scale lines working through this morning offering some workable corners for the small wave gear. Fading mid period WNW swell with peaking long period WNW swell and fading short period southerly windswell. Surf is in the chest-head high range at good spots with 2-3'+ overhead set at NW standouts. Small SSW groundswell mixes in the background with 2-3' sets. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 8.2 ft at 17.4 s NW 24 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.4 s WSW / WVHT: 8.2 ft / APD: 10.0 s / MWD: 310° (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 12 kts / WVHT: 8.2 ft / DPD: 17.0 s / WDIR: 150° / ATMP: 51.3° F / WTMP: 52.2° F. Tide: -0.6' rising slightly.

20 March 2011

Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo

A heavy storm with rain, thunder, and strong onshore wind made the surf an unrideable mess this weekend. But at least there was an indoor event for surfers. After a tasty lunch at Pacific Thai in Santa Cruz, Scott and I parted ways and I walked a few doors down to the Sacred Craft Consumer Surfboard Expo. Here's the show in pictures.
If you have to SUP, these look pretty cool.
Funky shapes
Interesting idea
Jeff Clark (left)
Hard to believe they used to ride these actual logs.
This doesn't make me want to buy Future Fins.
You could never wax this.
I was lucky to catch Ward Coffey, who made my excellent 7'0", finishing up his entry for the Shape-Off, where half a dozen shapers were put in a glass box and given 2 hours to replicate a classic Doug Haut “Bump” design.
There's another video here.
The judges confer over the original.
I left before the Shape-Off decision for a walk with Scott at Steamer Lane, and silently cursed when I saw it was cleaning up after the bad weather, since I hadn't brought my board. More storms are stacked up with more south wind on the way, so it's anyone's guess when I'll get to surf again. I just hope it's soon.

Update: Ward Coffey won the Tribute to the Masters Shape-off!

18 March 2011

Big, Bad Waves and Noisy Jet-Skis

There was no big-wave contest at Maverick's this winter season, but that doesn't mean surfers weren't out there whenever it was breaking and rideable. Sadly, Sion Milosky caught his last ride and drowned at Maverick's on Wednesday following a two-wave holddown, while I was in the water with my friends a little more than 50 miles south.

Rest In Paradise Sion from IFM on Vimeo.
On another big swell in January that didn't rise to contest standards, Jacob Trette was saved from a similar fate by the quick action of a photographer on an unlawful jet-ski. Maverick's is located within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, "home to one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, including 33 species of marine mammals, 94 species of seabirds, 345 species of fishes, and numerous invertebrates and plants." The regulations governing the MBNMS prohibit:
Operating motorized personal watercraft within the Sanctuary except within the five designated zones and access routes within the Sanctuary.... Zone Five (at Pillar Point) exists only when a High Surf Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service and is in effect for San Mateo County, and only during December, January, and February.
This 3-year-old ban is flaunted, sometimes unknowingly as in the case of Jacob's rescuer. Tragically, the several illegal MPWCs in the water on Wednesday couldn't find Sion in time to save him, perhaps because their operators were focused on taking photos. Yet no doubt this will renew the call for a loosening of the restriction in favor of human safety over impacts to wildlife. While admittedly I am not an expert on those impacts, it would seem that permitting lifeguards to patrol on jet-skis while actually enforcing the law against others would be a prudent balance of interests.

16 March 2011

Just One (38th Ave)

Even though I'd bagged an amazing parking space in Capitola, right in front of Margaritaville, my buddies wanted to surf at 38th Ave so that's where I went. This afternoon it was not a mushy and mellow longboard break. The waves were bigger than I've ever seen there, overhead on the sets, and I saw a guy get tubed. It was too effing crowded and I was getting frustrated after a while, having caught only a broken wave while watching other surfers take the good ones. I left Darren in the pack and moved inside, where I found Luke on an egg, one of the boards that were just given to him by a couple moving to Utah. It was less crowded on the inside, probably because it was often closing out. I got a few drops but little joy. Then I caught a near head-high right with a fun drop and a shoulder that held up for a bit, giving me a ride all the way to the beach. Woot! That one was all I needed.
Surfline: Overlapping WNW (275-305) groundswells (new one building in this afternoon) hold up plenty of head high+ surf today with 2-3'+ overhead sets at top exposed spots. Winds remain light out of the West this afternoon with mostly clean conditions. Tide is also dropping out with many breaks looking pretty fun right now. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 13.5 ft at 17.4 s WNW 23 / WIND WAVE: 2.6 ft at 4.2 s WNW  / WVHT: 13.5 ft / APD: 10.8 s / MWD: 290° (Met) WSPD: 12 kts / GST: 16 kts / WVHT: 13.5 ft / DPD: 17.0 s / WDIR: 330° / ATMP: 52.9° F / WTMP: 52.9° F. Tide: 1' rising to 2.5'

