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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Wrap-Up

This month started off very slow with just one session the first half.

Here are the stats:
Playa Larga: 3
20th Street Del Mar: 2
Panamanian Secret Spot: 1
Red Frog Beach: 1
Tyson Street: 1
No-Gos: 3 leaving me with a C- in terms of consistency for the month

Wave of the Month Honors this month go to TWO waves: The barrel I made on 11.17 as well as the big barrel that led to the head smack.

Wipeout of the Month: No question on this one, the head smack on the sand on 11.22. It may be the bail of my surfing career thus far!

11.30.2011 Oceanside: Back to Beautiful Tyson Street with Forrest, Strong Offshore

This morning I woke up just after three thanks to my decision to hit the sack just shy of 8:30 last night. I am a pansy when it comes to jet-lag and I'm still on Eastern time. It's not too bad, though, because it makes it so easy to wake up for dawn patrols.

I met Forrest at his pad in C-bad, transferred my gear into his Subaru and we shot up to Oside on the 101. We turned left on Cassidy, then right on the frontage road. Buc Beach looked surfable and my stoke-level rose quickly. Even lowly Oside Blvd showed signs of life!

We passed the lookout at the stop sign at Wisconsin Street and I was ready to suit up. We briefly debated checking Harbor but I was frothing too hard already. I transformed into Neoprene Man (4/3 suit, booties and 4mm gloves) and we got out there.

In our fervor, we realized we'd paddled out TOO far and right into the rip. Forrest was on his new log and wasn't amped on his board choice. The wind was strong from the northeast, blowing directly into the waves: a classic offshore day. Forrest's board had so much foam on it that it made it difficult to paddle into waves that steepened so quickly on a board with little rocker. The reminders about the board would continue throughout the session so keep that in mind...

After paddling in for some time and fighting the current, a nugget left came through. I caught it late (offshore) and dropped in cleanly. While setting my line after the initial take-off pump, I miscalculated where the lip would land and it decked me in the ribs just below my arm pit. I went flying down headfirst into the water and the ride was over.

Keep in mind that on south-facing beaches, the daybreak sun will wash out all rights as it hits its riders with full sun-to-the-face.

About ten minutes after my first wave I caught quite the right. The sun disoriented me and I leaned into a reflexive backside cutback to get it out of my eyes. I succeeded and, extending my body by unweighting my board, was able to smack it around to complete a solid backside roundhouse cutback. This is probably my best execution of that maneuver. YEOUH! (Onomatopoeic hoot transcription)

About a half-hour later, I caught another right and did some quick backside turns on it, though I blew my second one by going too far out on the shoulder and trying a turn too fast for the slope of the section.

I faded off the back just as Forrest was paddling out next to me, relishing his first successful ride of the morning on that beast of his. He kept commenting on the board being too big and impossible to ride given the conditions. As I paddled next to him we both looked west and saw a logger take off on a nice steep right, carving up and down it surprisingly well. Without much thought, I said, "See? He seems to be doing ok". I wasn't sure Forrest heard me so I repeated myself and he replied with a stern "F- you, Eddie."

I laughed my ass off for close to a minute.

I then caught a left where I was pumping too aggressively for the slope of the wave and ALMOST lost it. My weight was almost all on my front foot and I felt myself about to fall on my face. My back foot instinctively lifted off my board. I recovered awkwardly, pumped once, and smacked the approaching section. ...And I didn't make it...!

Another left came that was similar, but I fell back on my bad habit of attacking a wave too vertically when it itself is already too steep for that. The foam was rolling over and I cut my snap short. It probably looked pretty cool from the beach but I was nowhere close to making it.

About a half-hour later, I caught my last wave of the session. It didn't have much open-face, and I meekly went up onto the lip for one of my famous fall-down floaters. The lip detonated under me and I dropped down and onto my back.

11.29.2011 Del Mar Sesh with Missed-it Mike, Trevor and that same Other Guy

The waves on this day didn't look great. They were ok in size, but they were closing out all too often. I elected Missed-it Mike as session captain because he can be indecisive and I thought it'd be funny. After much prodding, he meekly suggested he wasn't interested in surfing there. We drove from 20th St down to N. Torrey and though we saw a sick left from the road, we were faced with the same scenario there, just smaller.

