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

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Beach Breaks and Cold Offshores

Friday December 31, 2010
My new year's resolution for 2011 is to get out more and adjust my mind set. I started practicing that today searching for some new for me that is.

A couple friends had given me some tips on some places to check so I followed their advice and my nose. None of these places are secret spots, far from it. But I'm not telling. For the most part they're still relatively uncrowded. My main stomping grounds are getting full. And what with one of the worst Winter's for surf that I can remember, everyone is heading to the beaches because there's just nothing going on in town.

I got a late start on purpose. It was cold this morning, 33 degrees when I left at 8:30 and it never got above 50 or so. It was clear and sunny and the wind was brisk offshore, putting a wind chill on the temp. It stayed that way, even though the high thin clouds and low storm clouds that moved in steadily promised to bring us rain tonight. Eventually I got into the water around 10:30 and it was still cold.

Two of the three places I stopped are bad for auto burglaries, one being auto burg heaven. But both these spots had good sand bars and offshores grooming several left and right peaks. Since the first spot I checked was number one of three, I looked for a while and left to check out spot #2. This place has a scenic little parking lot in a secluded bowl surrounded by sand dunes. It couldn't be prettier. Also a great location for a smash and grab. There wasn't a lot of glass on the asphalt and I looked pretty hard. No one out on the 3-4 ft. peaks that were getting their tops blown off by the cold winds. Here, it was a long walk out to the beach through the dunes on a lot of soft sand. This would have been my favorite spot but for the secluded parking lot and long walk back. If the bad guys hit your car, there would be nothing you could do about it. Matter of fact, this spot was so secluded that a determined bad guy could just rob you...forget about the car.

Spot number three is a popular beach break, full of sand bar peaks all up and down the beach. When I pulled in, the lot was packed. There were only a handful of guys out surfing, but another handful of guys were wet suited up and getting ready to go. I hung out for a little while, taking it all in and feeling the tug of spot number two. No one out there, and some good waves on tap.

So I nosed the Golf back onto the access road and found the northbound highway back to spot number two. This time as I pulled into the lot there was no one there except one guy sitting in his car reading. WTF? Reading? You gotta be kidding me. I suppose I could throw all my valuables in a backpack and take them with me, or maybe just give him my wallet up front and go surfing? Final decision, I just couldn't bring myself to surf there. It just seemed like a guaranteed break-in on a holiday weekend. So I drove back to the first place I stopped.

Surfing this morning was the icing on the cake. I'd already told myself that this was a recon, if I don't surf, no big. But now there were fewer cars in the lot and only three guys in the water. This place wasn't near as sketchy for theft so I changed into my gear, grabbed the SIMSUP and made the short walk down to the shore. I took my belongings with me though, in my backpack, just to be on the safe side. (After my surf a constable on patrol cruised the lot and I stopped him for a chat. The break-ins happen, but not as frequently as one would think. It's actually fairly safe for now because they've got decent staffing. That probably won't be the case with Cali's next budget. That will let the rats back in no doubt.)

I paddled out through a perfect channel and into a bar that was putting up multiple left and right peaks. I sat wide, giving respect to the shortboarders already out. They were taking the smaller waves that broke further in. But the way the set-up worked is that I could hang out the back and pick off the bigger waves without getting in their way. I enjoyed a number of steep drops on right handers that would wall up down the line. The secret was to cut left as soon as the curtain came down and then stay with it until the wave reformed on the inside. Then it would just morph into a long (but smaller) down the line right almost into the beach. Paddle out back through the channel and do it again. It was somewhat inconsistent for the bigger waves but it was fun and as much work as I wanted to do at a new spot. Getting caught inside (which happened once) wasn't something that was all that much fun, even in the small beach break which was in the head high range on take off and then chest high for the remainder of the ride.

In 38 years of living on this stretch of coast, I'd never been to these beaches before. Amazing. It feels good to be here now though. I'm thinking that 2011 is holding.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two Wind Swell Sessions In Between The Rain

Monday, December 27, 2010
Today was all about homecoming. All it took was a small northwest wind swell in decent conditions and everyone showed up. It was no surprise. For over a week we’ve been gripped by back to back weather systems which have brought rain and unfavorable nearshore winds to the reefs and beaches. Today’s 10 ft. at 12 second nearshore wind swell was messy and nothin’ to write home about, but it was ten times better than what we’ve been getting in town recently.

I ran into so many friends it took 20 minutes just to get from the street to the beach. Priscilla, Michael and Joanna were at the gate, along with J’s dog Riley. Jo had her new board which is a mini-Simmons so we had to talk and eyeball the new ride for a while. Ron was heading down to the shore with his 10 ft.
SUP and John and Sean were coming up the trail. Tim was on the landing giving it one last look after his dawn patrol session with the usual suspects.

