26 February 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (HMB Jetty)

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
- Cheers Theme by Gary Portnoy & Judy Hart Angelo

Not everybody knew my name at the Jetty this morning, but with many of the local surfers running there for shelter from the north wind, I saw quite a few familiar faces. I'd planned to meet J-Bird and Jacob, and when Scott and I arrived at the parking lot, Jacob was downing an unappetizing green drink (pulverized kale?) in the parking lot before following J-Bird to the lineup. On the beach after suiting up, I caught him on video, riding a short section and waving to let me know where in the crowd to find them.
Their friend Denise was also out, feeling rusty on a board that needed more wax. Nikki'd said she'd join us, and we were glad to see her paddle up on her red 7'0". A bit later, as I moved Jetty-ward to correct for south drift, a bearded dude called my name. It was Austin, who I hadn't seen in a year in half, since our sweet session at Tres Rocas. Not long after, Manabu joined us on his yellow board.
Nikki, pondering the possibilities 
I was glad of the friendly faces, as the waves weren't so friendly. Probably still the best on offer in the local area, it being spring. the waves were sloppy and choppy, closing out and mushing out, with teasing hints of brief shoulders if you could luck into them. I got a short left after a little while, then had a long wait before catching a near head-high closeout that tossed me at the bottom when I couldn't keep the nose up. I got a good natural neti on that wipeout, plus a fleeting ice cream headache from the cold water.
J-Bird, Jacob and Manabu
I'd brought Feo with a thought to practice duck-diving after I got some rides on Rocket, but the rides were too elusive and the waves were breaking too shallow, so Feo stayed dry. Instead I tried to sink and balance Rocket with my hands under my shoulders on the rails and my left foot pushing down the center of the tail. It was tricky in the midst of chop, but I did it briefly a couple times.

Starting to shiver, and with the others already on the beach, Manabu said "How about this one?" and I turned to catch a good right in, turning on the face, then riding the whitewater close to shore. Taking a break from all my worries sure did help a lot!

Surfline: Steep NW (300-330) swell fills in through the day today as small-scale SW energy shows at select exposures. Decent size on tap as exposed areas run head high+ to several feet overhead. Top areas hit double overhead on the best sets. Tide hits a 1.2' low around 7am. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 12.5 ft at 12.9 s NW 20 / WIND WAVE: 10.8 ft at 8.3 s NW / WVHT: 16.4 ft / APD: 8.3 s / MWD: 315° (Met) WSPD: 25 kn / GST: 31 kn / WVHT: 14.8 ft / DPD: 13.0 s / WDIR: 330° / ATMP: 48° F / WTMP: 50° F. Tide: 2' rising to 3'.

24 February 2012

Surf Coaching: Duck-Dive (Sharks)

The cold I tried to fight off over the weekend knocked me down and kept me home from work for a couple days, but I kept pushing back, hoping to surf with coach Barry at the end of the week. Apparently jonesing for surf can cure the common cold, at least well enough to get out and make use of what Jacob calls "nature's neti". I packed the car with two 6'2" surfboards, Rocket and Feo. Barry took Feo to start and it had him sitting chest-deep in the water.

There was already a little crowd at the Hook so we paddled out at Sharks to be alone. The waves were waist- to chest-high and I missed several in a row. Barry'd say, "well, that one backed off," or "that was a little tricky", but then, "a good surfer would've turned and caught it," and finally, "you should've gotten that one." It must be frustrating for him at times, as it is for me. I'm highly motivated, but I'm not a natural athlete and it doesn't come easy for me. In school, my severe myopia was corrected with thick glasses that rendered objects closer than they appeared, which impaired my eye-hand-ball coordination and led to me being picked last for all team sports. My parents were not into any sort of physical activity, and even tried to discourage me from skiing for the first time in my late teens with "you'll break a leg!" If only they had encouraged me in swimming, at which I might have excelled, instead of making me stumble clumsily through ballet lessons in an attempt to "become graceful" - ah, but then one can't change one's parents nor rewrite childhood. I can only affect who I become. And I want to become a good surfer, however long and however much work that may take.

