03 August 2012

Face Time (Cowells)

Courtney at the US Open
At the US Open of Surfing a couple of days ago, a women's heat was held in surf so marginal it prompted even one of the insipid commentators to wonder, "Do you think they'd still be running the men's if conditions were like this?" Long lulls were causing restarts, and the small waves that did come through made the women do the famed Huntington Hop over the deep spot when trying to connect to the inside. There was a notable exception, Courtney Conlogue. (I follow her with particular interest because she's the one pro with whom I may actually get to have a conversation one day, as she's the daughter of a former co-worker's good friend. That's only three degrees of separation!) Rather than doing the hop, Courtney said she tries to weave over the swampy section. "Hopping is sloppy!"

I'm not always effective at hopping, or pumping, on a surfboard, and am even worse at its analog, tic-tacing on a skateboard. At Cowells this morning, I had the opportunity to instead try weaving rail-to-rail, as best I understand it.
We've been on a starvation diet of mostly sloppy short-period windswell for what seems like forever, and I was really hungry for some decent waves. Once again, a hyped south swell turned out to be smaller and more inconsistent then the initial hope-raising forecast, but better half a loaf than none. I drove in the dark to Westside Santa Cruz to meet the negative low tide at the break that loves it best, Cowells.
There was already at least one janitor in the water when I peered into the almost-dark from the top of the stairs, and by the time I paddled out in dim light, ten surfers were in the lineup. Over the course of an hour, the crowd swelled to more than several dozen, and kept on growing.
I kooked up my first couple of waves as I got used to the extra board under me; from my 6'2" and 7'0" to my 8'3" Magic took some adjustment. Soon I was mostly dialed in and enjoying little knee-high waves, especially as the rides could be measured in fractions of minutes instead of the scant seconds I've been afforded in recent sessions. With all of that face time, I could think about things: moving my feet to maintain trim, keeping my torso parallel to the stringer, and getting across the flats to the inner reform. When I found myself pumping, I switched to weaving, moving rail-to-rail to keep speed. A few times, I made it work. Certainly weaving is more graceful than hopping. Now I need to translate that to my shorter boards.
The crowd got quite ridiculous by the end, with a couple of surf schools adding chaos. I'd worn my helmet for the first time in many months, but what I really needed was body armor. Midway through the session, I was struck on the upper arm fending of the soft-top of little Dennis the Menance (I wasn't his only victim). Later, as I sat in the middle of the pack, six surfers party-waved from the outside, and the middle two were close together and looking at each other as they rode straight toward me. There was nowhere for me to go. I yelled "Heads up!" and they split to either side, the girl's board whacking my hand (the good one). She was apologetic, but damn! And oww! (On reading this, John gave me my new surfer nickname: "Timex. Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'!")
Clearly it was time to go, and the rising tide was taking the shine off the break anyway. I rode a couple more insiders away from the bulk of the pack, getting a fine one in, working the weave to the inside and pulling off near the base of the stairs.
The waves were little but, oh! The number and length of rides made it so worth it. Small stoke!

Surfline: Ankle to waist high, fair conditions. Clean, fun little low tide lines on the inconsistent side. This morning there's more SW (215-200) groundswell moving in, for 2-3-4' waves at well exposed spots and some head+ high sets at standout breaks. Areas without the good southerly exposure are much weaker. Negative low tide shortly before sunrise has shape on the drained side. Tide push helps. Light/variable winds early for clean conditions. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 5.6 ft at 8.3 s NW 59 / WIND WAVE: 1.3 ft at 3.8 s WNW / WVHT: 5.6 ft / APD: 6.4 s / MWD: 309° (Met) WSPD: 6 kn / GST: 8 kn / WVHT: 5.6 ft / DPD: 7.0 s / WDIR: 290° / ATMP: 53° F / WTMP: 53° F. Tide: -0.5' rising over 1'.

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