G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Beach Breaks and Cold Offshores

Friday December 31, 2010
My new year's resolution for 2011 is to get out more and adjust my mind set. I started practicing that today searching for some new for me that is.

A couple friends had given me some tips on some places to check so I followed their advice and my nose. None of these places are secret spots, far from it. But I'm not telling. For the most part they're still relatively uncrowded. My main stomping grounds are getting full. And what with one of the worst Winter's for surf that I can remember, everyone is heading to the beaches because there's just nothing going on in town.

I got a late start on purpose. It was cold this morning, 33 degrees when I left at 8:30 and it never got above 50 or so. It was clear and sunny and the wind was brisk offshore, putting a wind chill on the temp. It stayed that way, even though the high thin clouds and low storm clouds that moved in steadily promised to bring us rain tonight. Eventually I got into the water around 10:30 and it was still cold.

Two of the three places I stopped are bad for auto burglaries, one being auto burg heaven. But both these spots had good sand bars and offshores grooming several left and right peaks. Since the first spot I checked was number one of three, I looked for a while and left to check out spot #2. This place has a scenic little parking lot in a secluded bowl surrounded by sand dunes. It couldn't be prettier. Also a great location for a smash and grab. There wasn't a lot of glass on the asphalt and I looked pretty hard. No one out on the 3-4 ft. peaks that were getting their tops blown off by the cold winds. Here, it was a long walk out to the beach through the dunes on a lot of soft sand. This would have been my favorite spot but for the secluded parking lot and long walk back. If the bad guys hit your car, there would be nothing you could do about it. Matter of fact, this spot was so secluded that a determined bad guy could just rob you...forget about the car.

Spot number three is a popular beach break, full of sand bar peaks all up and down the beach. When I pulled in, the lot was packed. There were only a handful of guys out surfing, but another handful of guys were wet suited up and getting ready to go. I hung out for a little while, taking it all in and feeling the tug of spot number two. No one out there, and some good waves on tap.

So I nosed the Golf back onto the access road and found the northbound highway back to spot number two. This time as I pulled into the lot there was no one there except one guy sitting in his car reading. WTF? Reading? You gotta be kidding me. I suppose I could throw all my valuables in a backpack and take them with me, or maybe just give him my wallet up front and go surfing? Final decision, I just couldn't bring myself to surf there. It just seemed like a guaranteed break-in on a holiday weekend. So I drove back to the first place I stopped.

Surfing this morning was the icing on the cake. I'd already told myself that this was a recon, if I don't surf, no big. But now there were fewer cars in the lot and only three guys in the water. This place wasn't near as sketchy for theft so I changed into my gear, grabbed the SIMSUP and made the short walk down to the shore. I took my belongings with me though, in my backpack, just to be on the safe side. (After my surf a constable on patrol cruised the lot and I stopped him for a chat. The break-ins happen, but not as frequently as one would think. It's actually fairly safe for now because they've got decent staffing. That probably won't be the case with Cali's next budget. That will let the rats back in no doubt.)

I paddled out through a perfect channel and into a bar that was putting up multiple left and right peaks. I sat wide, giving respect to the shortboarders already out. They were taking the smaller waves that broke further in. But the way the set-up worked is that I could hang out the back and pick off the bigger waves without getting in their way. I enjoyed a number of steep drops on right handers that would wall up down the line. The secret was to cut left as soon as the curtain came down and then stay with it until the wave reformed on the inside. Then it would just morph into a long (but smaller) down the line right almost into the beach. Paddle out back through the channel and do it again. It was somewhat inconsistent for the bigger waves but it was fun and as much work as I wanted to do at a new spot. Getting caught inside (which happened once) wasn't something that was all that much fun, even in the small beach break which was in the head high range on take off and then chest high for the remainder of the ride.

In 38 years of living on this stretch of coast, I'd never been to these beaches before. Amazing. It feels good to be here now though. I'm thinking that 2011 is holding.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two Wind Swell Sessions In Between The Rain

Monday, December 27, 2010
Today was all about homecoming. All it took was a small northwest wind swell in decent conditions and everyone showed up. It was no surprise. For over a week we’ve been gripped by back to back weather systems which have brought rain and unfavorable nearshore winds to the reefs and beaches. Today’s 10 ft. at 12 second nearshore wind swell was messy and nothin’ to write home about, but it was ten times better than what we’ve been getting in town recently.

I ran into so many friends it took 20 minutes just to get from the street to the beach. Priscilla, Michael and Joanna were at the gate, along with J’s dog Riley. Jo had her new board which is a mini-Simmons so we had to talk and eyeball the new ride for a while. Ron was heading down to the shore with his 10 ft.
SUP and John and Sean were coming up the trail. Tim was on the landing giving it one last look after his dawn patrol session with the usual suspects.