Eventually I caught and rode a wave, and then a handful more, with a few misses and sinus-cleansing wipeouts in between. In an effort to shift my weight onto my front foot instead of sliding it forward, I was staying low, but Barry told me to get more upright once I was comfortable on the wave. Doing that on the next one, my front foot slid up again to maintain speed. Then Barry mentioned something else that I'd been missing on this whole front foot issue, a bigger part of the big picture: if I got in front of the wave on the flats, instead of staying on the face, on rail, moving down the line, I'd slow down. So it's not just my foot placement or my center of gravity, it's where I am on the wave and the relationship of my board to the wave.
After one more ride, it was time to switch boards for duck-diving. The good news is that I can sink skinny Feo very well; I will learn to duck-dive with it. Contrary to my buddy's advice oh so long ago when I first tried, Barry said that instead of closer to the nose, my hands should be under my shoulders, where they are normally when I pop up, to sink the front of the board. And one of my feet should be centered, pushing with my toes against the ridge in the traction pad, to sink the tail. In this tripod, I should be able to hold the surfboard level underwater for a couple of seconds, balanced and stable. On narrow Feo it was a bit tricky, but I'm getting the hang of it. Barry suggested practicing in a pool, so I'll have to see if my health club will allow that. We didn't have time to try the whole shebang against more than a few actual breaking waves, but after sinking the board as a wave approaches, Barry said to extend my arms forward to pull my chest to the board. On one wave, it felt like I almost did it right. More practice is needed, but with a truly sinkable board, I'm sure I'll get it soon. Barry had to cut the session short to take his kids to school so I tried to catch a wave in on the potato chip, popping up on a little whitewater for a brief ride.

Not ready to go myself, I stashed Feo in the car and headed back out with Rocket. By then two longboarders and a novice shortboarder were out at Sharks. Entertainment was provided by the comedy team of a floating sea otter and a squawking seagull, the former being nagged by the latter into dropping a piece of food. They reminded me of my cat and me whenever I'm eating something on the sofa.

Unfortunately the longboarders were taking all of the inconsistent shortboardable waves. I snagged a quick left that they let pass, but then got tired of backing off and paddled around them to the pole position. From there I got a nice right in to the shallows, wishing I didn't have to leave on such a beautiful sunny day with the firm promise of summery warmth.

Surfline: WNW swell mix is slowly easing through the day. Good spots pull in knee-waist zone waves with top NW exposures producing chest-head high waves, especially on the more favorable tides. Very small SW swell mixes in with 1-2-3' sets. Smooth surface conditions, but there is some warble/lump running through the swell mix. Improving with the tide push. (Wave) SWELL: 9.8 ft at 12.1 s NW 19 / WIND WAVE: 2.0 ft at 4.5 s NW / WVHT: 10.2 ft / APD: 8.7 s / MWD: 309° (Met) WSPD: 10 kn / GST: 14 kn / WVHT: 10.2 ft / DPD: 12.0 s / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 50° F / WTMP: 50° F. Tide: 1.5' rising to 2.5'.

20 February 2012

Icing on the Cake (HMB Jetty)

Today is a holiday in honor of dead presidents, but I had to surf early because our cat had an inconvenient vet appointment in the late morning. I didn't expect anyone to join me, and the Jetty didn't look all that exciting when I got there at a bit past dawn, but I saw a few waves that looked surfable. The one guy checking it when I arrived departed for elsewhere, and I paddled out alone mid-beach.
There were some fun waves to be had, up to chest-high, sluggish on the high tide but with less backwash than on Friday. My thought for the drop was "Look where you want to go. Not at your feet; they know where they need to be." Indeed, that seem to help my turns, and I rode some nice lefts and a couple rights.
Since I woke up at the start of the long weekend with a stuffy nose, I've been fighting a cold. There's something grossly unfair about illness that strikes during time off, and sadly it sapped my energy such that I was done in about an hour. As I rode my last wave in near the beach, I saw Luke carrying his blue-striped Harbour longboard down to the sand. Of course I had to paddle back out with him for one more wave; it was icing on the cake to have a buddy join my fun solo session. On my real last wave, he went right and I went left, dropping into the shallows at almost the same time. Stoked!

Spring wildflowers
Surfline: WNW-NW wind and groundswell mix backs down through the day. Most breaks start off a bit sluggish as the tide approaches a 6'+ mid morning high tide. Surface conditions are looking pretty clean, though shape is still on the jumbled side. Size for exposures is in the shoulder-head high+ range, with standout spots still puling in some sets running 2-3'+ overhead. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 6.2 ft at 12.9 s NW 18 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.6 s SSW / WVHT: 6.6 ft / APD: 8.3 s / MWD: 307 (Met) WSPD: 8 kn / GST: 10 kn / WVHT: 6.6 ft / DPD: 13.0 s / WDIR: 140° / ATMP: 49° F / WTMP: 51° F. Tide: 5.5' rising to almost 6'.

