Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Session 4.252: Quick Local Surfing Stoke 4

This afternoon, I did not want to drive out too far, so I decided to check out the Dunes state beach to surf, since the Jetty is likely to be contaminated by the rain. To summarize the surfing experience, it was a low stoke day. The wave got really junky and wind blown.

One thing about this place, and actually at all Half Moon Bay state beaches, is that there always is some amount of current, and often the current is tremendous. I launched at the North end of the park and in 30 minutes, I was already the Northern edge of the Dunes beach. It took me a good 5 minutes walk back to where I launched. As far as the current goes, Linda Mar makes me feel like a Koi pond, while the state beaches are a Jacuzzi running at full blast.

Yesterday, I wrote about a stoked grandma. Surfing is an interesting sport that there are many people who are really stoked about seeing surfers. Another pattern that happens sometime is to run into "stunned" people.

Typically what happens is this. When I am getting ready or getting in the water, and some people walking by will just stop doing what they are doing and just looked stunned, and keep watching what I will do next. It looks like they are more stunned than interested. Because if you are interested, they would look a bit more relaxed, or would sit down at the beach and watch a little.

I can give some guess as to why this happens. It is usually in the middle of a winter like today, and it was very windy today, so if you are out walking or something, it would feel cold to them. So they see a surfer about to splash in to the water, the just the idea of them feel chilled to their bones. Given that this is a holiday time too, I am sure that many people are from the east or other places that getting in to the ocean is not something you'd think to do in December.

Next time, you would want to observe the observers, it is kind of fun!

The session was cut short, as I was swept away and the wind started to pick up, blowing away already what amounts to be junky situation. I did paddle hard and got more practice on duck diving though, so it is not a total write off!

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Session 4.251: Wadell Creek Stoke 8

With the notion that there is some water contamination near my Half Moon Bay home, this morning I have decided to drive towards Waddell Creek and if I did not find any, I'd come right back.

Oh, well... This is a kind of a day when I really wish I had some expert surfers with me because every state beach looked very attractive on the way down. The swell lines were forming and waves were breaking in gentle-looking A-frames from one state beach to another at slightly overhead level.

Problem number 1: If I went, I would be the only surfer there. In fact, I was kind of hoping that I'd find a beach where there is at least one surfer out, and I would have gone out.

Problem number 2: If I went, I would likely be overwhelmed by the power of the breaks. They looked like they were just above my top limit of what I am willing to take, especially if I went by myself. It would be a different story, if an expert buddy is around and the added mental boost would just help me stay in the lineup. It is definitely a mental and courage thing. If I was forced to go, or if I saw some child stranded out, I will go and get the child back.

So I drive by San Gregorio, Pomponio, and Pescadero... and I was hopeful and at the same time I was becoming worried that I would not be able to go out. Then I arrived at Waddell Creek, my final destination for this morning. Already the mud cleaning people were out dumping lot of gravel by the parking lot, which is actually making the water murky. Then I saw two pickup trucks with white surf boards on their beds and dudes were doing some surf check.
We greeted, and one of the guys asked me if I was going in, and I said, "Yeah, why not, I came all the way here, might as well get wet." The waves were bit smaller here than other places, and I was very comforted to see two people looking like they were getting in. I told them if they were looking for better waves hit north a bit, but one of the guys said he was recently injured in the face, so he'd want to take it easy. He showed me a spot on his face where he was hit. Then I showed him my Montara battle scar, a 5-stitch prize that I will carry for the rest of my life with a story to go with it.

One of the guys said, "Yeah, I will go in with you." and with a lightening speed they were already suited up and started to paddle out. I followed about 5 minutes later fumbling with helmets and all sorts of gear, and also this grandma from New York wanted me to pause for a photo, presumably she would want to show her friend back east, "This is a surf dude in California." There was also a 5-6 year old boy with them, and he was looking at me preparing very carefully. I am sure that when the chance comes, he would try.

Well, I must say that I was happy to pick the 6'6 today because getting out was a hell with a lot of current and jostling inside section, still breaking and that was a channel. Many many duck diving, and finally got outside. Once out though the waves were a bit on a mushy side and so it was difficult to pick the right wave for me. Sometimes, I go for it and it won't break. But occasionally the waves were rolling up some tubes and if you were good, you'd get in them. I love Waddell Creek because waves can look big but usually not that hard breaking, say at Montara.

I must say that surfing has a bit of this masochistic element to it. We catch the waves; we smile and get out being pounded by oncoming breaks and go for more.
And so it was fun!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Session 4.250: A nice Christmas Present - Got The Jetty to All Myself

6:30: My body clock is back in synch with the local time, after a trip to Japan, and now I am waking up well before the sun rise. I got out the bed at 6:30. Today was, counting each session of this year, the 250th session, and it so happens that it is the Christmas day holiday!

6:50: I put on the wet suit and I get out and it was only 40 F outside as indicated by the outside thermometer on my car dashboard. In fact, when it is at or below 40 F, a road-frost warning light also comes on, so it was colder than usual. I was actually looking forward to get in the water because in the past sessions, after the initial plunge, the water was actually warmer than being standing outside.

No coffee and pastry option this morning, so I had to head straight to the beach. The traffic was light.

6:55: There is a shopping center I pass by on the way to the beach, and a Macdonald's always has flags up on the pole. Aren?t you supposed to bring down the U.S. flag down at night? I am glad they don't bring them down because that is a good spot to check the wind. The flag was not flapping around, so that was good.

Basically, no matter how flat the condition is out at the Jetty, there usually is one or two surfers out there every morning. But this morning, I was the first to arrive and for the first 30-40 minutes of the session I had the entire beach to myself. I could paddle anywhere and take off on any waves without a worry. And while I cut the session short to less than an hour, I caught so many waves.

7:10: Put the booties on, put a light coat of was on the Fish and I am heading out crossing the highway. A woman driver passes by but she gave me a wide smile. I am sure she was stoked about seeing someone surfing on a Christmas morning.

The bay was a bit filled in with the water and with the long period swells filling in the water were hitting the rocks. But it was clean paddle out, so I started to paddle out. Light was becoming better as the Sun is starting to come out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The waves were fairly small, may be up to shoulder levels, some were real fast closeouts and some had good shoulders, and I caught many waves, as I paddle back quickly.

On the second ride, I had an "air" in the ride. As I have written before when the waves are bouncing in the Jetty, the inside gets really bumpy, and I have ridden over these inside bumps, but today as the bump approached it happened that I bent the knees to absorb the bump. I had a good speed, so as I did this, I went over the bump and then I was launched on the air for a few seconds. The remarkable thing about this one is that I was still on a riding posture, and when I landed, I continued to ride. So this morning, I happened to get some "aerial" move, and it was fun.

I was paddling up and down to find good spots, and caught many waves after that.

Finally at 8:00 people started to arrive, and I thought, it would be a good time to cut the session and start to get into the Christmas sort of things with Wendy and her mom.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Session 4.249: One more session remaning!

Finally, one more session left for 250 sessions out for 2004. I am really happy about this.

This morning, the tide felt like it was a bit too high and so the waves were not breaking easily. This made going out easier, but as for catching the waves, it was more for a long-board. Of course, there were many people out.

On these days, I just try to relax, keep smiling and check out other people surf. And once in a while when the wave do come and when everyone screw up on the outside, I would take off on a late-start and catch the inside; basically the same stuff I do when it is closing out on the outside.

~ ~ ~

As I do a lot of sessions, significant discoveries become a far and a few in between. It actually makes daily log writing a bit of challenge. I actually sometimes remember to write about some thing then by the time I get out of the water, I totally forget about it. From that respect, it is almost like having had a dream and when I get out that is kind of waking up in the morning, totally forgetting about the dreams that I had.

I have once read somewhere that most people are in the state of being asleep all day and night, and that's why most people won't remember what happened at work, driving to and from work, or what they ate at lunch. They just become so automatic and autonomic that such routines would become part of just living. I am hoping that surfing won't become something like that. I won't likely but definitely a lot of things are starting to be ingrained into my body, so I don't have to even think hard about, say when to duck dive or things like that.

In 2005, I think that I am going to start to get away from writing about technical discoveries and hoping to dive more into my deeper part of psyche, and possibly looking back my very early days and comparing them to today. Good thing is that I have written when I had to and they are faithfully stored digitally on web servers and blogs.

This morning's session was joined by Greg, Jeremy and Laura. Thank you for sharing the stoke with us today! Thank you for joining, it is always nice to have friends.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Session 4.248: Two More To Go

Continuing to keep up with the commitment. Due to the holiday weekend, the beach started to get crowded in the mid session. I am much into the spirit of sharing waves and giving waves, that it looks mostly a one way favor. I was hoping for a longer session, but as the crowd gotten to the point that it was no fun surfing, I got out, so having about the same amount of the usual session length. When I got to work, I got surprisingly busy (so I am writing it next day).

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Session 4.247: The Stokemasters DP

It is a real dawn patrol, if you start to include running an errand on the way to the surf. This morning was kind of packed tight because there was a meeting at 9:30 and then with a possibility of all my friends showing up at the dawn patrol, I had to make sure that I will be there. So I started extra early to get the usual coffee and a pastry, then stop by at the bank to get some cash so I have money for lunch!

