27 February 2014


The first of two storms has dribbled into California, bringing drizzle and south winds. The second is supposed to dump the most rain in three years, swirling lots of contamination down the storm drains and into the ocean. This morning the rainfall total was only a hundredth of an inch and winds weren't bad, so I squeezed in one more surf before the big storm.
Pacific Beach was messy from the southerlies. Ashley confirmed what the Surfline cam showed: Scripps looked decent. The tide was falling fast by the time I arrived so I opted for the smaller side on the south end of La Jolla Shores, San Diego's Linda Mar, the place to go when south winds blow.
There was an empty left straight out from the parking lot and a large pack of surfers to the north, and I soon learned why. While I got my best two rides off of that left, waist-high waves in shallow water, the sideshore current perpetually sucked me into a rip. When I grew tired of constant paddling, I took my chances with the crowd of almost 30 surfers on the next peak, but it was dominated by longboarders and wavehogs who weren't leaving any scraps as they dropped into head-high set waves. With the chop rising and the waves getting too steep for my fish, I paddled back south again and caught a quick closeout to the beach. Hopefully I put enough stoke in my tank to last until sometime next week.

26 February 2014


Fletcher Cover sk8r dog
Ashley gave me an excuse to drive to Cardiff with a MINI-full of EPS foam for Waste to Waves recycling, but she and Jen bailed on surfing because the waves were small.

By the time I paddled out alone at Tabletops to join the only guy on the one peak that was working, the onshore breeze had turned on and my expectations were pretty low. I had more fun than anticipated, including a long swishy left on my fish.

In other news, it's official - I'm a writer! The San Diego Reader is paying me for this story excerpted from my post on The Inertia about the sustainable surfing conference. Woot!
It didn't look like much, but I had fun.
No room for Nemo in the MINI. How many surfboards cores will come from 4 large trash bags of foam?

23 February 2014

Moving Day

...but I snuck out for a quick early session at the home break.

22 February 2014


This morning I trekked to 15th Street in Del Mar to surf with 11 other San Diego Surf Ladies and coach Dan Mori of Fulcrum Surf. (Funny to call it a trek when it takes half an hour. That was my shortest commute time to the coast when we lived in the Bay Area, but it feels like a slog now that we're a few minutes from the beach.) The SDSL Club holds these Sport Sessions every month, alternating between beginners and intermediates.

I hung out with the other two shortboarders, my Tourmo buddy Kelly and a woman from north county named Lauren. And there were bonus dolphins!
My best waves were early in the session, when Dan wasn't watching; he only saw one where I dropped in late and landed with my front foot too far back, stalling the board. He did give me some good tips though. Pig-dog, he said, is best for pulling into a barrel; it causes the board to slow down so isn't ideal for general use on steep drops. For those, he suggested popping up quicker. I guess I'll have to tighten it up by a millisecond... somehow.
He also reiterated what I recall coach Barry in NorCal telling me (guess I'm a slow learner): commit. I need to Just Go For It, step on the gas with my front foot and charge. Yes. I do.

21 February 2014

Searching in Vain for a Shoulder

The title pretty much sums up this morning's session. Lovely warm winter day though.
Surfline said south of Crystal Pier was better. Hmm...
The tide is on the low side all day, and although I waited for it to rise a bit, I still found only closeouts.
I tried north, which quickly crowded up at mid-morning.
And this is pretty much what I look like when I'm not wearing a hood and a duck-dive goes awry:
Bloody hard to see anything when I come up for air. May be time for a haircut.

Toward Conscious Surfing

I just found this article online. I didn't write it, but I'm in it.

Toward Conscious Surfing.

If less toxic surfboards have improved in quality and availability, why aren’t more surfers riding them?
By Todd Woody
For half a century we’ve been riding the same surfboard. Design and performance have made quantum leaps over the decades but the typical surfboard remains a chunk of toxic polyurethane slathered with toxic polyester resin. It’s bad for the sea life and bad for shapers and surfers who play in an increasingly carbon-polluted ocean. The sudden closure of Clark Foam in 2005 was supposed to liberate the surboard from its Gidget-era time warp, unleashing new technologies and materials that would spawn a more environmentally friendly, more sustainable board.

