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Monday, December 31, 2012

December AND 2012 Wrap-Up

NoTePads 2

December is a cruel mistress of a surf month.  This month she bestowed five sessions upon me.  The Santa Ana days are a waste without swell, and conversely, the swell days are pretty much rotten without the Santa Anas.

~~~2012 Wrap-Up~~~

I counted 128 sessions.  That's one session every 2.8 days.

Of these sessions, 102 happened in California, with 99 happening in metropolitan SD County (Oside and points south).

25 (19.53%) of these happened in El Salvador.

1 went down during my early trip to Hawaii.

I spent $0 on new gear this year, but untold hundreds on gas.  Airfare I won't count thanks to Raquel's frequent-flyer miles.

12.21.12 A Second No-Go Denied at NoTePads

The previous day, we were blessed with offshores.  MD's was too bloated, so I headed south to NoTePads.  As I descended toward the foot of the valley, I saw a scrumptious section fold over, albeit racily, into an unmakeable barrel.  I hadn't gone in the water for close to two weeks, so I was down for getting some tube time with very little chance of making it.

Upon exiting The Rad, I was greeted by a frosty offshore wind that was blasting through the 56 corridor and out into the ocean.  I was determined to go for it.  I took my shirt off and put on my changing robe.  My toes were numb from the wind and their exposure to it.  I continued to look into the ocean as I suited up.  I pulled the wetsuit up around my waist and realized this was the warmest I would be all morning.  Having spotted nary a tube section since parking, I made a call to cancel the wetsuit sequence and retreat to the relative warmth of The Rad.  I rode home with the wetsuit half on, wetsuit sleeves and tail firmly planted between legs (nothing sexual though).

I vowed to exact my revenge at my next opportunity, and it arrived less than a day later...

Missed-It-Mike met me at MD's and we weren't impressed by what it showed us.  We trekked south, to the scene of the emasculation, to NoTePads.  This time I came prepared.  People who saw me driving thought I was a pussy, a neoprene fetishist gimp or perhaps both.  Mike felt the cold caress of the wind and lost his mojo.  There really wasn't much out there, but I was determined to paddle out.  It, without question, would've been a repeat of the previous day's embarrassment.

Mike decided he was going to film me from his car, using his phone.  The footage, much like the waves, was forgettable.  I looked like a speck of black against white splashing on the wave's surface.

There was no one out, though I did see sweeper about a hundred yards south.  The water temperature was a welcome warmth and made the temperature much more manageable.

I got a little bit of a cover-up on a right crab-grab attempt.  Other than this wave, there were no stand-outs.  I spent my time on the rest of the waves Huntington-hopping my way to frustration.  I haven't looked at the GoPro footy yet, but I know there is no need to, because the waves were so lacking.

When I finally decided to call it a sesh, I found myself in an upwelling spot where the cold water felt like death.  It felt as though my fingers were closing up on themselves in an attempt to keep warm.  I found a wave and belly-boarded it, then walked past a guy who was pacing back and forth about fifteen steps in each direction before changing directions.  He asked me if I was cold and I replied affirmatively.

Luckily, I didn't have to wait for my hands to thaw.  I had enough torque to turn the key in the ignition.

The post-surf shower was AMAZING!  It's what I'm calling the shower of the year.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

12.7.12 FUN, Peaky 20th Street Solo Mish

I woke up at my usual just-shy-of-five time and decided to make good on the promise to myself from the night before:  I would make a good faith effort to check the waves despite the reports' tales of woe from the swell charts.

Because of the NW direction of the swell, I made MD's my first check.  As I came within eye shot of the surf at 15th, my eyes bulged out of my head.  What is THIS? There's SWELL!  As I hung down and then right onto Coast Blvd, I came to the realization that it wasn't a maritime mirage, but honest-to-goodness, consistent grinders up and down the beach.

I parked at 20th and was about to ask a guy coming in how it was.  Unprompted, he said, "It's soooo good!". Yowza.

On my first wave, I was a bit inside, but made it onto the wave and around the initial crashing section.  I did a quick pump, then had to take my foot off the gas as the wave hit a deep spot and slowed down.  I put more weight on my front foot to stay on it and the wave felt sand again, turning steeper.  The wave was shutting down, though it was more of a foam-over than a classic slamming closeout.  I kept weight on my front foot as I slashed and managed to stay over my board, but I faded off the back.

