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Monday, September 30, 2013

September Wrap-Up

Seventeen sessions.  17!  This may be an record.

I have decided after ten seconds of deliberation I will not be posting where I surf on these wrap-ups, as it's the same stretch of beach.  If I go to Harbor or (gasp!) venture south in my car, I will make a note of it, but until then, nah.

September was a bookend month.  It was good at the beginning and end, but pretty lame in the middle.  There was surf for a lot of the month, but the conditions were not good for most of the month. 

October is going to be a juicy month, judging by the storm activity currently forming.  If the baby comes this month (scheduled for 24th), my session count will suffer unless I can sneak out.

9.28.13 Let-Down from Yesterday's Build-Up

Yes, I knew the waves would be smaller, and surely stories of yesterday's conditions would have spread throughout the coast.  My expectations were definitely tempered.

Unfortunately, all of this prepping was not enough to make me ready for what awaited me.  At first glance, I didn't see much.  The conditions were almost exactly the same, except for the obvious tidal differences a day later.  The offshore wind was still there, but without yesterday's intensity.

I gave the ocean the benefit of the doubt considering how it provided for me yesterday.

The crowd was thicker than yesterday's session-opening count, but still manageable.  I got out there with almost a dry hair paddle-out but was foiled by the last wave standing in my way of daylight.  As the wave hit me, I sensed a decrease in energy from yesterday's session.  As I waited for my first wave, I noticed there was no current.  This meant the NW swell that had top billing yesterday had faded into obscurity.

Yesterday's consistency had faded.  Today looked like yesterday, but the inconsistency eliminated my chances for deja vu.

My first wave was super steep.  I stopped paddling to give myself a shot at making it, then lunged forward once the initial push. I was late.  Extremely late.  I stomped down and immediately pearled.

The waiting continued long after I'd perched.  I kept seeing waves  reel off to my south, so I sporadically paddled down that way.

Towards the end of my tenure in the Pacific, I caught a wave on which I was able to stand and go down the line.  It was a bit iffy, so instead of pumping I decided to keep my weight over my front foot.  Eventually, I had my shot and I went pretty close to vertical on it, which all but cements my chances of making the turn.  Let's just say I held my breath during the turn and about five seconds after it...

I went in shortly thereafter.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

9.27.13 Best Surf in Easily Six Months; Best Barrel since Panama

On the 25th, my wife and I went into Kaiser for the umpteenth medical check-up on our soon-to-arrive daughter.  They had a sign for flu shots and my wife recommended I get one.  I did so and thought nothing of it.

The next day my shoulder was KILLING me.  The morning of this session, it stung pretty bad still.  I decided given the surf and conditions, it was something I would have to suffer through.  I windmilled my arm to test my paddling motion and the accompanying pain.  It was rough, but not so bad that I would wince each time.

On the way to the beach I happened upon an entire In N Out meal's packaging laying in the street, complete with strawberry shake remnants.  I scooped it up, along with some other assorted litter, in an attempt to appease the God I worship, King Neptune (with a minor for Aeolus, the keeper of winds, which generate swells).

My first glimpse of the ocean revealed groomed chop, evidence the howling offshores had effected their will upon the water's surface.  Since it was offshore, it was good chop.  I think if the winds had been five knots stronger, it would have been unsurfable.

Wisconsin proper was fat and slow as usual. I walked down the beach until I found some juicy hollow waves.  There was definitely a refraction to the swell visible, a sign the NW swell was the predominant, while the SW swell was the one submitting.  It was interesting having strong 3-5+' windswell, but having it look like groundswell thanks to it being groomed by the offshore winds.  The only hint that it was still windswell was how close together the waves were, definitely less than ten seconds apart mid-set.

I paddled out north of the juiciness with the intent of being swept down into the goodness.  My first wave was a pretty steep left.  I caught it and raced the initial section.  Once I spotted my opening, I lunged up and snapped.  I was in the critical part of the wave and was left in a delicate squatting position.  I descended again and buried my rail in a slash before the wave passed me by.  Good one.

A few more heads paddled out, and I was no longer alone.

I caught a right and was immediately blinded by the just risen morning sun.  The second half of my bottom turn was by feel.  I went past my target and snapped fins-free, but so much so that a surfer of my caliber cannot recover.

I caught a left which was really steep.  My back foot almost came off the back of my board, saved by the foam frame of the very back of my tail pad.  I readjusted, then pumped somewhat laterally.  The lip crashed down on my board and I marveled at my luck in coming out of that with some speed.  I did a tiny pump when I saw my chance, then the second premature section came down, this time JUST shy of my inside rail. 

This made my board flip up and over and the rail SLAMMED into my left shin leaving me in the most painful state in the water since I smacked my head in Panama almost two years ago.  Usually the cold water numbs the pain, but I was in excruciating pain.  The rail hit me in the lower shin, where there's no meat to dull the collision between bone and epoxy. 

I went so far as to check if there was potentially consequential damage, but I was intact.  All I have to show for it is a nice chindondo there.

I caught a couple of closeout lefts and stopped fighting the current as more heads populated where I'd been sitting.

After about a half-hour of nothing noteworthy, I had a line on a left that looked like it was going to close out.  It was one of the bigger waves of the day and I went for it.  I dropped about halfway down the face, then came up with the intention of kicking out.  Instead, I slammed back down on my front foot and ended up backdooring a barrel.  I had my arms and hands extended in front of me and was immediately enveloped in a crystalline light show.  I was in a great position and would have made it if it had let me out in the first two seconds.  My board was most likely swept away from me by the foam ball and I dropped down into the trough without warning. 

