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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Indian Summer And An Awakened NPAC Series of Swells

Monday September 27, 2010

As bad as Summer wasn't, is as good as this year's Indian Summer is. A high pressure ridge gave the boot to the infernal low pressure trough that moved in like a box canyon squatter, making life miserable for any kind of Californio beach goer.

But last Thursday Indian Summer bloomed right in the nick time. I can't remember a better time of year than this one has been. And to top it off, the NPAC mixed up a batch of WNW work week swell that has kept the minions pumped and going strong.

I dawn patrolled it into the midst of the usual suspects at Sarges this morning. I admit, I was a bit disappointed in wave size and consistency. The models over amped it calling for surf and periods in the double digits. Not quite, but you didn't hear any complaints. Tides in the Fall don't exactly play along, going a wee bit too high in the mornings, but a decent swell will overcome the tide and riding above the kelp is a pleasure.

I picked off a few good ones at several spots, this morning riding the 7-10 SIMSUP, my 8-0's little brother that Eric has been letting me borrow. The 7-10 is just a shade smaller all around in size, coming in at 129L vs. 130L and weighing 1.5 pounds less than the 8-0. The board surfs loose and fast, and is stable. Not as stable as the 8-0, owing to the slightly smaller size, but if I was a few years younger I'd have one of these in my quiver for sure.

My two plus hour session had me taking waves at Sarges, Middles, GDubs, T8's and back again in that order. By the end of the session the tide had ushered in a lot of water, but good sets were still streaming through in spite of the waits.

The weather just doesn't get better. Clear, warm and supernatural. It's impossible to take this for granted.

Tuesday September 28, 2010

The buoys all showed the swell dropping in size this morning, but there was no way I was going to miss the last day of clear warm morning weather. T8's had been even more inconsistent than the other spots yesterday, but I was hoping that the swell had seasoned some, and it would be good. It was pretty good. The waves were smaller but in my first 20 minutes it was just a merry-go-round. I couldn't paddle back out fast enough. Herby and Christian were out, making the day an event.

After an hour or so everything slowed down and got swampy so I headed up coast to Whore House Point (there IS a story here) where it was more crowded but bigger and more consistent. I floated around near the pack and managed to paddle into two good waves while sharing heaps of other combers with the crowd. Steve picked off the set wave of the day during my part of the session and turned in a dazzling performance on his 8-10 L41 custom bat tail quad. He surfed the board rock steady, utilizing smooth sweeping turns and bursts of speed all over the cleanly peeling length of this 150 yard, overhead beauty. Stoked, he went to work a happy man.

After my second good wave I paddled back to T's and into a small shore liner where I rode the white wash into a small pocket of sand and rock next to the stairs. Then out and up through the foam rushed rocks at the base of the chipped up concrete steps, picking my way over the now you see 'em, now you don't moss covered rip rap. At the top, winded, the panorama of five or six surf spots comes into view. The warm morning promised another hot, beautiful Indian Summer day. What a place!

Wednesday September 29, 2010
The bumped up WNW swell arrived about six hours ahead of schedule (my calcs and at least one other model) and peaked in the dark last night. By this morning consistency and size was the best it's been so far, but we missed maximus goodness by a few hours. The high pressure ridge that has captured the heart of an incredible Indian Summer finally broke down, ushering in cool winds and low stratus from the south east.

The sea surface this morning when I paddled out at 0635 was bumpy and uneven. This from the southeasterly, onshore wind and backwash bump from the increased wave size. There may be no more such a thing as dawn patrol. This morning it was dawn platoon. Seems like the Beach Boys 60's song, Surfin' USA (Everybody's Gone Surfing) was more prophecy than recording. Indeed, everybody's gone surfing...with me! And it's only bound to get worse as the rest of we baby-boomers retire. (Do you suppose people will turn from being SUP haters to fossil haters? Or worse, Old SUPers haters. Perish the thought.)

I got a few waves at Sarges that were fun. One particularly nice head high, very late drop that I took blinded by the pitching take off section. The SIMSUP stuck it perfect and all I had to do was hang on. Four fins definitely increases your odds. But it was already crowded and Middles looked good with less folks so I headed there for a couple. The waves were o-head but super lined up. Kirk was surfing his 8-10 k-rail at GDubs where the crowd was surprisingly light so I thought I'd try a couple up there.

Tides in the Fall are generally a lot higher in the early morning and throughout the day. Just the way that nature made it. So even with sizable waves, that energy is still pushing a lot of water which makes the take-offs somewhat fatter than when the zone is standing up over a shallower spot in the reef. Sometimes what this leads to is a later drop in because you're pulling yourself over a fat lip instead of a thinner pitching one. There were a lot of those this morning as I dragged myself over some fun ledges and into some steep drops and sections. The SIMSUP made up for a world of my inadequacies. A truly fun board and without a doubt my go-to surfing stick.

