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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Solid Swells in Capricious Conditions

Monday March 29, 2010

The plot line of the story for these last few days is, who will win the race between the incoming rain and wind storms vs. the incoming ground and wind swells. So far it hasn't been bad. There have been a lot of good waves ridden in and around bouts of bad winds and rain.

Dawn patrol greeted chest/head high waves in light offshores and good conditions Monday morning. The usual suspects would be out, but I beat them all into the line-up except for K on his 8-8 SUP, who blew by me in the pre-dawn darkness before my warm-ups were even started. No matter, I couldn't see in the 0615 dimness anyway. I paddled out at around 0630, still too dark for me to see and catch waves, but not too dark to begin the paddle out through the incoming whitewash and into the most likely line-up. K headed to GDubs, and I stuck around Sarges.

After a couple waves, three other regulars joined me and that was about it for an hour or so. The waves were fairly consistent with the best waves coming during the sets of NW/WNW ground swell. I surfed up and down the reefs, not staying in one place for too many waves, and getting my fair share in four or five locations. Maybe everyone slept in this morning, maybe the internet hadn't really started buzzing, but for whatever reasons it never got crowded.

There really wasn't enough energy in the swell to overcome the higher tide, and by 10 o'clock or so, it was pretty much done at the lower reefs. Up at the point though it was booming. Solid overhead/double overhead waves were blasting in, but pushing a lot of water. Most riders were not able to paddle in except in the steepest sections. Without less water between the wave and the reef, few down the line walls materialized and the corners were tapered like a slouching drunk and lacking in any real drive.

At sessions end, I paddled in as the waves were washing up and touching the rock walls in the cove, leaving little room for error on the take out, especially with a bigger and more buoyant SUP. But the take-out was smooth and me and my board exited unscathed.

Tuesday was the best Tweener, with the dawn patrol seeing a short-term gale force squall at the opening bell. The NWS was calling for absolutely craptacular weather and everyone except the GrayOne stayed in bed. But the GrayOne, being the stealthy and core surf rat that he is, hit it early for the score. He surfed very good waves (the squall passed) and it blew offshore for the next couple hours as the swell increased in size and quality. He says he got an afternoon session in also that was even better. Me, family duties called.

Wednesday March 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Amor! One year old and growing up strong and beautiful. Days of blessings and gratitude. Fun waves and a beautiful grand-daughter, and a caring and loving supportive family. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The ground swell peaked this morning. On top of it was nearshore wind swell that put a warble on some of the wave crests but it didn't diminish the quality of the best waves. Sets were consistent, going overhead to some double overhead, even on the lower reefs.

My first wave was an overhead bomb taken off the concrete wall at Sarges. I kicked out at the Brown House, some 300 yards down the line. The wave put up a number of ramps for banking and driving off the bottom...even a couple of fast sections for driving through and getting the adrenalin flowing. I kicked out at the Brown House take-off, riding over the back of the folding lip and into the maw of a perfectly formed right hander that I had illusions of doubling up on. But it wasn't to be. It was coming too fast in water too shallow and I was too slow. I was the only one there so I kicked my board up into the falling lip, hoping it might punch through. Fat chance...too big too buoyant. I tugged my leash hard, pulling the board back towards me and glancing out to sea. Another beautiful peak was heading my way, and this one looked makeable. I scrambled to my knees while pulling the paddle into canoe paddling position and started digging hard for the outside. I barely had time to hop to my feet and bring the nose around as I steered a line for a diagonal take-off in the steepening wave face. I was deeper than the usual take-off for YH so I had to drive through that section for another long ride to Apartment House Point. This ride was good for 250 yards. And that completed my first two waves of the session. A nice double up netting about 550 yards in fun walls and sections.

The remainder of the 1.5 hour session was just more of the same. Waves and sets were very consistent and there wasn't much down time. Early on, few people were riding where I was taking off at Sarges. Everyone was on the main peak and I just kept looking for the swing wides which were offering up a couple hundred yard rides at a minimum. I caught a couple more doubles during the course of the session. The crowd was relatively thin but started to thicken around 0930 as word was getting out. Not a lot of young people surfing, mostly retired guys and their wives/girlfriends, and working folks who had time for a quick session in between work.

At 10 the tide was high enough for me to think about getting out. I was tired, but stoked from surfing hard in good energy and had to get ready for the meeting with my tax lady. No complaints, just another great session during this series of storms and swells.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Windy WSW and WNW Combo Swell

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I was surprised that the WSW swell which was working all long the coastline south of us, was actually nudging into the bight. There was enough energy to push in 2-4 ft. waves along the lower reefs, much bigger of course further West along the bay shore.

In order to take advantage of the necessary lower tide, I paddled out at 12:30PM, even though I knew the winds (which had been a lot like Spring these last couple days) were going to be blowing harder than normal out of the southwest. I hoped they wouldn't get too strong. But just because you hope for something, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen.

