30 December 2014

Just In Time

Right after I got out of the water, the ocean looked like this:
Before that, not long after daylight, the surface was lightly ruffled by a slight offshore breeze. It was cold, in the upper 40s, and there were only five of us surfing at the pier. Three of the guys were from NorCal presently or in the past, and one of them recognized my Ward Coffey-shaped 6'2" from the lineup in eastside Santa Cruz. Seems a lot of the Bay Area migrates to San Diego for the holidays.

The waves were small, barely waist high, and their weakness challenged my ability to paddle in. The longboarders had better luck, but I scored several fun waves, making my bottom-to-top turns on the face tiny to match their diminutive stature.

The wind started to pick up, increasing the chop and teasing spotty whitecaps from the sea. The three amigos left, and a French dude on a rented pop-out and I searched for our last waves. I rode mine nearly to the beach, pumping it past a soft section. By the time I showered off and started to climb the stairs, the onshore wind was blowing so hard I had trouble holding onto my surfboard. Seems I made it out just in time ahead of an approaching end-of-the-year storm.

On a sadder note, my surfmobile has been crippled by an engine malfunction. After 102,000 miles, it's not worth spending half of the remaining value of the car on repairs, so I'll be saying goodbye to my '08 MINI Cooper S.
RIP, Lizzie (overlooking Santa Cruz on her maiden surf expedition)
Meanwhile, I'm getting to the surf in my husband's car, like this:
which is very cold at this time of year! Thank the gods for seat heaters.

27 December 2014

NorCal Visits

My old Bay Area surf buddy, Luke, said he'd meet me after low tide for a surf if he got up early enough. Turned out he didn't, but Nick from NorCal paddled up in the nearly empty lineup to say hi. It's a small surfing world.
Although the waves were nearly as sparse as the surfers, patient waiting through lengthy lulls paid off with several long waist-high+ waves. And the morning was lovely (if chilly - there was frost on the cliff path). Yay!
Not quite

24 December 2014

Eve Sunrise

Lovely morning for a surf. Only 4 of us at Hennemans in head-high waves brushed by taco-scented offshores.
Well worth paddling out before sunrise!

23 December 2014

Must've Been Naughty

...because I got lumpy waves in my stocking late morning.
 Still snagged a bit of fun from the holiday crowd.

22 December 2014

After (Not) the Longest Night Ever

Last night was the longest night ever in the history of Earth. At least I thought so, until this article was corrected. Turns out the longest night ever was actually in 1912. Anyway, we've turned the corner past winter solstice and the days get longer from here. Yay!
After the morning king high tide started to drop, Christina met me for a surf at Hennemans, which was going a bit overhead and getting more crowded and breezy by the minute.
Although it was hard to stay in position for the outside set waves that snuck through on the empty north side peak, my patience there paid off a couple times. Double yay!

15 December 2014

Breaking the Rule

They say you should stay out of the water for 72 hours following a significant rain. I've never been good at following rules. And storms have been coming through so frequently that obeying would mean not surfing for a couple of weeks. I had to take advantage of today's small window in the weather. Although I came down with a cold last night, I wasn't going to let that stop me, not with rain predicted to fall for the next three days. I bundled up in my 4/3 wetsuit for the first time this season, and added a 1mil hood, so as not to add a second sort of cold to the first.
There were 10 surfers out at Hennemans in shoulder-high waves, but only 4 at Sewers. Much as I love that left, a shorter paddle plus lighter crowd made it an easy choice.
Sewers, and Mike's board which was shaped by Rick
There were a few familiar and friendly faces in the lineup, including Rick and Mike, who greeted me with smiles. After a lull, the waves turned on again, and I rode a few fun rights and a left. My limited energy told me to quit early, but the waves were so fun - it was one of those really nice surf days - that I had to turn around and go back for one more. It was a long right that took me close to shore, where I got out near the big outflow pipe from which Sewers takes its name. Sweet stoke to hold onto through the stormy weather to come!
Rick and Mike were already topside at Calumet Park and provide commentary for the video.

11 December 2014

High Surf

The surf was approaching DOH and there was no channel between Hennemans and Sewers, but I found a sweeet slightly overhead right at Tourmaline inside of PB Point.

