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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Days of Rain, Sun and Good Waves

Wednesday April 28, 2010 - Offshore Winds in the Rain

I arrived at my favorite beach break at 0615 hoping I was wrong. I was more or less convinced that the tide would be too low. It was. The surf was jumbled up and there were no clean corners to be seen at the lefts or rights. So I headed into town to check the low tide reefs, with nearshore ridable wind swell in the water, Roots could be working on this super low tide. It was.

Two minutes before pulling into the open spots at the gate it started to rain. There was nothing going on at Sarges, too much kelp, too little water. The intensity of the showers caught me by surprise, I was expecting maybe sprinkles not full on showers/rain. I slogged through the puddle pocked gravel fines trail, soaking my fleece jacket and Uggs before moving to the overlook at Scimi's. 15 guys out at 0645. Definitely a dawn patrol crew at this spot. Up reef it looked pretty good, Roots was putting up some inconsistent waist to shoulder high peelers. Not great shape, but incredibly good conditions for an almost rain storm.

I paddled out on my borrowed Freeline 7-0 HGS into the empty line-up at 0650 in the pouring rain and immediately picked up my first wave. It rained solid for the next hour and fifteen minutes, but the wind was perfect, calm to offshore. The last time I surfed in rain splattered waves was the south shore of Kauai a few years ago.

Seventy-five percent of the wave energy this morning was in the 8-12 second, 270-290 degree wind swell band on the 9-band CDIP buoy. So wave direction was somewhat inconsistent and jacked around, coming from various places within that WNW bracket. Roots when it's best (it's not even there most of the time), is a minus tide, behind the peak take-off into the first peak section. Then it backs off a little, putting up a skatable wall that feeds into another steep section which takes you to the beach. It's kinda like surfing a beach break peak. A short, fast ride that's changes up a little from wave to wave, but is mostly uniform in shape and performance 'cause in reality it pushes over a reef or reef and sand bottom. Scimi's was bigger and more consistent, but Roots had only one

The first fifteen or twenty minutes were stricken with long waits. Then you'd get a set that would push too much water up reef, leaving nothing for the peak section, therefore no wave. I got a couple good ones but kept seeing another peak and wall farther up the bight. I paddled up there briefly but couldn't get around the second section from the peak I was riding. When I returned to Roots there was another guy there. It was the same deal, inconsistent with long waits. The other guy finally got tired of waiting around so he headed back to Scimi's. About five minutes after he left, my wave counted exploded and it turned into a merry-go-round for the last half hour of my session. I got out tired and satisfied. It was a good call to check it this morning, even though the NWS was right on with their forecast for rain and showers. But the wind was right and the kelp held the sea surface still except for all the miniature explosions and resultant outward expanding concentric circles caused by the rain drops.

After the rain stopped, the sea surface settled into a smooth and glassy sheet that reflected the clearing skies and the mounds of cumulus building over the bay. The colors came out to dazzle and amaze and the crowd disappeared! When I came back to snap a few pics there were four guys out and a lot of waves going unridden. But shift change was soon to come as five or six were in the lot suiting up. But I was done for now, with another good surf to start the day right.

Wednesday April 29, 2010 - Swell Jumps Up, Cleans Up and the Sun Comes Out

The tail end of the rain showers and clouds blew through late last night, revealing a full moon and a minus early morning tide. A pastel sunrise lighted up a smooth, lightly rippled sea showing combo wind swell/ground swell lines at almost all the places. Town was good and getting better.

Again I surfed the 7-0 Freeline HGS at Roots. Again, no one on the end section peak that I like, but today word had gotten out. A couple guys up coast yesterday? 12 guys on it this morning at 0645. Everyone signed up for the dawn patrol this AM. Wave heights were chest/overhead on almost all the sets. Kirk was out on his L41 mini-Simmons, putting his new ride on rail and getting long, speedy rides from up reef, almost through the end section. Truth is, the way the swell was pushing in, combined with the low tide, made for a lot of sections that pinched most chances of barreling through the multiple peaks that this right hander puts up. For that you need consistent south swell. Only on one shortboarder's last wave did I see a long ride punctuated by fast sections and a genuine cover-up right at my end section. His ride made my day. I had the best seat in the house, but I didn't see every wave that came through either. If anyone could make it it would have been Kirk on the mini-sim.

But that isn't to say I wasn't stoked. I got a ton of rides in my two-hour session, many of which completely transited the Verts Perch pocket beach. A decent current was in effect, which on the larger sets would push me inside and down towards an exposed table rock. But that only underscored the groundswell energy of the waves, and it was a relatively short paddle back out to the line-up.