I came up with that eerie feeling you get when you think you've broken your board as I didn't feel much of anything tugging on my ankle.  I was relieved to find my board in one piece.  I didn't notice that the aqua trauma had torn my leash off my leg right away, probably because I was woozy from the barrel and the slam.

I put my leash back on and paddled out.  Nothing much else came and I was done, due in part to a breakfast appointment in Encinitas.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

9.24.13 Differing Dreams; Low Tide and Hollow Combo Swell Remnants at South Tyson

It started with a dream.

I woke up with vivid memories of a dream I'd had this morning.  I was walking along a beach I'd never traversed, in my fullsuit and with board.  My inner monologue as I walked and the unsettled feeling encroaching me subconsciously led me to believe it was a trip with the in-laws.

I saw small but good waves breaking and guys tearing them apart.  I put my board to water and realized the bottom was rocky, so I'd have to watch my path.  Twenty yards directly outside of me, I spotted the head of what appeared to be a large cat. I don't know if it popped up or had been there the whole time, but I do know it was staring right through me.  It had the look of a cat when it's hissing, but I couldn't hear anything coming from it.  Come to think of it, I don't remember experiencing any audio the whole dream.

I awkwardly felt for bottom, and found some craggy rocks to aid me in my quest towards deeper water.  I noted how I seemed to be in a valley of deeper water, but in between two shallow lanes of rock.  Bizarre.

Less than ten seconds after breaking the big cat's stare, I looked up again.  The large cat's head was now within six feet of my head.  I looked into its eyes and watched it go into a roar of sorts, its giant saber teeth striking terror into me.

I flashed back onto what I was told to do as a child when a stray dog came up to me.  I picked up some small stones and threw them at the cat, hoping to just make it go away.  I floated a couple of stones its way, not wanting to hurt it.  It barely registered, closing its eyes ever so slightly as each projectile met its target.

I looked down towards my feet for something more convincing and looked up as the cat was right in front of me.  It started to let out another inaudible roar and that woke me up.


I didn't know if there would be enough juice to make the trek worthwhile, but I decided to chance it.  I had to alter my route so I'd be walking along the 101 due to the City of Oceanside closing down an intersection.  This led to a new route.

My goal on my route is to pick up at least one piece of litter each way.  There is a recycling bin/trash can station right by the Wisconsin ramp, but the one I used on the way back, in an alley, has been pulled in by the homeowner.  This means I am forced to hang on to the trash for longer, until I get to the gas station/convenience store.

A new route means more trash and figuring out where to dump it.  Luckily, Oceanside does provide trash cans along the 101.  I know it's probably too late, but before you call me a hero, my motivation is not an altruistic one.  I am simply trying to please the surf gods and hope they will bless me with good timing/positioning/luck while I'm paddling around.

Today I picked up quite a score, thanks to my not having "used up" all the trash karma on previous walks to the beach.  I giddily dumped it along the 101 and almost skipped down to the beach to the cornucopia of waves that likely awaited me.

I envisioned spinning lefts on one side, spinning rights on the other.  I'd catch a wave, get pitted (casually of course), get spat out, and fawn over the upcoming rank off the closeout section.  I'd compress my body and pre-wind my arms, then unload upon the approaching section, landing cleanly after an air reverse, hang out while sliding fakie, get sick of that and have the fins engage as I yawned.

The ocean would then go flat as an oh-so-temporary rip would zip me right out to take a look at the rights.  Given such an opportunity, I would hug the face of the wave, trailing my front arm behind me as a thick slab folded over me.  I resisted the urge to grab the rail and felt the wave out with my feet as the lip's cracking thunder resonated in an audiophile's acoustics wet dream.  I eventually caught up to the beginning of the lip line and breathed a mini-sigh of relief as the darkness of the barrel went away and light permeated my vision.
The spit hit me hard and jostled me a bit, as my hair slapped me in the face, whiplashed after experiencing such a quantum leap in pressure differentials.  I had all of this speed as I exited the tube and half-blindly slammed my heels into my board and pivoted my hips while rotating my shoulders, intent on eviscerating the lip which had given me so much pleasure just seconds ago.  My hair was moved back by the air resistance as I laid into a backside carving 360, then airdropped into the near-vert section.  I knew a sick section was coming up, but opted to float it.  While doing so, I put most of my weight on my front foot while kicking out my back foot over my holdless fins.  My tail rotated down and I smoothly stomped my first-ever tail-drop 360 floater.

I got woken up out of my daydream  by the sight of the ocean.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible.

I walked north, as it looked a little lazy considering we'd passed the depth of the low tide.  A guy stopped me on the sand and we talked about my board for a good five minutes.  I told him my experience and gave him a sizing tip and extricated myself when I saw a juicy set come.

I half-jogged fifty or so paces north and paddled out.

Just like yesterday, my first wave arrived within minutes of my perching.  The drops were way steeper as I'd gotten out earlier and the low tide was later, meaning I was closer to the steepest waves of the morning.

I took off on a left and leaned slightly on my back foot hoping not to launch myself over the nose by pearling.  The wave let me in and I felt ñañara ("trepidation"?) only slightly.  I swooped into a mini bottom turn but the wave sectioned off into a barrel, which I had the pleasure of shadowing for more than three seconds.  I made a note to pull in on my next wave.

And pull in I did.  I compressed myself as tightly as I could and suffered the consequences of the lip taking my head off and bitch slapping me head first into the trough.  I came up surprised at the turn of events I'd just endured.  Guess I'll have to wait to get barreled when I'm on a bigger wave.

