30 June 2007

Warm Water At Last!!!

(There wasn't much out there yesterday. I must have seen something since I can tell I'm about to turn around and paddle.)

What a gloriously beautiful weekend it was in terms of the temperature both in the air and in the water. I don't remember a previous June, in my short surfing life, when I was able to shed the neck-to-ankle neoprene. Yesterday, I wore trunks and a jacket. Today, I opted for the shorty john. I wasn't chilly on either day. This is a treat. I hate fullsuits almost as much as I hate board socks. Unfortunately, I can't live without either one of them.

Soul Brother #1 came with me yesterday and snapped some shots of a few of us while we were in the water. Although I still surf the home break, I no longer surf right in front of or a little south of our landmark (Tower XX). It's much too crowded there these days. Even when you get there early, you still end up being forced to contend with a break full of newbies and wanna bes. It's not only irritating, it's dangerous. I've taken a page out of R and B's book; I surf in a spot where people are simply too lazy to walk to. Why do people think that it's necessary to sit one on top of the other in the water? Even when I was a newbie, I tried to stay out of the way. I would walk as far as I needed to. For one thing, I was embarrassed by my nonexistent skills. I freely admit to that. My secondary concern was getting in someone else's way. Either way, I knew to give myself and everyone else some space. Well, it seems that the new people I'm seeing in the water these days don't understand such logic. They just paddle straight out into the lineup and seem to do whatever they want, hardly mindful of the other people around them. Frankly, I don't like that and neither do the bona fide locals. It was bad enough that some publication's headline stated "XX Beaches Kind to Newbies". Then the sub-headline read "New surfers are welcome at local surf locations—not the case at other surf spots up and down the Cali coastline". How's that for outing a break? It doesn't get much worse than that. As of that wasn't bad enough, I'm told that there are also surf schools there during the week. Our little beach break, the one with the mediocre waves (that were pretty good when I first started surfing but are no longer so), is no longer flying under the radar. And I don't like it.

From looking at Soul Brother #1's pictures, I can get a hint of what I'm doing on the board these days. It's kind of hard to judge since the shape was worse yesterday than it was today. I was also on a log and that was the wrong board for those conditions. The Slick was a much better call today. I can see I'm more relaxed than ever before, but there are still things I want to work on.

I surfed leashless today. Gracefullee walked past me as I was suiting up. When I saw that she didn't have a leash, I decided I'd go leashless too. I trust her judgment. And you know what? I only swam three or four times—one of those times was after I walked up to the nose and fell right off. Since I was surfing where people weren't, there was no danger of me clocking anyone with my board. Sunshine. Warm water. No leash. It was great. I hear a small swell is on the way. That means sunshine, warm water and waves with shape. I'm on it!

26 June 2007

The Culling of the Quiver

Thanks to some idiot at the office of Soul Brother #1's surgeon, we are now a one paycheck family. His disability checks were summarily cut off because someone put the wrong date on the form the doctor sends to EDD. The doctor estimates that he will be able to return to work in August. The dumb ass in his office wrote June . . . instead of August! As you can probably tell from a recent blog entry, I'm not making enough money support a family. I thought long and hard before resorting to Craigslist. I sold a board to which I was not attached. It was gone within 24 hours of the ad being posted. I may put another board up for sale. But that's it. I love the remaining boards, two of which were custom made for me while one of them is simply a magic off-the-shelf board. Don't cry for me, Argentina. The sold board will eventually be replaced. What's more important for now is that we can put food on the table, keep the lights on and just plain survive.

24 June 2007

Alan M's Got Nothing on Me!!!

You think you've got a kook magnet, Alan? After this weekend, I've got you beat!!

Since the conditions were supposed to be mediocre everywhere, I stayed at the home break. It wasn't worth my while to drive all over L.A. County and part of the O.C. looking for what I could get in my own backyard. What shocked me more than anything else—other than the kook magnet factor—was the number of bodies in the water. I was completely floored. As I've said before, it's not like there are great waves at the home break. It's not Malibu, for Christ's sake! And yet, there they all were. Everywhere you looked there was a body sitting on, or falling off, a surfboard. Today I finally said something about it to one of the bona fide locals. I learned from him that someone somewhere told the media about our spot. Apparently it's been identified as a friendly beach. To be truthful, I don't know how long it will be a friendly place. But I will address that in another blog entry when I revisit the issue of localism.