It was shift change when I paddled out through Sarges which was a lot less crowded than an hour ago, making for Middles which only had two SUP guys on it and looked OK. The swell was soft and lacked energy, but the 2-4 ft. peelers put up an occasional fast section over the inside reef and was a whole lot better than nuthin’. Ron and I surfed there for about a half hour and a few others SUP
surfers paddled out, one of whom was Steve, who’s been riding the beaches a lot lately. Haven’t we all!

I lasted almost two hours before it just got too inconsistent and small to be all that much fun anymore. The sun was out, the surf was up and it looked like Boreal on a Saturday afternoon. Which made not good enough for the amount of people who were now jockeying for waves. Time to call it a day. It was good to get some while the gettin’ was good. Tomorrow it rains.

Wednesday December 29, 2010
If half of life is all about showing up, the other half is about showing up at the right place and at the right time. This happened today.

Yesterday’s 1.88” of rain (at my house) put us almost five inches ahead of this same time last year for total rainfall. They say the snow pack is at about 150% of average. La Nina is supposed to be mild and dry. Not necessarily. My take is that La Nina can also mean no really big storms can get going in the cold water. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a whole lot of little storms. And that’s what we’ve been having.

But today it started to dry out, putting up occasional showers before the sun came out steady about mid-afternoon. I was standing on the cliff at the lookout in one of those little showers getting soaked and trying to decide whether it was worth paddling out. Yeah, there was a little nearshore swell in the
water, mostly blown up by the northwest winds which were spinning up as the low pressure system exited our area. Not a lot of guys out, seven. Not bad really. The weather was probably keeping people away and no commercial websites were pimping the swell. But it was inconsistent. I wavered, but didn’t really want to go back home empty handed. Then a sweet looking six wave set came through that lined up nicely along the low tide reef. That was enough to make me head for Sarges and the Yellow House.

The wind wasn’t bad but it was up with occasional strong gusts. On a SUP,
surfing in windy conditions makes for a lot of extra effort, but I’ll take that any day if it’s low tide, 3-5 ft. and the howling offshores are making the waves stand up for two to three hundred yard rides down the line over the kelpy reefs.

I paddled out at 12:45, almost dead low tide, heading for Yellow House. I surfed there for forty-five minutes. The place was a shadow of it’s usual self. No sand, not big enough, lot’s of kelp. But zero guys out and still seven at Sarges which looked much better but still was inconsistent. YH wasn’t even breaking off the point. The best
waves were in the middle of the little pocket beach bay and while there were a few fun rides on offer there, it didn’t take much incoming tide to swamp it. I’d been keeping my eye on Sarges and when it got down to four guys, I headed over.

My first ride there was a swing wide that put up a nice peak right off the cement wall. The wave had a long wall and nice shape, giving up some nice corners in past John’s buoy and then beyond. As per usual, the smaller waves faded away in the deeper water. By now the wind had come up a lot. According to the personal weather station
nearby, wind was mostly steady out of the west northwest at 4-8 mph but gusting regularly from 9-18 mph offshore. I spend a lot of time knee paddling unless I was paddling out the back and therefore downwind. For over an hour it was either me, Teak, Eric and Dave, or me, Eric and Dave, or just Dave and me. We got lucky on the incoming tide which sent us several back to back 5-6 wave sets which were the biggest waves of the session. Rides were long and fun. Lots of climbing and dropping, turnbacks and bottom turns in the peeling racy walls who's tops were feathering off in long streamers by the screaming winds. It was definitely classic. It just doesn’t happen this way very often. We all felt blessed, and we all know how fortunate we were.

After two hours of almost non-stop paddling or surfing I was spent. Right place, right time, right on!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yesterday's Decreasing Swell Makes It Just Right

Thursday December 16, 2010

If Monday was just a wee bit too small, and yesterday a bit too big, today was just right. Jeff was up into NorCal from the Osos Nation and we hit the beaches just right for a fun surf in near perfect conditions before the deluge.

The smaller waves made it more inviting to surf the sand bar I've been riding and there were already three guys on it. One longboarder and (much to my surprise) two yakers. But there were plenty of waves for everyone and we were soon taking advantage of the well formed lines that were consistently peeling their way towards shore. The take-off spot had moved back to Monday's location and with bright sunshine and bigger waves it was a redux of Monday only better.

It's been a blessing of good timing and surf to get good waves just prior to the series of storms that are sending precursor clouds over our area as I write. Forecasts are for copious amounts of rain and high winds at least through the weekend and perhaps even into the heart of next week. Plenty of snow in the Sierras for those new Christmas snowboards.

Happy holidays everyone and Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Short Duration Wind Swell

Wednesday December 15, 2010

Surf heights and periods bumped up last night pulsing in at 8-9 ft. @ 12-13 seconds WNW. Yesterday's all day drizzle dried up but was reluctant to yield completely to anything like dry weather while acting as regent for the rains that are coming. I figured it might be one of those days when town was too small to feel the swell and the beaches would feel it too much and it would be too big for me on the SIMSUP. But when I arrived I saw one good set that looked ridable at Monday's spot. It's easy to get suckered at the beaches. You see one good set and lick your lips, but the fact is, it often turns out to be a turd sandwich in disguise.