I got into another left, this one tighter and racier than the last.  I had no option at this point but to ride it out straight as I would a closeout or tuck into a switch crab grab.  I opted for glory and got barreled for a second-and-a-half before I saw it close out.

I took another left on.  There was  a section immediately in front of me about to break.  I broke character of kook Eddies past and rose up and slammed my weight down, netting a boatload of speed.  This aided me in getting around the section.  As soon as I did, I rose up and SNAPPED hard, but somehow lost my footing and splayed out.  Damn that would have been sweet!

A good twenty minutes passed and the heads started coming out.  My wave count suffered.  A female surfer set up to my inside.  A set came and I chivalrously (?) let her have the first, but hoping there was a bigger second one behind it like the last few sets'd had.

She caught her wave and I was on the next one.  This one was nice and steep, so much so that I quit paddling so I wouldn't overshoot.  The girl was back, likely wise to my plan by now as she watched me heave myself over the ledge and tuck into the barrel.  I weaved through it  as best I could for two seconds, even pulling up slightly so as not to intersect the crashing lip.  I got bounced off my board somehow, but was amped on the spilling cylinder I'd watched unfold for those beautiful couple of ticks.

Nothing much came, which was surprising as the tide was rising, so I bailed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

9.23.13 Combo Swell Action at South Wisconsin

This combo swell surprised me.  I thought there'd be something out there, but not like this.

The first winter swell of the fall season was upon us, and the crowd count reflected that.  Not only were there close to three times as many heads out there as is normal, but there were TWO sweepers out.  I don't think I surfed near a sweeper all summer.

Increased crowds, especially with a couple of sweepers peppered about, will lead to a stunted wave count for almost all involved. 

With winter swells comes different rotation on the water's surface, which means upwelling.  Upwelling is when water comes up from the depths of the ocean, cooling the water surface temperature.  I should be donning my 4/3 by the end of next month.

I paddled out a ways south of Wisconsin, as I had a feeling I would not be swept north, but south, thanks to the predominant NW swell.

My first wave was the best of the day, and I got it within two minutes of perching.  It was a nice juicy chest-high left.  I pumped up and down twice, then up again and absolutely obliterated the section with a really squirrelly gouge.  I felt the fins disengage, and if I'd leaned slightly more on my front foot, I know I could have slid the tail out.

My second wave was another left, but not very steep.  I made it down the face and pumped gingerly, then really stomped on the gas when I saw a steep section.  I was really happy with my tactical positioning and timing, but wasn't rewarded as the wave fizzled almost immediately.

I had a look at two set waves in a row, but they both closed out.  Then, I had a look at a head-high left, but one of the sweepers snagged it ridiculously early and just. stood. there. All wave.  Brutal.

I caught a right that had an open face once I swooped around its spilling section, but I slightly dug my inside rail.  Not only did this decrease my speed, but it threw me off rhythmically and directionally, and I was forced to abort.

Later, I caught a left that was extremely racy.  So much so, that I pumped up and down quickly on a sliver of a section.  Upon descending, the section immediately adjacent to the one I victimized with my quick pump exacted its revenge by detonating on my board.  I was shocked I was able to hang on AND keep my speed.  It was all for naught though, as it closed out on me.

I got swept down to Wisconsin and the waves weren't really doing anything, so I caught one in.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

9.19.13 Autumn is in the Air: FUN, then inconsistent Wisconsin

After yesterday's sunset skimboarding session, I realized the waves were surfable.  The crowd had died down also, so I was planning on surfing the next day.

As I walked down to the beach, I saw that the street lights were still on, meaning I'd gotten an early start.  The marine layer was up, so that should make the water a little warmer.  The offshore wind was stiff and I wondered if maybe it was too strong.

I walked close to halfway to pier after descending down the Wisconsin ramp.  I saw what appeared to be a barrel section, though it was difficult to be sure because of the angle of the swell.

After walking for a few minutes, I saw no other waves to keep the case open.  I circled back to Wisconsin and paddled out, seeing a few fun ones out there.

As I paddled out, I was excited to see some shoulder-high sets break.  There was no one out within three hundred yards of me.  It was GLORIOUS.

I paddled out and perched and within three minutes I got a pretty nice wave.  I caught it a little late and was concerned about the sectioning lip five yards ahead of me, I swooped around it, rose up to pump at least four times and as I approached the oncoming section, I compressed my body into a solid bottom turn. 

I unloaded on the section and felt my fins go free for an instant, then reconnected.  I don't know exactly what went wrong, but I think I wasn't ready for such a quick transition from halfway airborne to what devolved into a brusque cutback.  If I'd shifted my weight to the front of my board, I could have turned it into a sick roundhouse cutty.

The waves kept coming. It was really consistent and still not a soul near me.

I caught a right that looked juicy.  Unfortunately, I dug a rail as soon as I started leaning into a bottom turn.  I let out a frustrated roar as I stumbled over the back.

My wave of the day came about twenty minutes of fading off waves and being a little too inside for the relative mackers.  I pumped a couple of times right off the bat, then rose up and SMASHED the section.  The wave was dying out and I laid into a slash, which showed similar signs of life.

The waves then went into fatness mode.  It got very inconsistent and I knew I'd gotten the best of the morning.  I packed it in, making a mental note to paddle out even earlier tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

9.15.13 Foggy and Wedgy Sunday Morning at South Wisconsin

I got out there earlier than usual and surveyed the scene when I got to the lifeguard tower.  There were peaks up and down the beach, save for my immediate right.  The crowds, as usual, were lighter on the southern end of Wisconsin.  This is where I headed.