When I arrived there, Steve was already suited up and ready to get in. Shortly after that Jeremy pulls in and then Amanda too. We did not even have a weekend session like this many people showing up at the same time. But, that would not end there. After I played in the water, I gradually drifted over to the South end where most people were waiting. Then I spotted Greg. So I introduced Amanda to Greg. When I got out of the water, I saw Laura's car and that made me happy. Sorry, Laura, I had to get out of the water and get to the 930! When I arrived at work, thought I was told that one of the meeting members was late. I said, "Oh man! I could have had a longer session."

In terms of surfing, I must say that it was more in "poor" end of the situation, but this is where I don't have a stigma of riding the white water reforms. I just set myself in front of the close out and paddle the hell when the white water approaches. Usually this will result in reforming wave face that is really a lot of fun to ride, and when the swell size is a bit big like this morning, there is a plenty of distance to surf on. But there is a couple of other tricks one need to learn.

The first trick, of course, is to use turtling, or if you are on a shorter board, use both turtling and duck diving combo to get your way out. Of course, if you see a hot short board surfer, you would be amazed to see them paddling out totally relaxed looking.

The second one of those is to learn to find a channel. On conditions like today where the swell height is big enough but the period is short, and then we get a lot of messy inside white water and often that just prevent you (OK, me) from getting out easily. On a day like this, I paddle to about half way out. Then I just float on the side current. Eventually, the current starts to pull me out, and that's the channel. When this happens, I start to paddle. One thing though is that when there is a lot of sets coming in, the rip can be rather strong I'd been taken out really far out, and that was a bit worrisome. If you are on a long board, no problem, but on a short board, paddling across and back could be quite a bit of effort especially when there are double overhead stuff coming right at you and you'd not want to get further out nor there is nothing you can do to catch the waves, and that means that, I guess, you should not have been out.

I did have some fun waves today, but I think that my skill level was not completely up to a good show today, so, let's try another time!

Today's session was joined by Amanda, Greg, Jeremey, Laura and Steve. I really do appreciate all your friendship and support. I hope to share many many waves with all of you for years to come! Have a great close of a good surf year, and hope for another fine one!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Session 4.246: DP, Stoke 7

We have been continuing to get the power from the westerly direction in the past week. Over night, some shorter but sufficiently high swells started to fill in from WNW. This is a sign that the breaks will get possibly mushy and cause fair to poor surfing condition. If I am not so committed to do 250 sessions this year, I would have abandoned this morning's session. In fact, usually I don't do Mondays because I also need to stop by at Montara and Gray Whale Cove on the way to pick up water samples and drop them off at the county drop off point. That usually takes an hour away from my morning.

But even on those days, some good people are ripping on the outside. So again, I was humbled.

Surfing as a Lifestyle

I was thinking of this again this morning. Why do I go to all the trouble of surfing practically every day. Am I addicted to the sport? I actually have quite a bit of trouble when someone tells me that I am addicted to surfing. Actually, contrary to what many people might believe, there are some days and mornings that I do not want to go. The weather can be sucky, wind is howling and the waves are just a mess. If I don't surf, it is not such a big deal, because I know I can go another time and another place.

What I have chosen to do though, is to make surfing as a part of every day life and discipline, a way to maintain my health from physical, mental and spiritual sides. It is great because unlike running or gym routines, which by the way, I have not participated in my life, surfing provides so much variation and there is never really a dull moment. Small reward in all of this is a rare chance to actually ride on the board. It is rare, if you compare the time you spend on getting there; no more than a minute or two per hour of session standing on the board!

Now the spiritual side of it is kicking in to this whole thing, which has really started to add yet another dimension in this. As many of you know I grew up in Japan until 18 years old, and much of the Buddhist values have been taught and ingrained in me. Through participation in surfing, I am starting realize the importance of the spiritual aspect of the life, and though many humbling experience and solitude of being in the ocean it has started to teach me a lot more about what a life is about than it would have been possible, say if I continue to ride a race motorcycle.

In Japan, as a part of the discipline of learning the Buddhism, you would go to the temple very early and reading Okyo (scripture). My dawn patrol is kind of like that, it is a time for me to discipline body and soul and at the same time, I have a space to all myself to think about "things."

So that is why I try not to miss a surfing session each day, and even if cold or whatever, I am trying to discipline myself not to be bothered by them, and try to discover something in the nature or something deep within myself through both good and poor sessions. That is why I set a goal to do 250 sessions this year. From that regards, each session ought to be given a Stoke 10.

Winter Solstice Tomorrow Tuesday!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Session 4.245: New Den + I love beach breaks!

Well, something I was not anticipating when I started to surf is most likely to happen. It was actually the September of 2001, when I took my first surfing lessons ever at Sharks Cove on my first surfing lesson. Now, about three years later, I am going to have a place to sleep on 41st Avenue, just a walking distance from the Pleasure point breaks. Of course, life is a full of these cause and effects; one thing leading to another, but when you look back I knew having an apartment in Santa Cruz would not have occurred. But thanks to Tanya's lead, I am really stoked about this chance.

Well so what is the cause and effects of all of this? First, I started my web site that is then called the Half Moon Bay Surfing Bookmarks. Then I started to write about what I have found out as I found out, then about a year or so later, e-mail messages started to trickle in. That resulted in starting the HMBSurfing Yahoo Group. Ken was the first one to be on it, then Clio, and then Reez came on. That resulted in Amy and Tanya to join. Now on any given weekend, it would almost be difficult to find major breaks from San Francisco to Santa Cruz that a Stokemaster member won't be surfing.

Thanks to many devoted members, we have exchanged very close to 5000 messages, we've done many outings, bonfires and a party, and it is becoming one of the recognized surfing groups in the Northern California area and even in Southern California and Hawai'i! That in itself was nothing that I was expecting to happen in 2001 when I first stood up on the Doyle foam on a hip high wave!

As for today's surfing, after taking a look at both breaks on the 38th and 41st sides, I have decided to go down to Manresa to avoid crowd and enjoy a bit more power in the waves. I ended up missing surfing with the familiar Stokemasters face of Laura, Spyke, and Amanda as they opted to stay at the 38th. But Luke showed up at the Manresa so I was not alone!

It is kind of ironic that I live in the beach break capital of San Mateo county, drive all the way to Santa Cruz that is famous for many nice point breaks. But I must admit, lately I have become very found of beach breaks and with short boards. Especially like Manresa, which I think is like a giant version of Linda Mar with a bit of Ocean Beach feel mixed in. When it is firing, it spreads out so I can always find a break of my own and when holing the shape it is great to get into fast drops, and when it is closing out, I can always ride inside. It does not warble as much as the inside the Jetty so riding is a bit more manageable.

So I arrive at Manresa, and a nice thing about this place is that you have a magnificent vista of the entire beach from the parking. So you can decide where you would want to end up. Today, it was closing out mostly but the area by the trestle looked holing up, so my plan was to gradually surf to there taking as many lefts as possible and paddling back diagonally.

So with my board under my arm, I walk into the water. Even though I surf a lot, this part is still hard. Hardest part is the first duck diving. Water seeps in to the head, the neck and the chest. That is cold and awakening! But as soon as I start to paddle, the ride in the body temperature will start to warm inside the suit and soon, I am ready for being in the water as long as I want.

Once in the water, short boarding on these beach breaks are really a lot of fun as the waves will show all sorts of different shapes as they form and reform across the beach. If I guess the correct route and cut back and connect these sections, it is really satisfying. It is a lot of work though to paddle up and down to find the right spot. And when lots of set waves are coming in, the current kick up and before you know you will be quarter of a mile from where you started. I started in front of the parking lot, and before I knew, I was in front of the trestle. It took me a good 5 minute walk back to where I started out!

Stoke 8 today, building back more confidence in taking off and also got lots of nice cut back turns.

After the session was over, Luke and I talked a bit. Poor guy will be held in Omaha for 2 weeks. Sorry. Then I called Laura, who was just finishing up. So I ended up going to Chill Out and had a lunch with the gang. We talked a lot about surf conditioning, importance of the paddling posture and how Yoga and swimming helps, and also talked about the Stokemasters group, and how it is affecting my life and theirs; we especially all agreed that we created a very non-intimidating friendly discussion area where many people found one of their closes friends. After lunch as a usual routine, I (must) go to Freeline and check out used boards. I saw a nice 6'5 French short board for $200. Several dings but I can fix them in a short time, so I almost got it, but I should practice what I preach; it is mainly the surfer and not the board that cannot surf.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Session 4.244: All temperature Cheer

Jetty again this morning in the anticipation that other spots were going to be brutal, for example the Ocean Beach. I did not do very well today again, but looking at other better surfers they were catching waves, so it is just me. Plus it was super crowded this morning probably because of the holiday time with a lot of people has started to take off from work.

What have I learned today?

At least I know there is still a lot to go in the way of catching and riding more waves. What could be improved in this situation is to try to read the wave better. Today was a perfect example when I am not just reading the wave and not positioning right. Party because I did not want to go into the main line up where there were about dozen surfers competing for the same wave. When some of them are good, there is no fat chance that I could get the wave!