I like to take water based pics with the Oly waterproof camera, and with the clear Fall conditions they usually come out better than in the thick, dark fog. I don't however always end up being in the best spot to get a few shots. That happened today. I just wasn't where I needed to be to get a decent shot of someone surfing. And as also happens in the Fall, I surf early, usually in the lowest tide of the morning. Tide today at paddle out was about 3 ft. and rising. Usually land based shots after a session aren't all that great unless the swell is really thumping. The high tide water just swamps the lineups, making for poor conditions.

Kirk paddled in for work and I hung out at GDubs before paddling back to Middles and surfing a super fun forty-five minutes in the best conditions and waves of the day. The south wind disappeared, it glassed off and the sets got really consistent. Only two or three guys counting me, in the lineup. Middles started putting up clean and steep takeoffs that fed into a series of ramps and sections moving almost into Sarges. The SIMSUP handled spectacularly, allowing for hard ninety degree plus snaps off that big square tail, but also maintaining maximum speed over, through and under the fastest sections. The SIMSUP owns the high line. No need to pump this bad boy, simply aim and shoot, find the line and the section is yours.

Joe paddled over on his monster Angulo SUP. He uses it for everything, fishing or surfing, pleasure paddling or racing. That craft will catch just about anything, and I'm always surprised by how well it surfs.

By then I was coming up on a three hour session and my legs were getting pretty tired. I am pleased though, at how quickly I've gotten in shape for longer sessions. SUP surfing is an incredible workout and I don't realize how effective it is until I stop doing it (usually due to lack of energized surf).

The rising tide had it's effect on the incoming waves, making it smaller in size. It was less consistent but there were still some fun sets coming in. But I bid Joe adieu and headed for the takeout. The best surf I've had this month, and we've a lot of good surf this September.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Decent S/SSW Swell

Friday September 17, 2010

Waves from a storm in the mid-South Pacific last week began filling in today. Tides wouldn't be great for this mediocre swell, and even when it peaks, wave size and energy will be swallowed up by the too high tides. I paddled out at Sarges and into a daylight low tide of 2.8 feet. The swell was small and inconsistent, but coming up. I paddled through the lineup on the SIMSUP, heading down to T8's where it would hopefully be bigger and more consistent.

I didn't think the southwest wind would be up because of the low pressure troughs and weird weather we've been having, but I was wrong. It was a bit of a struggle on the short, performance SIMSUP making my way up coast, especially with the kelp beds lining the sea surface all along the L41 breaks. Finally at First Peak Scimi's I just dropped down onto my paddle and board and hand paddled the rest of the way to 8's. A crowd of about 60 surfers awaited the presence of me and my mini-SUP.

I picked up a nice long ride on the inside almost immediately. The wave put up a rampy wall and I got plenty of carves in before kicking out way down the line. I was lucky to paddle into a couple more right away as they peaked directly in front of me while I was scrambling to get out the back.

The crowd at 8's is actually pretty SUP tolerant. More than likely this is because T8's is a beginner's to intermediate level spot unless there's sand over the reef and it's barreling, or a big northerly swell is in the house. I think I'm something of an anomaly on an eight foot standup which can look pretty damn strange from the water as I go paddling by on a board that is way too short for a SUP. I get more stares than glares. And the SIMSUP is so loose and maneuverable I think it looks more like a surfboard surfing than a big ol' bulky stand up paddleboard.

Since I hadn't been out surfing at all in about three weeks I was feeling a bit fagged from the start. The headwind paddle didn't help much either, and I worked five waves pretty hard in my first forty-five minutes at 8's. I was pretty sure the swell was going to peak on Saturday and I wanted to save some energy for a dawn patrol session so I headed back to Sarges and the takeout. Gotta love paddling downwind. I picked up a couple more soft rides enroute and called it a day at about 2:15P.

Saturday September 18, 2010

Dawn Patrol on a weekend morning with a well advertised and actual swell in the water is a misnomer. I have renamed it the Dawn Battalion. I was on it literally before "0-dark30," parked, got suited up and waited for enough light to barely see. I made it down the stairs and over the rocks, paddling out into the darkness at 0620 and almost sprinting out the back for fear of getting caught inside by one of the genuine 4-6 ft. sets that were plowing in.