I paddled out in front of the property with the patriotic banners left up from Fourth of July, as there appeared to be a sandbar there.  I felt myself froth, much like the session from three days ago, but I did my best to temper my expectations.

I felt as though I was a bit late on my first wave and stomped on the deck.  My board couldn't take the shift in momentum and cruelly pearled.  I smacked the water HARD but was able to break the fall with my face. OOOWWWW!  I thought I was going to get a black eye, which would have been great for having strangers on the street eye Raquel suspiciously while I did my best puppy dog eyes.  Alas, I am but pink.

My first right was a bum-out, as it quickly closed out.  I flopped over the back.

About twenty minutes of to-and-fro paddling/pulling back, I caught a left that was sooooo sweet.  I dropped down while eyeing this beautiful shoulder-high wall, bottom-turned, and SMACKED it, came back down and immediately smacked it again, but I'd waited to long to hit it and just barely faded.  This is the sickest wave I've caught in easily two weeks.

A guy to my north had a great right come to him and he was paddling for it nonchalantly.  I was concerned he was going to miss it and for what may be the first time ever yelled "PADDLE!" at a complete stranger.  He missed it and a couple of people let out a collective groan.

The wave supply once again dried up with the high tide and my comrades and I were left jonesing.  I floated down to a couple of guy's who were discussing Josh Kerr's choice in boards.

The waves were really bogging now with the water continuing to rise so I bailed.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

9.14.13 Shifty but Better than Yesterday!

I got out there earlier than yesterday, hoping my timing would mitigate the crowds a bit.

At first, I didn't see much of anything a I came around the bend, but then I saw a good-sized wave break, and not all at the same time.

I paddled out right at Wisconsin Street and endured a set on the head.  I had timed it so my chest would hit my board just as the last wave of the set broke.  This gives one the most chance for a dry hair paddle-out.  Unfortunately, a sneaker set detonated and ruined my chances of that.

I looked behind me and was awestruck at how far removed I was from my taking-off point.

I perched next to another hippy-looking dude, but different from yesterday afternoon's session, unless this guy had spawned a massive beard overnight.  He too was on a Firewire Vanguard, marking the first time I'd ever seen someone else on that board.

I finally got a look at a nice wave, but there was an older guy on a log paddling furiously inside of me.  I sensed a snake, so I went right. I dropped down somewhat brusquely, did a sweet-feeling drawn-out bottom turn and smacked the lip GLORIOUSLY.  The wave then fizzled, as though I'd slayed it.  I paddled back out and saw an extended foam trail from my spray, or blood from its jugular if you prefer.

After this wave I was caught in a nasty rip.  I didn't realize it right away, as it had been months since the last time this had happened.  I'd almost forgotten about them!

I was slowly drifting away when I saw a guy with a shaved head struggle to catch a wave, get barreled and swallowed up in the whitewash, and make it out.  I complimented him on it and he wasn't sure he was in the barrel.  Looked like it to me.

The rip took a solid grip of me and I'd grown wise to it when I noticed waves breaking elsewhere, but not where I was.  In hindsight, I wish I'd paddled with it, but I spent the next half-hour or so paddling against it, then perching and trying for a wave that did roll through that was choppy because of the rip.

I tired myself out and was over it, especially as the tide hit its peak and slowed the waves WAY down.  Maybe tomorrow will be my chance...?

Friday, September 13, 2013

9.13.13 Swell is Here; Oside Beachbreaks at Critical Mass PM SESSION at Michigan

I was wiling away the time until dinner when I decided to go surf.  I thought about going skimming because of the high tide, but if the surf is up, that makes little sense.

The waves were bigger than this morning and A LOT less crowded.  The wind had had its way with the ocean surface and the waves were pretty choppy, something my little board doesn't do well with (less flex and rocker with which to absorb chop).

I paddled out at Michigan and there was one other guy in my vicinity, a logger who looked soulful, enjoying the day to the fullest.

I caught three waves.

The first was a left that I immediately outran.  When I wasn't dodging extremely racy waves, I was pulling back from them, so I entered into my experience with this wave with my foot on the throttle.  Oops!

As I was paddling out, a set detonated outside of me.  It was maxing out what this place can hold which is a couple of feet overhead.  Any bigger and I believe it would have been, as Aaron says, a "big stinkin' closeout".

I caught my second wave after recovering from how far back the big set pushed me.  My arms were noodling out from the morning sesh, gym, and then the five minutes of paddling and duckdiving that immediately preceded this wave.  I barely made it up, dropped down after having to stomp on my front foot, and was on my way.  I felt a burst of speed from my bottom turn and laid into a slash.  I wasn't too amped on it, as the section on which I slashed was a little chubby, so I didn't get even a shot at releasing the fins.  The wave then slammed shut in front of me and I had very little speed, so I called it a wave.

I paddled back out for one last chance at redemption and sort of got it when I dropped in on an overhead closeout, no small feat on a 5'4".  I rode it in to the sand and reflected on the limitations of this board.  No crabgrabs. No super steep drops.  Iffy on choppy waves.  Other than that, I love this board.

9.13.13 Frustration Sets in as Swell Increases at Wisconsin

For perhaps only the second time, I spotted waves breaking while rounding the coffee place by the beach.  It almost always appears to be flat from there, but not today.  A high school or so kid I see at least three times a week lives between the coffee shop and the waves and he never mentions the surf (unless he's asking me how it was on my way back) and he said, "There's some fun ones out there!.

