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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One-Day Rideable But Wind Hacked Ground Swell

Friday October 29, 2010

I was hoping for a little less wind bump and a smoother sea surface, but I wasn't disappointed in what I got given the circumstances. This little one-day swell was transiting down the West Coast very near shore. It was part of a storm system that dumped a fair amount of rain on us the next day, Saturday. It showed well on the buoy, peaking at 12-13 f,t at 15-16 seconds West, but the outer waters were blowing 10-20 mph from the south and that was enough to put a hefty wind bump on it, all the way to shore. Even the early morning offshores weren't enough to groom the chop out of it.

I paddled out dawn patrol with the usual suspects in the line-up. I surfed for a couple hours and it seemed better early, even though the swell increased in size throughout the morning. A couple long rides across the pocket beach were had, but on the waves I got the faces were bumpy. Hanging on to the deck pad with my toes took precedence over throwing off balance maneuvers, so it was pretty much point and shoot and hope you don't get thrown off.

One incident stood out in my mind. After about 45 minutes a SUP surfer paddled into the line-up...local guy, lives a couple blocks away from Sarges. There were more than a few waves that broke wide, severely limiting the people who were taking off at the point from making it through the big mid-reef section. On one wave a very good, local longboard surfer took off on one that looked iffy. As I was rising up and over the swell he was riding, I could see him make a beautiful, arcing bottom turn that was as smooth as you could ever ask for. But from the back, the big section reared up and I thought he was toast. So did the other SUP surfer, and he took off at the end of the section, in front of the longboarder. On his way out the back after the wipeout, the longboarder was madder than cat in a bath. Which begs the question about when one should take off in front of someone else. My answer to that is never, especially if the first up surfer in question has any skills at all. Hate to say it, but it's incidents like this one that give SUP surfers the bad mojo. Don't do it.

I finished the two hour session in a dropping tide but conditions continued to devolve. Incoming waves looked ripe for a steep take off, but would then fade, or throw an extra lump just when you think it would rise up. And the bumpy surface was tough to stand on too which added greatly to the fatigue factor. My hats off to the Hawaiians who almost always SUP in bumpy, windy conditions.

The rain came late, well after dark and with the swell dropping and the south winds not getting any better, this morning's surf was better than nothing, and worth the few, hard earned rides that were there.

First Seasonal NPAC Swell Arrives

Monday October 25, 2010

The first northwesterly swell of the season started showing early Monday morning. Arriving at 10 ft. at daylight, it wasn't quite big enough to make much of an impact. But it came up quickly as the day progressed. By 1130 it was in the 12 ft. range and increasing in size, but the tide was too high to allow any quality faces as the backwash bumps were all over it. Big and fat, but rideable.

I walked my dog and took pics Monday morning, waiting for the tide to lower in hopes of a fun afternoon session. At about 4PM I paddled out further down the coast, hoping that the swell would be big enough to put some fun ones into Yellow House, but it didn't. Sarges was just packed with surfers so I surfed mostly inside in the chest/shoulder high waves. It was fun, clean and a lot of good rides were being collected by the crew. As the tide dropped the crowd thinned but the best takeoff spot just got too choked with vegetation to make riding through the kelp forest much fun. I rode way off to the side and inside the kelp bed, picking up smaller but lot's and lot's of fun, long walls past the Nudie Beach and almost to the brown house. The weather was pretty warm and so is the water surprisingly...a mellow 57/58 degrees.

It was a great time to really push my limits on the SIMSUP. I tried hard to roll the board on rail and throw high angle cutbacks as best I could. Everything I threw at the board, it handled with speed and stability. It's taken me a while to learn how to surf this board. It turns sharply and definitely off the wide tail corners. It doesn't bog and it doesn't bounce when turned hard off the top. It fits the wave faces very well and comes around nicely after a 180 slash back. And it's fast, very fast. It rockets through the high line and drops under sections and back up into the clear water when asked. It is the successful amalgam of stability and performance I was looking for.

Tuesday October 26, 2010 AM Session

The swell peaked this morning with three hours of 12 ft. at 16 seconds ground swell. I paddled out at dawn just in time to see Sean's first wave of the day. His silhouette went flying by on an overhead screamer that had me screaming too. It energizer bunnied it's way down the reef and just kept going, and going, etc. I had him being closed out on five or six times but no, he just found all the sweet spots while the wave peeled fast and vertical over the reef, the offshores calling the sections to attention all the way. And that wasn't even his best wave. No doubt, Sean and Timmy ruled this morning, getting the best waves of the best sets consistently. Local knowledge...can't beat it.

