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Saturday, August 23, 2014

8.23.14 Irony in Oside: Maxing Beachbreaks

My wife and I got right back into the swing of things and did our dawn patrol walk.  The waves were overhead with some barrel sections, but they looked very tough to judge even from land.  We walked back and I rode the bike back with my board.

I caught a couple of big ones and was glad I didn't pearl.  There was nothing more to these waves except closing out with a vengeance.  I quit fighting the current's drift at Wisconsin as there was no point in clawing for closeouts (good name for a failing surf charity). 

My wave of the day only earned this title because of its competition.  I was in full survival mode when I dropped in, hoping to see daylight and get a whack in.  I pumped long and hard and was laughing at the ridiculous distance I covered.  Eventually I got a very feeble whack in which faded me off the wave. 

As I continued north, I was excited to see no one was at Pier and it became clear quickly as to why.  The current accelerated there.  I told myself no way would I be paddling under the pier with so much water moving around but the crazy current forced my hand(s).  A wave was approaching and I was within five yards of Pier.  I had a decision to make.

I sprint-paddled towards Pier and had to quickly take into account the suck-out of the upcoming wave.  I made it through unscathed and quickly got transported north.  I can't remember ever going this fast in the ocean without being on a wave.

I eventually caught one in, over it.

8.22.14 Last Session in Nicaragua at Colorados; Trip Wrap-Up

I paddled out after not having surfed in seventy hours.  The surf took a turn for the macabre.  The day we were supposed to experience an uptick in swell we lost some size.  Then the day after that, the wind turned onshore for the first time all trip.

My ear was still clogged with Lord knows what but my back was all better, thankfully.

I paddled out with muted expectations and the surf met them.  I caught two or three waves that all closed out immediately and a left that while it was open, raced off without me.  I pumped along never gaining a step on the speedy whitewash.

I eventually decided to go in so as to make sure we were packed for the sixteen-hour trek back awaiting us.


While I won't go as far as to say I got skunked on this trip, it was not up to what I'd hoped.  My goal was to make one barrel and I think I got in six or seven, none of which were makeable.  I spent many hours watching the waves while eating and I think I saw two dudes make barrels, including chandeliers. 

The El Niño conditions have left Central America in a drought and the rivermouths aren't performing up to snuff.  The swell was also affected, as it is common for the surf to not drop under 4' for months at a time during S swell season.

The almost-trip-encompassing offshore winds left me slackjawed.  I didn't know such a place existed that gets waves.  Sure, North Shore is offshore during Kona winds, but these Nicaraguan winds were a trip.

El Salvador and Nicaragua are practically neighbors.  Their borders don't touch thanks to Honduras getting in the way and the Gulf of Fonseca separating the two landmasses.  The countries seemed very different.  Now, it's not a fair comparison as I've spent almost two decades all told in El Salvador and ten days in Nicaragua, but here are the biggest differences.

The graffiti I saw in Nicaragua was religious.  I saw no signs of gangs (shirtless kids hanging out, etc).  Our driver says it's not a problem in Nicaragua as their police force is efficient.

In Nica, there were women going to the store by themselves on their mopeds/motorbikes.  I don't remember ever seeing that in El Salvador.

I saw VERY few soccer fields along the road.  When I asked the driver about it, he said baseball is more popular in the south of the country, but soccer prevails in the north.

The beach was clean in Nicaragua.  Yeah, there was the odd piece of litter, but because there isn't a coastal population center where we were, it was practically pristine.

The streets were also very clean, comparable to the States.  The driver said it was because people collect all recyclables to trade them in.  There was the odd burning of trash here and there, but everything seemed very clean.

At no point did I or my wife feel in danger.

I will definitely be back, especially considering how tenebrous the situation in El Salvador remains.  The set-up in Nicaragua is crazy from a potential standpoint.  Nicaragua is more expensive, but we also stayed in 4-star accommodations, I'd rather die than do that in El Salvador.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8.19.14 Panga Drops Redux

I started my walk early this morning, grabbing a Zucaritas (Frosted Flakes) "energy" bar.  Once I finally reached Panga Drops, I continued on.  I wanted to see why people were paddling out on the west side of the peak.

I realized it quickly.  I'm not quite sure how it works, but I probably shaved 100 strokes off my previous count.  All I could think of was that the lefts are less consistent than the rights and so I had fewer duckdives and less wave push to deal with.

