31 July 2015

All Good Things Must Come to An End

We've had a fun run of southwest swell. Today it was winding down, softer on the high tide, and I had to outlast the longboarders before I could get any set waves. But I finished the week as I started, surfing playful waves alone at my home reef break. And I have no problem taking the advice of Dr. Seuss.

29 July 2015

Why, Yes, I Did

"You caught a lot of good waves!" said a surfer who was getting ready to paddle out, as I climbed up the steep cobblestone beach, smiling.
Why, yes, I did. Stoked!

27 July 2015

Inspiration and Incongruities at the Supergirl Pro

At the Supergirl Pro each July, over 100 of the world’s best female surfers compete for three days. I came to Oceanside, California, primed to be inspired. Unfortunately, the waves on the first day were not what the world’s best deserved, and the surf barely rallied during the next two days of the contest. Still, it was exciting to watch the women compete from the VIP booth (my access was comped by the organizers). On the last day, Courtney Conlogue of southern California successfully shot the pier to the amazement of spectators. Several of the heats were nail biters, with waves caught barely ahead of the horn and scores too close to call.
The final was a goofyfoot vs. a regular foot, Tatiana Weston-Webb against Conlogue. In the end, Weston-Webb was awarded the hot pink winner’s cape, with Sage Erickson and Nikki Van Dijk tying for third.
If I have a complaint about the Supergirl Pro, other than the lackluster performance of the Pacific Ocean, it’s that there was too much to see this time around. The vendor booth area expanded greatly over last year, with another parking lot taken over. A beer garden was added. The stage hosted speakers, bands and other entertainment. A half pipe was added for a female skateboarding competition, which I missed to watch the last heats of surfing. Seeing tiny girls drop in fearlessly from the top of the half-pipe during warm-ups was almost exciting enough, especially as I have yet to master smaller plunges on my skateboard. There was also a medium-sized tent, tucked away at the back, where women’s surf films were playing. When I stumbled upon it by accident, only one person was inside – kicking back on a folding chair with her phone and paying the screen no mind. I wasn’t surprised at her lack of attention because the sound quality was poor, but hopefully that will be ironed out by next year. With so much going on all at the same time, there was something for everyone, but too much for any one person to see everything.
Watching the best female surfers make hay of the marginally rideable waves was inspiring, as was a short talk by Girls Riders Organization founder Courtney Paine-Taylor. Whether it’s taking the drop from the top of a wave or from the rim of a skatepark ramp, “The moment you believe in yourself that ‘I can do this’ is when you can do it!” she said. It’s the belief in the Supergirl inside each of us, plus the courage to continue when you know you’re going to fall sometimes, that turns ordinary girls and women into extraordinary ones, said Paine-Taylor.
Inspiration from the female speakers, surfers and skaters was discolored by a few incongruities. First, there was the new “bikini fashion show”, which culminated in a “Miss Surfer Girl 2015” on the final day. Although I missed the show because I was watching the concurrent surf competition, I can’t image that it came off without an element of reducing women to sexual objects. And that makes me sad, because three days of women competing to show who has the most skill at surfing – talents that took years of training and hard work to build – shouldn’t be degraded by a competition for who looks best in a bikini. There were so many young girls thronging the contestants as they left the water, eager for an autograph on their surfboards or hats, that I’m sad to think they were getting mixed messages. Be a great athlete, sure, but make sure you look hot in next-to-nothing. When a scant few women and girls match up to the ideal female body image, that’s not something I’d want an 8-year-old Sage Erikson fan taking to heart.
No matter how many women’s surf contests I watch in person or online, I continue to be surprised at the dearth of female voices. The Supergirl Pro was sadly no exception. Although the athlete interviewer was a woman, all of the contest judges and the announcer were male. On stage at the awards ceremony, it was all men again, congratulating the four top competitors at the all-female surf contest. Surely there are retired pro woman surfers who are more than qualified to serve as judges and announcers.
I was also disappointed in the event’s lack of sincere concern for the environment. Although many surf contests are conforming to Sustainable Surf's Deep Blue standards, creating event which “address issues directly related to the local contest area including waste reduction, protection of natural resources, and the building of stronger communities,” the Supergirl Pro made little effort in that regard.
Here’s hoping the Supergirl Pro organizers take a cue from Payne-Taylor’s talk and have the courage to make the event extraordinary next year, by maximizing the inspiration and minimizing the incongruities.

21 July 2015

Kook Zone

Since my face met my board hard the Sunday before last, I'd only surfed once, the very next day and very carefully at the reef break, where I could mostly avoid having water splash against my painfully swollen left cheek. Then the groundswell faded to nothing and I literally couldn't face the whitewatery splashiness of short-period surf at a beach break.

Just when I could almost face the water again, hurricane Delores brought steep-angled swell (that mostly passed by San Diego) and also rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain.
At Pride last Saturday, before almost enough rain fell for them to swim down the street
With the water dirty from copious amounts of first-flush runoff, I had to wait some more - and it had already been so very long. 48 hours after the deluge, I was finally at the beach on a warm sunny afternoon, in my sleeveless 2-mil long Jane with Rocket under my arm.