What a great Spring this has been! And did I say that we haven't even had our Spring south well yet?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Not Really Surfing?

In December 2003, Nelson Armitage's son, Nelson Junior, took me out to an outer reef and it was 15- to 20-feet. The first time I ever stood up on a tow-board with straps I got that same feeling as snowboarding and windsurfing except you were able to do that on a wave without the sail. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

I started towing first and then I started paddle surfing after. I never got good at paddle surfing in small waves. I can paddle into any size wave people paddle into but I never got into the high-performance surfing.

Click here for the full interview on Surfline.

Some Guys Can Surf Anything

Does this fall into the "some guys can surf anything and make it look easy" category?

Monday, April 26, 2010

More Great Spring Weather and Wind Swells

Friday April 23 2010
By the time I got to my favorite reef there were already two longboarders on it. That's what I get for being a sack hound. So I headed down coast and found a not nearly as good sand bar, but with no one on it. Fact is, it just wasn't "good" at all, it was just severely underpopulated.

An hour and twenty minutes. That's how long it took to get my first (and last) really good wave of the session. This wave had at least a lined up wall with room to play on it until it collapsed on the beach. I was having an off day anyway, so the surf being not all that great wasn't like a lost opportunity. I worked out hard Thursday and my lower body was sore and stiff. Consequently my pop-ups were more like stagger-ups. My hips were sore and I just couldn't get it together. I kept catching the rubber toes of my booties on the waxed up deck, it was just a mess. Bad days. Everyone has 'em, everyone hates 'em.

I had an almost two hour session though, so it was a good workout; the sun was shining; not may people around and the whales are back so...who can complain?

Monday April 26, 2010
The weekend weather proved to be spectacular. Me and the girls headed to the Pinnacles on Saturday to catch the wildflower show. Magnificent. Sunday the weather was even better and the crowd was in maximum attendance, so I was really looking forward to an early morning Monday session at the Jolly Roger bars.

I paddled out at seven, which again was a little late. Had I been in the water at daylight I could have surfed two hours of super fun waves solo. As it was, I surfed for an hour until Paul and Nan paddled into the line-up. By then the tide was up and the surf a bit more inconsistent with more water moving through, causing some swelling and sluggish double-ups that just popped up and doubled up, or faded away. But, there were still the occasional shoulder high sets that poured through, putting up some fast lines all the way to the sand. I surfed the Freeline 7-0 HGS and once again, caught a ton of waves and had a great time on this fantastic all arounder.

At 7, low clouds and fog were way down coast. The sun was just coming over the houses, and the two guys surfing the left were sitting in pure sunshine. Since I was a little further upcoast, it took the sun a couple waves before it bathed me in it's light and warmth. But I didn't get to enjoy the warmth all that much, there were just too many waves to surf. I started hoping for an occasional lull so I could catch my breath and stretch out a little. By the time Nan and Paul came out things calmed down enough to sit around and chat in the line-up. Always a great recipe for getting caught unawares by some really good waves.

After another twenty minutes the fog started blowing in from the east and I took one in to the beach just as another longboarder paddled into the line-up, making it three. I smugly told myself that I'd gotten the best and the tide was getting too high anyway. I thought these humbling things just as two, four-wave sets piled through, giving each one of the three longboarders in the line-up two each long and walled up waves from peak to sand. Matter of fact, the last to arrive white hair guy got the wave of the day from my perspective. So much for smugness.

But this may be the last chance to surf for a few days. The NWS is pretty adamant about the coming rain and bad juju winds. Will there will be more fun waves after this storm. For shore! Not so sure I could have made that comment last year. And what else too? We haven't gotten our good Spring south swell yet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The journey of discovery can follow different paths. Some are studious endeavors, while others are seemingly catastrophic accidents that lead to unintended new benefits. For a view of both check these vids.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Freeline 7-0 HGS - Holy Grail Series

Have you ever wanted a board that does it all? Surfs like a high performance shortboard, but paddles and catches waves like a longboard? Look no further, for you have found it in the Simmons inspired, John Mel designed and shaped, 7-0 HGS.

HGS? Holy Grail Series (my own made-up name for the board and NOT Freeline's btw) because this is what so many surfers are looking for in a surfboard. It's a great all around board for all ages, but I think it is especially suited for the older surfers (like me) who would like to have more maneuverability in a high performance package, but don't want to give up the comfort and great paddle-ability of their longer boards.