Six to eight wave sets were coming in consistently about every 20 minutes which is just about right for a southerly swell. But in between were some fun, smaller WNW wind swell waves. I surfed my favorite spots from YH, hitting all the reefs to the east. Because of the southerly swell direction, the lines were sectioning periodically along the reef. So instead of one long continuous 300-500 yard ride, you could get (if you timed it right) four or five 100 yard rides. The idea was to take the first or second wave in each south swell set, kick out at the next peak down, then take the third or fourth wave from your new takeoff spot, kick out at the next peak down, etc. etc. That worked pretty well and I was fortunate to pick up four or five nice combinations that way.

About an hour into the session the wind really started to pick up out of the SW. After a set of good rides the paddle out the back was directly into an 8-12 mph headwind, which increased into the afternoon. Finally I had to get out to make a dentist's appointment (what a bring down...from surfing to the dentist's chair), so I started the paddle back to the takeout. The combination of being pretty tired from a lot of paddling and the growing wind velocity, now blowing 12-19 mph, necessitated my tucking the paddle under my chest, and prone paddling back to the takeout. It was futile to try standing up and paddling into that wind. Paddling as hard as I could was keeping me stationary at best. That is one of the big downsides of SUP surfing, but then on the upside, you can always revert to prone paddling. Works for me!

In spite of the heavy down coast winds, the water temp has managed to stay consistent with the Winter temp of 54-55 degrees. This is warmer than last year, but much cooler than some, and not like a true El Nino year. If we get a more "normal" Spring, with lots of upwelling caused by the heavier Spring winds, I hope we won't see near as many dead baby sea lions this year as last. That was pretty sad.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Road Trip

Road Trip March 19 - March 23

Friday: Late afternoon blast down 101. Get gas at La Gloria Rd./cheaper than in Salinas. Late afternoon sun not doing justice to the rain green hills, food and drink valleys. Comida de Mexico grinds, Dos Equis on tap. Sleeping in the car works.

Saturday: 5AM wake-up call for the class. By 1PM I'm certified. Lunch with Ed, Pete and Jeff, chicken enchilada mole especial...KILLER! Slobber chops, fiberglas diesel tanks (that last a lifetime) and big boat molds top and bottom. The fishing fleet came in with a good catch. Tons of offloaded sea food from prickly nets in a jovial setting of tourists, fishermen and looky-lou's (me included). The boyz were in and cleaning up from a two-day score up north, smiles and wind burn all over their faces. Met the old legend and the new (soon to be) "No Country For Old Men" legend.

Sunday: Cruisin' like the do-da men; bitches with hitches feedin' us breakfast burritos and dissing us with the two-headed baby, wrh fire department front bumper pumper, imax, dogs on crack in the onshore good left and out, landscape that looks like it was painted on canvas, carpet in and a little furniture moving, prep for an early departure.

Monday: 4AM wake-up call, on scene earlier than the attendants but the timer wasn't set for DST. What? No matter, two vehicles and miles of empty coastline. Three and a half hours of offshore plumes on two hundred yard 2-4' peelers. Water so clear depth perception was right out the window. What looked like three inches was three feet. Gravity drawn lips folding over almond eye centers as clear as cut glass sculpture. Neophytes and veterans in awe, never getting jaded by the pristine elegance and simple beauty of it all. A day of days. But here every day is a day of days. Clean, raw or in-between, an inheritance for the seeker.

Tuesday: Back home on 101 in the noon day sun. These rain soaked hills are cloaked in emerald green to rival the most regal Irish coasts in God's eye. Hundreds of acres of wine on the vine and the food basket of America ready for a bumper year. Sleepy former pit stops growing faster than a teenager, sprouting retirees instead of new whiskers. Stop and stretch. Drink it all in. Feel the warmth and goodness of the land. Gas is still cheaper on La Gloria Road.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Last Gasp of Winter? Fresh WNW Swell

Tuesday, March 16 2010
Maybe. This swell had a lot of north in it so we didn't get the juice or the size everyone was hoping for, but let me be the last to complain.

This morning's sunrise was a jewel in a rare setting, in that we haven't seen the likes of this kind of fantastic weather and great conditions in a while. Winds were light offshore and the sea surface was slightly mottled to fully glassy.

Dawn patrol locals Jamie, John, Joanna, Sean, and Tim were on it and that was pretty much it all morning long. It was soooo uncrowded! I don't think I counted more than six or seven in the line-up at one time. I surfed super fun chest/head high waves for two hours on the SUP, paddling from spot to spot and bagging a few doubles in the process. I didn't crack it like the others...still trying to beat that daylight savings time anchor that seems to be wrapped around my consciousness. But I wasn't too far off, paddling out at 0725. I paddled in just in front of Al who is totally back on his game after twin hip replacement surgeries. He got a twofer for the price of one cutfest. Sweet!

