31 August 2010

A Session in Three Parts




My fears about being chased out of the water while matting are long gone. If the lifeguards want me, they'll have to come and get me. If they kick me out one day, I'll just be back out the next.

I knew I wanted to ride both the mat and a board today. Variety is the spice of life . . . or so they say. As I was blowing up the mat, I decided not to worry about the lifeguard. I was certain he or she could see me, but with so many other people in the water, many of whom weren't exactly competent swimmers, I figured my mat and I were the least of his or her worries.

My goal on the mat? Three waves and out. I want to make sure I ride the mat each week. There's no law that says I have to stay on it throughout a session, thereby raising the ire of the lifeguards. If I stay on it for a bit and then get out, I think they (1) won't bother me and (2) will get so accustomed to seeing me on it that they won't always say anything when they see me matting on less crowded days. I suppose I'm taking a page from my pool skating compadres. They find a new pool. They scope out the situation, hit the pool for about 15 minutes and jet. Then they slowly but surely start spending more and more time at said pool, eventually getting friendly with the neighbors and becoming familiar faces around the neighborhood. I'm going to assume that works with lifeguards too. When the lifeguard is there, I won't take for granted the time that person is spending turning a blind eye to me and the mat. When the lifeguard isn't there, I will mat to my heart's content.

I think I'm on to something with my idea of a session in three parts. Now to incorporate the handplane so that I can have a session in four parts!

28 August 2010

Knee Replacement: 16 Months Later

Yes, I can finally say that I have moments where I forget there is a titanium joint down there. People told me this day would come. I didn't believe them. I couldn't conceive of a day when I wasn't mentioning my knee replacement—with pride, I might add—to someone. Now? I think it's safe to say I'm basically over the excitement of the joint replacement journey. I'm past the point of being fascinated by the whole thing. I am not, however, past the point of being thankful. With the knee replacement, I breathed a sigh of relief. The horrendous pain was gone. The fears about my future were gone. Both were replaced by a metallic joint and what some would consider an ugly scar that should remain hidden from view. All I can say about the latter is I earned that scar (as well as the others from previous knee operations), I'm proud of that scar and I will never cover it up. Frankly, I'm not vain enough to worry about how that knee looks to other people. I think my admittedly gnarly-looking knee just adds character to my already admittedly quirky sense of style. Oh, who am I fooling? I have no serious sense of style. I just have a sense of the person I want to be. That person does not pretend to be perfect. I don't pretend to be anything.

So, yeah, the knee is great. There is pain, but it isn't worth discussing. I'm not hampered by the knee at all. At least, I don't think I am. When I do hesitate because of the knee, it's the result of my brain making me stop and assess. I usually turn the volume down on that little voice. I'm not trying to hear anything that makes me tentative. My life is probably half over now. I've got things to do, places to go and people to see. I refuse to be held back by irrational fears about a joint that's better than its been in decades. When I was at Cottons last week in overhead waves on a surf mat, I didn't think about my knee at all. Not once. It was after that session that I realized my knee and I have turned a corner. We are one.

25 August 2010

Front Porch = Staging Area

There's usually a surfboard on the porch throughout the summer months. Having it there enables a quick getaway when the waves beckon. The surf mat is now on the porch because the heatwave necessitates that it not live in the car for a bit. The skateboard is just for tooling around when the mood strikes. (Note the skateboard's old school outline, wheels and trucks.)

I've got mat fever. I've got it bad . . . and that ain't good. I'm going to become one of those ninja L.A. County mat riders who make it happen wherever and whenever possible. My favorite winter spot once seemed too difficult for a mat. I used to think I couldn't make the long paddle out to the waves. But after surviving the waves at the mat meet on Sunday and actually getting waves on the mat yesterday, my view of myself on my mat has changed. I will not be denied. Be prepared, L.A. County, for sneak attacks and surreptitious assaults on your beaches. It's on!

24 August 2010


After watching how the big boys did it on Sunday, I was determined to put my newfound matting knowledge to the test.

I think I got an A!

Okay, maybe a B, but I definitely passed the test!

22 August 2010

How Hard Does This Thing Have to be?*

Unfamiliar break. Overhead waves. On a mat!

I suppose if you're going to learn from some of the best, you have to see them on waves that allowed them to show their stuff. And that they did.

What did I show? Well, let's see . . . I showed how to get the mat snatched from your grasp while getting worked. I then showed how to lose your fin in the shorepound. I think I will spend days giving lessons in the fine art of getting sand out of dreadlocks.

My goal, though, was to see mats being ridden by people who know what they're doing. "Watch and learn" was what I went to do. All I can say is that I got schooled . . . in the best way.

Riding a mat well is difficult. Good mat riders make it look easy. I, on the other hand, make it look like what it is. Nevertheless, I remain undaunted in my efforts to become comfortable on the mat. I'm going back out on the mat on Tuesday and plan to make riding the mat a consistent part of my water routine.

This picture is indicative of why I ride a mat:
Jason and Prana sharing the stoke!

