29 April 2012

Surfer Girls Rock

Dawn patrol in eastside Santa Cruz. The lineup swells from a few to 17 guys... plus me, the sole surfer girl. Then a woman paddles out on a soft-top longboard, free brown hair still dry, stopping on the inside where I'm waiting for my last wave. We exchange smiles, and she tries for a couple small bumps but they pass her by. I say "here you go," when a slightly larger wave comes toward her, and as she turns to paddle for it, she offers "we could ride it together!" inviting me to drop in on her. Surfer girls rock.

While there are fewer women who surf than men, rising stars like Carissa Moore, Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons and Courtney Conlogue surf on par with the boys. Yet they are relegated to the poorest waves in shared contest windows, and largely absent from the phallocentric surf magazines. Instead of glossy photos of these pro surfer girls ripping, at this time of year, many of those magazines lure male eyes with annual swimsuit issues, posing women in barely-there bikinis sexily on the beach while a guy rides waves in the background. As Miss Representation (trailer below) points out:
No matter what else a woman does, no matter what else her achievements, their value still depends on how they look.... The exploitation of women's bodies sells products, magazines, etcetera. 
Some women and girls buy into the myth that their worth is measured by their bodies and not their abilities. Others contribute to their objectification, like Stephanie Gilmore who posed naked for ESPN. Sponsors of women's surfing, while providing an opportunity for competition, also focus on the body, using their athletes as models. While pro male surfers can look less than pleasing, it seems an unwritten rule that for a woman to be sponsored, she must eye-candy: pretty, preferably blond, and hot in a bikini. Olympic swimming medalist Amanda Beard recently disclosed in her book, In the Water They Can't See You Cry, that her fit, athletic body was deemed to fat to advertise swimsuits, so she was forced to diet unhealthily and suffered damage to her self-esteem.

What we need are women who will buck the media onslaught to stand strong and be recognized for their abilities and accomplishments instead of how they look. We need women to support and encourage each other, like the longboarder in Santa Cruz, and to celebrate our achievements, like Stephanie and Sally chairing Courtney up the beach after she won the Commonwealth Bank Beachley Classic.

When the surfing magazine swimsuit issues hit the stands again this year, I gathered a few of my friends at Linda Mar beach in Pacifica for a photo shoot of real Nor Cal surfer girls. We don't surf in bikinis because the water is too cold, but even if it was tropical, many of us would choose more practical rashguards and board shorts. Because it's about surfing, not sexy.
Surfer girls rock.

An edited version of this post appears on TheInertia.

Arms Lead

Yesterday I watched Heart, and noticed how one of the goofyfooters, I think it was Prue Jeffries, really used her arms to initiate and follow through on turns. You can see it at about the one-minute mark in this video.
I'll have to try that to make my turns less tentative the next time I surf, when the wind dies or the swell rises. Arrgh, Spring.

27 April 2012

Hello, Sunshine (Hook)

I waffled on whether to surf today. San Mateo County breaks seemed out: too drained before work, too blown out after. And sheltered Santa Cruz has been small. Maybe I should go swimming instead. Still, when I cam-watched just a few surfers out in eastside Santa Cruz yesterday afternoon, enduring lulls but getting some fun little rides, I knew I had to get up before dawn and make the drive south.
There was only one guy in the water when I arrived, but more were joining as the light grew. I paddled out to the second peak which held only greybeard Glenn and another dude. I caught a wave almost right away and forgot to fist up my sprained wrist, but it didn't hurt too much and I was able to complete the pop-up and ride. Woot! The crowd grew steadily but I stayed on the inside and took the smaller ones they let slip by. I had many fun rides, one I-can't-believe-I-made-that drop, and a few take-off crashes due to misjudging the wave or imbalance from fisting the pop-up. One fist plant that went awry put an ugly purple bruise around my ring-finger knuckle, which does not match my pink KT Tape at all. I'll have to check Emm later for the corresponding pressure dent.
I let the crowd push me toward Sharks, but there wasn't much going on down that way. Before I paddled back toward the Hook, I slogged into the kelp to investigate something odd poking up through it. When I got closer I saw it was a harbor seal, nose to the sky as if worshiping the rising sun. S/he turned a wary eye toward me, and I stopped to take a quiet photo as s/he resumed the pose. (Later, Caro and Heather told me the seal might be suffering from domoic acid toxicity. That's a neurological disease caused by eating contaminated shellfish who have themselves ingested "zombie acid" from a harmful algae bloom possibly caused by human activities. Or s/he could have just been resting. I hope it was the latter.)
Back at the Hook, a sea otter played just past the lineup. I soon rode a left that ended prematurely when I over-steered into the face. D'oh! The next was to be my last wave, but I went back for a couple more, and counted 17 guys in the lineup... plus me. A few minutes later, a woman paddled out nearby and as I called her into her first wave - she was in the best position - she suggested we share it. Surfer girls rock.

