31 May 2007

Je Suis Fatigué

Swimming is kicking my ass. I'm tired (which is what I said in the title, only I said it in French.) It's a good tired though. This week, I decided to stop all of my weight training. My body was confused by all of these extra workouts. So I opted to stick to swimming and then start lifting again next week. As I said to someone at work, I know you can't stop the hands of time, but I refuse to give up the fight against old age. It irks me when people in their 40's act like it's too hard to workout or too late to get it together. That's a cop out. The way I see it, since people live longer than ever before, it behooves all of us to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Who wants to spend the next 30 or 40 years living an unhealthy life? If I'm going to be around for awhile, I want to feel good. That's why I workout so much.

I hear there should be some swell in the water this weekend. I'm ready for it. I know my fitness is increasing every time I get in the pool. That's got to translate to something good when I'm surfing. I'm sure my shoulders are stronger. I know my cardiovascular fitness is better than it was a month ago. Bring on the swell!

29 May 2007

Three Days of Mediocrity

I surfed for three straight days . . . and the waves sucked for three straight days. Monday wasn't much different from Sunday. Beachbreak closeouts. That's always a lot of fun. I took the new board out though. Surprisingly enough, I got up on it twice. I think that's impressive when one considers that on Sunday I was riding a board that was two feet longer than this one. Usually, I don't make the transition to a shorter board that easily. I did get up on it and that's all I wanted. The waves didn't allow me to get a feel for the full potential of the board. I do like it. However, I need more time on it in order to determine whether I love it.

After awhile, I asked Gracefullee to trade boards with me. I've been dying to try out her new board. I thought she wanted to try mine as well. As you can see, we were out there shredding on one another's sticks. I was moving so quickly that you can't even see me in this picture!

Gracefullee is doing the home break move known as "Steel Yourself as the Closeout Closes Out on Your Head Before You Can Pop Up".

I was sore as a $@#!& today. But I went ahead and swam at lunch, thinking a swim might loosen up my tight shoulders. I thought my shoulders were tight merely from surfing. Then I realized that I'm also in pain from wrestling with the VW Bus. I finally drove it yesterday. That entailed getting it out of the garage and, even worse, getting it back in. This thing has no power steering. I won't even go into detail about the rear view mirror that won't stay put or the side view mirror that hangs there doing nothing helpful. I put all of my upper body muscles to work in that thing yesterday. Verdict? I loved every minute of it. Yeah, the thing is 39 years old. Yeah, it's got an oil leak. Yeah, it looks like hell. It's more fun than I could have imagined. After finally making it my own, I decided I'll eventually put a new engine in it. This thing can't even get out of its own way. That wouldn't be a problem in a smaller city. That's a major problem in a city with so many freeways and fast cars. I talked to the mechanic today. A new engine will also require a new transmission. I figured that. Of course, all of this will cost money I don't have and don't foresee having in the near future. Still, I'm someone who needs to be challenged. Life is boring when things are too easy. This bus is my latest challenge. I'm up to the task. I'm gonna turn it into something reliable enough to drive down to San O or San Diego on occasion. That's a promise.

27 May 2007


Once again, I'm ready to give someone (namely, a few surf reporters) a swift kick. Once again, I headed out at dawn in search of this swell. Once again, I was disappointed. I did surf. It was one of those days when the rides are short. Then you get caught inside and get worked. That happened more than once to more than one of us today. It was a good day to pay your dues to Mother Nature. I think my account is straight for now. I've paid in full. Can I just get some decent surf, please?

26 May 2007


I've said it over and over again. It's always wrong to get your hopes up when a swell is predicted. There was a little something in the water, but it caused the home break to close out. The place where I finally got wet looked like it wanted to bust out with some decent waves. Unfortunately, looks were deceiving. In the end, I went home glad to have gotten wet, but a little disappointed in the energy (or lack thereof) in the water. Perhaps this bodes well for the rest of the long weekend. Now I'm expecting nothing. Maybe I'll be proven wrong and get lucky.

