30 December 2015

Winter is Here

Air 44º and water 59º - brrr! It's winter in San Diego.
Steve wiping out
Mike's cousin Steve dragged us out not long after dawn. Surfline put an orange "good" on today so I thought it would be more crowded, but actually the waves were meh, mixed up and shifty. My best ride was the last, and I got cocky and rode Rocket all the way to the cobblestone beach. Timing and luck weren't with me, and my wave dragged me backward to be slammed by the next one coming in. Fortunately there were no casualties, just a slightly bruised hand.

16 December 2015


Tammy and Kristen wanted to surf at dawn, before they had to go to work. Despite much moaning about the forecast temperature in the 40s, we all turned up before sunrise. The sand was so cold it burned my bare bare feet as I hurried to join my friends in the 63º water. It reminded me of a winter day in Half Moon Bay with Luke years ago.
Carazul, my new Degree33 7'2" egg, really loved to play in the waist-high peelers at Tourmaline. Although we only lasted an hour in the cold, I had many chances to practice carving turns. Next time maybe I can try whitewhiter climbs and floaters. I'm really starting to get the hang of longboarding and it's pretty fun.
Luke on a frosty morning in NorCal several years ago

15 December 2015


There was frost on the ground and the waves were mixed up this morning, but Mike and I had the break to ourselves for a while and I rode a few fun ones.

10 December 2015

The Joy of Surf

Every so often, there is a day when I just need to surf. When onshore stuff in my life is dragging me down, I need to get offshore to lose myself and find myself in the ocean. Today was one of those days.

For me, there's nothing that compares to the feeling of riding a wave born from the interaction of wind and water many miles away. It puts me fully present in the moment; for those scant seconds, there is nothing else but my dance with the sea.
Recently I dipped a toe into the dating pool after a long marriage ended, and my friend Nancy's book has been inspirational. Everything I Know About Dating I Learned Through Surfing has pearls of wisdom like "If it looks good, don't just sit there. Paddle over there, and get it!" and "Have patience. Don't jump on the first wave of a set because you're tired of waiting."

I was thinking about the parallels at Hennemans this morning. Mid-period swell brought shorepound steadily into the cobblestone beach. The waves raised a loud clatter as they hurled stones toward the cliff and I watched the horizon for a break between sets before I plunged into the ocean with my 6'2". "Timing really is everything."

The crowd was moderate and I stayed to the side on the secondary peak. The benefit of the shorter-period swell was that there weren't many lulls; another wave came almost as soon as I paddled back from riding one. It's not in the book, but there will always be another wave.

As the tide dropped, there were boils everywhere, places where the reef was shallow, spots that distorted the waves in unpredictable ways. Several times I pulled back from a wave I'd caught when the face before me mutated into something unrideable. "Trust your gut when it's time to bail." But once when the wave changed its mind about which direction it was breaking as I popped up, I was able to quickly respond and go with it. The functional stance I learned at Surf Simply is becoming habit, and it is much more flexible than my old stance. Like my coach said, it's a matter of being fully in control of the board on the wave, rather than a passenger on it.
"If you're not having any luck, maybe you're at the wrong break."
So far in my nascent dating adventure, I've tried for a few waves that looked promising but never broke. And I've paddled for some and then stopped, thinking, this is not going to happen so why am I wasting my time? But during this morning's oceanic musings, one thing became clear, which is that I need to be looking for a surfer to share my life. Surfing is so important to me that I had a wave tattooed on my shoulder as a permanent marker. It's like oxygen; something I must to have to live. I need a guy who gets that, who feels the same pull of the ocean and has the same compulsion to seek the indescribable joy that comes from riding a wave. Someone who understands the magic of watching the sunrise while floating in a glassy sea, who looks in wonder at a passing seal or dolphin, and who will duck with me when, like this morning, a flock of pelicans flies low over the water straight at us and breaks to the sides at the last moment. I don't think it really matters what he uses to ride waves – as long as it's not a Costco Wavestorm – although it would be nice to find a shortboarder who could push me outside my comfort zone. A regular foot, so we could split A-frames, or a goofy foot, so we could seek out the best lefts together – I'm not particular about that.

