27 December 2011

Lower (HMB Jetty)

Swell, sun and tide were all lower than last time at the Jetty.
The waves were mostly closed out, but I rode several before the sun set on my final surf session of 2011. Here's to getting a full barrel in the new year!
Surfline: This afternoon there's a slowly easing but still solid WNW (280-300) groundswell, with head high+ to double overhead zone surf (6-10') at exposed spots and some larger sets at the better breaks. Winds are light onshore for mainly semi-clean conditions. The tide will steadily back out through the rest of the day. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.5 ft at 12.9 s WNW 105 / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.3 s WNW / WVHT: 7.9 ft / APD: 8.2 s / MWD: 302° (Met) WSPD: 12 kts / GST: 14 kts / WVHT: 7.9 ft / DPD: 13.0 s / WDIR: 340° / ATMP: 52.2° F / WTMP: 54.1° F. Tide: 1' falling to 0'.

24 December 2011

Demi-Barrel (HMB Jetty)

Although the tide was almost 7' high this morning, Luke predicted the surf at the Jetty would be good on the current swell, offering photos of similar conditions in January as proof. Most who'd said they would join us bailed, and Luke and Carolina arrived early. At the appointed hour, Caro was already done, having been spit up onto the beach by the consistently overhead surf, but Luke said he'd paddle out with me to catch one more wave. He reached the lineup slightly ahead of me and caught that one before I'd caught my breath, leaving me alone in the company of shortboarding strangers.
The waves were some of the biggest I've ever tried to surf, so this session was as much about conquering a little fear as anything. Or so I told myself as I failed to get any rides. The waves were mushy on the shoulders but pitching and steep as they broke, and many were closing out. Backwash made them unpredictable. The sweet spot for takeoff at the peak - not too deep nor too far on the shoulder - was shifting around, and I couldn't seem to find it. Although I saw better surfers make a few nice rides, and I was picky enough to let most of the closeouts go, all I was getting were rough tumbles on takeoff and light beating on the inside.
Heading out with Luke. Photo by Caro.
Still, while I didn't get any legitimate rides, on one left, for the briefest fraction of a second before I was knocked off my feet, I perceived a roof over my head. SO COOL! My stated goal for 2011 was to get barreled, and while that wasn't fully what I had in mind, my feet were solidly on my board - I wasn't free-falling this time - so I think I'll count it. And the stoke is making me very merry! Thank you, Santa!
Surfline: Excellent conditions on tap this morning as a healthy dose of long-period WNW (285-300) swell blends with fun-sized S (170-190) Southern Hemi energy. Solid surf prevails as exposed areas see overhead to double overhead (8-10') waves. Standout focal points see larger sets to 3x overhead on occasion. Light offshore conditions early. A big 7' high tide tops out just after 9am. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 12.5 ft at 16.0 s WNW 104 / WIND WAVE: 1.6 ft at 3.6 s NE / WVHT: 12.8 ft / APD: 12.5 s / MWD: 294° (Met) WSPD: 10 kts / GST: 14 kts / WVHT: 12.8 ft / DPD: 16.0 s / WDIR: 40° / ATMP: 52.7° F / WTMP: 53.8° F. Tide: 7' falling slightly.
Happy Holidays!

21 December 2011

Gear Review: Xcel Infiniti Wetsuit and Panasonic Lumix TS3 Waterproof Camera

OK, so once again, I've gotten behind on my gear reviews. But better late than never - and of course I had to give a fair trial period anyway.