17 February 2012

Box of Chocolates (HMB Jetty)

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." -Forrest Gump

Surf is like a box of chocolates too. Especially when you drive to the beach in the dark, you don't know what you're going to find when you get there. But with the local buoy showing rising NW groundswell, I was pretty sure there would be some waves to play on, big or small, and in that I was not disappointed.
The main peak looked very backwashy on the high tide, and I paddled out alone farther down the beach. Luke had said he'd join me shortly, and as I kooked up my first few waves, I looked to shore hoping he hadn't yet arrived to see them. Finally I got into a nice little left, and my down-to-fumes stoke tank began to refill. 
J-Bird, Jacob and Luke waiting for waves
Luke arrived, followed soon by J-Bird and a little while later by her slower husband Jacob. The only thing better than a solo surf session is a session with just a few buddies. The waves were sloshy, but I didn't get queasy despite having skipped taking Dramamine. I'm hopeful that I'm over my seasick phase.
The waves were variously funky, shifty, backwashy, doubled-up, mushy, steep, open-faced, closed out, kind of every which way, but each of us got a few nice rides. We were amazed to hear die-hard longboarder Jacob say that he needed a shorter board than his usual 9-something-footer, "just in these conditions."
My best wave was a shoulder-high right. With the crest breaking beside me as I popped up, I turned immediately onto the face and made a few tentative turns up and down before it either mushed out too much or I got too high and lost it, probably the later. Then there was a head-high wave that jacked up steep as my feet found my board and I air-dropped - woo! - before crash-landing at the bottom. I wish I could rewind both of those waves for a do-over, but they were still fun. Some sweet chocolates in the box today, and I enjoyed sharing them with my friends!

Surfline: Fresh, new WNW swell moved in overnight and will top out/hold through the day today. The surf is a little slow for the dawn patrol due to an early near 6' high tide but better spots still hit head high+ on sets while standouts go bigger. Expect it to be inconsistent for a bit longer this morning as well. Mostly clean conditions prevail with light morning winds. (Wave) SWELL: 9.2 ft at 17.4 s NW 17 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 6.2 s NW / WVHT: 9.8 ft / APD: 10.3 s / MWD: 310° (Met) WSPD: 14 kn / GST: 17 kn / WVHT: 9.8 ft / DPD: 17.0 s / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 51° F / WTMP: 52° F. Tide: 6' falling to 5'.

12 February 2012

The Ugly Duckling

My shortboard meets the technical definition, being only 6'2" long, but it's wide (20.5") and thick (2.5"). And it's epoxy, not heavier polyurethane. That means a lot of buoyancy for someone as small as me. As Steve pointed out today, I'm still sitting with my torso mostly out of the water when I'm on Rocket.

A couple of shortboarder buddies have told me it would be easier to learn to duck-dive (and perhaps easier to surf too, but that's another topic) with something less floaty, so this weekend I grabbed more potato-chippy PU board off of Craigslist to use as a training tool.

When I saw the surfboard in person, I thought the young guy who advertised it must've been high when he described it as "in very good condition," but he continued to express that fact-free sentiment when I stood before him. My poor patito feo ("ugly duckling") has been abused. If it was truly surfed "only about 10 times" as he claimed, they were tough sessions indeed. The "one repair job" was probably executed, quite poorly, by the dude himself; it seems sound but is very rough, and drips that landed elsewhere on the bottom deck were left to harden. The "minor indentation(s)" are countless, some large, and he "just noticed" a few small dings near the nose that need repair. Still, there is no delamination or present serious injury, and it was quite cheap.
After cleaning and ding-taping
Feo is not as short as I'd like, but at 6'2" long, 17.75" wide and less than 2" thick, I should certainly be able to sink it more than Rocket and hopefully get the mechanics of duck-diving down to transfer to my regular board. I have no intention of surfing it (although I'll probably try just for giggles); Feo goes back on Craiglist as soon as it's served its limited purpose.

Off the Rocks (West of Getchell's)

Some of my surf buddies, of the longboard denomination, wanted to attend today's Church of Surf at 38th or Cowells in Santa Cruz, or at the Jetty if their time was tight. Likely to be soft or sloppy, those services didn't appeal to me. Shortboarder Steve said he could attend the Westside Sunrise Service, so I forwent our usual leisurely weekend breakfast and drove south in the dark. We both thought it would be fun-sized, and Steve had even suggested that I bring a bigger board.
Since there were already a bunch of surfers at Getchell's when we arrived, we drove over to have a look at Gas Chambers to Natural Bridges. Leaving the choice to Steve's local knowledge, we suited up and walked down the cliffside goat-trail at Gas Chambers. Pausing on a large rock near the bottom, Steve mused that "there's usually some beach there..." Indeed, on that rising tide, there was no apparent safe entry point much less a good exit. We scrambled back up the bluff and drove back near Getchell's.