My next wave was a second left, but this one was slow the whole way.  I pumped and did my best to not fade.  I was successful, but there was no reward.  The wave somehow shut down without having any sort of decent slope from which to harvest speed.

 The next left had some slope to it, though it did start off a little slow.  I milked the most speed I could off of it and made it to the inside section where I slashed it well, but there was little pushback from the wave and I plopped off my board, devoid of speed.

A weird thing about the waves today is that the prevailing swell direction was NW, but the vast majority of rights were shutting down almost immediately.

Case in point: My next wave was a scrumptious-looking steep right.  I dropped down at an angle and tried to avert destiny by giving myself the best chance to make it around the section.  I choked up with a quick pump, but the thing shut down behind me and in front of me, hitting me in the back in the process.

Then, one of the weirdest, most startling things that has ever happened to me occurred.  I paddled back out from the right and perched.  About three minutes later, I spotted this massive sea lion, quite possibly the biggest I'd ever seen in the wild, motoring RIGHT towards me from about two o'clock.  I noticed how much of its body was out of the water, meaning the guy was MOVING!

Its mouth was open and it looked angry.  It was staring right at me.  I looked at it mostly bemused, but somewhat bewildered.  It had two huge protrusions in its mouth, not sure if they were tusks, but they were so gnarly.  I stood my ground, getting a little more alarmed.  Then, when it was about fifteen feet away, it let out a heavy-sounding grunt/cough; the presence of which slammed my chest against my board and sent me scurrying.  The first four or so strokes were sprint-paddles, but I cooled it down because I was concerned the splash chaos would attract it to me.  I was so scared!  Within ten seconds, I looked to the south and it had semi-surfaced from the dive it took when my head was turned. PHEW!

My next wave was a sick left, though it didn't look so at first.  It appeared to be slow, and I pumped up to try to generate some speed.  The wave then hit a shallow spot and started spinning quickly.  I was in a really critical spot; the opening part of the lip tapping me ever so slightly twice.  Then the wave slowed way down, and I slammed on my backside rail hoping to throw a ton of spray.  I did, but it was at the expense of making it.  I made the mistake of too critical a turn for too flat a wave.  Bummer.

My next wave was a right, which today meant a quick exit.  Luckily, I was able to make something of it this time and swung up into it for an aerated rock 'n roll.  In surfing, this is called a foam climb.  Here is the footy, but we warned, it gets salacious at the end!

The curse of the lazy lefts continued.  I caught a wave I wasn't sure would develop and descended it straight down, I cut back up then stomped on the deck of my board with my front foot and leaned way down, hoping this would allow me to continue down the face.  It didn't, and I plopped over.

Another left, but this one had more steepness to it.  I saw after descending it was going to close out on me, so I took the opportunity to soul arch my way out of it.  I jumped over the foam and that was it.

After two more lazy lefts, I'd decided I couldn't bear the sting of my wetsuit rashes any longer.  I succumbed and beached myself, hoping tomorrow would have bear more of the same.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12.4.12 M-I-M and I hit up NoTePads

We met at the usual time and at the usual place.  MD's was absolutely dreadful.  We saw a guy fade off a couple of waves.  We were still mad at the place for denying us a ride on its sweet curves a few days prior, so we shined it in favor of good old NoTePads.  A tip from Trevor ("Best NoTePads EVER") from the day before got us a little excited, but my expectations were tempered considering how crappy MD's looked.

We parked at our destination and Mike loaded up into The Rad.  He was instantly blessed by the sweet jams of the GuyPod.  Some would say it was these tunes which motivated him to suit up despite the conditions.  The waves would spill over, but they were so fat and had so much water on them that staying on them would be a challenge.  We saw a couple of possibly rideable waves out there, so we talked ourselves into paddling out.

Our pre-paddle pow-wow didn't betray us.  It was as shitty as it had looked from the comfort of The Rad.  Many waves were caught, but not many waves were ridden.  It was a challenge just to descend into the troughs of these marshmallows.  The bright side of course, is that we were by ourselves, in nature, with not one player hater in sight.

The wave of the day, and the only one I can really describe due to the others running together, was one I caught that turned into a double-up on take-off. I was the beneficiary of a quick burst of speed, which ran out, less than ten yards through the wave.  I managed to somehow stay on this slowpoke, and made the inside connection.  I got one quick burst of speed and came up nicely off the bottom, meeting the lip to slash it, then popping back down.