Consequence of not selecting the right wave and not taking off at the right spot and time, especially at the Jetty, is that you'd be treated with a nice elevator ride up and then down then a spin cycle. It isn't much fun as you've read my log from yesterday. The only saving grace is that I had a puny board so I did not have to ditch the board. That would be embarrassing or even cause some reprimanding words from other surfers. At the Jetty, the waves were much smaller than yesterday at the Linda Mar but due to the location sometimes the wave can wedge up super fast, throw a winding tube and take you with. So if you are up, you look great, if you are down, you feel much penalized inside the water.

I caught a few closer to the rocks today since two of my other local buddies were there to look after me.

So I cheerfully continue to surf in spin cycles at all temperatures of the water!

6 more sessions to go, then I quit surfing altogether (just kidding).

Friday, December 17, 2004

Session 4.243: Power of 20 seconds 8 ft.

Every one in a while, I receive a dose of humbling experience. Today was one such day. I knew it would get big today, but usually when it is big, I can watch the ocean and tell. When I saw the Jetty on the way to a dawn patrol, it did not look that big, though the buoy was reading 8 ft at 20 seconds. The winter N swells must be in the full swing of things. But Montara was something else, it was throwing at least triple overhead tubular waves? Like the ones you see in surfing magazine pictures. I was definitely not going there. So back to Linda Mar beach.

At the first look, it did not look too bad. Looked very usual stuff with occasional close outs and then there were some ridable looking waves in the high shoulder type range. The surface looked clean, and it was easy looking to get out. So I took out the JC Equalizer 7'5 length, thinking that there still might be some bigger stuff out there.

As usual, as soon as I start to paddle out, bunch of set waves come in. That's not a problem, I get to practice more duck diving! And there were some close out sets that were at least overhead on top, it all white so I could not tell. I would normally try to ride the reforms, but today with the low tide it did not help, and the tide was out-going so it was becoming even worse as the session progressed. So one white water after another and I was starting to get tired of them. I was frantically trying to find a channel, but by this time, the waves were coming and breaking the entire length of the beach, so it was difficult.

I rode a couple of reforms but it was so broken up that before I got any speed, I was surrounded by the white water.

Then the whole beach calmed down, and I dashed out as quickly as possible. I finally made to the outside where there was much less commotion. By now actually the sets started get really big, about 10 ft. They were the kind that won't jack up that fast but once they are up, it just closed really hard. Of course, I should know that, this is a result of a long-period swell, there is a lot of water being pumped. I still wanted to see if I could catch any, so I paddled a bit inside, then another a bit smaller set came up. I was actually happy to see it coming, but then it was not giving any ridable waves (at least for me.) So I decided to go back inside and see if I can still catch some closed out reforms.

That's when another set came, and I was frantically trying to get back out, but it was a bit too late. It was a kind that if I held on to the board, it would have been too dangerous so as the wave started to curl, I threw the board as far shoreward as possible, then I was thrown all the way up, forward then I was tumbling down spinning around like the clothes you can see from a front-loader washer with the leash pulling me down. Eventually, I have felt the bottom and the worst was finally over. Glad this was not on some coral bed in Hawai'i! Still it was about 10-12 ft deep in the water, so I try to relax a bit and let my body float up. As soon as I find out which way I was going, I started to kick and swam toward the surface. The surrounding get suddenly brighter and I pop the head out of the water. There is no other time you'd appreciate that you can breathe again!

Now I look towards the ocean, and, oh man! Another big set was on the way, so I grabbed the board, but it was too late. There was nothing I can do, not paddle out, try to ride, or paddle in, but again let the wave take me where it wants. Another tumble, tumble and tumble.

As soon as that was over I deiced that this session must end now, so I paddled in. I caught white water and belly ridden almost all the way to the shore.

Throughout this time, I was not scared, I knew what was going on, I practice in swimming pools for 30-40 second hold downs so I was confident, but it sure was not as pleasant as catching and riding.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Session 4.242: Back to the Jetty, 8 sessions to go!

The N wind picked up again this morning and also the buoy reported 8 ft at 20 seconds. Plus we had low tide condition this morning, so I decided to look into the Jetty carefully, and sure enough it was ridable, but a bit smaller than yesterday. After surfing these local spots a lot, I am starting to get a hang of how wind and the tide would affect my style of surfing so that's another happy aspect of gaining more knowledge of surfing.

As it turned out we had some good overhead size breaks to the Jetty side and the crowd was minimum so I actually had a lot of fun. One annoyance was that this guy with a Kayak showed up and followed me around for good 10-20 minutes, and I was trying to get away from him but he kept coming to where I was moving away from and then took a wave at one time and dropped in when I wanted so that made me a bit mad, so I decided to follow him around paddling pretty much next to him for a bit, and looking like I was going for waves that he was going for. I think he got a message and finally decided to stay put where he was as I paddled further. Speaking of this, though, I think I had much less run-in like this with Kayak riders. All I ask of them is to respect surfers because they got so much more power that they can catch more waves than paddle in surfers can do. I usually give waves to lot of people but when my favors do not get returned, that's when that gets into my nerves.

In terms of catching the waves, the Jetty provides me with a bit more challenges than usual and also often with much less variations, and also I tend to avoid the area close to the rocks as it is always crowded and the take off spots are narrow. The basic challenge is that the waves tend to hollow out more. This is, in general, true of other Half Moon Bay locations.

What happens a lot in these situations to me is that I cannot set up a line quick enough that the board slips out ahead of me, and other times, the front tip get buried in and basically do a late pearling. I have occasional success so I need to analyze a bit about what is happening when these things happen. For me, this is actually a significant improvement than the past when I am simply not taking off. I am taking off, I am getting into the wave, I just cannot continue to be up on the board for whatever the reasons. I guess the main thing of this is that my body does not feel and gauge the jack up rate and the slope or something to that effect. Once I master this though, that's yet another door that opens up for taking on faster and hollower waves, that means, yes, yet more choices of places and conditions that I can get to surf!

OK, 8 more sessions to go for this year's self-imposed quota!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Session 4.241: 9 More Sessions To Go!

Last night, I checked the local buoy, and it was measuring 12-13 ft swells, and the wind was blowing. That was as exactly predicated in the forecast. But by the dawn patrol time rolled in, the wind has basically stopped in Half Moon Bay, the sky was clear, and actually the swell ended up dwindling quickly. Because of the forecast, I was not intending to go to the usual, but instead, I picked the local Jetty. In terms of the choice of the location it was not too bad. I had some good waves.

One thing that I am starting to downed on me this morning was that I have never thought that I would be so much into riding short boards but now, I am really stoked about riding them for the last 2-3 months, and so it has been quite a while since I took out either the Takayama or the foam. Probably this will continue to be that way until next late spring when the things start to calm down, but then, I would change... There are two main aspects of riding short boards that I really like. One is the ease of getting out. This is approaching the ease when I used to boogie board. Another aspect of it is that I can easily get over powered by the board especially when I try to go for bigger + steeper waves. Shorter boards are much more forgiving in this area.

The reason I am writing about this is that at the very beginning, surfing was a very horrifying experience especially when I have not swam for many many years, and when I first go on the short board, I was truly panicked when I was swept a a bit further out when I could not longer touch the bottom. With a meager power in my muscled with very unskilled paddling technique, it seemed to have taken forever to get back to the point where I could touch the bottom with (even) just one foot. You cannot believe the amount of the relief I've gotten when that happened, I got off the board and walked back. So at that time, I thought I would never ever be able to ride a short board. I was wondering how these surfers can get out with so much ease, and let alone stand on these small board, because I was just tipping all over the places on a 8'6 board.

Back to today's session. The Jetty tends to provide some warbly section inside and that makes it especially hard to ride. It is really a funny and strange, it feels like the entire ocean is riding on top of another vehicle running on a rough unpaved road. The low frequency warbles are combined with the wave faces you are riding, and eventually you'd come to a bump or two ahead, and you'd either come to an instant halt or if you absorb the bump, like mogul skiing, you can actually go over it and continue a bit more ride.

But there were some good high-shoulder lefts that I took that were good feeling. So overall it was a good stoke level 7 session.

On the way to the office, I checked out both Montara and Linda Mar and places were both empty but actually turned out the condition was not too bad!

And there are 9 more sessions to go, so I might be able to do more than 250 sessions this year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Session 240: Stoke 10 + 10 more sessions to go!

I had another nice sunny dawn patrol this morning with a very nice condition with up to overhead breaks. Continue to practice more take offs and turning. Another stoke 10, and 10 more days before I finish 250 sessions! I can indefinitely use these kinds of days and I don't even need to go anywhere else!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Session 4.239: High Stoke DP!

Monday Dawn Patrol is always the least crowded, no matter what the condition is, and when the condition is just right for me, that's a perfect stoke day. I wish I did not have to take water samples though, as that will take up another 1 hour in the morning. With the sun not rising so early, it really put a squeeze in my session.