He's absolutely right.  There are some fun ones out there.  Unfortunately, they're few in far between thanks to the high tide which is swamping it out and the massive crowd, perhaps the biggest I've seen in the almost two months I've lived here.

I decide to trek south, as Wisconsin proper is logjammed with rolling heads, lulled to paddle out by the easy access.  I see scattered peaks which look like something out of a surf mag, but blink, and you'll miss it.  This works both ways, though, as I realize the shots in surf mags are merely a snapshot of a moment when the waves looked amazing, before they raced out and slammed shut.

There was a nice offshore wind to top it all off.  We had SOO many of the ingredients for a magical surf session, but I had quite the opposite experience unfortunately.

I paddled out and was raring to get into one.  A wave would come and there'd be a dude on it.  I'd paddle to where he just caught it, and right where I was, another wave would come.  About fifteen minutes of this later, I caught my first wave and it wasn't a great one.  I got one pump in before it closed out.

I caught a right and slammed into my crabgrab stance.  I forgot my board doesn't have a nose and immediately penetrated into the water with my board.  Looks like I'll be scrubbing crabgrabs from my repertoire for the foreseeable future...

I got a little covered up on a left that shut down as I was entering it.  I took advantage of my positioning to sneak a view of the barrel and then I got out of there.

A BOMB came in south of me and I saw a guy scratching furiously for it.  He dropped in and got barreled almost immediately.  The spinning cylinder engulfed him completely and he appeared to have been the victim of the fin grip-killing foamball.  I complimented him on his drop and he smiled and said, "Almost had it".

About twenty minutes later, I had my eye on an ok looking left which appeared to have a line.  I dropped in as a guy about five yards away was paddling and dropped in a second after me to my inside.  Not only did he drop in, he ate it on his first turn.  I came up just before he came up and I stared daggers at him.  He felt my death stare, looked straight at me, then looked away.

The guy looks like a cross between Tom Curren after an alcohol bender and Chris Ward.  He surfed like neither. 

The guy paddled back out and I kept staring at him.  He seemed to glance over to see if I was still staring at him but playing it off as though he wasn't.  He eventually settled five yards or so outside of me.  About ten minutes later, we're all paddling out lazily as a set is spotted on the horizon.  I make a gut-call and furiously sprint-paddle south, putting me in priority over villain.

Nice Drop guy, the guy I complimented, has priority so I pull back.  Villain takes off on him and ruins one of the sicker waves of the morning for him.  Villain paddles back out nonchalantly and I'm really staring at him HARD this time, like Tex Avery cartoon eyes hard.  He sees me staring and this time doesn't break my gaze.

We stare each other down for a solid five seconds and when he's close enough I say to him, "Are you going to burn everybody today?" to which he replies, "Oh, sorry bro, did I burn you?".  I point to Nice Drop guy and say "You just burned him.  You burned me ten minutes ago." and he reacts with, "Oh, sorry man".

I glance over at Nice Drop Guy and he's smiling.

Rather than continue on with villain and allow him to completely ruin my morning, I quit fighting the current and let it whisk me away to a happier place.  The waves at where I paddled out were maddeningly frustrating and I wanted to see what points north had in store.

About five minutes after letting go and letting God, I caught a nice left which did not immediately section off on me.  I got a pump in, then a small smack, then one more pump before I attempted a 360 rotation off the foam.  I felt my fins slip for  a second, but then they took hold and I flopped over them awkwardly.  It felt good to get a screamer, even if it was one of the smaller waves.

Nothing great came in the next twenty minutes.  I was drifting closer to Wisconsin Street.  I decided to go in and try my luck north.  I walked for five minutes or so and paddled back out. 

Unfortunately, it was even worse there.  I caught one wave that closed out, convinced myself to give the morning sesh one last shot, and paddled back out.  I sat for fifteen minutes until I decided to go in on a closeout.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

9.12.13 Good-Sized but STEEP South Swell Rolls Through

Rumors of an incoming swell were percolating through the coconut wireless.  It was to have arrived yesterday, filling in overnight.

I am pleased to report that there is in fact fresh swell in the water!  It is a little jarring to see it first-hand, after nearly two weeks of lackluster waves.

The problem, and there's almost always a problem, wasn't the size.  It wasn't the period; the waves were spread out fine.  No, the wind wasn't an issue.  I thought the tide might be a bit low, but it wasn't affecting the waves negatively.  Yeah, it was a little crowded, but not so much so that it affected my wave count.

The problem was the steep (180-210) angle of the swell.  It arrives at an angle and so it breaks at an angle.  It combines this unfortunate detail with the lack of sandbars, making it spill over every five or ten yards almost every time.

My first wave was a left that immediately snapped shut on me.

My next wave was a bigger, throatier wave.  It did the same, so I pulled through the wall.

A couple more repeats of the above and I got my decent wave.  It got nice and steep right where I was.  I did two very stylish (or so they felt) pumps and then smacked the oncoming spill-over whitewash.  My fins lost just a wee bit of traction, and I pulled it.  NICE!

After another half-hour of getting excited, paddling, then pulling back from closing out shoulder-high waves, I got a little frustrated.  It's akin to when you're a little kid and you see a big package with your name on it on Christmas morning thinking it's that rad present you've been lusting after for weeks, when in fact it's a winter coat or something similarly boner-bending.

Eventually, I caught another wave that had somewhat of a line, though it was much weaker.  I smacked it ok and made it.  I thought about going in, but I wanted a shot at one more.

