Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Reflection: Awareness of the Surrounding - What differentiates the beginner from experts

Recently, we have had a discussion on our message board about getting in each others ways. Since this topic came up, I have been thinking about this off and on. So I must share some of my findings on this specific issue.


There has been quite a few (and mostly the same) etiquette written in all surfing related literature about taking off on other people etc.


So looking back, I think that the main problem that the people get into trouble with other surfers is the skill in of itself. I started surfing in the spring of 2002, so I consider myself not an expert yet, and that is the main reason why I am chronicling my progress so that I can laugh at myself later on. So please follow along with me. Next year, I might write a totally different view than this.


So, what used to happen? Well, I used to have a fair share of near-misses with other surfers, and at the same time I did not get any rides. These days, I hardly get near-misses (unless… I will write about that one later on). And I do get rides. So what has changed?


What has changed mainly is the awareness of the surrounding, and also being aware of it at all times. This is a skill that needs to be acquired. Everyone knows and would be taught that they would need to look left and right when taking off, but beyond that I think I am making and adjusting my strategies dynamically as I get into the lineup.


Nowadays, I spot other surfers in the vicinity and gauge their levels, and see if they are aggressive, or not, or some are surfing way beyond their capabilities and positioned themselves in the lineup where they should not be. Then I would adjust my position accordingly. I watch their take off pattern and also I watch how they go.


I also used to bump into other surfers when I am padding out. I know why I did that. I was completely unaware of other surfers and not where they will go next. So I would continue to paddle out straight into their lines.


So now I am starting to be standing on the other side of the coin, I also look for those surfers that are likely to be unaware and continue to paddle into my line if I were to take off.


Here is another demonstration of how more expert surfers are aware. I took a semi-private lesson last year with Richard Schmidt and when he says not to take off, a 20 second later, sure enough someone will be right in front of me zooming across the wave. These people are taking off from the Peak far and far away from the Indicators. I don’t think I can tell that yet. But when he says to take off, sure enough there isn’t anyone on the face!


Also these days, I can more confidently gauge if I was to take off I can execute a immediate turn and not hit someone straight ahead with a reasonable confidence. In fact, in such case, I would position myself during take-off that if I make a turn I would not hit someone 5-10 seconds later to the right (or left) along the line.


So being aware of the surrounding is an important skill to have in surfing, and it is a two way thing. If all of the people taking off and not taking off are well aware of what is happening, it will make even semi-crowded beaches very well surfable.




Sunday, January 25, 2004

Session 4005: Santa Cruz

This morning, I scheduled to hook up with a Japanese long board surfer living in Santa Cruz at 7:00 AM. Clio also joined a bit later at a Santa Cruz location.
On the way to Santa Cruz, in the cliff section just before Davenport, I almost hit cows! There were a lot of cars parked some of them look like rangers, then a horse trailer, some pickup trucks. It was still dark so I could not see what was going on. After I passed these set of cars, I started to speed up again then suddenly there were a small herd of 4 cows walking in the middle of the highway. I swerved to avoid them and the ABS also kicked in. I was successfully be able to avoid them but that was a close call. So, apparently the ranchers and the rangers were doing something to contain these loose cows! On the other day, I got a speeding ticket not too far from here, so this section of highway, I should be careful especially when it is very dark.
Back to surfing, I did hook up with Soji, so we exchanged various conversations about surfing, but he is a student and he has started surfing in SC and started a web site for Japanese surfers in SC. Since he posted a classified ad to lure people into this message board, I have been exchanging a few messages now and then with their members. Sounds like he really wanted me to come to a Japanese surf competition that will be held at the San Onofre spot (near San Clemente) in October, so essentially I said yes. He also asked if I will show my "round-house" at the competition, and I said to him that it is a goal for this year and October might be too early! Well, but I think I now set my next bar, and should get there sooner.
Since Soji is a dedicated longboarder, I showed up with my 9 ft Velzy and again it worked a magic. The board turns so well. I also swapped with Clio's Arrow 8'6 egg (which is the same kind I used to have) and it also did a magic! So after all it is not the board that does the magic. I can equally set the rail on the wave on both boards, with the Velzy a bit better due to its length and float. One thing I noticed really well today is my initial motion during the initial turn. I am really crouched down and even before I am fully up on the board, the rail is already on the face. So I am executing the weight shift as a part of take off and it happens so fast. But today, the wave sets were really mellow so I could really analyze. Today, I was too greedy to continue to ride until the water turns white so I did not do much in the way of clean pullouts.
After a 4-month of hiatus, Clio is still surfing great.
After the session we went to a brunch at Paula's on Portola Avenue that's near the 41st. Long line, long wait, but great breakfast. There we ran into couple of more friends of Clio.
Another Santa Cruz kind of a day.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Session 4004: Back In Water, Smarter Short Boarders

Finally I am back in the water. I was afraid that even after just over a
week of non-surfing, I would feel rusty, but that did not happen.