The channel was closing out, but only on the biggest sets which were well overhead but time-able and not a lot to worry about. (Getting caught inside at the beaches on a SUP is a battle against the elements I don't usually win until the elements relent and let me pass.) You know you're going to take a few on the head, but it won't be a constant drubbing of endless pounders from which there is no escape. I made it out easily enough and started to search out the line-up. I keyed off Monday's take-off which turned out to be way off the mark for today. After a half hour of dodging set waves, getting smacked a couple times, and missing a plethora of fat rollers in the higher tide, I thought I was gonna have to scratch today off as a good try but no payoff. Then as beachbreaks do, it changed for no apparently good reason.

As series of waves lined up down coast of Monday's takeoff spot, offering a backdoor peak that put up a good drop and a long wall into a bumpy but manageable channel. Since the swell was bigger, most waves were in the overhead range and breaking harder than on Monday. I got four or five good waves in quick succession over the next half hour before it all changed again. The peak I was riding just stopped being a peak, and changed into an unridably long closing out wall. End of session.

But by then I was happy with the effort and satisfied with the waves ridden. NorCal's gonna turn into a stormy mess on Friday and then into the foreseeable future so we've got to take what we can get and be happy about it. I'm happy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Small Windswell Waves at the Beaches

Monday December 13, 2010

It's been almost two weeks since I last surfed these sandbars...they're still good, maybe even better. What with some nasty weather coming this weekend, I figured that if I wanted to get some waves prior to the wind and rain, I'd better get on it this week.

The sinus infection that's been dogging me since early November is letting up a bit after trying out a new allergy med so I finally felt like I had some energy, although I was pretty huffed after my first three or four waves.

The beaches are crowded and why not, since there has been so little winter swell, the sand bar groomed waves are really the only game in town. And even though there are literally miles of sand beaches, the same sand bars, drawing the same crowds seem to materialize year after year in the same locations. I'm gonna guess that's the by product of exposure, littoral action, rain runoff and outflow, and rip tides...conjecture for another time.

I paddled out on the SIMSUP and into a calm channel to the left of the peak I wanted at about ten minutes after eight. The fog made me think we were going to get sideshore winds, but my first wave had an offshore blowing right up into my face. Upcoast and downcoast were two good peaks that already had five to ten surfers each. This little peak in front of me was softer and smaller but I was the only one surfing there. Waves were semi-consistent in a small 3-4 ft. at 10 seconds windswell. When it gets bigger here the channels get closed out, the shore pound gets a lot rougher and getting caught inside can be brutal on a SUP. Really, I like the smaller days and when it gets bigger, hope the reef breaks will go off and the tides won't kill it.

I surfed for thirty minutes in easy and relaxing rights and lefts that put up mostly slow and mellow waves, but there were some hittable corners and some long walls, perfect for the SIMSUP. Every once in a while a chest/shoulder high set would move through bringing a little more excitement to the scene. I knew my sole, soul surf wouldn't could it? But I was still a bit chagrined when a couple longboarders started paddling out. But as I pulled into my next wave I saw that one of the surfers was Michael. Could Priscilla be far behind?

It was good to see them. It's been a long time and I had been concerned on and off that perhaps something untoward had happened that was keeping them out of the water. (In reality it was probably me that was out of the water more.) So we had a good reunion and did some catching up. Priscilla's son Patrick is now at university nearby, studying to be a teacher. Everyone is working, surfing and staying busy. We surfed together for another hour before I called it a day and headed in.

The parking lot was getting busier, more people arriving and leaving, and the spots were filling up, even one of the pro surfer, local sons paddled out, getting some relief from the pro tour grind and having a fun free surf with one of his buddies.

As always it was great to get back in the water.

South Winds Hampered WNW Gulf Swell

Wednesday and Thursday December 8 and 9, 2010

I didn't surf this swell for reasons stated below. As the best swell we've seen after the November 2 and 3 swell this year, I was looking forward to surfing some size again. Unfortunately it wasn't to be for a couple reasons. 1) The swell peaked overnight, in the dark. 2) This swell didn't last very long. 3) As it came down coast from the Gulf, it was more or less emasculated by strong south winds which took a lot of the power right out of it.

Swell numbers peaked at 10PM Wednesday night, showing 12.3 ft. at 17 seconds, 290 degrees. From there it was all downhill. Long period swell was pretty much gone by daybreak, and although there were some time intervals of 12 ft. at 14 seconds, the morning high tide gutted anything really good from happening. At 14 seconds, we're talking the lower edge of ground swell, real powerful deep water swell, and the upper rim of wind swell, nice but just not juiced up groundswell.

