31 December 2007

El Porto: 3, Surfers: -1

I went to El Porto, which we all know is my least favorite break in L.A., to try out the Bonzer. Whiff told me it had been nice, well-shaped and somewhat forgiving the last few days. Fine, I thought. I can handle that.

As I drove along the street above the break, I wasn't liking what I saw. It certainly wasn't looking forgiving and I wasn't seeing a lot of shape. I got there first, parked so I wasn't facing the waves and read. I didn't want to look. I didn't want to get psyched out. Eventually, CYT came. Grace followed shortly thereafter. I was already thinking we should just head north to points less fierce. The waves just looked kind of sketchy to me. CYT wasn't feeling it either. Grace, who'd surfed El Porto several times this week, thought it wouldn't be bad. And so, we went.

First there was the paddle out. With no lulls to speak of, that was a task in itself. The paddle out is my least favorite part of surfing a bigger day. I don't know what it is that scares me. I guess I always think there's no way I can get past the walls of water coming at me. The paddle out today was not pretty. Grace forged ahead first. I love that about her. Eddie would go . . . and so would Grace. CYT and I went next. All of us were being battered. Finally, Grace made it up and over safely. I thought CYT did too because she disappeared from view for a bit. Thinking Grace had found the channel and suppressing the inclination to give up, I moved over to where she was, seemed to make it up and over everything coming at me and made it out too. Once I looked back, I found out that CYT was on the shore. One down.

Thrilled with the fact that I'd even braved the paddle out, I was quite excited once I got to the outside. I was on board much smaller than I'm used to, thus I couldn't paddle as fast as I would have liked during the paddle out. Nevertheless, I was there in the safety zone. I don't know how long we sat out there. We tried for waves, but the shape was lacking. The waves would start out mushy and hard to catch. Then they'd jack up into walls that were harder (or perhaps scarier) to catch. Finally, a massive set wave rolled toward us. I was sitting further outside (yes, I was nervous and worried about being mowed down by a rogue wave) and barely made it over. The wave was easily 10 feet. I looked back for Grace, knowing she was too far in to make it. I saw the board first. No, I saw the foam first. I was looking at half a board. Snapped in half! Two down.

That left me out there alone. Both of them watched me. I waved them in. I knew I'd be there awhile. And I was. I didn't catch shit. I made good attempts, but there was no way I was going down those walls. They were completely vertical (or at least that's how they looked from above). There were only a select few who were getting the waves. When they did, the rides weren't long. Of course, from the sand, those people who are tearing it up and getting the long rides make it look easy, make you think you've got a chance at something. Wrong. Thankfully, I wasn't scared. I was merely perplexed, wondering how I was going to get out of there without taking a beating. Eventually, the waves backed off enough for me to paddle in. I'm not one who's ashamed to paddle in. I don't like to paddle in, but I'll do it when necessary. Today it was necessary. It was time to go pick up the little man. There was nothing for me to catch. It was cold. So why just sit there?

Yes, it's a good sign that I made the paddle out on my smaller board. I never felt like I'd reached my limit physically. However, I've got nothing to show for this session but a lot of frustration.

Whiff, you've got some explaining to do!!!

29 December 2007

Initial Bonzer Impressions (Day Two)

Once again, the waves weren't up to the task. A longboard would have been the better weapon of choice. However, I've stripped the wax from my longboard. When will I rewax it? I don't know. Right now, it's all about the shorter boards.

Somehow I feel like I'm surfing better on this board. It's allowing me to do things I'm unable to do on my other boards. One of my friends today told me she was going to change my nickname. I've said before that I am one of three women at my break with the same first name. The first one is "Surfing" XXXX because she owns a surf school. The second one is "Proud" XXXX. I can't remember why she was given that name. I've been called "Black" XXXX for a long time. The crew decided they didn't like that appellation. So, some took to calling me "Olympic" XXXX because of my love for working out. Another member of the crew refers to me as "Chocolate" XXXX. Anyway, after seeing two of my waves on the bonzer today, one person said, "Forget 'Olympic' XXXX, we're just going to call you 'Ripping' XXXX." That was a nice compliment. Again, I don't think it's me. It's the board. I'm still figuring it out though. I did manage to pearl a few times. With no sticker on the deck, I'm having trouble knowing where to be. It's going to take awhile before I remember which African mask I should be looking at as I paddle for a wave. I can't wait to take this board to LPB!!!

