24 August 2011

Coaching: Active Wave Reading (Linda Mar)

With Santa Cruz next to flat, Barry came north to San Mateo County for our coaching session this morning. I planned to surf check Half Moon Bay first, and if necessary drive north to Linda Mar, bypassing Montara where there was another sighting of a large great white shark just yesterday morning.
Glassy shorepound under fog in Half Moon Bay
Alas, all I found in Half Moon Bay was bunnies, fog, glassy shorepound, and yellow wildflowers.

Linda Mar was pumping out surprisingly fun waves with actual shoulders. Barry initially pointed to a less-populated peak near the pumphouse, but we passed it by and kept walking to the bigger shortboard section at the north end. He was riding a leashless Soft-top, backwards, and I was on my 7'0" Emm as usual.

Today was about active wave assessment, building on the last session's paddle-to-the-peak lesson. He said to imagine myself at the center of a compass, with waves breaking at various points around it, and work on knowing where on the compass an incoming wave would peak so I could move to that spot. Also, when paddling for a wave, I should keep looking over my shoulder to assess how it's forming up so I can make any necessary adjustments, adding a final glance at the last second, just in case.

I got a bunch of nice chest- to head-high waves, mostly lefts. It's so sweet to swoop into a bottom turn on a glassy green wave and actually get to see the face in front of me.
Barry noticed as I paddled for one wave that my board's nose dipped underwater as the swell reached me, but I arched my back to pull it up and continued on to pop up and ride. I hadn't thought about doing that; I just did it. Progress. He encouraged me to get stronger by paddling back out to the lineup at a fast clip, saying I should "feel the burn." That's tough, since paddling through whitewater often makes me tired anyway, though I'm giving it a go. And I sure am feeling it in my shoulders now. But so totally worth it. Stoked!

Surfline: Fog continues to linger along the coast this morning, making it very difficult to see the surf. In the water we have a bit more NW swell-mix showing than the past few days, and that is mixing with some trace SW Southern Hemisphere energy. Expect most openly exposed ares to offer up knee-waist-chest high waves, with some larger set to shoulder high for top exposures. Winds are light onshore, likely continuing to keep conditions jumbled and pretty poor overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.3 ft at 9.1 s WNW 68 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s WNW / WVHT: 4.3 ft / APD: 7.0 s / MWD: 294° (Met) WSPD: 0 kts / GST: 0 kts / WVHT: 4.3 ft / DPD: 10.0 s / ATMP: 55.0° F / WTMP: 56.3° F. Tide: Around 4'.

22 August 2011

Holly Beck: Goofy Power and Flow

My surf coach suggested I also watch videos of Holly Beck, "a goofyfoot who surfs with a lot of power and flow, yet has a pretty thin, petite frame."
I'd love to attend her Suave Dulce surf camp in Nicaragua some day.

20 August 2011

Tears Into the Sea (HMB Jetty)

Today friends and family of Beth came together to remember her at the Jetty in Half Moon Bay, the first and last place she ever surfed.
The Jetty is also where she caught her best wave ever, a happy memory Jacob recounted with me and J-Bird when we were all gathered in front of her purple Petty surfboard. After sharing stories of Beth on the beach with those who wished to remain dry, twenty of us paddled out past the small waves to honor her in traditional surfer style
It was difficult to maintain our circle as rollers swept through the chop, unbalancing several who had minimal or no previous experience at sitting on a sufboard. A few more memories were shared, and John read a Hawaiian farewell. We all splashed the ocean and tossed our leis and loose flowers into the center, calling "Aloha, Beth!"
Invoking her favorite word, Luke exhorted us to go catch an epic wave for Beth. That seemed a tall order given the marginal conditions, with a light onshore breeze and small choppy waves, but surf coaching is continuing to pay off. I noticed for the first time that while many of the others were largely stationary, I was actively moving around as I tried to predict the best entry point on incoming shifty waves at the beach break. My judgment wasn't always correct and sometimes I couldn't get to where I wanted to be, but it paid off with a few nice rides, including a good left I called in honor of Beth. And Dugen claimed an epic pearl!
Aloha nui loa, Beth.
Surfline: Continued onshore flow out of the WSW keeps most spots textured this afternoon, although select protected areas stay cleaner. Waves run knee-chest high thanks to S and SW Southern Hemi energy and some holding NW windswell. A 5'+ high tide tops out just before 4pm. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 7.7 s NW 67 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.6 s WNW / WVHT: 4.3 ft / APD: 6.4 s / MWD: 326° (Met) WSPD: 4 kts / GST: 4 kts / WVHT: 4.3 ft / DPD: 8.0 s / WDIR: 180° / ATMP: 56.5° F / WTMP: 55.8° F. Tide: 4.5' falling to 4'.