We hoofed it back to 20th. Missed-it Mike made it clear he wasn't interested in surfing, but we were able to strong-arm him into it. Thanks to my years of feedback, as well as this blog, MiM has become more self-aware about his complaining. His new game is to complain and keep us guessing as to if he's seriously uncomfortable or if he is just trying to be cute.

I suited up into my 4/3, straining to remember if my wetsuit was this stiff before Panama or if I was just being a pansy, coddled by the tropical waters of yesterweek.

Gauging by the wind's chill, I decided to go ahead and RUBBER UP! Booties came on, and I slipped into my virgin 4mm gloves I picked up months ago at the Rip Cur Outlet northwest of Lowers in San Clemente.

MiM was giving me grief over the Panama pictures, saying that the crab-grab was wack. While I can't say I disagree, EVERYONE* in the water agreed that he was just jealous he hadn't invented a new barrel-riding technique.

He briefed Trevor on my tendency to crab-grab and they were cheering me on to my first wave, a sick right that was quick to develop (unlike the author). Hearing calls for crab-grabs, I tucked into my old familiar stance and got barreled. The wave dumped over and I zoomed through the barrel fast, tucking my leading (stalling) arm behind me and went quite a ways through the spinning hydro-tunnel.

I had quite the thrill going quite that far. When I pull in to a closeout, I have a certain expectation as to how far/how long I expect to go. For every half-second I go beyond that expectation, the euphoria increases exponentially.

I surfaced and let out a hoot.

On the next wave, I pulled a proper pig-dog and did my damnedest to stall hard. A stranger paddling about 20 feet inside of me who had just snagged a good one gave me a long hoot as the lip finally cascaded over me. I don't remember what happened, but I didn't make it (I'm pretty sure I over-corrected into the wall).

I caught a very similar right, tried it again, and in my burning desire to get barreled with a proper pig-dog stance while NOT going into the wall, had the lip drive my throat into my knee. OUCH! Painful and a little scary, but no long-term damage. Swallowing left me sore for a few hours afterward.

I later caught a left and, upon first pump, I was reacquainted with my glorious DHD board and the speed its rail generates. Though I kept pumping, the beautiful curves of my foam masterpiece were not enough as I slowly lost the race to the speeding lip.

The waves' consistency slowed down and the likelihood of closeouts increased. MiM, having an eight-hour day ahead of him bailed. I waited about ten minutes before a belly-boardable wave came (!) and hit the sand.

*not really.

11.23.2011 Playa Larga, Bocas del Toro, Panamá: Last Sesh of the Trip

On this day, we were joined by DJ Struntz, a senior staff photographer for Surfing magazine; Joaquin, a Argentinean vacationer; and, with us as always, Daf.

Rather than deal with the long boat ride from the Red Frog docks, we opted to paddle from the beach to the boat, which saved us a half-hour in the boat. We made it out without incident and headed east towards Playa Larga. It was amazing how much more quickly we got there with our new plan.

The waves were bigger and heavier than our previous two sessions at this spot, nearly a week prior. We anchored pretty far out to compensate for this, but well west of the mysto reef, which would warn us when a set was coming by breaking, then quickly foaming out.

Seeing as to how this would be my last boat sesh for a while, I wanted to be the first one out. In my haste, while tossing the Sharp Eye (same one I surfed on my second sesh here) overboard, I didn't check to see if the leash was clear. It was pinned under other boards, so the board went flying out but then rubber-banded back. Luckily, it stayed over the rail of the boat and the board and boat didn't collide.

After a little ribbing from the guys, I dove in to the beautiful Caribbean water, grabbed the board, and paddled towards the waves. Once there, I paddled for the lefts in front of the dead tree lineup marker, but they weren't working right. I went back to my sweet, sweet rights and within fifteen minutes, found my first ride.

I pig-dog-tucked into the barrel and it quickly decimated me. I gently glanced off the bottom and got back on my board.

I watched as Daf, still paddling in from the boat, was in the perfect spot for a set wave and hooted him into it. That was definitely a sick one, but from my vantage point, I would never see the post-takeoff wave.

About twenty minutes later, I caught a nice, really lined-up right. Rather than stalling and trying to get barreled, I stoop up straight and dropped in. I banked off the bottom and hit the top of the wave, coming down and gaining a little speed. I repeated my actions, though not quite as powerfully this time, then kicked out next to DJ, who told me, "Nice ride".