* That's what he said!

20 August 2010

Mat Meet 2010!!

Props to Pranaglider for making it happen. On Sunday, a bunch of us will be getting together to shred on our mats. Well, they'll be shredding. I'll be flailing. That's what I do best on my mat.

In my mind, I always ride the mat like this:

Usually, though, I'm getting tossed around in the whitewater and thinking I'm tearing it up like George Greenough on one of his beloved 4GF mats. Then I see the picture of me on my 4GF and just laugh at my ability to be so delusional! Flailing? Yes. Flying down the face with total control like GG? Not!!

I've even been known to lose my mat on occasion too. Don't blame it on the mat. Blame the rider, the one who insists on taking her mat out into the home break closeouts.

Mat meet on Sunday!! Be there or be L7!! (Come on!! Who doesn't know that "L7" is another way of saying "square"?)

18 August 2010

"48 Hours Later" (Voiced by the French Narrator on Spongebob)

Summer showed up at San O!

The sun came out . . . and so did the crowd.

Luckily, I cut back and the kid took the high line, so disaster was easily averted. If this situation had come up at some of L.A.'s breaks, one of us would have gotten hurt since way too many people don't know how to control their boards.

Summer in August. I don't think anyone was expecting that this year. Nevertheless, it was, and is, here . . . finally.

16 August 2010

I Just Love Winter in the Summer!

Yes, I said "winter". This picture tells it all. I'm in a 4/3 with my hands staying warm in my armpits and my feet on the board to prevent them from turning into ice cubes. Notice how dark it is? The sun didn't come out until hours after this photo was taken. I was already out of the water and dressed by the time the sun made an appearance.

In case you think I was kidding about how cold it was, note this friend of a friend surfing in gloves and booties. No one was thinking he was a kook or laughing in his general direction. I think we all secretly wanted to jack him for his extra neoprene. I swear the water must have been in the high 50's.

Paul Tomson, of the South African surfing Tomson brothers, shredding on a friend's Zamora hull. This guy rips, shreds, tears up, smacks the lips of and annihilates waves.

When it came down to it, this was the best session I've ever had at San O despite the fact that it was colder than it should ever be during the summer and there was at least one great white reportedly in the vicinity.

For whatever reason, I was completely dialed in during this session. It probably didn't hurt that the crowd was sparse. I really never had to fight for waves. Peaks popped up all over the place. So while a crowd sat on one consistent peak, I was happy to sit off to the side and snag waves on the peaks that came to me. This was the first time I felt like I surfed San O to the best of my ability. I was able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. There was no worrying about being dropped in on or about running someone on the inside over. The place was, for San O, wide open. That's all I need to let my guard down and get my shred on. I also had no leash. I've spent 90% of this summer surfing leashless. And now I can honestly say that leashes are an irritation and a hindrance unless you're at a spot with board-killing rocks on the inside. (I only lost the board once when some dude decided not to get out of my way and I had to maneuver quickly not to send him to the hospital. Thank you, Valerie, for trying to retrieve the board for me.)

Anyway, I surfed freezing San O for about three hours. And I wasn't just sitting. I was surfing. I'd take a wave, start to paddle back out, see and inside wave come to me and take that one too. I went left. I went right. I got waves where I'd go right, decide the left was better and then go left. It was strange really. I've never been comfortable at San O. I'm not sure why. I've always been there when it was too crowded or too windy. Either that or I was too far into my own head, thinking thoughts that just made me more nervous about surfing this spot than I already was. Yesterday was the day I guess I finally told myself that I was going to make the best out of the session no matter what. I do believe, too, that surfing leashless helps. You can't go into a session thinking about chasing after your board. I don't think about that at all these days. I do have to chase the board at beach breaks. Closeouts aren't conducive to hanging on to a surfboard. But at a spot like San O when it's not pumping (and, yes, I've seen that place when it's pumping), there's no reason for the board to get away from you.

I still get stuck when I work my way toward the nose of my board. In this shot, I'm on the way to the nose and realizing I need to start backpeddling. Generally, I'll get stuck there for a split second as I process the fact that the nose is not where I need to be. Again, this is where going leashless helps me. I'm always thinking about how I don't want to swim after the board. That's forcing me to be more methodical when I walk the board, therefore I don't fall as much as I used to. Remember, I still don't do it—walking the board—well. I do it often, but not to my satisfaction. Still, all you can do is practice, practice, practice. So yesterday's session at San O, all three hours of it, was great for my confidence. I walked a lot and swam very little. I left it all out there in the water. By the time I finally got out, I was completely spent. I was quickly losing the ability to pop up. I was turning into the mat rider that I am . . . except I was on a surfboard. Still, it was obvious I could no longer hold it together. I needed to eat. I needed to get warm. There was no need to stick a fork in me. It was more than obvious that I was done.