I bought a size 4 women's Xcel Infiniti 4/3 back in October, but didn't start wearing it regularly until last month when the weather and water turned colder. It's been keeping me toasty, but I have a few complaints, and design-wise, it just doesn't measure up against my Rip Curl Insulator. The legs are too long, so the suit bunches around my knees. (Wish I'd noticed this in the store.) Unlike the Rip Curl, the key pocket is located under the chest-zip flap. It has a long elastic string loop which is convenient, but I prefer the leg placement. The chest zip goes awkwardly from right to left and is quite difficult to fasten with gloved hands. I have to start it before I put on a glove, then lock the car and attach the key, stuffing it with some difficulty into the pocket, before zipping up all the way. Or else ask a friend for help. But the biggest failure compared to the Rip Curl Insulator is the lack of an integrated hood. At a comparable cost, it's a glaring omission. A cap leaves my neck exposed and chilly, while my extended hood tends to get pulled out of the suit in the course of a surf session. By contrast, Rip Curl's design zips in the hood and secures it firmly under the suit, keeping my hair mostly dry and blocking water flush through the neck opening. I'm rather dreading the near-freezing dawn patrols to come in my Xcel. In sum, while some of my friends have said their Xcel suits lasted more than one season, I can't see this being a repeat purchase for me. Looking ahead, I've heard very good things about local Montara-based Isurus and they are planning to start a women's line next year. If Isurus makes a winter wetsuit in my size, I'll be first in line. (Update 8/17/12: The Xcel is still keeping me warm and partly dry after the better part of a year. I wish I could combine the fit and features of the Rip Curl with the durability of the Xcel. But in wetsuits, warmth is king, so the Infiniti is back to the top of the list.)

After my Pentax Optio W90 died in October (never again, Pentax!), I picked up a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3. It's a step up from the Pentax cameras, with extra features like GPS tagging (which gets my location right most of the time). I like that there is a dedicated record button, so I don't have to dig around through menus to switch from taking photos to taking video. With the camera strapped into the latest version of the Wrist Pod, I've been getting good on-the-water and at-the-beach shots while keeping it secure between times. I have noticed some occasional random blurriness in photos that doesn't seem to correlate with any moisture on the lens (one of a series of shots may be affected), but on the whole, it's working well. My only issue, which is a factor with all of the waterproof cameras I've tried, is that it's quite difficult to press small buttons while wearing gloves any thicker than 1.5 mm. I've missed some shots, or in desperation had to ask a gloveless friend to turn the camera on for me. Guess maybe I'll have to let one hand be cold in a thin glove, or design some sort of stylus to press the button. You'd think the waterproof camera manufacturers might make "buttons useable with gloves" a design parameter though, wouldn't you?! (Update 8/17/12: Despite being totally anal about keeping the seals clean and carefully following the other care instructions - except the one about letting the camera dry completely before opening to remove the SD card - the connector ports have both corroded. I don't use them anyway, but still. Worse  are the occasional malfunctions, like turning off immediately after the "on" button is pressed. It's started to take a blurry picture before recording any video, which also sometimes begins blurry. I have the feeling it's on it's last legs, and not even a year old yet.)

Photos/video below taken with the Panasonic Lumix TS3.
Dawn patrol at the Jetty
Free dolphins off Oahu

19 December 2011

Welcome Back, Rocket (Indicators/Middle Peak)

Ward repaired the fin cuts on my 6'2", and of course I had to put Rocket in the water right away to rinse off the sanding dust. The waves at Steamer Lane were obliging, breaking overhead at the Point and smaller down the coast as they wrapped in toward Cowells. Much as I'd love to ride some of those bigger waves, I'm not ready to fight the talented pack at the Point, so I paddled out at less-crowded Indicators.
I'm a serial monogamist when it comes to surfboards; I don't like to switch among several in my quiver like a few of my buddies. The main reason is that there always seems to be a few-wave re-adjustment when I change to a different board, and that was evident today on my first couple waves. On a nice one that was shoulder-high, I failed to negotiate a mogul in the face, getting tossed off as I made the drop. But soon I was dialed in to Rocket once again.

The tide was low, but the kelp failed to ensnare me. I caught a just-broken wave and rode it nearly to outer Cowells. I'd only been out for 15 minutes but my nose was starting to tingle, and I realized I'd forgotten sunscreen. D'oh! Since I was near the Indicators stairs, I diverted back to the car to put some on. I'd parked near the Lane stairs, so I went down them to shorten the paddle. The stairs disappear quickly into a jumble of boulders, but I followed another surfer to the shore and then took his line to paddle out to Middle Peak.

I caught another shoulder-high right with a mogul in the face, but this time I made it over - woot! - and rode to outer Cowells again. I picked up a few smaller and gutless waves there, but knew I needed to make the long paddle back against the current to better surf. I decided to try some bolder moves on my next ride. After the drop, I turned off the bottom, rode to the top, tried to turn down again, and stalled, the wave continuing on without me. I'm not sure what happened (too high? too slow? too timid?), but boo.