The swell came and went fast. Those paying attention (which was just about everyone 'cause that's what wave droughts do...force us to pay attention) got some fun rides Wednesday afternoon/evening as the tide dropped. From my point of view, those were the best waves and the best surfing.

The NWS folks (of all people) called it right on when they stated that the swell would be smaller and much weaker than the buoys would show. This was primarily as a result of the strong south winds that extended from my home surfing grounds, all the way up into the Gulf. In a sense, the south winds just blew it flat.

This isn't to say there weren't some fun waves, it just wasn't as good as most of the commercial sites trumpeted, and was therefore something of a disappointment for a lot of peeps.

Every November and April I usually come down with a sinus infection due to pollen and allergies kicking in. This year was no different except all the symptoms just wouldn't go away. So instead of going surfing, I went to the doctor to try yet another allergy med. At this writing it seems to have worked and I was able to get some waves at the beaches yesterday. I'm blaming La Nina. Two years ago we experienced a mild La Nina and the same thing happened. Let me just say it, La Nina is a bitch!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Surf In Winter Conditions at the Beaches

Wednesday December 1, 2010
Since my last surf over two weeks ago, Winter arrived. Two weeks ago I was out on my Angulo and I was still in my 4/3, no hood, no booties. The water was end of Summer NorCal warm, that is, 55 degrees. I was really looking forward to and excited about getting the SIMSUP back from Sand Dollar Ding Repair (Felix did a fantastic job repairing the broken out fin box) and getting back into some surf on it. My chance came in small 2-4 ft. surf in near perfect, but cool, Winter conditions.

It's always hard for me to transition out of warmer weather and into colder weather. I love surfing barefoot and in lighter wetsuits. So I always have to drag myself into a cold weather set-up. Get out the booties, gloves, neoprene hood and make sure everything is intact. I hate to see the warm weather go, but Winter is when we get our best waves usually, so when the surf is there, it makes it a lot easier.

La Nina is back and after Winter Storm #1 brought us fantastic surf early in November, there haven't been any significant ground swells. And I haven't been paying attention really, busy with other stuff. Getting the SIMSUP out of the shop was my wake-up call though and the forecast I was seeing was for some excellent SUP surfing conditions at the beaches. Beach break surfing a SUP is always more demanding because you can't duck dive a SUP. Getting caught inside, without a channel to escape into, can be a frustrating experience. Usually, instead of getting hammered by wave after wave, I just go into the beach and wait for a lull, then prone paddle out the back and into the line-up. I like it best when the waves are big enough (or small enough depending upon how you look at it) to be groomed into rideable lines by whatever sandbars are out there. Sometimes if it gets too big then it's just nothing but closeouts. But today was almost perfect.

The morning weather was Winter superb. Cold and sunny with light offshore breezes were holding up perfect A-frame peaks in two different locations. I chose the nearest peak which was being surfed by only two people. We rode there for about half an hour before Paul paddled out on his shortboard. Surf was 2-4 ft. and super consistent. Everybody was getting ride after ride. I couldn't believe it wasn't more crowded, but that solved itself shortly. People trickled into the line-up until there were just too many. Paul took one into the shore break then paddled out downcoast to a peak that didn't look as good to me. I knew he wouldn't mind, so I tagged along with him.

He'd surfed this peak last night on his longboard until darkness forced him out of the water. Even though the wind had changed direction and was more onshore, this downcoast peak was fun. The two of us surfed it alone until another shortboarder joined us. There were a lot of waves. Finally after another hour Paul went in and I decided to call it a day too.

I paddled back upcoast, past the first peak, through the rip chapped channel and was headed in when I saw Ralph and Mary surfing yet another peak. We chit-chatted a while and swapped boards. I've always wanted to try Ralph's short stick and he wanted to take a spin on the SIMSUP. I couldn't stay long though and had to get going so we only got a couple waves apiece. We'll have to take a rain check for future swaps.

Kirk sent me a heads-up re some pics posted of me on a local website. I'd seen a guy shooting from a tripod early on, and I thought he was taking promotional pics of this girl. But he takes the photos for sale later. The shots are nice but I didn't find the ones of me all that great surfwise, even though the photo quality was ono. I poached the ones he posted and put them here. Check the website, it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clean Windswell Before the Rain

Wednesday November 17, 2010
(Posted Sunday November 21, 2010) The weather forecast was for rain and a major cooling trend for the weekend. Snow is forecast for the Sierras, and no doubt the ski and snowboard slopes will be open for business if the storm delivers the cold goods. This being the last chance to grab a few sliders before the impending rain and winds, I pulled my trusty Angulo 10-0 out of the rafters and headed for the usual spots.