Nice sunny day, not much wind and set were coming every 4-5 minutes going up
to head high. Many people were waiting further out, but I joined an "inside"
lineup that consisted of "harder core" short boarders and I had a blast.
They were catching way more waves than those on the outside. Of course, the
inside is usually less crowded too.

With a bit more confidence under my belt, taking off "inside" is more fun
again because I now can get a longer ride even from the inside, thanks to
the ability to get into initial turn sooner.

Now, I am starting to study the outside lineup so I know who will catch and
who would not under what size set, so I line myself up with those that do
not catch very well. Often these surfers would form a shield and prevent
others from taking off from the outside and then I catch the one inside with
my shorter board as the shoulder start to get steeper. Sometimes though they
completely close out then I have to eat it... Often I can duck through.

It was so nice to get back into the water.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

... And There Goes the PM Surf Plan

Low -1 ft tide at 3:42 PM. I drove by the beaches on the way to home and all locations were really low.

Back to Work. Never Fails!

Smooth operation at work for the entire time I was on vacation.
Yesterday, a huge data corruption stops one of the systems at work affecting
There goes the AM surfing plan!

:-( MB

Monday, January 19, 2004

Reflections: The Word "Stoked"

Among many terms the surfers use, I really like the word "Stoked." I like it so much that I use it like a product name in my own surfing web site and its message board. For example, instead of saying "Surfing Log", I use "StokeLog, "and instead of "Surf Forecast," I use "StokeCAST" etc.

When I was a graduate student, there was a popular TV show Cosmos by Carl Sagan, and he popularized the phrase "Billions and billions of..." and I have heard from a colleague of mine at the school that someone wrote in a comment to the PBS suggesting Dr. Sagan from not saying that so much, and there was a response from the doctor himself explaining precisely why he uses this. He was clearly and carefully saying this.

Of course, I am not in the same league as he is in anything I do, but when I use the term "Stoke" I am rather careful and deliberate about it, and so I am writing about it.

According to the Webster dictionary, the word "Stoked" is defined as;

Main Entry: stoked
Pronunciation: 'stOkt
Function: adjective
Date: 1965
slang : being in an enthusiastic or exhilarated state

While this is a slang word, I think that there are not very many other words that describes the state of being "Stoked," yet I also feel that this word is something so essential to everything in life. For example, my wife's mom is stoked about her patch (Quilting) work. If said that to most surfers most people will get it what it means. The feeling to me is not just plain enthusiastic or exhilarated, and it is not necessarily being "happy" while you are being stoked.

One of the things I like to do a lot is to observe other surfers. Surfers come in all ages and shapes but one word unit them all.

One of the things that I noticed earlier on is that some people are extremely cranky or at least cranky looking when they are surfing. I used to think that why they want to continue surfing when they look so angry. But later on I realized that they are extremely stoked about surfing, almost like they are in a sword battle of sorts. Somehow "being in an enthusiastic or exhilarated" do not fit in this description. Stoked people can be really really serious, and my wife's mom can be extremely cranky when she is at a sewing machine commenting about some imperfections in the machine, stitches or whatever, but immensely focused and enjoying the activity.

It is definitely not in a sad state.

Back to surfing, I think that the movie series "The Endless Summer" and especially "The Endless Summer II", the director Bruce Brown has refined the stoked part of the story where surfers around the word are united with the feel of the stoke involving, and that continues to the latest "Step Into Liquid" Interestingly enough Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun Times Review was not so stoked. But then I was not so stoked about the latest movie "The Cooler" where he gave much higher rating.

So, "Stoked" to me, is in a very focused state, almost meditative to accomplish something and the expression of it in a performance. It drives my mother in law to create beautiful quilts, drive Tiger Woods to be one of the best golfers around, and some people to strive to open "the best restaurant."

So it is the word that unite us all.

I am certainly stoked about using this word!

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Reflections: Flying Over The Path of Swells

Our flight to Osaka takes a great circle path. This is generally the reverse of the direction of the storms and also the swell directions. The flight takes along the coast of Oregon then on to Alaska, a bit south of Anchorage then right over the Aleutian islands. It always boggles my mind that the most direct direction takes us so far up north. Of course, this time, more than any time else, I have swells and waves in mind. On my B777 flight there was a monitor screen on my seat that showed current location throughout the flight so it was also very helpful, and also the map was by now very familiar one of the gulf that I read every day. I brought several surfing magazines to read, but I am keepting them for the way back.

From the 32000 ft in the sky, it is always sunny but below the entire Alaskan gulf was covered with cloud (and I know there is some storm developing) so I could not see the ocean surface.

I am already looking forward to get back and surf again soon. There was a strong head-wind of 150 mph up at the altitude so the way back should be swift if it keeps up.

This morning, I posted a Japanese surfing message board if there are any surfers showing the way to me, I am waiting to hear.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Session 4003: LM Penalty for Morning Dilly Dally then High Wind, Low Low Tide

I should not really fiddle with computers in the morning before I go.
I usually end up doing something after I get up, check waves then e-mails and then... 20 min goes... 30 min then an hour.
I should just shut the damn thing off, pack it, get in the wetsuit and go.