Today was just a perfect kind of day for me to practice more take offs and turns, and many of them worked just smoothly and perfectly without having a fear of hitting someone or be hit. There were so many good lefts, as I paddle hard for them, and then I can just insert the board into a sweet line along the wall, and then there is still time and room to do some good cut back turns. I just keep going on the face, look for the opportunity to where the wave in front of me is about to close. I see one coming and with a bit of bottom turn, then looking up and aiming the board high up, the board starts to climb as press the back of the board. I turn my body around towards where I came from. The board start to pivot around and I am now feeling like I am nearly vertical, my eyes peering into the bottom of the wave, as if I am about to be jumping off from a cliff, but the back of the board is still pressed against the wave, and magically I am still standing on the board, but doing so with board vertical and I am horizontal. A moment of zero speed and zero gravity passes, then "bang!" suddenly I get sucked into the bottom of the wave as if a rocket booster has ignited, now I am going back from where I came from in a complete U-turn, and I am still up on the board and go down the face of the wave again.

Just 11 more sessions and I will meet this year's 250 surf sessions goal!

Now onto carving a letter S on the face with a roundhouse cutback! I will be there albeit slowly!
Stoke 10/10.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Session 4.238: To fight or not to fight the crowd

Are you reading and enjoying my WavLog? This year, I have been saving up $1.00 each time I surfed this year to the Surfrider San Mateo County Chapter's Water Quality Monitoring Program that will incur the ongoing cost of testing supplies. That's hopefully $250 or more. You can help too by matching this gift. Any amount will be helpful! 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents per session, and I will make sure that your name will appear on the Sponsors Page and an official receipt will be provided for your 2004 Tax purposes! Just e-mail of your intention to donate to the chariman on the Surfrider Foundation San Mateo Chapter at or to me

~ ~ ~

Today I was going to hit Santa Cruz, but after seeing how the weather is becoming drab, I decided to do a short local session, and I was a bit stoked to hit a Half Moon Bay spot. The initial plan was to take a look at the Jetty from the highway, and if that looked good, I would turn back around the check out some of the state beaches. It was actually happy that I have chosen to do that because the Jetty was just completely disorganized, probably due to a lot of wind. So the next stop was Montara.

I actually went past there thinking that it would still be too big for me, but then I turned around in the North lot and drove back and parked next to the restaurant, gotten out and checked it out. It actually looked very inviting today, but my guess of Montara can still be wrong some times. What usually looks inviting can be quite treacherous once I paddle out. But still, I had to make a hard decision whether to fight with the crowd at Linda Mar or fight with the Mother Nature and deal with "what seems to me long" hold downs (note, I am talking about 10 seconds, and it is starting to become somewhat "fun"). Should I know Jack or other local buddies would be here, I would have gone in, but he is in Hawaii this week, and calling other people would probably not going to work for my surf time frame, so I decided to that I would go and paddle out at the Linda Mar and fight the crowd.

On a crowded conditions and especially a big bigger days like today, it really makes me hesitate to take off on waves because invariably someone else would have taken off, hold on a high line and would shoot my way even if I checked to see nobody is coming, somehow, there are very fast people on long boards who can take off from much further outside beyond my "rear-view".
Yesterday I took out a 7'5 and I wanted to try 7'0 today try to take off even later than yesterday, and there are some good fun rides, but they were just very far and few in between. I was paddling up and down the beach, but as soon I settle to a relatively empty spot, there is an army of surfers paddling out at my way, especially after I score a nice ride, people tend to come this way. I often use a technique to lure people to a bad spot and then I paddle away from it, but keep doing that need a lot of paddling energy too. But that's still OK.

What is most disappointing to me the most though is that when I give someone a wave in a last minute pull-out and the surfer just mess it up, when I could have taken it to get a great ride.
I did have a fair share of boot failure too though, so I cannot blame them either. Good news is that I am taking off on more powerful waves than I have been, which is one of the things I am working on, but getting up on the board needs a bit more swift movement, and even more importantly, I am not quickly getting into the forward weighting posture, so the board is just shooting ahead of me. I am more confident on what happens and what to do if I get up on the board. I will report you on the progress in this area.
In the meantime, duck diving and a general getting "through" of the waves on getting out has dramatically improved, which was something that prevented me from getting out on bit bigger days (1.5 x max, still). I can tell that because on my old 7'6 I believed that I could not sink the 7'6 but now I am doing that without much problem on the 7'5 and of course 7'0 board make it a snap!

On the way back, I looked at Montara, and I really should brought up my courage to go in. It would not have been that bad. I just have to make sure that I won't get involved with occasional big close outs, which I am actually fairly confident that I can handle them. I wish I was there.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Session 237: Nice!

Contrary to yesterday in the afternoon, this morning provided us with a lot of excitement. Waves were going at good overhead size, but mostly possible to make them. As usual, though, I prefer a bit mushier reforms after huge close-outs. Taking off on them are much more predictable and also not much initial paddling is needed. On big days like today, there usually is a plenty of face to surf on the reforms. I usually wait to see other surfers wipe out on the outside close outs and then I get to keep the entire reform to myself. Especially on very crowded days, it is very helpful for me to capture many rides. Only tricky part is that I still need to get up rather quickly as the waves can continue to be rather turbulent and still the chance of messing up the take-off is rather high.

A typical successful reform rides goes something like this:
The outside wave crushes down, bringing several surfers down and a few boards shooting up in the sky. If this is happening then I am in for a good ride. The waves start to reform with a bunch of white water still coming down from the top.

I just wait until the very last moment when white water is about to hit me. I quickly turn the board around and push it down deep in the water. As the board starts to float back, I use that force of the board shooting up to aid me in getting started. If I can feel the white water on my feet, I paddle really strong and try to out run the reforming wave. Sometimes the wave crumbles right then and then I will be in for a wash cycle, then sometimes, it is crumbling but I continue to paddle out of the white water and I can re-emerge out of the water and the board starts to take off. If I do not stand up quickly then I will be put into the wash cycle again. Or, if I try to stand up, the board is too wobbly and I wipe out. But more often, when I take off I descend straight out, pick up some speed and find a good turning spot to climb back on the wave. If that works, it is really satisfying, especially with shorter boards this works really well as I don't have to paddle as long or hard, and the turning radius of shorter boards helps me with harder turn around, as there is a lot of power in these reforms. One of the problems though is that I start out inside so if I there is no wall or mess up the turn; I?d be hitting the beach in a short order, and start paddling back again.
So that's my version of reform rides.

The weather was really nice and with the offshore wind blowing the condition today was really great. You can check out the pictures from today's session at:

Friday, December 10, 2004

Session 4.236: Maintaining the Body and Soul of Surfing

With this being Friday and also having to get back out to the city for the company holiday party, I have decided to surf in the afternoon before I get back home to get my wife for the evening party.

I looked at several spots on the way back from the office, and decided on the Jetty. The tide was super low and on top of that the 15 ft plus swells were out there, and the Jetty looked most protected from all of this. In terms of the condition, it was really nothing to write home about, but I had to get out making the goal of 250 surf sessions this year; today being the 236th session of the year. Admittedly, I am now realizing that I am starting to be a bit picky on conditions. I remember when I started out surfing; I went out no matter what kind of condition was out there, unless it was downright unsafe. Actually, in retrospect, I even went out when the condition was not exactly safe. It is a retrospect, because at the time I probably did not know whether it was dangerous.

But I did go out to complete the goal, and this is where setting a goal would be helpful. The waves were still closing out when they happened and I had a few rides, but instead I opted to just paddle. I should just remember this as I really like to paddle at a relaxed pace and enjoy the view and the atmosphere of being in the water ? the whole experience of being in the water that really has no other comparable experience.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Session 4.235: Am I really back from Japan?

Monday, I was asked not to go out since I was still fighting the jet lag, and when it does it will hit suddenly and having a bed near by is a very handy thing. Paddling in to get a nap is not a good option. So Monday, I tried to stay up as much as I could, and I was successful. I did not go to sleep until well after 10:00 PM. But as I went to bed, there was big wind and rain storm outside. So I was not planning to go out. and do a DP. But by 8 am this morning, the weather has improved to the point that there was the sun poking out and the wind has nearly stopped!

And then, a cell phone rang. It was Jack, a local Half Moon Bay surfer buddy and he is an excellent one. He said that the only place that was surfable was Linda Mar, and both the Jetty and especially Montara was "F" Huge and he wanted to get out before it get "Huge Huge" tomorrow. I still was not into going so I told him to have fun. Then a series of issues happened at work so instead of heading to the office, I started to address the issues from my home office. By the time the core of the problems were taken care of it was 10:30, so I said "What the heck, let's get out in a lunch break session and get wet for a bit since I have been gone for more than a week!"

As I drove past the Jetty, it was a washing tub scene with no surfer in sight. Montara did not look that bad as I approached, then this huge set started to build up, probably and easily 3 X overhead. So beliveving Jack, I did go to Linda Mar, and sure enough, it was not that big and in fact, it was actually mushy! This place is really protected from SW direction.

After that it turned out I ended up meeting 3 familiar surfers today.

First when got out of the car, I saw David, who is a very seasoned surfer. He said though he was avoiding surfing today because of a lot of rain. I said, I would let him know if I got sick.

Run-Into #2. I don't know if this was a Karma or not, but when I was getting ready, Yusuke was getting out, and I waived at him. I ended up talking to him a good 15 minutes, and all in Japanese. So I was in Japan for all this time, and got back and now I am talking all about surfing. Turns out he also lived in Osaka area for a bit, but we both agreed that surf is better and also easy to get to here than most places in Japan.

