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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Damn Acacias!

What great Spring weather we had last week! It was warm and sunny, I even got to wear board shorts and slaps after my last surf session on Wednesday. But I spied an ominous site on my way home. The acacias had burst into full bloom, yellow pollen was everywhere...and I'm allergic to acacia.

It is a well known fact that in Latin from the Greek, acacia is translated "thorn," as in thorn in my side. Sticking me for what or why, or why me, I just don't know. By Friday I was losing my voice, by the weekend I was mute and looking down the barrel of a nasty head cold. No surfing was in my immediate future, dry land was my fate.

No big thought I, it's gonna rain and blow out. It rained, it didn't blow out, and the yellow pollen powder ran in rivers down my driveway, then dried in cake runs of hardened dust when it was over. The surf smallened, but there were lots of rideable waves. On Monday the swell came up, the weather cleared and it blew offshore like it meant it all morning.

All I got were these pictures which in my allergized condition, were enough to get me through.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ghostbuster Goes to the Beaches

With the swell dropping down in size the beaches and all the new bars that have formed would start to get very surfable in stead of closing out at all locations. I checked it before the lot opened up and the right hander was just starting to look good. In truth a better tide would have been more desirable, but that tide was timed to be later in the day, therefore the crowd would be on it. I'll take a little less quality but more uncrowded any day.

Eric paddled out with me and we were joined later by his co-worker and friend. Swell size was getting there, but it was just a little too big for the tide. The peaks were shifting all around and if you found the right spot to sit, you could be sure a rogue would come in and slap you. That was the price for getting a few good ones, and there were definitely a few of those. Steep and barreling sections moved into sloped off shoulders which would reform on the inside, giving up a ride all the way to the beach.

It was a bit of a workout though 'cause there were several opposing rips in place, and the inside current was swift. In one spot about 12 feet from shore I couldn't walk in a straight line in waist deep water. The current was so swift it just swept me away. No use wasting energy, just get in to the beach and walk back up to the sandy point.

Eric's been working at a house that is directly across from the break. He's got it wired and made. He'll work for a while, check the surf (and if it's going off) go surfing. Then back to work, keep an eye on it, go surfing, etc. etc. That's a job? Yeah, Dream Job.

Conditions couldn't be sweeter with the best Winter weather we've had so far this season. Near perfect board shorts and slaps weather. Gotta love it!

Note: The guy getting barreled in that left-hander sequence was out by himself, pulling down barrel after barrel. Then it just stopped. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it before at this strand of beach.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Good Waves On Slowly Fading WNW

Sunday February 14, 2010
Second day of a three-day holiday weekend. Saturday was packed and I didn't think today would be less so, but the swell had cleaned up, conditions were better than yesterday, and I didn't want to miss out on surfing bigger waves at one of my favorite spots...The Yellow House.

Andy and I formed a plan to meet up in the later afternoon, we would both be surfing our Angulo custom SUPs. In fact we met up on the beach, just prior to paddle out. We surfed really fun waves together for about two hours before it got too dark to see. I was skeptical about wave quality, and while it was a little spotty, I got three solid gold pier rides which (to me) is the Holy Grail of surfing YH. Each one of these rides is about 550 yards long, and is filled with fast and bankable sections, with tons of open wave face surfing.

This wave is perfect for SUP surfing for a couple reasons. The reef is long and drawn out, therefore there are no tightly packed and congested take-off spots, and along the wave "route" there are several flat spots, holes in the reef where the wave energy really backs off. Having a paddle to muscle your way through these energy deprived sections is a huge help. Of course if the wave is big enough then..."we don't need no stinking paddles!" You just need to know the wave. Local knowledge is everything.

When it started to get dark we headed up to Sarge's to get a wave in. On my first attempt, I paddled into a bomb that took me almost all the way back to Yellow House...a distance of almost 250 yards. As I wheeled off the back of that wave and headed out the back, a set loomed up in the fast depleting light. I hooked into the set wave and rode almost to Apt. House Point. This was an unexpected gift!

By the time I got back, it was really getting dark. I finally paddled in from Sarge's where I got one last pic of Ron on his quad kneeboard ripping one of the many low tide long sections of the evening. That pic is the last one in the slideshow sequence and you can barely see Ron setting up for that long (and makeable) section in front of him. I saw him on the beach in the pre-darkness and he was super-stoked.