Pray for better surf . . . and peace on earth, dammit!!! (Stop assassinating the good guys/gals!!! Stop forcing children to kill!!! And clean up the plastic garbage patch floating in the Pacific!!!)

Initial Bonzer Impressions

Light. Light. Light!!!

I felt like I was floating when I was up and riding.

Did I just do a cutback? Me? Yes, me . . . on my bonzer!

Can you be head over heels in love with a surfboard?

27 December 2007

Shout Out to Surfstyley!

Surfstyley left me a message on an old blog post. I wanted to him to see my reply, thus I'm turning it into a new blog post. Here's what he wrote: Hey Surf Sister. Is that you paddling out with curlers in your hair and blue dress on? I am surfstyley on youtube, you link my clips.. I wanted to let you know a little surf history that no one else really knows.. since i have a huge collection of surfing on film and do research all the time.. i have discovered that the very first surfing in a cartoon was from 1917. Yep! and animation was only invented around 1915.. But what is amazing.. is This cartoon, shows a little boy who wants to surf, he steals his Mamie's ironing board.. you know this was back when they had the stereo type black woman with a red bandana on, kitchen apron etc... Aunt Jemime looking woman.. So she comes looking for the boy.. and swims out to him surfing.. she gets attacked by a shark but kicks it's butt, She ends up riding on the sharks back.. and in the end is called the SURF BOARD CHAMP and given a Medal.. Really, so the very first surfing champion to ever been shown in a film is a black woman!.. I will post it on youtube one day.. i haven't yet for fear of people saying it's racist etc.. though it really isn't . I'll send you some framegrabs if you want to put them on your site..It's Classic.. but who knew the first surfing champion on film was a black woman.. yep..Happy Holidays.. surfstyley

The picture of me that he's talking about was from this year's Doo Dah Surf. In my mind, I was dressed as a frowsy housewife from the 50's and 60's. Here's a description of the costume from head to toe: hairnet, curlers, cateye glasses with chain, messy red lipstick, ugly beaded necklace, duster/housecoat, knee high stockings and pink slippers. (Once again, I'll ask if anyone even noticed that I actually surfed in those slippers?!?) About a month ago, I was at the break where the Doo Dah Surf was held. This woman paddles up to me and tells me how she loved my costume, my Aunt Jemima costume!! I was so taken aback by her Aunt Jemima comment that I never heard one other word she uttered. "Who you callin' Aunt Jemima?" is what I wanted to say. Instead, I let it go. One thing I've learned in my 44 years on this Earth is that black folks are often overly sensitive when it comes to race and white folks are more often than not completely confused by that.

Then I got the comment from Surfstyley. Once again, there was the allusion to Aunt Jemima. Mind you, by the time I read his message, I'd been thinking long and hard about all of this. Why Aunt Jemima? Look at the pictures above. The only thing they have in common is that the two women are black. That's it. Frankly, my costume was loosely based on Lucy Ricardo (in her less glamorous attire), Divine in Hairspray and classic TV caricatures of crazy old ladies. Aunt Jemima never crossed my mind. So why did it cross the minds of others?

With that being said, I'd love to see the video Surfstyley mentions in his message. I appreciate him sharing the information with me. Surfstyley, I'd certainly put that cartoon on my blog. And if you decide to download it to YouTube, let me know. I'll leave the first comment, explain who I am and what I am and dare anyone to call you, or the video, racist. Thanks for posting the comment.

I've already been thinking about my costume for next year. I may not participate for reasons I'll not go into. But if I do decide to paddle out, there will be no confusion as to who I am or what I am:

24 December 2007

Santa Didn't Bring Me No Waves!