The water's getting really cold and it may be time to break out the gloves and booties soon.

12.1.12 Cardiff Reef PM SESSION with Forrest

Forrest called and asked if I wanted to surf.  I asked where and he said, "Somewhere you don't want to".  I quickly realized he meant Cardiff Reef and said I'd pass.  He said he'd be willing to surf Turtles or Pipes.  I told him Pipes was out because of the massive crowd I'd spied while driving south on the 101 earlier that day.

He asked if I'd rather go mountain-biking and I thought about that, but realized it's rare we get swells like this, so let's SURF!  I packed my board and tub into his car, this time loaded with my 3/2 with the philosophy that this wetsuit, with its different points of friction, may not rub me the same way.

I didn't want to be a bum-out, so I told him we could go to Cardiff if he wanted.  We lucked into one of the first spots south of the restaurants, suited up, slapped on some sunscreen and walked to the sand.  George's looked downright nasty, but the left in front of the newly-christened Pacific Coast Grill looked tasty.  I paddled out and immediately got bashed in the head over and over again.  I couldn't find any open faces and didn't even get a chance to paddle for waves because of the constant paddling and dunking.  I looked back and saw I was north of where we'd parked and I decided I was over it.  I went in and walked north.

I was not going to let Cardiff defeat me.  I walked all the way down to where the lagoon meets the ocean and paddled out.  I duckdived. Constantly. For fifteen minutes.  Then, I had the sad realization that all my paddling had been futile when I duckdived and the nose of my board hit sand. DAMN IT!  I stood up, waded, then waited as each roll of foam assailed me.  I marveled at how hard the water pushed me back, now having a point of reference in the sand.

Eventually, I was able to power through and ended up JUST north of Suckouts, perhaps the closest thing North County has to a mutant wave.  There was a pack of about eight heads sitting there.  I drifted south after not much was coming through and I saw a bearded guy get positioned perfectly, dropping in with his arm shoulder-deep in the wall, but get nothing for his efforts as the wave just stopped barreling before it went over him.  It still looked sick though!

I was in the main takeoff zone of Cardiff Reef now, and the head count reflected that.  It's very possible that I was on the least amount of foam out there.  It wasn't huge, but it was still overhead on the sets.  I paddled half-heartedly for waves, knowing that my chances of a logger falling off on the outside and it being me who was in position to pick up his sloppy seconds were miniscule.

I looked for Forrest but could not spot him.

I floated to the inside a bit, hoping for some 'tweeners.  I saw a wave that missed everyone on the outside and was absolutely shocked I was in position for it.  I was a bit deep, and the waves were a bit fat, so I had to paddle my ass off.  I descended and smacked it, then went for a roundhouse cutty but I faded.  I'd wandered too far onto the shoulder.

After all that work, I had one wave to show for it.  I wasn't about to paddle out and risk a decapitation from a guy on a big board who isn't used to all that speed.  I bailed and Forrest pulled up shortly thereafter.

12.1.12 MD warm-up, then George's

I made a point to dog M-I-M for missing out on the previous day's great sesh.  He responded as I'd hoped, with ardent fervor.  We made plans to surf the same spot.  I showed early and checked it, but there was some texture on it from the NNE wind.  The waves were coming in hard and fast, with nary a sizable break to be seen.

I convinced Mike to paddle out by extolling tales of yesterday's waves.  We suited up and walked onto the sand, and it looked a bit intimidating.  We weren't sure if there would be a payoff to our paddle-out pain, but we pressed onward.  We got close to halfway out when our forward progress plateau'd.  The constant onslaught kept us duckdiving instead of paddling, and once we surfaced, we were roiled in efficiency-killing foaminess.  Our fingers would rake through the aerated water and not have enough water to make progress.

I pride myself on my tenacity when it comes to paddling out.  Twenty minutes of constant paddle-paddle-paddle-duckdive-paddle-paddle-paddle-duckdive later and my steadfast commitment to making it out was crumbling.

Just as it's best not to look down when you're up high, it's a bad idea to look back towards the shore on grueling paddle-outs.  It's rare when doing so that the culprit thinks, "Wow! I'm really far from shore!" .  After my left trapezius was exhausted from it being overtaxed, and my left arm and shoulder were numb, I made the fatal mistake of looking back and realizing how little progress I'd made.  Couple all of this with my stinging wetsuit rashes (now two strong) and you had a real demotivator.

