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.'


  1. I have similar battles with myself, similar conversations. But beyond the woo-hoot, it's really just ego. I get how you want to get better, I have been there myself, but it's really just academic and relative. I often tell myself, especially now that I getting older and slower and just can't do what I used to - it's just a matter of time before everyone is humbled. If you stay humble, you can let the rest go and just enjoy what you went out there for in the first place. ALL feelings of 'I'm not good enough' come from comaparing ourselves to others, when really we should just rejoice in being alive and unique!!

    I admire your courage and tenacity.

    1. Thanks, MF, I appreciate that. It really is all relative. My original surfing plan for today was to go out at an easy in-town break with a novice, compared to whom, I'm quite skilled. Fortunately she understood why I needed to push myself instead.

      I'm fighting tooth and nail against getting older and slower though!

  2. The funny thing is that your description of your experience is so similar to how I'd have described my experience surfing most of last summer/fall -- and I just started surfing last summer! It really is all relative.

    What worked for me was to change my expectations, remembering that I wasn't *supposed* to be nailing these waves that were bigger/steeper/more powerful or just different. I was supposed to be *learning* how to handle them. That made me feel better about myself when I was getting pummeled -- or not even able to get pummeled since I was missing all the waves. As long as I was learning, I was doing fine.

    That said, I've now spent the last few months solely in my comfort zone! It's been great for getting more time on my board, which has been productive for me, but this post is reminding me that it's probably about time to start feeling out of my league again!

    - P

    1. Ah, but there's the rub - I think I should've nailed at least one of those waves, as I have done before. To make the drop and then be undone by poor foot placement, that was frustrating. But I think I'm too hard on myself sometimes. Thanks for the reminder that I'm still learning. And you should come surf with me outside your comfort zone sometime :)