Yeah, I know he's kind of busy. I ain't mad at him. I'm simply stating a fact. It was too flat and swamped out to surf. Nevertheless, there we were. Me, CYT and Grace. Surfing the shorebreak. I can't say that it was worth it. I am glad I got a bit of a workout in. But I'm pretty much over this shorebreak surfing trend that seems to have befallen me of late.

I hope Santa brings waves for those of you who can hit it tomorrow. Those of us with small children cannot and will not be thinking about the surf. Tomorrow is an important day for our family, especially Soul Brother #2. Since my mom was born in December, she's a Christmas nut. Always has been. Always will be. My goal at Christmas is to make sure those two are happy. I'll be preparing breakfast and most of the dinner. Thankfully, we've got many bottles of Rotari champagne chilling here and at Soul Grandmother #1's house. That's enough good cheer for me! I may even open a bottle after my little man goes to bed. That's when I start wrapping his—I mean, that's when Santa usually makes his appearance.

Now that Soul Brother #2 is in Kindergarten, he can write his own note to Santa. This one's a keeper!

20 December 2007

Speaking the Truth

This was in the Dec/Jan 2008 issue of The Surfer's Path. I couldn't find it online to copy and paste. I decided to go ahead and start typing it into the blog.

Maybe the time is now ripe to reevaluate all that we are doing. Surfing has come of age and is now a multi-million dollar industry, which provides for the daily bread and butter for hundreds, probably thousands, of people across the globe. And that this is possible is great, but the question has to be asked: Is the old girl aging well and growing into something to be proud of, or is she turning into the thing we, as surfers, are supposed to be opposed to?

We like to think of surfing as something pure, with a social and environmental consciousness, yet you, the day-to-day surfer, the lifeblood of the surfing lifestyle, glare and growl at one another in the water. You bicker over your waves, and then you happily reveal them to all in cyberspace. You try to outdo one another with your bravado and out-fashion each other with your brand labels. To an outsider it might appear that you surf only for image.

If that seems a sorry state of affairs then just take a moment to examine "us", the industry. Should we worry that Third World surf camps come complete with spas, charge surfers more than non-surfing partners, and restrict or ban local people from their own waves? Should we panic when a major surf clothing company claims to be environmentally aware, but sees nothing wrong in sponsoring a top Formula One driver? Should we fret when the publishers of FHM and New Woman control our surf magazines? Should it be an issue that advertisers who own golf brands sometimes dictate what can and cannot be said in our surfing media? Maybe worst of all, should we be distraught when 'surf' shops in Europe's most famous surf town are nothing but fashion sweat shops, where non-surfing bosses have a pool in the garden and a Porsche in the garage, and the surfing staff are paid so little they can hardly afford to eat?

This is a portion of the postscript to an article entitled "Echoes of Santosha". I initially bought the mag because of that article; most of the folks in the pictures, both in the water and out, were black. Article aside, it was worth the $10 simply to read this guy's take on the current state of surfing. See, I'm not a big fan of surf magazines. I'm 44, female, black and open to riding different types of boards on waves of varying height. Surfing. Surfer. Longboard. I'm bored and can't relate. The Surfer's Journal is hit and miss for me. Thanks to The Surfer's Path, this was the first time in a long time that I've enjoyed reading a surf magazine.

19 December 2007

When It Rains, It Really Rains!

The oven is on the fritz (and we're supposed to have Christmas dinner over here).

The washing machine has decided to wash only on the "gentle" cycle.

Don't think it rains indoors? Wait until you discover the leak in the living room.

Still gotta pay the car insurance, make the car payment and deal with the normal bills.

And that's only the short list!

Pissed off? No. Worried? No. Feeling put upon? A little. Will it spoil Christmas? Never!