I caught the next wave in and picked my way through the anemone-studded shallows to the beach. Smiles! Santa Cruz is always worth the drive for dawn patrol.
Surfline: Looking a lot better than the last few days, this morning, as mid-period WNW (290-310) swell builds, mixing with modest SSW (200-180) groundswell. For the dawn patrol size is generally running knee-waist-chest high at better breaks, with a few larger sets for top exposures. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 7.9 ft at 11.4 s NW 32 / WIND WAVE: 6.2 ft at 7.1 s NW / WVHT: 9.8 ft / APD: 6.9 s / MWD: 312° (Met) WSPD: 23 kn / GST: 29 kn / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 53° F / WTMP: 54° F. Tide: 1½' falling to ½'.

22 April 2012

Blues Skies (Linda Mar)

When I saw the surf at the Jetty after crossing the street to join J-Bird, Jacob, Nikki and Perrin, my first thought was, "I want to rewind to yesterday." The break was messy, chopped by a light onshore breeze, with only one soul out making an attempt to ride the lackluster waves. We decided to drive north to Linda Mar, where Tracey joined us.
As the one sunny spot on the foggy Nor Cal coast at late morning on a weekend, Linda Mar was of course already crowded. Nevertheless, waves were had by all. I lost count of how many I rode, keeping my sprained wrist safely fisted on each pop-up. The waves were smaller than yesterday at the Jetty, mostly waist high and breaking shallow, but I had a few fun long ones in both directions.
Jacob, J-Bird, Nikki, Tracey and Perrin
Nikki's shoulder was troubling her so she headed to the beach first, followed by J-Bird and Jacob who were on their second session after Dunes. Perrin went in next, leaving Tracey and me to enjoy another hour or so under the sun with a hundred strangers. I stayed out much longer than usual, nearly two-and-a-half hours. We split a peak once, both on our backsides, and I got my best wave of the day, offering room for a few small turns. I'm getting much better at shuffling my feet forward to maintain speed and stay on a slowing wave.
The crowd was replete with beginners being buoys and offered a mellow vibe on a beautiful day. Good friends and fun waves, who could ask for anything more?
Splash and Tracey
Surfline: 2-3+ feet, poor to fair conditions. We have a bumpy/crumbly mix of NW wind/groundswell and SSW energy this afternoon along with onshore WSW wind. Waves run waist-chest high at exposed areas, while standout spots hit shoulder high on sets. SW wind protected areas remain cleanest. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.3 ft at 10.0 s NW 31 / WIND WAVE: 2.6 ft at 4.3 s SSE / WVHT: 4.9 ft / APD: 6.3 s / MWD: 304° (Met) WSPD: 14 kn / GST: 16 kn / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 10.0 s / WDIR: 160° / ATMP: 52° F / WTMP: 53° F. Tide: 3.5' cresting to over 4' high.

21 April 2012

Fist (HMB Jetty)

I couldn't imagine how good it would feel to ride a thigh-high wave until I stood up on one after 16 long days out of the water due to injury. The woo-hoo! and raised-arm claim were spontaneous.