Another day on the reefs, another blessing. Thank You God...for letting us enjoy your creation in Peace.

Monday February 15, 2010
Finally the tide was low enough, and the swell big enough to surf a dawn patrol session at the reefs. Part II of Andy and my plan went into effect at 0-dark:30 when we met at the access point for Sarges. It was pretty cool 'cause all the dawn patrol regulars were there too. Just like old times. We paddled out with Sean, Joanna and Jamie into a fairly consistent morning of glassy 3-6 footers with no one out but us and plenty of waves to go around. It felt good to be back in the pack on my McTavish longboard. Even when everyone knows you, one is something of a pariah standing there looking down from the heights of the SUP. It can be intimidating. Therefore when I am out with others on the SUP, I strive to remember to sit my butt down every once in a while. Oh yeah, and surf with Aloha!

Of course it was day three of the 3-day President's Day weekend, so we knew the sparsely crowded conditions wouldn't last long. But they lasted long enough for us to get a bunch of waves at Sarge's main and In Betweens. An hour and a half later the place was pretty packed out so we headed in for brunch in our favorite little surf town down coast.

After stuffing ourselves with grinds and coffee, we strolled down to the jetty to check the surf, which was still showing very nicely at this multi-spot break. Lot's of people out surfing and just enjoying the good weather. Priscilla and Patrick were chatting with Christian who had a quiver of his new boards in the van. Christian is a displacement hull aficionado, but dabbles in all things surfable. He designs and builds his own boards and loves to experiment with new shapes and concepts. Very cool.

Another great day on the bay!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big Swell On Mavs Contest Day

Sometimes the "biggest" days are not the "best-est" days. That isn't to say there weren't a fair amount of long, big and satisfaction inducing waves ridden, but this swell had just a little too much nearshore local windswell on top, and it being a three-day holiday weekend, the crowd factor had an effect on the quality/pleasure factors.

I paddled out on the Angulo Custom SUP (a lot of people wanting to buy that from me lately), around mid-afternoon and into a falling tide. The Angulo custom is usually my go-to big surf wavecraft because it's stable, maneuverable and very fast. It handles big and bumpy faces as well as steep and fast sections. It's probably the fastest board I've ever ridden for that matter. And it takes the high line at the speed of light. (No wonder so many people want to buy it off me.) It's so fast it even puts up a steam contrail off the tail as I rocket across those large and fast greeny cold water walls....well, maybe not.

The swell peaked sometime mid morning, but there was still a lot of big size and long period energy putting up overhead to double overhead waves routinely. I thought Yellow House would be firing, with long rides down the line and into the pier area but, it wasn't happening. As a matter of fact, it was downright strange. Wave energy was not focusing on the point reef, but would back off the reef and wrap towards the pier. Large swells would back off even down the line, then regain size further in, only to put up short, fat close-outs. Definitely haven't seen that before.

So I paddled around picking off a wave here and there, moving from the YH to Apt. House Pt. to Brown House, never really finding much. And the crowd was unusually thick, even for a Saturday. There was a whole contingent of shortboarders riding (trying to ride) the fat YH reef waves. This is mostly a longboarders wave, and not even a really good longboard wave today. I couldn't figure why a bunch of shortboarders would be wasting their time (not) catching waves here.

(Pic quality sucks. Pre-session I was shooting right into the sun, and post-session it was getting pretty dark along with all the foam mist from the big surf.)

Up reef was much bigger (and even more crowded) and there was an occasional wide bomb that blasted through Sarge's so I thought I'd try my luck over there. Sarge's is usually populated with longboards and "old guys". There are a lot of aging (and really good) surfers who are still into it, and surf the place very well. On good days, like today, a lot of them are out along with a small cadre of shortboarders. Most good surfers like to sit off the point and it's congested. When I'm on my SUP I stay away from packed take-off spots so the fact that there would be an occasional good size and well shaped wave swinging wide, had me lined up with the sea wall. One had to wait for the right wave, and make sure no one else was already up and riding before committing, but surfing with this strategy yielded a good half dozen or more, 300-400 yard rides from the sea wall to the near the Brown House at kick-out. On a couple waves I just stayed down at BH, surfing there for a while before paddling back up to Sarge's. The lower reefs never got better, even at the lowest tide.