This was definitely a longboard weekend. I was on the log yesterday and then switched to the Slick today. A log is good at a beach break when it's so small that you don't even see a wave. This weekend you could see tiny little waves that tended to go up and over. That's why the Slick was the call for today.

If Alan M hadn't coined the term "kook magnet" I would have sworn I was being stalked . . . in the water. This guy and his kid followed me everywhere I went yesterday. Wherever I went, there they were. I'd paddle away. Five minutes later, I'd turn around and find them paddling straight to me. I could not shake these two. It was maddening. I'd refrain from paddling for a wave only to watch the dad completely miss it. I didn't know what to make of this guy and his attention. I finally decided to stop worrying about it, thinking it was merely my turn to deal with the kook magnet. Well, wasn't I unhappily surprised today when the guy and the kid paddled right up to me again? Unbelievable! Once again, they followed me all over the lineup. Yes, I was catching waves. Still, I wasn't the only one catching waves. It's not like I was in the only spot that was breaking. There were little bumps in the water (bumps, not real waves) up and down the beach. The guys in the crew were catching waves too. I didn't see him paddling up to them. You think that's bad? It gets worse. The little boy told the dad he wanted to paddle down a way. He'd seen his surf teacher and, for whatever reason, wanted to surf near him. Then the dad said, "Then we'd leave (my real name) out here to catch all the waves." How did he learn my name? I'm guessing he heard other people calling out my name when bumps in the water came in my direction. Nonetheless, it was disconcerting. The crowds and the kook magnet factor lead me to believe this is going to be a long, hot summer in the water.

22 June 2007

Still Employed

But I was called into a closed door meeting with the bosses. No, I did not bite my tongue. I listened. They listened. I got told about myself. They really got told about themselves. The end. They don't want to lose me. (I didn't tell them that they'll need to work harder to keep me. Let them figure it out.)

On a lighter note, the glasses I ordered for my Doo Dah Surf costume arrived today. I've now got at least 95% of my costume. Whether I can surf in it is another story. That's half the fun! I found a blurry picture of me from last year. I was on my log, thinking I needed all the help I could get and that it would be hard to surf in my costume. It wasn't hard at all. This year's costume will pose a little challenge. However, I plan to use my shorter longboard this year since it's easier to carry around. If you live in the L.A. area, the Doo Dah Surf is something you'll want to see.

20 June 2007

Take This Job and Shove It!!

It was bound to happen given my history. I hung tough for over a year. Now, it's time to get the hell out of Dodge. I've updated my resumé and sent it to prospective employers. In the meantime, I'm denuding my cubicle of the things that make it a more comfortable place (e.g., pictures of the Soul Brothers, surf wax, surf pictures, books, magazines). I don't plan on being there much longer. Soul Brother #2 is the only reason I didn't quit on the spot (both today and yesterday). Is it possible that I'll stay with this company for the long haul? No. That wasn't a possibility in the first place. Now, it's a matter of trying to make it through each day without giving my bosses the finger and telling them where to put it. Shame on those bosses who don't know a good thing—our entire department save the one girl who's sleeping with one of the bosses—when they've got it.

17 June 2007

Spring(suit) Has Sprung

I'm dealing with quite a bit of fullsuit drama right now. My daily suit is a 3/2 Excel. Well, I took that to the surf shop on Thursday to send back to the manufacturer. The seam where the torso and right arm meet came apart. Before I knew that you could send a suit back to the manufacturer for repair, I'd already taken steps to get another 3/2. Well, the new one I was working on getting hasn't come. Since it looked like I was never going to get it, I ordered a different 3/2 from another source. As I write this, I got nothin' (in terms of a fullsuit—that 4/3 is not an option until the water temperatures dip back into the 50s). What worries me is that I think I will soon have three. I don't need three! If Excel returns my suit with a repair, that's cool. That will be my back-up that I leave in the car. But what if they send a new one? There's one fullsuit. The one I just ordered is supposed to arrive in the mail in a few days. There's one more fullsuit. And I've recently found out that the other one, the one I thought was no longer an option, is also waiting for me. That's three fullsuits! Are you staying with me? What's a girl to do with three fullsuits? I've decided I'll return the one that's arriving in the mail next week. I'll wait and see what happens with the other two.