Only five people out for about an hour, all friends, all sharing, all stoked. After about an hour others started showing up and I headed up reef for the rest of the session, riding Red House for another hour and a half. Barry and I were the only two surfing, pulling down wave after wave in the strong swell, even though the tide was continuing to rise. Usually Red's swamps out at a medium high tide, but the swell was so strong it just kept sending us chest/head high blue birds. We rejoiced in our good fortune. The Kettle reef was hyper-active, much to our amusement, telegraphing the biggest sets like a drunk in a bar fight. No secrets here. Barry took about five "just one last wave and I'm goin' in" waves, before we finally called it a morning as the highest tides of the day started to affect the spot.

I headed to the point after the take out to snap a few shots in the fattish higher tide waves, and there was still plenty of energy in the water. The biggest spots were getting many well overhead waves.

At the high tide the new cliff armoring made it's presence evident by adding a whole new dynamic to one's end of session take out. At both new locations at the point, powerful sweeps of water wash in, over and through the entry to the stair case up the cliff. Paddling out at these spots isn't so bad, but coming in is another story. I photoed one board broken in half that the take out claimed near the big green house. The locals and experienced water people were OK, but the folks who think waves are what they learned on this Summer at the beaches never fail to let their lack of knowledge get them into trouble. At whatever level though, this new situation bears careful scrutiny and understanding.

Tuesday October 26, 2010 PM Session

The swell began it's dramatic decline sometime around noon, but there were still enough leftovers to have fun at Sarges in the afternoon. Crowds dropped way off and the waves were much smaller than yesterday afternoon or this morning but the same dynamic was in play...ride outside until the tide got too low and then move in to get out of the kelp as best as possible.

Andy joined me on his Angulo 10-0 custom and we surfed our little section of reef until it got too dark to see. We both took down a lot of waves and after an almost five hour surf in two sessions, this old man was feelin' it. I've developed an upper body strengthening routine that mimics paddling very well, but I've been negligent re the absolutely necessary lower body strengthening exercises for thighs and glutes. They let me know they were overworked, I let them know they were not under appreciated. A couple days off was in order, along with a slow and steady stretching session this evening and tomorrow.

All in all it was a great opening to what is hopefully going to be a full surfing season. So far, La Nina is being good to us.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

South Swell Pokes In

Thursday October 14, 2010

I didn't think we would see any of this south swell. Nothing much was right about it. It was inconsistent, birthed from a series of weak storms in the southern pacific, coming in at too steep a swell angle, and best of all...the commercial forecasters weren't really touting it as anything much. But when I picked it up this morning, first on the nearshore buoy, and then on the tourist town's smudged and spider web shrouded surf cam, I thought it was worth checking out. Glad I did.

I haven't been out for a week having endured a major muscle spasm last week doing what? Trimming my toenails. I kid you not...trimming the nails. There are just certain positions that my stenotic arthritic back won't do, apparently the posture I used to trim is one of them. It was one of those T-12 lower thoracic spasms that feels like an earthquake and you just have to wait it out, hoping it ends soon. Then when it's over you just say to yourself, "that was a bad one." This one was the kind where you can't stand up straight. You're bent over like the stereotypical cartoons you see of a little old man hobbling down the street, hunched over his cane.

I tend to treat muscle spasms with ice and gentle stretching but I did too much. I underestimated the severity of the injury and therefore made it worse. Two days later I was on the doc's exam table getting a prescription for muscle relaxers and in "take it easy" mode. But that did the trick, a couple days rest, and back on the the ibuprofen trail along with working my way gently into my stretching and strengthening routine. So by today, eight days after the injury, I was ready to go.

Fall is the time of readjusting our tide patterns from low in the morning to high in the morning and so forth. Usually a dawn patrol surfer, I've learned to enjoy sleeping in a bit, and then catching the mid-morning low tide, which usually isn't all that low. But on the positive side, with low tides in the 2.5 to 3 foot range, the kelp issue isn't as severe. Granted, it takes a better swell to show at the higher tides, but you know you take the bad with the good.

I paddled out on the L41 8-0 SIMSUP, heading across the backwash from the point at Sarges, enroute to GDubs and some nice looking sets peeling in over the reef. You couldn't ask for a more beautiful Fall day. Only ten surfers out, all longboarders having a great time in the 2-3 ft., clean and glassy waves. As per usual I hid out off to the side, taking the swing wides that were dealing out unmakeable sections for the folks sitting on the main peak. The SIMSUP does it all in surf this size so I could grovel for the smallest waves on the inside, or paddle hard out the back and pick off the set waves if they were lined up well for my position. While the south wasn't super consistent, it put up a lot of waves and there may even have been some WNW wind swell waves in the mix. But from the way the waves were moving in and over the reef, the beef was all south.

