Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Session 8015, Frustration Gets Bigger, Not The Waves...

Day 15
Frustration Gets Bigger

The poor condition continues today, though we were relieved on two stuff this morning. As it turned out that the oil balls are from natural causes, some seepage from a natural source of oil. I used to surf in Santa Barbara and that area is notorious for the natural tar-balls. We are kind of lucky we don't routinely have that type of issue. It does a number on the wet suits, booties and the board.

This morning looked a bit better than yesterday, less windy and sunny, so I proceeded further south than the spot we surfed yesterday. As usual with my surf estimation skills, it looked quite "doable" from the shore, so I was all stoked and went in (please continue after the photo).

Have you seen the gateway to the hell?
I have... Many times!

Yeah, but once I started to get in, the swell started to get messier again, started to produce big shore breaks, and then lots of white water. I was basically caught inside and did not get out. I got kind of tired and ran out of time. Luckily there was one break that I caught which ended up in an OK ride.

You can see the continuous incoming white stuff in the picture below.

But I cannot really complain, how often other people get to stop by at this beautiful scenery before they get to work? The movement of the sand throughout the year is something that is really interesting to me. Sometimes, they are pushed up like this, and sometimes, we almost do not have any beach.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Session 8014 More Mess!

Day 14

We have not had much good luck in terms of surfing in the Northern San Mateo county of Califonia this past few weeks. We just had a raw sewage spill this past weekend, and this morning I made a point of hooking up with a buddy of mine at 7:15 in the morning in Pacifica, and here is what happened.

When I got there there were 3 TV vans with satellite uplinks. I though that there was some time of accident so I tried to surf. Soon I found out that all parking lots were roped off.

So I had to get to the shopping center lot, where the TV vans were, and I spoke to one of the staff and she told me that they were covering an Oil Spill issue. Oh, gosh, another oil crap again? I thought, but then I thought that this is probably some old stuff resurfacing as we had quite a stormy surf for the past several days.

We then decided to head back south to find a wave. First we checked out Montara which I though was OK, but as we tried to get to the beach, the wave started to crank up and become quite a bit of a huge mess. I thought that it would be doable, but then it will require a much patience and a lot of biceps "burn." So we continued on south at the Jetty which was dismal.

Another beach a bit further south. (Please scroll down to the next set of photos.)

When we arrived at the next break, we took a look and thought that it was crappy, but then after investing this amount of time and we are getting in a danger of abusing our flex-time privildeges, we decided to get in "anyway" and paddled out. (Please continue after the next photo.)

In my StokeCAST I often talk about the "Washing Machine" condition, and here is a good example of what I often mean by this. You can see the suds, and ripples typical of what would be inside of my Miele... OK... Kenmore.

It took a while to get out of these inside mess.

And when we catch waves, it also closed quickly and our total ride was probably about the same as a round-trip packet time from here to New York.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Session 8013: Still Zero Catch Today, How To Use the Wrist Cam

Day 13
Learning How To Use The Wrist Cam

NOTE: Click the picture to see the enlarged photos. You get a lot more out of them.

I am a bit embarrassed to tell you that for two sessions in a row I have not caught a wave. Nevertheless, I was glad I played in the water for an hour or so before work (well, I had to work this morning to do some IT issues.)

I have been practicing how best to get the shots with my submersible wrist cam. So let me talk about this a bit more in detail. The first picture you see here, which I highly recommend you click and see the higher-res version, you can see a rainbow out in the ocean. Picture like this is much easier to take because I can shoot just before I get in the water up close from the water. Otherwise I have to take them after I am done or before I do get in the water with a separate camera.

Again, this one is from the shore but it is now so easy to capture that.

This is kind of a picture I get a lot. I intended to take some other picture but ended up pushing a button just when the wave knocks me over. I have fond out that it is better to take pictures with me off the board, propping the camera and my arm on the board.