20 February 2014

The Wrong Place at the Right Time

Dawn moon
Surfers are some of the luckiest people in the world. We regularly experience moments of exquisite beauty, like this morning's sunrise tinging the rustling silk sheet of the sea with oranges and pinks, as a line of pelicans glided low overhead.

Steve, Christina and I planned to surf Ocean Beach at dawn, but the low tide was closing out short-period waves that were bigger than expected. We caravanned south to Sunset Cliffs and paddled out at North Garbage.

I was barefoot and brought my shortboard, not the right gear for the Cliffs. After ten minutes of failing to get into any soft outside waves, I sat father in and caught them after they broke, hoping to work my way to the shoulder. The initial blinding roil of whitewater made it hard to pop up until the waves were nearing their end, but I still had fun. I'd rather be in the wrong place at the right time to get many rides than spend most of the session waiting to be in the right place.

The shifty outside sets were going slightly overhead. Patient Steve got a nice wave on his 7' board. He said the window for catching them was narrow because they were so soft except at the peak, but then they would jack up for a steep drop.
Right place, right time
I was in the right place twice, on smaller inside waves about head high. I rode a short left that had a long rampy entry. It was good while it lasted! Later I caught a green right and instinctively dropped into a pig-dog, but didn't hold it well enough, or maybe my hand was too far forward. Check out these tips on the stance, which I seem to have to have absorbed by reading/watching and practicing once (rather surprising as usually I have to actively concentrate to do anything new while I'm riding).
Windswell lines down the coast

19 February 2014

Steel Gray

It's hard to see the waves when the glassy sea is almost the same steel gray as the overcast sky.
The San Diego Surf Ladies planned a Wednesday Wahines meetup but only Eva, Kelly and I turned up. I surfed occasionally fun waves near the Pumphouse with fellow shortboarder Kelly before paddling my fish north to close out the session with longboarder Eva.
Eva walking into the water

18 February 2014

Fat Tuesday

The waves were fat, shifty and hard to get into at North Garbage, even on my fish, but I was happy that my back's again up to making the long paddle out to the Sunset Cliffs reefs.
While Steve did better on his longboard, I rode a few waves from whitewater takeoffs and made it to the face on one for a couple turns before it fizzled. I also ended up on the wrong side of several set waves which sent me underwater for a hair longer than comfortable. The most interesting ride was on the second wave of a set; just as I started to pop up at the peak, the wave ran into a lump from its predecessor that flung me off Nemo and I ended up bodysurfing on my belly briefly before being rolled. 

I'm just not feeling the love from Garbage this season. But then, I have yet to surf South, either outside or at the Boil. And I may just take my floaty 6'2" next time, since I had a blast on it there last year.     

17 February 2014

The Future of Surfing is Not Disposable

This post was published in The Inertia on 17 February 2014.

Imagine getting ready for a surf trip in the not-too-distant future. You’re going to Cloudbreak, a coral reef in Fiji that’s still producing epic waves. Before you leave on the long flight, you buy surf credits which support non-profit organizations that aid local communities. You surround your favorite board with re-usable eco-packing to keep it safe during the journey. And that surfboard? It’s certified as made of earth-friendly materials including mushroom foam, flax cloth and bioresin. It’s built to last, but if you break it on a heavy wave, it’s fully recyclable.

Whether Cloudbreak can be saved is still very much in question, but those ways of making surfing more sustainable are closer than you think, and some are here now.  All were topics at the Groundswell Society’s 12th Annual Surfing Arts, Science and Issues Conference. At Scripps Institute of Oceanography last Saturday, more than seventy people gathered to learn why “The Future of Surfing Is Not Disposable.” Almost twenty speakers and panelists came together to share on topics including the fate of coral reefs in a high carbon dioxide future, the lifecycle of a sustainable surfboard, emerging technologies, and putting sustainability into action.
Sustainability in Action panel: Jim Moriarty (Surfrider), Jess Ponting (Center for Surf Research), Mark Price (Firewire), Kim Matsoukas (Vans), Nellie Cohen (Patagonia). Bast eco-packaging is on the floor by the podium.
Surfers have a special bond with the ocean and a deep desire to ensure that the waves keep coming year after year. But as Sustainable Surf co-founder Kevin Whilden explained, human activities are taking us down a road that may lead to the end of iconic breaks like Cloudbreak and Trestles. The reason? Climate change caused by increased CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Warming global temperatures are melting the polar ice cap which raises the sea level, and thawing permafrost releases additional CO2, exacerbating the situation. Falk Feddersen, a Scripps professor, has modeled the impact of rising sea level on Lower Trestles; if it’s high tide all the time, the break is swamped and the classic peeling A-frames don’t form.