It was shift change when I paddled out through Sarges which was a lot less crowded than an hour ago, making for Middles which only had two SUP guys on it and looked OK. The swell was soft and lacked energy, but the 2-4 ft. peelers put up an occasional fast section over the inside reef and was a whole lot better than nuthin’. Ron and I surfed there for about a half hour and a few others SUP
surfers paddled out, one of whom was Steve, who’s been riding the beaches a lot lately. Haven’t we all!

I lasted almost two hours before it just got too inconsistent and small to be all that much fun anymore. The sun was out, the surf was up and it looked like Boreal on a Saturday afternoon. Which made not good enough for the amount of people who were now jockeying for waves. Time to call it a day. It was good to get some while the gettin’ was good. Tomorrow it rains.

Wednesday December 29, 2010
If half of life is all about showing up, the other half is about showing up at the right place and at the right time. This happened today.

Yesterday’s 1.88” of rain (at my house) put us almost five inches ahead of this same time last year for total rainfall. They say the snow pack is at about 150% of average. La Nina is supposed to be mild and dry. Not necessarily. My take is that La Nina can also mean no really big storms can get going in the cold water. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a whole lot of little storms. And that’s what we’ve been having.

But today it started to dry out, putting up occasional showers before the sun came out steady about mid-afternoon. I was standing on the cliff at the lookout in one of those little showers getting soaked and trying to decide whether it was worth paddling out. Yeah, there was a little nearshore swell in the
water, mostly blown up by the northwest winds which were spinning up as the low pressure system exited our area. Not a lot of guys out, seven. Not bad really. The weather was probably keeping people away and no commercial websites were pimping the swell. But it was inconsistent. I wavered, but didn’t really want to go back home empty handed. Then a sweet looking six wave set came through that lined up nicely along the low tide reef. That was enough to make me head for Sarges and the Yellow House.

The wind wasn’t bad but it was up with occasional strong gusts. On a SUP,
surfing in windy conditions makes for a lot of extra effort, but I’ll take that any day if it’s low tide, 3-5 ft. and the howling offshores are making the waves stand up for two to three hundred yard rides down the line over the kelpy reefs.

I paddled out at 12:45, almost dead low tide, heading for Yellow House. I surfed there for forty-five minutes. The place was a shadow of it’s usual self. No sand, not big enough, lot’s of kelp. But zero guys out and still seven at Sarges which looked much better but still was inconsistent. YH wasn’t even breaking off the point. The best
waves were in the middle of the little pocket beach bay and while there were a few fun rides on offer there, it didn’t take much incoming tide to swamp it. I’d been keeping my eye on Sarges and when it got down to four guys, I headed over.

My first ride there was a swing wide that put up a nice peak right off the cement wall. The wave had a long wall and nice shape, giving up some nice corners in past John’s buoy and then beyond. As per usual, the smaller waves faded away in the deeper water. By now the wind had come up a lot. According to the personal weather station
nearby, wind was mostly steady out of the west northwest at 4-8 mph but gusting regularly from 9-18 mph offshore. I spend a lot of time knee paddling unless I was paddling out the back and therefore downwind. For over an hour it was either me, Teak, Eric and Dave, or me, Eric and Dave, or just Dave and me. We got lucky on the incoming tide which sent us several back to back 5-6 wave sets which were the biggest waves of the session. Rides were long and fun. Lots of climbing and dropping, turnbacks and bottom turns in the peeling racy walls who's tops were feathering off in long streamers by the screaming winds. It was definitely classic. It just doesn’t happen this way very often. We all felt blessed, and we all know how fortunate we were.

After two hours of almost non-stop paddling or surfing I was spent. Right place, right time, right on!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yesterday's Decreasing Swell Makes It Just Right

Thursday December 16, 2010

If Monday was just a wee bit too small, and yesterday a bit too big, today was just right. Jeff was up into NorCal from the Osos Nation and we hit the beaches just right for a fun surf in near perfect conditions before the deluge.

The smaller waves made it more inviting to surf the sand bar I've been riding and there were already three guys on it. One longboarder and (much to my surprise) two yakers. But there were plenty of waves for everyone and we were soon taking advantage of the well formed lines that were consistently peeling their way towards shore. The take-off spot had moved back to Monday's location and with bright sunshine and bigger waves it was a redux of Monday only better.

It's been a blessing of good timing and surf to get good waves just prior to the series of storms that are sending precursor clouds over our area as I write. Forecasts are for copious amounts of rain and high winds at least through the weekend and perhaps even into the heart of next week. Plenty of snow in the Sierras for those new Christmas snowboards.