And that brings me to this picture. It is nice to take picture of waves from behind as well as from the front. You can see that this was a good offshore day as the good thick spinnaker cloud is flying behind the wave. What you are seeing is the infamous shore break that is about to happen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Session 8012, Cold Barren and No Catch Today

Day 12
Cold, Barren and No Catch Today

Another small day this morning at local beaches. The swell lines were clearly visible on the ocean surface but wave never really broke at a few spots I checked. This is the last stop I made, as you can see, at this spot there was basically the only one peak that was doable. But it was a bit difficult for me to catch as the take off spot was very tiny and another surfer was already on it.

I paddled around a bit more and got out. While I was in the water I was not that cold but once I got out the E winds were blowing a bit and I got chilled quite quickly. It was certainly a good exercise but this morning that was the only extent of being in the water. With surfing we sometimes catch a lot and sometimes none!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Session 8011: Are We Not All Beginners After All?

Day 11

This morning, I surfed alone at the Jetty, my home break only a walks away from my home. I strapped on my submersible wrist cam so these pictures are not stock photos but from my session this morning! Look at the beautiful convective cloud out in the ocean, and the dawn sky in the west.

I had to wait and wait and wait, and also paddled, paddled and paddled around for an wave I could catch, but every 10 minutes or so the break woke up and start to break some fun waves. I only had two waves that were really fun, but I had to chase for them, and paddled at a full power and pushing the board down with my chin hard down so that I can get in the wave, but once I caught the waves, I got really some fun waves going down and up all the way to the lip and down. Read on after two pictures I have taken!

Oh, by the way, you can see the edge of my Takayama 7'2 Egg board in the picture two, and the look at the wave on the second picture. This is one of the wave I had to miss so that I can share the wave with you, but yes, won't you paddle of it? I would have if it was not for you, my friend.

~ ~ ~
This morning, I was thinking that why many people don't want to be considered themselves as beginners. For me I am a perpetual beginner because every time I seemed to have advanced to the next level, I am back to the beginner of the next level. As soon as I get cocky, there would be accidents, dings and just bad things that are waiting. The ocean and the nature really teaches us to be humble and be observant.

The StokeMaster project is basically to wake up the Zero starting point in all of us. No matter how good you think you are, we should always go back to that day 1 when we first handed a board, and put on the wetsuit for the first time, and splashed into the cold water.

While I do get cocky often enough, I always try to remember that each time I get out, I try it to be the Day 1 of my surfing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Session 8010: Home Break, Being Cold? Some Insight.

Day 10

This morning, I almost did not go. I went to check out another spot, but the cold air was blowing rather strong, and it was not enticing. A bit fortunate news is that the Jetty is a bit more NW winds protected, and there were occasional fun looking waves. I also put on the HERO camera on my wrist and paddled out. The resulting pictures are below. As with any in-water surfing photography, it is difficult to hold steady, so these are the best I can do today. I want to talk a bit about the cold, so check out the photos and read on. (Also, if you click on the pics on the blogger post itself, you can see them a bit larger

Being Cold is Half The State of Yourself

There are Buddhist priests in Japan who would stand under a small water-fall in the winter to train themselves. I too was amazed by people getting into the water this time of the year. With the invention of the wetsuits, it has significantly improved the situation, but we still all tend to complain.

What I have found out though, is like anything, if you keep doing it, your body and mind will start to learn to cope with it. For me the first 5 minutes or so of surfing is the hardest, and especially the first duck dive is something I really don't look forward to, but once I'm done with all that the rest of the session is not cold. I paddle around a lot to keep myself warm, and I can actually get quite toasty inside a 4/3 suit, especially around the chest and the tummy area. Even on a windy day like this, I am perfectly fine. One blessing is that in the winter, the water temp does not go much below 50 F even when it is 32 F in the morning.