I got out there and after about twenty minutes of perching, then slowly and incrementally paddling in, I caught a left.  It was steep and I went up to the top of the shoulder and laid into one of the most traversing slashes I've ever done.  The wave kept going, albeit a little fatter, and I tried to slam off the approaching section.  I went flying over my board.  In retrospect, with that ferocity, I should have tried an air.

I caught a right very late after someone outside of me pussed out at the last second.  I got hung up on the lip, then avoided a near-pearl as I felt the tip of my nose submerge for an instant.  I over-turned too far onto the shoulder.  I took a second to appreciate how fast I was going, then dug into a strong roundhouse cutback.  My plan was to bank off the foam and set up for the closeout section but I again went flying.

I felt the initial twinges of a belly rash forming so I went in.

8.18.14 PM SESSION Reversal of Fortune at Panga Drops

The waves out front looked absolutely dismal out at Colorado so I decided to walk up the beach to see if anything was working.

I knew Panga Drops might be an option, but from this angle and this distance it looked less than stellar.  Eventually I decided to walk the ten minutes to Panga Drops to at least check it out.

As I was about five minutes from arriving, I saw a guy on a right absolutely killing it.  He was pushing hard on the wave and the wave was pushing back in kind.  He was linking turns and seemed like he was having a blast.  My pace quickened.

My first assessment of the wave, before we arrived in Nicaragua, was that it was like Sunzal in El Salvador but with a weaker shoulder.  They had a lot of similarities.  Both are deep water spots requiring a long paddle.  Both have the clunking cobblestones noise when you duckdive.  Both are located at the western end of a natural bay with an expanse of beachbreak, then a rivermouth, then unsurfable rockiness.

Panga Drops has some attractive differences.  Its bathymetry somehow magnifies the swell to easily triple the size of the waves, compared to the surf around it.  It has easily 20% of the crowd Sunzal has, thanks to its distance from population centers. The lefts there break and work, which means there are multiple takeoff spots to further diffuse the crowd. 

I decided to count how many times I paddled before I was in the perch zone.  Can you guess how many?  Remember I was paddling out on a 5'10" so that ups it a bit.  If you guessed bout tree-fiddy you would be correct.  It took exactly 350 paddle strokes to make it out there.

I saw someone paddling around who seemed to be wearing a rash guard with the exact same colors as a stone cold ripper at Colorado, but it turned out to be a grom who was super amped.  Most waves he would stand up on, he'd get blown out the back by the wind.

Since this was my first time surfing here, I didn't know what to expect.  When what appeared to be a left popped up, I eyed it suspiciously for signs of a horrible closeout, like what you'd see at Sunzal.  The signs weren't there and as the wave began to rise with me I popped up, super late but really excited. 

I descended and had SO much speed, I did a long drawn-out cutback.  I pumped a couple of times then decided to kick out.  My angle wasn't severe on the kick-out, but I caught some air and lost my footing, landing somewhat sideways on the deck of my board.

I paddled back out and caught a right, and I as I did a slash on its wide-open face with more speed than I was comfortable with, I made the mistake of letting too much wind under my nose, throwing me off-balance, and sending me off the back of my board.

The amped grom had a comment for me: "At least you got the cutback in!".

A lot of time elapsed between this wave and the next one I caught.  It was another right.  On this one I made sure my weight was over my board and bottom turned with tons of speed.  I found my target and when I went to hit it I either hit a chop or caught air because my board became airborne for less than a second  and then POW, into the drink I went.

I spent the next forty-five minutes on the inside trying to catch one in. I saw the lady who served our breakfast paddle out with a couple of her friends on longboards.  I couldn't seem to catch anything so I had to do the paddle of shame and walk back.

It's definitely the best session I've had on the trip yet, though I'm hoping Colorado does its thing soon...

Monday, August 18, 2014

8.18.14 Crowds MIA at Rising Tide Colorados

This morning the waves looked the worst they've looked on a healthy rising tide.  This bummer was mitigated by the sight of only one other dude.  I thought about paddling out and perching RIGHT next to him just to see what face he'd make but I thought better of it.

The waves were as shifty as they've ever been. After paddling out near the long ago beached tree trunk I ended up in front of the pool area of the condo complex at which we're staying.

Buzz/Mark, the condo manager was out for his usual daybreak surf report photo-taking.  Obviously, I need to be a part of this hallowed Facebook ground.

My first wave/attempt was a right on which I got covered up and had a 1% chance of making it out.  Unlike what the Occupy Wall Street people may tell you, the 99% won out yet again.