It was kind of funny to get in the water and paddling out even just after a week of absence, but I was determined to go and at least keep my paddling muscles to get back in shape. I caught many waves in the inside reforms today, felt like starting all over again.

Run Into #3: Then Jeremy spotted me. He gets 3 days off a week due to his work schedule that is nice!

In terms of the surf stoke level, I would say it was about 6. Nice and warm sunny day made it up significantly to the lack of good waves.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Session 4.234: Now I can go eat as much as I want!

This morning looked non-promising, in terms of the condition, as I passed Montara nothing significant seemed to be going on, and when I descend the hill just before entering Pacifica, there is a good panorama of the beach where I can usually figure out the overall state of the things, and it also looked rather flat. But the buoy reading all indicate some good condition, 6-7 ft at 14 seconds, so I was still hopeful.

As I parked the car I found David and Ken changing, and that was great. I also met a recent addition to the Stokemasters, Jen. So there were some committed Stokemasters out this morning to make room for the turkey on this Thanksgiving day!

I was almost going to take my 9'0 foamy, but "heck, I rode it yesterday, so Fish today." So I took out my Surftech Fish for the rides today. I figured that if the waves do not pick up, I will sit way way inside and catch beach break sort of waves, and if I don't catch any, I would continue to work on the paddling.

Speaking of paddling, these days, I am feeling much more comfortable paddling with shorter length boards. Somehow, I feel I can stroke deeper and follow through each stroke all the way to the back, and I kind of like the feel of pushing the water using more parts of the body. On a longer board, I am paddling more like in a "digging" motion as the width of the board prevents a deeper stroke especially the front half of the stroke.

We started out in front of the parking, and caught a few, then I saw that the north end of the beach breaking better so I gradually paddled up north, Ken followed. Then there was a sweet spot where soft breaks were happening in a shoulder high size. These are just some of my favorite waves because they don't throw you yet, if you paddle hard for them, you'd catch and the wave will increase the size rather gradually. They are perfect for all sizes of boards!

I saw Ken picked up some nice ride. He also came a long way since I know him from his early days of surfing.

I had several great rides too with some very satisfactory turns. Moving forward, I would like to work more on;
  • More powers in turns. Digging the rails even deeper than today and gain more speed.
  • More accuracy. Sometimes, by trying to overpower, I would mess things up. Sometimes, I need to make a smooth transition especially when the power and speed is insufficient.
  • Smoother motion and links between each move. I think I still look awkward and stiff.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Session 4.233: Back at it this PM.

With an encouragement from Greg, I decided to ditch the work a bit early and at 4:00 PM I was back in the water again. This time though the tide was very low, and essentially the water was just a full of mess. I started to paddle a few yards from the beach. I was paddling OK for a bit then my paddling hands started to grab sand. I stood up and it was only ankle deep. So I walk some more, and finally I was down to the hip level that I was ready to paddle again. Then just one set after another of messy water. I tried to duck dive but it was so shallow that the water was kicking up a lot of sand. So my eyes started hurt. Trying to find and catch waves was another story. These were just true close outs not giving me any piece of wall to ride on.

Still, it was a beautiful sunset and nice warm afternoon. It was still nice to be back in the water.

Stoke 5.

Session 4.232: Still counting down for 250.

It was another great session this morning. I would put this at a Stoke Scale of 8! As I promised I did take out my Dole Foam, which my surfrider buddy Ed calls "The Equalizer" (but I do also have the real JC Equalizer too). When Greg saw that I did take the foamy out, he seemed to have surprised. Anyhow, it was not a bad board choice, and I had quite a few nice long rides with it. Since the waves were rather in good size and breaking farther out, I could just wait for the wave to break up a bit, and then I will catch the softer wave inside. The take off is really easy and then the waves do steep up as they get squeezed out towards the shore. I just watch how soon and which direction they form.

I also hooked up with Josh on the water. He is doing well with his SofTOP board and venturing to the outside. He looked like having a blast of time with a big smile on his face, and yes, that is the reason why we go surf to all corners of the world!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Session 4.231: Epic Surfing Experience Today!

The swells have increased a bit compared to yesterday, but the waves were not bad. When the swells are bigger and the period is longer, higher tide will soften things up a bit. This morning started out good for me. I was up already at 5:00 AM and did not have problem getting out of the bed. But still there is a moment of decision to either sleep for a few more minutes or not. I did get out of the bed, and started to prepare in a leisurely fashion. By 6:00 AM, I was getting today's ration of coffee and pastry, and as I drove by the Princeton Jetty, it was still dark with only a bit of light, and some people were already out in the water, but not much waves there.

Since I am pressed for time this morning as there is a company webcast that I had to produce at 10:00 AM, I headed straight down to the Linda Mar beach since it is only 15 minutes from work. Still I had from 6:45 to 8:00 AM of surfing, which is plenty of a surf dose for me for surfing on a school day. As it turned out, I wish I had a bit more time, or may be it was good that I quit when I had to quit.

Many of the thanks goes to Greg, who wanted to demo my 7'0, which was the very first surf board I bought, and I was actually not going to ride this since I started to ride the 6'6 fish a while ago, but last week when he wanted to demo this, I rode it myself, and I did not realize the full potential of this board. If you read my previous WavLog, I finally figured out how his board behaved, and once I rode it fully, I was amazed how I could do turns much better than, say, any other boards I ever owned. But it took me almost 3 years before I could do this. So in a sense it is very good for me to know that I am actually and finally riding my very first board that I got.

So what was so significantly great about today?

First, again, I feel that I am finally riding my very first board, which was really a mistake purchase that it took me this long to fully be able to appreciate this board.

Second, for a short board ride, I had a significantly long ride. Now I've done a similar kind of a long ride this summer at Montara on a long board (and it was actually my Blue Doyle Foam) where I was just sticking the edge of the board and cutting back around to stay on a wave, I was not do the same on a shorter board. Sure, I had an epic time before on my Fish too, but they were much shorter rides.

And, another big stoke point is that I really felt in control from begin to end on this board and making some very satisfactory bottom turns, and I was able to accomplish not just one but a few more similar rides. In a sense that today was a big summary of all of the skills that I have acquired up to now from the take off to getting the best out of the wave that I have chosen to ride.

All of the experiences I got today gives me an added level of confidence that upon which I can build further skills, but today, I really felt that I have crossed the next threshold. Sure there will be more frustrating days ahead as I go for even more advanced skills, but that's one thing going for me? I am still an enough of a klutz that takes me a lot longer than to learn surfing, but a small step by a small step, I feel that I am starting to make visible progress, and regardless of how big or small of a wave I thought I did it, it really gives me a great sense of an accomplishment!

I can't hardly wait for the sunrise as I write this!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Session 4.230: Gotten Bigger!

20 More Sessions before 250 Sessions for 2004!

This morning was another one of the days where getting out was relatively easy, but once in a while some huge sets come in that are easily double overhead. I have seen this kind of situation happens when the period is longer than 15 seconds and the swell size is like 6 or more feet. Whatever the cause of this, there are some smaller sets that I can try to ride.

Again, though there are some people who can just ride those without any problems. My main problem is that I actually don't want to risk if I fail to take off. About the only progresses that I made to this effect is that now I can stick the board under these big walls through and get through to the other side without much problems. That's one more option I have been able to utilize more recently.

So I just try to stay inside and with this much power it is always possible to ride some reforming waves.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Session 4.229: Same Spot But 10 Times Better!

I was actually not planning on surfing this morning, but wanted to sleep in and relax a bit. But guess what, I did go, because I was woken up by a cell call. I was hoping that there are no computer disasters at work. I speed dialed the voice mail and the voice comes out "Manaboooo! ~~~ This is Jack. We are going to surf at 8:00, the waves are good…" So again, I take out the dried wet suit, turning the right side out, and putting it on. Now I am standing at the same spot as yesterday.

Glad I went there this morning, because the wind was on a rare "offshore" condition and the swells were not as big as yesterday, and I had some of the best riding experience since Tuesday morning. There were some good outside waves that better people in this local group of surfers are catching. I am still a bit timid about catching the outside ones, but I did try a few times, and when it works, it is really fun and amazing to feel that I am still on the board. I am really happy also as this kind of thing is starting to happen more often and more consistently, so that is a good sign that some of the waves that were previously impossible to make by me are starting to become possible. It is always interesting in any sort of skill requiring activities such as playing music or surfing that there is a long period when I try and nothing is seems to be happening to get to the goal. Then I some thing happens that allows me to do a bit of what I was intending to do. First time when it occurs, it almost feels like it just happened accidentally. May be it is so, but then my mind and body remembers it, so the next time it happens, then I would remember the exact same feeling that I had at the first time. Then next time on, I would try to get the same feeling that I had. Sometimes that same feeling does not happen for a quite a while, and sometimes, it start to happen consistently, and at that time, I would understand finally what was written in the surfing text books that I have, and also at the same time, that motion becomes a part of me.

