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!

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