Sunday, July 30, 2006

More Local Adventures

I am not going to be able to write where I went today, but it was one of those spots that a even a lot of my seasoned friends would not consider going. But a local surf buddy of mine finally convinced me to check the spot out and go. My buddy used surf with yet another local surfer who'd go out to the famous Mavericks break from time to time. Of course, none of us would be crazy enough to do that.
Well, this could have been just another day at the Jetty fighting the crowd and just being a bit frustrated. We checked a few other local spots, but then he said, lets go to "???" Even a local surf shop owner kept telling me "Mano, you ought to try the spot, man!" Today, of course is a small day so I though that there is nothing to lose. All I need to do is just to paddle out and not catch a thing.
So we did.

Normally, my paddle outs are either a two-minute ordeal or otherwise, like my last session, not a great distance but just have to fight the waves to get out. I can handle them. But this afternoon, it was more like the Waikiki session I wrote about a while ago. We had to paddle out a bit far out in the ocean, past the pile of rocks with kelps growing on them. Should this have been bigger, and if I was not careful, I'd be swept into the forest of kelp covered rocks and it is certainly a trip to a ding repair shop, if not at Seaton Coastside Emergency room (again).

Of course today was a really small day so there was not that sort of concerns, but then there is that thought in back of my minds, because just in February of this year, I was standing on top of the bluff just to watch people take these spills, coming close to what I?d be afraid of. So today, it took me quite a bit of time and effort to paddle out where the waves were breaking and with my short board, it was definitely a double effort.

As I caught up with my buddy said this is as close of an experience you can get to surfing at "M?." Well, I think that a bit of inflated statement, but OK, at least if I catch a wave in this that would make me feel a bit gratified.
As for the waves, they were actually bit difficult to catch because if I'd miss the first turn and go straight, there would be the rock waiting for you, and to add to that, the waves did jacked up quite a bit faster and more powerful than what I thought it would. I still don't have that much of the staying power and abilities, so basically for a couple of waves, the board slipped away from me (at least I did not shoot straight to the rocks!).

I did have a couple of waves from the inside, but it was difficult to judge. It is something I would need to get used to.
I am glad I did go. It was totally a new and different experience. I think I would try again when the condition is good for me.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Local Surf, Ripples and Rip Tides in Montara


This morning was a truly local surf scene we all happened to show up at Montara at the about the same time. It was foggy, soggy and junky. But quite often, we'd be forced to pick a spot and this would be "it."

We should be all weary of spots where you can check from a cliff-top, because it is always the case that it looks like an easy paddle out from the top. Well, by now, I am a bit wiser surfer to be fooled by this, but then we paddle out the reality hits the board. I even thought that there was a channel, but that was far from the thought. I jumped in where I thought was a "huge rip like a river flowing out into the ocean" only to find out paddling, ducking, paddling and ducking. Some more experienced surfers were already out, but I could not figure out how, almost. At this point of time, I have gained a bit more confidence and more muscle fibers on my body, but it is still a heck of a lot of work to get out there.

Then sets start cranking, then that's basically is the start and the end of the story. When they start, it would be waves and waves and waves of waves! I am ducking through so many waves and then the lineup seems to be miles away! I look back and I have not moved an inch. Then the waves around me start to form huge ripples? now I am trapped. Cannot go forward nor towards the beach. The only hope is for this set to stop for a while so I can either paddle back and walk up the beach, or paddle out.

Since getting further out was not an option for me, I paddled back in. That took me some effort too. What a relief though when I stand and I feel the sand beyond the layer of rubber wrapping my feet!

I walk down the beach to find another channel.

This time, I found a real channel, and without much effort I am escorted to the outside. Part of me is really freaked out about the fact that I am being carried out towards Hawaii, and at the same time I am so happy that I am so "cool" that I know how to handle the situation. Well, some of my surf buddies are still out there, that gave me an additional piece of mind.

Then there is a wave front coming at me. I push my board down in the water. The board starts to shoot up. I catch the board grabbing the rails and leap forward onto the board. I start to paddle hard, looking far ahead, but also my paddling arms deep in the water, as if I am trying to find something I lost in the water, as I start to feel the tail of the board start to lift off.

"There we go, there we go, there we goooo?" the board catches the wave, and I am in a shoulder. The wave in front of me start to form a nice slanted slope. The board continues to gain more speed. I say to myself, "keep on paddling, I am not there yet." I increase the paddling power on my right arm. It is a left. The board is now starting to glide. With one big push, I tuck my legs under my board as the wave kicks my upper body up.

I am on! I am on the wave!

Now I am up standing on the board, but I find myself in the middle of ripple field.

What's the heck?