I was having trouble catching waves on this session. The waves would be there, but I would paddle and pull back because of the too-racy or utter-closeout nature of my chances.

Finally, I caught a good-sized right late and crab-grabbed into the barrel. As I was dropping, my leading hand was in the wall but I realized that I was going to need all of my speed so I tucked it back, parallel to my trunk.

Within fifteen seconds of my coming up, I heard from DJ (regarding my crab-grab), "I can't say I've ever seen that before, but it seems to be working for him". I said to him, "Keep it between us, bro".

The wind came up hard and I was over it. Joaquin and I paddled towards the boat and got in, followed ten minutes later by DJ and Daf. We started back west towards Red Frog Beach and it was a brutal ride in the panga. I elected to stand and use both arms to stabilize myself by grabbing on to the overhead supports for the shade. No one in our crew got seasick, despite the back-and-forth tumult. We dumped out somewhat far off Red Frog Beach and I kept my hand to my sunglasses so as not to lose them in the water. My sunscreen floated up from my boardshort pocket and, wanting to get out of the way as quickly as possible, I stuck it in my mouth end-first and paddled in.

Friday, November 25, 2011

11.22.2011 Surf is UP, Scott leads us to the secret spot

After two days of minimal surf, we went trekking. Scott had surfed a place less than ten times since his move to Panama (approximately eight years ago). He knew when it was good and we made the plans to head there early in the morning. The next morning had clear skies and perfect winds, so we headed there from his place on the panga. After a lengthy journey, we reached the dock. We disembarked, grabbed our stuff and walked about a half-hour to the waves.

The journey there had been a rough one and I had my doubts about the conditions. Keep in mind I'm not used to surfing the Caribbean, where the isthmus and/or island set-ups create a multiple coast reality. What's terrible for one coast (solid onshore) is on the opposite side of the spectrum for the other coast (solid offshore).

Once we got within earshot of the waves, I started to get excited. My pace quickened.

The first view revealed makeable-only-by-pros windswell barrels. I was content to surf there and play my luck there (it had been a long journey and I was itching, in a good way). I asked Scott if he usually surfs or he walks down the beach to try it there. He affirmed the latter option and we walked. The waves started getting better and better the more we walked. I slapped on some sunscreen and, with Scott's blessing, affixed the leash to his 6'2" Merrick Tangent (I realized later it was a board Kelly Slater rides). It was just a tad wider and thicker than I would have liked, but definitely in my breadbasket in terms of familiarity with dimensions. Scott said to me. "You break it, you buy it, and this place breaks A LOT of boards". After a little ribbing by me, he added, "It's a new Tangent, you know what those cost". I don't know what these cost, but judging by the Merrick + Kelly Slater insignia, I figured easily $650+. Yikes.

As I continued to walk down the beach, I realized we were the only ones on the beach. The jungle was extremely lush and looked like it could have been from prehistoric times.

The first wave I remember was a quick drop I made backside, but raced off without me.

If you've read the previous blog posts, you know I have a habit of getting into my "crab-grab" in anticipation of backhand barrels. On crab grabs, my front knee hits the deck in lieu of my front foot with my back leg elevated to put even more leverage on to the board's flat spot, leaving me in a position to blast through the barrel (or at least that's the theory).

Which leads me to my second wave...

Daf had gotten a wave just before me and I was all alone. Scott and Jaime (boat guide, ripper from Fountain Valley, of all places) were down the line, hooting me into the approaching set wave. I ceased stroking towards it, whipped around and dug in deep towards the beach. The wave was a dooz, the biggest wave of the trip thus far. This right lifted my board and I dropped down with a slight angle. I grabbed my rail to dust off my seldom-used pigdog stance comically early. I remember smiling on the wave, thinking, "I know this looks like ish, but woteva". As the wave began to catch up to my over-preparedness, I took my leading/stalling arm out and moved my weight forward as much as possible just as the wave curled over me. I was in there for about two seconds before I overcorrected into the wave.

The wave swept me up, separated me from my board and absolutely SLAMMED my head into the sand. Had we not been surfing at a beachbreak, I definitely would have suffered head trauma. I've taken some nasty spills and have hit all kinds of bottoms surfing (the vast majority of these in El Salvador). I have had the wind knocked out of me underwater on sandbars. Barnacled rocks have drawn blood from my feet, arms, shoulders and back. But this is the hardest I have ever hit my head underwater. The power of the wave, combined with the extreme shallowness of the water plus a little centripetal force whiplashing the back of my head that much faster into the sand made for QUITE the slam.