The 8-0 SIMSUP is in the shop, drying out and awaiting the necessary fin box repair. Felix said he had to keep it around for a few days and monitor the moisture in the styrofoam. EPS is notoriously thirsty when exposed to water, and it has to be perfectly dry in order to work on. But we checked and double checked it on Friday and pronounced it good to go. The timing was right as he was just getting a batch of EPS boards ready for repair. The SIMSUP got in line. It should be done and good as new Monday or Tuesday.

I paddled out past Sarge's where Sean was playing around on Joanna's new stick which was expressly made for a pending trip to the Maldives. They're pretty sold on a southern atolls trip with Tropicsurf and one of the caveats is that board size is limited to seven feet. Click on the Tropicsurf link and you'll see why. I took a boat trip to the Maldives with Tropicsurf in 2003 with my buddy Joe. It was hands down a fantastic trip with good to great surf and a crew that was knowledgeable and attentive. This was back in the days before the Maldives became a popular surf destination that is now somewhat overrun with surfers. Sean was first day surf testing a Vernor 6-10 "miniSimmons" shape. I didn't get to see it but I'm looking forward to checking it out.

The surf was in the 2-4 range, mostly small and somewhat inconsistent. The tide was low so the kelp was in play, but not all that bad. Only two guys out at Gdubs so I hung out wide of the main peak where there was actually a longer ride before it morphed into a bowl section with a carpet of kelp for a ramp. I never could make it past that section.

I've gotten so used to riding the smaller SIMSUP that I missed the compact maneuverability compared to the Angulo. But the Angulo is fast in trim, noserides really well for a SUP, and is steady as she goes, which almost made up for the additional swing weight of a board that actually weights less than the SIMSUP, even though it's two feet longer!

I used to rail at, and curse the kelp. But I think I'm over it. There's really nothing I can do about it. Guys will say let's cut it, maybe the kelp harvesters could cut it, etc. but, it won't happen. It's here and most likely here to stay. If the water warmed up that could thin it's ranks, but just the opposite is happening. This session was most likely my last without booties. Today's water temps were 54 degrees. Anything consistently under 55 degrees and I'm into booties. As we get deeper into Winter the thicker mil hood will come out of it's bag, along with the gloves for those 30-something degree mornings.

There's no doubt that Winter is our best wave time here in NorCal, but along with the good waves, we have less time to surf them. Long gone are the days when you could be paddling out at five in the morning and surf until 9PM. Now it's six or six fifteen AM and pitch black dark by 5:30.

After about forty-fives minutes of surfing the wandering peaks by myself, Lynn paddled out on her longboard and we shared waves for another half hour before being joined by Dave and a couple others. The students and after work crowd filled in, but it never got crowded...only less consistent. I was hoping for more out of the 7 ft. @ 16 seconds West swell but you get what you get. I paddled in just before darkness fell after surfing a fun two-hour session.

The forecast was right on. From my writing desk late Sunday afternoon the temps have dropped into the low 50's and we've had over a couple inches of rain in the local mountains. Snow dumped a couple feet in the Sierras. I'd say that Winter has arrived.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall 2010 Road Trip

Tuesday November 2, 2010
I got the call a couple days I available for an extended road trip/surf trip in the state of California? I'm in. Date of departure 11/2. Even though I've got today forecast as the first day of the first major Winter swell of the season, I'm out the door at 0630, headed south. An uneventful drive puts me in the gravel in front of our staging area at 0930. We load and go and are out of town by noon bound for the open roads and destinations south, knowing a great swell is in the water and the weather is Fall Cali Classic. It really don't get better than this.

Our first surf is at a point named after a crazy bird. The swell angle is really too steep to get into this part of the bight, but what is getting in is putting up 2-4 ft. concave barrel sections ten feet from the sandy shoreline which is peppered with rocks waiting to put holes in heads or boards, whichever comes first. We surf for almost two hours, but the real magic is yet to come.

Wednesday November 3, 2010
17 bucks a night to stay in this upscale beach town where rates are ten times that for a flea bag room that the subsidized homeless usually inhabit is more than a screaming deal. We book two nights and in the dim but brilliantly lighted first morning sunrise after the first night, meet Matt for our journey into the best surfing day of the trip. For me it is the best bigger wave surfing day I've had in two years. Epic and classic are the descriptive words that come to mind. Take your choice, it is both.

I'd surfed this pristine point break once before. It was a dismal failure for me. Instead of going with local knowledge, I'd forged ahead on my own. That was a mistake I corrected today. I was a little apprehensive to be paddling the SIMSUP into 6-12 ft. near perfection with not another SUP in sight. This is a locals heavy spot, so I opted for a strategy that worked out well this time.

I've wanted to get the SIMSUP into bigger waves just to see how well this 8'0" mini-Simmons inspired short SUP would perform. Today was just the kind of day I was looking for. The biggest sets were in the 8-12 ft. (faces) range, with smaller, consistent sets coming in at 6-10 ft. regularly. And in truth, if you can surf, this is a great spot to SUP surf. But if you can't consistently ride, and ride well, then stay away or it won't be pleasant.