Twenty minutes later, I paddled into a wave which had some size, maybe head-high, but it too closed out.

I did see some cool wildlife stuff.  I saw some seagulls harassing a small pod of dolphins and a decent-sized school of sardines.  I saw seagulls fly in after a fish was floundering on and over the water's surface, being chased by God knows what, only to have a pelican swoop in and snag it in an unceremonious gulp.  There were plenty of long-necked duck looking creatures also.  All of this fauna leads me to believe that fall is here, at least for the animal world, which means differently angled swell and BETTER WAVES!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9.9.13 The Bad Streak Continues

I made an amateur mistake this morning.

I clicked on "surf forecast", instead of "surf report".  The surf forecast said it was fair, 1-3'.  I grabbed my board and went for it.

My first-hand report was the 1' waves didn't have enough juice for you to do anything on, while the 2' waves closed out.

My wave of the day involved finding a wave that was 2' and stayed open long enough for me to pump twice.

Once I got back home I checked the report and it read 1-2' and Poor. NAILED IT.

Swell is on the way, though...!

9.7.13 Saturday Morning: Epic Skimboarding Conditions, Dismal Surfing Conditions

I walked down to the beach, as usual, with the Firewire Vanguard.

My first glimpse was a brutal one: complete and utter nothingness.  I continued down the ramp and I saw some shorebreak going MAYBE fifteen feet from the sand.

I had come this far and the weather was great, so I was out there!

I sat about twenty-five feet from the sand and waited for a "macker" for about forty-five minutes.  The waves I did catch closed out instantly.  I wasn't in the mood for surfing in a foot of water, as I usually reserve that for good waves, so I eventually bailed.

9.6.13 Beat The Heat PM Trunk It SESSION at Michigan

The waves were bad.  I knew this.

The air was hot.  I knew this.

I decided to just go paddle around and bask in the gorgeous weather without being negatively affected by it.

I had a hard time finding a decent corner, taking off on quite a few closeouts.  The waves were a bit bigger, which I attribute to the tide, more than anything, and MAYBE a slight kick in the windswell.

My last wave was by far my best.  I was able to descend a double-up and SMASH the oncoming whitewater.  I ecstatically claimed it with a fist up in the air, more out of relief and surprise that I got anything going in the crappy conditions.

9.5.13 Practicing my Fades at Michigan

Not too much to report on this one...

The waves and consistency were of the bad and meager varieties.  I got my exercise walking to and from the beach, not all that much once I was in the water...

I think I stood up on three waves and I faded off the back on all three of them.  I would have been better off skimboarding.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

9.4.13 Michigan Morning Trunk-It Sesh; Talk Story Segment #1

The waves were mushy for the most part, but once in  a while, you could get on a clean one.  The sets were chest-high at best and not too bad consistency-wise.

I paddled out and sat for a solid five minutes.  I caught a left, floated almost immediately and pulled it.

I had to pull back from about a half-dozen or so waves in a row in a span of about fifteen minutes.

Then a pretty sick one came.  I jumped on it and saw an Aussie guy who'd been ripping paddle for it, glancing at me for half a second while I was standing, descending the wave about fifteen feet outside of him.  I watch as he stands up.  I whistle loudly and he decides he's more special than I am and continues on his snaking journey.  I kick out so as to avoid any chance of a collision (very slight chance he could have gone for a roundhouse cutty as I pumped down the line) and give him a look.  He makes eye contact for another half-second and looks away as he paddles towards his buddy.

There are three courses of action when you feel you've been wronged in the water:

  1. Confront the person so they know you will not be tolerating this behavior.  
  2. Ignore it
  3. Shadow the person so you're always just to their inside and take off on every wave they paddle for.
I'm proud to say I chose option 2.  I felt anger bubble up, but almost instantly I let it go.  I did fantasize about saying something to the effect of "Next time that happens my board may or may not fly in your general direction".  But I didn't.

Talk Story

It's time to unveil a new segment of the empire, Talk Story.  For those not in the know, the act of talking story is a Hawaiian tradition of passing knowledge and experiences down.  Historically, this has been done from an older generation to a younger one, but more and more, it's evolved (devolved?) into storytelling between people regardless of age groups.  In this connotation (bastardization?) of the phrase, it's exclusively surfing, contextually.

Dateline, August 1998...  I had just gotten back from El Salvador for my first real summer of surfing down there.  I was surfing sizable Del Mar (18th Street or so) and had a line on a juicy overhead left.  I was going down the line when another surfer, who I will refer to hereon as PussyBoy, not only looked in my direction, seeing I was up and riding, but he smiled oh so slyly and took off on me, RIGHT in my way. Had I not averted course, there most likely would have been a collision.

I had waited over an hour for that set wave and had endured a few poundings and PussyBoy had decided he deserved it more, even though he'd paddled out fifteen minutes or so before popping up on my wave of the day.

I was livid.  I was young. I was foolish.  I was insecure.  I was weak.  So I didn't say a word to him.  He paddled out and stayed about fifty feet north of me, waiting for the next wave to arrive.  I paddled over to him, then past him, giving up priority on the lefts.  And from that moment on, every wave PussyBoy paddled for, I paddled right with him, ten feet to his inside.  PussyBoy employed evasive maneuvers after the first three waves this happened.  I followed him.

Two more waves passed, same result.  He paddled in a bit and I went with him, not saying a word and pretending it was all a coincidence of cosmic chances.  He then paddled for a nasty closeout which even I, in my most passive-aggressive FU didn't want a piece of, straightened out and went in.