I don't know how long it will take to find him, but he's out there, somewhere. I'll keep smiling and chatting in the lineup, and maybe one day we'll bump into each other. One last thought from Nancy's book: "The ocean isn't going anywhere. Tomorrow brings more waves."

07 December 2015

Surf Simply Reunion Numero Dos

This morning Jessica and I met up in Cardiff with Mike from Seattle, planning to find Mike from San Diego (hereinafter Miguel to avoid confusion) in the water. We were all at Surf Simply in Costa Rica in early November.
Jessica, me and Mike from Seattle. If you look closely, you can see the Cardiff Kook in the background.
The surf was overhead and getting to the outside was a challenge. Mike charged out through the dumping and powerful whitewater near shore while Jess and I were tossed around like leaves. Past the shallows, those duck-diving drills at Surf Simply paid off. The maneuver came back to me even after a month – although I need to judge the timing better – and I got my 5'4" to the flat water. Yeah! According to coach Harry's formula (weight divided by 4), my 25.7L Firewire Spitfire is at the upper limit of the volume I should be able to duck dive, so I'm glad I can sink it enough. And that I remember all the moves!
via Surfline
Once we'd regrouped, the three of us set out in search of Miguel. First we paddled south to the next peak, but he wasn't there, nor at the next one. And then we were caught in the current from the river, which pushed us quickly more south. After a long paddle back, we checked a peak to the north. Miguel no esta aquí.

We gave up the quest and tried to catch some waves. I popped up and almost dropped in on a big one, but a mound of water appeared in the face and stopped me going down. Despite the low tide, it seemed the waves that didn't close out were too soft, unless you managed to be at a shifty peak as it broke. None of us got so lucky and we decided lunch would be more fun. I tempted fate by moving farther and farther inside, finally taking a late drop on a head-high right and getting blown off my feet after a second by the turbulence. Mike and Jessica came in on whitewater, prone and standing, respectively. Mike's bravely borrowed an 8' Wavestorm for his visit to SoCal, but it's a bit short for him.
Me and Jessica bookended by Mikes at Swamis
We finally connected with Miguel via text and met him and his friend at Swami's for lunch. They'd been riding waves even farther south of the rivermouth, too far away to see my bright orange hat, apparently.

05 December 2015

Surf Simply Reunion

Lauren and Michael, my friends from Surf Simply who live in Orange County, met up with me and Tammy at San Onofre. It was Lauren's first time back in the cool water (64° per my surfboard thermometer) since Costa Rica (in the 80s, sooo nice). The sun was warm though so we weren't cold in our 3/2s, at least until the wind came up near the end of the session.
There was a strong southward sideshore current and after I caught a couple of meh waves on the inside, I lost sight of the others for quite a while. When I made it out through the mid-period head-high surf, I was much closer to the janitors sweeping Dog Patch than when I'd started. After paddling back north a while to get back to Old Man's, I finally spotted Lauren. She hadn't seen any of our crew since she got to the lineup.
The outside set waves were bigger but very soft and hard to get into on my 6'2" unless I caught them already broken. One of those turned out to be a pretty fun right, and I made it to the face for a carve or two before it flattened out too much for my little board. I jumped on a couple more waves for short rides to get close to the beach, looking for Michael and Tammy. Lauren was on a longer fish and worked a single wave all the way in. We rode a few more on the inside and got out, finding our friends on the beach as we walked north.
Michael and Lauren
Before we pointed the car toward home, Tammy and I drove one exit in the other direction for second breakfast at Pipes in San Clemente, which has to be one of the most environmentally-unconscious restaurants targeting surfers. I felt guilty eating oatmeal from a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon, even if it did really hit the spot after all that splashing about in the ocean. I should probably go back to talk to them about becoming an Ocean Friendly Restaurant, or at least more ocean-friendly.
Nice artwork at Pipes anyway