My strategy was this...I paddled out slowly from the beach. Watching waves and riders, sussing the line-up, the ability level, the take-off points (there were four), the escape routes, the channel and especially noting the 12 ft. swing wide cleanup waves that were periodically mowing down the field, especially the surfers sitting a bit inside, at the main peak. I stayed well off to the side, taking no waves, just watching before moving cautiously to the inside of the main peak where I was able to grab a couple small head high peelers that were offering up long rides into the shore break. The question was, how could I work my way into the main peak line-up without ruffling any feathers? The answer came in the form of a couple big wave, swing wide channel busters that offered themselves up as I was paddling back out from a smaller wave ride.

I was able to put the paddle to the metal as this giant wall loomed up in front and to the left of me, swinging into the channel and beginning to feather. I bet on the higher tide buying me a little extra time on this one. I chose a track that would give me both speed and a good angle of attack on the steepening mountain of beautifully formed swell energy that was quickly bearing down. As I banked up the face and changed directions to catch it, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it. The top three feet of the crest was almost vertical and one of the biggest questions I had about the wide tail on the SIMSUP was about to be answered. Would it hold in big, steep energy, or would it just be popped out by the push and gravity of a bigger wave?

I had a good witness. El Jefe was just getting ready to duck dive under an eight foot wall of whitewater as he watched me free fall out of the lip and take a relatively controlled drop down the face. After the momentary weightlessness of the free fall tried to unstick me, the rest of the drop felt solid. The rail, tail and quad fin set-up held tight and my question was answered. Yeah, it'll surf bigger waves. The rest of the two and a half hour session was spent taking wave after wave. Apparently, going for the late takeoff and making it on this wave bought me a little respect, and after that, I had no problem surfing wherever I wanted. Actually, the whole place got real friendly and I fielded a lot of questions about the SIMSUP. As the tide dropped the sections became longer and more exciting, and the inside was just a flat out racetrack into the shore pound. The truth is in the outcome. The SIMSUP is the best all-around performance SUP I've ever ridden. I would recommend it to anyone who wants stability and performance in one SUP package. From the little to the large, this SUP rides them all.

The rest of the day was spent basking in the afterglow of a surfing day that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Friday November 5, 2010
The beach at Huntington goes on for a long way. There are miles of beaches, all accessible via State Park parking lots, for which an exorbitant (but understandable) fee is charged to park your car. So when the guy said, "oh, you're just surfing...go on in", we gladly accepted his invitation and pocketed the $15 parking fee. BT had told us to go surfing, it was glassy and warm and barrelish. We were skeptical. He was right.
The walk from the lot to the surf is long. Looking over the flat sandy traverse, we couldn't even see the waves. Would there even be waves? But the surf was 2-3 ft., fast and barreling in the warm weather, warm water, minus low tide late afternoon. It was so nice out I shunned my wetsuit and trunked it with a rashie.

Contrary to the popular opinion that SoCal is crowded (it don't hold a candle to my northern home breaks on the weekends) we found a super fun little A-frame peak and proceeded to catch wave after wave. There were small groups of shortboarders all up and down the beach who were also having a blast in the low tide lefts and rights, each enjoying their own sand bar. My buddy was ripping on his belly board and seemed to enter into another level of tube riding. On a belly board you can get into a lot more tubes than on a stand up board of any kind. He was tucking into a lot of one footers that stand up folks can only dream about. Paipos and belly's have a lot in common and paipos just may be the original wave riding craft.

In aggregate it would have been crowded if everyone was on one or two peaks. But there were dozens of peaks to be had. So there's the answer Norcalians, move to SoCal.

Tuesday November 9, 2010
Our mode of transportation allowed us to access some places that a walk-in surfer could never go. Unless of course he had a shaved head and was carrying an M16 or some other form of military grade weaponry. It's much harder to tell wave heights from the back, but after a while you get good at it. Especially if the raging offshores are blowing the tops back 20-30 yards. We picked a likely looking sand bar and paddled for it. Unlike Huntington the surf was a solid 3-4 ft. and dredging on the inside. No channels for the SIMSUP to glide through so the paddles out the back and into the line-up were good exercise if I didn't make the kick outs.

Here's what made today special. The surf was generated by a passing cold front that had dropped a bit of rain on us last night. The offshores were generated by the passed front. The waves were generated by the same small storm, northwest winds, along with some smaller southerly, and genuine ground swell. Waves in the sets were close together and to get them you needed to be further in than out. This put us right where the south swell sneaker swells wanted us and we got creamed by a couple outside set waves during the course of our surf. The alternative was to wait forever outside for the bigger waves. That probably would have been a reasonable choice but I never said I was reasonable. My buddy was on his smaller board so it was no big deal. Duck diving saves a lot of wear and tear. But on a SUP there is no duck diving. It worked out OK though. Lot's of waves ridden even though I almost got my head taken off by my SIMSUP getting in my face when I tried to punch through four feet of foam and the board came at me like a striking rattlesnake on meth.

