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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Deep Water South Ground Swell; Conditions Clean Up

Monday May 24, 2005

After waiting and watching for what seemed like days; after tracking and checking the buoys and forecasts ten times a day, hoping; the deep water south swell that has been blown to bits by Spring winds in SoCal and here over the weekend, made landfall today in our corner of the universe. More good news: the powerful northerly winds that had made an insane asylum of whitecaps on the ocean's surface, took a break.

I could have surfed yesterday, Sunday, but a combination of family obligations, sloth and laziness, and lot's of wind along with a certain loathing for over-populated weekend surf days kept me dry. There were waves for sure, not south swell waves, but hacked up nearshore windswell on top of hacked up nearshore windswell. Not great, but definitely surfable. Add in the crowd factor though and I was over it before I even started.

I paddled out this morning and was headed to Sarge's at 0545 in inky gray overcast that looked like rain. Actually, it already had rained. My car was damp with light rain when I loaded up at 0h-dark-thirty. Good thought I, if anything wind will be light from the south. I was half right. Wind was light and offshore. Dig it. The usual suspects were on it at first light making the line-up jump from zero to five in about two minutes time. No use making it six, I'll head for Yellow House...nobody there.

Yellow's was about perfect today for SUP surfing. Smaller than just about everywhere else, it was consistently 2-4 feet all morning before the tide rendered backwash put too much bump on the wave faces. Since a SUP can catch practically any wave, especially one that loses energy mid-slide, it was the perfect board for an insane morning of super fun, consistent wave riding. Wave count was off the charts. This swell was coming in a bit too steep to make it big, but the 14-18 second periods were perfect for putting up 7-9 wave sets on a very regular basis, even for a south swell. The wind swell was practically non-existent, therefore every wave had true southerly energy.

Yellow's loves a big west swell, and any form of real energy south. Most often we only see the wrap around energy that comes in from the northwest, and it rapidly loses size and punch as it makes it's way down reef from the point to Chinese Cove. Northerly waves are telegraphed from upcoast to downcoast in an orderly fashion, you know when they're coming. But a south will spread that energy out much more evenly, so if you see a set coming at a spot up-reef, get ready to rumble 'cause you're up to bat. And the wave surfs differently too.

Northerly waves will rise up at the peak and give you a line to ride before backing off into a hole mid-bay. If the waves have some size, you can negotiate this falling away (especially with a paddle) and stroke into the next section, heading to the beach. But today's southerly waves (especially with all the sand filling in over the reef) put up a fast line into that same soft spot with the option of leaving enough wave to throw a 180 cutback, riding back into the reforming peak before coming around for a fast grind into and through the beachbreak section. That is new for the Summer and makes the wave at least a 7 on a scale of 10, instead of a 5.

I paddled back out time and again through a lot of unridden waves, giving praise and flushed with the satisfaction of another good ride under my belt, and just enjoying the view. The south is backing down and we might get one more good (but smaller) day before it's gone for good. I was tired after two hours and called it a day. I ran some errands apres surf and checked out the beach replenishment action in SeaTown before heading home. I couldn't resist circling back to the scene of the fun. It was still cranking.

Tuesday May 25, 2010
This morning's swell was on the decline with wave heights 1/3 to 1/2 of yesterday's. Yellows wasn't working at all in spite of the sub-one foot tide. But there were still some waves left in the dead glassy morning gloom and light rain.

The regulars were home in bed, sleeping it off after gorging on yesterday's wave feast. I paddled into some small breakers at Sarge's and surfed for about a half hour before Priscilla and Nancy paddled out on their longboards. We traded waves for a bit longer before I was finally drawn down to GDubs, which had been looking a little bigger and somewhat more consistent with only one longboarder out.

GDubs is kelp infested to the max. I was surprised to see that the surfer in the water was Paul. I haven't seen him practically all Winter. We chit-chatted, taking turns for another thirty minutes before one other shortboarder came out and Paul called it a morning. He definitely scored the dawn patrol, catching lot's of fun, crisp little runners by himself for an hour and a half.

I got some good ones, fast peelers on the inside sections breaking in the shallows, and the south hung in there the whole session, putting up decent but small southern hemi energy. The high line was the call, any low line ran you aground in the kelp carpet. It finally got too crowded for the quantity and quality of surf after three more shortboarders entered the line-up so I headed back to Sarge's for the take out.

Dave was out on his custom 10-4 SUP. He's a local shaper/manufacturer with a facility in Watsontown, deep in the heart of ag-central. Lot's of guys ride his boards. Kirk works out of his shop and will be fine tuning my next custom SUP down there tomorrow morning. It should be fun with a full report to follow after my first test ride.

