30 August 2015

Las Gaviotas

Night had not yet yielded to day when Jason and I arrived at Jon's house to begin our expedition across the border to surf in Baja. Jon had mis-set his alarm and the house was dark, but my deliberate pounding steps on the entry deck woke him. Soon we'd loaded our gear into his Jeep, strapped the boards on top, and pointed south.
The day was still new when we turned into the gated community of Las Gaviotas ("The Seagulls")  where a few of Jon's friends had rented a house. Access to the break out front is generally limited to people in the community, yet there were already close to twenty surfers in the water by the time we paddled out. Fortunately the numbers dropped steadily over the more than two hours we were in the water and it never seemed too crowded.
Jon's friend jumped off that rock; we walked to the beach
The waves were head-high with some power. I'd brought my 6'2" since my shortboard didn't get me into any decent waves the last (and only other) time I surfed Baja and the tide was rapidly filling in to a high high. The first wave I caught steepened faster than expected and swept me off my feet. After that, I rode a lot more with better success. Several were really fun and put a grin on my face.

It was Jon's first time surfing in months, after he'd badly hurt his wrist. When he was in position for his first wave, all four of us yielded and called him into it, then hooted when he popped up and rode. So stoked for him! I can only imagine how good that must've felt.

A few times during the session I was punished on the inside, glad of my booties for the rocks I felt underfoot near shore.
Once I was stuck on the treadmill for at least five minutes before I could scratch my way back to my friends in the lineup.
"I asked the ocean for a lull but didn't get one," I told Jon, who's fluent in Spanish (whereas I only studied it for two years long ago in escuela secundaria). "Maybe I need to say it in Spanish. Que es la palabra?" 
"Tranquilo," he said. 
Or "siesta," Jason called from farther away. 
"No!" I said. "The ocean's been taking a siesta for weeks. We don't want any more siestas."
Jon's Jeep, and Jason waiting on the street in the gated community
The thermometer on the bottom of my surfboard read 73° but when a light breeze came up, I started to shiver a little in my 2-mil long jane. After more than two hours, we caught our last waves in. Mine was a right, heading back toward the beach. I had a nice run on the face but it ran out of energy before taking me all the way, so I belly-rode whitewater to shore and washed up happy and tired and stoked.
View from Las Rocas, our post-surf second-breakfast spot

29 August 2015

Waves, Finally

It's been a long, long wave drought, but finally we have surf in SoCal. I probably would've had to paddle out in the dark to avoid a crowd this morning; everyone is frothing. There were almost twenty surfers at Hennemans when I paddled out.

I employed my strategy of sitting inside to catch waves the pack missed and took a handful of lesser rides that felt good nonetheless after being so long deprived. Then I got one good wave, well ridden, chest-high with several turns on the glassy face, punctuated at the end with a "Woot!" before I dove into the water. Another six surfers were coming down the cliff path, so I decided to close my session on that high note.

There was a thick soup of seaweed just off the cobblestone beach, and a large wad ensnared my leash. I dragged a few pounds of seaweed out of the water and spent half a minute getting untangled. My board and body were covered in bits of the stuff, as if we'd rolled in fresh-cut grass wet with dew. No matter; it was worth it for that fine wave. Stoked!

16 August 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different

Saturday – as book research – I got a taste of the mermaid life with Mermaid Island Tours. Two young mergirls were already by the pool when I arrived at Bryn's house.

While Bryn helped a couple of other women get dolled up, I merely brushed a little blush on my cheeks. Makeup's not my style. Then Bryn coached me into a mermaid costume – sort of a stretchy tube, in blue green with "scales" that nicely matched my bikini top – and a Finis Aquarius monofin tail. Swimming with, in effect, only one big leg took a bit of getting used to, but once I'd mastered using my abs to propel the tail, I was swimming the length of the pool underwater in one breath. Bryn instructed me through mermaid maneuvers like a handstand into a tail slap, which knocked the fin strap off of my left ankle and left me floundering like a mermaid with a broken tail.

When they'd finished their makeup, the other two women joined us in the pool and Bryn staged a bunch of photo ops. (Stayed tuned for photos which will be added when she uploads them.) We pearl-dived (the good kind, not the surfing kind), swam sideways and spun and did summersaults. It was more fun than I expected. I tried swimming with a monofin years ago but it strained my bad lower back – this time, though, I engaged my abs enough to avoid hurting myself. Bryn's assistant told me my movements were fluid and thoughtful – and that was despite the fact that I was swimming blind with my eyes closed because I wear contact lenses.
Two latecomers become mermaids with Bryn's help
At the end, I peeled off my costume and tried swimming with a Mahina monofin. In addition to staying on, it had the advantage of being more powerful than the Finis. Plus it's made from recycled rubber by an environmentally-conscious company, which is why I'm buying one. For lap swimming. And maybe to excite the tourists a La Jolla Cove. (If you can't beat 'em, entertain 'em?)
That's a Mahina monofin
From The Princess Bride
Sunday it was on to swordplay – which possibly could be book research too but just seemed interesting. The Scholars of Acala put on a course for the Geek Girls of San Diego based on fencing from The Princess Bride, which I re-watched ahead of time.
"You seem a decent fellow," Inigo said. "I hate to kill you."
You seem a decent fellow," answered the man in black. "I hate to die.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride
The Scholars brought an assortment of swords, daggers, shields and other defensive gear, and explained their histories and features along with the methods of Renaissance sword-fighting in several European countries according to various masters. One thing I found intriguing was that a sword was considered a fashion accessory as well as a weapon, and therefore a well-dressed man was expected to hew to the style of the time even if it wasn't the best functional design. Kind of like women's shoes, but with potential consequences including death instead of bunions.
Scholars vs. Geek Girls, thrust and parry
We were armed with blunted swords and led through a series of exercises called by archaic names that I've already forgotten. Supposedly the swords weighed only 2-3 lbs but mine got so heavy by the end of the three-hour class that I couldn't hold it up anymore. My arms are strong from swimming and surfing but this uses a different set of muscles. One exercise involved only gloves, used to slap the opponent before taking only one step away – a step that was supposed to put you out of the reach of her slap, but let you move back with one step to hit her. Bit tricky.

I plan to join the Scholars to learn more of this ancient art. Next month jumps up to the time of Sherlock Holmes for defensive tactics, such as proper use of a ladies' parasol. Now that could come in handy one day.

14 August 2015

Summer Sun

I rode my bike to surf south of the pier in Pacific Beach, cameraless and camless, and it didn't look like this:
but I wore my sleeveless 2-mil Billabong Salty Jane and had a blast in waves that were occasionally chest high. And there were dolphins! After the wave drought, it was true fun under the summer sun.

07 August 2015

When September Comes...

... most of the tourists will go home and we should have better surf.
from the Surline cam rewind
I'm looking forward to it. But this morning's grovel was better than nothing.