My God, did that feel incredible.
Back to the day's session...

I caught a couple of other waves, but I faded off the back.  I remember being irked by hearing the Aussie's nasally drawl, an accent I usually find charming (not in a gay way, though; that I save for Latvians).

I eventually went in after deciding I was over it.

9.3.13 Yet Another Michigan PM SESSION

I am at least on the cusp of breaking my record for most trunk sessions in the US in a year.  For this I credit the recent hot spell and my cousin's visit and subsequent surf lust.  This last swell gets only partial credit because it was only a partial swell.

I had gone to Carlsbad Pipelines while waiting for a table at Las Olas and scored a small trail fin without having to buy the ridiculously-priced liquid-slicing triumvirate (yes, that word works as you can also buy politicians).

I installed the trailer fin as my center fin and started my walk.

The waves were waist- to chest-high, with some very rare toppers.

I had a nice pump-pump-bury-the-rail-slash sequence on one of them.

I caught a smaller left, did a nice turn (I saw the spray), then ended it by sliding the tail out in the foam, on purpose.  I was trying to see how that smaller fin changed things.  I flopped awkwardly off my board after my weighting and momentum had a disagreement.  This would probably be my highest-scoring wave on the new board if judges had been watching.  A solid 1.5, no question.

I was looking towards Pier and I saw a dolphin breach and fly over an oncoming wave.  I can't say I've ever seen that from behind a wave before!

After this wave, I didn't catch much of anything, so I went in.

Friday, September 6, 2013

9.1.13 The Start of the September Sessions... PM SESSION plus some Knowledge Droppin!

Fall in SoCal is usually a wonderful time for surfers.  The water is still relatively warm.  The summer south swells tend to ease up, but not cease completely.  The WNW/NW Aleutian swells begin to crank.  The weather/wind is more favorable, usually.

When you have two solid swells coming from different directions and a light offshore grooming their progeny, amazing sessions tend to go down.

On top of this, groms and college students are back in school, so the crowd factor is diminished.

I was thinking about this the other day:  How long has it been since we had a Japanese typhoon swell?  I don't think it's happened since the inception of this blog.  These are great because they arrive almost completely unfettered by the Channel Islands, though you need a massive storm to make up for the swell decay.

According to what I can remember from Mira Costa's Oceanography courses, for every day a swell is in the water, travelling to its final destination, it loses 20% of its energy.  This means that if a Japan typhoon swell kicked up ten-foot swells, the swell would be at just over 3' with five days of travelling across the Pacific.  If we got really lucky (and the Japanese suffered the opposite luck) and got storms producing 20' swell, we'd have a nice overhead day as a result.  Not only that, but  with that direct a swell angle (280-ish degrees), we wouldn't suffer from swell refraction at a lot of spots, burning off more swell energy.

One thing that's nice is when the swell is a certain size, the actual wave heights are bigger, as waves jack up when they feel bottom.  The surf reports tend to account for this, the buoys do not.

With this in mind, it's easy to see just how fickle a beast good surf can be.  Here's a list of things that have to be right for a GREAT session to happen:

  • Swell Size: AFTER accounting for swell decay...
  • Swell Direction: SSE Baja hurricane swells are exciting to see on swell maps, but they will bypass most of SoCal until the hurricane tracks west.
  • Swell Period: If the waves are too close together, you'll be surfing disorganized waves, and likely, not for long.
  • Tide
  • Wind Direction
  • Wind Speed: Offshores are great, but not so much at 15+ knots.
  • Bathymetry: Sand bars have to be right; Reef has to be freed of sand.
  • Light: It's difficult to have a truly magical sesh if you can't see.  How many amazing sessions have been missed due to it being nighttime, when the winds are generally calm?
  • Crowd
  • Timing: It was SOOOO good for ten minutes, now the wind changed or the tide dropped, and you missed that 90-minute window! Conversely, this works for surf trips (the longer the swell window, the better)
  • Spot Choice/ Local Knowledge: You surfed Turtles, which was ok, while Suckouts was going off on the low tide.

Honorable Mentions
  • Camaraderie: While not necessary to have an incredible session, it amplifies the stoke levels if you and a surf bro are making memories together (that sounded gayer than I intended, apologies).
  • Health: Though I've done it quite a few times, suffering through an injury or illness will reduce your stoke level and your longevity in the water.
  • Level of Critters: Sea lice is BRUTAL! Sharks are fine so long as no one gets snapped.
  • Scenery: Check out the 7.2.12 entry to get a glimpse
  • Pollution: Oh, did it rain in the last 48-72 hours?  You better hope the new sandbars and diminished crowd are worth the threat of an ear infection or worse...!
  • Board Chemistry: Your board broke and you're forced to borrow your buddy's 6'5" six-channel pintail.  This will give you blue balls immediately if the waves are pumping.
On to the surf...

This day was slightly better than the last afternoon session I had as the tide was a bit lower.  I had a pretty sick floater from which I jumped off the lip and landed at the tail end of the sloping section of the wave.  I felt my nose go under quite a bit, but I managed to pull it out in time before I was sent seaward.

I had a solid hit on another left, and it turned into one of those I-didn't-plan-on-cutting-back-but-I-have-all-this-wave-behind-me-so-here-I-go moments.  I'm sure it wasn't a seamless roundhouse, but I'll take it!

I was in danger of getting surfed out, so I decided to go in in the off chance tomorrow would have better waves.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

August Wrap-Up

Wisconsin 9
Minnesota 3

August brought a total of 14 sessions, which is a healthy number!