We were fortunate to get this little southie the last couple days. Even though it was short lived, it was well appreciated. Supposedly the SPAC is acting up, but long range doesn't look too positive as of this writing. So...Pray for Surf!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spring In Full Swing With Winter Hangin' On

In the last two weeks Spring, has shown the full array of Spring-like weather. Since my last post we've seen everything from May Gray/June Gloom fog with onshore winds, to bright and clear skies with chilly to mild temps. Two things have been consistent though, the lack of surf and the fact that Winter just doesn't seem to want to let go, even though El Nino is supposedly dead and gone.

With a few days excepted, May has been unseasonably cool, with more rain than is usual. No complaints here, in fact, I like it...but it does seem a little weird. In my neighborhood everyone cleared out the tall grass, only to have to do it again (and again) due to the late season rains which caused two additional late season crops. And as of this writing the NWS is calling for more precip next week. But I'd rather have it this way any day compared to the last three years of La Nina drought.

While our surfing brothers and sisters in SoCal have been enjoying a steady stream of mostly consistent South Pacific swells, those same southies are not poking their pointy little heads into our ready and waiting Bay. Even the wind swells have been so steeply angled from the north, not a lot in the way of good surf has graced our shores. That may be changing rapidly as a double shot of better aimed and more powerful south swell is on it's way. Even the north wind, which is so typical in Spring, has ramped up again, so we should see something in the way of northwest swell during the next few days and into next work week.

So even though we've lost El Nino, we still may enjoy the residual effects from the SPAC of increased activity this Summer. Hope so!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SUP Research In Small South Swell With Perfect Spring Wx

Friday May 7, 2010

I can't believe how great the weather has been this Spring. It is certainly heads and shoulders above the last three years. I don't know if it's El Nino or what...but thank you and I'll take it!

It was a very good day to start the research on my new SUP. Kirk over at L41 Surfboards is going to be the shaper, primarily because he's a younger guy with current era sensibilities and skills who is into design innovation. He grew up on shortboards and also SUP surfs. He got the SUP virus while on a trip to the tropics, and immediately upon his return he shaped himself a 10-footer. In less than a year he shaped his next SUP, an 8' 8" quad that surfs like a shortboard as opposed to the longboard feel of his bigger board. I've got an idea for a SUP that I haven't seen before which I'm going to keep under my hat until it's built and I've surfed it.

I paddled out at Sarge's hoping for as much wave energy as I could get on this weak south swell. SoCal was experiencing some really nice waves and I figured we'd get something, but a whole lot less of whatever it was. High tide had it swamped but the upper reefs were showing some fun waves in the 2-3' range. This gave me a good chance to warm up by paddling around in calmer water and get the feel of the 8-8 which is much smaller than the 10-0 Angulo I'm used to.

Dimensions on the L41 SUP are ample really at 8'8" X 30" X 4 1/4. Total volume equals 136 liters. My Angulo comes in at around 150 liters, which in reality is more float than I really need. My goal for the new performance SUP is to find that perfect balance between stability and performance in a shorter SUP, that matches my ability. After surfing Kirk's 8-8, we're thinking we can go 8 foot something by 30 or so, and four and a half inches thick for a total volume of 130 liters. The secret to handling the lower volume is in the plan shape which will be unique and seldom seen, if ever, in the SUP world.

But back to Kirk's 8-8 I was expecting some difficulty in balancing at rest but that was surprisingly not the case. The board was very stable in the line-up, waiting for waves. The next surprise was how easily it caught waves. I was expecting to have to really work hard to pull myself in, but getting in was a cinch, even in the mushiest waves. I rarely missed what I went for. What wasn't unexpected was how well the board surfed, as I've watched Kirk surf it several times before. The board does in fact surf like a more modern shortboard with the standout feature being how well it lays over on rail. Kirk contours his rails and bottom so that his boards are fast and maneuverable. No rail catching here. And he's shaped the rails so that water sheds off instead of catching, like the more boxy rails of the larger SUPs, which allows for the quickest turns from a full stop or while surfing that I've experienced on a SUP yet. The rails are blended into plenty of thickness on the deck so that paddling and float are not negatively affected by how well foiled the rails are for surfing performance. He also innovated with a quad fin set-up, which enhanced speed and performance.

I knew there would be something of an issue with yaw though...that just had to come with the territory and it's something anyone who wants to look at going to a short SUP will have to deal with one way or the other. Kirk and I both decided that modifying my paddling technique to accommodate for the shorter rail line was going to be the best way to reach that balance of surf-ability and paddle-ability, especially if we want to go with high performance fins like quads or even a twin fin set-up. We're still talking about that element of the build though, so nothing is really decided quite yet.