15 March 2011

The Tsunami in NorCal

Tsunami suckout at 38th Ave, Santa Cruz, by Darren Mason
The tsunami that devastated parts of earthquake-shaken Japan traveled across the Pacific and hit the West Coast of the United States with much less, but still noticeable, force. Although I was at work miles inland, others in the NorCal surf community were standing by near the shoreline when it arrived. We surfers did not disregard the risks, like the potential Darwin-award contenders who walked on the closed beaches. Nor did we flee to much higher ground, like the overly frightened masses who parked their cars at the mountain summit on the highway leading away from the coast, forcing the deployment of a cluster of Port-a-Potties. As waterwomen and watermen, we knew the tsunami was due to arrive at a fairly low tide, and was predicted to be only on the order of 2′-3′ high. So my surf buddies watched from the prudent safety of bluff and cliff tops, and saw the sea suck out below the lowest low tide to reveal bottom contours not seen before, then flow back in minutes later to a mid-tide level, repeating through the morning. While the surge was dramatic, damage in the Bay Area was limited to the hapless Santa Cruz Harbor, where boats broke free to tear up docks and collide with other vessels, pushed by the rapid currents of the ebb and flow of the tidal waves. Farther north, tsunami-focusing Crescent City was unfortunately harder hit.

Some NorCal surfers ignored the closed beach signs and went into the water. They were out to surf, but not to “surf the tsunami”, as many of my coworkers asked; that’s not possible. Indeed, the waves at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz reportedly got worse, dropping from 5′ to 2′ when the surges hit. Perhaps it’s just hindsight, but this was not the highly dangerous activity the news media made it out to be. As surfers, our senses are attuned to the sea; we keenly feel its moods, and we understand that a 1-foot tide plus a 3-foot tsunami equals a 4-foot water level, well below high tide here in NorCal. We also know that strong currents may shift around wildly when a tsunami hits, and that forecasters are not always right. But there is a little danger inherent in our sport, and for those versed in the ways of the waves, this did not add to it appreciably. Had the tsunami been larger or combined with a high tide, the calculus would have been different.

While I’m not fortunate enough to live on the coast, I do wonder what would happen if an earthquake closer to home triggered a larger tsunami. Experts say a quake in NorCal wouldn’t have the same effect, but one in the Pacific Northwest could result in a tsunami flooding our coast with little warning time. It concerns me that one of my surfing buddies, who lives just up a hill from the beach, found cars parked along his signed tsunami evacuation route that might impede his exit were it necessary to flee farther up and farther in. Their selfishness scared him, he said, more than the tsunami warning. Ignorance of nature is our enemy.

This post first appeared on TheInertia.com.

12 March 2011

After the Tsunami (HMB Jetty)

Photo of tsunami suckout at Miramontes Point, Half Moon Bay, by Luke Kilpatrick
I woke yesterday to news of a huge earthquake in Japan, and a tsunami warning for the NorCal coast. Low-lying areas, including Linda Mar and El Granada near the Jetty, were evacuated. The first surge hit just after 8 am, fortunately at a fairly low tide. I was at work 20 miles inland but hungrily followed the tweets of my surfing buddies who stood watch in Half Moon Bay (Luke took this video) and Santa Cruz (Darren snapped the photo at left). The tsunami from the Chile earthquake last year was barely noticeable, but this one was dramatic. The sea was sucked out below the level of the lowest low tide, exposing portions of the bottom we never see. Then within a few minutes, the water filled back in to a mid-tide level. This cycle repeated through the morning. Santa Cruz Harbor was hard hit, with boats breaking free and smashing into docks and other boats, pushed by the strong currents of rising and falling water. Pillar Point Harbor fared well, but these time lapse photos show the significant sea level change. I had an early work meeting so wasn't planning to surf anyway, but many of the local beaches were closed, although some surfers snuck out nevertheless (where there's a wave, there's a way).