So get in the water, it is wamer there!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Session 8008, 8009: Towards More Water Contact

Day 8 and 9

First the surf report. Day 8 was at Pacifica and it was really fun with the waves up to my head height. Today, Saturday, my 9th session of this year was at a location below. Sorry I won't tell you exactly where, but it should be obvious if you've been there. Also, and by the way, I stopped by at Half Moon Bay Board Shop and got the HERO 3 wrist cam so there will be more in-water reporting coming soon. Please look forward to it. On this WavLOG I am going to give you some technical update.

Technical Update

I am a bit over-due in this department, mainly because there has not been a significant technical progress that I could articulate. Surfing is really difficult because no matter how much I practice, there always are much better surfers than I. The number of people that I "aspire" to in any break is getting smaller, each season goes by. But on my very first few seasons, just about everyone was someone I'd aspire to.

I was actually thinking about the times when I took bigger and hollower waves earlier on and what used to happen. Here is what used to happen. The board would skip over the water and I am going left and right without much control.

Lately I have noticed that that type of issue is happening much less, but when this happened a few times in the past sessions, I have finally realized what has changed or improved in that department.

What has really improved is the more effective use of the board, especially the front part of the board. Before, with being scared and such, I did not commit my full body weight to the front of the board enough that I was just skimming and skipping over the waves especially when I was going faster... Being scared is a detriment to short-board surfing, but then I have injured several times, so I have been conditioned to be more conservative; that often work against surfing. I must remind myself that I need that steep drop off and I should paddle super hard and keep the nose of the board down as I commit to the take-off. Surf boards, especially the short ones are designed to handle situations like this.

With more confidence building up, I have been able to really distribute the weight more evenly on the board and also responding to changing situations faster. Actually I am no longer making conscious decisions about this, instead I am now being able to feel the waves and also read the waves better now and my body will more or less naturally distribute the weight to get the most power and stability out of the situation. With the weight fully distributed, the rails are fully engaged in the wave, the water is in good contact throughout the ride, the turning action has become more fun, full and dynamic, and gaining the speed is finally starting to happen too.

Last summer, there was a period of time when I long-boarded a lot, and also I am using the 7'2 Egg a lot since as a substitute for a long-board. Having learned how to step forward into the board has significantly helped me understand the weight distribution issue on a surfboard.

I will have to continue building upon this skill set over much wider range of conditions, but since this is starting to become natural, I am really stoked about challenging more situations that I'd avoided for a long time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Session 8007: More "Just a Fair" Day

Day 7
More "Just a Fair" Day

The waves were in a bit better shape when I arrived at the beach. They looked more surfable than yesterday. With the period hitting 19 seconds from WNW, I picked the spot that's more protected from the direct hit. I was hoping that there would be some fun ridable waves, and looked like there would be.

But it is often the case, what you see is not always what you get. The paddle out was hard enough, already with prevailing wind chops from the results of the winds out in the ocean, though the winds did not hit the beach yet.

After a bit of effort to get to the outside, I hunted around for any ridable breaks, but when large sets came, they crumbled, and when small sets came, they crumbled too. I tried for a few waves but without much luck, and of course, nobody else were getting much of a ride either.

Frustrated, I paddled in and was ready to get to work, I waited for the next white water to take me to the shore. Then I realized that I was being sucked into fairly fast rip currents. I decided to experiment; I just decided to just float and see how far it will take me. Remarkably without almost any paddling at all, I was back at the outside. For me it was fun, but I would imagine it will be a really scary experience if someone was caught in this as a victim. It was relatively going fast today.

So I decided to wait for another wave to ride, but waves were not shaping up still yet.

Another mode change I have decided to paddle further south just so that I get enough exercise for today, and finally I found a spot that was breaking a bit mellower, and took a ride. That was short but sweet that let me score a couple of turns. I paddled back for the next but no good wave came and the I ran out of time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Session 8006: Why I Continue To Surf

Day 6
Why I Continue to Surf?