The most frustrating part of the session was having to dodge all the surfers who were sitting inside, waiting for the smaller waves. It's not the big surf that scares me, it's navigating around three of four surfers who maybe shouldn't even be out surfing on a day like today, with a lot of water moving a lot of energy around. None of these neophytes are ever willing to take a beating to stay out of the wave rider's way, they always paddle into the line of travel. Therefore, they are counting on me NOT to hit them (which I usually don't). But it makes me nervous never-the-less. There was even one hapless guy who looked like (from where he was laying and the way he was paddling) he had never been on a surfboard before! I paddled over and gave him a quick lesson in paddle trim. Fortunately he was smart enough to stay way out the back and out of everyone's way.

After 2.5 hours I was pretty tired and my left calf was feeling like it wanted to cramp. Riding bigger waves puts a lot more stress on your muscles so I figured I'd head in on the white water apron of my next good wave. That peeler was another long and wally ride to the brown house where I turned in to shore and rode into the flats.

Everyone has their own subjective definition of "good" surf/surfing. This was a satisfying and challenging big wave day, but the poor to fair conditions, as well as the bloated crowd size, kept it from being epic, or even classic in my book.

February 13, 2010
In: 1415
Out: 1645
AT= 58-60F
WT= 55.6F
Wx: Clear with low fog off the coast.
Tide: 0.80' Falling to -0.05'
Wind: Moderate to strong southwesterlies, diminishing slightly around 1600.
Sea Surface: Wind bump and chop
10-0 Angulo EPS/Epoxy Custom SUP with Infinity Ottertail carbon fiber paddle
Fin set-up: Thruster with K2D2 4.75" center fin (first mark up from back) and RFC Speedwings
Bathymetry: Rock reefs
Deep Water Swell CDIP Archive
Wave Hts. (Faces): 5-10 ft.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Surprise 19 Second Swell: Two Sessions

A solitary line of 19 second swell on the buoy caught my eye before bed Saturday night. An anomaly? A click on the buoylist showed several buoys north of us with 19 and 20 second swell periods. Up before first light Sunday morning, I bee-lined to the computer and there it was, a long list of 19 second periods showing on the northerly, and some southerly buoys. What storm blew this up? No idea. Did the forecast models show this...nope. But chances were good for a score.

I grabbed the longboard and headed across town, figuring I could get at least an hour of uncrowded waves before the place woke up. The tide was a little too high, but overhead sets were happening and it was definitely on. The bad news was that I tweaked my back on my second wave, which definitely put a crimp in my session. But I surfed for another hour and got a couple good waves before a long ride in, and some discomfort in my lower back convinced me that I was done for the morning.

The drive back home was highlighted by stops at other local surf spots which were getting better with the lowering tide. It was definitely a swell to be reckoned with. I saw Herby at one spot and his one word summary was..."challenging."

When I got home I stretched out, dropped some ibu and prepared for an afternoon session on the SUP. There is no doubt that lay down paddling irritates my lower back. The SUP however is a whole different postural dynamic and can even be therapeutic for the irritation caused by lay down paddle surfing.

My second session lasted over three hours on the SUP. Since it had been a while since I SUP surfed, it took me a couple waves to get my timing back. The waves from this swell weren't as well lined up as the last time I SUP surfed Yellow House, but on occasion there were some long drawn out lines in fast and steep sections that had the rider streaking towards a pier kickout. The offshores started up about an hour into the session, and stayed strong until I got out around 4PM. Larry and Dave were out on their SUPs, as well as a bevy of long and shortboarders, even though it was Super Bowl Sunday. But this is a surf town, who gives a rip about the Super Bowl when there's waves. A lot of sand has filled in over the reefs, creating a deep water lagoon at inside YH. Getting past the reef/sandbar can be, as Herby noted...challenging.

The longer period swell forecast for today, Monday, never really turned into anything very good, so sometimes you just gotta take what Mother Nature gives you, and be thankful for it.