Barry joined me after a while and we rode quite a few off to the side. Then the main peak emptied and I took a few from there. But it was just about that time that a gusty southwest wind blew up and cranked hard enough to make stand up paddling a chore. Not impossible, but a chore. I took a few more and was blown back down coast to Sarges where Sam was surfing. I haven't seen Sam in a couple months so we blabbed and surfed together for another half hour before taking a windy, bumpy couple of waves into the pocket beach. Once in we talked Tahitian stroke, new boards (Andy loaned Sam one of the new 9-0 Angulos which he's diggin'), shoulder injuries, otter tail paddles and the political/domestic necessity of blaming me for all this SUP madness. I've got big shoulders, lay it on me.

Steve and MikeyB hustled down the stairs with their longboards, heading for a lunchtime session at Sarges and for whatever reasons the wind calmed. Sam had to go and I thought "shoots" I might as well paddle back out and surf with those guys for a while. The wind died down but the tide was pushing a lot of water through so it was fat and bumpy. It didn't take long for the "southerly surge" as the NWS likes to call it, to carry in a dense fog bank which eventually penetrated deep into the landmass, especially for Fall. The wind kicked back up, vis went down to nothing and I was done.

But overall it was a great "tweener," that was both uncrowded and fun.

Postscript: On Friday and Saturday we experienced a Summer Redux, or should I say the "Season That Ate Our Summer" all over again. Friday was gray and overcast but the south swell was still showing, and putting up some fun waves according to Ron who grabbed some fun chest/head high peelers on the L41 8-2 bat tail SUP. Saturday morning was overcast and gloomy, and the south swell wasn't even showing on the local buoys. But the southern buoys are still spiking a southerly swell periodically, even though the swell angle is mighty steep to be getting into our local breaks. But who knows, maybe we'll get a little jump up later today or tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Near Perfect Session in Dropping NPAC Swell

Monday October 4, 2010

Every once in a while, it all comes together. Good waves, great conditions and a sparse crowd. That happened today.

Surfing in town has a lot of positive things going for it. My side of town has surf spots galore, just a lot of good breaks tucked in right next to each other over a couple mile stretch. But as good as the surf spots are, is as thick as the crowd can get. Most people I think would rather surf by themselves or with just a few friendly folks. That doesn't happen here very often, and when it does, it's rare. That's why it was so sweet today.

I was supposed to meet Ron at noon. He would be riding the 7-10 SIMSUP, I'd be on the 8-0 and we would swap around and compare notes. The slowly dropping NW swell was still in the water, not great but surfable. More problematic was a low pressure trough moving through, kicking up sideshore to onshore winds that were making the locations look downright ugly. So I bailed on the noon surf, but kept my eye on the point weather station, just in case. That proved to be a good move.

Right around 1PM, the winds went offshore. An anomaly thinks I. But when the station kept reporting consistent increments of N, NE and NNW winds, I grabbed my stuff and was gone. I found myself paddling out at Sarges for a two-hour plus session, into a brisk offshore wind, consistent 2-4 ft. waves, and a total of six guys out, including Graydon (who surfs almost every day) and Mike (who I hadn't seen in quite a while...an old college buddy from San Diego many years past). The pack was sitting on the point so rather than paddling out there and getting into that mix, making for another person, I hung inside and picked off the smaller waves that were sectioning too far in front of the outside riders to make. It was just crazy. After my first five or six non-stop waves I had to dive into the ocean to cool down. And it wasn't hot out. 95% cloud cover, air temps mid-60's and water temp mid-50's, offshore wind at 2-10 mph. The biggest inside waves were maybe chest high, and the best ones walled across the nudie beach allowing for some fun carving, snaps and foam floaters on the SIMSUP.

Then about forty-five minutes into the session, everyone got out. I mean everyone! For the next half hour the surf got better, the offshores were steady and perfect, and I was solely responsible for making sure that no really good waves went unridden. I did my best to make this happen. After a half hour, Graydon paddled back out again, I guess he couldn't stand it and I can't say as I blame him. For the next hour we traded waves in this near perfect surfing situation. Then he paddled in and I was out there alone for the next little while before three others paddled out. But by then the tide had fattened causing the waves to roll over the reefs, taking away the steep and fast inside sections where when you snap off the top and re-enter, you're all on the inside rail, just hoping you've got enough rail pressure on to keep the outside rail from digging, but not so much that you over-weight on the inside and fall into the wave face. Pull that scenario off consistently and you're addicted.