Today the tsunami warning was dropped to an advisory, and I was able to get in one last dawn patrol before the government messes with our minds by setting the time ahead an hour. I love to surf at first light. I love the stillness of the world on the cusp of waking, the solitude, the serenity. I'll miss it until sunrise catches up with the clock again. With a sizable swell in the water, the Jetty was the best choice, and I was the first surfer into the water. The paddle was tough, and by the time I made it almost outside, a shortboarder was already riding. I was nearly to the lineup when a wave started to break in front of me. I thought I could make it over the top but instead my board caught it and I was made to ride backwards all the way inside to waist-deep water. Crap! After a total of about 15 minutes of slogging, I got outside and took a breather. The waves were shifty and mixed up, waist- to head-high. I rode a few nice rights, including one with a long shoulder, and a few good lefts too, with some fun drops. Darren filmed me on a gutless little wave (had to pump it):
Then he joined me in the water as the crowd grew, and we saw Luke taking photos from the rocks. I couldn't catch a wave for the camera to save my life, except this:
Too soon it was time for one more because I had to go, but I blew the drop and got pushed far inside again. That just couldn't be my last wave, so I headed back out. It was another 10 minutes of hard paddling, turtling and shoving through, during which I got pushed uncomfortably close the the riprap jetty, but I made it back out to where Luke had joined Darren. I had to wait for it, but my ride home came through, a left with a fun head-high drop and a little shoulder to play on. Woot!
Surfline: We've got a good sized mix of surf on tap this morning as WNW (270-305) groundswell slowly backs down, mixing with modest South (170-190) swell. Good exposures are in the head high to overhead+ range, with top spots running well overhead with a few lingering sets pushing double overhead. Winds are light/variable for fairly smooth surface conditions, although a lot of spots are still seeing some lump/jumble. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.2 ft at 13.8 s WNW 22 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s WNW / WVHT: 9.2 ft / APD: 9.4 s / MWD: 282 (Met) WSPD: 0 kts / GST: 4 kts / WVHT: 9.2 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / ATMP: 51.4° F / WTMP: 52.9° F. Tide: 3' falling to 1'.

09 March 2011

Waist-High and Knee-Deep (HMB Jetty)

Spring seems to have arrived early, and I struggled to find a pre- or post-work slot this week with a chance for decent surf conditions. This is the last week before the government messes with our minds by moving the clocks forward an hour so I'd wanted to get in one last dawn patrol, but the morning tides are too low. Today looked like the best shot for a sunset session, with forecast light winds and a little swell in the water. Unfortunately the meteorologists let me down once again, and Dunes was blown out by a NW wind, leaving the Jetty as the only option.
Lots of other folks knew the Jetty would be sheltered too, and there was a good crowd on small surf when I arrived. The waves were only about waist high and generally lackadaisical. I found a less packed peak than the main one, and caught a couple of fun medium-long rides, plus a bunch of meh ones. At the end of one of the better waves, I fell in water that was much shallower than I realized, smacking my knee on the sand. It's a bit sore yet.
Not a great session by any means, but I put a few dollars' worth of stoke in my tank, enough to keep it from running dry. (Although with the current prices, it was probably more like $10 worth.) And it took me away from everyday concerns, forcing me to focus on the here and now and quieting my busy mind, just what I needed.
Surfline: This afternoon there's a modest mix of leftover NW-WNW (260-300+) swell and small South (170-190) swell, for surf mainly in the waist-chest high zone as top exposures see sets up to head high. Light+ onshores in the early afternoon for semi-clean to textured+ conditions. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.9 ft at 10.8 s NW 21 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.7 s NW / WVHT: 5.9 ft / APD: 8.0 s / MWD: 304° (Met) WSPD: 10 kts / GST: 14 kts / WVHT: 5.9 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 53.8° F / WTMP: 53.8° F . Tide: 3' falling to 2.5'.

08 March 2011

Awesome Surfergrrrls at the Roxy Pro

I was rooting for Tyler, especially after her barrel at about the halfway mark. But she's only 16 - plenty of time to rise to the top of a group of very talented surfers!

06 March 2011

One in a Million (Linda Mar)

I knew conditions would be challenging this morning, with a stormfront passing though. Wind forecasts were all over the place - Half Moon Bay might be pretty glassy, or it might be blown out by strong southerlies. With the winds anybody's guess, I planned for the best tide, at mid-morning. Past halfway to the coast, my surfing buddy called to say he wasn't feeling up to a rain surf, and my choice of surfing spots narrowed to those I feel comfortable surfing alone. Some breaks are just too isolated for a solo session (I could get injured and drift off toward Japan without anyone noticing), and others are too intimidating to surf without a little friendly encouragement.