While the main peak at Getchell's had a good little crowd, the next break west was empty. Between the two, at the bottom of a narrow path through blooming iceplant, was a wide rock ledge jutting into the sea. We stepped carefully across the ledge, skirting irregular pools filled with swaying pale green anemones, taking care not to slip on fringes of slimy forest green algae, and put on our leashes.
Before I could ask if he had any tips, Steve stepped to the edge and jumped off into the water. Hmm, I've never done this before. I made my way to the brink and saw it was about a 6-foot drop into the water. I didn't see any rocks or boils, but with our murky sea, that wasn't saying much. I remembered Steve had jumped just as a wave reached the base of the ledge, so I prepared to do the same from the same spot. Unsure what to do with my board, I tossed it to the side as I jumped, retrieving it quickly when I surfaced and paddling away before the next wave came in. Well, now I have done it.
Sea caves
When we reached the peak, there were a couple other shortboarders out, but they sat farther inside, everyone trying to find a clear space amidst the kelp that constantly ensnared us. The waves were not small, going overhead on the sets, and also steep. I caught one and popped up into a heckuva wipeout. Back in the lineup, Steve said I was way too deep; "only Kelly Slater makes those." With a big outside set incoming, we all paddled for the horizon, but I knew I wasn't going to make it before the first wave broke. What the hell, might as well try to ride it. I turned and caught the fast-rushing whitewater, popping up to ride the tumult for a bit until a section of lumpy froth blasted in front of me and threw me off.
Soon the first two guys were joined by another, and to my surprise and admiration, a surfer girl. I saw a lot of nice rides by Steve and the rest, including one of the guys getting his hair wet in the curl before the wave chewed him up. My fingers had become too cold in leaky gloves to press camera buttons, or I could've had some nice shots, augmenting the (today) disappointing surfing hobby with the photography one. I felt out of my league, surrounded by better surfers and waves above my skill level.

After riding right, Steve paused a couple of times farther in and closer to Getchell's, and I paddled over to join him. Shortly he returned to the main peak, saying it was only breaking at that inner spot on the really big sets, but I decided to hang there, waiting for something smaller. I hadn't had a chance to ask him where we'd get out (jumping onto a rock ledge not being an option) when he caught another wave and I soon saw him standing on a small strip of sand below the bluff. As I looked for a ride in, and he couldn't wait for me any longer, I tried to watch where he found a trail up to the road.

Soon one of those big sets threw a wave my way, and I paddled for it but drew back at the brink. After the big wipeout and a couple of not long but still "don't panic" holddowns, I was inhibited by a niggling bit of fear, just enough to keep me from pushing over. Shoot, I could've had that. Next one, go for it! Commit! I moved into position, turned to stroke into the second wave (Commit!), and saw it was bigger than the first and I was too deep just in time to turn out again. The third wave was bigger yet, breaking well outside, so I ditched Rocket and dove down until my ears popped, yanked shoreward by my left ankle when the wave caught my board. That was the last of the set, and I made the paddle of shame in to the beach.
This was not what I hoped for as a Sunday fun day, and I find my stoke is seriously depleted. I need a few good waves, and soon.

Surfline: Easing W-WSW energy blends with WNW swell for plenty of shoulder-head high+ waves this morning. Standouts can get up to a few feet overhead on occasion. Clean early with light wind. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 8.5 ft at 12.9 s WNW 16 / WIND WAVE: 4.6 ft at 5.9 s NW / WVHT: 9.8 ft / APD: 7.3 s / MWD: 287° (Met) WSPD: 14 kn / GST: 19 kn / WVHT: 9.8 ft / DPD: 13.0 s / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 51° F / WTMP: 53° F. Tide: Less than 1' rising to 1.5'.

09 February 2012

Looking at My Feet (Capitola)

After I suggested to my co-worker David that he join me for dawn patrol, he made a dash to buy booties and a hood at lunchtime yesterday, but alas, had to bail last minute for a forgotten early meeting. I was a bit glad after the fact, because this morning I really wanted to sort out my front foot issue: what do I need to do differently, to keep it from sliding forward and putting me in a sting-bug stance?