In the summer, the lifeguards block off five blocks south of Crystal Pier as a swimming-only zone. 5 blocks! (I looked up the municipal code and found that it authorizes the lifeguards to set up activity zones however they please in the interest of public safety. No way to effectively quibble with that.) I went in a bit farther south of the yellow-and-black checkered flag that marks the swim-surf boundary, trying to avoid a surf school massing on soft-tops, and was dismayed to see the next checkered flag wasn't all that much farther down the beach.

Briefly I had a peak to myself and rode a couple of fun waist-high lefts. They weren't much but I was glad to have them. Then another pack of surf-schoolers came out, and a dozen tourists messing around on Wavestorms - kooks were everywhere. I found another peak that, when not encroached upon by beginners, was sort of a haven for me and the three others who knew how to surf. Then I got to thinking: Wouldn't it be nice if there were three zones - swim, kooks, and real surfers?

My bad attitude melted under the warm sun as I rode more fun little waves. It's hard to stay grumpy in the ocean.

15 July 2015

Sixth Sense

We know. Somehow we know when there's a shark around. It's a kind of sixth sense. I don't think we'll ever be able to document what it is exactly, but if you have it while you're surfing, I'd pay attention to it.
-Peter Pyle, lecture to Surfrider members, San Francisco Chapter, June 10, 2003
With the left side of my face still swollen and painful to the touch, and the southwest groundswell no longer lighting up the reef break beside a calm channel, I'm out of the water, not fit to crash through windswell at the beach. It's given me a chance to finish reading a book by Susan Casey that I picked up as research for the young adult fantasy novel I'm writing (working title: Marinea and the Fountains of the Farallones). The whole of The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks has been interesting to read. But the quote above from the Epilogue really struck me. I've had that feeling before, and blogged about it in An Absence of Dolphins. There's no way to know of course, but I still remember that sense of being watched by something malevolent. I'm both fascinated and viscerally repelled by the Landlords, and hope never to encounter one who's looking to collect the rent.

12 July 2015

The Most Dangerous Thing in Surfing

... is your surfboard.
A fine-looking shoulder-highish set rolled through as I stepped around a sleeping homeless man on the top of the bluff and walked carefully down the steep dirt path. No one else was out yet, and I was anticipating having free choice of those fun waves for a little while. Then I took off in the short space between two sections and had one of those what-the-hell-just-happened wipeouts. I think I'd started to pop up when suddenly I was falling and tumbling and whack! Rocket clocked me on my left check near my eye but I was still rolling underwater and wondering which way was up until the wave finally let me go. I could tell right away that I was bleeding. Crap, how bad? Gently I touched my fingers to my lower eyelid and they came away stained red.

I hadn't even ridden a single one of those nice waves.

My face hurt but I wasn't bleeding that much. When Teresa paddled out with Tim, I asked her how bad it looked, if she thought I needed to go in. "Well, you're bleeding," she said. "It'll probably be worse later so your call if you want to go through that out here or at home."

So not that bad, then.

I just couldn't paddle straight in, not when the waves looked so fun. Maybe just one and done. I caught a nice left and was enjoying multiple turns on the face when Tim came up from behind, out of the whitewater and angling to get onto the peak. He's done that several times in the last few sessions, and it's really annoying. The first time he called me off when I tried to cut back, because he was right there, in my way, and I pulled out while he continued on the wave. The second time (no way, dude!) I stayed in the pocket until he got off. This time (aww, c'mon!) I had to continue down the line instead of cutting back for more power, but I didn't yield.

After he'd slightly ruined it, that couldn't be my last and only wave.

The pain started to intensify but I paddled back out. I needed a good wave and it came to me, with Trailer Tim nowhere near. I took off at the peak, early-morning green-gray water rising beside me as I rode left. I cut back toward the whitewater and swished the tail around to travel left again, up near the top of the wave and down as it steepened while crossing shallower reef, repeating several times until the cobblestone beach neared. Yes!

So fun. I almost paddled back out again, but the throbbing in my cheek and pain of the cuts under my eye insisted that an ice pack be applied post haste. Even so, I'm going to have quite a shiner. Three hours later, it looks like I dipped my finger in ruddy purple paint and smeared it under my eye, like a drunken soldier sloppily applying war paint.

It's been quite a while since I've had a surfing injury worse than a bruise or a small cut, so I guess I was about due. Kind of like we're about due for an earthquake.

And now, a cute kitten to end this post on a cheery note.
This is our 5yo cat Zoe's new kitten, Kaylee (in keeping with the Firefly theme)

09 July 2015


We've been in the surf doldrums for too long, which made today's southwest swell extra fun at my local reef break. I rode my last wave all the way in to the cobblestone beach. Woo hoo!