There were no cars parked at the side of the road by the Jetty, and I soon as I opened the car door and stepped into the drizzle, I knew why. A steady wind was blowing onshore, flattening the surf and hacking it into pieces. I ducked back inside and drove north. Passing Montara, I saw a bunch of surfers on the south end, and brief flashes of pretty clean and big waves. Linda Mar was the end of my road, and I was dismayed that so many people had come out to surf in the rain. But the wind was light, so I decided to give it a go.
While I changed into my wetsuit in the south lot, a non-surfer in a dented black SUV held together with bungee cords pulled up a few spaces away. Rap music was blaring on his stereo as he stood next to the open door, the crotch of his pants drifting near his knees. I would have though both the music and the low-slung pants had fallen out of style by now, or perhaps that's just wishful thinking. After hanging out in the parking lot for nearly the time it took me to change, he took his silly pants and not-to-my-taste music off down the road. Just as I bent to pick up my board and head for the water, a guy crossed the parking lot aisle and I could tell he was intending to talk to me. What, begging money for gas? I thought, Didn't he see me just lock up, and here I am quite wallet-less in my wetsuit?! To my mild surprise, he said he'd recognized me and my Coffey board - he had one too - and he wanted to tell me how much he likes my blog, especially the gear reviews. I guess this was a few more seconds in my 15 minutes of fame. (I guess I'd also better start working down my list of tardy gear reviews.) Luke tells me that a lot more people recognize me than I realize, and indeed it's true. I still have a mindset that hardly anybody reads my little old wave journal.
 As I crossed the packed sand to the water, I saw it was so crowded that there were no empty or even semi-empty peaks for me. Heading straight out in front of Taco Bell (No churros today, TB? They would've smelled so good), I set up camp on the inside, waiting for scraps, feeling like just one of a million surfers at Linda Mar. I was able to pick some off, nothing epic, but decent lefts, especially since the crowd on the peak seemed sometimes not to notice they were drifting south. When I felt I was getting almost in riders' way a few times, I moved farther out, close to the pack. The danger of this position was made clear when I backed off from catching a wave for traffic, and a fat old longboarder kept paddling right beside me, almost hitting Emm as I pulled back and barely heeding my sharp warning in time to avoid slamming into the rider.

Despite the masses, I found my way into a fun long left with a nice shoulder. Then the slack wind kicked up a notch, blowing offshore, once gusting so I hard I got pushed off the back of wave with no hope of making it down the face. Absent the gusts, I got in some good practice at forcing my weight forward and down enough in the face of the offshore to make the ride. Then the herd seemed to overcompensate for drift, moving past me to the north while I stayed in front of Taco Bell. I caught a sectiony one into the beach and looked in vain for rainbows as I changed into dry clothes in a sunny drizzle. Earlier I'd put almost $60 of gas in my car's tank (!), and now I'd put some stoke into my own.
Surline: Southerly flow for smooth, clean surface conditions. Waves stay fairly weak/crumbly overall though. Mid-period WNW swell on tap today with shoulder-head high+ waves fairly common. Top breaks are up to a couple feet overhead on the best sets. Light southerly wind on tap for semi-textured/crumbly conditions, although S wind protected areas remain clean. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.9 ft at 10.8 s W 20 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 4.2 s S / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 6.7 s / MWD: 270° (Met) WSPD: 19 kts / GST: 23 kts / WVHT: 6.6 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WDIR: 150° / ATMP: 52.2° F / WTMP: 52.5° F. Tide: 3' rising to 4'+.

04 March 2011

The Spice of Life (HMB Jetty)

Luke, on a surfboard he hadn't ridden lately: It took me a few waves to redial into this board.
Me: That's why I don't like to switch boards.
Luke: Variety is the spice of life.
Me: Riding waves is the spice of life.
The surf was a completely mystery this morning, even though I was standing on Dunes beach at the water's edge. The fog was so dense that I couldn't see much beyond the shorepound, except that the period was fairly short. That meant a difficult paddle out into the unknown. 
Bird and Bunny
When Heather and Luke arrived, we voted for the Jetty instead, where the ground-cloud had mostly burned off to reveal fun-size empty waves. We had the break entirely to ourselves; always a treat. The surf was mushy and waist- to chest-high with an occasional shoulder-high wave rolling through. I often had to kick my feet to get into them, but I rode too many waves to count, topping off my stoke tank and putting a day-long smile on my face.
Paddling back out for more, I saw Luke about to take off on a wave in front of me, and unsheathed my waterproof Pentax Optio W90 from its Wrist Shot to capture his drop and the start of his ride. The whitewater from the wave hit me and knocked me off of my board, but I surfaced still pointing the camera in Luke's direction as he rode on. Another wave rolled over my head and I smiled at the thought of drowning for my art. Luke said it was his wave of the day, and I was excited to have filmed it. But to my dismay, my 3mil gloved finger had failed to properly depress the record button, and all we have are our memories.

Most of my rides were lefts, but the best was a left-right. I caught the wave left, and when it started to fizzle, I faded back toward the peak, got around it to the other side and went right as the wave reformed for another drop and long ride almost to the beach. Stoked!

Surfline: Fading Westerly swell and SSW southern hemi swell set up fun size waist-chest zone waves at good exposed breaks while standouts produced occasional shoulder to head high sets on the right tides. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 11.4 s WNW 19 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 4.0 s SW / WVHT: 4.9 ft / APD: 7.3 s / MWD: 300° Met) WSPD: 6 kts / GST: 8 kts / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WDIR: 340° / ATMP: 50.7° F / WTMP: 52.3° F. Tide: 3' rising to over 4'.