Mike was behind me and a bit south.  He gestured in such a way so as to relay to me that he was over it.  We had a pow-wow:  Were we really going to let this swell humble us and send us scurrying to our cars?  After a three-minute debate of sorts, we decided we would let it.  I suggested we hit up a reef that would provide some break in the swell and perhaps even a channel.

I put on my changing robe over my wetsuit, got in to The Rad and headed up north, with Mike following behind.  If there are any ladies, or even effeminate men, reading this, be glad you didn't see me in it as you would have become pregnant with a baby that looks like this:

After passing through Solana Beach, the 101 opens up.  Seaside looked ok, but crowded.  George's was showing us some welcoming, but fleeting, faces.  Best of all, the peaks were EMPTY. I flipped a bitch and parked.  Mike and I grabbed our stuff, gushed over how easy the paddle-out looked (it's interesting how our priorities changed) and paddled out.

We flew outside with no issues, but of course we were overzealous and paddled out too far while taking the rip.

We vacillated between paddling in, then being surprised by a set and sneaking under them for about ten minutes before this happened.

A wave came, and I was in a great spot for it.  Mike asked which way I was going and I said I was taking the right.  I descended, waited out the spillover foam and hacked into it a couple of times before I made the fatal error of taking too much weight off my front foot for the grand finale.  Still, a sick wave and one that made all that paddling worth it.

Since I'd traveled with the current, I knew Mike would be far.  I looked to the north, where I'd taken off, and couldn't see him.  I saw a guy WAY south of me, a good hundred yards and thought that it couldn't be Mike.  I took some more waves on the head while I thought about which way to go.  Then, I saw two amazing, close to double-overhead lefts roll through to my south.  I decided I would paddle over there to try and snag one.

Once there, I realized it was Mike who was south of me.  How the hell did he beat me down here when I was riding a wave and he was sitting?  Obviously it was a nasty N-S current, but one unlike any I'd ever experienced before.

I caught up to Mike and we alternated paddling for and pulling back some stomach-churning closeouts for about ten minutes.  Then...

Mike and I saw this massive wall of water.  He was about eight feet in front of me and about three feet north of me.  I saw him duckdive then do the subtlest of I'm-ditching-my-board shoulder twitches.  I hadn't ditched my board in a long time and had forgotten it was an option.  I watched the thick lip descend towards me and decided to ditch my board as well. I felt the wave detonate right above my head.  It felt as though I'd ducked under a depth charge!

Mike ended up closer to me than before the bomb went off, which is usually a sign that he got the worse (not necessarily worst!) of it.  We compared notes and wondered if our boards had made contact as they were dangerously close to one another.

We spent another ten, perhaps fifteen minutes trying to get in to some open-faced waves to no avail.  A second beastly wave, about the same size as the one described above reared on to its haunches, then feet.  It began feathering at the top.  I could hear Mike making some noises, the tone of which I interpreted to be, "We're screwed!" to which I replied, "Don't be a pussy!".

Unbeknownst to me, Mike had taken my advice and interpreted as my telling him NOT to ditch his board this time.  I got absolutely throttled by this wave, but I know it probably messed up Mike a little more than me because he was a couple of beats outside of me and closer to ground zero.  Not only that, but I had the luxury of being a couple of feet deeper than he was and away from the burden of the board. I could feel the tug of my leash on my ankle.  After about eight or ten seconds of ragdolling, I came up with a smile and facing the beach.  I made eye contact with Mike less than a second after surfacing and he said, "Look out!".  I whirled while simultaneously taking a breath and saw another wave explode sending me on the second leg of my journey towards the bottom.

There was no third wave of the set.  M-I-M said my board had tombstoned, which means it was standing straight up in the water from how deep I was.

Mike and I laughed at how smashed we got and made plans to go in, as it was getting too brutal out here.  If there were waves to go with the beatings, we would have gladly signed up.  But we can get punishment without pleasure with our wives at home (this is a test to see if my wife really does read this, as she claims she does).  And so we did...

November Wrap-Up

MD's 4
NoTePads 2
D Street 1

This surf month was hobbled bywayward weather and wee swells.

The wave of the month goes to the overhead steep right I got on the last session of the month.

The bail of the month goes to the wave I straightened out on, then claimed.  I jumped off my board and got smacked around.