In the meantime, I'm without a fullsuit. I thought this would be a problem since all I ever do is complain about how cold I am. However, the lack of a fullsuit won't keep me out of the water. Yesterday, I headed down the coast to surf with friends from work. I took my fleece rashguard and my long sleeve springsuit, fully prepared to freeze my ass off. Surprisingly enough, I was fine. I got a little chilly, but I'm so happy to be out of a fullsuit that it's worth it. I may even start surfing in a jacket and shorts soon. Soul Brother #1 got me a jacket awhile back. He didn't know what a jacket was. He just knew I wanted one. So, he went to the surf shop and got one, all the time thinking it was something you wear over your wetsuit for added warmth.

The session was good enough, much better than the one we had last weekend when the waves were simply awful. There were actual surfable waves yesterday for about an hour. Nothing great, but surfable nonetheless. That was good enough for me.

16 June 2007

Shaper Shout Out!!

It's sweet, isn't it? Yeah, it is. Admit it. You know it is!

This is a shout out to my shaper, Mark Brög. He's one of those guys who's flying under the radar, quietly shaping boards that people love.

He he . . . green fins. It doesn't get any better than that!

Soul Peformance Surfboards
2215 1/2 Artesia Blvd
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

Birthday Surf

It seems like it was weeks ago . . . when it was actually on Thursday. And what a long, but good, day it was. It started out at 5 a.m. when I awoke not with the intention of working out at home before work. No, I'd gotten the green light to surf before work. I didn't care about the conditions. For me it's all about the symbolism of doing what you want on your day.

I didn't check too many spots. There was no time for that. I knew I'd probably surf the home break. As I drove toward it, I saw two people, from behind, running with a big dog. What's funny is that I didn't recognize them—I recognized the dog!!! It was Ria and B from the home break running with their beautiful Ridgeback. They were as surprised to see me as I was them. I mentioned my appearance at the beach at that hour was an aberration, that I was there to do a birthday surf. They went one way, I went the other.

I paddled out alone in small, but glassy surf on the new custom board. I'm not ready to surf it in a crowd. The board and I need more quality time together before we start stepping out in public. It's awfully quiet at that hour. There were people at the beach doing their morning constitutionals. There was no one else in the water when I paddled out. I got a chance to think about things, watch the dolphins and laugh at the lone seal whose little head kept popping up here and there. Then I saw someone I knew on the beach. It was Ria!! She paddled out and said, "You can't surf alone on your birthday!!!" That's one of the best birthday presents I've ever received. I couldn't believe it. I'm smiling as I relive it in my head. We hung out for a bit and then I took one in.

As if the surf session wasn't enough, I decided I'd top off my birthday with a lunchtime swim. I swam alright. I don't know why I thought I'd be able to swim the way I normally do. I felt like my shoulders were made of lead. However, I still swam. I believe you celebrate your abilities while you've got them. I wonder if I'll be able to do, at 54, the two workouts I did on Thursday at 44? Never say never.

Surf. Swim. Work. Dinner. Wine. I didn't have the strength for much else. I think what I did was enough. Happy birthday to me!

13 June 2007


Remember that movie Stand by Me? Remember when they were walking on the train tracks over the trestle? And then the train came? And River Phoenix's character looked back and screamed, at the top of his lungs, "TRAAAIIIINNN!!!" Well, that's the scream I wanted to let out in the pool today when my toe started cramping. Who knew toes could cramp? I felt it coming, kept swimming and then stopped in the middle of the lane to grab my foot. CRRAAAMMMPP!!! I don't even know if I screamed. I thought about it. I was lucky enough to have this happen at the end of my workout. I couldn't swim through it. I ended up turning around and getting out.

My swimming is helping my surfing and vice versa. Who knew?

11 June 2007

Just What I Needed

As is my habit of late, I got out early on Sunday, so early that when I arrived at the home break I was the only person there. Although I do want time alone in the water, I'm not willing to risk my safety to do so. There was no way I was going to suit up and paddle out alone. Besides, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. I think I was waiting for a second opinion. Eventually, two guys pulled up. Then there were three of us watching the waves. They looked long and hard, went back to their truck and sat, not quite knowing what to do. Finally, one of the guys in our crew showed up. He said it looked good enough. I trust his judgment since he's been surfing for about as long as I've been on this earth.