From an epic day to a paddle out hell... it just goes to say, we really have very marginal surf spots near my home. Yesterday was just about the perfect condition for me in Santa Cruz, but today in Half Moon Bay, it is just a jumble of disorganized mess, and when paddling out there is no forward momentum towards the direction of Hawaii; sometimes the ocean closes the gate and push us right back to the shore.

Why would I keep going like a fool then?

Well, I really have made a sort of commitment to myself, to you and to the nature a while back:
  • I committed that this is my (only) daily exercise. So catching a wave is more or less a bonus for me. Even if I get one satisfactory ride out of a session, that's more than a nice reward. So if the condition is safe enough for me, I will go and paddle hard for 30-45 minutes if nothing else. Yes, that was me in the Jetty when it looked all flat and that was also me when Montara looked like going through a rinse cycle.

  • It is also my commitment to you that I go surf as much as possible so I have something to write about this surfing adventure of mine, no matter what it is shaping up to. I know many of you have been a loyal reader of this blog and the web site.

  • Outside of the the annual state park fees, I am considering that my gym is the Pacific ocean and it is basically free of membership fees. But I do commit part of my time/income as the "environmental tax" by serving the Surfrider Foundation as a volunteer, and give back what I make to the "nature." and help repair or prevent the however damages I make to the nature while I am on this planet, and I always pick up any pieces of trash when I get out.
As I started to build the web site and surfing community I have found out that I was not alone. And that keeps me going even more!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Session 8005,Still Big Day But Pretty Epic at Capitola

Day 5
Stoke 10 At Capitola

I am really glad we decided to go to Capitola this afternoon. On the drive from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz, the waves were huge all over. When I came to the Jade Cove, I had to stop the car and take the shot. The waves here were at least 20 ft on a bigger set, and crushing really hard onto the rocks on the left.

I was a bit worried about if this situation would be everywhere all the way to SC, but when I arrived at Capitola, I was really relieved to find that the area was much better protected, and while it was still taller than myself on bigger sets, they were manageable.

It was definitely a long board scene, but I took out my trusty Takayama 7'2 Egg board, sat a bit further inside, and I really had a lot of fun. Some rides were really long and was able to do a lot of ups and downs.

Observations on Some Surfers: Going Straight Is An Option

Surfing on waves in one thing, but you can also get a lot out of just observing. On this session, I saw several people who were otherwise on good waves but eaten up by the waves too soon. The main problem I saw looking from the side line was that they seemed to be determined to stay on the trim and totally oblivious about other cards they could draw to stay on the waves. Should they cut down to a straight down line, they could have regained the speed, get ahead of the wave, and with a mighty sweeping bottom turn back up to the wave, they can stay on a ride.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Session 8004: Better Quality

Day 4
Better Quality Yet!

Yesterday I wrote about the rapidly changing weather and conditions. This morning is a perfect example that demonstrates that point. Winter brings some frequent offshore conditions as low pressure systems pass by in the ocean. Typically in the summer, a high pressure system sits right in the Pacific and with the inland heating up, it will move a lot of air onshore. We usually need to wait until the winter season to see frequent offshore conditions. To be honest with you though I don't like any wind on the surf. Offshore condition is "text book" recommended situation as we know, but sometimes, the winds are so strong that the waves simply do not break easily so we often need to paddle like hell to catch waves. And also if I am on a bigger longer board, the wind just blows the board upwards and that makes it even worse.
Of course, that's coming from a unskilled surfer like myself. There were a plenty of surfers who can pull off great rides at any imaginable conditions. My goal, of course, is to become one of them.
Well, so here is a picture of what it looked like this morning. Sometimes fairly large sets came through that was definitely taller than myself, and when that happens it just keep happening for 3 or 4 waves.