Morning Session

Afternoon/Evening Session

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fewer Good Sand Bar Waves

I was on it again early this morning thinking I could score again. The swell had jumped up overnight, but not too big I thought. I arrived at the Cali Bar in the murky early light to find it way smaller than I expected, Shakes too. So I headed down to EoL's. I had such good surfing there yesterday, perhaps a redux?

Surprisingly again, it was much bigger than yesterday. At least a foot or two, and the sets were closing out. That's beach break for ya...good yesterday, less so today, or in an hour or, whatever. But there I was, all suited up and no place to go so WTF, let's go surfing. I paddled out right into what was yesterday's channel. Today, with more energy in the longer period swell, I couldn't punch through the inside sand bar. Unbeknown to me, the current that was running laterally yesterday in the trough just off the beach, was on meth today. Before I could get very far out, I was a hundred yards down the beach. Rather than wear myself out fighting a losing battle, I got out of the water and walked way past the channel to where I could at least avoid that current. It still took a little while getting out, but after a while I made it, only to find myself surrounded by large peaks closing out all the way to the beach, or not breaking until they were way inside...and then closing out.

Long story short, I got two good rides on long walls, and a half dozen quick turn and flick outs. The waves just weren't there today. I thought maybe the tide was too low, so I surfed an hour fifteen and got out. I waited a while but nothing changed. Could be swell direction, or size or both. Could be lack of that little WSW that was in the water yesterday. Maybe today there was nothing crossing up the new WNW in the water. I gotta admit, I was disappointed, but glad I got wet anyway. At least I got a couple good ones and a couple nice turns too.

February 3, 2010
In: 0705
Out: 0820
AT= 43-46F
WT= 55.8F
Wx: Fog and low clouds
Tide: 1.19' Falling to 1.19' (Low 1.09')
Wind: Calm to light offshore
Sea Surface: Goosebumps to light wind ripples
McTavish (PU) 9-3 Fireball
Fin set-up: 9" Future Cutaway with FCS GX sides
Bathymetry: Sand bars
Deep Water Swell CDIP Archive
Wave Hts. (Faces): 3-5 ft. with the occasional 6-7 footer on the sets

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Good Sand Bar Waves

The West/WNW swell started to inch it's way back up this morning, and was joined by a new pulse of 12 second WSW swell. This may have created a combo effect that boosted wave hts. but that didn't show at my two usual sand bars. So I headed south a couple hundred yards and hooked into another pay dirt morning.

After chastising myself for being lazy and soft Monday, I was on scene at the Cali Bar at 0715. There was a light misty rain falling, and the waves just weren't doing it. I stood there, leaning up against the car wishing it was better. Another bar upcoast, which I call Shakes, was closing out and not pretty at all. Next stop was the end of the road where I watched a long fast right hander just reeling down the beach. Is that thing too fast to ride? The quick peelers were running hard, then closing out over an inside bar that gave way to a trench that ran parallel to the beach. The end game was a nice doggy door exit, that gave you quick (and safe) passage back out the channel and into the line-up for the next one. Going past the trench towards shore meant a fairly hard paddle out the back through all the inside sand bar close-outs.

The more I watched, the better I liked the set-up, and the better it looked. I spied one guy far up the beach getting some good ones at another bar. (Ever since the multi-day big swells and rain storms of the past few weeks, this stretch of coast has been transformed into a cornucopia of very surfable sand bars. How good is it? Well, truthfully, it's probably not all that great. But when you haven't seen waves here for three years, it looks great! It's almost a relief to see these maybe we'd never see surf here again?)

Even though it looked fast, I grabbed the 9-3 McTavish just because I'm enjoying the ride so much. I had the 5-11 mini-Simmons with me, but I wanted to surf the longboard. It was probably a good call because in reality, the waves weren't all that fast or that critical. Bigger and faster than yesterday for sure, but take-offs were softer than steep and critical, and the sections either were easily makeable, or closed out...not much in between.

I still paddled out at 0745, despite my earlier arrival time. (It took a while to figure out where to surf.) Consistency was the name of the game today and it was a merry-go-round for the entire session, with brief 2-3 minute rests in between the copious sets. During the first half hour I was averaging a wave every two minutes, too grueling a pace for an old man. I had to slow down, let a few go by and smell the roses. I surfed alone for 45 minutes. People came, watched, and went. I couldn't believe my good luck and I knew it wouldn't hold. Around 0830 two shortboarders paddled out and that was it until I got out at 0900, tired and soul satisfied.