17 December 2007

It's Just Me, Myself and I

That's how it felt out there today. I loved every minute of it. It was hard to believe I was still in Los Angeles. From the sand, the waves looked more ferocious than they were. Nevertheless, I could tell it was a longboard day. I've gotten to the point now where I dread wearing a leash. I quickly thought and then unthought about wearing one. I decided I'd be more judicious in my wave choice if the waves were packing a punch.

Once I paddled out, I found out the conditions weren't at all difficult. The waves had size for a few seconds. Then they'd slowly roll by and lose that size in the process. When I'd pop-up, I'd find that there was nothing there. I nonetheless enjoyed myself. There were waves to ride. If you wanted them, you had to work for them. That's never a problem. You'll get a better workout that way.

I only swam once. I lost the board more than once, but somehow managed to keep it from disappearing with the whitewater. It's not like I was doing beautiful kick-outs or anything. I think I was simply bailing before the lip launch the board toward the shore. I had one spectacular crash and burn moment where I was unable to take both me and the board up and over the wave at the end of a ride. Instead, I saw the lip bearing down on us and decided it was time to make use of my ejection seat. I flew through the air up and over the wave. When I popped back up, I saw my board spinning in the air. What a glorious sight, especially since it landed near me, thus preventing the need for a swim to the shore.

At least I got a session in before the rain. I don't know where everyone else was. Scared of the cold? Thought it was flat? I really don't care. I was enjoying my space.

16 December 2007

Things To Do When It's Inexcusably Flat

1. Troll eBay for Christmas gifts
2. Watch surf videos and talk yourself into expanding your quiver (even though you haven't ridden the latest addition)
3. Dye your dreadlocks
4. Troll eBay for bicycle parts
5. Think about the surf trip you've said you'll make in 2008
6. Consider finishing the book you've been reading for months

I paddled out on Friday. Who knew I'd be considering myself lucky to have done that (now that it's even flatter)? I rode a few before the tide killed it. I was out there bright and early today. There was nothing to surf. I've been at home kickin' it and trolling eBay ever since.

15 December 2007

We'll All Look Back at This and Laugh . . .

when he's in the Olympics!

Soul Brother #2's swim instructor got a cool little video camera for Christmas. I shot the epic footage of him not doing what he was asked (as usual) and she edited it later. Pretty damn cool if you ask me!

11 December 2007

I Didn't Even Bother to Look

Instead, my sore shoulders and I went back to the pool. It was all I could do to suffer through three sets of 500 yards in about 40 minutes. I gave thought to doing a fourth set. Thankfully, it was a passing thought.

Is there any surf on the horizon?

10 December 2007

Surftwin I'm Not!!!

It's hard to believe there was a huge swell in our waters within the last week. When I went to look at the waves this morning, there was nothing. Not a thing. It doesn't get much worse than flat with a high tide, does it? That meant I'd be in the pool . . . and I was running late.

Warm-up: 500 yards
Kickboard: 250 yards
Reverse Pyramid: 100 x 2, 75 x 2, 50 x 2, 25 x 2 (trying for negative splits)
Cool down: 100 yards

By the time I got to the cool down, I was pretty much done. I wanted to do a little more, but both the lifeguard and the guy in the next lane wanted to talk. When we all finally stopped chatting, I was really done (i.e., cold and tired of being in the pool) and the pool was about to close. Usually, I get in the pool and swim without doing a structured workout. This was the first day I made up a workout as I went along. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to shoot for 1500 yards next time. I almost made it today. I'll have to stop talking and just swim next time.

08 December 2007

I've Made a Decision

In 2008, I'm gonna take a surf trip. I'll kill two birds with one stone—the need for a vacation and the need to surf somewhere else. The fact that I've got neither a passport nor disposable income is but a stumbling block. I need to get out of here.

07 December 2007

I'll Gladly Take the Leftovers

Some people are offended by the very idea of settling for leftovers. In a city this large, with as many surfers (or should I say with as many people with surfboards) as we have, I can't bear being at a crowded break on a big day. Yeah, I missed the "fun" on Wednesday. I didn't get run over, run into, fallen on top of or anything else. I was safely on the bluff watching the festivities. I've been in the water before when the surf was that size and I didn't have to worry about the crowd. It was all I could do to worry about myself. And I came away from those several occasions unscathed. I didn't feel too confident about the unscathed part with this recent swell.