After a few more rides, and a couple failed duck-dives that got me pushed back down the coast, I was getting tired of so much paddling. I worked back to Middles once more to get a ride in. It took me two waves, but the last reminded me of Hawaii, skimming on clear water above the seagrass-covered reef.
Surfline: 4-6', fair to good conditions. Still some fun WNW groundswell in the water with minor SSW swell mixing in. Conditions also remain clean with sets to head high at good spots and 1-3' overhead at standouts. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.5 ft at 10.0 s NW 103 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 9.5 ft / APD: 8.8 s / MWD: 316° (Met) WSPD: 4 kts / GST: 8 kts / WVHT: 9.5 ft / DPD: 10.0 s / WDIR: 300° / ATMP: 51.4° F / WTMP: 54.5° F. Tide: Bottoming out around 0".

18 December 2011

Finally Some Size (HMB Jetty)

I've been riding waves that were shoulder-high and below for weeks and weeks, and itching for something bigger. Small waves can be fun but just don't get me as stoked as those at least as tall as me. I need a hint of danger, a dash of fear. Finally, today was the day for some more size. Waves at the Jetty were shoulder- to head-high+, though a little disorganized and crowded with a free-surfing high school team.
Luke took photos and scoped out where to sit before I arrived, suggesting we split the somewhat-empty second peak which had a nice left working for me. The paddle-out wasn't too bad, a matter of timing and luck to avoid the big closeouts. I rode a couple of head-high lefts in quick succession, and oo-la-la, they were fun! My 7'0" sure doesn't turn like my new 6'2" though, and I'm looking forward to picking up repaired Rocket in a couple of days. While I endured a long wait for more waves, Luke took off on a right and disappeared. I thought he'd eaten it, but he said he'd gotten a great ride way down the beach. On his next wave, a clueless deer-in-the-headlights surfer smacked her fin into his Harbour surfboard, dinging it badly. He left, saying he was going to get his fish. (I though he had it in his car, but apparently he drove home for a spare board. Wish I lived that close to the beach.)

Look out kooks, Luke's got his gun
The surf seemed to be getting a bit messier. I rode a few more waves, none as fun as the first two, before the chill drove me to look for one more in. (I'm so looking forward to surfing in Nicaragua next month, when cold won't shorten my sessions.) A bouncy left took me to shore, where Luke was just heading back out. "That's not a fish!" I said, looking at his board. "Yeah," he replied, "When a kook hits my board, I get my gun!"

Heading home, I had sand in my ears, seawater in my sinuses, and a big smile on my face. Stoked!

Surfline: Solid WNW groundswell filled in overnight and peaks today, setting up lots of overhead to double overhead+ surf. Standouts see larger waves running in the triple overhead range. Winds are light and conditions clean but you will have to find a spot that can handle the size as many breaks are maxing out and a little out of control. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 10.8 ft at 16.0 s NW 102 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 4.0 s WNW / WVHT: 10.8 ft / APD: 12.5 s / MWD: 306° (Met) WSPD: 2 kts / GST: 4 kts / WVHT: 10.8 ft / DPD: 16.0 s / WDIR: 180° / ATMP: 50.0° F / WTMP: 53.6° F. Tide: Bottoming out at 1.5'.

11 December 2011

Smile Turned Upside Down (38th Ave)

Luke and Dave heading down the stairs
A good crew came together for an afternoon surf today: J-Bird and Jacob; their friends Morgan and Tara, visiting from Washington; Luke; and one of my coworkers, also named Dave. It was Dave's first time surfing with someone from work, and with a girl. First time for everything!

The Mavericks movie was filming again at the Hook, taking over most of the parking lot. My friends had arrived earlier and said the break was closed. I didn't believe they could do that, but a look from the cliff showed it wasn't worth testing since there was too much water on it for the wave to break. My friends wanted to surf 38th (longboarders!) so I paddled out there with them, figuring to move toward Pleasure Point if the wave was too mushy for me.