Progress Report

As I try to advance my skills, I am starting to realize the use of the knees and hips. Lately some of the rides are becoming smoother, faster, and more powerful all at the same time. I think that this is largely attributed to utilizing the knees. Especially today, I really felt like I am now sticking on the water. Earlier when I was less skilled, I was able to ride but the rides were much bumpier because I stood just straight and not using the knees, but today, my knees are always bent a lot or some depending on where, and also I am sensing the condition of the surface both visually and also via feedback from both feet. I can either absorb bumpiness or if so choose, I would exert additional power by transferring the weight to the board. This seems to allow me to connect different sections of rides from drop down to bottom turns to cut backs more smoothly. Now I think I am getting ready to apply more power and speed to motion when necessary. These actions might help me to achieve the "Roundhouse Cutback" that I am trying for.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Session 4.228: Biceps Training in Half Moon Bay

I was originally going to Santa Cruz for an all-day session, but lately I have been having a bit of a less energy, and also I thought that there was not much interest from other friends to go there so I decided to stay up here in Half Moon Bay and do some surfing. So I decided to call a local surfer and also a Surfrider foundation buddy Ed to see where he would be going. He was undecided, so I said that I would check out the Francis beach and give him a call.

The Francis beach was actually happening. As I pulled up to the parking lot, I saw a huge white water closing down. I thought to myself, "Oh, man! Huge close outs? as usual, this place is hardly any good." I got off the car to have a close look, and actually off to the right of the close out section, there were some smaller sections breaking just about 5-6 ft high. Still it would be a challenging situation for me, but would be a kind of waves that I would consider going for. I saw one good surfer negotiating a fast drop off and skimming through the wall. Looked great, but many others were just outside and not catching.

I called Ed and this would be a big challenging, so we decided to go to a couple of parks up after he buys new gloves at the board shop. So instead of waiting for him at the park, I decided to hook up with him at the board shop, and that was fun. While he was making a purchase, I decided to go upstairs of the shop and decided to locate my "next" board. If there is any addicting part of this sport, looking at and thinking about getting a new (to mean either a used or a brand new) board brings additional stokes. Especially when Ed joined me and we started to talk about all sort of boards we have and wanting to have. We just pull out boards out of a rack one after another, look at the top, the bottom, the shape, color and all good fun of catching waves with that board runs through our minds? what kind of wave might be good for this board? I used to have this kind of board. It is not that we don't like all the boards we got, but somehow, different experiences we get from different boards are very exciting. I now carry several boards with me to a session, at least two, and it is exciting to do a board selection for the condition.

As we left the shop, Ed called another surfrider buddy and we are on to real surfing!


As for surfing, it was very tiring session. There was a plenty of white water to utilize duck diving skills, and also to burn our biceps, only to be eaten by closing out waters. In addition, there was a prevailing current going, so in just not time, we were all drifted down to the next state park. We just get paddle in, and walk up the beach and do the drifting surfing again! About an hour of surfing we all decided to quit. When I got home I was just exhausted. But even a day like this is a good day because I really get to learn more about dealing with the water, and definitely I am getting much more relaxed and comfortable even in a situation where there is a lot of current.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Session 4.227: Jetty

With a notions of Linda Mar possibly still contaminated, and also the swells getting bigger, I decided to try the old stand-by.

It appears that many other locals also decided to escape here since I saw my friend Jack when I was getting out and also several other somewhat familiar faces.

I actually wanted to try to have more fun with the 7'0 board that I spoke about in my previous post, but the I cannot underestimate how quickly the Jetty waves closes, so I was just pearling after pearling. One thing though is that I am now going for the waves whenever I can, instead of waiting for the best one to roll in, and the reward is that every so often, I get kind of take offs that I thought would have been possible, after being jacked up so quickly. It appears that the trick is to really push down the tail end of the board, then quickly push forward to set up for the first turn. Normally though that's where I screw up. The board just does not take off, then onto the tumble mode. These days, the "thrown over the falls" tumbles are sometimes fun because I now know what happens. It is almost amazing that if you do it right, like I can tuck my knees and then I can go for several tumbles. I was able to tumble about 5 times in a row in one of the wipe outs. You can really feel that inside the wave, the water is moving in a circular motion.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Session 226: Danger?

Today was one of the days that the condition and crowds were such that I kind of felt endangered and endangering at the same time. Please, all of this is what my internal mind is working and spilling it out, so if you are reading it, don't take it to such a personal level.

Being Endangered Bit:

This is the time that I thought people who kind of know how to surf can be dangerous. I was paddling out to make it to the line, and I was a bit late to get in to the line. Admittedly, I should really go further to the right to really paddle out of the way. But in one time, a woman long boarder starts to take of. If she cuts a left, it would have clearly been in a collision line to me. I don't think that she really cared if I was there or not. A good wave, so what the heck, just take off. Fortunately, she was not good enough to make the take off, so I was saved and relieved.

Then another situation occurred. I was paddling way and way around this surfer's line and out but suddenly he decides paddle to his left and as he did it, a break started to happen so he starts to catch it. If he did a left, again, it would have come darn close to my position. Again, I don't think he was aware of the immediate area. Needless to say I was frustrated.

Endangering possibly too:

Well, may be I was too harsh to feel that way because two of the take offs, as I took off, I just had to spray surfers off because they were paddling out to my direction. I actually did not see them. Because the sun was so bright and shining on the water and I did not even see they were coming my way. Of course, if you ask me, I would have paddled around so that I won't get clobbered by an inexperienced surfer like myself. Should I have seen them paddling out, as it would be normally, I would not even have taken off.

Otherwise though, it was a lot of fun as the waves have gotten a bit bigger than yesterday to about shoulder level at the threshold of closing out. At this kind of waves, a successful take-off means a lot of power.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Session 225: T minus 25 sessions. Fun.

This morning, I promised two things. I will show up at the Linda Mar beach, and also will surf my 7'0 Nev, that I can demonstrate the board to Greg, who might be interested in getting it. So I put the wax back on it last night and strapped it on top of my JC Equalizer.

I was up by 5:15 this morning, so I just got out of the bed and then played with the computer to check the forecast etc.

Compared to the session I had at OB yesterday, the waves were gentle and fun level at Linda Mar. This beach really throws some fun waves for relaxed fun surfing for all levels of surfers, and we were getting probably up to chest high rolling breaks with some good 3-4 minutes between sets. I paddled out with Greg, with the 7'0 so that at some point we can swap the board and he can give it a shot.

Well, as it turns out, I had a blast of time on my Nev. Actually this is the first time I was able to set some really solid lines with it. But asides from it needed a bit more effort in taking off, the board feels very similar to how the Equalizer feels, especially when I set the board to turn, and also taking off in an angle was super easy with the board so light and shorter.

I think that this is a good indication that I can now ride shorter boards with more confidence and control, and I was thinking about this;

As I progressed in my surfing skills, the perceived length of all the board had gotten longer. First time, I ever been on this Nev 7'0 board was actually my first day of surfing, which as many of you know I was talked into getting this board. I could not even stay on the board prone, and when I was sitting on it, I immediately fell off of it. Later on I got an 8'6 and actually even on that board I fell off when try to sit on it (and it was 22.5 inch wide board!). Now I can sit on a 6'6 just perfectly still, and the 7'5 looks almost like a long board. In fact, I take 7'5 when I think I need a long board.

This morning, I took off on a remarkably many number of waves all on 7'0 and also on Greg's fun board too. But the fact that after switching back, I felt at home.

So I decided to hang on to this board.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Session 224: Ocean Beach Sloat Session

The album from this session can be found at:

With a note of "dwindling" WNW swells, I decided to venture out the "OB" again this morning. It was still at a bit intimidating level. When I say I am intimidated, I am speaking of a fear and respect for the location, where so many people tell me that the OB is a difficult spot. Indeed it is, but the case like today, I can tell that I am slowly, but surely overcoming this fear. Today, there still was enough power in the wave that there was a modest amount of outgoing rip currents, and of course, the ever present side currents that changes with the tide.

So when I go out, the thing that I am most worried about now is about whether I can get back in easily. The size is, at least, no longer much of an issue, if I can handle the beating at Montara, I should be able to handle that. Also, the waves were not that pounding to me, and so far, I have not been pounded for the conditions I got out. Though, I am sure that for seasoned surfers at the OB, a condition like this is probably grom stuff. In fact, it should be, because when I was paddling out, there is this expert woman surfer passed right next to me as just being relaxed and having fun as she looked, while I was a bit more stiff and uptight in my paddling strokes.

I did play safe and caught some overhead size breaks that were inside, and that was fun just to stay a couple of feet ahead of closing out waves with lot of trimming and small cutback actions.

I saw the real lineup that was out about 300 yards out. Actually I did not intend to go out that far, but there was a period when bunch of large sets came in, and then a huge rip opened up right where I was. So I ended up in the outside. It is always amazing that if you are far out enough, it is like a night and day, the surface just smoothes out and it gets totally quiet.

For me, this was exciting challenging enough of a session it was a stoke level 8 session.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Session 4.223 Big Turnout for a session.

This Saturday, we have hosted a paddle out at Linda Mar and it was great to see so many new faces and also some familiar faces came back like Mark and Arthur! It is still amazing to me that through the power of creating an internet community, we all come together, otherwise, we would have been complete strangers, and probably would not even have met? all as a result of causes and effects that follow them, and every one of the people I've met have influenced in the course of my life and in many ways in a very positive direction. This is a part of the stuff that I am feeling very fortunate about lately.