But it was a fun surf with speedy waves and no bullets flying. It's always nice when you don't get arrested after a good surf.

Thursday November 11, 2010
On this last day of our road trip we hooked up with Alan in Cardiff to surf a well known beach break near his home. Again, contrary to SoCal myth, we had a two hour surf in uncrowded 2-4 ft. clean beach break with the offshores howling. Alan has been surfing there for years and knows everyone so it was a friendly, small band of surfers who enjoyed a morning in the perfect light and fast peeling beachies.

Alan is an artist who works in water colors, producing very cool slices of beach life that to me, characterize the ideal surf ethos of relaxed fun in special places. Check out his website ( and I've posted a link to the right...see Bongo Bay Studios.

On the last day of surfing, as I was getting out of the water for the last time on this trip, the first disaster struck. I have no idea how it happened but it did. One of the leading quad fin boxes broke out. This was a first for me. I've broken off fins, but never has the box failed. It didn't make much sense to me and still doesn't. The shore pound was light, I never felt anything like hitting bottom, I didn't hit anything in the water or anyone's board, there was a side shore channel in the sandy bottom that nullified any heavy whitewater at the shore, the board didn't get flipped over and smashed into the sand, and the rocks on shore were small...skipping size. It either hit just right (or wrong in this case) to force a break, or perhaps I somehow cracked it earlier in the trip? No se. We deliberately glassed the board heavy to compensate for paddle smashes (of
which there are none) so I don't think the glassing is at fault. Just one of those things I guess.

The good news is that I had a regular surfboard backup, and this was our swan song anyway. is good. After a great surf we had breakfast at one of Alan's favorite little spots on the PCH, checked out his work in one of the local galleries, and had a jacuzzi at the community center where we met more of Alan's surfer buddies. Then it was time to hook up and hit the road. We made it back to the beginning just after dark.

First thing next morning we tidied up a bit and I hit the road for home. The Fall colors were in full effect and driving through the hundreds of acres of grape vines, slowly turning towards Winter was a visual feast. I only stopped once to pee under a railroad bridge which was book ended between a brussel sprouts field and a 70's style residential housing development. I'm thinking the whole time about getting mugged by trolls. (Nothing like getting hit upside the head while you're holding your stuff...or even when you're not.) But while my imagination ran wild, the road trip luck held and I was soon pulling into the little road that leads to mi casa and mi familia buena.

People will drive, fly or sail thousands of miles in search of good surfing and the ultimate surfing experience. I've found that often those things are right in our own backyard. This trip was like that. We had great to good surfing in excellent conditions and met so many kind, generous and hospitable people who helped us have a fun adventure. While not exactly in my backyard, it was in my home state, and Cali really does have so much to offer. While the Hawaiians rightly say "Lucky we live Hawaii," so we Californios can also boast, "Lucky we live in California."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One-Day Rideable But Wind Hacked Ground Swell

Friday October 29, 2010

I was hoping for a little less wind bump and a smoother sea surface, but I wasn't disappointed in what I got given the circumstances. This little one-day swell was transiting down the West Coast very near shore. It was part of a storm system that dumped a fair amount of rain on us the next day, Saturday. It showed well on the buoy, peaking at 12-13 f,t at 15-16 seconds West, but the outer waters were blowing 10-20 mph from the south and that was enough to put a hefty wind bump on it, all the way to shore. Even the early morning offshores weren't enough to groom the chop out of it.

I paddled out dawn patrol with the usual suspects in the line-up. I surfed for a couple hours and it seemed better early, even though the swell increased in size throughout the morning. A couple long rides across the pocket beach were had, but on the waves I got the faces were bumpy. Hanging on to the deck pad with my toes took precedence over throwing off balance maneuvers, so it was pretty much point and shoot and hope you don't get thrown off.

One incident stood out in my mind. After about 45 minutes a SUP surfer paddled into the line-up...local guy, lives a couple blocks away from Sarges. There were more than a few waves that broke wide, severely limiting the people who were taking off at the point from making it through the big mid-reef section. On one wave a very good, local longboard surfer took off on one that looked iffy. As I was rising up and over the swell he was riding, I could see him make a beautiful, arcing bottom turn that was as smooth as you could ever ask for. But from the back, the big section reared up and I thought he was toast. So did the other SUP surfer, and he took off at the end of the section, in front of the longboarder. On his way out the back after the wipeout, the longboarder was madder than cat in a bath. Which begs the question about when one should take off in front of someone else. My answer to that is never, especially if the first up surfer in question has any skills at all. Hate to say it, but it's incidents like this one that give SUP surfers the bad mojo. Don't do it.