Warm, COLD, Hot.  August was vexingly inconsistent.  The month of August has been a tragedy-filled month for my family, as I've lost my maternal grandfather (at 38), my uncle Eduardo (at 33), and my mother (at 49) during that 31-day span over the years.  And now the latest tragedy (though it doesn't quite compare), my DHD (at 2) is in two pieces in my surfboard graveyard.

Overall, I'm ok with it happening, as it introduced me to the Firewire Vanguard.  What I went through can be considered similar to being dumped (I'm guessing, as this hasn't happened to me YET) and then meeting a better lady.  You didn't realize quite how bad it was with the former lady until the better lady sweeps you off your feet.  Of course, the Vanguard and I are still in the first month of our torrid love affair.  We'll see what happens when the bloom is off the rose...

8.31.13 Gettin' It while the Gettin's Good PM SESSION

Considering Tommy had about a 100-hour window in which to get his surfing in for the year, he especially was frothing.  He had decided on taking out my fish, after he insisted on needing more floatation than the 6'1" Epoxy Merrick. 

The waves were not as bumpy as I'd expected, given the afternoon winds.  The swell was losing its mojo and we sat a lot more than we caught waves.

I caught quite a few waves on which I would either lean forward or squirt water through the tail and then fade.

I had one wave I was able to connect to the inside, but the oncoming section immediately reared up and snapped shut.

We got swept down a ways, but our luck was no better there...

8.31.13 M-I-M and I hit up Wisconsin, sans Tommy

After feverishly extolling the breath of fresh air that was the previous morning's session, I was able to convince Mike to come up to Oside for a bit of S swell goodness.

My cousin Tom was over it, as his back was still aching from the plane ride over, exacerbated by the double dose of bending it in ways he's not used to.

The waves weren't nearly as good as the previous day's, but they were consistent.

I had a solid hit on a right on which I felt as though I threw a bunch of spray.

I was able to get a nice left on which I smashed the lip, finishing the wave.  Mike gave me his fist pump of approval on that one.

I also did a solid floater.

I offered Mike the opportunity to try my board and he was over it.  It was probably of out habit, but if I had the chance to try out new technology, I would take it!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

8.30.13 Frothing, We Vie for a Wisconsin PM SESSION during New Swell

After the delicious bounty upon which we feasted this morning, we came back for seconds.  It had been a LONG time since my last afternoon session and I was going to be trunking it, so two long streaks broken...!

We paddled out right at the foot of the ramp of Wisconsin Street.  The waves weren't as consistent as this morning, leaving me fretting this swell wouldn't be as strong as was expected.

The waves were a little bit lazier than I would have liked.  For this, I blame the tide.  The crowd was bigger than I'd anticipated, drawn out most likely by the gorgeous weather.

The waves I caught varied between crashing-right-by-the-shore shore pound and oafish-but-decent-sized outside waves which did or (usually) did not connect to the inside steeps.

The one memorable wave I caught involved me jumping on a shorebreak wave, pumping one too many times, and attacking a wave sideways, making me flop onto my back.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

8.30.13 My Cousin Tom arrives with some Surf in tow

My cousin and best man Tommy arrived last night and was excited about surfing.  He had not gone since I saw him in El Salvador over a year ago.  He lives in DC and the waves within driving distance leave a lot to be desired, unless we're talking about hurricane season.

As we walked to the surf, I extolled tales of what he might expect.  Considering his last session was in El Salvador, I may have overblown it a bit.

The waves did not disappoint.  What normally would have been lazy bumps tripping over themselves every ten or fifteen yards was in fact a sight I hadn't seen since July 20th, and before that, winter.  A wave would peak, throw, then peel for 20+yards at a time before closing out.

I caught easily a dozen waves, the most I've caught in one session in a LONG time.  It was a combination of consistency, lack of people, jonesing after a long lull in swell, and having my cousin Tom in town.

Waves that stick in my memory include a pretty long floater to finish off a left.  Another one is a sick hit I did on a left and threw a good amount of spray.

You'll have to excuse my lack of memory from such a seemingly memorable session, but I've surfed so many times since this that my short-term memory is waterlogged (ha!)

8.29.13 Is that a Mirage?

For the first time in nearly four weeks, the surf wasn't absolute crap.  There was an easily noticeable change in size from the previous fifteen or so surf checks. 

After you go through so many surf checks and leave with your desire intact, you begin to lose hope.  Your tolerance level, the lowest quality of through which you'll put in the effort to get to the beach and paddle out, drops.  A two-foot drop during which you would've yawned over the winter is now exciting.

Today there were sets in the four-foot range and they seemed massive in size.  I thought, "Do I possess the skills to make these hairy drops?".  "Do I have what it takes to go from 60 degrees back to 45, then back to 60 again?".  These were questions that would not have wandered through my head a month or two ago.

I paddled out with an ear-to-ear grin.  The conditions weren't great, thanks to a rare WNW(where'd that come from?) wind, which had increased since my initial surf check.

I caught two waves which are worth mentioning.  Both were lefts.

My first one involved a glorious two-pump shuffle until I connected with the inside.  I had to prolong my bottom turn to make it over the hump that separated the two peaks; the one I caught, and the one I was going to demolish.

My timing was off and I snapped too late.  I'd like to think I fanned a fin or two out the back, but there was no one there to confirm or deny this.

My next wave I was lucky enough to pump another couple of times, then go for a long floater, which I landed well.

The wind was making the waves feather and bump prematurely, so after about an hour or so, I was over it. 

The swell was increasing and I couldn't wait to see what was in store...!