My sprained right wrist is slowly getting better, but is far from capable of fulfilling its duties, especially the critical one of pushing me to my feet from lying prone on my surfboard. Jay suggested keeping my bad wrist locked with my hand in a fist, letting the good one carry most of the load. That method passed land trials, and I was frothing to surf this morning. Scott wrapped my wrist with KT Tape, making me feel like a superhero, and I headed to the sunny part of the coast on a warm summery day.

The worst part of resuming swimming has been prepping to swim - I tweaked my wrist yesterday tucking my hair under the swim cap - and the same was true for surfing. I would have preferred to bring my longboard for extra stability on those funky pop-ups, but the risk to my wrist would've been greater wrangling a big heavy board. While I managed to encase my 7'0" Emm in the boardbag without too much difficulty, pulling the board out at the beach was painfully hard, and I had to ask a woman in the parking lot for help. But wrist locked, I got my wetsuit on tweak free, and wrapped on a neoprene wrist strap for extra support.

I saw wet Tracey in the parking lot, and she reported, as George had earlier, that the break could use more water, which was on order with the rising tide. J-Bird, Jacob and Chris pulled in shortly after, but I didn't wait for them to get ready - with the waves in sight, I needed to get wet, now!
George on his longboard, and Jacob and J-Bird paddling away
Fortunately the surf was small and gentle, perfect for a convalescent. I caught a wave and tried to pop-up fisted, but crashed. On the next one, success! It was maybe thigh-high, but I was riding. Woot!

I rode several more waves, punching my board to get to my feet, a wide grin spreading across my face. The sunny day was bringing out the crowds, and I noticed a nearby empty left a bit father from the Jetty, so of course I paddled to it. After a nice little frontside ride, I was so excited to catch a slightly larger wave that I forgot to fist up - oww! At the first stab of wrist pain I pulled back and fell off to the side, the sweet left going past unridden. The cold water helped to tamp down the ouch.
The fisted pop-up was a bit unbalancing if I didn't compensate correctly, but I had a good number of successes among the failures, hauling myself back onboard with my elbow each time. After a few more rides, including a long stokeful right, my peak clotted up with shortboarders and I headed back toward the Jetty to J-Bird and Jacob, who were fighting the southward current to keep out of the drifting crowd. Jacob caught a nice right, crouching low and hooting as he zoomed past me. Soon after, I surprised myself by making a chest-high right, caught on the peak, for a fun drop and zoom of my own. Stokey-stoked!
Waves and wildflowers
Surfline: Clean, peaky surf on tap this morning with rising WNW (285-305) energy and some small S-SSW (180-195) swell running. Waist-chest-shoulder high waves show at decent breaks now, while top exposures see larger sets to head high and occasionally better. Light wind early builds out of the west through the afternoon. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.6 ft at 10.8 s WNW 30 / WIND WAVE: 3.0 ft at 4.2 s NW / WVHT: 6.2 ft / APD: 6.4 s / MWD: 298° (Met) WSPD: 12 kn / GST: 16 kn / WVHT: 6.2 ft / DPD: 11.0 s / WDIR: 330° / ATMP: 50° F / WTMP: 53° F. Tide: 3' rising to 4'.

09 April 2012

10 Days

Fortunately it's spring and the surf does not look like this.
About three weeks ago, my right wrist hurt a bit after using a landpaddle with my skateboard. As I popped up on wave at Linda Mar the following day, a bump in the face pushed my board upward, driving it forcefully and unexpectedly into my wrist (ouch!). I popped ibuprofen like candy and iced the wrist from time to time, and it seemed to get better, but then worse again, several times over the intervening weeks. Last week at the Jetty, during a miserable skunking, I tweaked it again. Still, I was on a hope-oriented plan to semi-ignore the injury into nonexistence, barely mentioning it here in subconscious fear of making it real. But as my mom told me when I was young, if wishes were horses, we'd all take a ride. Whatever that means.