24 May 2007

Is This a Pissing Contest?

Consider that the question of the day. Truthfully, it's the question of the month. It's something I keep coming back to when I consider a comment someone made about my most recent (and now outdated) quiver pictures. Why is it that someone with a quiver full of shortboards is complimented while someone with a quiver full of longboards is criticized? I remember one commenter suggesting, upon seeing the picture of my quiver, I have too many longboards. In sports, aren't you supposed to play to your strengths (and preferences)? I can surf a longboard with more than a modicum of skill and style. I'm intrigued by shortboards at times, but I do little more than flail around like a wayward sea creature when I'm on one. Part of that is due to the lack of water time on shortboards. The other reason for that is I can't wrap my head around me on a shortboard. I don't visualize myself on one . . . ever. It's not my thing. Now, I will surf a shorter board, but let's not confuse such a board with a shortboard. And this is why my quiver is full of longboards. Each one is different. I can tell you how and why they differ. I've seen pictures of shortboard quivers with boards that look virtually the same. Still, I know the owner appreciates the nuances between the boards. I also never questioned why there was no longboard in the quiver.

So I can't help but wonder why anyone cares what you or I surf? Shortboard, longboard, fish. You paddle, you pop up, you do your thing and you go home happy. Your wave riding vehicle of choice is of little importance in this equation.

21 May 2007

A Good Day on a Tyler . . .

is better than a good day on the Slick. My poor Tyler sat unwaxed and unloved in the garage for the last few months. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. I thought about selling it, my logic being that it's much too heavy and way too much board for me as I start exploring my options in shorter boards. Soul Brother #1 even began to ask if I was ever going to surf it again. I'm sure he was thinking about the money spent on a board that was no longer a part of the working quiver. I eventually assured him the board would return to the water. I was merely waiting for the right conditions.

After seeing recent daily surf reports about the small surf, I decided it was time to take the Tyler back out. I applied the base coat bumps on Saturday night, knowing the Tyler was the only board I'd take with me to the beach on Sunday. When I got to the home break on Sunday, it was looking small out there and it wasn't crowded—a good day to leave the leash in the car. Frankly, I thought it was going to be tough to return to a log. That's a whole lot of board and, of late, I've been feeling like I was riding too much board, like I wanted to be on something smaller and faster. (Obviously, that's why I had one made.) Then, once I was in the water, I realized it was not, in fact, flat. There was a little something out there. It also got crowded. I kept envisioning myself losing the board, swimming until my arms fell off or tagging someone with it. Well, none of that happened. All I did yesterday was have fun. The board did everything I asked of it. I caught all kinds of waves. I let some go by because I was without a leash. I thought it better to be safe than sorry. Still, I only swam a couple of times.

That board is perfection! I cannot believe I ever doubted it. I realize now that I was doubting myself. The Tyler is back in the rotation. It won't be my primary longboard. However, I will start to surf it more, especially as summer approaches.

19 May 2007

Dear J.P.:

I don't like you. That's it. I said it. You make me sick. You piss me off. Do you want to know why? Well, every time I go to Surfy Surfy I want to run down to Moonlight Glassing with my paycheck. Damn the bills! My child doesn't need to eat! It's all about the pretty surfboards. I see the boards on your site and I'm almost sick to my stomach. The boards are beautiful and, well, they call to me. I think I may be losing my mind. It's all your fault, you know.

J.P., do you know what a crack whore is? Frankly, I think you're trying to turn me into a surfboard whore. So, please stop posting pictures on your site. It's the least you can do to save another surfer's sanity. I promise to stop casting aspersions about you in this blog if you give me a Gary Hanel five fin longboard. That's a fair trade, isn't it?

18 May 2007

When Will It End?

It's so flat out there that I'm not even planning on surfing tomorrow. Why bother? I don't even think my longest longboard will help in these conditions. I'm also sore from three straight days of swimming. I lifted weights this morning before work. Then I did another 20 minute lunchtime swim this afternoon. I am feeling comfortably numb these days. I'm sleeping better and I can also feel my muscles coming back to life after a year in the world of the cubicles.