I turned right and set my course for Tres Palmas for a look see at that part of the reef. Slowly the twelve guys who beat me out into the lineup came into view. Five minutes later, just after I caught my first good ride of the morning, it was 24...15 minutes after that it was 36. I was counting.

But what do you expect? Like my friend Jeff so truthfully observes, I'm just a Townie. He's right of course. (Ya gotta have friends to tell you like it is 'cause the easiest person in your life to lie to is yourself. Also, it helps that Jeff sends me an occasional surf shot from his domain. He and his buddies got some pretty good ones during this swell as the "Battle of the Titans" SUP pic testifies.) This swell was showing a lot better than the last south swell, but no doubt it was booming up north. I should have gone up there last swell but the Townie in me whined and complained. Too far to drive, too sharky (besides, they're eating the sea otters), too crowded, wha, wha wha. OK, so I didn't go north this time either, but this time it was OK in Town.

I was fortunate again and picked up a number of nice walls right off the bat. After five or six I headed down coast to find Andy and Sam. I found them at GDubs which was looking pretty good. The main peak was firing on sets and putting up a long, fast, rippable wall. Some were closing out but it wasn't the rule of the day and surfers were taking down some fine rides. Greg was out on his monolithic yellow longboard, seizing the day, even in the crowds. Andy and I traded SUPs so he could get a taste of the SIMSUP. He's an accomplished SUP surfer so it was no surprise to me that he popped right up on the board. He followed just about the same path I did when the SIMSUP was new to me. The most difficult part was keeping it paddling in a straight line, especially when digging hard to catch a wave. That's no problem now for me, but it was a longer learning curve which L41 SIMSUP shaper Kirk never suffered. I chalk that up to extraordinary athletic ability and an age deficit of about 23 years. Good combo.

Andy had installed a single raked fin, the so called "kelp" fin which I didn't realize was there until my first wave on his Angulo custom. I turned hard, putting the board up into the pocket and setting the rail. I took three steps forward to trim it up when the fin and tail came unstuck and started heading for where the nose should have been. The little tail slide, and the calisthenic that resulted, tweaked my back and brought about an early end to the session. This caused me to solidify my negative opinion of the shallow draft, swept back kelp fin. Depending upon rocker, these fins don't make much sense to me. A surfer would be better off with a tri-fin set up. You'd have better hold, better turning, just a more reliable and solid ride. If you just had a single center fin slot, then a fin not so radically swept back and shallow would have to be better than the kelp fin. That started out as a rant, but I'm over it.

I was able to stretch out a bit on my way back to the takeout so it wasn't as bad as I had first thought. (Back at the car I popped open my emergency bottle of ibuprofen and started the treatment cycle.) Still, I got a two-hour session out of the morning and my stamina improved a lot over yesterday. With any luck, I'll get the last of this swell early tomorrow morning. Just me and a few close friends no doubt.

Sunday September 19, 2010

The swell peaked yesterday evening around 6:30, but there were still plenty of waves on tap today. I couldn't do the low tide dawn battalion (it was still the weekend) because I was slated to play guitar for the Celtic Mass at Mt. Cal, so I thought I'd get some at the afternoon low tide. I was also hoping that the low pressure system would either stall or blow through quickly, which it didn't do. Consequently it was basically too windy to SUP. The wind was blowing 5-15 mph with gusts up to 18, that's perfect wind for a downwinder, but not for surfing. I spent most of my time knee paddling or prone paddling into the wind. I couldn't even hold my position in the line-up 'cause as soon as I'd stand up, I'd be blown 25 feet down wind in a couple seconds. It was frustrating because the best waves were in a tight take-off zone at GDubs and I just couldn't get to them with any success. I did get a couple OK insiders and a few nice walls at Middles, but after an hour plus of continuous paddling I gave it up and headed in. The ride downwind was sweet. Stand up and balance and get pushed rapidly downwind without even paddling, or moving a muscle for that matter. Sweet.

I should have planned better and brought my 7-4 Freeline along with the 8-0 SIMSUP. I'd have gotten better waves on the laydown simply because I could have been in the right spot. It never hurts to have your quiver with...good argument for a van.

Monday September 20, 2010

The swell was fading quickly this morning and I knew that today, day four of surfing, might be all she wrote for this fun but crowded southerly swell. I hit T8's at daylight to take advantage of the lower tide. Monday, finally, the crowd was light and although the waves had dropped way off in size, it was still consistently 2-4 ft. with short waits in between sets...until the tide swamped it. But I figured that would happen so I was expecting it.

Of the four days of surfing, this was the most fun for me by far. Why? It wasn't crowded. I grabbed three or four waves in the first 20 minutes with only four of us out. Then it went to seven surfers and stayed that way for another half hour. Plenty of time for everyone to get enough waves for a fun and satisfying surf session.