I consulted by email with coach Barry and my old surfing buddy Dwayne, a good shortboarder who lives in SoCal now. Barry said if my front foot moves forward, I need to move the back one up as well. He also told me to make sure my shoulders and hips are parallel to the stringer, unlike in this picture, and recommended watching some surfing videos (my favorite homework) and trying to emulate on the Bosu. Dwayne said that on his shortboard, he primarily shifts his weight and most of the time his feet don't move. His stance is dictated by his back foot, which is usually in the middle of his pad, with the front foot a constant distance away. He also told me that where his feet end up is dictated by where his body is when he's paddling for a wave.
After messing around on the Bosu last night and with all that commentary mulling about in my head, I found some under-head-high waves at Capitola to try to sort out the problem. Capitola is known as a longboard break, but when the swell is big enough, there are smaller shortboardable waves on the inside. With a cluster of longboarders sitting far out, I had them pretty much to myself. Perfect.

My goal was a high wave-count, so I wasn't being picky on selection. I just wanted to try stuff and see what happened, without ever letting myself go stink-bug. On one wave, I wiggled both feet forward a bit. I paddled into another with my body slightly farther forward and a high back arch, then popped up with my feet closer to the nose. And I tried shifting my weight forward instead of moving my front foot. I found that my back foot seems to be either on the front of my traction pad or just ahead of it on the waxed board. At 6'2", maybe Rocky is still too much board for me.
I rode a bunch of chest-high waves, mostly rights and many whitewatery, but a couple of decent ones with some face. Then I was caught inside during a long set and spent what felt like 10 minutes trying to get back out, waiting for a lull that wouldn't come and ineffectually attempting to duck-dive the punchy whitewash. I think I need to learn how to duck-dive soon, or else buy a Wave Jet (kidding!). I got one more wave and fought my way back out for a last little one in to the beach, all the while still concentrating on positioning. I should've left myself the last half hour or so to just have fun, but instead I'll make Sunday my fun day.
After all that, I have a theory. Thinking like a systems engineer, it came together for me when I stopped looking only at my feet and considered the bigger picture, the whole surfer/surfboard system. To shift my center of gravity forward and keep the board planing, I could move my feet toward the nose, or I could weight my front foot more heavily in situ. So why didn't weighting it seem to have enough effect? I think it was my stance; too upright, with not enough flex in my knees. When I got lower, it was much easier to shift weight forward, bending my right knee over my front foot. I'll test my theory in a few days in more challenging surf. 

Surfline: Clean, long lines with some open corners. Solid Westerly swell (260-300) backs down through the day. For the dawn patrol, most better exposures continue to offer up head high to a few feet overhead surf. Conditions are looking nice and clean with light northerly winds. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.8 ft at 13.8 s WNW 15 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.4 s WNW / WVHT: 9.8 ft / APD: 9.9 s / MWD: 287° (Met) WSPD: 4 kn / GST: 6 kn / WVHT: 9.8 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 20° / ATMP: 53° F / WTMP: 53° F. Tide: 2.5' rising to 4'.

05 February 2012

Push (Natural Gas)

After yesterday's overcrowded eastside session, I was looking forward to a more empty westside lineup during the Super Bowl. But the drive to Santa Cruz takes an hour, which gave me too much time to think. I was meeting Steve and his buddies Kazu and Steve (aka Stingray), all good shortboarders, and expecting overhead waves, outside of my comfort zone. I started psyching myself into a bad place: What if I can't make it to the outside? Or wipe out badly and get hurt? Or can't catch any waves? Or totally kook it up in front of these good surfers? Maybe if it looks too big, I should just go to Indicators instead. No, I have to try; if I don't push my limits, I'll never push past them. So stop being negative. You can do this! 

Boulders down the cliff to the beach
The guys were checking the surf when I arrived, noting that Ratboy was in the lineup. It always feels a little funny when I'm introduced this way: "You know the Surfergrrrl blog?" "Yeah, I read it." "Well, this is her." We walked down West Cliff Drive to check a few more breaks between Gas Chambers (also more charmingly called Naked Beach, for its warm day, low-tide beachgoers) and Natural Bridges, settling on an unnamed spot in between christened "Natural Gas" by Kazu.