This was the perfect opportunity to take out the new board. There were only three of us in the water. The waves, although questionable in their quality, were breaking somewhat gently. These turned out to be the optimal conditions for what I thought would be a horrible kook fest. Much to my surprise, I got up on the board without much trouble. My primary problem is foot placement. I'm accustomed to landing, after popping up, at the back of my boards; when you surf single fins, you steer them from the back, right? My first few pop-ups on the new board were ones where my feet were once again at the back of the board. It took awhile for me to launch myself further forward. I'm not even close to being dialed in. But I'm happily surprised by how many rides I got during this, my second, session on the board.

This shorter board is forcing me to be more efficient with my pop-ups. Let's face it, longboards lull you into a false sense of pop-up security. You can pop-up whenever you damn well please on a longboard. Not so on something short, even if it's not a bona fide shortboard. I willed myself not to overthink it. As soon as the board was picked up by a wave, I was up . . . or at least trying to get up. I cannot say enough good things about this board or the shaper. The thing I find difficult with shortboards is how squirrely they are. I always thought my problem was their lack of length. My new board showed me that I can lose two feet from a surfboard and still surf it . . . as long as its relatively stable while I'm trying to pop-up. This board, while having the stability of a longboard, responds like a shortboard. That concave in the rear makes this thing a rocket. Once I got a good taste of it, I couldn't help but smile and hoot. Granted, there was only one ride that I considered decent. Still, it was enough to show me what I'm dealing with. In thinking about my discussions with the shaper before he made the board, I remember him asking if I wanted the wanted the board to be easy to ride or challenging (based on my skills). I opted for the latter. Later, after he'd shaped the board, he told me the board would raise my skills to another level. He was so right. I'm looking forward to the day when I surf this board comfortably. I don't know if I'll move on to shortboards from there. I don't know that I'll need to. Anyway, it was a good day in the water. I could surf on my own terms. There was no need to worry about others being in my way or vice versa. I had my section of the beach to myself. Of course, once the crowd descended on the place I got self-conscious and went home. This board earned itself a permanent spot in the quiver.

09 June 2007

"This is Just Stupid"

Once again, I uttered those infamous words while sitting in the lineup. The only saving grace for this session was the company I was keeping. The waves? Wow. How can a place suck that badly for an hour and a half? From the beach, it looked like there was something out there. But once you paddled out, you realized why no one was catching anything. Those weren't waves; they were mirages. Horrible.

Thankfully, I smiled the entire time I was in the water. I was out there with Jeffery and my boys from work. Jeffery is always a hoot. I had to paddle away from him to keep from laughing so much I'd miss waves. Of course, there weren't any waves to catch anyway. I think I got up three times. I woke up at 5:30 for that? Let's hope tomorrow is better.

05 June 2007

I Got Mine!!

I scored a Body Glove Vapor 4/3 wetsuit for a little over $200. Can you say "closeout"? Jump on it now if you're looking for a new wetsuit. My current fullsuit, which is a 3/2, died awhile back. I still wear it. Truthfully, I'm too cheap to spend good money on wetsuits. But I couldn't pass up the Body Glove. Sierra Trading Post is a place I check once a week for deals on wetsuits. Now that this winter season is over, the serious deals are there. Jump on them while you can.

In addition to this 4/3, I also scored a 3/2 RipCurl suit from a different source. This is the first time I will go into a winter season with two fullsuits of different strengths. In the past, I didn't think I was worthy. Now, I acknowledge that I'm always cold and it's time for a 4/3. My past experience with a 4/3 suit was not good. The thing was so damn restrictive that I could barely paddle. After that, I swore off suits that thick. I'm finally ready to try another one; it makes no sense for me to always end sessions with my teeth chattering. People told me if I got a good 4/3, I wouldn't experience the paddling problems that plagued me before. There was no way I was going to pay $400 for a 4/3. For me, that's a car payment. But when the price drops to the $200 range, it's stupid not to buy it.

03 June 2007

Overdraft Protection

It's too bad it's only for bank about accounts. I dug deep into my fitness account today. The swell and the break finally agreed to disagree. The result? Even the big ones had shape!! It was on! I was there at 6 but sat in the car for awhile in order to see how the break was handling the low tide. I wasn't in the car for long. I was seeing more good than bad out there. Since I know this break well, I wasn't worried about the low tide and the rocks.