At some point we all realize that we just don't have the youthful energy, stamina and flexibility of days past. So we get off our shorter boards, and onto a longboard. It's hard to forget though, how easy it was to throw around our shortboards, place them exactly where we want to go on the wave, and do it now. With a longer board, everything slows down. The instant reaction just isn't there. It's a different genre, type and style of surfing. Now I'm not saying this new line from Freeline will surf like a 5-10 chip, but the 7-0 (or longer) HGS will fill the gap nicely between chip and log.

Personally, I've been immersed in the Simmons inspired designs and boards, and Simmons' ideas since last year, when I started doing the research that led to the Freeline Ghostbuster2, which I still love. But I also wanted to have another, longer board for my quiver; one would fill the space between my Freeline Mini-Simmons 5-11 Ghostbuster2, and the Angulo Custom 10-0 SUP. I thought a conventional longboard would do the trick, so I bought a McTavish 9-3 Fireball. This is a great board, and it surfs old school with updated McTavish design elements thrown in to make it a very modern longboard. But the polyurethane has just proven to be a little too heavy for my new tastes that have evolved ever since I started buying EPS foam boards. For an older, smaller guy (150 pounds +/-) like me, the lightness of this foam just can't be beat. I'm not dissing P/U, I'm just really into EPS.

So I came to John with some ideas for a Simmons inspired longboard, based on the planing hull ideas Simmons put forward in the late 40's and 50's, and the 5-11 Ghostbuster2. (For more on the mini-Simmons designs check here and check out Richard Kenvin's blog.) Unbeknown to me, John had already been working out designs which incorporated some of Simmons design elements, and were further refined by John's treasure trove like knowledge, which he has accumulated over 30-something years of shaping...11,800 boards and still going strong!

He's already sold several of these boards locally, and had a 7-0 demo model in the shop which he invited me to surf. I rode the board in fairly mellow beach break for the last week and I'm super stoked on this design and shape. The surf (see blog post) was not big, but on two of the three days had enough juice to test the board under some pressure. But the small days were really good too, because if your board doesn't surf well in gutless, small stuff, you won't have any fun...and Summer is coming.

How does it paddle? A seven foot board is not a longboard, so I had my doubts. I was thinking that I'd need at least 7-6 to 8 feet of board to have the paddle power I wanted, not only to paddle into those super small and weak Summer beachie days, but to have the paddle boost you need to paddle in a little bit earlier on those big days, when you want to get in sooner than later to set up for some down-the-line speed trimming. The polyurethane 7-0 is thick (3.25") and I had absolutely no problem at any time paddling into just about any wave I wanted. Was it "corky"? No, it floats just right. As a matter of fact, I had several no paddle take-offs. It's easy to push your weight forward as you transition from prone to standing. The board is exceedingly stable and handles a late drop with no worries.

How does it surf? Amazingly well for a thick and wide (but shorter) board, that isn't a thruster or a chip. I don't surf skateboard style. I'm 63, not 23, so keep that in mind here. Most people don't look for this first, but one of the things I want to know about a board is, how well does it surf in white water. Does it bog down so that you have no chance of breaking into the smooth water of the shoulder? Does it just over? I can answer a resounding NO to both those questions. This board epitomizes the word "stable," on the take-off, on the wave face, in the steep sections and in the foam. It'll turn hard off the bottom, and although it takes a little getting used to, it will come back hard on the redirect. (The secret is to get your back foot firmly planted over the low-aspect ratio twin fins and rock back hard on that foot. The board comes around smartly and in a hurry.) Banking off sections and taking the high line is the name of my game. This board satisfied my every need. Even though the waves were small, I have no reason to believe it won't surf really well in small to tall (double-overhead is just about my personal limit on purpose).

Hopefully John's next EPS foam order will come in this week. There's an 8-5 blank in it, and it's mine. In the meantime, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in, check it out. But you may want to call Freeline first. 'Cause I've still got the 7-0 and I ain't done with it yet.

Perfect Spring Weather and Beachbreaks

Week of April 11 - 17

Wednesday April 14
It's been almost two weeks since my last surf. With the rain and moving my in-laws out of their condemned condo (a long story) and into assisted living, there's hasn't been a lot of spare time. I borrowed John's 7-0 Simmons influenced hybrid (see blog post) to try almost a week ago, and today is the first time I've had a chance to ride it.

I got started late, heading for the Jolly Roger's series of sand bars. I scouted it yesterday afternoon and it looked fun, even in the blown out late day southwest wind. No one out surfing this morning, even at 0815, late in my book. I had it to myself for half an hour when Eric paddled out on his "new" (I should say "next") board that he recently purchased. The waves were super fun, about waist to shoulder high on sets, with an easy take-off leading into an inside section that was shaped like a cupped hand. Take off, turn off the bottom, bank off the top and set up for the little bowl section...over and over again.

