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

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.

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