I finished the two hour session in a dropping tide but conditions continued to devolve. Incoming waves looked ripe for a steep take off, but would then fade, or throw an extra lump just when you think it would rise up. And the bumpy surface was tough to stand on too which added greatly to the fatigue factor. My hats off to the Hawaiians who almost always SUP in bumpy, windy conditions.

The rain came late, well after dark and with the swell dropping and the south winds not getting any better, this morning's surf was better than nothing, and worth the few, hard earned rides that were there.

First Seasonal NPAC Swell Arrives

Monday October 25, 2010

The first northwesterly swell of the season started showing early Monday morning. Arriving at 10 ft. at daylight, it wasn't quite big enough to make much of an impact. But it came up quickly as the day progressed. By 1130 it was in the 12 ft. range and increasing in size, but the tide was too high to allow any quality faces as the backwash bumps were all over it. Big and fat, but rideable.

I walked my dog and took pics Monday morning, waiting for the tide to lower in hopes of a fun afternoon session. At about 4PM I paddled out further down the coast, hoping that the swell would be big enough to put some fun ones into Yellow House, but it didn't. Sarges was just packed with surfers so I surfed mostly inside in the chest/shoulder high waves. It was fun, clean and a lot of good rides were being collected by the crew. As the tide dropped the crowd thinned but the best takeoff spot just got too choked with vegetation to make riding through the kelp forest much fun. I rode way off to the side and inside the kelp bed, picking up smaller but lot's and lot's of fun, long walls past the Nudie Beach and almost to the brown house. The weather was pretty warm and so is the water surprisingly...a mellow 57/58 degrees.

It was a great time to really push my limits on the SIMSUP. I tried hard to roll the board on rail and throw high angle cutbacks as best I could. Everything I threw at the board, it handled with speed and stability. It's taken me a while to learn how to surf this board. It turns sharply and definitely off the wide tail corners. It doesn't bog and it doesn't bounce when turned hard off the top. It fits the wave faces very well and comes around nicely after a 180 slash back. And it's fast, very fast. It rockets through the high line and drops under sections and back up into the clear water when asked. It is the successful amalgam of stability and performance I was looking for.

Tuesday October 26, 2010 AM Session

The swell peaked this morning with three hours of 12 ft. at 16 seconds ground swell. I paddled out at dawn just in time to see Sean's first wave of the day. His silhouette went flying by on an overhead screamer that had me screaming too. It energizer bunnied it's way down the reef and just kept going, and going, etc. I had him being closed out on five or six times but no, he just found all the sweet spots while the wave peeled fast and vertical over the reef, the offshores calling the sections to attention all the way. And that wasn't even his best wave. No doubt, Sean and Timmy ruled this morning, getting the best waves of the best sets consistently. Local knowledge...can't beat it.

Only five people out for about an hour, all friends, all sharing, all stoked. After about an hour others started showing up and I headed up reef for the rest of the session, riding Red House for another hour and a half. Barry and I were the only two surfing, pulling down wave after wave in the strong swell, even though the tide was continuing to rise. Usually Red's swamps out at a medium high tide, but the swell was so strong it just kept sending us chest/head high blue birds. We rejoiced in our good fortune. The Kettle reef was hyper-active, much to our amusement, telegraphing the biggest sets like a drunk in a bar fight. No secrets here. Barry took about five "just one last wave and I'm goin' in" waves, before we finally called it a morning as the highest tides of the day started to affect the spot.

I headed to the point after the take out to snap a few shots in the fattish higher tide waves, and there was still plenty of energy in the water. The biggest spots were getting many well overhead waves.

At the high tide the new cliff armoring made it's presence evident by adding a whole new dynamic to one's end of session take out. At both new locations at the point, powerful sweeps of water wash in, over and through the entry to the stair case up the cliff. Paddling out at these spots isn't so bad, but coming in is another story. I photoed one board broken in half that the take out claimed near the big green house. The locals and experienced water people were OK, but the folks who think waves are what they learned on this Summer at the beaches never fail to let their lack of knowledge get them into trouble. At whatever level though, this new situation bears careful scrutiny and understanding.

Tuesday October 26, 2010 PM Session

The swell began it's dramatic decline sometime around noon, but there were still enough leftovers to have fun at Sarges in the afternoon. Crowds dropped way off and the waves were much smaller than yesterday afternoon or this morning but the same dynamic was in play...ride outside until the tide got too low and then move in to get out of the kelp as best as possible.

Andy joined me on his Angulo 10-0 custom and we surfed our little section of reef until it got too dark to see. We both took down a lot of waves and after an almost five hour surf in two sessions, this old man was feelin' it. I've developed an upper body strengthening routine that mimics paddling very well, but I've been negligent re the absolutely necessary lower body strengthening exercises for thighs and glutes. They let me know they were overworked, I let them know they were not under appreciated. A couple days off was in order, along with a slow and steady stretching session this evening and tomorrow.

All in all it was a great opening to what is hopefully going to be a full surfing season. So far, La Nina is being good to us.