There were plenty of waves to share, especially since one of the guys was Eric, surfer and carpenter extraordinaire. He was on his SC Pumpkin Seed which he must really like 'cause he's been surfing it for a while. Usually Eric, ever the surfboard aficionado, goes through surfboards like most people change their underwear. The other guy was a reticent Ozzie who was kind of a Clint Eastwood type. At first he sat too far over and too far out and didn't get much. But after a while he sussed it out and after that got some pretty good waves.

After I changed out and packed up, I grabbed the camera for a few frames. By then a pile of guys was on it and it was Shortboard City (although I think it may have been a slightly better longboard wave 'cuz it just wasn't all that shreddable). Whatever, they allowed me to get some decent pics of the morning although it was better (of course!) when I had it to myself. The early bird gets the worm.

February 2, 2010
In: 0745
Out: 0900
AT= 47-51F
WT= 55.8F
Wx: Cloudy with occasional sprinkles early
Tide: 1.63' Rising to 2.7'
Wind: Light offshore to variable and light side/onshore
Sea Surface: Goosebumps to glassy to light wind ripples
McTavish (PU) 9-3 Fireball
Fin set-up: 9" Future Cutaway with FCS GX sides
Bathymetry: Sand bars
Deep Water Swell CDIP Archive
Wave Hts. (Faces): 3-4 ft. with the occasional 5-6 footer on the sets

Monday, February 1, 2010

Near Perfect (aka Fun) Sand Bar Longboarding

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, as is the definition of "good" surf. For me, surfing a new sand bar right hander in pristine Winter conditions without another surfer in sight is not only good (and fun), but near perfection.

With the CDIP forecast spitting out decreasing swell data, and the COOAMPS wind forecast calling for light offshores, I knew the beaches could be a great place to get some waves this morning. I should have made an earlier start. I could have surfed the best conditions for another 45 minutes but alas, sloth and reluctance to face the cold weather (I am such an official wimp) held me back. As it was, I paddled out at 0745 and surfed a full two hours and fifteen before the higher tide tamped down the wave heights, and the southeast winds put a funky wind chop across the sea surface.

But for a solid hour and a half I surfed fun and almost glassy (think "chicken skin" sea surface) 2-3 ft. walls with a few four footers thrown in on sets...alone. (Well, there was one seal, one pelican and a boatload of seagulls eating bait fish. I was glad to see the seal. It's always better to have another member of the food chain out there with you.)

I switched out fins again, replacing the single DeTemple with a 2+1 set-up comprised of the larger FCS GX side fins and a Future 9" cutaway I bought a couple years ago, to use in my first 10-4 Angulo SUP. It made the SUP too stiff and hard to turn, but it worked very well this morning in the McTavish 9-3. The board was loose and maneuverable in the small waves, and held steady for the occasional foray to the nose. So far I think this is the set-up I like best for an all-around fin set-up. Next to try is the single fin Rainbow Pivot Fin, which worked really well in the 10-2 Angulo Custom SUP. It's a big fin though, and can't really be used in the kelp, so the kelpless beaches will be a good place to surf it.

Paul joined me late in the session and we surfed and chatted until I got out at around 10:15 or so. Another low pressure trough is coming/passing through this evening and into tomorrow. So conditions will probably be "craptacular" (as Adam Wright says) all day tomorrow. The swell is on the increase so we'll have to see just what tomorrow or the next day brings.

No pics today. I was too much in a hurry at 7:45 and the end of the session just wasn't what things were like during the sesh.

February 1, 2010
In: 0745
Out: 1000
AT= 43-50F
WT= 55.8F
Wx: Partly cloudy, beautiful!
Tide: 2.75' Rising to 5.06'
Wind: Light offshore to variable and light side/onshore
Sea Surface: Goosebumps to light wind chop
McTavish (PU) 9-3 Fireball
Fin set-up: 9" Future Cutaway with FCS GX sides
Bathymetry: Sand bars
Deep Water Swell CDIP Archive
Wave Hts. (Faces): 2-3 ft. with an occasional 4 footer on the sets