18 August 2011

First In (The Hook/Sharks)

This morning was one of those times when I made the long drive to the beach in the dark, hoping that dawn would reveal some rideable waves. It was too dark to see anything when I arrived but I could hear waves, so hope continued as I suited up and paddled out in still-dim light. There was no one else in the water for at least 10 minutes - oh, delicious solitude! - and the sea blessed me with a pair of nice waves, the second one just as another surfer reached the lineup. Then we waited. And waited. After 15 minutes I asked if he'd forgotten to put another quarter in the wave machine before he came out. A couple other guys joined us, including a Softtop-riding greybeard I see almost every time at the Hook. (He actually surfs well, despite the equipment.) Finally a set came, and the most recent entrant caught it. Then flatness returned. Looking to the horizon, Greybeard declaimed, "What?! Only one? But we need four!"

I could see waves breaking at Sharks, so I moved over there after half an hour at the Hook. Before I could sort out where to be when the rare sets came through, I was caught inside and pulled off one ride but not a second from the whitewater. After more waiting, this time out far enough, I was paddling for a nice set wave and just about to pop up when the kelp reached out and grabbed my board. Darn seaweed. Sad when the wave passed by, for they were few and far between. Many more minutes later another came; I was ready and got a good little ride.
Shivering now after an hour of little activity in 50-something water and drizzly air, I thought that might be my last wave, but I'd head back to the Hook via the ocean instead of the beach to see if anything else might come my way before I got out at the Hook stairs. As I stroked over, a harbor seal and I surprised each other, only four feet apart. The crowd on the peak had grown to about 10, scrabbling for scarce scraps. It was nice to see Darren, who shaka'd and smiled from his longboard as he reached the lineup. Finally I caught a tiny wave to the beach, thankful that I'm a morning person. So worth it for those first two waves, all by myself in the glassy sea.

Surfline: Weak, dribbly little lines working through. Long lulls. Small, steep angled South (170-180) swell holds this morning, mixing with minimal NW windswell wrap. Most of the region remains either flat or close to it, as top exposures pull in a few 2-3' occ. plus Southern Hemi sets. Conditions are mostly clean, there just isn't much of any swell to go along. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.0 ft at 14.8 s S 66 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 6.7 s NW / WVHT: 4.3 ft / APD: 5.3 s / MWD: 184° (Met) WSPD: 16 kts / GST: 19 kts / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 15.0 s / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 56.1° F / WTMP: 56.5° F. Tide: 2' dropping slightly.

14 August 2011

Sunshine and Dramamine (Linda Mar)

I discarded three different surf plans for today (Jetty mid-morning with Luke, who bailed; Santa Cruz mid-morning with a pack of strangers; Santa Cruz mid-afternoon with a bigger pack of strangers but also sunshine) before ending up somewhere I didn't expect: Linda Mar in the afternoon. I went with at-least-it's-sunny low expectations, and it was funner than that.
None of the SSW groundswell was making it in, so the waves were all short-period NW windswell. It wasn't too hard to get out, with the help of a weak rip current and a brief lull. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the lineup was naturally crowded. Before paddling out, I decided to try a left that was sometimes showing just north of the pumphouse. At the edge of the pack, I wasn't getting much, except for a few where I thought, what the hell, might as well catch this whitewater, so I moved a little north to a more irregular but less popular peak. I tried to emulate what I've been watching the pros do, using my upper body led by my arms/shoulders to flow into turns, a bigger movement than I've been doing. It felt a bit wobbly, but faster. Paddling back out, I was pummeled by a steady onslaught of broken waves, till the color and opacity of the water suggested to me to see if I could touch the bottom. Sure enough, I'd been pushed that far back toward the beach. Ugh, I hate windswell. When Ward Coffey shapes a shortboard for me for my next birthday, a main criteria will be that I'll be able to duck-dive it.

