Friday, March 30, 2007

Session 7036: No Crowds But No Waves!

Like I said, as soon as I start to talk no so humble, the karma turns bad.

Nobody in the wave, but caught zero wave this morning.

The nature always teaches you to be humble!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Session 7035: On Crowds

This morning, with the prevailing sunny and calm wind condition, and also the past several days of poor surf brought a lot of people to local breaks. Yes, I was part of the crowd so I should not be saying much, but while I was surfing I had some thoughts about it, especially I just came back from a week of just totally non-crowded surfing where I could own the whole break to myself for all day if I wanted to (but fortunately, or unfortunately I had to give them up because the session had to be terminated in 2-3 hours because I was so darn exhausted from catching so many waves.)

Now, however, this bring to the next thing. Whenever I come back from a surf trip where I caught a lot of waves, I feel like I have really improved a lot. In fact, I'd even say that having had to surf different breaks for a while had a profound effect on me.

So, if you feel like you are slumped, it might be a time for you to think about going somewhere other than where you surf all the time. I don 't know many surfers personally, but I know the faces and I see more than a fair share of people that hardly ever venture out to even just to the next break south or north of us. I know this because I can be at one spot one day and the next day, just a few miles down up or down the coast. I think that there is so much even within the confine of 30-60 miles from home that can be easily covered as a morning or an afternoon session.

~ ~ ~

Now, also, I am starting to sound a bit arrogant, but I saw there were some chance of collisions this morning, and also people taking off without regard to anybody or anything. The reason why I bring this up is that in most cases people are just oblivious to their surroundings. Whether they are taking off or whether they are on the wave, they are just looking only 1 or 2 seconds just ahead of the line. In all of the cases, if they were looking at the waves and much further in the direction they are going, they could have avoided problems. Luckily today, the waves were not big so you could easily stop.

Like anything from business planning, slalom skiing, motorcycle racing to surfing, looking ahead, getting the big picture is not only safer but also provides much better results. I think that it is one of the skill sets that all surfers need to acquire.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Reflections for Non-Surfing Day: Calmness and Activity

Our Zen Teacher D.T. Suzuki once wrote,

We say, "In calmness there should be activity; ' in activity there should be calmness." Actually, they are the same thing; to say "calmness" or to say "activity" is just to express different interpretations of one fact. There is harmony in our activity, and where there is harmony there is calmness.

When we get out to, paddling into, and catch "big for me" waves, our minds really need to stay calm while we try to act one of the most active of the sport.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Session 7034: Shedding Beginner Equipment

I have gotten confident that I am not going to wear the helmet, except when there are some element of danger like the crowd, rock reef, bigger waves, and riding a long board. And this morning, I did also not wear the gloves either though the water was in low 50's. Turned out that it was a bit painful at the start but soon my hands got used to it, body started to pump more blood and stayed warm for the rest of the session. I also surfed without helmet, gloves and wetsuits for a week on my trip and it did not cause a problem either.

While I cannot brag about these sort of things, and whenever I do, I usually get into some sort of a problem, I think that I have some basis to say that it is OK to do so.

One area of the confidence I have started to get is how to "wipe out" and in most wipe outs, I am either aware of where the board is, or still handling the board, such as hanging on to it. I am also now capable of avoiding things like going over the falls, and when and if that happens, I know better what to do, like pushing the board away from me if holding on to it cannot be an option. Also surfing short boards tend to be much safer.

~ ~ ~

Change of a subject back to my technical goal of the moment, getting to the break. This morning, I have already started to see some results. One of the thing was that I was actually getting "hot" under my chest while I was paddling out. This means that I am generating considerably more heat just from paddling. I have previously felt the general warmth increase during a hard session, but today was the first time when I felt something is "hot" in a specific part of the body.

~ ~ ~

Changing of the subject again. But I had unusually vivid memory of a surf dream when I woke up this morning. The dream went like this,

I had to check into the hotel, I followed this man with a long board going to surf, who disappeared behind a bush, but if I followed this guy, go past the bush and go down the steep cliff hill, I ended up on a busy concrete street... bunch of cars, street trains, office buildings. But this is far away from a hotel, and I had to take a train ride to get back to the hotel. I returned to the hotel, and the same man is walking across the hotel garden with his board and disappears into the bush. As soon as I follow this guy, I'd end up in the same street.

Many of my surf dreams do not involve surfing at all. It usually are like this when I try to find the water and wave, I cannot find them.

However, when I am taking a nap after a surf session sometimes, I get to ride some big nice clean waves, and feeling are almost as real.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Session 7033: Technical Update

Now I am at a point that I can more confidently take off on a bit more wider variety of waves, and once I am on the wave, I can make various turns, also more confidently, I should be able to surf like some of the best people at a given session right?