I caught a left on which I did a risky pump in a very steep part of the wave and came away with A LOT of speed.  I went a little out on to the shoulder and was set on trying a roundhouse cutty, but nixed that idea, thinking I was too close to the foam.  I did an awkward slash and finished the wave poorly.

On my last wave of note, another left, I got a good pump in and then banked/floated the inside a couple of seconds later.

Injury Report: My left ear is still clogged despite a couple of Swim Ear infusions. It's been clogged nonstop for about five days.  My wife is getting annoyed at my repeated "What?"'s and "Huh?"'s.

My back is almost to 100%.  I'm getting a pretty sick looking bruise there as well as on my right tricep where apparently there was damage too.

8.17.14 PM SESSION A Little Better but...

I paddled out about an hour after the bottom of the low tide, thinking it would be a nice compromise of hollow waves and consistency. 

It being Sunday, theoretically, I'd be dealing with fewer people as Gringos go back to their lives and get revved up for the upcoming workweek.

This was definitely the case on this session.

There were two waves of note.

The first was a right on which I swore I could get barreled.  I dropped in and pivoted into a pigdog stance and immediately regretted it.  I had tons of speed but no barrel.  I had overshot it somehow.  I tried to stand up out of it but wasn't very smooth and ended up standing awkwardly as the wave faded.

I caught a longer left on which I pumped, did a small snap, then pumped again into a bonk/floater.  The whitewash had little push and I jumped down softly and again, awkwardly.

A guy asked me if I'd gotten some fun ones and I told him, "Not as fun as I'd like...!".  He laughed and said it was downright shitty.  I was surprised to hear such a scathing review but I admit I agree.  I know I touched on this on a previous post but it's crazy seeing offshore and sometimes hollow surf and considering it to be bad for surfing.  If you took a picture, you would say it's epic, but when you see it live and in motion it's downright bad.  It's the epitome of paradoxical.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

8.17.14 Rising towards the High (Tide) Sunrise Session

Considering my experience the previous day, I decided to try higher tide again.

I paddled out and was again surprised at the relatively mellow power these seemingly nasty waves had underwater.  I wasn't manhandled once in the ninety minute session, and some of the waves pouncing on me looked beastly.  I know the tide is somewhat to blame, but in a session this long in El Salvador I can usually count on one shellshocking depth charge to inadvertently make me release my board underwater.

I thought I had a good line on a barreling left, but it was only a pause in the closeout.  I got into position and saw the lipline before I got barreled, then immediately pulled through the wave and out the back. There was no sense in risking injury for zero chance of a reward.

I got a right on which I pigdogged but the barrel was so narrow that I barely fit.  My millisecond of tunnel vision revealed a long chunk of lip throwing over, ruining any chance I had of making it.

I got a long left that turned fat pretty quickly.  I was struggling to stay on the wave.  When I finally reached the smackable section, I had to finesse it just to get any oomph out of it.  I got some, but I still faded off the back.

It's maddening to see what you long to see as a surfer (offshore, barreling waves) but it's practically unsurfable because of the speed.  When I spoke to the manager of the condo in which we're staying, he told me this is the worst year since he moved down from La Jolla in '09.  He said it was likely due to the lack of rain not making the rivers break out and form sandbars as well as what looked like an El Niño year.

8.16.14 Quick Closeout Session

My affected muscle (sounds dirty, I know) was feeling a lot better and I was ready to put it to the test.  As I walked up to the low tide surf I didn't like what I saw.  It looked remarkably flatter than earlier today, and what did show up almost immediately closed out.

I ended up catching two "lefts".  The first one closed out immediately.  The second one graciously allowed me one half-pump before imploding.

Friday, August 15, 2014

8.15.14 Trying out Low Tide Playa Colorados sans Crowd

I didn't surf this morning as the peak of the high tide was right at six.  A check around seven revealed about what I had expected, and seen the previous two high tide mornings.

Though I wasn't thrilled about low tide being just a minute shy of high noon, I would have to make a go of it.  The tropical sun appears to be directly overhead at this time of year, allowing for it to travel and cook anything unprotected with little filtering from the atmosphere. When the sun is more at an angle, it travels through more atmosphere and the radiation is more diffused.

Once that time came, I checked it and it was laughably shallow.  The few people who were out were getting stuffed into hopeless closeouts and those who weren't, were getting hung up on the lip and obliterated.  I decided to wait one more hour to see what would happen when the tide filled in just a tad.