06 December 2014


Happily, the swell hitting Kauai's north shore did drop a little - just for a day. Seeking lefts, I parked at the west end of Hanalei Bay and paddled out in the channel between two peaks at Waikoko, opting for the nearer one toward Pinetrees. Still, it was a ten minute paddle across sand and dimly-visible reef. With no sets in sight, I thought to cut the journey a bit shorter and crossed to the other side of the peak while still inside of a clutch of SUPers. There wasn't time. Caught inside, I got to my feet briefly on a broken wave before being reminded of the power of Hawaiian swells. Swept off my board, I dove under the rest of the set, barely catching my breath between waves. I started to feel like I was going to hyperventilate, and forced myself to inhale slowly. When the set passed I completed my trip to the left and rested in the channel while studying the peak. It was an inauspicious start, but things could only get better from there.
About ten other surfers were out, a mix of longboarders and shortboarders plus a couple of janitors. A sea turtle bobbed in our midst a dozen feet from me. Several rockstars were launching into many waves, but others were less bold. The current pushed us all toward the channel, so we constantly paddled back to the peak. Although sometimes a wave would swing wide, the usual takeoff spot was tight with wrapping toward the peak; slim chance of catching any from the shoulder. General disorganization added to the challenge of reading the waves.

The current made it hard to stay in position, and I wasn't sure just where position was anyway. When one of the outliers lined up for me, it was quite clearly a right. "I hope I don’t regret this," I thought as I made the rampy head-high+ drop. Whee! Before I rode right too far, recollection of my beating on the way out made me turn left ahead of the whitewater to try to get closer to the channel, but I still took a few waves on the head before reaching calmer waters.
A Zodiac anchored nearby and two groms paddled over, followed by one of their fathers. (Must be nice to skip the long paddles and motor wherever you want to surf! And also to have a parent who teaches you at a young age.) The boys were maybe seven, and they ripped on their tiny shortboards, charging waves that were double-overhead to them.

There were two other women in the lineup. A grim-faced longboarder caught nothing until she paddled inside of me and rode a right in. Well out on the shoulder, a shortboarder mostly bobbed until her rockstar guy noticed and came over to offer advice. Still, she got nada, and he went back to sitting deep and riding waves. I asked her if she surfed there often, and she replied "Yes, we try to come here once a year" from Portland. (That's often?) I remember when that was me, sitting too far on the shoulder to have any chance of catching a wave, yet too scared to get in the way of overhead surf.
At last an elusive left came to me with no one on it, and I stroked in for a fast drop that blew back the brim of my new surf hat. A few turns later the wave lost energy over a deep spot in the reef, and I ended my ride with a woot and a grin.

It was great to surf one last time this year in only a 1mil vest and leggings, but I was getting tired and began to make my way back across to the opposite channel. This was not without another mild thrashing despite my attempt to stay well outside. Still I found one more clean right to take me farther toward my goal: the distant parking lot at the side of the rural road. My shoulders were burning by the time my feet touched sand, but I was still smiling. Stoked!

05 December 2014

Black Pot

As I write, this is the view from our clifftop lanai on Kauai's north shore:
"It's not small" is an understatement. The surf is solidly overhead, has been so since we arrived three days ago, and is not forecast to drop before we leave.

Sigh. As I mentioned,  we've been here three days. And I'm jonesing.

So this morning I surf-checked much of Hanalei Bay. I started at Waikoko on the west end, hoping the lefts would look good as surfing Hennemans has made me comfortable in sizeable reefbreak on my frontside. I had almost worked up the courage when I started to chat with a couple guys who'd also been watching for a while. They said they surfed there a lot and it wasn't one of the break's better days. Just then one of their friends passed by toting his SUP, seawater dripping from his graying locks. "Don't even think about it! he warned, repeating it thrice for emphasis. He told them he'd gotten worked trying to come in, then headed for his truck in the dirt lot on a narrow strip between beach and road.
"Are you going to go out?" I asked one of the guys. "I don't know..." he mused. "It's not exactly calling my name today." It certainly wasn't calling mine. 8'+ surf at an unfamiliar break on an unfamiliar surfboard; it didn't take much to erode my courage.

I headed back around the bay, not bothering to check Pinetrees which had looked a mess yesterday. From Hanalei pier, the rights breaking on the eastern reef looked just as big and mostly disorganized as the western lefts. Unlike Waikoko, I've surfed there before, but my backside is not as strong from lack of practice. San Diego has spoiled me with lefts.
Again dissuaded from digging deep for my inner hellwoman, I noted the waist- to occasionally chest-high waves breaking near the pier at Black Pot Beach. It was the province of the surf schools, but there were a handful of real surfers in the mix. I am not too proud to acknowledge my limits.

In town, I searched the surf shop racks again for a suitable rental board. One shop had a Firewire Spitfire, but it was 6'8" and quad-finned. Across the street at Hanalei Surf Company, I found a Rusty surfboard that seemed as close to Rocket as I might hope to find, although two inches longer, a bit wider and thicker, and lacking a tail pad. The yum-yum yellow accents were only on top, where the Landlord thankfully wouldn't see them
Back at the pier, with time growing short before I had to get back for a yoga class, I scratched for near-shorebreak. A few drop-and-smashes bookended a decent left that sucked sand, turning the face beside me from blue to frothy tan before ending in the shallows. I take stoke where I can find it.