I returned to the rip current for an assist to the lineup, but unfortunately all the ineffectual turtle-rolling, waves to the face, and sloshing around had brought on a case of the queasies. It's been a while since I've gotten seasick while surfing, so long that I've thought to stop taking Dramamine before every session. In fact, I successfully skipped it in Hawaii and on some calm point-break days at home, but I'm sure to pop one whenever the water might be choppy. Today was no exception, but perhaps it had been too long since lunch and too much seawater had found its way in through my sinuses. In any event, I was getting miserable fast, though I pushed on to the outside. My perseverance was rewarded with a good wave. It started to crumble outside, and I paddled toward the peak to get on it riding left. As the wave slowed and reformed, I turned right to recapture the energy as it peaked again. Woot!

That should have been my last wave, but as always, when I get a good one, I want another. I rested on the beach for a few minutes until my stomach calmed enough to give it another go. Partway out, having drifted from the rip to be smashed relentlessly by whitewater and dry heaving over my board, I thought to give up, but look - a lull! I stroked quickly the rest of the way to the lineup. Soon a nice little left was mine so I called it day.

And it was sunny!

Surfline: Real soft and crumbly now on the full tide. Westerly wind add some bump and texture to the surface, while NW wind/groundswell and small SSW Southern Hemi energy keep things running knee-waist high with some larger sets scattered around. Pretty weak and funky overall. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 6.7 s NW 65 / WIND WAVE: 2.6 ft at 4.5 s NW / WVHT: 4.9 ft / APD: 5.4 s / MWD: 312° (Met) WSPD: 10 kts / GST: 14 kts / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 7.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 56.7° F / WTMP: 56.3° F. Tide: 4' dropping to 3'.

12 August 2011

Homework: Goofies Going Right

My surf coach gave me some homework yesterday: to watch goofyfooters surfing backside, paying attention to how they use their upper bodies on turns. He mentioned Adrian Buchan in particular:

I also asked the Internets for suggestions. From Geer on Google+: check the recent Billabong Pro Jefferies Bay, some of the heat videos like this one

From @minigoose on Twitter: @surfergrrrl off the top of my head, check out Occy surfing Jeffrey's Bay

And from one of my local buddies on Twitter @thesurfbot, I have the offer of a Pipeline Masters DVD featuring Gerry Lopez and Rob Machado, both goofy, if I can pry it away from Luke.

But it's one thing to see, and another to do...

11 August 2011

Coaching: Intensity and Rhythm (Drainpipes/Hook/Sharks)

From some of the things my surf coach is telling me, I'm starting to get the idea that I've been a fairly lazy surfer. Mostly I sit in one spot and let the waves come to me, turning when they're almost there and paddling with some but not a lot of effort, often conservatively onto the shoulder. That has to change. I need to dial up the intensity, and get into rhythm with the waves, both in paddling and in riding. Especially at shifty beach breaks and in crowds, I should move myself to wherever the peak is going to crest, not hope that King Neptune will just send it to me. And once I'm there, I must work for it, digging deep and fast as the wave reaches me. It's going to take some time, and more dedicated wave-study, to know where I need to place myself without an experienced coach's direction, but I'm committed to working it out.
The Hook, post-session
Barry and I started off at Drainpipes right after a nice set came through. Alas, the wait time between sets was overly long. I caught a couple waves before we decided to try the Hook instead, hanging out at our usual spot for a few more waves before paddling farther east to Sharks. The waves were up to shoulder high and sectiony. A sea otter floated on her back in the kelp bed, and a seagull perched atop the floating body of a seal mercifully out of smelling range.