Lately I have been having a bit of problems after the flick up. That is the board is slipping away from me. I don't know what has changed. I did not have this when I was in So Cal mid December. I really had a blast and very long satisfying rides on my quad at the Trestles. So
I think I know the cause which is that I am not committing my weight forward fast enough. But I don't know the root cause of this. One thing is that I am definitely trying harder than ever to catch waves, and as a result this could be the start of being able to go a bit deeper in take off. I surely hope so.

I have uploaded more pictures in today's forum entry of January 08 Journal at the StokeFORUM Members section (link). You got to be logged in as a StokeMaster member to see it, but hope you join the StokeMaster and continue further discussions and get out together sometime!

LM This Morning

Nic and I had a fun DP. Better pics later on in the stkeforum

Monday, January 07, 2008

Session 8003: The After Mass of The Storm at Linda Mar

The WavLOG
Day 3
The After Mass of The Storm at Linda Mar

Winter surfing in Northern California often is a fight with the rapidly changing nature. With the weather system moving fast, often 35-45 mph plus, these systems can move close to 1000 miles a day that can dump record rain and wind gusts one day and move on, giving a nice, clear and calm day after.

We just had a record breaking storm on Friday last week, that knocked down power lines in many of our communities. In Half Moon Bay area, where I live, the power was down for 7-8 hours on Friday in the whole town. The whole town outage is actually a good news. If this was a tree-down in a neighbor, and only a dozen homes were to be affected, it could be a low-priority fix taking 2-3 days to get the power restored. Power loss is one thing but it would be a pisser when we start to spoil food in the fridge. We suffer this just about every single year. Thank god, we have gas cooking, we were able to continue cooking.

With the strong winds almost anything that could be knocked down went down. Just about every big wide road signs were down on the highway, and we witnessed a Wells Fargo sign tipped over too at Half Moon Bay branch. This storm was especially worse because the winds were southerly most of the time and most of our roads run N-S direction so the signs were hit direct by the winds.

Back to surfing though, finally the storm has left us and we had a small window of opportunity today to get out with the 11 ft 12 sec WNW swells and practically no winds. Looks like in just a few days we will be back to raw messy huge waves and winds again!

This picture is our famous "world's most beautiful Taco Bell" in Linda Mar, Pacifica. You can see the only remaining part of the signage is the word Bell.

Look at the amount of debris on the parking lot. It is showing the dramatic spill of the water into the lot. The lot was muddy all over.

However, the waves were back to "normal" with up to my shoulder level, on a very mushy side and many long boarders were having fun. I had a couple of rides on that's on a "Fun" scale this morning on my quad short board.

See You Out There!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Session 8002: Crappy? But I Still Will Catch Waves!

Day 2
Crappy? But I Still Catch Waves!

With the condition being predicted to be stormy and big, I decided to cut the work a bit early today and got a short session before the sun went down. I checked two spots and actually the first spot was more decent than the Jetty, but with the time running out I decided to paddle out at the Jetty.

The condition was just about the crappiest it can get. A lot of rough chops of the size up to my hip, with not much waves breaking. I paddled around and finally closer to the rocks there was a where some sign of the swells breaking.

The first one was a decent size and shaping up. I got up on the wave but the chop ahead was so much that the front of the board stuck through the water and buried the board. I was immediately catapulted and that was it. I had to wait for several more minutes for the next set, and this one was a decent take-off, and the wall was starting to form but that did not materialize.

Now it was starting to get dark, and I know there will be some submerged rocks so I caught one and tried to ride straight back to the shore.

Was it worthwhile? Of course it was. There were couple of other people out there and they were not catching much at all. Being able to surf on crappy condition is a competitive edge, and I have to cover that too as a part of the skill!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Session 8001

Day 1

The first surf of 2008 started out on a good note, though a bit too strong offshore wind . Not very crowded at all and the air was on a balmy side (high 50's) for this time of the year. With the prevailing offshore winds, we had to paddle like a hell to get in the wave as the wave did not break at the spots they usually do with onshore days.

I am really having a good wave when I can stick my hand in the wall of the wave and keep going.