29 April 2014

Blind Takeoffs and a Broken Fin

SoCal temperatures are running 15-20° above normal for the next few days. Before mid-morning it was above 80° as a Santa Ana wind blew hot desert air toward the ocean.
Those offshores were so strong that I was paddling into waves blinded by spray, and got held up at the top of the best one I caught. That also meant I had to take off even deeper than usual to get into the soft Pumphouse waves, often making a whitewatery start and sometimes getting over to a short shoulder.
After a wipeout, I found my lightweight comp leash snagged on a loose piece of the leading edge of one of my side fins. Pro Teck performance fins have a flexible edge surrounding a rigid core, and a 2-inch piece of the front edge was dangling. It seemed secure enough to not cut my session short, and I thought perhaps I could Superglue it down later. Alas, by the time I rode a couple more waves and came in, the piece had vanished into the sea - and I feel guilty for littering. The bad news is that SurfCoHawaii claims the fins on my 2.5-year-old board are more than 10 years old (say what?!) so the edge material is brittle due to age and I should buy new ones. The good news is that I have an extra set of Pro Teck Future fins, which were held back when I sold my 7'0". They're 4.5" though, instead of 4.25", and Power Flex* instead of Performance** fins. We'll see what difference that makes, if any.

*Power Flex is a Pro Teck Fin with a medium core flex. The fin bends on turns, and then springs back, creating a forward thrust similar to a swim fin. The medium flex core and flexible training edge makes the board turn smooth and fluid with continuous speed. 
**Performance Fins have a rigid core that creates good drive and projection off bottom turns and cutbacks. The combination of the flexible edges and rigid core will help to make your board ride smoother, faster, and easier to turn.

25 April 2014

Under the Wind

It was worth getting to the beach early for a fun and uncrowded surf ahead of the wind that's bringing a late-season storm on its heels.
There were plenty of good ones, but my best wave was the first, a long mushy right that let me play on the face before I smacked the lip of an oncoming section and turned to ride the whitewater down. Yeah!

22 April 2014

Apply Foam to Injury

Just in time for a lovely swell, I tweaked my back again, while sponging (don't tell anyone!) with my husband a couple days ago. Fortunately it was after I had a fun surf at Sunset Cliffs. The waves have continued good there, my friends tell me, but I'm not up to the long paddle.
Instead, I darted over to Tourmaline for an easy session, having to cut even it short when my bloody back started hurting again. Fortunately, that was after I'd ridden a bunch of fun rights with plenty of open face for turns. One ride was particularly long, all the way to the beach.
It certainly seems that the best advice for surfing after (or with) an injury is to apply foam: move up to a bigger, floatier board. (Thanks, Ashley!) I'm really getting my groove back riding the 6'2" Ward Coffey shaped for me in Santa Cruz. And I think I've learned a few things about turns by riding my shorter boards and perhaps also from skating; they feel easier and more natural now. At any rate, I had a blast on Rocket this morning. Stoked!

17 April 2014

Of Rabbits and Skateboards

Yesterday I skated at the park in Ocean Beach on the way to my weekly Writers' Workshop, where I read my story "Mother of Rabbits". (Go! Read! If you like it, please click Recommend and I just might win the weekly contest.) It was only my second time back in several months, since I finished a four-pack of lessons with Andrew of SD SkateLife. (Highly recommend him if you're looking to learn/improve.) I'd cruised a couple of times around the neighborhood in the interim, but hadn't donned helmet/pads/guards and pushed myself until last week. That first time back, I had trouble with a basic frontside turn on the flats. Although I kept at it until I made it around, it was a really wide turn.

The second time, more of the skills came back and I pushed through my hesitancy, telling myself to Go! Toes-toes-toes! You can do it! My turns got tighter, until by the end, I was taking on the ramps again. Next time I think I'll get back into the pool and take it up a notch. After all, on my final lesson, I was carving up to a spot on the pool wall about shoulder high. Pretty proud of that, actually!