As I think about this, there is another bump forms on the right. I pressed my back knee to set up a turn to cut back to the right, and the board responded just in at the right time to shoot myself back to the top of the wave I have just caught. But it was starting to flat out. I pumped hard to gain the speed back as the second ripple stared form right under.

I am back gaining some speed. I climbied back up the second ripple, as the wave started to lose the power. Again, I pumped, that took us to the bottom of the wave. I made another turn. Now I got the speed, and the wave was mine.

I kept riding on a few more ripples connecting them with some good cutback actions. When I finally kicked out of the last ripple, I saw a couple of people at the beach pointing at me.

That was really a gratifying moment, and with that I paddled back out.

Well there was no more repeat of this. I just had one wave on this session, but that was enough and worth the trouble.

I was glad someone did witness this magnificent ride. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 24, 2006

Creating A Ride

Here is some additional story from Saturday session.

I am really convinced that many good women surfers are so much more graceful whether they are on short boards or long boards.

There is at one point in learning surfing when it becomes more about riding the waves than catching them. Crossing this threshold is, in my opinion, very difficult and most people I consider who passed this stage are very limited in number. Most people have the natural knack at this with them being great athletes to start with. I still consider myself in the "catching a wave" stage since I am still spending a majority of time figuring out how to catch a wave when and where and how I want. Many people crosses this stage, then can ride decently. But basically their rides look awkward and do not inspire much confidence. My friend calls these stances "a survival stance."

If you run into a surfer that crossed just this "catching a wave" stage, and now they are riding the waves, they start to look very confident in their rides, and also they are actually creating rides out of the waves ahead of them, really taking advantage of the wave that is ahead of the surfer. It is kind of like a dance performance, except that the performer is provided with a music chart the moment she or he takes off on the wave.

There was one surfer on Saturday session I saw I thought that she has clearly crossed just catching waves then onto actually creating rides on the wave, and that was really stoke inspiring. With her movement all in synch with the wave ahead of her and with graceful movement all on her knee to the upper body.

For me, this type of shift won't happen suddenly on one day, but as I start to catch much larger percent of waves I go for, that will bring more confidence and wave time, and then I can begin to create more on the wave.

Surfing continues to be a very difficult sport to master and at the same time, it is very rewarding every step of the way.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fun Summer Morning Session

  Posted by Picasa

I treat surfing as a mini-version of a real-life. Of course, it is part of a big real life, but sometimes, by separating this part of life out, it is at least provides some interesting perspective in life as a whole.

This morning, we got together with three of my StokeMaster friends and set out to surf. I stopped at the Jetty first. It was really flat. I then called the others not to bother with coming up here, instead head south. The first stop in the south was at the Pescadero. From the top of the cliff as I drove the waves looked really good, so I suited up and waited for the others to show up. But waves were kind of gutless and not really surfable. By the time all my friends showed up, I had to admit that it was a bad call on my part, but then we decided to risk a bit and driver further south. A bit of frustration set in the surf party...

As the road go past the Pigeon Point, it actually runs east, this makes the cove at the Pigeon Point completely south facing. And that is a very good thing because I can gauge how the south swell is doing, and in this case, there were some waves that were breaking. I have heard a few shark situations so I never stepped myself in there, and I do not see many people surfing either at any time of the year. Besides there are a lot of rocks and I think if I am not careful there would be some board damages.

Eventually, we arrived at Waddell Creek. This is one of my most favorite spots when it works, and this morning we were not sure if it would, but we did go in. And this time, some good roller started to come in.

I surfed a lot today, and especially since the competition, I am determined to do certain things right, like paddling back as soon as possible to the lineup. I had a nice drop like the picture above, many other fun rides. I also continued to move around and try to get to where the next peak would pop. It is a real satisfying feel when the wave pops up exactly where I thought it would and there is nobody else on the wave!

So what is the life lesson I spoke about at the beginning of this log? Well, when things are a bit disappointing at the start, we took a bit of risk and tried to continue to hunt for the waves, and then we were able to leap some benefits.

Afterwards we all shared a nice lunch and conversation. Surfing brings so much to life from all angles.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Technical Update Part 2 - Professional Size Spary

Going in when nobody else is going in is something I tend to do a lot, and I really cannot remember any times that I have truly regretted doing it. Yesterday, I got in the water all by myself. It was small so I did not feel unsafe. Besides at this spot, if you paddle out where the breaks are, you can still stand on the sand bar. It is kind of interesting that way. During this session, I've seen a few people watching from the cliff, presumably trying to decide they'd go in or not. For me though I don't have that kind of a luxury. Either I go before I hit the desk or I don't surf for that day.

Nevertheless, while I have had a fair share of zero-catch sessions, they are rare. I'd usually catch waves or two before I get out and head to the office. There usually is a wave or two in an hour to 90-min session even when it looks really flat out there.