38th turned out to have some fun waves on offer, even for my 6'2". I rode a couple of almost shoulder-high rights all the way to the beach, playing on the face, and finding that Rocket seems to turn with a thought, light and responsive. I'm loving my new board! I need to get it on some bigger waves though.
Luke, Tara, Morgan, Jacob and J-Bird
Luke, J-Bird and I all paddled for a wave, but it had a loose longboard along for the ride, rolling in the curl. Luke caught the wave from whitewater behind the tumbling board and J-Bird got out of its way, but I couldn't. I tried to dive under the wave and came up with the wayward board on my head. I bit my tongue a little but Rocket and I seemed otherwise unscathed. I held on to the longboard until its owner came to claim it, then, biting my tongue figuratively, suggested nicely that he should wear a leash. He just laughed and paddled off. Grrr. Surfboards are like dogs; if you can't keep yours under control, use a leash.
As another wave peaked up behind me, I saw a surfer catch it, but it sectioned wide between us and I thought I was good to go. I didn't think he'd make it past the long section, and he had a open shoulder to the left, so I figured he'd take it. I didn't realize that he'd zipped far down the whitewater toward me until it was too late to back off. Still, all would probably have been copacetic if (a) I hadn't fallen or (b) he'd straightened out. Sadly neither happened. After we both surfaced, I apologized, and he suggested I check my board since he thought he'd hit it. It looked fine in the water and we went our separate ways. (I'm not entirely certain about the proper surf etiquette in that situation: Does a surfer riding behind in the whitewater have right-of-way over another dropping in on the face? It seems a bit of a gray area. Tell me what you think in the comments.)

While the rest of my buddies were grouped in the middle of the break, long-time surfer Dave had moved way outside on his quad after I saw him ride a nice wave farther in. He's a goofyfoot too, and was going for the less-crowded left. I hung out with him for a while, but the set waves didn't come through often and, tired of waiting for one, I went back to the rest of my group. Everyone was getting rides despite the growing crowd. I picked off several more, but none as fun and long as the first two. It was a good session though, and I'm really stoked about the waves I got on my new board :) It's so fun!

Passing the Hook on the way back, I saw that there was a security guard posted between orange cones mostly blocking the stairs to the beach. I asked him if they were really keeping people from surfing the Hook, which had turned on with the falling tide. He said no, but they were "politely asking" surfers not to take the main peak at First Bowl. I hope they're soon done filming at my breaks. The movie-making was fun at first but now it feels like they've overstayed their welcome.

Back at the car, when I dried off Rocket, I saw a gash on the rail near the tail, then another which also cut across the traction pad, and a third on the tail. I showed them to Luke:
Me: Well, it could have been worse.
Luke: Yeah, it could've been you.
Me: Nah, I've already done that.
I can't say for certain it wasn't the loose longboard that caused it, but I suspect the fin cuts happened when that guy said he thought he hit my board. Which means it's my fault. Even if I had a right to go on that wave, I shouldn't have - I should've looked at the last and backed off - and I'm totally beating myself up about it. So sorry Rocket :(

Surfline: Things remain fairly inconsistent overall this afternoon as a blend of WNW groundswell and SSW swell continues. Decent breaks see shouler-head high+ surf with some occasional larger sets. Standouts still get a couple feet overhead. Light westerly wind now for semi-smooth surface conditions. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.6 ft at 16.0 s WNW 101 / WIND WAVE: 0.7 ft at 3.6 s WNW / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 11.8 s / MWD: 287° (Met) WSPD: 4 kts / GST: 6 kts / WVHT: 6.6 ft / DPD: 16.0 s / WDIR: 300° / ATMP: 50.0° F / WTMP: 54.0° F. Tide: 3' falling below 1'.

07 December 2011

5 More Weeks

Holly Beck InnerView on Korduroy.tv:
In just over 5 weeks, we'll be at her surf retreat in Nica. Can't wait!