Reef breaks like Cloudbreak face a different threat from climate change: ocean acidification. The excess CO2 we humans produce is taken up by the seas, and causes a drop in the normally slightly alkaline pH level corals need to grow. This effect was demonstrated in a video of a scientist blowing into a beaker of seawater through a straw - introducing carbon dioxide from his breath - and a pH meter ticked downward as the water became more acidic. Coral reefs are “the rainforests of the ocean,” said Jyotika Vimani, the director of technical operations for the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, and they are suffering from “osteoporosis of the ocean,” also known as bleaching. As a result of acidification, many coral reefs around the globe are sick, dying or dead, dissolving instead of growing. The abundance of life supported by these ocean rainforests is at risk, in addition to the waves that rely on the structure of the reef to form. "It’s like that set wave is about to break on your head - you've got to do something about it," Whilden said.

Although the issues seem daunting, Firewire's CEO Mark Price likes to remember the adage about how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. He and the other Conference speakers are doing just that, finding manageable ways that they can effect positive change and influence others to do the same. Firewire is reducing its carbon footprint by participating in Sustainable Surf's ECOBOARD project through its Timbertek line, and will soon transition to using bioresin exclusively in all its surfboards. In addition, the company has absorbed the increased cost of shipping surfboards with post-consumer recycled and reusable Bast packing materials. Price hopes the company can “tip the market” so that all surfboard manufacturers will reject bubble wrap and other throwaway materials in favor of a more socially responsible solution.

The Super Sap epoxy bioresin used by Firewire, SUPERbrand, and a growing number of other companies and shapers was created by Entropy Resins. It took the company a number of tries before they developed a formulation that wasn’t an unmarketable yellow, leading co-founder Rey Banatao to agree with Kermit that "it isn't easy being green." But the results are worth it: life-cycle analysis shows a 50% reduction in CO2 from the new white resin. 
Jason Koons glasses a SUPERbrand Fling using bioresin
SUPERbrand’s Jason Koons doesn't want his customers to feel like they're compromising when they buy green. He says Super Sap is now as good as any resin on the market, and he used it to glass a surfboard at the front of the auditorium. Whilden pointed out that "we did not issue gas masks to everyone in this room because they're not needed." From the front row, I detected only a slight odor. "Kind of smells like Thai food," Koons quipped.

Banatao played a video that showcased one of Entropy’s latest projects: recyclable composites. Immersed in non-toxic hot vinegar, hardened resin dissolved from carbon fiber cloth, allowing both to be reclaimed. Imagine a ski that could be separated into its constituent parts for reuse. Plastics had to be redesigned to allow them to be recycled, Banato explained. Now Entropy Resins is leading the way in re-engineering composites to be less disposable.
Rey Banatao talks about Super Sap bioresin
Falken shows a BIOM blank to Machado. A Timbertek rests on the wall.
Resins aren’t the only surfboard component going greener. Sustainable Surf gathers EPS foam, such as the packing from TVs and other electronics, at participating surf shops and collection events. Then Marko Foam densifies it for inclusion in surfboard blanks that will contain 25% recycled content, which companies like SUPERbrand shape into new surfboards. Since 2012, the Waste to Waves program has diverted 200,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. Going even greener, Rob Falken of Tecniq showed off one of his pale green BIÓM blanks made from 99% polymerized sugarcane biomass and expanded with CO2 “borrowed” from the air. It’s lightweight, waterproof, durable, industrially compostable, and launching in a few months. Enjoy Handplane’s Ed Lewis has gone beyond shaping handplanes from broken surfboards and created one of compressed hay, but he dreams of using mushroom-based foam - which is really a thing. Although it isn’t ready for use in blanks yet, mushroom foam has been shaped into fins and used to protect NOAA buoys.