Later in the evening, I ran into Ren, Spike, Laura, and Irene (out of the water), and so this completed a very good full Stokemaster's day.

As for surfing, it was really fun watching people surf; I basically sat on the wave and gave most of the waves away. So not much of my own progress today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Session 4.222

I had an even later start this morning. I could not simply get out of bed. Sleeping in a nice warm bed still must beat surfing, I guess. But I had to fight the battle with this laziness. I reluctantly swing my body out, drop the legs from the ledge of my bed, and plant my feet firmly on the floor. Yes, I got to go to surf and to work!

I did make it to Montara this morning. Looking at the beach from the top, the waves looked like some good chest-high stuff. And I own the whole f----- (fine) beach to myself! It started to sprinkle, but, hey, I am going to get in the water anyway, right? So I put on the XCEL suit, and hop down the stairs.

As I approach the shore, the waves looked bigger and bigger, and now it was actually more like 1.5 to 2 times overhead on some bigger sets. But, it was "get-outable" so just for the sake of getting paddling muscles being kept up, I splashed in. As usual, the shore break timing is very critical, especially today they were bigger.

As I figured, there were not much surfable waves out there, and when I try to catch, the waves crumbled up, and I was just jostled up and down in the white stuff. But, I just relaxed in it and enjoyed the natural Jacuzzi.

After paddling back out, I thought today, I should just learn to relax a bit in this condition, so I tried to keep my smiles on my face, especially when bigger sets were coming. I just kept smiling and paddled further out.

Then I tried to focus on the surrounding. Just sitting on the board straight and really paid attention to what is happening all around me, just scanning my mind to the front, the peripherally, and the back. As I did this, I started feel much more relaxed, in a sense that I felt that I was more connected with the whole place and the situation. That is a kind of a feeling that I have not distinctively experienced before. I will try this again so that I can articulate better. But one thing I can say is that I now feel that I know a lot more about what is going on in the water than I have ever been, and this I know is a whole different experience than other situations. And if I go out, if I attain this feeling that in itself is enough satisfaction that even if I do not catch any waves, I will be perfectly all right about it.

I did catch one overhead one though which completed the session, and that was very thrilling. At that level, the board just takes off as if it has a booster rocket. I basically had to tell myself to stay planted on the board and be in control. This was fun!

Then on the way out, I was eaten by a monster shore break. As I was ready to get out of the water, an overhead size shorebreak erupted right in front of where I was. I ditched the board and ducked into the incoming break in a frog leap style. I was jacked up then tumbled around 3-4 times as I landed on the shore. I immediately picked up a board, and just barely escaped another shorebreak!

As I got out, a local surfer Mike was getting ready and whistling at me and yelling. "Hey, you take your board and get back in there!"

But, I did go.

I am sure that he and his wife a couple of other local dudes were looking at all this!

When I took off my wet suit, a few cups worth of sand was trapped in the neck. It is amazing how much sand is being kicked up inside these breaks. By then the rain was pouring, which was helpful in washing down the sand.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Session 4.221: DPLM

After a two-session hard-core surfing on Sunday, I did take a rest on Monday, and so this morning was the first one of the week. 29 days to go for 250 days of surfing, which is encouraging. I am going to be away, back home in Japan for a week, so I have to make sure that we do a lot of surfing this month, so I can take the December in strides.

Last night, I had a beer and a lot of tea afterwards and that was not a good idea. I had to get up 3 times, so the idea of pre-dawn arrival at the beach was all erased. The second time I woke up, I turned off the alarm, but still managed to get up by 6:00, but I was sluggish, and did not get to the beach until 7:30! I need to do better tomorrow morning. This sounds like a lot of details, but this goes to say that doing a good dawn patrol need a quite a bit of dedication and planning. Like not drinking a lot liquid before go to bed, and go to bed early so I can get up early with all the gear for surfing and also going to work afterwards.

My wife sometimes sees me getting ready for the next day and it is like going on a few night's trip.
  • I pack the change of the cloths for office in a duffel bag, and take it out of the bed room so that I don't have to wake up my wife when she is sleeping.
  • I pack the laptop computer in the backpack, the wallet and other stuff. S
  • I throw in the helmet, the booties, and a leash in the "wet stuff" bin.
  • Now I basically got a luggage consisting of two bags and a bin. I take them downstairs into the garage then I load all of them in the back of my wagon.
  • Then strap the choice of boards from my quiver on the rack. Usually I take two.
This will save at least 15 minutes of time in the morning. If everything goes smoothly in the morning, then I leave home at 6:10 or so, pick up a coffee and a pastry on the way, then I'd be at the beach ready by around 6:30 or 6:45. Then I would surf until my watch says it is 8:30.

When usually I get in, I score first 2-3 rides right away. Then, for the reasons that I have not quite figured out, I start having problems, or the sets don't come for a while, then it is 8:30 already and sets gets better. So I am always tempted to go for "one more" wave, which of course, have some severe consciences... like a vendor visitor sitting in the company lobby just as I roll in to the office, so I usually try to hold the urge and get out when the watch says so.

Of course, once in a great while some worse stuff happen... like totally having a good time catching one wave after another, not realizing how long it has been and then I see the traffic on the Highway 1 and "How come the traffic is so light there this morning!"... a moment later, a rude awakening and realization hits underneath my helmet. "Oh, man, shit. It is 9:30 already!"

Getting back to the car, the LCD on the phone says "2 New Messages". I listen, "Message Received Nine Ten AM. Hi Manabu, Mr. Johnson from Stoke-O-Mation is waiting at the lobby...." Pressing 3 to skip the first and now "Message received Nine Twenty AM. Hi Manabu, Mr. Johnson is still waiting. Please give us..."

But most usually, I am prompt, so I can get away from occasional mishaps!

Did I miss a meeting this morning. No.
Did I have fun surfing. Nice glassy relaxing surf this morning. It was fun. I would give today a Stoke 6.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Sessions 4.219 - 4.220: Opening Up More Options.

After some issues at the Jetty yesterday, today especially turned out well. In fact, as you can see from the title of this log, I did two sessions today. I started out today at Waddell in the morning at 8 a.m. with Jeremey, a new member of the Stokemasters group. Then after that session I went over to the 38th avenue in Santa Cruz.

Back when I started out surfing, I only surfed locally at Santa Cruz, Linda Mar and the Jetty. To some extent, I still do that. I am still familiar with these locations and so I tend to gravitate towards these locations. Being familiar with an area is actually a good thing because I have better idea of how the waves manifest, and even more trivial things like finding parking, getting in and out of the water safely, where the rocks are hidden etc. are mapped out in my head. So, at least, I don't have to think about these things when I go surfing.

But now I am starting to become comfortable at going places that I have not been to, and this I think is largely attributed to acquisition of some waterman-ship, and of course that is an important part of surfing skills. I used to be sloshed around in the water, and when any size of wave came at me, I was deflected back to the beach. Now, I know to wait, and I know when I should dash out, know how I can find channels, and when the inevitable occur I am more relaxed, push a board down and duck or turtle etc.

One thing distinctly stay in my mind is this situation. When I first start going to the Jetty, I often saw this young woman with a short board. She was smiling and just going about doing her business in the water, like a child playing peacefully in a sandbox. Everything she did looked so natural. In the meantime, I was scared to the bone, and I felt like I was on an out of control bulldozer on the water.

So today, as I was driving down the cost, ever beach looked attractive to me, and I thought "Yeah, I can catch that one, and yeah, that one too!"

Of course, there still are conditions and places that I still would not be comfortable, like double overhead condition at Montara or Ocean Beach, and being in a crowded condition like today at the 38th. On big conditions, I don't want get myself hurt, and in the crowded condition, I don't want to hurt other people.

Nevertheless, the afternoon at the 38th was fun. I decided to relax, be in the water with friends and just catch a few if some waves happen to come to me way that other people did miss. Even then there were a few really nice rides I had.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Session 4.218: Sat Morning Session

A quick session at the Jetty this morning. Saw Ken's car parked on the highway, and shortly after I found him in the water.

I am continuing to work on faster take-offs, but today, I had not much success. One of the things I am working on is to continue to work out the fears of taking off into faster waves. To this effect, I am trying to find sections that are not that fast breaking (not like the section closer to the break water) and try really hard. I am getting a few sporadic successes, and through which, I am starting to be able to relax a bit more so that I can start to focus actually what is happening. Well, we need to see, but this is presetnly the area that is limiting my options. Taking off on so many more different sitautions is so important to me right now, as I try to become more versatile over varying condition. But this seesm to be never ending endevor.

After getting out, I saw Ken coming up. I saw a lot of nice art work done on the bottom of his board, so I shot some pictures. They are very interesting.

More pictures from this sessions are here.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Session: 4.217 - Good Morning! Stoke 8

Got up this morning, and thought that the outside was overcast, but then, I saw spots of cloud in the sky starting to burn orange as the sun came up. Another stoky fall day on the coast!

As I drove by Montara, I saw finally the angry surf was on the way to leave us, and this morning looked much more comfortingly better.