Seeing that I was missing waves and noting that my board was still not planing flat enough as I paddled, Barry suggested I move forward a bit more and concentrate harder on upper body positioning for adjustments. On Sunday I was sticking the nose in that configuration, but it worked out better today, in similarly moundy waves that jacked up as they broke. When the sets morphed briefly from inconsistent to steady, Barry had me paddling all over the place such that I was getting a bit tired. First he was directing me to move into position to catch a wave at its peak, then motioning me to hurry up and get back out to the lineup to ride another; rinse and repeat. No laziness allowed.
Sharks, after the throng descended
Barry encouraged me to turn onto the face as soon as I got to my feet. On the first attempt I dug a rail, but on the next I made a smooth backside turn halfway down and zipped along for a short distance until a section closed out ahead. For sure I'm getting more waves and becoming a better surfer under Barry's tutelage.

We had our own peak throughout until the last few minutes of the session when seven surfers surrounded us at once, totally changing the vibe, with one guy dropping in on me. Time for the last wave, which I rode in memory of Beth.

Beth Kilpatrick, this wave's for you
I surfed this morning with a heavy heart. Beth, my buddy Luke's wife, died yesterday from a brain aneurysm. She was a beginner who surfed with us infrequently so I didn't know her well, but I'll never forget this day at the Jetty when she caught her "best wave ever!" and spread her stoke and wide smile throughout the lineup. My 8'3" Magic is a clone of her Petty surfboard, and I'll think of her when I ride it. The Saturday after next, we'll paddle out at the Jetty with Luke to say goodbye. All who were touched by her are welcome.

Surfline: Inconsistent waves/peaks getting up to the chest-shoulder high zone. Workable lines to pick off with clean surface conditions. Surf is very modest and weak overall with a blend of NW windswell, WNW groundswell and SSW groundswell. Most breaks are in the knee-waist-chest zone while standouts are up to shoulder high on sets. Winds are onshore out of the SW-West in the morning around 5-8kts+ with clouds and some patchy fog possible. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.3 ft at 7.7 s NW 64 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 5.9 s NW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 5.7 s / MWD: 320° (Met) WSPD: 12 kts / GST: 16 kts / WVHT: 5.6 ft / DPD: 8.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 54.0° F / WTMP: 56.5° F. Tide: 1' rising to 2'.

07 August 2011

Slim Pickings (HMB Jetty)

Last night while wandering around on the web (I don't understand why they call it surfing), I found this:
On August 3, 2011 Jeff Clark, professional surfer and surf shop owner, had been surfing at the South end of Montara State Beach. It was 9:45 AM and he had been in the water for about 90 minutes. Air and water temperatures were estimated at 57 degrees Fahrenheit. The water was 10 feet deep over a sandy bottom with about 4 feet of visibility. The ocean floor at this location drops off to a depth of 100 feet within ¼ of a mile from shore. The sky was clear with a SW wind at 8 – 10 knots. The ocean swell was 5 feet at 7 – 10 seconds. Marine mammals were observed at Montara, Pescadero and Mavericks outside of the rocks. Clark reported; “I had been surfing for 1 1/2 hours when my leash came off my ankle and I swam in. I decided not to go back out even after I had re-attached my leg rope. Got to the parking lot and was watching the surf when I saw the shark. I saw about 10 feet of the shark's back exposed, out of water. It was very distinctive.”
Like most surfers, I try to forget about sharks. That's not too hard most of the time; I've never seen one in the water in all my years surfing (and hope I never do), and only know a couple of people who have. It's also not hard to dismiss many of the local sightings logged on Pacific Coast Shark News because they're vague or perhaps the reporter was mistaken (it was really a dolphin, yeah?). But this sighting was by legendary waterman Jeff Clark, and if he says he saw a 10-foot+ shark, I believe it's true. Still, since Montara was a potential surf spot for this morning's session, I really wished I hadn't stumbled on to that news. Not that I think the shark's still hanging around there, waiting for a seal-like black-wetsuit-clad surfer to stray too close, or that I don't think it could've moved south 5 miles, but because the thought of the lurking Landlord would be creeping me out the whole time. Montara was off the list.

As it turned out, Montara probably wouldn't have been a good choice anyway. With a steady WNW breeze, the exposed beaches were all on their way to being blown out, except for the semi-protected Jetty. After surf-checking other spots in Half Moon Bay, that's where Manabu and I met up. Steve joined us later in the water.
Steve and Manabu
The waves at the Jetty weren't good, just cleaner than elsewhere. small and breaking near the beach. Low expectations. It was cool and drizzling, more April than August. Steve started to talk about the sighting and Manabu shrugged it off but I cut him off; it's a rule that you can't speak about the Man in the Gray Suit while in the lineup.