I surfaced without issue and quickly assessed myself for signs of a concussion while paddling and duckdiving to avoid the last wave of the set. I wasn't seeing stars, my neck wasn't sore, my head wasn't sore and I didn't feel lightheaded.

About fifteen minutes after paddling for, and pulling back from, several waves, I found a left that wasn't too racy. I dropped in and got barreled about a second after my soles hit the deck. Alas, I pulled up too high on a barrel with no room for mistakes and I got clipped and sent over the falls. This time there were no scares though!

I then caught a lined-up right and I dropped in, pumped quickly and did a quick slash. I was in a hurry as these waves weren't the type to allow you to sit at the top of the wave, recovering from a maneuver. I was able to gain some speed from it and did another quick one. Both times I heard the sprays' satisfying splash. I kicked out next to Scott and he was amped.

The waves then got more inconsistent. All of us had a hard time finding waves. I found a quick right on which I did a quick crab-grab and was in there for quite some time, but I got shut down while in it.

The next wave was a big left that I was really late on. I was jonesing for another wave and decided to go. The offshore pushed against me and I went over with the lip. Thankfully, I was able to land on my board on my feet, wax-side up. The board's tail washed out. Daf told me he thought I started bottom turning before my fins engaged and so my body turned, while the board stayed behind. Bummer.

I caught another, smaller left on which I tried to do a steep bottom turn and seemed to check myself as the section wasn't as steep. I did a weak top turn, then the wave disintegrated into mush.

On the way back, part of our party stopped at the schoolhouse to do a presentation on water filters he was donating to the town. I'm including a picture of the presentation below as well as some of the little kids.

I made a friend that day. I asked him what his name was (in Spanish) and he said, "Mariel". I asked him to guess what my name was and he said, "Gringo" (True Story).

For the record, I didn't initiate the hand-holding. That was the OLD Eddie...! I'm better now.

11.19.2011 Red Frog Beach, SUP then Fish Sesh

On this day, the rash on my lower rib cage was bothering me. Thankfully, the surf was down. I did end up trying an SUP (Stand-Up Paddle board).

After at least a dozen and half bails, I was over it. It's a lot harder than it looks. I'd like to say that now I respect the sweepers, but by and large, my experience with them has been resentment towards them for being wave hogs. Let's just say I now respect them one modicum more than I did a week ago.

After I handed off the SUP for someone else to have a go, I got on a 6'3" fish, as I'd noticed some tight little right-hand barrels coming off the rocks. I got in position for two and they were markedly similar. I leaned forward hard and the fins and tail were pulled out of the water, making me pearl just as the lip was cascading over me.

I did catch a pretty sick right that I got to pump and throw a little spray on (twice), but that was as far as this session went.

11.18.2011 Playa Larga, Bocas del Toro, Panamá: Round TWO

Today we got on the same boat with the same people, plus a new arrival from Western Australia named Daf. The wind was a little better, but the swell was a little down from yesterday.

This time I was on a Sharp Eye Board. I believe it was a 6'2" and a little thicker than I'm used to.

From l-r: Andrew, Chato, Eddie, Jaime, Scott, Daf

We stopped to get gas. The side of the building said "Gasolina No se Fia" (No credit given):

We threw our boards in to the water once we arrived at the break. I was the first one in the water this time. I set up to the right of the big dead tree just as I had yesterday, but quickly discovered it just wasn't working.

I paddled east a bit and found some juice. The first wave I caught was a left. I rode it ok, but stalled on a floater. Had I made that floater, it would've been a more complete ride with a finishing stamp. I decided to forgo the lefts in favor of the barreling rights.

I caught a right that was a screamer. I grabbed my outside rail with my left hand and stuffed my right hand in the wall to slow me down. The lip threw over me and I was threading it. Unfortunately, the wave decided to explode all at once just after my entry inside it. I was rewarded with a nice view but punished with water up the nose.

I had a couple of similar waves, none of which I made.

The wind switched from side-offshore to side-onshore and I caught a slightly more open right. I pumped up and down trying to figure out the sweet spot on this new board (third board in two sessions). I semi-succeeded, made it around a small section and went up to hit it. I over-estimated the steepness of the section and over-committed to the turn. I completed the turn, but never recovered.