The break where I did most of my watching was absolutely packed on Wednesday. There were cars everywhere. When I looked at the cam before six, I could see (in the dark!!!) that cars were already lining the highway. When I checked the same cam at the same time on Thursday, I think I saw one or two cars. It was obvious the swell had made most of its appearance on the previous day, but I knew there would be something left for me. And there was. Compared to Wednesday, that break was a ghost town. The waves were no longer pumping and I had to wait awhile for the tide to go down. But once I got in, I got some tasty long rides with good shoulders. Better yet, I rode those waves alone. I've not had rides like that in a long time. Believe it or not, one can find surfing happiness the day after a big swell.

Although I didn't get in on Wednesday, I made a point of watching the surfers who were out there showing their stuff. One guy in particular (a big guy in a red hat, who Whiff said is Hawaiian) was out there killing it on a longboard. He wasn't just killing it, HE WAS KILLING IT! He took everyone to school. I think it was the first time I'd seen serious Hawaiian-style progressive longboarding. I got schooled big time! I'd only seen people surf like that on videos. But to see it in person was a treat. Whiff and I sat on the bluff watching that guy continually snag some sweet rides. Whiff, did you get any pictures of that guy? Anyway, that guy's surf style stuck with me. I saw, for the first time, another way to surf a longboard. I saw how he stood. I saw how he carved. I saw him use his entire body to make that board do what he commanded. For me, it was mind-blowing. When I got on my board on Thursday, I found myself standing in a little different spot and trying to emulate some of his moves. I failed on most of my attempts. However, on one hard turn, the board did exactly what I wanted, went where I wanted and and did it how I wanted. As I paddled back out, I knew I wanted to surf more like that. I probably learned more from watching that guy than I would have had I paddled out on Wednesday.

The only negative to Thursday's session was the fact that I couldn't ride the Bonzer. I finally waxed it. I'd been holding off since I'd told Clayfin I'd get some nice shots of it for him. I did that after my session on Tuesday. I went out on Thursday hoping for bigger waves that would accommodate the Bonzer. Now that I think of it, I should have paddled out on it. I've heard on more than one occasion that it's a myth that Bonzers require a steep wave. I've heard they can handle just about anything. Oh well, hindsight and all that.

05 December 2007

Big (But Not Quite As Big as the 2005 Big) Wednesday

The home break . . . breaking . . . hard!Self-portrait on bike (heading for PCH).
Well-known L.A. break, which initially looked small to me.
Then, I saw them coming!!!
OUT - SIDE!!!!!
Scratching for the horizon!
Did I say yesterday that this break wasn't getting any of the swell?
Riding back after having seen some serious surf!
If any of you saw a black cyclist on PCH (with dreadlocks sticking out of the back of the red helmet) who kept pulling over to take pictures, that was me!

I figured I wouldn't go out today. I realized a few days ago that every surfer in L.A. would be taking Wednesday off. With beach breaks more than likely unsurfable (and they were), everyone would be crowded into the point breaks. Right again. I wanted no part of that, especially on a big day. By making the rounds to different breaks on my bike, I got to see many of my surf friends: Uncle Grant, Whiff, Jeffrey, Max from the Black Surfing Association, Al (who interviewed me for something that might be on TV), Jeremy, Nancy, Vanessa, Curt, Jonas, Kevin, Joey, Patti, John and all of the folks whose faces I know (and whose names I don't know). I did a lot of waving to and yelling at folks. For those of us who weren't getting wet, it was like being at a big party.