Physically, it was a day when I dug deep, so deep that by the time I got out I my figurative fitness account was overdrawn. I'd left everything out in the water. It was worth it though. The closeouts of Saturday were pretty much gone. I was out for about an hour and a half. There was one magical hour when the waves held their shape . . . even the big ones. At one point, I was sitting way outside talking to a guy who said all he wanted was the big ones. I was thinking that's not what I wanted. Then I realized that's what I was going to get since I was sitting there with him. And I didn't wimp out. When they came, I jumped on them. So much for whatever fears I had of the bigger waves. There was a good vibe in the water. I felt no hesitation about letting the people around me know that I would be going left whenever possible. (I still can't figure out why people at a right point break can't see the lefts that pop up. They are there. They're not hard to spot. There's no rule that says you must go right on every wave.) I got my lefts. I got my rights. I got long rides. I got short rides. All in all, it was a great session. I surfed as hard as I could without pushing myself into a complete bonk. Yes, my fitness account was overdrawn, but that was done intentionally. One thing I learned from racing bikes is sometimes it's necessary to push yourself to the edge in an effort to increase your fitness. You push hard, rest hard and then start building back up toward harder workouts. Tomorrow, I go back to lifting and swimming on the same day. The only change I'm making is I'm elminating most of the upper body stuff in the weight room. I don't need it now that I'm swimming.

The View From the Couch

The current rotation: 9'6" Tyler log, 9' Slick, 7' Soul Performance Board

The dog continues to claim the board socks for his bed.

Back from shopping at the local surf shop ("local" being a relative term since I live in the 'hood).

Clayfin's clay fins were put on the mantle for safekeeping. I see no need to move them for now.

02 June 2007

It's Getting Mighty Crowded

Who sang that? What do you mean you don't know that song? Think back to the 80's. British dude. Well, I think he's actually Irish. He's still around too.

Yeah, it's much too crowded out there. I got to the break at around 6 a.m. There were a few people in the water. All it took to make me suit up was one ride. Once I saw that, I was on it. I wanted to beat the crowd. I also wanted a decent ride. Those have been hard to find over the last few weeks (especially when you can only surf on the weekends). Today's session was noteworthy in that the Soul Brothers came with me. Last night, the little one told me he wanted to go with me in the morning. I tried to dissuade him of this thought, telling him I'd be leaving early, that I'd probably get up when it was still dark. He said he didn't care. He wanted to go. I told him I'd check with him in the morning before I left. Now, I didn't think he'd actually want to go once morning arrived. I'd let him stay up late last night. I do that periodically, thinking he'll sleep late the following day—a luxury he does not enjoy on weekdays. I was certain he wouldn't want to be awakened this morning. In fact, I almost left without checking with him. But then I thought about it. I'm a person who keeps my word. I want him to be the same way. Lead by example. So, at about 5:40 a.m., I went into his room to let him know I was leaving. Didn't he wake up, after only eight hours of sleep (which is a luxury for us grown ups but not enough for the little ones), and say he wanted to go? Amazing. He was the easy one. I dreaded waking up Soul Brother #1 to tell him his son did, in fact, want to go with me. And it's not like the little man wanted to go to the beach and play. He wanted to hang out in the car while I surfed. That's what they did for an hour and a half. That kid is a trooper.

Back to the point of this entry . . . there were waves. Early on, I'd realized the largest set waves were a no-no. After being launched while paddling for two of them, I figured out that they all were big closeouts. Now, if I can figure this out, why weren't other people able to do the same? I stuck to the tweeners. You could make the drop even though they, too, jacked up. You know, my sessions would be much more enjoyable if there weren't so many people in the water everywhere I go. I'm sick of crowds. It's crowded when you try to park. It's crowded when you're in the lineup. You surf through a crowd when you're on the wave. You paddle back through a crowd as you return to the lineup. Forget the rules about not paddling in the path of riders on waves. When there are 10 people on a wave and other people in the water, the rules don't apply. There's nowhere to go. If you stay inside, you'll get run over. If you paddle back out, you'll get run over. In the end, it's anarchy, every rider for herself. I try to apply the rules whenever possible. However, on those occasions when they don't work, I do what's necessary to stay safe and get out of the way.

I'll be back out there tomorrow on my biggest board. Pray for uncrowded surf.