So, what went wrong? First off, the turn I committed to requires more speed and/or a steeper wave face. Also, I didn't set my shoulders right. Your shoulders should almost always be facing where you're looking to go and this isn't the case in the above sequence.

With the wind coming up, the wave was being sliced up a bit. I managed to be in position for a tall sliver of wave. I tucked into it and while I don't think I got barreled, I had quite the sensation going down. It felt like I was dropping in sideways down the vertical section of a halfpipe. I made it, but there was no reward.

About twenty minutes later, I was in position for the biggest wave I rode that day. I caught it and tucked into my stance. The wave was close to twice the size of the waves I'd caught all session. The wave steepened up and I locked in my line. The lip pitched over me squarely and I made it quite a ways before getting smashed by the wave. My shoulder hit the sand with enough force to rub some sunscreen off my shoulder, but nothing more.

Check out how artsy this cropped close-up of me in the barrel is:

The wind kept coming while the waves remained inconsistent. The surf forecast isn't good, but I hope the beginning of next week will have something in store...

11.17.2011 Playa Larga, Bocas del Toro, Panamá: First Day, Barrels Galore!

In honor of my first wife's 30th birthday, I decided to splurge on a nice trip for us to enjoy. I suggested Europe, but she thought it would be too cold. She suggested New York, but I said that would be about as cold as Europe.

She then asked me for more suggestions. I began to throw out surf destinations: El Salvador?, "No"; Costa Rica?, "No"; Panama?, -Pause-"OK" I couldn't believe she'd agreed to it and I was amped!

We first looked into the Pacific side. Santa Catalina was a definite first choice, but after doing research, I was over it. From what I was reading, the crowds were heavy and the vibe was aggro.

I'd heard whispers of Bocas, on the Carribbean side, and how good it could get there. I looked into it and found out the swell season starts in November. BOOK IT!

We booked a stay with Scott at Red Frog Bungalows, and we were all set.

We flew SD-LA, LA-Miami, Miami-Panama City, Panama City-Bocas del Toro. While in Panama City, we weren't sure where to take our local flight and we kept getting responses telling us it was the brand new commuter terminal. The two people at the terminal I tried to confirm with seemed apathetic and just told us to sit down as the flight left at three. When I told them the flight was scheduled to leave at four, they said, wait until four. I got suspicious and went to a second information desk where I had them call up the airline directly.

The airline told us it was at a different airport so we beat feet into a taxi driven by a guy named Deyvis. He let me in on some local knowledge, including the very poor areas with tin roofs and satellite dishes were people who worked with the narco-traffickers and the rest of the neighborhood received hush money. He claimed if they squealed, they were killed.

We also passed a very interesting screw-shaped building
as well as the sail-shaped Trump building.

The local flight from Panama City to Bocas was on an older prop plane that was a little rickety. I had a lot of fun teasing my wife with lines like "Wow, from this seat we'll have an unobstructed view of the wing breaking off the plane" and "Hmm, that really shouldn't be rattling like that"

We landed (quite roughly) and got our checked bag. We went up to the whitest guy we could find and asked him if he was Scott. He said he worked with Scott and we took off in a pick-up taxi. Our taxi ride was cut short because Bocas was celebrating its 108th anniversary that afternoon and they were having a big parade with young girls in fancy outfits and makeup as well as guys beating on drums. We literally walked (width-wise) through the parade towards our water taxi, got on and headed towards the bungalows.

Scott took us around, showed us our SWEET bungalow. The surf guide said we'd be up and at 'em early and I said not to worry, I would be awake.

We ate dinner, went to bed and I didn't wake up in time. The guide knocked on our door and I got up, ate a quick breakfast and waited for the boat. Scott, the guide (Jaime) and two other guests came along, along with the guy who manages the boat, Chato.

We stopped to drop Chato off and get some gas and we were on our way. I was told on the way that this was their first time surfing Playa Larga this season, as the waves and/or conditions hadn't been right up until that point. Jaime especially was frothing.

About an hour after boarding, we got to our destination and dropped anchor. This was only my second session surfing from a boat. It can boggle one's mind, as you're so used to starting on the beach, paddling out, surfing and going in. But here you can easily catch your first few waves with dry hair.

One of the guests had a camera, so she decided to swim to the beach with a dry-pack take some surf photos.