The session was not completely uncrowded because of the weather and the swell. But everyone was super friendly and chatty and just having a good time. Michael and Priscilla were out, snagging waves at GDub's, where I was riding wide and taking mostly leftovers that were fast and fun on the inside. Mike was out on his giant 12' Laird and it's almost comical when you line these two short and long SUPs up side by side. The inclination is to think that riding the short one can't be done. But it can, although it's a different thing, like shortboards and longboards. Rick was out on his 9-2 and started up a spirited conversation about how short SUPs will eventually go. How short can they go? Who knows...there's a lot of innovation out there right now. Sam paddled out with me from the gitgo on his 10-0 Angulo and we traded boards for a while. He was stoked and may be Kirk's next surf SUP customer. (After me Sammy...gotta wait yer turn.) And Andy was out on his new Angulo fishing SUP, doing a photo shoot or something for an upcoming promotion...or providing evidence of all the white sea bass he's been bagging this Spring.

I capped off the four-hour marathon test drive by surfing some small and really fun fast insiders down at Yellow House. I've never been able to surf this one fast little line that zippers right along the edge of the rock reef, but the 8-8 took it on with ease. I was able to take off over the main rock pile and surf the quick little peelers, staying right in the pocket all the way to the off the lip section at the beach. Never been able to do that before on a SUP.

What a way to get stoked up for the Summer. Bring it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nuthin' But Windswell and Sun

Monday May 3, 2010

Today was a busy day, and the best weather day of the year so far. I surfed early at a sand bar I've been watching, and which looked like the only game in town. Then I headed down south to scout out a new "secret" surf spot with my dog Cloud (he really needed to get out). And finally I went for a delicious SUP paddle in the warm afternoon sun and the slightly chilly southeast wind. What a great day!

I've been checking out this sand bar for the last couple weeks during our dog walks. It's been really consistent, and in this last flurry of wind swells just keeps sending in right handers. But the almost total lack of ground swell has left the weaker wind swell producing the only wave energy, and that just wasn't enough to make it much of a go yesterday morning.

Eric the project manager was out on his longboard, and I should have taken the 7-0 Freeline instead of the 5-11 Ghostbuster. But I was chompin' at the bit to ride the 5-11 as I haven't been out on it yet this year. What looked like a nice little line peeling right into a big hole off the sandbar, proved to be a somewhat weak and mushy wave that just wouldn't wall up. It would roll and roll and roll. Then when a big enough wave came, it closed and the ride was short. But on the bright side, the weather was unbeatable. Warm and sunny air temps. I'm still in my Mutant 5/4 with fully integrated hood and booties though. The Spring winds have chilled the water temp down to 51 degrees, the coldest it's been since this time last year.

I met with a friend Sunday afternoon to help him out with an upcoming job interview and he turned me on to a "new" spot down south. "Stand up tubes" he said. "I'm begging people to go with me" he said. Since this friend is not prone to exaggeration I thought I'd go take a look. In reality it isn't really new, it's been there for a number of years, but access has been severely restricted unless you relish the idea of getting arrested or shot, or blown up by random ordnance. There are still restrictions but they are environmental now, and the beach is accessible with the caveat that the break he was talking about is a bit of a march from where one has to park. Wave-wise, there wasn't much going on, no ground swell and only wind swell, but I could see the potential. And the spot isn't exactly secret either. Two guys out when I checked it. But the dawn patrol would undoubtedly be with just you, the snowy plovers, and the great whites.

Headed home in time to pick up the #2 son from school, then back home again to load up the Angulo Custom SUP for a paddle from Sarges, up to the point and back. At 4PM it was still warm but with an incoming high level trough, the wind was brisk out of the southeast. This made for an easy downwinder to the point, and a vigorous headwind paddle back to Sarges. The kelp is completely out of control now, and with the cold water it can be expected to grow rapidly in the warm, cloud unobstructed sunshine. I was paddling at a higher tide and the small waves that came through broke directly in the thickest kelp beds. Higher tides and larger swells would ease the hazard of catching your fins, but on the inside, no matter the tide, the hazards remain.

Another great day on the bay. Did I mention...."Life is Good!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SUP Comin' Up!

Stand Up Paddleboards are coming into their own. Perhaps the fastest growing board sport in the world, SUPs are being used for surfing, racing, river running, fishing, flat water paddling, competition and just for fun...pleasure paddling and sightseeing.

No where is this explosive growth more evident than in the myriad of SUP races that have sprung up all over the world. And people of all ages are getting into it in a big way. The story below chronicles the recent 2010 Sarento’s/Kai Wa’a Maui to Molokai race, which was won by 15 year old Connor Baxter. These open ocean races are not limited strictly to the progressive SUP riders of Hawaii. Check out our own local downwind rough water races, set to be paddled on May 8 (WCDR I) and May 22 (WCDR II) and Davenport Landing to Cowells on June 5.

Story: Ke Nalu - Connor Baxter's Maui to Molokai

Saturday, May 1, 2010

SUP "Kooks" at Sunset

Some with more occluded minds seem to think that anyone who ventures out into the water on a stand up paddleboard is a "kook." This little video is the proof of how backwards that kind of thinking is. Arguably the Hawaiians have led the way in all things related to surfing, including the mastery of SUP surfing. Perhaps it is the reactionary "haters" who are the real Kooks?

Bettah listen to your tribal voice...