28 November 2009

Is It Wrong?

Yeah, I know I'm a 46 year old with a prosthetic knee. I still want a half pipe. I think I posted this same picture a few years ago when I listed the things I wanted—but knew I wouldn't get—for Christmas.

I've decided that I shouldn't deny myself without at least making the effort to get one. It would definitely be a small one as I wouldn't quite call that patch of grass next to the Woman Cave a bona fide yard.

But you know what? Life is too short. It's time to make some things happen. One thing I can almost certainly promise will happen is a trip to Hawaii in 2010. How will two unemployed people with a child make that happen? I don't know. I do know that I'm going to Hawaii though. Warm water. Warm weather. Warm people . . . many of whom look a lot like me. I'm there. Soul Brother #1, who once dismissed my suggestions about such a trip, realized that I was no longer going to put this off. Again, life is too short. And, frankly, after the year we've had, I'm tired. (2008 saw us dealing with his shoulder injury/surgery, his layoff, his cancer/surgery and the death of the family dog. 2009 saw me dealing with my joint replacement surgery and the continuing recovery as well as the death of my little part-time job.) I need a $#$%!@ vacation.

And a half pipe.

24 November 2009

1984 in the PNW

That was a Santa Cruz stick. That I remember well. I was probably wearing Converse because I couldn't get Vans up there. Other than the straightened hair and the big eighties glasses, I look pretty much the same now as I did then.

22 November 2009

Knee Replacement: Seven Months Later

As much as I want to complain about this knee, I must say that this was the best $80,000 that my insurance company could have spent on me. I'm completely in love with this joint. And this is not to say that I'm to the point where I don't know it's there. Oh, I know it alright. There's still just enough pain and just enough discomfort (with attempts at too much flexion) to remind me of the relative youth of the joint. I am, however, no longer in enough pain to require much in the way of painkillers. At this point, the pain is simply annoying.

I continue to protest that there are certain things I still can't do, one of them being inline skating. If you'd asked me two weeks ago about getting back on skates, I would have said I'd probably never skate again. Well, strike that. Our pooch can attest to the fact that I'm back on skates. Mind you, I'm not back on my speed skates yet. That's only because I was too afraid to try them out. I did, however, take a spin on a pair of old school Rollerblades the other day. What's even more impressive was that I did it with the dog in tow. Or was I in tow? Sometimes I pulled him. At other times, he pulled me. The hardest part was stopping. I don't use that stupid little brake behind the wheels. I do the full on speedskater stop. It requires that you put your knees to good use since it's a gradual stop which involves turning your feet inward while you're still moving. As you're slowing, you alternately pick up a skate and put it down on the ground sideways. It's a move that's hard on the knees. Much to my surprise, neither the skating nor the stopping hurt this knee. I felt great. I got a bit of a workout while making the dog burn off some of that excess energy. What's next? Getting back on the speed skates. I'd stopped skating months before the surgery. The pain of skating was simply too much for this joint. Truthfully, I thought my days on speed skates were gone for good. And perhaps they are. But I won't know until I try.

My next serious goal is to work toward popping up on my shorter boards. My head is telling me I can ride my 7'3" bonzer egg. It's not the pop-up that's difficult as much as it is the speed of the pop-up. One thing I noticed after seeing a recent video of me surfing is that my pop-up slowed down after the surgery. Prior to getting the new knee, I could get to my feet so quickly that if you blinked, you missed it. When I saw the video taken a few weeks back, I could see that my pop-up was no longer quick. It was obvious to me that I was spending too much time thinking. I know what I was thinking about: pain. Jumping up on a joint that's been attacked with a scalpel, a drill and a saw is a bit daunting. It did hurt when I returned to the lineup in July. It doesn't hurt now. Once I saw the video, I made myself speed up my pop-up. It's still not what it used to be, but it's less deliberate than it's been for the last four months. If I can get that lightning quick pop-up back, I'm certain I'll be able to once again surf those shorter boards.

20 November 2009

Guest Blogger #5: My Boy Alan M

Who knew that another blogger would end up being my go to shaper (for traditional, non-hull surfboards)? When I want a specific board, I go to him first. Worker by day, shaper/sander/glasser by night, Alan M is multi-talented. He is the maker of the JB PNR (James Brown performance noserider), the longboard I surf most often. Now I want him to work his magic on another board for me. Alas, he is without a workspace for the time being; our next beauty will have to wait. His surf blog and his Salted surfboard blog get attended to when he feels like it—which is hardly ever. He lays claim to having the most powerful "kook magnet" in the lineup. What's the one thing I can say about him? He is the most stoked person I've ever met.

