Thursday, February 21, 2013

S.L.O. Motion

We paddled out to this spot just south of Morro Rock in San Luis Obispo County.  Looked like a pretty local spot (I could tell because we were getting the 'one over' from a few of the guys in the lineup).  I turned to one of the surfers in the water and we started to talking.  "This spot has some good waves, but the current can get pretty gnarly".  A few minutes later, a right lines up and I take it down the line.  Pretty fun wave.  I paddled back out, sat on my board and all of a sudden, I felt this really strong current pushing me out to sea.  I looked back and saw Manav and Amal paddling back.  I tried to paddle back, but I wasn't making any progress.  By the time I knew it, I was past the jetty, way deep in Big Blue.  I called out to Manav, "MANAV!"  The thoughts that rushed through my head were:  (1)  Call the coast guard (2)  Goodbye California (3) I'm gonna miss pizza.

Even though he was outside of the rip, Manav paddled out to me anyway like the good friend he is and noticed that I was about to hit the panic button.  "Don't worry, follow me.  I got you.  Trust me," he said in a calm voice.  I followed him south and by the grace of God, we got out of that rip.  Once we got back in a bit, most of the locals that were in the lineup were on the beach walking home.  They probably knew something we didn't.  I followed suit, and bellied one in.

Lesson #204: Never paddle towards a jetty when a gnarly rip hits, paddle away from it.

After that, we surfed Morro Rock State Beach.  Epic, 1.5 over head sets flied in, all lefts.  This beach reminded me a bit of O.B., but instead of a chunky, booming wave bottoming out and destroying everything in it's path, this wave still had a ramp once it collapsed, allowing for smooth duck dives.

I think we caught it on a really good day.  The lefts were lined up for anybody that was out.  We settled on what must have been second peak (a bunch of locals were lined up at first peak about 100 yards north of the rock).  When waves came in, the lips had power, and the ramps were bit steep but not enough to where I got into those 'free falling' moments.  I caught a pretty epic, bowling left.  It made up for my freak out earlier.  That wave allowed me to leave with my head held high.  It also allowed me to leave with more confidence in going backside, which at times, can be a bit nervy for me when the waves get beyond overhead.

Morro Rock State Beach

The showers were pretty awesome too.  Who'd ever expect hot beach showers?  An old timer who just got out brought shampoo and offered us some.  Why not?  Washing off at the beach with shampoo and soap reminded me of my childhood days back in Hawaii.  That's just how we got down back in the day on the Islands.  The old timer also told us about a couple of breaks in town that we could check out the next day, one being Shell Beach.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach sits on the bottom of a cliff.  The cliff is home to an open space full of green grass, benches and a playground.  There is chunky right hander on the southside of the cliff and a left hander on the northside.  Once in the water, this spot reminded me of Santa Cruz, with the kelp and green water. Like Santa Cruz, even when the wind picked up, the kelp beds kept the waves pretty clean.  It wasn't big at all compared to how Morro was the day before.  At most, a 4 footer would pop up here and there.  I think we did pretty well, considering that lineup was filled with longboarders.

The locals were really nice here.  One of the locals and I worked together to get our share of waves.  A crew of three, college aged longboarders were doing their best to hog most of the good sets.  This local and I used the 'blocking" technique to help each other out.  I would sit in front of one of the longboarders, block him off and give the wave to the local.  He would do the same for me.  We applied this strategy all day.  And we caught some good ones.  I know it's an inappropriate way of grabbing waves, but when waves are getting hogged knowingly, strategies have to be applied.

I had the GoPro handy most of the weekend, and I was able to chop up this quick edit of two of our sessions.  I wish I worn it for our Morro session, but decided not to because of the size of the waves that day, not knowing that it was pretty manageable.

S.L.O. Motion from Kookingitup on Vimeo.

A lot of the locals said that we caught S.L.O. on a really good weekend.  The waves were happening, the wind stayed down and the weather was warm.  There is something about just getting away from it all on long weekends with good friends.  From waking up in a tent, warming up some good brew to chatting for hours around a campfire.  But no matter how long the weekend is, it's always too short. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Big Waves

"Big waves".  Everybody has their definition of what a "big wave" is.  You have guys that chase Mavericks, and their definition of a "big wave" is one that towers the tallest human being five to six times over, knocks the wind out of a person just by sight and can leave even the greatest surfers contemplating their life choices.  There are the Ocean Beast guys.  They trade their tool belts, nails and hammers for 10 foot rhino chasers and hooded 4/3 wetsuits.  They paddle out to double to triple overhead surf, not knowing where the next wave is coming or where the current will take them, but willing to take a couple beasts on the head for that giant peak that will allow them a few moments in the room of green.