Happy holidays everyone and Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Short Duration Wind Swell

Wednesday December 15, 2010

Surf heights and periods bumped up last night pulsing in at 8-9 ft. @ 12-13 seconds WNW. Yesterday's all day drizzle dried up but was reluctant to yield completely to anything like dry weather while acting as regent for the rains that are coming. I figured it might be one of those days when town was too small to feel the swell and the beaches would feel it too much and it would be too big for me on the SIMSUP. But when I arrived I saw one good set that looked ridable at Monday's spot. It's easy to get suckered at the beaches. You see one good set and lick your lips, but the fact is, it often turns out to be a turd sandwich in disguise.

The channel was closing out, but only on the biggest sets which were well overhead but time-able and not a lot to worry about. (Getting caught inside at the beaches on a SUP is a battle against the elements I don't usually win until the elements relent and let me pass.) You know you're going to take a few on the head, but it won't be a constant drubbing of endless pounders from which there is no escape. I made it out easily enough and started to search out the line-up. I keyed off Monday's take-off which turned out to be way off the mark for today. After a half hour of dodging set waves, getting smacked a couple times, and missing a plethora of fat rollers in the higher tide, I thought I was gonna have to scratch today off as a good try but no payoff. Then as beachbreaks do, it changed for no apparently good reason.

As series of waves lined up down coast of Monday's takeoff spot, offering a backdoor peak that put up a good drop and a long wall into a bumpy but manageable channel. Since the swell was bigger, most waves were in the overhead range and breaking harder than on Monday. I got four or five good waves in quick succession over the next half hour before it all changed again. The peak I was riding just stopped being a peak, and changed into an unridably long closing out wall. End of session.

But by then I was happy with the effort and satisfied with the waves ridden. NorCal's gonna turn into a stormy mess on Friday and then into the foreseeable future so we've got to take what we can get and be happy about it. I'm happy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Small Windswell Waves at the Beaches

Monday December 13, 2010

It's been almost two weeks since I last surfed these sandbars...they're still good, maybe even better. What with some nasty weather coming this weekend, I figured that if I wanted to get some waves prior to the wind and rain, I'd better get on it this week.

The sinus infection that's been dogging me since early November is letting up a bit after trying out a new allergy med so I finally felt like I had some energy, although I was pretty huffed after my first three or four waves.

The beaches are crowded and why not, since there has been so little winter swell, the sand bar groomed waves are really the only game in town. And even though there are literally miles of sand beaches, the same sand bars, drawing the same crowds seem to materialize year after year in the same locations. I'm gonna guess that's the by product of exposure, littoral action, rain runoff and outflow, and rip tides...conjecture for another time.

I paddled out on the SIMSUP and into a calm channel to the left of the peak I wanted at about ten minutes after eight. The fog made me think we were going to get sideshore winds, but my first wave had an offshore blowing right up into my face. Upcoast and downcoast were two good peaks that already had five to ten surfers each. This little peak in front of me was softer and smaller but I was the only one surfing there. Waves were semi-consistent in a small 3-4 ft. at 10 seconds windswell. When it gets bigger here the channels get closed out, the shore pound gets a lot rougher and getting caught inside can be brutal on a SUP. Really, I like the smaller days and when it gets bigger, hope the reef breaks will go off and the tides won't kill it.

I surfed for thirty minutes in easy and relaxing rights and lefts that put up mostly slow and mellow waves, but there were some hittable corners and some long walls, perfect for the SIMSUP. Every once in a while a chest/shoulder high set would move through bringing a little more excitement to the scene. I knew my sole, soul surf wouldn't could it? But I was still a bit chagrined when a couple longboarders started paddling out. But as I pulled into my next wave I saw that one of the surfers was Michael. Could Priscilla be far behind?

It was good to see them. It's been a long time and I had been concerned on and off that perhaps something untoward had happened that was keeping them out of the water. (In reality it was probably me that was out of the water more.) So we had a good reunion and did some catching up. Priscilla's son Patrick is now at university nearby, studying to be a teacher. Everyone is working, surfing and staying busy. We surfed together for another hour before I called it a day and headed in.

The parking lot was getting busier, more people arriving and leaving, and the spots were filling up, even one of the pro surfer, local sons paddled out, getting some relief from the pro tour grind and having a fun free surf with one of his buddies.

As always it was great to get back in the water.

South Winds Hampered WNW Gulf Swell

Wednesday and Thursday December 8 and 9, 2010

I didn't surf this swell for reasons stated below. As the best swell we've seen after the November 2 and 3 swell this year, I was looking forward to surfing some size again. Unfortunately it wasn't to be for a couple reasons. 1) The swell peaked overnight, in the dark. 2) This swell didn't last very long. 3) As it came down coast from the Gulf, it was more or less emasculated by strong south winds which took a lot of the power right out of it.