First I'd like to thank Surfsister for asking me to be a guest blogger. I'm honored.

I've been surfing for almost thirty years now. I've had my ups and downs, periods of low session counts, frustration and despair.

I've also had some of the best moments of my life in the water, seen incredible beauty and had magical interactions with sea life.

Not bad for a scrawny kid from New York.

I was lucky enough to have my parents move to San Diego when I was 13. I started boogie boarding soon after, and surfing by the time I was 15.

I remember my first success at standing up and riding in the whitewater. I didn't have anyone teaching me, or even being around me when I was learning. I had a board and desire. I knew nothing of rules, etiquette, or any idea of how surfing worked aside from my boogie boarding experience. I just went, trial and error.

When I finally achieved that first stand up, I can remember saying to myself, "If there is one thing in life I want to be good at, this is it"!

Needless to say, I've been trying to make that a reality ever since.

You know what it's like to have the bug. When you're a grom, you can’t' sleep, can't concentrate, can't sit still with surfing on the brain. It's worse than sex, it's completely destructive to every other activity.

Time tempers that as you become a bit jaded to the conditions. You start chasing bigger, cleaner, faster waves. Paddling out in 1 ft. slop is no longer a given.

Still, it haunts the mind. I've spent countless hours thinking about, watching, forecasting and preparing for waves. It's an integral part of my existence.

I build and ride my own boards. I take better care of myself than I would if I didn't surf. I get things done so I can be free when swells arrive. I do a lot to feed my obsession.

Is it unhealthy and selfish? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter. I can't kick, and I don't want to.

I've had plenty of other obsessions, but none match the power and sustain of surfing. It never goes away. I imagine that even when I'm physically unable to surf anymore, I will still spend too much time staring out to sea, waiting for the horizon to rise up and send some liquid joy my way, even if I only get to mind surf it.

In this ever increasingly crowded world, with its stresses and pressures, the one place I feel free and connected with the planet is in the ocean. Water is the only way to cleanse one's self, and where is it more abundant?

Our Mother Ocean sustains us all, whether we live close or far from it. It is the blood of our planets' organism. Rich in life, indeed, the ocean IS life.

As surfers we are lucky to have discovered a very special way to interact with it, to become one with it.

Even as I've given up much for it, the reward has far outweighed the sacrifice. It transformed my life, I know that.

I'm not a religious person, but I like to think that on the seventh day, God looked at his creation, and didn't rest. He went surfing.

19 November 2009

I Heart Uncrowded Lineups

What's significant about this picture? Nothing really. Okay, yeah, I'm going left yet again. But here's the rub: I'm going left at a break where everyone goes right . . . even when a left rolls through. I've even had someone tell me I couldn't go left there. Whatever.

I called it again today. This time, I stayed closer to home. I knew the place would start breaking in the early afternoon. I was once again rewarded for my foresight with wave after wave to myself. Yeah, there were people there. Most of them were further north at the spot that so many seem to consider the proving ground. Not me. I want space. If the crowd's over there, I'll surf over here. I went left. I went right. I communed with a seal. I clapped and cheered when the set waves approached. I was out there having a surf party for one (and enjoying every minute of it). I was eventually joined by others, but I was already plotting my exit by then.

And, as you can see, I remain the most graceful surfer in the water.

18 November 2009

The Place Which Shall Remain Nameless

What's right with this picture? I'll give you a hint. Do you see any other surfers? No, you don't.


I called it big time today. Every so often, if I let my brain think about nothing other than tides, swell direction and the like, I can figure out when a place will start breaking. Remember, we had yet another one of those god-awful high tides this morning. I knew this spot wasn't breaking with the tide. It was then a question of "when". When would it start to break? I went to my home break this morning, but I didn't take a board. I'd decided to bet on this spot (TPWSRN). I knew it would break eventually. I also knew I often have a knack for being at a spot just as the tide is beaten back by the waves. Today was one of those days.