To get to the little beach, we had to navigate down a jumble of big rocks piled against the cliff to protect it from erosion. It was a bit tricky, but Steve helpfully took my board over a steep bit and the last algae-slimed boulder so Rocket and I both arrived safely on the sand.
There be shorepound
Kazu and Stingray reached the beach first and had already paddled out. Steve duck-dived his way through the shorepound but it was defeating me. I waited for a lull and then paddled like mad to join them on the outside.
Kazu, Stingray, and Steve
The waves were overhead and funky with backwash. While the other guys caught a few, I wasn't getting into them, and it didn't help that the view from the top of the drop had me hanging back a little. Probably sensing my hesitation, Steve pointed out that the waves weren't that steep. He also offered that my paddling seems too relaxed, as Barry has observed. I wish I knew better how to speed myself up, to make my little hands push more water. Determined to avoid a skunking, I caught one wave but the backwash kicked my board toward me as I started to pop up. The guys rode some more waves, and then I caught one, with Steve exhorting me to "Paddle harder! Commit!" Though I didn't land the drop, as I rejoined the lineup, all three were all smiling that I'd finally gotten a wave. I tried for more without success, and a wipeout landed my ass hard on the ridge in my traction pad or perhaps the edge of the tail, raising a big bruise.
An uncommon view of the arch at Natural Bridges State Park
There were more surfers in the water than I'd expected with most of the country home watching expensive commercials and guys in tights chasing a ball around a field. But it was a sunny, almost windless, 70-degree day in winter with good swell, so I wasn't too surprised. After a time, the next peak mostly emptied and we moved over for slightly smaller but cleaner and peeling waves.
Sunset, Stingray and Steve
I had better luck at the new spot, zipping down the drop on a slightly overhead right - woo hoo! - and riding briefly until my front foot wanted to move forward on the board but couldn't, and I fell. I got another like that but smaller and shorter, and began to wonder what's going on? Rocket and I had been getting along so well for a couple of months, and now we're have this relationship issue between feet and board. Although it seems I didn't bring back malaria or dengue fever from Nicaragua, maybe I picked up some bad habit while I was surfing without booties and could easily slide my front foot. I think I need a smaller, high wave-count dawn patrol at the Jetty to get it figured out and hopefully fixed.
The sun began to set into the sea as the surface turned glassy. Kazu got the wave of the day, a long right. I hoped to redeem myself with a decent ride, but after a few more missed waves, a few more drops into wipeouts and just plain wipeouts, and it was time to go. Caught inside, I rode whitewater to the beach at Natural Bridges. The drive home gave me more time to reflect, discouraging thoughts about how I didn't ride any waves well. But I realized, I'm concentrating too much on performance and am losing sight of the reason I surf: because it's fun. It needs to be about the woo-hoo, about the awesome feeling of making the fast drop on a large wave and turning at the bottom. So then I fell, so what. It was fun! And the next times, I'll do better.
Surfline: WNW-NW (270-300+) energy continues to provide solid surf as a very small/inconsistent SW (210-225) swell moves in through the day. Fun, workable surf on tap this afternoon with light wind. Waves continue in the shoulder-head high+ range with larger sets running several feet overhead at the standout breaks. Shape has definitely sped up a bit with the dropping tide. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.2 ft at 13.8 s WNW 14 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 3.7 s ENE / WVHT: 9.2 ft / APD: 11.6 s / MWD: 295° (Met) WSPD: 4 kts / GST: 6 kts / WVHT: 9.2 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 60° / ATMP: 55.8° F / WTMP: 54.1° F. Tide: negative 0.5' rising near 1.'

Surf Coaching: 8 Sessions In

Last July, I started working with a surf coach, Barry Green of Making the Drop. I began surfing late and want to get good before I'm too old, so I'd had in mind for some time that I'd like to get coaching to compress my learning curve. While there are many instructors available for beginners (heck, I could teach beginners), coaches at the intermediate level are harder to find. And I didn't mesh with a couple others I tried out with an (unsuccessful) duck-diving lesson. Finally last summer, during some late night insomniac web-surfing, I stumbled upon Barry's website and contacted him for an initial assessment.

Going in, I told Barry these were my goals:
I want to grow into a competent shortboarder. I tried shortboarding before I was much good at surfing, and ended up skunked and frustrated most of the time until a friend suggested I go longer again. Last year I got decent on an 8'3" and this year I've been riding a 7'0", intending to transition down more gradually. (I'm planning to have Ward Coffey shape me a shorter board for my birthday in November.) I want to get barreled, and be confident in bigger hollow waves that throw barrels. I want to conquer my fears (please read this post, although I've made progress since I wrote it). I want to be able to get outside with less struggle; I could semi-duck dive my shortboard but turtle-rolling has never worked well for me and I'm still sometimes denied on short-period days. I want to be more comfortable and less stressed surfing in crowds. I'm out there to have fun, but it's most enjoyable when I successfully meet a challenge, be it in conditions or maneuvers.
After the initial assessment, I've had eight rougly bi-weekly sessions with Barry, the last one following an unintentional three-month hiatus. With his help, I've made a lot of progress. Focusing on my goal of shortboarding, he's taught me to think and surf more like a shortboarder. My wave judgment has improved so I know better where I need to be, even if I don't always make it to the right spot to get the ride. He's also helped me to increase my paddling power and speed through cross-training, including swim sprints and weight exercises, so I can get into more waves, though I'm not quite as fast as I need to be just yet. I also started using an upside-down Bosu balance trainer and skateboarding (the latter derailed for a bit by an Achilles tendon strain). I'm still working on areas such as body awareness (lead the body with the hands), board sensitivity, and assertiveness.
Coach Barry, far right, during the initial assessment. My surfcam stays home when I'm training.
Aside from one time at Linda Mar on a surprisingly good day, our sessions are in eastside Santa Cruz in the vicinity of the Hook. Barry sits in the lineup with me most of the time, occasionally taking a wave, sometimes alongside me to observe my form. I'm a bit disappointed, though, that he hasn't spent much time out in front to better evaluate what I'm doing on the face. It's a hole in the coaching. A plus is that our hour-and-a-half water sessions are augmented by online support consisting of emails, written assessments, and (my favorite) pro-surfer video viewing homework.

