29 August 2014

Buh-Bye, Marie

It was my turn for surf checks this morning. I didn't get out yesterday, when Marie was still sending in lefts like this:
Looking south from Crystal Pier - yesterday
The forecast held promise of continuing south swell, but the reality was... not so much.
Weak and broken up at Crystal Pier
A little something at Birdrock, but crowded
Calumet looked slow and soft, waist- to chest-high, and almost empty
I texted my reports to Steve, who decided to stay home to review the patent application I just prepared for him. But I already had my suit on and my jones on, and an easy day offered a good opportunity to get more comfortable with the break.

As I paddled out, the two other surfers on the peak rode waves in. Another dude paddled over from the next break south but he soon left too, and I had the peak all to myself. That still amazes me, next to a city of over 1.3 million people.

The waves were plentiful and playful. They were also brown, the ocean so murky I couldn't see my feet as I sat on my 6'2" all alone in the wide sea. Water sloshed over a boil and startled me. It's just a boil. See? Round footprint on the surface. Nothing but a big rock down there.

I'd about had my fill anyway, so caught my best wave, a long left, riding in close to shore. Then it was a matter of timing to avoid being smashed by shorepound. I'd practiced that sort of exit many times in Half Moon Bay, but it's different matter running barefoot up a steep beach made entirely of cobblestones. Ouch. Still, the waves were worth it.

The dirt trail to the top of the bluff is also a bit tricky. Not only is it steep, but there's a constant trickle of water dribbling down that turns the footing to slippery mud. (Which is odd, because we're in the middle of the drought, and other than a couple of freak thunderstorms a while ago, we haven't had rain in a long time.) Near the top, one of my feet lost purchase and I barely stopped the slide with my free hand.

"Want to give me your hand?" said a voice from above, and I looked up to see a longboarder offering his. I raised my muddy paw and he hoisted me up the last few steps. The nice dude told me the trail's always been wet, since he was a kid, due to a natural spring. Perhaps that also explains the brownness of the water there. But hey, I'll take muddy reef break over closed-out beach break any day of the week!

27 August 2014

No Fear, No Regret

I'd planned to paddle out at Calumet to join Steve earlier this morning. "Look for my blue board shorts," he'd said. However, fate intervened when my husband's car broke down on his way to work. After rescuing him, I drove by the park to see what I'd missed, and saw blue board shorts about to drop to the ground as Steve changed behind his SUV.
Even armed with his favorable report, my mind was roiling with a thousand reasons not to surf Calumet: I'd have to paddle out alone at a new break. The entry and exit were tricky, with shorepound smashing into a steep cobblestone beach. The wind was coming up. The tide was nearing a 5' high. The waves were easily head-high+, a size I haven't surfed in I don't know how long. My neck is still a bit sore, and now so is my back after an unfortunate first and last encounter with hot yoga on Monday. My 6'2" is called for due to the softness of the waves, but I can't duck dive it and haven't ridden it in a while (although I surfed my buddy Luke's 6'8" and 8'0" in Hawaii - and had surprising fun on the latter, but more on that later since I've got two writing assignments due this week). And so on.
Just take it easy and go to Tourmaline, my inner coward whispered. But the part of me that looked at the waves and thought, That looks fun!, chimed in with one of my favorite adages:
You regret more the things you don't do, than the things you do.
And so I went. And it was fun. Which isn't to say that I didn't get stuck inside once, bailing my board (no one was nearby) and swimming under and out, under and out, through the four or five waves in the set. But I got a bunch of rides, and a couple of the waves were taller than me, soft green ramps that let me down gently to speed along on the distant energy of Hurricane Marie. Fear put aside, and no regrets - that's the path to stoke.

18 August 2014

There and Back Again

My initial plan was to surf Crystal Pier at dawn, but Steve suggested Birdrock a bit later. It's been a long time since I've surfed there, or any reef break, so I was in.

I was already suited up when Steve texted that he'd just left his house. Since I was ambling instead of rushing to La Jolla to meet him, I stopped by the pier on the way up there. It didn't look great, but there were waves to be had, and the manageable crowd included some of the regulars I know.
Google+ gets artistic
So on to Birdrock. It didn't look all that appealing: lully, textured with a steady breeze, and 3 guys out getting short infrequent rides on chest-high+ waves. The water at the bottom of the stairs sloshed around noisily. Meh. I made the call to go back to the pier. Steve, who arrived after I'd driven away and half an hour late (his first surfing buddy demerit), saw something more promising and paddled out there.
My 6'2" isn't the board I would've chosen if I'd gone directly to the pier, but it turned out OK. Although there were a lot of closeouts, I got a few decent rides and some teachable moments, most notably the closeout drop I should've charged forward on but instead leaned too heavily on my back foot and fell off tailward. It's the same fear obstacle I have to overcome to successfully drop into the bowl on a skateboard.
With that wave in mind, I paddled for the next one. It was a right that jacked up more than expected, to nearly head-high as I landed the drop and made a small backside turn up the face before turning down with an oncoming section. Woot!