Why are surfers angst-ridden when they don't or can't paddle out on a big day? Two of my female buddies stood on the road above RPB trying to talk themselves into going out, using their best Norman Vincent Peale (look it up) teachings to justify an attempt. I, for one, now surf better than I ever have. I'm now more comfortable in the ocean than I've ever been. However, I don't over-estimate my abilities. So you make it to the outside. You're exhausted. Here comes a set. You're scratching to get over it. Now you're more exhausted. Here comes a wave you want. You and five other people paddle for it. You back off, only to see everyone else scratching for the horizon. You're now really exhausted and running out of whatever reserve you had and wondering how you're going to survive the pounding you're about to experience. Have you ever been in a similar situation? I have. It wasn't fun. I kind of figured this might be one of those days. Judging from the faces of people who got out of the water, it was (although I think many of them never made the paddle out).

As I always say, tomorrow is another day. I'm hoping the estimated two million surfers in L.A. all go back to work tomorrow. Then I can catch some of this swell too.

04 December 2007


Hardly.This point break didn't get any of this swell. I've been in the water here on an epic day. I watched, from the rocks, the truly epic waves on "Big Wednesday". Today's waves didn't even rise to the level of "good". I know the swell is in L.A. somewhere. Too bad it wasn't here.

03 December 2007

A Special Warning to Southern California Surfers from Eco-Surfer

November 30, 2007

Most surfers in southern California realize that the runoff from land into the ocean after a rain is full of trash, residues from animal poop, fertilizers and oil from streets. Local governments and environmental groups issue a "General Advisory" to stay out of the ocean after 0.2" or more rainfall to alert the public of ocean water contamination by urban runoff.

Today, November 30, 2007 is not a normal day of rain.

The message I am trying to send is simple. For at LEAST the 3 days after today¹s rain (likely up to 5 or 7) the ocean is going to contain extremely high levels of toxins that the environment and out bodies are not accustomed to. Here is why:

1) The ash from the fires not only contains residues from plant material (including poison oak) but also from the homes, electronics, cars, paints, chemicals, plastics, fire retardants, etc that were burned. As the ingredients from all the ash are mixed in water, the concoction turns very toxic.

2) Fires increase the runoff and flooding from wildland burned areas, as the vegetation has been removed and the soil hydrologic properties have been altered. There is not only more toxic runoff but more of it!

I write this message because as an environmental consultant I am hyper-aware of the conditions of our surroundings. I am also aware that nobody has EVER done testing of how much toxins are in the water and what they have on the environment or on surfers.

The potential for harm is high and I feel is it my responsibility to spread the knowledge about this condition.

Please heed this warning and do not be a guinea pig. Contact your local health officials to determine when it may be safe to go surfing again.

Pat Zabrocki

02 December 2007

At Least Make Me Work For It!!!!

I'd love to post that the girl was still throwing looks when I got to the spot today. Alas, she wasn't. She did look a little surprised to see me, especially when it became obvious that I'd be doing the ride with them.

The ending to this saga is pretty anticlimactic. About 10 minutes after the ride started, she rode up next to me . . . and proceeded to talk a damn hole in my head. She expended way too much energy trying to be nice and trying to get on my good side. This is a classic tactic. Nervous riders always try to make friends with riders who can potentially hurt them. Anyway, the fact that she tried to get on my good side was evidence enough of her defeat. She made sure to tell me how strong she is, how strong the guys say she is and how cycling is in her blood. Like I cared? Why talk about it when you should just ride away from me and prove it? Obviously, she couldn't and didn't even try. So, the ride was uneventful. I stayed at the front with the pacesetters. That's all I know how to do after years of racing. She stayed in the back (which is never a good move when you're riding or racing in a group). I did trackstands at stoplights. She clipped out. I helped to set the pace. She sat and followed. She told me she wanted to race. I bit my lip. I wanted to tell it like it is: "Those girls will chew you up and spit you out." Guess what? I'll let her find it out on her own. If a 44 year old broad who hardly rides anymore scares her, what does she think is going to happen in a race against girls and women who are decades younger?

It's time to turn my attention back to surfing. This little diversion was interesting at best. At least I know I can still bring it.