New materials may lead to new surfboards designs. Donald Brink is shaping asymmetric boards, and finless boards that are thicker on one rail and meant to be flipped over, depending on whether the surfer is riding heel- or toe-side. "My goal is to embrace change and learn to work with the new materials," he said.
Rob Machado and Evan Marks discuss the covered trash cans he installed at Seaside Reef 
Speakers offered many suggestions on living and surfing more sustainably, aside from seeking out an environmentally-friendly surfboard when it’s time for a new stick. Sustainable Surf’s Deep Blue Life project provides guidelines for reducing your impact on the planet, such as buying organic local food, biking to the beach, recycling, and offsetting your carbon footprint. You could dream big and compete for the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, which offers purses for developing accurate and affordable pH sensors to increase understanding of ocean acidification. Give back to coastal communities by making a donation to Surf Credits. Or install a rainwater catchment system at your house, like Rob Machado did with the help of his friend Evan Marks who runs The Ecology Center: "If we can do it, anyone can do it." 

The Parking Gods Decide

Today is a government holiday, Presidents' Day, which I'd forgotten until I tried to park near the beach at mid-morning. I checked the pier and south of it, then circled back to the north side where I finally found a spot.
No parking on the south side
Next week we move from north Pacific Beach to near the center of it, about a mile from the coast. Since there are no hills on the new route to give me an excuse, I plan to ride my bike to surf more often. Today wouldn't have been a good day for that anyway as the wind came up early, which makes my bike hard to control with a surfboard raised like a giant rudder behind the seat.
There and back again
The breeze wasn't too strong initially and I rode a couple of fun, decently long waves, enough to put a smile on my face. Then the fog and wind rose, and the surface became messy with chop, so I jumped on a reform and worked it all the way in. Tomorrow, earlier!

15 February 2014

Quick and Sweet

I had time for a quick session before the Surfing Arts, Science, and Issues Conference. Howard ended a ride on his longboard as I started across the burning cold sand and Jeff was about to put his Firewire Spitfire in the water. It was just the three of us on the north side of Crystal Pier, trading and sometimes splitting soft waves.

My friend Tracey says, "I’m okay only getting a few waves, so long as those waves are competently surfed." I totally agree. I caught three waves, rode them competently for the most part, and left satisfied as the fog rolled in.
A few miles north and several hours later, during a conference break

14 February 2014

Nemo Gets Nicked

It wasn't yesterday. I'd probably set my expectations too high. More crowd, more wind, and the waves weren't as good (or I wasn't).
"Swimming Only"
I would've liked to surf an empty peak just south of the pier, but a large section was already marked "swimming only" and two surfers were being scolded via loudspeaker to move to the other side of the pier or paddle way south. So I took a little hike on the beach to get past the yellow and black checkered flag to the surf zone. I passed a lifeguard who was placing cones and asked if anyone every swam there at this time of year. "Uh... sometimes," he muttered. I said it didn't make much sense to forbid surfing in such a wide swath for nonexistent swimmers. He merely smiled and walked on. Now I'm curious to find out who's responsible for that silly rule, and if it could be challenged.
Please join the crowd on the left
I had to work for my waves today. There was a strong current pulling south and if I let it take me past the Banana Bungalow, a rip current sucked me toward the horizon. The constant paddling was tiring, but my back was up to it. I think I'm ready for the distant reefs of Sunset Cliffs again, and looking for the next swell that will make the long paddle worthwhile.

While none of my rides came close to yesterday's stokeful ones, there were fun times before the wind picked up too much. As usual, Nemo's clownfish paint scheme drew compliments. But he also left the water with a small scratch on his orange nose. I'd just finished a ride and was about to slide back onto my board when a woman surfed left toward me. She would've been fine if she'd kept going down the line, but she tried to cut back, fell, and kicked her board right at me. I put up my left arm to deflect her board which knocked the back of my hand gently, but a fin must've scraped lightly across the deck on Nemo's nose. The thin white line is smack in my field of view when paddling, so I'd like to cover it. Hmm, what's a good sticker for a clownfish?