I decided to play safe and went to Linda Mar, and paddled out. Still, a bit of anger is left in the water, by sending occasional close-out waves. But in between, we had some nicer sets, so it was a welcome change.

In the past few sessions, I am back at working on faster take off sequence. This has been one of the most challenging aspects of surfing for me in quite a while, but one progress I am making is to feel mroe comfortable in these kinds of situations. So rather than try hard to stand up, if the board takes off succesfully, I am regarding that as a success.

It is amazing, though, yesterday at Montara, I have seen some people drop down into situations that I would not imagine would be possible. So as usual, there is a lot more to learn.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Session 4.216: Jetty. Before the storm.

I woke up at 5:30. Now my body remembers what time it is, so I don't even need to set an alarm. Actually I use my alarm clock still. I have an analog clock with an alarm hand. It makes a tiny clicking noise in the morning when the hour hand passes over it. So when I hear that "click" noise, that's when I get out of the bed.

The swell size, as predicted, was already big enough that I was actually hesitating to put my wet suite on before leaving the house. I have learned in the past that when the condition would be marginal like today, it is best not to gear up so far in advance, because often I need to undo it without using any of it. But, just for a heck of it, I fully suited up, and just in case the close-outs are going to be severe, I thought I would try body boarding, so I threw in my old Morray Boogie board in the car in addition to two of my boards on top of the car, which are almost like the permanent fixture on my car year around. It sure helps to find my car in a large parking lot too!

As usual of the surf route I take, I drive up North on highway 1 from Half Moon Bay, I check the Jetty and usually nothing there, I either go to Montara, Linda Mar or now occasionally to Ocean Beach. It is kind of amazing that if I drive on the same highway, I can go to Rincon, Ventura, Malibu, San Onofre etc. Highway 1 is the Surf Highway and as such, probably it is world's longest highway that serve the people. I actually drove almost the entire length of highway 1 from the Mexican border to the Oregon border, except for a stretch between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. We are going to hit the area again when the sharks are less active, probably next summer.

Back to Jetty though, it was going at about shoulder level, and assuming that all other spots would be totally closed out, which I was right as I drove up through Pacifica on the way to work, so I decided to do a quick morning dip.

The waves were not that great, but one thing this location offers is faster breaks, and I got a lot of practice taking off. Rides were short and actually not very many other surfers were making any spectacular rides either. I also opted to really practice paddling so I was purposely paddling around to find good breaks.

Today, though, I noticed one thing in paddling and that's this.

I have realized that how much back muscles I am using these days to paddle. Especially today, I really felt that the deltoid and even muscles further back are moving and doing a lot of work. So I started to focus on these muscles and kind of "asked" to put more power, and that really helped my paddling power and also endurance to paddle longer. I think I am becoming kind of addicted to get my paddling muscles really strong. I really feel good to feel all these muscles working. I don't know why I did not feel this until today. But probably additional changes in my body are happening as a result of going out a lot.

Now I did not find much waves to surf on, the wind started to pick up really big, and just a simple act of waiting for waves became difficult as the board started to catch the wind and making staying on board rather difficult, and that was a time for me to leave.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Session 4.215: Stoke 8. Nice Indian Summer Late Morning

I had to get up really early this morning to get started on an urgent situation taken care of, so I had to cancel the DP session, but by 10:30 the situation was becoming under control, so decided on a lunch break session, since I will have a long night ahead to work on this and other issues.

Stopped by at the Jetty as usual to see what is going on out there. It looked nice, but I want a bit more size, so drove on. When I arrived at Montara, I saw some nice breaks (for my level) happening! It is just about overhead size and did not look too dumpy, in fact, it looked more like a long board type day, so I pulled out my trusty Takayama 9'0 and headed down.

The pictures here are from the post session, and earlier the waves were bigger and sets were more frequent. There were some surfers on the South side, but that spot can jack up fast sometimes, so I went to the middle peaks.

Above, you can see a person with a board at the beach. The picture makes these wave look much smaller than they are, so use the person towards the right of the beach to compare the size.

At first, I had a lot of problem getting out. Again a lot of water was pushing in, and I felt like I was paddling a lot, but when I looked back I hardly made any progress. I got so tired of paddling that I decided to take a break at the beach. I was then ready for another get-out attempt, and I was just standing knee deep in the water to wait for a lull. Then suddenly, some additional big sets came, and that ripped a very clear channel out right in front of exactly where I was standing. I jumped over the shorebreak hump and started to stroke for the outside. Riding the rip current is always interesting because it is not really a smooth way out, instead, when you are in it, it is so turbulent there that it feels like I am in a big storm with waves coming from both direction and it is really bumpy. Definitely it would be the time to reach for the "Fasten Seat Belt light switch." I need to paddle left and right to find the valley to navigate out.

Each stroke gave me a feel of so much motion, I am literally zooming by these floating seaweeds and suds.

But, in just 5 or 6 deep strokes of my arms, I was in a complete calmness of the Pacific ocean. I looked back, I was already taken away something like 200-300 yards out. The rips are really amazing, and taking advantage of it is also something too!

There were some waves that were perfectly shaped to just glide on the side of the wave.
And they were happening just across the entire beach!

After a while everyone left and I was there by myself. I got a bit spooked out, and so I caught a decent left as my last ride and got out.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Session 4.214: First DP after the time change.

This weekend, the standard time has returned. This means we can do a dawn patrol, but almost precludes our ability to do after-work surfing, unless, of course, we ditch our work early. But ditching work at 3:30 is not usually a good thing for the morale of other people in the office.

Monday morning is especially a busy time for me since I need to take water samples, that means I need to pack an ice box with sample bottles and forms, plus a sampling wand, that is in addition to the usual change of cloths, a wet suit tub, helmet, leash and a bottle of hot water. Regardless, I usually pack as much things as possible night before in my car before I go to bed, so, in theory, all I have to do is to put on a wet suit and hop in the car and start looking for the morning waves.

I am still "DST lagged", got up at 5:30, and did the usual buoy check on the web and did other things, then it was 6:30, and yes the standard time is now in effect, it is now light outside. This is great! I was hoping that the Jetty is happening a bit so I would surf there then go take the water samples at Montara and Gray Whale Cove beaches and their creeks. But the Jetty was not happening, so continued on to Café Luca for a coffee, pastry and some sandwich for the lunch time.

Montara was definitely happening with up to double overhead close-outs. I was thinking about the condition as I was taking the water sample; "If someone is coming with me here would I have gone out?" And, the answer today would have been a reluctant "yeah, OK." I probably would not have caught any waves, but at least today I have enough confidence in the water handling skills that if I had to be there, do I feel like I am going to live, and today that answer is definitely yes. It was just about two and half years ago when my friend took me out there, and I was very, very scared. Of course, I won't go out, there really isn't fun.

The next stop was at the Gray Whale Cove. When this spot gets big, the outside starts to have some good shape. Of course, I am talking about double overhead stuff, but if someone makes it, that person will make a beautiful long ride along the wall. But I don't know what will happen in the end. Probably you will have to be eaten by the closing out white water because I cannot see how you would even kick out, or perhaps, you would do the Island pull out.

So I decided to "settle" for my usual spot. This morning there were mainly about no more than dozen people out, and actually it looked surfable. Monday usually tend to be quiet, especially like day after Halloween when people would have been partied out the night before.

There were some period of time that sets were really big, really goes up fast and then when I wait for a while there are some periods when the shapes are starting to hold. So I just waited out when bigger sets were just coming one after another. Still, quite a bit of duck diving is needed to get out, and with a 7'5 board, ducking through this board is still a lot of work, especially pushing down the tail is not easy. I got sucked out from the back of the wave a few times, which was kind of fun!

I did catch several rides but not a nice rail-on-the-wall stuff today. Stoke level is about 5 to 6 today.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Session 4.213: Waddell Stoke 10!

Got up this morning and checked my web site for the swell conditions. The swells has gotten several feet bigger and the period, now it is from NW at 9 ft at 14 seconds minimum. Plus there is a forecast of higher wind, so I decided to try Waddell Creek this morning.

First checkpoint is Pescadero on the way. When the highway goes through the high cliff area you can see if the swells are in, and if they are small or big. I was afraid of this, but the waves were rather big going at least 1.5 overhead. Shortly after, I pass the Pigeon point, and the waves were not too big there.

More anticipation of conditions as I drive down the coast. Finally I arrive at Waddell Creek, and a sign of relief, the waves were just perfect size and shape for me!

Surfing here was a lot of fun this morning. The sky was just crystal clear and there was hardly any wind, and the water was still warm. There were many good shoulders that were happening.

I took out the Equalizer and off I go paddle out.

Unlike the other day when I took out my long board, getting out was still difficult but with duck dive and the lighter board, I could make it out without a problem.

The waves were not hard breaking so it was a lot of fun to get in the shoulder and catch waves practicing turns. I really love the feel of the JC 7.5 board in this condition, because it allows me to catch waves confidently, and when I am up on the board, as soon as I shift my weight it really responds well by allowing me to do bottom turns and cut backs. It was just a perfect morning for my skill level!

As the tide came up the wave gotten significantly smaller, many people started to leave and by the time I was out, there were but a few cars in the lot. It was really nice sunny morning just to relax and look at the beach before heading back.

Stoke 10: Could not have asked for more!