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'.

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