I may give it a go on Sunday. Is there anything in the forecast?

Today, I threw caution to the wind and said, in public, that something someone had written was shit. Now, I didn't know who wrote it. I also knew that I might piss someone off. Still, I was pissed. I'm bringing this up because it relates to surfing. Last year, the black surf group to which I kind of belong wanted to work on a plaque for a local beach. It and a beach in the South Bay were the only two L.A. County beaches that black folks could visit in the early part of the 20th century. Okay, I immediately said I would write the plaque. Usually, this group takes ideas from everyone and then tries to combine them, often with less than satisfying results. That's why I said I would do it. I didn't volunteer. I let them know I'd write it. Here's what I wrote (and keep in mind no one gave me any guidance in terms of length so I made it as long as I wanted):

Former site of

At a time when racial segregation was legal at Los Angeles County beaches, Inkwell Beach was an oasis, a place for those not
allowed on “whites only” beaches. Once the laws changed in the late 1920’s, Inkwell Beach served as a preferred destination
for generations of black beachgoers, including Nick Gabaldon, a consummate waterman who was America’s first documented black surfer. Inkwell Beach—once an emblem of man’s inhumanity to man—is now the hub of Southern California’s black surfing community.

Give to every other human being every right you claim for yourself
Robert Green Ingersoll

This is what someone said the plaque would say instead:


In the 1920’s a 200 foot stretch of beach near this site was designated “for Negroes only.” Known by many as the “Ink Well”, it was an important gathering place for African Americans long after racial restrictions on public beaches were invalidated in 1927. In the 1940’s, Nick Gabaldon, a Santa Monica High School student and the first documented black surfer, taught himself how to surf here.

Okay, that just sucks. There's no there there. One of the things I was trying to do was leave the reader with an understanding of history. I would bet that in a few decades very few people in this city will know recent American history. Part of that is a function of students not caring to learn when they're in school. (I was a teacher for awhile; I've seen it up close.) Part of that is the changing demographics of this city and state. Those who will soon be in the majority don't necessarily know American history, especially since so little of it relates to them. I don't think they really care to know history. The past means nothing as far as they're concerned; what's important is the future. I was trying to remind whoever read the plaque that this is how it used to be. Period. And I wanted it to be said eloquently enough to make people pause. I also tried to show that the situation was one where a negative—racism—was turned into a positive. Anyway, when I saw the current wording of the plaque, I lost it for a moment. In my mind, it's just not good enough. Granted, mine is short too, but it's better than that shit. But what do I know? Now people want to talk to me about all of this. You know what? I'm done. I don't mind them not using what I wrote. I do mind them using something that's not as well written. Had someone submitted a better worded plaque idea, I would have supported its use wholeheartedly. But if this is what's going on the plaque, I want nothing to do with it.

17 May 2007

I'm Lovin' It!!

We tried a new pool today. This one is an outdoor pool that's closer to the job. It's also twice as long!!!! I surprised myself (after getting over the shock of the other end of the pool being much farther away than I thought it was) and actually started to get into a rhythm. The longer pool works better for me; it forces me to pace myself, find my rhythm and swim. The shorter pool never allowed me to do that. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I swam the day before. This is the most pool swimming I've done in at least a couple of years. It's great!

I rediscovered the kickboard today. At one point, I proclaimed to my friend that my kickboard was broken (since I didn't seem to be going anywhere). Actually the kickboard is my best friend. It's allowing me to work my long-forgotten cycling/leg/glute muscles. My plan was to swim twice a week. If I go back tomorrow, and I do plan to do so, that'll be the third time this week. I love this!

16 May 2007

I Need Air!