I was watching as waves began to squeak through. I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first. The tide was preventing the waves from going far. In other words, they'd break for a split second before fading into nothingness. I nonetheless kept watching. What's that? Hey! That's a wave, a rideable wave!!! I couldn't get to the car fast enough. I couldn't get in my wetsuit fast enough. I couldn't get my board waxed fast enough. All I could think of was having this beautiful place to myself.

Of course, by the time I was ready to hit it, others arrived. For reasons I don't understand, they didn't immediately paddle out. So, yes, I did have this spot to myself for a time. I'd guess it was a good 20 to 30 minutes of me and those waves. They were small at first. Size (in waves!!!) means nothing to me as long as there is shape. And shape there was. As the tide receded, the waves got bigger. A few people came out to join me on the main peak. However, I still felt like I had the place to myself. They all wanted to go right. I sat where I could snag the lefts. So I still felt like I was out there by myself.

Hot damn!! That was the best session I've had in a long time. I went left to my heart's content. Yeah, I went right a few times too. The shape of that wave is, for me at least, heavenly. And to get it alone was unbelievable.

17 November 2009

Your Home Break is So Flat . . .

that when Jesus went to walk on it, he said "You call this an ocean?" before walking away in disgust.

What? Not funny.

Well neither is the lack of anything to ride!

13 November 2009

Guest Blogger #4: Pranaglider

The first time I met Pranaglider—now that I think of it, it was the only time we've met—I was in the OC meeting up with some other bloggers for a session. At that time, I'd still yet to see anyone on a mat before. So when he walked up to us holding a mat and fins, I swear I lost my mind on the spot. I literally started excitedly talking a mile a minute about mats, matting, the mat world, mat life, mat cupcakes and the like. It had never occurred to me that he'd been directed to meet us for the session. I just thought he'd magically appeared like a sign from above. Duh!

I've never quite known how to explain the thrill of catching a good wave on a mat. That might be because I haven't caught many good waves on my mat; I still suck at matting. However, I love everything about the mat. And when you see a great mat rider, it's a sight to behold. I'm still aspiring to be like Prana when I grow up!

So why the mat?

When I started surfing the surf craft progression went something like this.

First you had to beg your parents let you go out in the surf. If you didn't drown you eventually learned to body surf. Then you would badger your mom to rent you one of the blue canvas mats with the yellow bumpers. They were pumped up rock hard and seemed to be about a foot thick. You would try to swim/drag the thing out as far as you could and wait for a set. When the first walled up south swell close-out hit you and you took off like a shot, straight to the beach!

It was that perfect mixture of excitement, exhaustion, speed and being awfully sure you were about to die. When you survive the experience you were hooked for life! I was soon lured away by the siren song of the surf culture and surf boards. That little detour lasted 45 years. At least I got to ride some neat boards, meet some interesting people and travel to some exotic places. That and amazingly enough, I gained some perspective on the whole wave riding experience. Surfing is what we all do in the water. Choice of surf craft or the option of using no craft is purely incidental. Storms put some of there energy into waves that travel sometimes thousands of miles through water. We surfers all slide down the inclined plane of the energy wave as it approaches shore. It’s fun. It can be magical.

Riding a mat is something that doesn't lend itself to explicit descriptions or instructions. Everyone is free to experience and explore on their own and to find their own way. It's a lot like body surfing in that way. What can you really say? “Well you take off and sort of put your self in the pocket or 'power center' of the wave and you kind of react to the wave as it fluctuates around you and ahead of you.” Its a slowly learned progression with includes average days, good days, great days as well as periods of frustration punctuated by moments of such extreme euphoria that mat riders, once they get a season or two under their belts, will always have a mat in the quiver and many times devote themselves to the mat exclusively.

Why do it on a mat?

Since it’s all surfing, it comes down to personal preference. I have boards. I still surf boards when the urge strikes me. But the mat is just so much fun! The fins, the swimming. The gliding, just above the water! The tactile feel of really being IN the water.

Truly sublime.

OK, but aren’t surfboards the same thing? Maybe yes, maybe no. How many of your surfboards let you reshape them as you ride them? How many of them allow you to adjust the volume and flotation between waves? I love my boards—single fins, twins, tri fins quads and bonzers, longboards, shortboards and hulls of many descriptions. Riding the mat actually helps me see the specific niche each of the them fills.

For me, the craft I like the most needs to be inflated/created just before every go out.

11 November 2009

Remember Our Vets!