13 February 2014


South of Crystal Pier was the same as yesterday, only better: less crowd, less wind, and more swell.
This was my better session in a long time. I landed a late popup by getting to my feet a split second earlier than usual; I'll have to try that again. Best of all were two long lefts, with a smooth green wall rising beside me over chest high, and many turns and cutbacks on my fish before the nearshore finish. Stoked!
The stoked grin never left my face after the first great ride. As I walked north on the beach afterwards, other people smiled in response.

12 February 2014

Fishing South of the Pier

This morning I didn't wait too long for the tide to drop and planned on riding my fish. Unlike yesterday, the sun was shining warm and bright with little breeze. My home break on the north side of Crystal Pier was dismayingly crowded, unusually so for second shift on a weekday.
Although I'd never surfed there before, I took a chance on what Surfline said were "some better sandbars mostly south of the pier."
Briefly, I had a peak to myself, rampy waves breaking left and right. It reminded me of Half Moon Bay, since the waves petered out over a deeper trench toward shore. Rides weren't long but they were fun, giving Nemo face time for some swishy turns. Solitude didn't last long as first one, then two guys joined me, with even more toward the end of the session.
Pelicans dive-bombed outside of the lineup, sending small splashes skyward. In their midst I saw the wake of a large body, and instantly thought of you-know-who. A moment later, a curved fin surfaced, and then another. Dolphins. Whew. Yay!

11 February 2014

Breezy Fog

It was surprisingly foggy and breezy at mid-morning, after the high tide.
Before (pano created by Google+)
Still a few fun waves at Tourmo before the wind came up enough - in less than half an hour - to blow the fog away.

09 February 2014

The Crystal Pier Dawn Patrollers

When we first moved to San Diego a year ago, I surfed mainly at Tourmaline, my closest break. It's a usually mellow and always crowded spot favored by novices and longboarders, with sometimes shortboardable waves to be found in front of the Pumphouse. We'd go for walks along Pacific Beach and out on to Crystal Pier, where I'd watch shortboarders - all guys - playing on fun lefts. But I felt too intimidated to join them, so I kept going back to the mushy and packed peaks of Tourmaline.

One day I decided to surf near (but not at) the pier, on a small swell at the crack of dawn so there were few people out. The waves were better for shortboarding; steeper and more challenging than Tourmo. And I could surf them well enough on my 6'2" Ward Coffey shortboard, "Rocket". I wasn't dazzling like some of the best shortboarders there, but I also wasn't being a kook. Over several more dawn sessions, I dared to draw closer to the main peak next to the pilings, and found to my surprise that the guys surfing there were not at all aggro as I'd assumed. To the contrary, they were friendly and talkative. Once I'd demonstrated that I could ride, they welcomed me into the informal club of Crystal Pier dawn patrollers. Not that they cut me a lot of slack, however; they're willing to share, but still expect me to surf with commitment and respect. And it's not all shortboarders, but a mixed crew that sometimes includes other watercraft. They are all guys though; since the pier became my home break, I don't remember ever seeing another girl surfing there at dawn, except for friends I brought myself.

Since I stopped having to be at work by a certain time, I've been relaxing in the mornings and surfing second shift. That's just too crowded on weekends though, so I decided to get my ass to the beach earlier today and ended up surfing with the crew again.
David was already out on his bodyboard, sole occupant of the pier peak, although spots to the north were already filling up. We were soon joined by Howard, an old guy who surfs leashless and rarely looses his longboard, and Brian with his curly long brown hair, also on a longboard today. For a while I was thinking I should've brought my fish instead of my 5'4" Firewire shortboard. Then the waves turned on and I got a bunch of fun rides while sitting on the inside, capturing the smaller ones the longboarders let through. We chatted through the lulls, cheered each other's waves, and engaged in friendly ribbing when a ride went bad. It was nice to share such aloha.