That's what was going through my mind as I swam today during my lunch break. And let me tell you, it took some doing to get this done during a 45 minute break. One of my cronies at work recently took swim lessons (for what I guess would be considered intermediate swimmers). Well, one thing led to another. He and I found out there's a pool somewhat close to our job. Well, we got it into our heads that we should make an attempt to get wet, even if only for 15 minutes. Today was the day. Mind you, the pool is not close. It's about 10 minutes away. That's 20 minutes there and back and about 15 minutes of swimming, right? Well, we booked out five minutes early. Made it to the pool in good time, swam for about 20 minutes and then jumped on the freeway (which got us back to work in about five minutes).

I figure any time in the pool, even if it's a short period of time, is good for my surfing. I'd forgotten how much swimming can tax you. I'm in no shape to do hundreds of yards without stopping. However, I can swim comfortably. After a few lengths, I started to feel it: heart pounding, oxygen disappearing, all that good stuff. I give our little swim adventure two thumbs up.

I found another pool that's closer to the job. We're going to scope that one out tomorrow. If it looks promising, we might even get in. I'm going to try and swim a couple of times a week from here on in. It's a good way to while away the break time, which is wasted on someone like me (i.e., someone who eats little bits of food throughout the day and doesn't eat a big meal until I sit down with my men for dinner). It's also a good way to rid myself of this cubicle fat. I know I was leaner than this before I started this job. I'm one of the most disciplined people there. I workout. I eat sensibly. But I still seem to be turning to mush. I know that's from sitting behind a desk all day long. So the swimming is a welcome diversion and mush fighter.

The only downside? Going back into an air conditioned office with wet locks. That bites!

14 May 2007

A Mother of a Day

My Mother's Day was great. Why? Because I didn't do a damn thing. My goal was to take the day off (around the house). That's hard to do when you're home. But we didn't stay home. I did attempt a DP session only to find that the waves were already being affected by the ensuing high tide. Instead of simply going home, I waited. Hell, it was Mother's Day . . . and mother wanted to surf! I started out at the Pier at about 6 a.m. It didn't look too good so I moved north. The home break looked like surfing would be possible there later. Well, that left me with some time to kill. I'm neither a coffee drinker nor a breakfast eater; a run to Starbucks or some other coffee place was out of the question. What to do? I got in the car and headed north. I got as far as Malibu. There wasn't much to see there. About five people in the water. I thought about getting in anyway. Then I saw that sign on the beach that the County posts when the water is dirty (or at least questionable). Had there been a few waves, I could have played deaf, dumb and blind about the sign. When there's not much out there, I heed the warning on the sign. I did, however, wonder if one of the guys in the water was Patch. I eventually drove back down the coast to the home break. By the time I got back there, one person was in the water and a couple of others were in the parking lot. Eventually, about five of us decided to paddle out even though it was high tide.

All it takes is one good wave to make the session worthwhile. I got that one good wave, a left that was long enough that out of the corner of my eye I could see everyone in the lineup watching me head down the line. Most of the waves out there weren't serving up shoulders like the one I found. I'm going to consider that wave the ocean's Mother's Day present to me.

The rest of the day was great. I did take the day off. We ended up taking a Sunday drive with Soul Grandmother #1. We drove to Santa Monica for something. Then before we knew it, we were driving up Topanga, heading across the Valley, and then heading back through West L.A. My mom is a damn perceptive woman. Long before I became a mom, she made it clear she didn't want to go out to restaurants on Mother's Day. Too crowded. Too hectic. Well, as we drove back into L.A., she hypothesized that since it was early afternoon, there would be a lull in the crowd factor in restaurants. Since I trust her instincts, we went to one of our favorites. We got a space right out in the front and the place was damn near empty. Two Blood Orange Martinis (her) and two glasses of Chianti (me) later, we were the happiest mothers in L.A. And it didn't hurt that my little man spent most of the day telling me how wonderful I am. I think this was my best Mother's Day so far!

12 May 2007

Feel the Power of the Tyler

For the first time in months, I actually took the Tyler out of the garage. No, I didn't take it to the beach. I've yet to wax it. But it is moving closer to the house. (The boards I use on a regular basis live in the house; the Tyler is now in the gym.) It's working its way into the rotation, I suppose. All I did today was touch the thing. In fact, I never touched the board. I only touched the board bag. I suppose that was enough. I'd hate to see how I surf when I actually make serious contact with the board.