Last week's session #8 was the first time Barry had seen me on my new shortboard although I've had it for a couple of months. In no small part due to his preparatory work, I'd made a smooth transition from my 7'0" to the 6'2" from the first time I surfed it.

I've come far in a much shorter time than if I was trying to figure it all out on my own, though I still have a way to go to reach my goals. But with Barry's help, I'm confident I'll get there.

Update: Since I moved to San Diego and had a couple group coaching sessions (via San Diego Surf Ladies) with Dan Mori of Fulcrum Surf, who is absolutely outstanding, I've come to realize that Barry's coaching was merely adequate and somewhat helpful. Dan has offered great insight from brief observation of my surfing and I wish I now had the time and funds to spend on coaching with him instead.

04 February 2012

Help SurfAid, and Send My Buddy to Indo

SurfAid provides medical care, infrastructure projects, and education to the Mentawai and Nias islanders of western Indonesia, very poor people who suffer from mosquito-borne diseases and the lingering effects of recent earthquakes and tsunamis. In past years, I've swum laps to raise money for SurfAid, but this time, they're trying a different approach: no swimming, just asking.

I'm not participating directly, but my surf buddy Steve is currently the leader in fundraising and has a shot at the top prize: a trip with SurfAid to see them in action and surf the Mentawai's great waves. Close behind in second place is a surf shop that's secured just a handful of wealthy donors, while Steve's support is more grass-roots.
Let's get some 99% action going and help Steve out! Just $10 will provide a mosquito net to protect a family from malaria for 5 years. So little money for so much benefit. Go here or click the link in the left bar to donate what you can.

Stealing Scraps from Janitors (Sharks/Privates)

Luke, J-Bird and some of my other buddies were planning to surf Half Moon Bay this morning, but I thought it would be too big (as in, denial-because-I-can't-duck-dive big), so I was waffling on whether to drive south to Santa Cruz instead. Sabine said she was going out at the Hook/Sharks and Nikki was game to meet up there later, but the clincher was long-time surfer Steve saying he would probably head to Santa Cruz on a day like this. So I drove south.
Unfortunately it did not work out for me to meet up with anyone, and I ended up surfing alone on the very crowded Eastside. It didn't look too packed when I surf-checked from the bluff, but by the time I hit the water, there was a big crowd at the Hook and spreading eastward. I'd forgotten how bad it can get on a warm sunny weekend day, and no doubt the pre-Super Bowl surfers were adding density.
Just a few surfers out
I paddled out at east of Sharks and tried for a wave right away, but I hadn't completely untangled from a kelp hitch-hiker acquired on the way and couldn't get enough speed. I quickly freed myself and there was another wave behind the first, which I caught with a few strokes. Smile! I moved over to Sharks proper to look for Sabine, but I suppose I must have arrived too late and missed her. A few promising waves came my way but they were already taken. Wanting to surf and not watch, I moved back east away from the clot of surfers to a more open space, eventually ending up near Privates.
A janitor takes another wave
Apparently there was a janitor convention in town; at one point, there were five SUPers sitting outside of me, sweeping all of the waves from the outside. Grr. I took the scraps, chest-high waves at best that made it to the inside unmolested. I got a couple nice rights with shoulders that held up for bit, but mostly they were short rides that disappeared too soon as the wave passed over deeper water. I found my front foot wanted to slide forward most of the time, no matter that I tried to weight it more heavily, to keep going on the sluggish waves.
I looked in vain for Nikki, and hoped because of the crowd that Steve had decided to stay on the Westside where he'd arrived an hour later than me. I'd thought to join him there as a second session, but the time got away from me, and when I reached the car I figured he was already done. Turned out his spot had been pretty fun and uncrowded. Ahh, wish I'd gone there instead. In our post-surf chat, he challenged me to "step outside my comfort zone" and come surf the Westside with him.