But I'm happy to say I left everything I had out in the water. When I have to make a long drive to a spot, I'm going to surf it as hard as the spot will allow. If it's crowded or localized, the spot is not going to allow you to do your thing. That's just the way it is if you don't surf there often. If the waves don't cooperate, you will be hamstrung in your efforts to get a session at the spot. There was none of that with San O yesterday. I just felt unbound. Let's hope there's more of that in my future sessions at San O.

12 August 2010

Summer or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof?

When I got to the home break today, I was stoked. I just had an inkling that those summer waves I enjoy so much would make an appearance. The sun was not shining. The wind was up a bit. All of us are still in fullsuits. I was still a believer.

Suffice it to say I surfed for over two hours. The home break delivered waves with shoulders!! Then the sun came out!!! WTF? Is this summer? Maybe yes, maybe no. At this point, I'll take what I can get and be satisfied with whatever the ocean gives me. Some called the conditions flat. I say, "Have big board, will travel." If it's not dead flat, I'm paddling out. There's always something you can catch on a longboard.

I'm ready for summer to make an appearance before it's too late.

10 August 2010

Drug Addled Surf Reporters?

I would say, "YES!!"

This site assigned the color green to Malibu. Green means good. Green is the color of a waist high peeling right-hander.
So why on earth did they assign green to this?

The only explanation I can think of is that the people at that forecasting site are on drugs during the daylight hours while saving the liquor for those quiet moonlit fugue states when they actually assemble this report.

Green? At Malibu? Today?


07 August 2010

The "I'm Too Tired to Dance" Party

I am emotionally spent for a variety of reasons. A lot has gone on with the people around me of late. "If it's not one thing, it's another" is a fitting description of what I'm seeing. Personally, I'm in a good place. Although I constantly complain about the lack of summer weather and the dearth of decent waves, I nonetheless recognize that I'm still lucky enough to surf just about every day if I so choose. (Over the last two days, I boycotted the surf out of disgust. Today, though, was much better as I headed to a point break and found some acceptable waves in spite of the crowd.)

Two people on our block died last week. One of them was a father of four (ages six to 14). I have no idea how is wife is going to make it. The other was a woman in her 90's who was the mother of an elected official. I got highly indignant about the fact that people tripped over themselves to rush to the home of the latter and attend the funeral. Did they care about the woman who died? No. Most didn't know her. Instead, they were doing their best to make brownie points with the congresswoman. So, we got to watch that spectacle (with valet parking . . . on our block!) on one side of the street being juxtaposed with the house directly across the street, the house with now-fatherless kids playing outside while the mom tried to figure out her next move. WTF?

When I was in the water today, someone asked me if I'm the person who writes this blog. I said yes. She went on to tell me she'd found my blog through that of my boy Matt. Well, he's dead too. And I miss him and his blog, which someone took down, more than I can articulate. His blog, Random Thoughts of a Surf Reporter, was brilliant. I was never insulted by it. It made me wince every so often, but I applaud those who say what they think. Damn the critics! And that was Matt.

There's also been a situation with someone in my circle acting and talking in such a way that I was certain he was considering suicide. All I will say is that helping him through this time has taken an emotional toll on those of us who reached out to him. I don't regret doing so, but now I'm tired. I remember my cycling coach explaining to me that physical exertion wasn't the only thing that depletes a person's energy. He was the person who clearly explained to me that things outside of the bike could and would do the same. His main point in telling me this was to make sure I knew when to recharge my batteries.

Right now, I'm recharging. There will be no dance parties until I'm feeling a little better about the world. In the meantime, appreciate your loved ones (including your friends) and do the things that bring you joy.

03 August 2010

There's a Four Letter Word for That

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people had to spin this weird dial seven times in order to make a phone call, this magical story-carrying apparatus was called a BOOK.

I'm just sayin'.

02 August 2010

I Also Heart Small Winter Swells—Now With More Hypothermia!

This summer has been one for the ages, hasn't it?

I just about froze to death in my 3/2 this morning. A guy near me had on a 4/3, but it wasn't doing him much good either. How cold was it? I drove home with the heat going in the car. The heat!!

As for the waves? Meh. At least I had the sense to turn my back on the beach break and head to a point. Still, there wasn't much of note happening there. I know that one of the lulls had to be about 20 minutes long. By the time a wave finally loped on through, I was too cold and stiff to paddle like I meant it.

In the end, I can't complain too much. My sessions over the last year have made me very happy. While I do see my one year knee replacement anniversary as a milestone, I feel that my one year anniversary of returning to surfing is equally important. I got my bionic self back on a board on July 30, 2009. So I've just celebrated another anniversary. And the knee continues to be a help rather than a hindrance (which is what my God given knee had become).

01 August 2010

I Heart Closeouts—Now With More Backwash!

I can make neither heads nor tails of conditions like those. It seemed that every wave folded over . . . violently. As if that wasn't enough, the backwash made riding those waves tantamount to standing up on a bucking bronco. At times, the backwash was as strong as the incoming waves. I think we would have been smarter to surf going towards the horizon! I certainly lack the skills or the patience for such waves. For the first time in a very long time, I got out of the water angry. The whole session was pointless.

Point . . .