My dad, who is no longer living, was in the Army during World War II. It wasn't until I was grown that he even spoke about his experiences in this country's segregated armed forces. I can't say that he said anything positive. He nonetheless served his country when called upon to do so. I respect him and all other veterans for their past and continuing sacrifices for this country.

10 November 2009

I Don't Kiss and Tell

I'm that much of a lady.

It's true.

Right. You're wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Believe it or not, I'm still talking about surfing. Today's session was at a break that's new to me, a break I've wanted to surf for years but couldn't because I didn't quite know where it was. To make a long story short, the sister-in-law of a friend I've made through the knee replacement process took me there. I was there on Sunday for my first session. I was undergunned on my eight-oh hull. Therefore, my session was not one with which I was happy when I got out of the water. We'd already decided to go back today. I was not going to be denied. I brought out the big gun (my longboard hull) for today's assault. Victory!! It was the best session I've had in awhile. Everything came together: cool people, well-shaped waves, clean water and a board that would not be denied.

Where was I? If I told you, I'd have to kill you.

Now look, it's not a secret spot. In a city as large as L.A., there are few, if any, secret spots what with cams, surf reports and word-of-mouth. This is a somewhat well-known spot. I was lucky enough to catch it on a relatively uncrowded day. Out of respect to the regulars who surf there (and other spots I visit save Malibu), I wouldn't dare mention the name of the break. To do so would hardly be ladylike.

Therein lies the quandary. We all have surf buddies who feel it's our duty to travel to every break, especially new ones, together. Yes, you can do that, but should you always do that? I say no. One of my surf friends seems never to have learned the rules of the wave. She sees a wave and she just goes. It seems to mean nothing to her that, for instance, there was someone to her left who had priority. For her, it's all about wave count and being noticed. She's dying to hit up this spot. Would I take her there? Hell no! If presented with the philosophical question of being loyal to a break full of people you don't know and being loyal to a friend who could potentially wreak havoc, I'm going to be the utilitarian. I choose the thing that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In other words, I'm not even telling my friend that I've been surfing this break. I don't care if you call me a bad friend. Perhaps I am. However, I am a conscientious surfer who wants to be able to return to this break at will. People got to know me today. I don't want to sully that positive first impression. It's all about respect. I respect the people who are the locals or regulars at a particular break. I don't want people dragging all of their friends to my home break. I won't drag my friends to other people's quiet breaks either.

07 November 2009

The "Swell's Not Quite Doing It Yet" Saturday Dance Party!

Soul Brother #1 hates when I look at stuff like this. When this episode aired, I was 10. He was 19. So he could have been one of the brothers we're looking at. I was still a little heavy-set kid with gigantic pigtails, buck teeth and glasses. He was in college. What a difference a few decades makes!!

The swell is slowly showing itself I suppose. I did not paddle out today. Since I can surf during the week, I often leave the weekend waves to the weekend warriors who've been cooped up at their jobs all week. Of course, if it starts to hit harder overnight, I'll be out there tomorrow clogging the lineup with everyone else. Even non-weekend warriors get wave-starved.

05 November 2009

I Am a Woman of My Word

I said I would paddle out today in spite of all of that would normally prompt me to turn around and go home. As usual, I went home satisfied. There were waves. Small waves, yes. Makes no matter to me in the long run. One can only stay dry for so long. Then you paddle out because you must.

The tide eventually got so high that I quickly tired of waiting for my one last wave. I paddled in, knowing if I sat there waiting for a wave I'd be in the water at least another 20 minutes.

Thank you, Mother Ocean, for sending something surfable. I don't require big waves. All I wanted was a wave . . . or two . . . or three. What I got was good enough.

What's that you say? My hair changed color? Yes, it did. I'm no longer a sun-bleached blonde. Give me another month in the chlorine, salt water and sun. The blonde locks will start to make a comeback whether I like them or not.

04 November 2009

High Tide + Lack of Swell = ?

It probably equals a region of unhappy surfers.

The last time I surfed was Saturday . . . in costume. That's not exactly a bona fide surf session. I've been to the beach every morning for three straight days. Each day I've gone home dry. Dry, I tell you!!

I've made a decision. Tomorrow, I'm paddling out in spite of the tide, in spite of the flatness and in spite of the futility of it all. All a sister wants to do is go surfing, dammit!