I went to the home break expecting the worst. I really did. Before I left for the beach, I could tell the wind was up. I didn't care. I wanted to surf . . . or at least make an attempt. The three of us (me and the two Soul Brothers) took a look at it once we arrived. It certainly wasn't the sight- I wanted to see—gray skies, textured water, and less than perfect waves. But I did see one person catch a rather long ride. Even though one of the locals got out talking about how badly it sucked out there, I was undaunted. I was going out. Doing so would still be better than going home unsurfed and pissed off. The verdict? It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There were waves. And on my second or third wave, I walked to the nose, stood there for a few seconds, and then walked back before falling off. I did a cheater five in that crap!! I was happily surprised, especially since I've not spent much time walking the board of late. But the time has come. If you're going to ride a longboard, you've got to at least try. Then you've got to at least do it successfully a little. Then you've got to do it right consistently. I think I'm at the "do it successfully a little" stage. I'm always amazed that the board will keep going while you're at the nose. In my mind, it's supposed to sink immediately. Thankfully, I told my mind to "shut up" today. I walked the board without thinking about it. I swear this happened today, after months of doing little walking, because of the magic coming off of that Tyler. What's so ironic is that I bought that board for noseriding and walking. Yet I seem to do more of those things when I'm on my Slick. Go figure.

I'm going for a DP session tomorrow in an attempt to beat the high tide and the wind. Yes, my idea of a fun Mother's Day is getting up in the dark to surf. I don't care about sleeping in—I'm a morning person. I don't want breakfast in bed—I'm not a breakfast person. What matters is that Soul Brother #2 loves me and appreciates me—he does. Oh, I've also told the men, in no uncertain terms, that I'm not cooking, fixing, heating up shit tomorrow. We won't go out to eat. We'll bring food in, hang with my mom, and get somewhat inebriated. You know what? I think I said the same thing in the blog last year! Now I'm cracking myself up. I'm Audi 5000.

06 May 2007

She Needs No Introduction

Not As Much Stench

Well, I wasn't quite feeling it today. That's still a huge improvement over how I surfed yesterday. The three of us hit up the home break today. Soul Brother #1, although tired and hurting, does not want to sit at home all day. I can't say that I blame him. So we all headed out together. The waves were closed out when we got to the beach. On a cold, dreary day, I wouldn't even have thought about paddling out into that. But this was not one of those days. Clear skies. A warming sun. Board-breaking closeouts don't scare me when the weather is nice. Anyway, I caught a few. I wasn't completely on today though. Of course, that's not all that important in the grand scheme of things. I still paddled out and caught something. That's amazing compared to my performance in the water yesterday. Let's hope this warm weather sticks around for awhile.

05 May 2007

What's That Smell?

Me. Stinkin' up the water with my horrible surfing. Lesson learned. Don't surf when you're physically and mentally tired. It's really kind of pointless.

On a softer, gentler, go-to-the-happy-place note, Soul Brother #1's surgery went well. It's been a long two days, but at least the shoulder has finally been fixed. I also got the bus registered. And let me tell you, that was no easy task. I'm thankful, very thankful, for my sister-in-law . . . the one who works at DMV. I think I'll rename her "Miracle Worker".

On a someday-I'll-surf-well-again note, the new board is here. I'm letting it sit for a bit. The shaper asked if I would let it cure for another week. Fine with me. I took pictures last night. They don't do the board justice. I'll try to take more pictures today. Red bottm and rails. Faded yellow mottled deck. Green pinline where the red and yellow meet. And, for good measure, green fins. Loud? Yes. Sweet? YES!!

02 May 2007

I've Seen My (Surfing) Future

I'll post pictures when the board is finally in my possession. It's exactly what I wanted and it looks better than I'd envisioned. The shaper's wife said, "You're going to dominate on this thing." Dominate? I doubt it. But if this board is what I think it is, what I hope it is, what I asked for, I'm going to surf it well out of pure joy.