The reason why I am frustrated toady is because, so, I made an effort to show up at office for the 9:30 meeting with a vendor. As a result of my morning dilly dallying, there was no more time to surf, so I head straight to work for the meeting. This vendor screwed me over yesterday too by setting up a morning conference call at 8:00, because she wanted to be convenient for the "East Coast folks." Excuse me, who is the customer here? We are buying several million bucks worth of stuff from this outfit. Fortunately yesterday, I just sat here completed a few more things and headed to surf at 10:00.... Now back to this morning. So I get to work (about 5 minutes late) the vendor is late too. So she had to meet with other people and now it is almost 10:30, so finally it is my turn to see her. So, I could have surfed this morning!

The Penalty Phase:

I was still stoked to go all day (like almost any day). So I headed out to LM around 4:00 PM, by now the wind is gusting like 25 MPH and blowing paper and plastic bags all over the parking lot. Fortunately the direction is kind of side/off, so I decided to go out anyway, but when I hit the beach, the tide was getting ready to go to -1 ft. So I go in and walk and walk and it was knee deep for so far out. Then the swells come in all at once across the entire beach all closing out. As I was going out, I was saying to myself, "I am gonna break the board... I am gonna..."

Finally I get out, then looking back, nothing is breaking. So I could have waited for a few more minutes and could just have dashed out?

I paddled for about an hour and left all disappointed. Did not break the board.

So you did not miss much today!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

WaveLog Session 4002: 9'0 Sweet "Wind Swell" Session at Linda Mar, Starting to Know How to Pull-Out

What a difference a day makes. At 1100 this morning, the swells were generally from W going at 4 Ft 10 seconds mixed in with the wind swells 8.5 Ft at 6.7 seconds at Half Moon Bay. Drove by the Jetty and it was stormy and nasty, but as I drove further up, Montara started to look cleaner and, in fact it looked like it was giving off 1.5 x OVH across the entire beach and not closing out. We had quite a bit of SE wind though and as I was preparing, my gloves and hood blew away.

The LM was quite roomy this morning and I had a lot of fun, caught many waves and was not much of an issue to get out. Thought due to the prevailing strong wind, all of the lineup was being blown towards the N end of the beach, and the 54F water was a bit more piercing through the suit. Waves were going at shoulder to OVH, and not hard closing like it does usually. We often talk about the wind swells being not so good, but I think I should correct that. No matter how we try to forecast, it is just so difficult to predict what will happen!

Today, I did not take my 7'6 out when I should have, but instead I took out the 9'0. I really felt rusty, falling backward off after the take off. Speaking of that it is interesting to note that I am more often falling backwards than pearling, which often happened earlier last year. But towards the end of the session, I became back friends with my long board and I had a few very smooth runs. Also today, my weakness in the backside surfing were very evident, some of the waves were lefts, and could not turn so well. Could not build stronger turns like the rights.

A stokable advance today to report. Yes! I did start to get the hang of "pull outs" and I am almost back on the board in paddling position after a run. What appears to be the key is the turning, and I was putting too much weight in the back essentially stalling the board before so it never crossed the ridge of the wave but with a bit more forward in weight, I was able to continue the turn. In addition, when the board crossed the line, I just lifted my weight off by bending my knees a bit straight up. I would say I upgraded from a "D" to a "C" grade on pull out today.

All in all, it was a happy 90 minute session especially with seeing a rainbow in the background across the ocean, probably welcoming back to home in this weekend!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

WaveLog Session 4001: A New Board, Cowells and The Lane

Yes, I did buy the board from December M. It is a 7'6 Nor Cal Fun board. She wanted to get rid of it so she can move to Hawaii with only a suitcase. I said OK, I will buy it, and I can even sell it.

I got this as a backup quiver so that I can continue to ride a 7'6 length board when the Arrow Hybrid is out of commission.

Today I talked December to come with us to SC, and we ended up at Cowells so that Reez and Aimee can also surf there. But unfortunately there were not much waves even though it was a -1 ft tide at 3:00 PM. I was hoping that Aimee would paddle out to the Indicators, but she did not want to go, So I decided to paddle out to the Indicators myself. Still nothing. So I kept paddling out to the Lane. There was some shoulder high stuff going here but there were only 5-6 surfers. So much kelp here and could not do much, so after 30 min, I gave up and gone up the stairs and walked back.

So not much to report today in terms of my progress. It was impossible to catch knee high breaks with my Arrow 7'6 at Cowells, that's about all I can say today.

More on the riding impression on the NC 7'6 a bit later on.

WaveLog BLOG is back!

Starting 2004, the BLOGGER is back and all my features will be posted simultaneously to the SurfingHMB Yahoo Group as well as on the Blogger. I hope that Blogger folks also worked out on the stability issue by now.