I was blowing waves at first, but realized that the inch forward on my board had crept into more, and pulled my paddling position back. I ended up with three solid rides before the shivers drove me out of the water. The backside ride in came with a mogul for a second little drop. Low expectations + friends = fun surf!

Surfline: A blend of NW windswell, small SW-SSW Southern Hemi energy and some SSE-S tropical swell has exposures seeing knee-waist high+ surf. Top breaks get occasional sets around chest-shoulder high. Conditions are a bit funky with onshore wind and a full tide, but generall rideable nevertheless. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.9 ft at 7.7 s NW 63 / WIND WAVE: 5.2 ft at 4.8 s NW / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 5.9 s / MWD: 320° (Met) WSPD: 16 kts / GST: 19 kts / WVHT: 6.6 ft / DPD: 8.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 55.8° F / WTMP: 56.5° F. Tide: +/-3'.

04 August 2011

Dolphins! (Hook/38th)

There were already half a dozen surfers out at the Hook in the dim light of pre-dawn and only a few at 38th. After I suited up, I watched a sweet set roll through the Hook. I paddled out there and took up station near where I surfed with Barry last week, away from the tight pack on the main peak. Returning to the lineup after a short ride, a pair of dolphins crossed my path, surfacing sinuously to exhale before sliding underneath the glassy sea, travelling east. It's been quite a long time since I've been in the water near free dolphins and it made my day. If you look closely just left of center at 5 seconds into this video, you'll see one moving away:
I think it's true that I have more fun surfing when my expectations are low. Then I'm not disappointed if conditions aren't good, and can be pleasantly surprised if the waves turn out to be fun. This morning unfortunately I had in mind another really good Santa Cruz session like last Thursday's, but the reality didn't measure up. Objectively, I have nothing to complain about; I got a few nice rides and some other middling ones. It was a decent surf, but felt disappointing because I went in anticipating more. Conversely, I was expecting Sunday's Half Moon Bay session to be kind of crappy like a week earlier, but had fun because it wasn't as bad. I need to do a better job of managing my expectations.
I was also disappointed in my performance this morning. Early on I blew the drops on a couple of nice shoulder-high waves. I redeemed myself on another, but those missed waves were gone forever and the break was clotting up with even more surfers, making for scarce new opportunities.

After more than half an hour, I paddled away from the growing crowd and over toward 38th, where a woman on a cheap Costco WaveStorm was surfing in only a bikini. Crazy. Under overcast skies, with air and water temperatures both below 60F (15C) and a hint of breeze, I was a bit chilly in my 4/3 wetsuit with 1.5mm gloves and 3mm booties, but she had more, shall we say, natural insulation than me.
The lulls were interminable, and I had trouble finding a good place to be when the waves did come through. Too far inside, I snagged a couple from the whitewater, including a left, but couldn't make it over to the shoulder. A few minutes before I needed to start looking for my last wave, I started from the proper place and rode a nice long right, though a section closed out in front of me and left me riding whitewater. It turned out that was my last wave. After waiting 15 more minutes for something, anything, to ride in, I had to paddle to shore so I wouldn't be too late for work.

More south swells are coming. I'll hope for good waves but won't expect them, and just have fun!

Surfline: Inconsistent SW (200-220) groundswell builds further and peaks today as minimal NW windswell mixes in. Most breaks remain fairly small scale this morning as top Southern Hemi exposures pull in some waist-chest high+ waves. The tide bottoms out just after 8am, so expect a lot of spots to be a little drained through the first half of the morning. Light winds keep conditions nice and clean early on. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 3.3 ft at 14.8 s S 62 / WIND WAVE: 4.3 ft at 6.7 s NW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 5.5 s / MWD: 317° (Met) WSPD: 12 kts / GST: 14 kts / WVHT: 5.6 ft / DPD: 7.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 56.8° F / WTMP: 57.6° F. Tide: 2' falling to 1.'