There were guys surfing just to the east and farther to the west of our compound, and as I walked towards the westerners I saw a right that was undisturbed.  It was barreling hard and most likely unmakeable by a surfer of my skill level, but I just had to try.  This was my third full day here and I hadn't hit the low tide yet to test my mettle in its hollowness.

I was much more aware of the rip given my adventures bodysurfing the past couple of days, when the rip snagged me and put me out with the surfers.  I had a little bit of a worry in going back in while dodging the set waves that were pounding down as closeouts, but I was able to go in after about five minutes of fun.

A rip can be very useful in shuttling one out to the outside, but in closeout conditions, it can help split up the wave.  I lined up just east of the rip and about ten minutes in had a look at what would likely have been an incredible wave if I'd caught it.  It was a big left and I got that feeling of fear/excitement as it lifted me up, but ultimately I was denied and felt the needling pain of the lip water being blown back by the 10+ mph side/offshore wind in my face along with the pain in my heart.

Two or so minutes later I found a smaller left, descended slightly and ducked down.  Within a second of my stomping down I was in a dry barrel.  I was in there long enough to see the lip line I was eyeing unexpectedly join its barreling older sibling much too soon.  As I made this realization, the board was swept up from under me and I flew forward and into the water.

My adventures on the left had pushed me right into the rip, but I realized it quickly enough so as not to have to paddle back in too far.

I corrected my oversight and caught a right and tucked into a pigdog stance a bit earlier than I probably should have.  The lip enveloped me and then raced off ahead of me leaving me with no way out.

I tried again on a bigger right that seemed a little more open.  I don't remember exactly what went wrong on this one but I definitely remember what happened underwater.  While my board didn't fly into me, it very gingerly touched me on the outside of my right lat muscle and then the wave's energy compressed it extremely hard against my back.  The board then gained some forward speed and, as a goodbye kiss, the fin sliced me.

I came up and was in a lot of pain, but not so much that I thought I had to go in. I remember telling myself it was nothing and to stop being a pussy.  When I paddled it was excruciating.  I was already halfway out so I just went for one more.

In my haste to go in, I went on a wave on which I probably should have pulled back.  The wave was fine, but I was too late on it.   The steepness and the howling wind didn't help matters.  I didn't descend enough, but I had to make my move or get decapitated by the throwing lip.  I managed to get in there and got a sick view of the barrel, before getting wrapped up in the wall and tossed over the falls.  I did my uncontrollable guttural yell that is harmful in that it makes me use up air.  It usually happens when I'm going over the falls or when I'm in the air snowboarding and things went poorly.

Luckily, I surfaced unscathed and walked back to the pool where Raquel and Lucia were waiting.

I'm hoping tomorrow will be relatively painless and I'll be able to get out there at low-ish tide again.

My left ear is still stopped up and I'm now fearing I will need to get the swimmer's/surfer's ear surgery on it as it's not getting better.

8.14.14 PM SESSION More Sideshore High Tide Action at Colorados

I spent the low tide marveling at the hollowness of the waves, somewhat tempted to go out despite my wife's concern for my safety. She was tipped off by a guy who came in bleeding from the nose.  I heard him telling his buddy he hit the sandbar.  I was out there bodysurfing it for a little but didn't see his fateful right.  Some waves looked wide open and makeable, but I didn't see a single person make one which didn't bode well for my chances.  As of this writing the next day, my plan is to go for it JUST after the depths of the low tide, which should provide a bigger water cushion and better consistency.

I made plans to surf a couple of hours after the bottom of the tide thinking the barrels might be narrower but perhaps less racy and better percentage propositions.

While the waves were more open there weren't any makeable barrels out there, at least that I saw.  I caught a right pretty soon after paddling out and while I was contorted into my bottom turn I caught a glimpse of my shadow in the sprayed over water which looked styley.  I hit it well and the wave was over upon my descent.

I caught a meaty left, definitely the biggest on this trip and gazed at the lip line.  I knew it wasn't going to do anything but try to snap my neck as it was too thin a barrel for me to fit in. I did a standing island pullout and looked for another one.

No other waves of note blessed me and I beat feet back to the condo.

8.14.14 Bad Feeling turns to Relief turns to Tide-Hobbled Surf

I rounded the corner of the condo building and noticed too many people were on their way to the beach.  I was up early enough, but the head count looked like it would increase from yesterday's logjam.