Back atop the bluff, a few dolphins swam past. If you look closely, you can glimpse them in the video.
Off of San Diego, the ocean temperature has dropped from the low seventies to the upper sixties. For the rest of the week, I'll be surfing in the warmer waters of Oahu.

12 August 2014

Surfing Under the Pier

Since I was already suited up (in my sleeveless 2-mil Billabong Salty Jane - the water is now 74ยบ!), Steve said he'd meet me in the water. "I'll probably surf under the pier," he told me. Over coffee, as we talked business and waited for the tide to fill in, he'd explained that he didn't mean literally under the Ocean Beach pier, but right next to it.
Out in the nicely uncrowded lineup, I heard someone call my name, and turned to see Angela paddling over on her shortboard. I hadn't surfed with Steve in a while but it had been much longer since I'd seen Angela, and it was nice to be out in the ocean with both of them. Mostly we shortboarder girls sat inside of Steve, who was riding his yum-yum yellow longboard. As I stroked into a left, he caught it early and swooped by me so I had to back off. Returning to the lineup, he said with a smile, "Those damn longboarders!"
Although the chest-high- waves were lully and broken up, I rode some fun ones on Kat and left smiling.

09 August 2014

Inspiration and Education

At the Supergirl Pro yesterday in Oceanside, one of the few names I recognized in the Round of 96 was Felicity Palmateer. She's a goofyfoot like me, and I'd admired her down-to-earthiness in the short film So It Goes:
I snuck away from volunteering at the Surfrider table to watch her heat, first from the beach and then from a better vantage on the pier.
After quietly contemplating the ocean, Holly-Sue Coffey went on to win the heat.
As I wrote last year, it's always inspiring to watch the pro women surf. And I'm lucky to live close to the venue for a three-day women's contest, since I learn a lot from seeing their heats in person. The pier offered the chance to better observe how they paddle (a lot of arch in the back) and duck dive (effortlessly with spot-on timing) as well as select and ride waves. I wish I could've spent more than one heat soaking it in. (Scroll down for more photos.)
I've also been learning much from watching video tutorials by Surf Simply, even the beginner-level ones like "Catching Unbroken Waves" which I previewed for a novice friend.
The coach explains maneuvers in detail using a whiteboard so that they really make sense. It's more analytical than most surf instruction, and it helps me to understand the mechanics - the why underlying the how - so I can better put the advice into practice.  I'd love to go to the Surf Simply camp in Nosara someday.
Post-sesh, from the Surfline cam
All that was in my mind during this morning's surf at Crystal Pier. It was a short session (since unfortunately my neck is still not quite right), but I caught more waves because of it. Nose down, fast power strokes plus a few extra, and commitment, culminating in a fun chest-high left with a one-second face. Stoked!
Too slow to catch their post-heat overhead double high-five 
Most of the competitors were blond
An inspired fan, after getting her photo taken with the surfer in red
Alex is a super girl - she picked up beach trash to win a Surfrider calendar in our bingo game
Holly Sue (1st) and Chelsea Roett (4th), before the heat
Chelsea Tuach (2nd), paddling strong with a proud chest
Felicity Palmateer came in 3rd
Timing the duck-dive - maybe I need to go earlier
After the heat
Paige Hareb? So many blond surfers, it's hard to tell them apart.
They weren't all blond though. And she was stoked!

07 August 2014

Marshmallow Fluff on a Toothpick

Lack of surf and an inland Central California road trip kept me out of the water for the better part of a week, so I joined Christina for dawn patrol in Del Mar, sight unseen. There's a little south swell running which gave me hope, but if I'd waited to check the cam, I might've bailed like Nicole.
A pod of dolphins swam through the lineup as I walked out, and I waited in vain for them to return. I also waited in vain to ride a proper wave. The lulls were long and the waves too soft and mushy. Christina rode a few when I first arrived but eventually she had to do the paddle of shame in to the beach. Even longboarders were having trouble getting into waves - when they weren't hogging them. On my 5'2" Firewire, it was like trying to scrape marshmallow fluff from a nearly empty jar with a toothpick: frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying.

And now for something completely different. Can you spot the bear?
Brown bear in Sequoia National Park, taken from a safe distance