That's just what I need, and have been missing since my buddy Dwayne moved to SoCal a few years ago: a good shortboarder to inspire and push me. I'll take up the challenge tomorrow during the Super Bowl. Looking forward with anticipation and trepidation and excitement!
I found this boot on the beach. Wonder what happened to the rest of the diver.
Surfline: Old WNW swell on the fade today as new, building WNW-NW(270-300+) swell sets up overhead+ waves at the decent exposures. Standouts eventually approach double overhead on sets as the swell builds and tide drops. Clean early with offshore wind. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 11.5 ft at 13.8 s WNW 13 / WIND WAVE: 0.7 ft at 3.6 s NW / WVHT: 11.5 ft / APD: 12.7 s (Met) WSPD: 2 kts / GST: 6 kts / WVHT: 12.5 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 80° / ATMP: 53.4° F / WTMP: 53.2° F. Tide: 3.5' falling to 1.5'.

02 February 2012


Most people probably set down their goals for the year around January 1st. I've had mine in mind since then, but here's the official Groundhog Day announcement.

In 2012, I want to:
1) Finally learn to duck-dive
2) Get barreled (for substantially longer than a microsecond)
Only 11 months left; better get on it.

01 February 2012

Surf Coaching: Shortboard Assessment (Sharks)

Due to a plethora of schedule conflicts and uncooperative swell/conditions, it had been three months since I last surfed with my coach. Finally today we met up, and the waves were very fun!
This was also the first time Barry had seen my new 6'2" Ward Coffey in real life, and he's already thinking about the shape for my next board, going more toward a true shortboard.

I missed the first wave I paddled for, and he gently chided me for moving too slowly. I'm still feeling encumbered by the wetsuit, which Barry said adds about 10 pounds to my weight. As I paddled for the next one, I tried holding a thought that first occurred to me in Nicaragua: Match your speed to the wave. Somehow that helps me to paddle faster, if I'm consciously trying to move as quickly as the approaching swell. I caught it, made a sweet head-high drop and rode the face far down the line until it sectioned. Woot! It was the best ride I've had in a while, including in Nica. Santa Cruz surf can be so sweet.
Barry watched me attempt to duck-dive in the waves and the flats, and I'm doing a bunch of stuff wrong: my hands are too far forward, I'm not sinking the back enough to level the board underwater, and I'm not staying balanced as I push the tail down. Plus I'm a little thing and at a natural disadvantage especially in trying to duck-dive a floatier board like Rocket. Sigh. It'll take some work (and lots of forced plunging of the face into cold cold water).

I got a few more nice waves, though not as long as the first, with Barry occasionally blocking for me as the crowd grew. A couple steepened up on me and I blew the drops, not angled enough and not weighting my back foot enough to keep the nose dry. D'oh!
Watching me ride from the front and while party-waving our last one in, Barry noted, as did Holly on video review, that I'm sliding my front foot forward to keep the nose down and speed up. He said there's not necessarily anything wrong with that as long as my stance doesn't get too wide, but I could try shifting weight to my front food instead. Or it may be that my back foot is planted too far toward the tail and I need to adjust my entire stance forward.

Funny that I had every intention of trying not to slide my front foot since Holly pointed it out to me, but I have trouble remembering to do anything in particular while I'm riding. It's like I let go of my conscious mind as soon as the wave lifts me. Then I'm In The Moment, just operating on feel and muscle memory. To get a signal through from my thinking brain, I have to make a conscious effort to concentrate on one thought ("Turn quickly!" or "Don't slide!"). This morning I forgot to think it, and hadn't even known I'd moved my foot when Barry mentioned it after. I think that's one reason I like surfing so much - it takes me out of my head - but it does make practicing more difficult.
Another reason is those great rides that leave me smiling all day. Stoked!

Surfline: Clean, long lines with some tapered right corners working through. Looking fun. More size shows through the day. Long period WNW (280-300) groundswell is on the rise through the day today offering chest-shoulder-head high surf for better exposures, with some larger sets for standout breaks. Breaks that don't focus the long period energy too well are down in the thigh/waist high range. Winds are light+ out of the North for clean conditions through town. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.2 ft at 19.0 s W 12 / WIND WAVE: 1.0 ft at 2.5 s N / WVHT: 7.2 ft / APD: 10.6 s / MWD: 278° / 08:00a PST (Met) WSPD: 8 kts / GST: 10 kts / WVHT: 7.2 ft / DPD: 19.0 s / WDIR: 170° / ATMP: 51.8° F / WTMP: 53.1° F. Tide: 4' falling to 3'.