I can't say that today was epic, or even classic, it was just totally bitchen, and so much fun! I want to thank everyone for not surfing. You made my day!

Friday, October 1, 2010

NPAC Swells Continue to Roll In

Friday October 1, 2010

Northwesterly swells from a series of storms in the North Pacific continue to roll into the bight. A 21 second swell made landfall late yesterday afternoon, and the surf was probably off the hook at low tide last night around midnight. Daytime tides have been in the 3 - 5 ft. range, which has put a sloshy finish on the wave faces at times. To be sure the best spots are going overhead on the best sets, but conditions are poor to fair. Add in an onshore wind condition now that the high pressure ridge has moved on and you have a recipe for somewhat sloppy surf in between the fog and the occasional bouts of glassiness.

With that in mind, and knowing that I'd be teaching all day tomorrow with no time to surf, I opted to pay some dues on the 9-6 Pearson Arrow CJ Nelson noserider. I paddled out at T's for a 70 minute session in surf and conditions that resembled what I wrote in the first paragraph. I hit it lucky as I was in between a crowd change from the dawn patrollers to the sleep in late college kids. Eight in the line-up at 0910. I chose to surf the inside peak that was smaller, but which had a better shaped nose riding wave across the inside reef.

It's fun to the push the 9-6 longboard through it's paces, especially leashless where one has to be more attentive to a lost board. No bailing and yanking on the cord to get it back before it washes into the rock cliff face. I only had to put in one exuberant racing sprint after some kelp ejected me on my fifth or sixth wave. Just as I got to it and grabbed a hold of the slippery knife edged rail, a line of whitewash ripped the craft out of my hand as it headed for what I was sure was a ding producing date with the rocks. But I lucked out and there was no damage. I death gripped my ride firmly when I got to it this time, and paddled hard for the outside as a new set of breaking waves came boiling my way.

As winded as I was after I got out the back, it felt good. It felt good to be surfing without a leash and to have to work harder for the pleasure and satisfaction of surfing. I think one could make a credible argument that leashes may be the single greatest cause of overcrowding and bad vibes in the line-up. How many times have I watched a beginner take-off, eat it and bail and then climb right back on and take off on the next wave! In the old days kooks earned their stripes by putting in the time crawl stroking after their boards. Everybody did it that way. It leaves less people in rotation and therefore gives everyone a better chance of getting waves. Dennis says that the two things that have hurt surfing the most are the "re-advent" of longboards and the leash. I'll have to think about that some more, but I can see his point.

Of course surfing a noserider with no leash is a no brainer. Why ride a noserider with a leash? The idea is to walk all over the place, get on the nose, run back, throw a cutback, turnback and head to the tip again. Rope free. I'm not advocating the "leashless way," I wouldn't surf my SUP leashless...too much to manage with a thick board and a paddle. But I surf my 5-11 Ghostbuster without a leash at the beaches, and I wouldn't be opposed to surfing my 7-4 quad without the ubiquitous leg rope. Swimming without the life buoy has to make you a better waterman, woman, child, whatever.

Another thing I like about the 9-6 is that it is completely different than any of my other boards. The Nelson is built to noseride...period. The rails are designed to direct the water over the tail of the board, the deep concave in the nose designed for lift and to keep the nose afloat as is the serious tail kick. The bottom goes from deep concave to vee so the thing will turn. All my other boards are designed to go fast, turn and be maneuverable. A different way of riding than the noserider for sure which is built to trim on the nose in up to about 3 or 4 ft. surf. Put it on a fast head high wall and it feels a little shaky. You don't get that solid feel on the noserider that you do from rails that have a hard edge shaped to hold you and your board into the wave face.

The crowd fattened around 10 o'clock and people who were having a hard time catching waves started burning people in frustration of not riding anything, so I decided to call it a day. The difference between surfing standup and laydown is significant on my back. My mid and lower back were aching after an hour and fifteen minutes on the laydown this morning. The other day I surfed the SIMSUP for three hours and sure I was tired and sore, but there was no irritating achiness that always seems to accompany my laydown sessions.

But I had fun, got wet, felt good, got more acquainted with the leash free big dog and honed my seriously deficient noseriding skills. Life is good.

No pics today. I didn't want to lay down on my Oly and five minutes after I got out of the water, T's completely socked in with thick fog. I couldn't even see the line-up.