The vibe changed when the crew went in and strangers paddled over to fill the gap. I kept thinking "just one more" but then "that one wasn't good enough to end on". Today was the first time since my unfortunate encounter with that doctor and his needles that I was able to surf until I was physically tired, instead of stopping because my back hurt. I've been doing the exercises in Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, and I think they're helping. Although my back isn't quite where it was before the procedure, it's getting there. So when I finally got a decent enough wave in, I was tired but happy.

08 February 2014

Should've Been Here Earlier

San Diego had a decent rain - around 0.2" - from Thursday afternoon into the night. It doesn't make much of a dent in the drought, but every little bit helps. While conventional wisdom says to stay out of the water for the next 72 hours following rain, I've never been one to adhere rigidly to rules.
 "Take a picture. It'll last longer!" said a familiar voice as I snapped a shot of the waves with my phone near the top of the stairs. It was Crystal Pier's regular and only dawn patrol bodyboarder, still dripping from his session. He said the waves had been fun, so I hurried back to the car to move it from the 5-minute zone to a legitimate spot. Indeed, I rode several nice ones in fairly quick succession after paddling out. The funnest was a left that held an open shoulder for bit, then I skated up toward the top of an oncoming section to ramp off it to the right and back down as the wave closed out. Kat does love to turn!
Sadly, the crowd and wind came up as the tide dropped, and conditions soon deteriorated all around. I waited a long time for a wave in before giving up and taking whitewater on my belly to the beach. Kelly had just arrived, after walking from Tourmaline with her shortboard under her arm. She reported the waves were pretty dumpy all along Pacific Beach. We both should've been here earlier.

06 February 2014

Surfing with Pierre

Since my buddy Steve (inexplicably) bought a house way inland, his home break is easy access near the end of the 8 freeway, at Ocean Beach's pier. He often texts me about surfing via voice recognition on his Android phone, which consistently hears "pier" as "Pierre" and "Cliffs" as "clips." That leads to conversations like this:
When Steve said he was dawn patrolling "with Pierre" this morning, I decided to join him at Ocean Beach, arriving just in time to meet him as he left the water. Freelancer dawn tends to be a wee bit on the late side.
The waves were fun and holding up more shoulder than at Crystal Pier lately. It seems like the sandbars are working better in OB right now. On the first wave I caught that wasn't an expected closeout, I was a bit surprised to see face and had to quickly remind myself to turn. Stoked!

05 February 2014

Fun in the Sun

Just another lovely sunny day in SoCal, if a bit chilly.
There were plenty of fun waves at Crystal Pier, although I did wonder how two grommets were lucky enough to be in the water instead of at school. I didn't mind sharing the stoke!

02 February 2014

Cold Mush for Second Breakfast

After a tasty first breakfast of scrambled tofu with zucchini, tomatoes, spinach and Daiya vegan cheese, I lingered over a second one of cold mush at Crystal Pier. The waves were backing off and so soft that when I could get into them on my fish, they ran out of gas quickly. And those darn longboarders were getting in early and not much in a mood to share. I felt schadenfreude when I saw one of them cross-step right off his board.
Trying to find a sweet spot, I paddled around a bit, and for a time sat inside next to the pier with a couple of college boys on shortboards. I got into an elbow-to-elbow paddle-battle with one of them, and though I felt the wave lift my board, he was closer to the peak so I let him have the waist-high closeout. Lots of chasing waves for only four ridden, but I still can't think of a better way to start the day.

01 February 2014

San Elijo Shredders Session

Rebecca organized a midday SDSL Shortboard Shredders session today at San Elijo's "85s". (I have no idea why it's called that.) Although five other members signed up, we were the only two who showed.
She hadn't surfed in 3 weeks and I'm working around this back thing, but we had fun, catching lots of gutless windswell waves around chest-high. Thankfully it wasn't crowded, likely due to meh surf after a good run of better swell. Probably I should've brought my fish yet did OK on my shortboard. Nothing epic but I can't complain about countless rides.
Driving home along the coast road, I stopped to snap the Cardiff Kook just a few minutes south.
I'm not sure why they call him Kook, although it probably has something to do with the funky arms, but for sure the dude who wrote the pathetic poem on the statue's base is a real kook. He ain't a goofy-foot, yo! (Sorry, too much Breaking Bad. I miss Breaking Bad...)