One reason I've been hitting the skatepark is that I've been struggling with surfing lately. I'm not sure why, but suspect it's mental (I've been surfing badly; therefore I will surf badly) as well as physical (I mostly dropped out of my fitness regime when the doctor re-injured my back last fall, and hadn't restored it). Skateboarding has a lot of parallels to surfing, especially using my Carver board, and will help me build confidence, consistency and strength.
I also decided to take Ashley's advice and go back to a longer board to, figuratively and literally, find my feet again. My "longboard" is only 6'2", but Rocket and I had some good times together before I moved down to the 5'4"s.
Spring flowers
I surfed Garbage this morning with Steve - just us and sometimes a seal on the north peak - and it was fun! I didn't get into any green waves, but two broken lefts on the inside reformed beautifully. It'd been too long since I enjoyed a green wall, and they gave me back some of the stoke that I've been sorely missing. Yay!
North Garbage
And now for some more inspiration:

11 April 2014

Baja in Pictures

Allison, Ashley and me (photo by Russell Carmona) 
Hang loose! (photo by Russell Carmona)
I'll write about it later. Maybe.

10 April 2014

Baja Bound

Tomorrow I'm making my first surf trip to Baja Mexico with a couple of San Diego Surf Ladies. I got my SENTRI pass last fall to allow for quick re-entry to the U.S. but have only used my Trusted Traveler status to breeze through airport security on our Hawaii trip. The other surfistas and I are all "trusted," as is Ashley's car, so we'll make the hour drive from San Diego, surf K-38 which is south of Rosarito, and head back by early afternoon.
It's been more than 20 years since I've driven across the southern border, and I've never surfed there. Gotta say I have a lot of pre-stoke going into this adventure!

09 April 2014


Although this guy said the water has warmed up again, I didn't believe it. I struggled into my split-toe booties, jamming my second toe into an awkward bend, and remembered why I hate wearing them. But I was glad my feet weren't bare when I touched the still-cold water with my naked hands.

Only Brian was out, getting decent rides on his longboard. The rip current next to the pier almost got me outside with a dry hood. Then a set broke in front of me, four waves in a row, sneering at my attempts to duck-dive my 3-inch-thick fish and sending me into the depths and tumbling back toward the beach. Thankfully a short lull followed that let me get out. I was still catching my breath when another set rolled through, unridden. Then it got flat for a while.
I'd drifted north, and paddled back toward the pier, where Brian was still getting into waves. He took one in, and I tried to take his place. Yet just like the guy in the video, I was stroking constantly and going almost nowhere. When I stopped paddling, the current took me quickly past one piling after another, pushing me out to sea. I don't know how Brian was holding position. A secret undersea anchor? An island in the current that I didn't stumble across? Magic? In any event, I'd had enough, and paddled north parallel to the beach to get away from the rip.

The lulls were long, punctuated by head-high closeout sets (2-3' my ass, Surfline!) with occasional fun-size waves that offered shoulders. I caught a few of those and had a pretty good ride on one of them. Stoked!

07 April 2014

Time for Booties

When I stopped my bike at the end of Felspar to check the surf from the pier northward, Brian had just left the water and was crossing the beach toward the stairs with a wide fish under his arm. He's one of the regular Crystal Pier dawn patrollers, and he surfs better than me (as they all do). I waited to ask for his report.
"How was it?" 
"Terrible!" He was grinning. "As bad as it could be." 
"Are you shittin' me? 'Cause, you know, you're smiling when you say that." 
Brian shook his head, still smiling. "Nah, really! It was all closed out. I tried every little corner I could find - the waves all closed out. And the water's really cold. Even colder than yesterday!" He gestured to the north. "You should check down there," he suggested.   
"Yeah. It looks like there might be some peaks down that way. Hope the rest of your day is better."
I rode to the end of the blufftop path and locked my bike to the construction fence at Palisades Park. I was pleased to manage a dry-hood paddle-out between Law Street and the pumphouse, at a break I think is called Green Pipes for the large ones running across a gully at the base of the cliff.  

The waves were mostly closed out there too. But there were dolphins! And some shoulders for the lucky. I did get lucky a couple of times, but blew the pop-ups. C'mon, seriously?! That most basic and fundamental of maneuvers, that I've done hundreds - perhaps thousands - of times before? Indeed. I've actually been having trouble landing my front foot in the right spot on the board for the last few sessions, and suspect it's due to the cold water. My ankles and feet are too chilled to move as quickly as they need to for a critical shortboard takeoff. Maybe if I was riding a big plank, taking my time and getting in early on the shoulder, it wouldn't be an issue. 

It's just time for booties. I've pulled my last remaining pair of 3mils from the depths of the closet. The upwelling wins. 