06 December 2011

Iced Coffey (HMB Jetty)

The tide is high at dawn all this week, but with limited daylight a fortnight before winter solstice, that’s the only time I can get out to surf on a workday. I couldn’t round up any of my buddies for moral support getting back into the cold NorCal water after our Oahu vacation, so I dug deep for the self-motivation. Still, I wasn’t expecting that the air temperature would be hovering just over freezing at the beach, half the temperature of my last session at Diamond Head. A cold welcome home indeed!
No one was out as the sky lightened enough for a surf check. At first I thought I might have to look elsewhere in Half Moon Bay because only small waves were breaking shallow at the Jetty, but then there were some larger outside sets rolling through that looked promising. By the time I suited up (after first ducking back into my car for a few minutes of re-warming), one guy had paddled out on the main peak. The second peak looked better to me, especially since it was breaking left as well as right, so I gave him wide berth.
I watched the sun rise in pinks and oranges over a glassy sea. There were long shivery lulls between rideable waves. On my new Coffey shortboard again for only the third time, I bagged a couple of nice chest-high lefts with short shoulders amidst a handful of lesser rides. My breath steamed in the chilly air, and within a hour my feet were clods of ice while my fingers ached with cold. Time to switch to my thicker booties and gloves. I rode another left in to the beach, crossed the road on unfeeling feet, worked my car key from its wetsuit pocket with stiff fingers, retrieved my water jug and dumped hot water down my suit – aaah!
I miss Hawaii.

Frost on the grass
Surfline: Modest, holding SW groundswell and small/leftover WNW swell are on offer this morning. Most areas are a little sluggish with the deep morning high tide, and generally offering up 2-3'+ surf. Top exposures pull in some occasional chest/shoulder high+ sets, becoming a bit more frequent as the tide backs out(for areas that like the lower tide). Conditions are nice and clean thanks to light East-ENE winds, which look to continue through the morning. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 12.1 s NW 100 / WIND WAVE: 0.7 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 4.9 ft / APD: 8.4 s / MWD: 313° (Met) WSPD: 4 kts / GST: 6 kts / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 12.0 s / WDIR: 90° / ATMP: 52.0° F / WTMP: 54.0° F. Tide: 5.5’ high.

01 December 2011

Rain Brings Rainbows (Diamond Head Cliffs)

Today was our last day of vacation, and we met Denis at Diamond Head for dawn patrol so I could enjoy tropical surfing once more before returning to wetsuits and the cold water of NorCal.
In the Hawaiian tradition of leaving shoes at the door, we added ours to a line of flip-flops at the base of the cliffside trail. With scattered rain and sunshine, a rainbow arched over the path behind us as we reached the beach.
Wearing a thin neoprene rashie against the morning chill, my ribs felt fine but the knee bruises ouched a little on the paddle out, though quickly forgotten in the lineup. The sea was glassy and Denis said more crowded than usual after days of wind. Early on, a longboarding surfer girl dropped in on my left and another did the same on the next one, a bit annoying since they weren't even goofyfoot. A dude in a black helmet, perhaps used to driving mules, called me off his wave with a "Hee-yah!"
When it started to rain, a bunch of surfers left the water. I don't understand why; we were wet anyway, and the shower was brief. No matter, more waves for us! They were slopey and mushy but the waves in Hawaii have more power. I rode many, mostly lefts, mostly long. I'm comfortable now on the yellow board, ready to take on the north shore, but alas, it's time to leave.
Denis waiting for waves on his shortboard, rain in the distance
It's been a great trip and I've loved every minute of the warm-water time, especially the last two sessions where the waves were pretty good fun and I was dialed in to the yellow 6'9." So stoked!
Surfline: 2-3 ft knee to waist high occ. 4 ft, fair conditions. Combo of declining trade swell and background SSW swell providing surfable but choppy waves for the Diamond Head area today. The Cliffs and Lighthouse locations have chest/shoulder high wedges laced with multiple chops. Steady trade winds will produce a bumpy ocean surface for south east exposures. Partly sunny in the morning then clearing. Isolated showers. Highs 78 to 83. Northeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 20 percent. Buoy 51101: (Wave) SWELL: 9.8 ft at 14.8 s NNW 99 / WIND WAVE: 8.9 ft at 5.9 s NE / WVHT: 13.1 ft / APD: 8.0 s / MWD: 333° (Met) WSPD: 19 kts / GST: 23 kts / WVHT: 13.1 ft / DPD: 15.0 s / WDIR: 20° / ATMP: 72.3° F / WTMP: 76.3° F. Tide: 1.5' rising slightly.