I was on a borrowed 6'1" Merrick that was wider and thicker than I am used to. The first two waves were lefts, and I was trying to surf them like I was on my glorious DHD back home. I couldn't get the initial pump to give me speed, so I turned to cruiser mode and did the best I could to generate speed.

The rights were barreling, so I turned my attention to them. The first right I caught was developing into a nice steep one. I stood up, did a proper pigdog pivot, but my line felt high for the size of the wave and I decided to abort.

When my head came up, I happened to catch the image of my board hurtling towards me and managed to dodge it. I noticed the leash string had burned through the patch job and told Scott. He very generously offered me his board and went to the beach to check on the photog. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was on a 5'8" quad fin with a swallow/thumb tail. This was the second smallest board I'd ever ridden.

Jaime was stone cold killing it out there and I smelled barrels and started to salivate. I got in a couple of quick ones, including one during which I paused before take-off, then swooped down into it with speed, but I wasn't making any.

...And SCENE:

I caught a nice left that let me in early. I did a squirrely turn (quad fin), recovered, and ALMOST pearled. The water was capping at the nose of the board, but I leaned back and salvaged it.

I also caught this left, which I remember hitting and falling back into the wash, somewhat close to recovering, but it was not to be:

A nugget came through, Scott cheered me on and I went right. I got into my kneeboard stance and blew through it. It let me out and I let out a hoot.

I also caught a right drainer super late. Jaime was in a perfect position to watch the carnage. I made the drop into the barrel and the wave ANNIHILATED me. It was a solid eight seconds before I came up, which is a lot considering I was in chest-deep water.

When I surfaced, Jaime looked at me with concern and said, "Are you OK?"

The conditions deteriorated and about forty minutes later, we paddled back to the boat.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

11.3.2011 20th St Del Mar with Missed It Mike, Trevor and some other Guy; October Wrap-Up

October Session Count: 8

Black's 2
Lowers 2
Shorebreak 2
25th St 1
Oceanside 1

No-Gos 4

October wasn't a great surfing month for me. It started off very well with back-to-back sick seshes (Oside and Black's) but stalled and sputtered for much of the rest of the month. Four No-Gos (where I drove to surf but it was terrible and didn't paddle out) leave me with a D+ in terms of surf consistency.

~11.3.2011 20th St Del Mar with Missed It Mike, Trevor and some other Guy~

We met at North Torrey and the waves were small and fat. We checked 20th and it looked slightly bigger and slightly steeper. I wouldn't have gone if Trevor wasn't itching to paddle out and Mike had expressed disinterest in not going. In order to pressure Mike into going, I said, "I'm out thar!"

The air was really cold, and the offshore made it that much colder (this sentence will win some sort of writing award). Going from a nice warm car to the cold air and then resigning yourself to shedding clothing so you can get in a "wet"suit to get into sub-60 degrees water is daunting.

Mike did his amazingly hilarious bit of complaining about everything. His feet were cold. His feet hurt from walking bare. I asked him if he was coddled as a child and he responded, "What's coddled?". This guy is a comedic genius!

Mike and I were the first to hit the water. Mike had to turn around as he left his wedding ring on, so I had it all to myself. I caught a left and did a weak, but extended, off-the-lip and came down smoothly.

Another left came and I thought it would be a doozy. I bypassed the first hittable section (Mistake 1), pumped way down the line (Mistake 2) and tried a cutty (Mistake 3). This wave should've been hit from the get-go and the rider should have stayed close to the curl, the power source of the wave. Upon the wave ending, a sick slash would have ended the ride nicely.

A right came just as the rest of the crew was paddling out. It looked steep, so I got into my kneeboard barrel stance. I put too much weight on my too far forward stance and ended up sliding over my board and bodysurfing as the lip pitched over me. Bummer, but still a cool view.

Once Mike paddled out, the waves shut down and we drifted south. The water has dipped below 60 degrees, which makes it booty and glove territory for me. I made a mental note to bring those along next time.

I did catch one wave that was a pretty sick barrel. Mike enlightened me as to my sick facial expression just before and in the barrel. Apparently, I open my mouth pretty wide as I'm in there, giving the audience the impression that the barrel is sicker than it is. Pretty funny! The wave barreled all at once, as it was a closeout, and I saw a good twelve feet in tunnel ahead of me.