06 April 2014

Cold Feet

Yesterday I saw a little tourist boy dragging a too-heavy-for-him 8-foot Wavestorm into the sea at low tide. Until the water got too deep, he walked on his tip-toes to avoid putting his feet fully into the ocean. I wanted to do the same this morning. Damn, that water is cold! I may not make it through the season barefoot after all.
I checked the pier first but it looked like a get-lucky sort of day - that is, you'd have to get lucky enough to be in the right place to catch even a brief shoulder amidst the shifty and not-small closeouts. And getting through the onslaught of windswell whitewater looked like a lot of work for little potential gain. Even my sponger friend David looked to be having a bit of trouble getting back out.
Opting for smaller closeouts, I joined the growing crowd at Tourmo, where there were occasionally fun waves to be had. Unfortunately I think I was on the wrong board for them, even on a fast-falling tide. Janitors were riding waves that hadn't even thought about breaking yet, and many of the inside waves would offer promise only to back off. I paddled around a lot looking for an unoccupied and rideable peak. Still, I made some fun drops on my shortboard when I happened to get lucky.

04 April 2014

Cold Stoke with a Pro's Brother

Brr! The ocean temperature has dropped into the upper 50s, falling about 6° in only one week. Still, I had one of my best sessions in a long time.
The crowd was light right next to the pier, and as a dude ripped off on a wave, one of the other guys said, "He surfs a lot like his brother, and his brother's a pro."
"Who's his brother?" I asked.
"Benji Weatherly," he replied. I nodded knowingly, although I'd never heard of him. Google turned up this pic:
Benji Weatherly, some other day in some other place
Benji is best friends with Kelly Slater. So I was surfing near a guy who's the brother of a guy who's tight with the best surfer in the world. That's like three degrees of separation, right?

Maybe something rubbed off. The waves were smaller than yesterday, waist- to chest-high, but I got three solid rides - with turns! - and caught a bunch of lesser waves before the cold water and chilly light breeze drove me back to shore. My hands were almost too cold to open the lock on my bike but I was stoked.

03 April 2014


There's a fine line for decent surf conditions between enough tide and not too much wind. An early morning low tide pushes up against the onshore breeze that develops sometime during the day, often by late morning but sometimes holding off until early afternoon. When I pedaled up to the overlook on the north side of Crystal Pier, I felt the first breath of wind. A dripping young surfer dude who was getting ready to ride away on his bicycle gave me the familiar, "you should've been here earlier" line before telling me it had been really fun right next to the pier.
I'd thought to paddle out a bit farther north, but figured I'd give it a go and surf where he suggested if I could make it out there. Although the rip current helped, when I attained the lineup, I was breathing hard and my eyes were stinging from the saltwater.

After a couple of false starts, I caught a shoulder-high right and rode it to completion. Yay! As I paddled back out, I was starting to think - to hope - this would be one of my best sessions in a while. Then, in the distance, a flash of white on the ocean. And over there - another. And another. Uh-oh. A few minutes later, the whitecaps reached the surf zone as the building breeze chopped the waves to pieces, sloshing us surfers up and down like rubber duckies in a toddler's bathtub. I tried to find a shoulder for a while longer before riding a reform in. Perhaps tomorrow I can find a better tide/wind balance.

01 April 2014

San Diego Beaches Closed. Because Sharks!

South Coronado Island
Because of the stormy weather, I was planning to stay out of the ocean for a couple of days, but now it looks like I'll have to take a much longer hiatus from surfing. I just heard on the radio that all of the San Diego beaches have been closed indefinitely!

Some dude - I found this letter from him online - decided to secretly open a shark farm off of the far side of South Coronado Island, less than 20 miles from San Diego. Apparently Mexico was more receptive than Canada to his idea of raising "big whites the length of B.C." in large floating pens so he could sell their fins for soup.
Sometime during the night, suspected animal rights activists cut through the underwater fence and freed the sharks. Sadly, one of them didn't make it out alive. The farmer had tracking devices on the biggest ones - those over 12 feet long - and he says they're beelining for the San Diego coast. Scientists aren't sure why, but think it may have to do with the genetic modifications the farmer made to try to make the sharks' fins larger. In the process, he likely altered the electroreceptors that help them sense prey, amping them up and tuning them to a different frequency that causes the sharks to be attracted to large populations of humans. At any rate, there is a pack of 50 hungry great whites on its way to our coast, so don't go in the ocean!