What differentiates me from some of the technically best surfers is the lining up properly and that is the next key item that I need to consciously improve in the next many sessions.

The typical problems I have presently are the following,
  • The lack of my confidence in paddling ability made me wanting to paddle less and tend to stay in one area. Good surfers seems to be moving around all the time.
  • Given a session, there usually are one or two surfers who always are nailing the good take-off spot and so they are usually the one taking waves. If you tried to tag them, you know it is difficult to do because they are usually moving all the time, and they have tremendously more paddling power than I do, so even if the breaks are about to happen not exactly where they are sitting at, as a set starts to roll in, they start to paddle to the direction where the peak happens. In coming sessions, I am going to emulate this a bit more.
  • When surfing with good surfers, they also are always using reference points so they know where they are and where breaks happen. They can usually describe where by pointing out objects on the ground, say a tree, phone poll etc.
While these things are easy to describe, it is actually very difficult to execute as ever changing current, tide, wind, and set sizes determine the lineups, and without a strong paddling ability, it is nearly impossible to keep yourself linedup at the optimum location every single time. But I think that this is one most important difference in who catches and do not catch good long rides.

Surfing skill improvement is very iterative, because advancement of one technique depend on another, and only once I improve one aspect, I can start to improve another, but then eventually that will expose the lack in the first technique, and there are just dozens of skill parts to them each of which is tied.

I will be focusing on this aspect of surfing and will be reporting further how much progress.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Session 7032: Back in NorCAL Winter

After a week of "non-wetsuits required" surfing, we were back in the frigid water of the Northern California. Paddling definitely requires a more effort as some of the power is wasted in stretching and compressing the rubber. But it is cold, crisp and refreshing, and I actually like the feel of duck diving through the cold water. It wakes me up, and also it keeps me going to stay warm.

When we hit SC, we are usually the East Side fans. I liked the East Side so much to the point I even rented an apartment right at the 41 St. for a while. But we stopped by this morning and taken a look in the West Side.

I have to say, we are still very fortunate to have these breaks. They are just phenomenally great breaks whether you are all the way outside in the Lane or inside Cowells. There are so many different waves to chose from. We paddled around at all three breaks today and had a lot of fun.

I wish that I did not get the kelp brake effect. I had a good start at the Lane but shortly after the up turn number 2, either the leash or the fin caught the kelp and I was catapulted up in the air. Don't we all hate it when that happens?

Sessions 7026 - 7031: Southern Mexico

I had a great trip to the southern part of Mexico March 12 through 20th. I cannot tell you exactly where I was, but please check out the pictures.

In this area, all paddle outs to breaks are at least 5 minutes. They break way way out in the middle of the ocean. Especially at my strength and being on a short board. In most places I hang around here in nor-cal, we just paddle out for a minute and take 2-second rides.

I did try a long board, that made an enormous difference in terms of how quickly I can get out to the break.

On this trip, it was also the first time I tried "boat surfing" where we got dropped off in the ocean to go surfing rather than paddling out. You don't really gain much other than the convenience of getting there. You still need to paddle back out after a ride, and there were some moments when I through I'd never make it back to the boat, as I was severely caught inside.

But a week of long paddling did some good for me. One thing was that I learned to focus more at each job at hand.

Sometimes, especially when I am caught inside or swept by current, a fear sets in. I am paddling and paddling, all tired, and seems to get nowhere but the same place, or sometimes, it seems to be moving in the other direction, not winning the current or the crashing white water.

It is often the case that other more experienced surfers would go right passed me in the same water, they are all relaxed, smiling and making good progress, when I could be all in panic.

What works the best when this happens is to forget about the destination, but just focus on a work at hand, which is paddling. Am I stroking deep, and steady? Am I making each stroke steady? Am I breathing deep and good to supply the oxygen into my muscles?

I don't even look at where I want to go constantly. If I do, that's when the panic sets in. I just look at a few bubbles in front of me and see I am going past that. If I know see that I am going past each of the bubble then I know I am moving forward, so I just let the other worries go and really focus on just paddling.

By doing this, I'd often make to the outside even before I realize. I really like the transition from the inside to the outside. It suddenly calms down and become peaceful. It is kind of like living a real life with a lot of turmoils, and if I keep my focus, I can get through, and before I know it, things get easier. The more I practice this, I also gain more confidence and be more relaxed to handle the situation.

For many of you that just started surfing, I am the guy that passed you by all relaxed and smiling while you were struggling to paddle out, and looking all panicked.

For many of you that have been surfing, I am the guy that you passed by me while I was struggling to paddle out, and looking all panicked. You looked all relaxed and confident.