Be Careful

Algae bloom that sickens birds and mammals is 'especially virulent' this spring.
By Amanda Covarrubias
Times Staff Writer

April 27, 2007

A particularly virulent outbreak of naturally occurring toxin off the California coast has been linked to the deaths of hundreds of marine mammals and birds in recent weeks, researchers said Thursday.

"I have been doing this work for 35 years and I have never seen anything like this as far as the number of species affected, other than an oil spill," said Jay Holcomb, director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in San Pedro. Local beaches have been littered with sick and dead pelicans, sea lions and dolphins.

"We have very serious concerns about what is happening to seabirds and how it may affect populations, especially California brown pelicans, who are heading into breeding season," he said.

The toxin, domoic acid, is produced by microscopic algae and has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Scientists suspect the upsurge has been caused by such things as overfishing, destruction of wetlands and pollution, all of which have harmed fisheries and allowed algae to flourish.

Although the toxin has not been definitively linked to all the recent deaths, many of the dead animals — including five species of birds — tested positive for domoic acid poisoning, said scientists at the rescue center and the Caron Laboratory at USC.

Domoic acid, which accumulates in shellfish and fish and is then passed on to the birds and animals that eat them, has occurred each spring over the past decade as ocean water warms and algae bloom. But this year's algae are "especially virulent," according to the rescue center.

The center is working closely with the Caron Laboratory, which is conducting analysis of sick birds found on beaches.

"In five years of study I have not seen a bloom this large at this particular time of year," said Professor Dave A. Caron, the lab's director and a biological oceanographer. "It's having an extraordinary impact on pelicans and many other species."

Dead birds began littering Southland beaches in March. Staffers with the bird rescue center walking the beaches reported seeing "dead birds everywhere," including grebes, gulls, cormorants, American avocets and loons.

Scientists are particularly concerned about the toxin's effect on brown pelicans, which declined precipitously in California after DDT entered their food chain and caused the large seabirds to lay eggs with shells too fragile to support their weight. The birds remain on the endangered species list, although they have made considerable gains in recent years.

In the past several weeks, dozens of sea lions, dolphins and even whales have also washed ashore dead or dying from Venice to San Luis Obispo. Earlier this month in Ventura, an 8-foot juvenile minke whale washed up dead near the end of San Pedro Street at San Buenaventura State Beach. Lifeguards buried it in the sand.

In Santa Barbara, a 29-foot sperm whale washed ashore April 9 near Isla Vista. In both instances involving whales, investigators collected tissue samples from the carcasses in an effort to pinpoint the cause of death, but the carcass of the sperm whale may have been too decomposed to yield a final answer.

The Marine Mammal Center near Sausalito in Northern California said it has been overwhelmed with sick sea lions who eat the same fish as pelicans: anchovies and sardines.

Whether an animal lives or dies can depend on how much of the poison it ingests.

Widespread outbreaks of domoic acid poisoning are known by scientists to strike sea lions as well as dolphins. These mammals pick up the acid by eating anchovies and sardines that have fed on toxic algae.

Although the algae have been around for eons, they have bloomed with extraordinary intensity along the Pacific Coast in recent years.

That explosion of harmful algae, in turn, has caused toxins to move through the food chain and concentrate in the dietary staples of marine mammals, causing poisoning that scrambles the brains of the animals and leads them to wash ashore.

In humans, domoic acid poisoning can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, dizziness, confusion, disorientation, loss of short-term memory, weakness, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, coma and possibly death, according to the bird rescue center. Humans can be affected after eating contaminated shellfish, but cannot be poisoned simply by swimming in the ocean.

"In my opinion, domoic acid is the new DDT," Holcomb said. "If the effects of DA poisoning are cumulative in the brain, and we don't know that yet, it could have serious consequences on the population of California brown pelicans."

amanda.covarrubias @latimes.com