Had it not been for the big uptick in swell at the tail end, this would've been a very disappointing month, but I will give it a C.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

11.30.12 Booming MD's Solo Sesh

Mike and I had made arrangements to surf on this morning.  As I walked up to the lifeguard tower at 20th St, I checked my phone and I had received a message from Mike which said, and I quote "Prob out on surfing tomorrow".  I look up from my phone to look at the waves and I smiled broadly.  Missed-It-Mike was missing it yet again.

I saw two lefts reel through unridden and I went back to my car thinking, "Where is everyone?".

The paddle-out was uneventful with only one hairy duckdive in which I lucked into an air pocket and surfaced unscathed.

There were a lot of waves coming through and this reality was reinforced by both the rising swell and rising tide.  Picture a running back getting hit by one defensive lineman and then having a linebacker immediately add to the momentum.  The good news is the waves didn't seem to be affected by backwash that tends to happen in these conditions.

My first wave was a head-high left.  I hadn't stood up on a wave in ten days and was a bit wobbly on my pop-up, dragging my back foot a bit.  I recovered on the descent, but the wave was closing out by that point.  I kicked my board up and looked forward to my next shot.

I caught a right and did a drawn-out bottom turn, but again, the wave ended up finishing without my approval.

I had another right come my way two minutes later.  It looked steep so I tucked into my barrel stance from the get-go.  I was in deep and high on it, one of the bigger backside barrels I've enjoyed in recent memory.  I angled down but ran into the ever-receding lip and slammed.  The footy was marred by swirling water, unfortunately.

One other guy paddled within twenty yards of me and we compared notes on the waves.  I remarked on how sick it was and he lamented as to how much better it would be sans closeouts.

The waves were beginning to get bigger, and for the first time in a long time, I began to long for a bigger board.

My next wave was a bigger version of my first right with the same result.  I Fosbury flopped over the back, hoping not to lose too much ground.

I caught an overhead left and it closed out about two seconds after I popped up, allowing for only a second of green face time before I pulled through the wave out the back.

Finally, an open face!  I caught a smaller-than-average right and bottom turned hard into it, but not as vertically as I would've liked.  The section of the wave I chose to snap on was too flat; had I gone vertically up the face, I would have had no problem.  I dug my trailing arm into the water but the only thing I was able to use as a pivot point on the wave was a weak spot.  I faded off the back.

The next wave was a little bigger, but with a similar result.  I dug both arms into the wave, but it was more of a cutback than a snap and I faded again.  I have to start descending and use the change in vertical positioning to accelerate into the roundhouse.

Less than a minute later, and on the same film clip, I caught a frothy left.  I did two of my most stylish pumps of all time with the third one projecting me over the nose of my board.  I had overestimated the slope of the wave and paid the price by endoing face first into the water.

It was at this point that I really started to feel my right arm pit getting raw from the constant paddling and friction.

I caught an overhead right that seemed to grow as I descended.  I straightened out and did a one-fist claim as I watched it detonate.  I jumped off my board and got annihilated underwater.  I came up for air and took a second wave on the set.  The third wave of the set was double-overhead, and I saw a fellow goofy-foot take off on it about fifteen yards north of me.  I cheered him on for about three seconds before I took another gulp of air and took one last one on the head.

Upon paddling back out, I spotted what seemed like a familiar face from long ago.  It was my old buddy Tyler Grant.  I hadn't seen him in close to ten years and the last time I'd seen him was out at this very break.  He was my best buddy when I came up to the US when my mom sent me up during La Ofensiva in El Salvador's Civil War and again in sixth grade.

We caught up a bit and I caught my wave of the day.  It caught me by surprise and I didn't have time to press the button, but I can assure you, I smacked it well twice, then bogged on the third hit as the wave closed out.

I got Tyler's email and he said we could go out for beers but as of this writing close to thirty hours later, I haven't received a response... :*-(

I got a lazy left and pumped on it, but it too quit on me and I ended up flamingoing, then endoing.

On the way back out, a monster wave came and I was determined not to let it separate me from my board.  I duckdived and the wave's power exploded between my body and my board.  I felt the board straining in my hands, a feeling I can't remember experiencing before.  I let the board go and wondered if I'd pressure-dinged the board.  After I was safely in deeper water, I checked, and saw an impression of my thumbs on the deck.

My pit rash was getting to be agonizing in my tight suit, so I bailed.