Herby paddled out on his longboard...always fun to surf with a positive energy guy like Herby. We chatted and gabbed and rode some fun waves in the slowly fading swell. I swapped boards with a woman who was riding a Hawaiian Pro 9-4 standup. At only 26" wide it was definitely much more tippy and hard to stand on than the SIMSUP. But she was curious about the 8-0 L41 performance SIMSUP so I let her try it. I also got to try her board which is the best way to learn about other craft. Ride 'em if you got 'em. (Here's a hint though...make sure that the person borrowing your SUP has paddle edging on their paddle, or is an excellent paddle handler. If you don't you'll get paddle banger marks or outright dings and chips. Generosity has some caveats.)

I didn't like the HP 9-4 for several reasons. 1) Too narrow making it hard to stand on, even on a relatively calm sea surface. I supposed you'd get used to it, but on a big day with wind and cross chop you'd be spending a lot of energy just trying to balance. 2) Compared to the SIMSUP the HP was much less maneuverable and not as fast. Granted, the waves were a little fat, but the HP just didn't feel like it could get up and running. It would work better in more powerful surf, but that just makes the SIMSUP a better overall board for sloppy, fat surf and for good waves as well. 3) I just don't like kelp fins. I'm sure the board would have surfed better with a more conventional fin.

In comparison, the SIMSUP was designed to be fast, loose and stable. It's also a good paddler for a short board. I believe we hit the mark on all four counts, which makes the SIMSUP about as close as you can get to finding the Holy Grail of SUPs.

I think she liked the SIMSUP but it does take a little getting used to. I knew what I was getting into on her narrow SUP, but it was all new to her on my board. Kirk's got an 8-2 bat tail quad SUP for sale that she'd seen, so checking out the SIMSUP will give her an expanded data base to compare boards. I told her to contact Kirk and take the 8-2 out for a demo. Demoing is THE way to go as far as I'm concerned.

Finally it just got too fat and slow. What waves were coming through were riddled with backwash on the inside so the fun was pretty much over. This has been a good swell. The best one since the last good south that got into the bight in May. With the NPAC waking up I hope we don't have to wait as long, or experience such a long lull before the next good waves arrive.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Indian Summer? Summer? Whatever It Is, I'll Take It!

If nothing else, our ephemeral "Summer" has been one marked by abnormal contrasts. From ten weeks of overcast and chill not unlike being stuck in your refrigerator for a couple months, to days of record breaking heat. Maybe this is climate change, not a gradual decrease or increase in temperature, but a jarring descent (or ascent) into extremes. I wonder, in this time of extremes in religion, politics and culture if we just aren't succumbing to the influence of a not so parental Mother Nature.

So if I haven't accepted the bone chilling downside, I have fully bonded with the upside, never more prevalent than the conditions of the last few weeks and days. While surf has abandoned us from all points on the compass, conditions have not. I spent the last two days on the Angulo SUP, making paddle excursions cut from the heart of tranquility. Wednesday I did the down-reef tour, and yesterday I did an up-reef loop. Thursday's journey even included some unexpected wave riding.

Temps both days were in the high 70's and low 80's. Wind on Wednesday blew uncharacteristically out of the north/NE (offshore) all day. True to form the breezes shifted southerly yesterday, but were light and warm, unusual since this direction sends the wind in from over the 56 degree ocean. The fog was in the house offshore, and it blew in gently in the mid-afternoon. Out on the sea I literally watched the marine inversion layer reform in the local fog corridor.

Wednesday I had the good fortune and pleasure of finding Brian at the beach with his two kids, young ones and Dad enjoying the day in the sun by the sea. An after paddle body surf added a tingly finish to the session although no one could swim into the pristine spitting barrels that reeled off directly into two inches of skim. Yesterday I felt so relaxed when I touched land that I just hoisted myself up on the cement wall and soaked it all in...sun, land, sand, wind and the colors.

Making it even better is that this burst of beauty fell between the bookends of the beginning of the new school year, and the soon to come Labor Day weekend. We fortunate few enjoyed our blessings in relative solitude. It was truly a time for locals and those whose timing was just right.

Paul said, "All things work together for good, to those who love God." The first half of that sentence would be rationally absurd if not qualified by the second. The more I learn to love God the more I believe that God truly does love us. I would find it hard to believe that a loving God would hate a rationalistic atheist who loved Nature, and therefore loved the creator of Nature, God.

Would it be any less true just to say, "All things work together for good for those who love," and leave it at that?