Swell numbers peaked at 10PM Wednesday night, showing 12.3 ft. at 17 seconds, 290 degrees. From there it was all downhill. Long period swell was pretty much gone by daybreak, and although there were some time intervals of 12 ft. at 14 seconds, the morning high tide gutted anything really good from happening. At 14 seconds, we're talking the lower edge of ground swell, real powerful deep water swell, and the upper rim of wind swell, nice but just not juiced up groundswell.

The swell came and went fast. Those paying attention (which was just about everyone 'cause that's what wave droughts do...force us to pay attention) got some fun rides Wednesday afternoon/evening as the tide dropped. From my point of view, those were the best waves and the best surfing.

The NWS folks (of all people) called it right on when they stated that the swell would be smaller and much weaker than the buoys would show. This was primarily as a result of the strong south winds that extended from my home surfing grounds, all the way up into the Gulf. In a sense, the south winds just blew it flat.

This isn't to say there weren't some fun waves, it just wasn't as good as most of the commercial sites trumpeted, and was therefore something of a disappointment for a lot of peeps.

Every November and April I usually come down with a sinus infection due to pollen and allergies kicking in. This year was no different except all the symptoms just wouldn't go away. So instead of going surfing, I went to the doctor to try yet another allergy med. At this writing it seems to have worked and I was able to get some waves at the beaches yesterday. I'm blaming La Nina. Two years ago we experienced a mild La Nina and the same thing happened. Let me just say it, La Nina is a bitch!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Surf In Winter Conditions at the Beaches

Wednesday December 1, 2010
Since my last surf over two weeks ago, Winter arrived. Two weeks ago I was out on my Angulo and I was still in my 4/3, no hood, no booties. The water was end of Summer NorCal warm, that is, 55 degrees. I was really looking forward to and excited about getting the SIMSUP back from Sand Dollar Ding Repair (Felix did a fantastic job repairing the broken out fin box) and getting back into some surf on it. My chance came in small 2-4 ft. surf in near perfect, but cool, Winter conditions.

It's always hard for me to transition out of warmer weather and into colder weather. I love surfing barefoot and in lighter wetsuits. So I always have to drag myself into a cold weather set-up. Get out the booties, gloves, neoprene hood and make sure everything is intact. I hate to see the warm weather go, but Winter is when we get our best waves usually, so when the surf is there, it makes it a lot easier.

La Nina is back and after Winter Storm #1 brought us fantastic surf early in November, there haven't been any significant ground swells. And I haven't been paying attention really, busy with other stuff. Getting the SIMSUP out of the shop was my wake-up call though and the forecast I was seeing was for some excellent SUP surfing conditions at the beaches. Beach break surfing a SUP is always more demanding because you can't duck dive a SUP. Getting caught inside, without a channel to escape into, can be a frustrating experience. Usually, instead of getting hammered by wave after wave, I just go into the beach and wait for a lull, then prone paddle out the back and into the line-up. I like it best when the waves are big enough (or small enough depending upon how you look at it) to be groomed into rideable lines by whatever sandbars are out there. Sometimes if it gets too big then it's just nothing but closeouts. But today was almost perfect.

The morning weather was Winter superb. Cold and sunny with light offshore breezes were holding up perfect A-frame peaks in two different locations. I chose the nearest peak which was being surfed by only two people. We rode there for about half an hour before Paul paddled out on his shortboard. Surf was 2-4 ft. and super consistent. Everybody was getting ride after ride. I couldn't believe it wasn't more crowded, but that solved itself shortly. People trickled into the line-up until there were just too many. Paul took one into the shore break then paddled out downcoast to a peak that didn't look as good to me. I knew he wouldn't mind, so I tagged along with him.

He'd surfed this peak last night on his longboard until darkness forced him out of the water. Even though the wind had changed direction and was more onshore, this downcoast peak was fun. The two of us surfed it alone until another shortboarder joined us. There were a lot of waves. Finally after another hour Paul went in and I decided to call it a day too.

I paddled back upcoast, past the first peak, through the rip chapped channel and was headed in when I saw Ralph and Mary surfing yet another peak. We chit-chatted a while and swapped boards. I've always wanted to try Ralph's short stick and he wanted to take a spin on the SIMSUP. I couldn't stay long though and had to get going so we only got a couple waves apiece. We'll have to take a rain check for future swaps.

Kirk sent me a heads-up re some pics posted of me on a local website. I'd seen a guy shooting from a tripod early on, and I thought he was taking promotional pics of this girl. But he takes the photos for sale later. The shots are nice but I didn't find the ones of me all that great surfwise, even though the photo quality was ono. I poached the ones he posted and put them here. Check the website, it's pretty cool.