So this morning, I did manage to catch a few waves, and a few of them were quite punchy enough for me that they were challenging -- as you know I am trying to work up to be able to catch more waves like really good people can do. Also I did not touch this subject in my recent log, but I now try to catch the wave as if a life depends on it. That means that I will continue to paddle until I am very certain that I did not have a wave, and a few of the take-offs really worked in my favor. I think that it would be a worthwhile effort to keep on paddling into the wave a bit longer before giving up that you did not have the wave.

Another change that I am experiencing is that I almost did not realize how hard of a pressure that I can actually experience in making a turn; especially after at the very bottom of (at least it seems like it) a big straight drop, and that a board can actually hold up to this. As I executed my first bottom turn the pressure on the bottom my feet feel like as if I jumped out from the second floor of a building, and the board is actually making a turn and I am still on the board and it is going so fast that I still feel I am a bit out of control as to what I can do next. On the land, and right now, I know what I could have done. I could really have utilized that speed and power to go back up the wave and do the next one almost just as powerful as the first. Right now, for me though, it is still "easier said than that" stage. But I have a feeling that now that I am tasting a lot more of that today, I think I will get to the point to harness that power.

The spray being thrown at the back of my board on turns at the competition picture is good, but they are nothing like the professional-size spray. My next goal is to get to the point that on the turns these sprays are much more pronounced, perhaps doubling in size.
I feel like I have already starting to unlatch the next door with a bit of a glimpse into what happens next.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Technical Update

My interest and focus in catching more waves have returned. You might ask; "What else were you working on that's not that?" Yes, of course, as I practice on each wave, I try to improve all aspects of surfing, but I now feel that I need to refine the take-off technique to the next level.

Pleasae, though, I would like you to remember whenever you read about describing I am talking about all the skill issues relative to my previous situation, and not relative to yours or Andy Irons!

The area that I am specifically interested in improving are;

* Taking off when there is a lot more power in the wave.
* Develop the staying-power under these types of conditions.
* Reading the waves and positioning.

I am working on this area again because;

* I have gained more confidence in terms of paddling further out and paddling into waves under more variety of situations. The difference now is that I have more confidence. Also when I mess up the take-off, and what happens after that, I can handle these situations with much better skill and confidence.
* As a result of starting to take off on more powerful situations, I am in the wave more frequently. The problem is that what happens after that. What is interesting happening with me on this is that now I keep paddling a lot more and a bit longer and often setting the initial direction.
* And once I am on the board, sometimes, I fall off. This is probably the most aggravating of all because I am in the wave, I have negotiated the first line of drop and was ready to go. I am actually up on the board, but then something isn't quite right to take me to a solid turn #1. All of this is almost exactly the same when I first start to learn how to surf, but now I am starting to deal with much more power, shorter timing and faster speed.

I am presently debating whether to correct and improve these issues through more ground based training, and/or by surfing a lot more. But the answer seems to me that I need to go back to the basics and do some additional ground based stuff since it is probably best to reduce the number of parameters. Perhaps, I should also go to a surfing coach again and get some bad habits spotted too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Post Competition Update

I did surf on Sunday; day after the competition. I surfed with my close local surfing buddy. It was a lot of fun, still some waves were challenging and some waves closed out right after I took off; just like "as usual."

Since I have not been in any other types of competitive athletics, I am not sure if a competitive athlete would go out the next day after getting some result from the competition, unless, of course there is another competition the next day. I remember when Nancy Kerrigan got her medal, and asked what she will do next "I want to go to Disneyland!" If I was in the same situation, I would say, "I want to go surfing!"

I really think that surfing is quite different in this respect, because I do see the same people I have seen at the competition the previous day still having fun surfing. Or for that matter the rest of the day at the competition! It is fun and challenging and, and to me, if I have gotten better, that opens up so much more potential of having fun. Whenever I am out there and I have some satisfying moment, that moment is gone immediately, and I would start to think; "I want to do it again, but with a better or bigger wave next!"

This difference is seriously deep and confirms with me further that surfing is not just a sport, but it seems to hold a key to one a life-long quest and a journey associated with it, and so whenever the chance arises, we all take the board out and paddle out. Winning in a competition is not the ultimate goal, but it is just simply a status check how well things are progressing and part of fun.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

My Life's First Real Surfing Trophy

My Life's First Real Surfing Trophy

Please open my album as you read this story at
Surfrider Foundation is the organization where I spend part of my time to volunteer my services to contribute some of my computer and organizational skills as well as my love of interested in the oceanic environment. We work with local organizations to get supports and so we usually volunteer our time to "table" these events. This means that we go, set up a table, and provide information, and also gather peoples names and addresses if they are interested in joining our San Mateo chapter to help us out as volunteers.

