08 July 2012

Out of Focus (HMB Jetty)

Surf fashion by Luke
There's a south swell in the water but I didn't want to fight the insane summer weekend horde in surf-starved Santa Cruz. A morning too-low tide pushed my session into the busy time, so I hoped somewhere else in Half Moon Bay would be working besides the popular Jetty. I checked Teslas, which as it turns out is quite near Manabu's Miramar, but it was onshore and closing out. The Jetty looked decent, though alas, quite crowded. Main peak was best and that's where Luke and I paddled out.

I noted right away that the testosterone at the main peak was high, being the only girl amidst a bunch of guys on shortboards. I expected to end up just watching and not catching, so that after a while I'd paddle to a lesser peak with lesser waves. The ocean had different plans. Soon, an incoming wave honed in on me at the edge of the pack and I paddled for it, watching a guy closer to the peak, sure he would get it and I'd have to back off. When he pulled up, my mind yelled "go!" but I wasn't ready, wasn't focused, and as the wave caught me and I saw the head-high drop, I failed getting to my feet, flipping the board and falling down with the lip, through air and then water, tumbling and spinning, till the wave released me and I could surface for a breath. Like a dog with my tail tucked, I paddled to the next and smaller peak, ruing what would have been an exhilarating ride, had I not blown it.
The next peak was indeed lesser, closing out more often than not, but after a time I found a left with a respectable shoulder and got in a few small turns before driving out the back as it broke in the shallows. A long wait ensued as I tried during a lull to find a good place to sit amongst the crowd. When I looked toward shore, I saw Scott waving from his bicycle as he paused on his ride. Just then a promising wave formed up behind me and I caught it, making the drop and riding for a nanosecond before it closed and threw me into the drink.
Luke had migrated south, and I paddled over to say "Hi, stranger!" We caught a left together with him riding backside in front of me, then falling (fortunately out of my way) as I continued on, pushed by the whitewater and bouncing over a backwash mogul.
A wee bit crowded
My last wave was a long time coming, once I thought to have it. The tide was rising and so was the wind. There were so many closeouts, caught and thrown back. Still, I saw some other surfers making those, and I was starting to shiver. (It's July, but it sure didn't feel like it today). I resolved to go for the next one that looked remotely makable, and latched onto a brief right that took me most of the way in.
In the parking lot, I got to talking with the guy parked next to me, who'd brought a trailer-full of soft-tops to give a lesson to some newbies farther down the beach. I asked if he did surf coaching, for future reference when this %#@! wrist is better. (Barry's been a good coach, but it would be better to have someone local who could work with me at the breaks where I usually surf. Santa Cruz has better waves, when it has waves, but they're always crowded and it's twice as long of a drive as Half Moon Bay.)

Remember the surf lesson Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner took with his daughter? Turns out the instructor was this guy, Dave from Open Ocean Surfing. We talked briefly about my desire to shortboard, and he said some sensible things about needing good paddling skills and timing to shortboard, and about the differences between Santa Cruz's mellow waves and the more challenging, steep ones in Half Moon Bay. He lives in HMB and is willing to dawn patrol, so I'm going to get in touch when my body is fully functional again. Lately I feel like such a kook, but I have to look forward to when I will be well, and back to when I surfed better before the injury. I'll get there again.

Dave also offered a bit of free advice to improve paddling, that I shouldn't wear gloves. Brrr! But I will try it and see.

Surfline: Sloppy, drab surf for most areas thanks to steady NW winds and the tide building to a 5.5' high this afternoon. Size is generally running 2-4' for most better breaks as Southern Hemi and NW windswell energy continue. Select spots see a few larger peaks. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 4.9 ft at 16.0 s SSW 51 / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 4.5 s NW / WVHT: 5.3 ft / APD: 6.6 s / MWD: 209° (Met) WSPD: 14 kn / GST: 16 kn / WVHT: 4.9 ft / DPD: 16.0 s / WDIR: 320° / ATMP: 56° F / WTMP: 58° F. Tide: 2' rising to 4'.


  1. I was considering going on dawn patrol.. which is probably the only time I have because my weekends are busy and the proximity of Half Moon Bay to work. I am a beginner.. had a couple lessons and I have a 7 1/2 ft funboard (was a birthday gift, probably should have something a little bigger).. was wondering if you had any suggestions or advice.

    1. Sure. What sort of advice are you looking for?

    2. I guess I had a whole bunch of questions :) I realize a lot of these is just sort of get out and see for yourself type thing, but I'm just trying to be prepared as much as possible. Thanks for any help you can give! Is dawn patrol something a beginner should be doing? So I've tried (keyword ;) surfing various points south of here in Orange County (abouts where my board and I are from), furthest north is Santa Cruz on my board. I've gotten up just a handful of times out of maybe 30 or more attempts. I know it's hard to say, but you think my board should be fine for the action up here given I'm a beginner or should I be saving up for another board? Also I don't have a wetsuit. I think 4/3 is standard, is that fine for early morning? Should I be looking at boots, gloves, hood as well? Any common favorites as far as attire goes? I've read summer is good for beginners. I read the Jetty (which is just south of Pillar Point harbor?) is a spot for people like me (which is how I found your blog) are there any others (preferably closer to the 92)? Any local customs I should be following? Also, you have any idea how is the traffic heading back towards San Mateo around 9ish am?

    3. My, that is a lot of questions! You should follow me on Twitter @surfergrrrl where it's easier to have a discussion.

      Anybody can do dawn patrol. It's always less crowded, which is a plus if you're learning and don't want to compete for waves or get in the way. Try to surf with a buddy though and not completely alone.

      A funboard will be more challenging to learn on than a longboard. I started on that route but was often frustrated because I wasn't catching many waves. One of my buddies pushed me to try something longer, and I had a lot more fun. Once I got decent on the longboard, I stepped down gradually to shorter boards. Check Craigslist for inexpensive used longboards, or rent for a little while.

      Most people in NorCal wear a 4/3 year round. Booties are necessary in winter/spring when the water's coldest. Whether you want a hood and gloves depends on your cold tolerance.

      The Jetty (away from the main peak next to the jetty) and south Linda Mar are frequented by beginners. You'll hit some traffic travelling back at 9 am, but usually not too bad.

      Have fun and stay stoked!

    4. Also, check the Rip Curl and Hotline outlets in westside Santa Cruz for good deals on wetsuits.

    5. Awesome good stuff! None of my friends surf.. which is probably why I have so many questions.. everything I've learned I had to pay someone or read up on, so any useful info I get is gold.. so many many thanks :)

    6. If you're looking for beginner surf buddies, try the Coastside Surfers Meetup group: http://www.meetup.com/coastside-surf

  2. perfect! thanks again!