Then you have guys like me.  Guys who watch Mavericks from their living room, rather stay on the dunes when Ocean Beast is bombing and yell "DAMN!" every time a brave soul risks it all and gets clamped by that big green monster.  Guys like me are willing to risk our chips (and pride) when it's 1.5 to 1.75 overhead (double overhead, honestly, is too big and scary for me).  We feel more comfortable at breaks that are a bit more predictable that allow a haste exit when that big monster set flies in faster then you can say "let's play that game of 'life flashes before your eyes' again!".  I guess guys like me cherish organization and a bit of consistency.  Creatures of habit.  And the sense of escape-ability (which in most cases, is not true).  Yes, that would be me.

On Superbowl Sunday, I and a couple of the Kiwis found ourselves in the midst of waves that were reaching beyond the capacity of my definition of 'big'.  It was almost so 'big' at times that I wanted to sit on the cliff and play spectator instead of participator.  Yeah, like I've written before, I have been putting myself into bigger days, but honestly all that has done was add more unresolved trauma then comfort when things get big.

And the spot we usually surf wasn't being it's usual self either.  Due to the swell and the current, everything about this spot changed.  From where the take off points usually are, to those who usually surf it.  The waves were coming bigger, faster and at a more direct westerly angle then usual.  If I wasn't already overly anxious, these things didn't help. But as soon as one of the fellas said "Let's suit up and get out there while it's still empty,"  I was instant game.  

When we paddled out, like I said, everything was different.  Being that it was a very long period swell, there were some major lulls.  But when the sets came, they came big and in numbers.  There were even some waves going unridden.  Either people were caught inside or the waves were just to big.  Some of the waves were so big that they sucked the air out of the air.  Even the charger of the Kiwis, Panama Red, was a bit shaken.  Never seen him back off before.  But then again, shit was sort of mutant at times.  Don't blame him, or me for that matter.

Then my wave came.  A set had just past, and an odd mid period set was flying in.  I gave my self a second to get my senses and took a couple deep breaths.  Other guys were paddling back to the lineup from the last set and I was pretty much alone to take it.  I wanted to hesitate, but one of the guys paddling back yelled at me "Go Go Go!"  I turned, paddled and all of a sudden I was making this hair raising, vertical drop.  I don't even remember popping up to be honest.  I could of been boogie boarding it down for all I remember.

Once I completed the drop, the first thought in my mind was "What do I do now?"  All I could see when I looked up was this very large wall of greenish/blue water.  And it was all glass.  And I was on it.  "What... The... F*^k...".  I made my bottom turn and shot three quarters up the wall and shot down for another hair raising drop.  "Wow, that was cool!".  So I did it again.  "I can do this!"  On the next bottom turn, I decided stayed on top of the face for a few pumps before I took a less vertical angle down.  "Weeeeee!"  "I got this!" 

A section in front of me wanted to clamp but my angle down the face kept my board at such a good pace that I was able to surf around the white wash and sustain some momentum so I could complete somewhat of an ugly back door bottom turn to make it back up the face again.  And there I was, on top of the wave once more. I could see the final section, already wanting to clamp.  And so far, I hadn't seen anybody make it.  "I can do this!"  I was getting cocky.  I had this mutant under control.

I held my ground and kept my patience.  After I came down from the top of that wave I waited for the very last second to release my bottom turn.  As I released my bottom turn I used all my core energy to propel my board up towards that closing lip.  I needed to get to the top of it before it broke so I could slap that lip in the face and steam down it's shoulder.  But as I pushed my board up the face, the lip sectioned and that heavy mutant wave threw all it's energy into the middle of my chest.  It hit me so hard that it knocked all the wind out of me.  And I hit the bottom of the wave backwards.  And I didn't follow the cardinal rule:  "Never take the first wave of the set".

After receiving a severe beating, I barely rolled myself onto the beach and walked back up the cliff.  I felt as if I was hyperventilating.  I was breathing frantically.  I made it over to my wife who was on the cliff looking for me.  "How was it?"  she asked.  Breathing hard, slober all over my chin, pride left somewhere between a reef and a hard place, I replied "F*^king Awesome!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Video: Breath

Breath from Kookingitup on Vimeo.

The 2013 Super Bowl Swell along the coast of West Side Santa Cruz.  My wife actually did all the camera work while we surfed.  Like I said, my darling has skills!