After a great time on the waves, I headed home, nursing a little back muscle pull as I was taking my booties off no less. I wasn't inclined to snap any pics until I saw a lone guy surfing the creek drainage sand bar. I had to stop and check it, and it turns out that the guy was having a totally great session on one of Christian's Evol mini-Simmons. So I pulled into the lot, fed the meter and snapped off a few while sitting and enjoying the beautiful warmth of a pre-Spring mid-morning.


Wednesday, March 17 2010
So I seem to be getting better at overcoming my DST sloth. Up at 5AM 'cause it takes me a while to warm up by walking around, heating up the tea, toasting the toast, etc. etc. Assembling the gear in ernest by 6AM and paddling out at 0650 for a two hour session in almost prefect conditions.

Yesterday's swell was posting bigger numbers today and I was hoping for more of the same as yesterday, but better. The usual suspects were already on scene, having paddled out with their U.S. Navy Seal commando special ops night vision waterproof goggles. Only people 40 and under can get them. Us old folk call this special equipment normal vision.

It didn't take long to paddle into my first wave, a fun chest high right that swung wide and bypassed the dp'ers sitting further out, waiting for the bigger sets. It was about as consistent as yesterday, maybe even a little less, but some good ones peeled through, leaving lots of stoked surfers in their wake.

We surfed it as a foursome for about a half hour before a couple more folks paddled out. It was less crowded upstream so I headed up to GDubs for a few. Kirk was out on his new L41 8'8" performance stand up paddleboard. A sweet ride if ever there was one. Stable and maneuverable, light and fast. Kirk is a longtime L41 local and designs, shapes and surfs lots of different wave craft. He is a consummate designer and shaper. One doesn't often find that wrapped up in one package. A creative wavecraft artisan/craftsman like Kirk is challenged by all things surfy. Frankly I was surprised when I first saw him on a SUP. I thought he was dedicated exclusively to the pronecentric life. I was even more amazed when it only took him several months to get off his L41 10' SUP, and onto the little 8'8" quad ripper he now surfs. Kirk's a big guy and when he's sitting or kneeling on his 8'8", the contrast is startling, yet the board is stable. It surfs so well Kirk says, that once you catch the wave "you don't need the paddle." Sweet! I'm gonna try it out one of these days and see for myself what the balance/maneuverability ratio is for an old guy like me. Check Kirk's Facebook page by searching for "L41". Lottsa really cool pics. He's what you call a "backyard" builder I guess, but his product is becoming more well know and in demand.

About an hour and a half into the session everything just stopped. A long 20-minute lull set in. Time for thoughtful reflection on the warm Spring morning and a little chit-chat with the boyz. (No girls in the line-up this morning at GDubs.) But soon enough the tide changed up and we started experiencing some three and four wave sets in the head high plus range.

Winds blew offshore all morning long until a lite southeast/southwest flow took over. Then it went pretty much dead glassy. Tough to beat a morning like this. Two days of really fun surf in a row in fantastic conditions. Somebody say Amen!

Didn't get many good pics. Had to shoot from the water and just wasn't in the right place at the right time. Also, had to take my son to school so no time for land based shots.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Off to see Molly's Revenge tonight.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fun SUP Waves In Between Storms

Writing now on Sunday the 14th (don't forget to Spring forward) I still clearly remember my last surf on the 4th. It was a quick sortie in between a chain of incoming storms. The morning was clear and beautiful, the wind was still and only a light bump mottled the sea surface.

The usual beach entry was blocked by a paving project which will ultimately make it nicer, but more civilized and accommodating than it needs to be. The increased population has forced this on us all. I remember when the Scimi's entry point was a fifty foot cliff with the surfer worn foot path the nearest means of access, straight down (and then back up) the face. Footholds were worn into the path by constant use, and hand holds were the roots of the old and exposed Cypress trees clinging to the slowly eroding cliff. My friend Dave fell down that path one cold and rainy day when the path had turned into a slip 'n slide for the surf addicted. He broke his back and had to be rescued by the firefighters. But that's another story.

Today's surf was a low key affair with fun 2-3 foot waves that were perfect for the SUP. Patrick and Priscilla parked and off loaded in the same place as I, so we chatted a bit before our paddle out. Priscilla hung out for a while at the Yellow House (almost always my preferred surf spot for this section of reef) before paddling up coast to surf another reef where the waves looked a bit bigger. But the low tide was favoring YH. Patrick surfed all over the reef, picking other little peaks to perform on, so essentially, I surfed by myself in the warm solitude of the sun with a lot of waves to choose from.

I often think about how much fun small and uncrowded days can be. The waves don't even have to be all that good. It's just so soul satisfying.

After a couple hours the tide got too high for YH to work on such a small swell, so I headed back to land. The day was so rare, warm and sunny, a surf check further south was almost mandatory. The bars were working and in the past couple days an older one had built into sort of a Super Bank. Fifteen shortboard rippers out, gettin' air and having fun, maybe a few pros were even in the mix.