As I reached the sand, Mark (manager of most of the condos), said there were twenty-three people in boats.  I shuddered.  As I paddled out, I saw a guy on a sponge wearing a backpack paddle out.  It was then I realized the twenty-three people were going on local boat trips to find less crowded surf. YES

The tide was coming off its extreme 10' peak and the surf reflected that.  I had one right on which I smacked it nice and high, then felt the wind and fatness of the wave conspire to fade me off.  I quickly shuffled my feet up towards the nose, then back down once I'd made to the descent point.  I did another smack and tried to shuffle up again but I was defeated.

I caught a left and had a good smack off the top.  I got hung up there and it turned into a floater from which I never descended.  I went in after about eighty minutes of water time, trying to save myself from the sun until the surf was worth it.

8.13.14 PM SESSION High Tide Bumpy Sideshore Colorados

The baby took a napping break and I was able to sneak out to get some more waves.  This time the tide was high and still rising.  The paddle-out was tough in that the waves kept coming at me, but when they hit me they were soft pats on the back.  It was during one of these duckdives I first felt the annoying water-stuck-in-my-ear feeling which plagued me throughout the session and still does now.  I blame it on the inflammation caused by the aforementioned ear infection.

Just after I perched a wave came and an older guy told me to go fo it.  It was a good-sized left and I was salivating.  It started off racy and I made it around the corner and found a section.  I hit it but didn't keep the board under me through the turn, causing me to splay out at the last part of the turn.

I raced another wave, this time a right, but couldn't catch up to it.  The sideshore wind had picked up and hampered my attempt at speeding towards the open face.

The waves were fat and getting lumpy thanks to the wind.  On top of that they were pretty shifty and difficult to catch.

I caught another left and was too high on it when it backed off slightly, leaving me out of the speed pocket and out of luck.

I paddled back towards Costa Rica and saw the guy who gave me the wave at the beginning of the session.  I thanked him for the wave as it's so rare to be given waves these days and wanted to make sure he knew it was appreciated.

I went in not long after so as not to get too much sun for so-so waves.

8.13.14 First Session in Nicaragua

Today this blog turns three.  In preparation for such a milestone, we spent the seventeen hours in the preceding days traveling from SD to Playa Colorado in Nicaragua.

I had the chance to surf last night but was content with pacing myself and not wearing myself out.  I was most concerned with not having prepared the skin at the bottom of my rib cage for the beating it will endure over the next few sessions, as well as a twin set of rashes on the undersides of my legs that I got from walking for too long in wet boardshorts; I know, real POW stuff.  Neither of those have been an issue as of this writing.

I managed to pick up an ear infection but I thought it was on the way down as it wasn't too much of a bother on the planes.

I was able to wake up before dawn and hooked up the leash to the board I had rented for my stay, a 5'11" Rusty rounded pintail.  When I headed down to the water I counted four other heads out, all from a panga anchored about 100 feet from the break.  The people began streaming out of the condo complex we're staying in and eventually there were way too many people out for the consistency of the waves.

I quickly caught two half-waves on which I had to bail right away due to their closing out, but then nothing.

I began one-quarter drifting, three-quarters paddling up the beach towards El Salvador.  The crowds were much thinner and I was eventually by myself.  The only problem is the waves were bad.  I paddled ALL the way to the south of the pack.

The waves were opening up quite a bit, but the head count was even less in my favor now. I vowed not to go in until I caught one.

After about twenty minutes, I caught a nice right and did two good snaps on it and one roundhouse cutty on which I scrubbed out in the wash. I was thrilled and relieved to have caught the wave and beamed with pride at the turnaround my sticktoitiveness had wrought.

8.7.14 Swell Shows Up, Snapping me out of my Surf Slumber

It had been a long time since I surfed, mostly due to lackluster swell issues.  Today, that changed, so I got out there.

I pedaled down to Harbor after being dissatisfied with what I saw at points south.

The waves were overhead and the crowd to meet them was as generous as the swell.

It took a lot of paddling before I caught my first wave.  It was at least head-and-a-half.  I caught it knowing it would close out within a few seconds, but wanting to get my surf legs under me.  I felt the power and it made me giddy with excitement, a feeling I hadn't felt in the water in a long time.

After forty or so minutes of paddling, I caught a right and did an ok snap on it.

Not much more happened, as I had to deal with the crowd and shifty waves.  I went in and pedaled home.