12 February 2012

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'.


  1. Sorry that your stoke got depleted. You just gotta keep smilin and keep at it. I was were you are a few years ago.

    1. Tryin' to keep smilin' :) I hope I can surf as well as you in a few years.

  2. Hi there!
    I have a random question: Would it be possible to buy a high res copy of one of the images that you have on your blog? It's the Getchell st. break with the sea cactus trail leading down to the ocean? Is that a possibility?? Thanks!!

    1. Do you mean the one at the top of this post? It's a couple years old so I'll have to find it on a backup drive to even see what resolution I have. Please send me an email surfergrrrl@gmail.