During last Thursday's surf session in Santa Cruz, the injury rose up and refused to be ignored any longer; an increasingly sharp pain shot through my wrist when I popped up or pulled myself back onto my board. For the next three days I wore a brace to rest my wrist as much as possible, still icing and ibuprof'ing, ever hopeful that it would magically be cured. But no. Today I saw a doctor, who diagnosed it as sprained due to hyperextension, and ordered 10 days without surfing.

Ten. Days. Without. Surfing. Waaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!

05 April 2012

Do-Over (Sharks and East)

This morning was a do-over of Monday's miserable session. With winds tearing up the San Mateo County coast, I headed south to sheltered Santa Cruz as I should've done earlier in the week, reaching the beach just before dawn and shivering in 37°F/2.8°C air. I'd debated whether to bring my 7'0" Emm or even 8'3" Magic, but if I don't keep working on 6'2" Rocket, I won't progress as a shortboarder. And from the forecast, it looks like it'll be a longboard weekend anyway.
No matter how early I arrive, I can never beat the surfers who paddle out in the dark, and there was already a tight six-pack of them at the Hook. I had Sharks to myself for a time, but alas, it had been so long since I'd ridden a wave that I was kooking it up. When a couple other shortboarders paddled to my spot, I headed east a bit to knock the rust off out of anyone's way.
The wave on the next peak over was soft and smaller, but I had better luck there. Most of the rides were whitewatery and short as the waves petered out over deeper water, but I got my mojo back. A few weeks ago I bought the 110% Surfing Techniques Volume 1 DVD, and it had a good tip for maintaining speed on a wave: move the back foot forward, then the front foot. I had an "oh, duh!" moment when I heard that because it seems so obvious in hindsight, but that's not what I'd been doing. Today gave me a good chance to practice, and I was pleasantly surprised when it paid off with crossing the flats and riding a wave into a reform. Small victory, but woot!
Paddling back toward the stairs to head for work, I detoured slightly to pass by a sea otter, hoping for a photo of the shy creature. A small bundle of matted fur, like a medium-sized teddy bear, was floating nearby. As I got close, mama otter popped up from foraging on the reef, grabbed the dead baby to her chest, and back-paddled a distance away from me. Sad.
Inside of the little crowd at Sharks, I caught a small green wave to shore. Out of the (relatively) warm water and into the cold air, I smiled and shivered as I walked back on the beach. Well worth getting up at 4:30 for another beautiful morning surf in Santa Cruz!

Surfline: A primary/easing NW groundswell/windswell mix is joined by a secondary/easing SSW swell. Surf continues to hang mainly within the 2-4' zone throughout the region, while the standout spots produce occasional shoulder-head high waves/peaks. Conditions are clean with calm/light wind. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 8.5 ft at 13.8 s NW 29 / WIND WAVE: 6.6 ft at 8.3 s NW / WVHT: 10.8 ft / APD: 7.6 s / MWD: 306° (Met) WSPD: 19 kn / GST: 25 kn / WVHT: 10.8 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 330° / ATMP: 48° F / WTMP: 51° F . Tide: 2' rising to 3.5'.

02 April 2012

Bleck (HMB Jetty)

The good:
Serendipitously meeting new surf buddy, George, in the water
Semi-sunny skies and warmish air
Cute little grom checking the surf, but I didn't see him in the water
The bad:
Strong sideshore breeze and current
Tweaking my wrist again
The ugly:
Messy, mixed up waves
Getting skunked
Surfline: Surf has come down a few notches today but still remains pretty large with our mix of West swell and SSW southern hemi swell holding up consistent head to double overhead surf at good breaks. Standouts go larger on sets. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 10.8 ft at 13.8 s NW 28 / WIND WAVE: 3.3 ft at 6.2 s WNW / WVHT: 11.2 ft / APD: 8.9 s / MWD: 305° (Met) WSPD: 17 kn / GST: 21 kn / WVHT: 11.2 ft / DPD: 14.0 s / WDIR: 310° / ATMP: 51° F. Tide: 2' rising to 3'.