I was getting used to the Freeline 7-0 and having a ball. It took about two waves to get comfortable on the board. This is a fantastic all-around surfboard, and is the missing link for someone who wants a fun ride in between their shortboard and longboard. I wrote it up in this blog post. Needless to say...I want one!

Eric and I surfed together for another 45 minutes or so, before a couple guys on longboards came out in quick succession. By then, the size had dropped, a south wind was coming up and it was getting crumbly and wind chopped. I called it a fun session after a couple hours and headed in.

Thursday April 15
Back to the JR bar, and this time I cracked it. Unfortunately the waves were much smaller than yesterday, so I surfed for an hour and a half in mostly waist high and inconsistent little peelers. On the bright side, I had it to myself for the entire 1.5 hour session, and on the biggest waves, that little inside bowl was still in action.

This swell is mostly wind swell, and while there is a nice south in the water in SoCal (Malibu looked so sick on the webcam), it isn't really getting in around here in a real way. About every half hour a four or five wave set in the chest/shoulder range banged in, offering up a great ride if you were in the right place.

The 7-0 HGS performed well. I'm liking this board more every time I surf it.

I was really tired from yesterday's longer session, so I was lagging at the end of the first hour. Two weeks ago I surfed my Angulo Custom SUP, and had been riding that for the previous several weeks. Now back on the laydown paddler, I had insulted a whole new set of muscles and they were getting ready to go on strike. Better take a day to rest.

Saturday April 17
The waves were bigger today, and with the lower tide at the dawn patrol hour, it wasn't nearly as clean as Wednesday. But again, I surfed alone for the entire session.

The nature of beach break is sporadic. If you're looking for steady, consistent line-ups that break the same way, wave after wave, beach breaks will just frustrate you. Today the choppy little hole that served as an easy paddle-out channel for the past several days, was closing out on about half the waves. That little pocket section from Wednesday/Thursday? Gone. Again, the tide had a lot to do with it. Really low.

But on the right waves of the right sets, the Freeline 7-0 was working it's magic. Take off, drive hard across the wave face, hoping it will hold up until I get to that inside flat spot. Turn back hard into the breaking section and try to find another wall on the inside. That was rare though. It did give me a chance to fool around with redirecting the 7-0 twin fin. I had a lot of success making quick redirects by placing my back foot directly over the fins and then rocking back hard, weighting that rear foot with vigor. It didn't hurt to throw my arms up and rotate them back in the direction I wanted to go. I got the image in my mind that it would look like an old school Phil Edwards cut back. Of course I don't look like Phil Edwards but, the same principle no doubt.

Another 1.5 hour session and I was done. I dressed out on the street in the warm sun, now clear and bright above the rows of houses which populate this beach front community. Snapped a few pics and I was gone.

Sunday, April 18
Getting started late on a Sunday morning is almost as bad as the guys who call all their friends with an on the scene surf report from the parking lot. "Come on down guys", it's not crowded enough yet! Whatever...

The JR bar had three surfers on it, but it looked no better than yesterday so I scoped it for a while and passed. I headed down coast to the State lot, but it looked even worse. All the rights were either closing out, or mushing out. One left looked doable, but it also was mushy. By now it was getting pretty late, around 8:15, so I decided that I probably wouldn't surf today, but do a wide ranging surf check at the down coast beaches.

I headed to the main parking lot beach. The crowd was just gearing up and the surf was about the same as yesterday. The West bar just wasn't doing it. It had a nice right last Wednesday, but today it just walled up and closed out before dying into a sand channel, right next to the bar. The middle bar showed promise and I considered it, but a quick look at the entrance kiosk changed my mind as a steady influx of cars with boards on top were convoying into the lot. So I headed down to the campgrounds.

This State campground lot is closed Monday - Friday because of the park cutbacks. It's been so good just about everywhere else that I haven't checked it in a while. There are some amazing sand bars here resembling sandy points, geographic features etched into the beach front and sticking way out into the ocean. Three shortboarders were out on the best looking peak and wave and it just wasn't that good. Probably the swell though. On just about every really good looking wave, there was a small wave moving with it, and just in front of it. Classic wind swell. It just needed another 500 miles of grooming instead of five miles.