I have agreed to table the Annual Kafuna Kupuna Contest event at Linda Mar beach. As I left home and drove by the Jetty, it was flat, so I was not expecting much in Linda Mar. But everything has turned out to be a super day for me. First, unlike the usual gloomy and foggy Pacifica this morning was exceptionally clear, and when I got there, there were waves all over, but they were not big. Almost a perfect day for me to surf!

As I was hanging around at the registration for the contest to meet with the organizer and get our booth set up, another surfer friend whom we meet at the contests a lot was there. He said "Hey Manabu-san, you really must like contests! Which heat are you in?" I said "No, I am not competing today and I only brought couple of shorts today!" But he kept insisting, "Oh, come on, man, there are spots, let me ask the guy!" I said, "Look, the list is full all over, it is too late to register." Then the guy on the other side of the table says "Oh, yeah, there is a place for Men's shortboard! What's your name sir? Write it down here because this guy decided not to compete." Oh man! Now once and again, my arms are twisted from both sides to enter. I actually enter the contest myself only once, any other times, it is other people in the surfing community that would twist my arms to enter. Most of these local contests are done in the name of providing some benefit to the community, so I don't mind paying the entry fee and go out and have fun. Nevertheless, the moment I put my name in the ink in that slot, I started to get this jittery feel about this. Especially this is going to be a short board heat. I have not competed ever in a short board heats. That made me even more nervous. It was agonizing next two hours as the clock slowly ticked on, 8:00? 8:17... 9:23? I carefully watched other contestants chose the lineup, where they paddled out, and which waves they caught and which directions worked the best. The contest is moving right along without any delay in heats. It is now 9:45 and I was barely able to just stand on the sand let along paddle out.

Finally it is 10:00 am, only 15 minutes away. I put the jersey on, do some warm up, and try to relax by doing a couple of deep breathing exercise. Everyone is on their jersey and are waiting for the double horn to blow. We shook hands and introduced each other. This is probably one of the most nerve-wrecking periods of any surf contest I have been in.

Well, the judges finally blew the horn twice, and we all started to paddle out. Luckily, the set stopped for a moment and it was an easy paddle out. Having been nervous, I totally forgot to pace my breath and strokes, and I was a bit out of breath as I paddled out. As I started to realize this, I basically said, "Oh, who cares, I will just enjoy and catch a few waves!"

But there was a strong current and I was not making the original lineup. But there was the first wave of the set starting to form just in front of me. That was a lucky break (literally!) I paddled in, and without much effort, I got in the wave. This was a really great wave. I got up early on the face and executed the right turn immediately. I executed standard ups and downs and had a long ride. Some other contestants already wiped out and heading back out.

I paddled back right away after the first ride. But this is something that I have not really been training for. I was even advised by Richard Schmidt to work on it, because I just get off the board and stand and wait to catch some breath and set to die before I get back out. I know that's not what pro surfers do, or even just regular "good" surfers you see. Another thing I remembered was an advise I've gotten when I went out for the first time in a contest, a local surf shop owner told me not to wait for the best set, but catch as many waves are you can, and you will be all set to move up to the next heat.

So as I paddled out another set came and I caught that. Thankfully, I know Linda Mar well by now, and I know waves tend to reform in the inside on larger sets. Wave #2 was not as high quality was #1, but I did ride it through.

The final wave was again a bit more from the outside and I almost did not have that one as it almost closed out but I kept hanging on the wave and as I got closer to the beach I recovered the balance a bit but the horn blew and so I kept riding all the way to the beach, which worked out perfect to complete a heat!

As I un-did the leash, the whole weight was lifted off my back. In some ways, this type of relief is something I would usually not experience. Well, I take it back, sometimes, some of my medical software system stops working for no obvious reasons, and get the issue escalated to me (usually on Monday morning at 2:00 AM after I come back from short vacation) and then it is extremely mission critical to get it working again. The first 5-10 minutes into these types of situation, until I know what is going on, is probably very similar to that.

Did I know I did better than others? Well I don't know actually because I just don't even have time to think about it while in the heat. But personally I thought I felt really great for being able to catch all three rides which is a minimum I had to do.

They've decided that they won't announce the result until the award ceremony so I called my wife to join me for the dinner. I was expecting that I still won't get anything, but at least to see what happens, I went.

It was a long wait too with first music, then raffle, then finally the award part came on. When my division was announced, I was called to the front along with all the people (since this was a single final heat). Then the promoter started to call names from the last place up. Fifth? Fourth? My name is still not called (that's strange, probably they mixed me up), Third? and Second is Manabu. Hey! What?! Unbelievable! I placed on second place?

So I ended up walking away with a second place prize in a men's shortboard heat!

This day ended up a significant milestone day in my life as a surfer!