All in all, it's been a fantastic week for Spring. The weather has been impeccable. Not a speck of fog anywhere, and mild temps all week long. This is a blessing and it's been a long time since we've had weather, sand bars and waves like this around here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

9th Annual Surftech Jay Race Set For June 26

June 26th Marks the 9th Annual Surftech
Jay Moriarity Memorial Paddleboard Race

April 7, 2010 (Santa Cruz, CA) - On June 26th the top paddlers in the country will descend upon New Brighton State Beach in Santa Cruz for the 9th annual Surftech Jay Moriarity Memorial Paddleboard Race. The "Jay Race" is Northern California's most prestigious paddleboard event drawing top paddlers from as far away as Florida and Australia. The annual race is in honor of the late Jay Moriarity who, despite earning world wide notoriety as one of the top big wave riders on the globe, Jay is best remembered for his unwavering positive attitude.

"The Jay Race is my favorite race of the year." said 2009 event winner Craig Waltz. "Jay was an amazing person and waterman and his race is a reflection of his love for the ocean and for his community, with the proceeds from the race going to the local Junior Lifeguard programs."

The Surftech Jay Moriarity Memorial Paddleboard Race includes prone paddlers as well as stand up paddlers together doing battle in the beautiful Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary. With more than 200 paddlers challenging themselves on the 12-mile long course, 2-mile short course, kids races or the family relays, the Jay Race offers an opportunity for everyone to get out and enjoy the water.

For more info and to register for the race go to

Stay tuned to for race info and updates.

"Live like Jay"

For more info contact:
Duke Brouwer
Surftech Marketing

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chopped Up Ground Swell

Thursday April 1, 2010

It was cold on this morning's dawn patrol. 38 degrees pushed me into my fully hooded Mutant 5/4 which is usually too hot on the SUP. A light to moderate offshore breeze blew my hands numb 15 minutes into the session.

There were definitely surfable waves, but the swell had dropped from earlier in the week, and there was an irritating little wind swell putting forerunners in front of most of the ground swell waves. I headed to the lower reefs as the low tide made Sarges too fast and way too kelpy. Jamie and John were there too. I split off and surfed the lower, lower reefs while they gleaned whatever they could from YH. I got a few good rides but they were short, and sectiony.

After a while John left and I surfed with Jamie until John came back, then I headed up. No use in crowding up any one spot when it's not all that great, or consistent. The tide was rising and I thought Sarges might clean up a bit, and hoped the tide would put more water in between the surface and the sea floor, giving the kelp more room to spread out and not extend as much onto the sea surface.

Standing in the line-up at Sarges was like standing on a carpet of kelp, literally. You could either "dig your way out" with the paddle, or wait for a surge to lift you up and create more water space between the kelp stalks and blades. I took one wave and jerked and bumped across the face as my fins caught and released among the ubiquitous vegetation. That was enough so I headed up reef, looking at a few peelers at Casas.

I found a good spot there with no one on it for the next hour and was able to get quite a few clean rides on chest/head high waves. The kelp came and went oddly enough. Sometimes at the lower tide there would be space, then at the higher tide, the plants would close ranks and leave you unwillingly stuck in their midst.

A guy I didn't know was out on a 9-2 PSH, surfing GDubs wide really well. He put the performance SUP through it's paces and made a lot of fast waves in steep sections. But he took the punishment too. When a SUP surfs that well, it usually doesn't paddle nearly as well. As he paddled out the back after taking one particularly extended beating on the inside, I inquired about the length and maker of his SUP. He told me and I said he was getting some sweet rides. He concurred about the performance, and confirmed the stability issues by calling his board "nervous." I like that. I think I'll use that in future 'cause it describes the stability issue so well, using colloquial vernacular that paints the picture to those who have direct experience on that build of wavecraft.

After three hours I was tired and surfed out for the day. Apres my session I snapped a few shots with the Canon. The wind was light and it glassed off nicely. Larry, Barry, Al and GrayOne were getting good rides as the crowd filled in and the morning stretched towards noon.

The kelp is going to be a "sticky" issue this year. It's already long and clogging many of the spots, even at the higher tides. The warm water season isn't even here yet, and when it does I think there will be a massive growth spurt that will make it even worse to surf in. What to do, what to do. Having surfed down south a couple times this year I know it's not as bad down there even though the water is about the same temp. Maybe they've just got more sea urchins or natural kelp predators in those waters than here.

One of the things I enjoy about keeping this blog/journal/diary, is I can look back at the previous years. For example, last year Stormsurf counted 5 (yeah, five) Winter swells. This year they've counted 27 (and it's not over yet). This past week, with three good surf sessions Monday-Friday under my belt, has been a perfect illustration of the El Nino phenomenon. Consistently good surf in capricious conditions is the name of the game in NorCal when you have a good Winter.