Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happiness is a warm winter wetsuit

I did it! I got a 6/4 suit, and I didn't have to buy a man's! Readers of this blog, you and I both are behind the times. I posted that no one made a 6 mil suit for women, and none of you slackers corrected me, but I was wrong. It turns out that O'Neill now makes a 6/4 version of its Psycho suit for women!

O'Neill fits me well and this one looks nice and is easy to get into, with a half zipper.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to test it out yet. Although there have been record or near record high temperatures, making it feel more like April than January, there have been no waves. I mean really none, not even six-inch wavelets.

So my suit waits for a chance to get wet.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The best ride of my life

Need I say more?? :)

It happened yesterday. I stood up and rode all the way to the beach.

At this break, that's about a six-second ride for the best of us. It's the longest of my life.

It was so great, I wanted to go out today again. K. and I went to check the waves, and they were chest to head high. We actually stood there for several minutes thinking about whether to go in. We both actually kind of thought we could handle it. Any other day, it would have been a no-brainer: Head high. No go.

But because of yesterday....

I still think that I need to get confident on waist high waves before I try bigger ones.

However, as K. pointed out, on any given head high day, there are "littler" waves that are only waist high. She was trying to talk me into going for those, while convincing me we could avoid getting bopped by the big ones. But at this shifting beach break, that's pretty tricky.

I'm definitely willing to try bigger waves---just not that big.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lindsay Lohan

Ok, that was just a shameless attempt to increase traffic on my blog. I actually don't even know who Lindsay Lohan is, but there are eight million hits on her. I know, it's not even the demographic I want to attract. What does my demographic search for? Extra-long women's board shorts to cover up extra cellulite? (They don't seem to exist, trust me).

Speaking of apparel, my wetsuit problem has been solved, at least temporarily! I switched wetsuits with K. What a difference! Hers is a Bodyglove 5/4/3 with attached hood (as opposed to my Ripcurl 5/3) . I didn't think that 4 mil thing would make a difference, but it really does, it makes all the difference in the world. I was toasty warm for nearly two hours, while she (like me in my suit) began getting cold at one hour.

It was great and even made me surf better (and she surfed worse), proving conclusively that coldness affects surfing ability. I didn't even feel like I deserved hot chocolate afterwards, but had some anyway in solidarity with K, who was freezing. I also let her use the shower first to thaw out and she said "That was the best shower I ever had."

So the best thing about winter surfing doesn't have to be the hot shower afterwards, the surfing only a means to that end! Who knew!

Now I gotta hook up with a suit like that.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fog session

It was warm again--54--so today I headed out to the beach. It was so foggy you couldn't see the beach from the boardwalk or the shore from the beach! I've surfed in fog before---it's surreal. That time was a bit scary because no one else was out. It was as if I was the only person left on earth. This time there were actually five other people out, though I couldn't see them until I got into the water, and fairly decent waves.They were just a tad too big for my comfort, about waist high.

There was a moment there when I said to myself, This is crazy, it's foggy and the waves are too big, I don't want to be here. Then it turned good.

Good for me means these things: I didn't pearl once; I held onto my board at all times (mostly); I caught more than five waves in two hours; I actually got up and didn't fall over right away. Let's hear it for me!

I had a ride with both feet on the board and no hands and it lasted at least three seconds and I didn't fall off, I jumped. Woo-hoo! After that I could've quit; it was that moment when you know it won't get any better that day. But I stayed out because I was with K. and she wanted to stay. And it was still fun. She didn't ride any of the three foot ones (went over the falls on those) but did really well on the smaller waves.

I said I wasn't pearling because I remembered to shift my weight back, but something weird was happening: I'd catch the wave, but it would try to push me off the board. There was no chance of standing up because it was all I could do to just hold onto the board as I got pushed off. I am really not sure what was going on. I wasn't getting the wave early or late; I seemed to have timed it right and was sure I had it, but I didn't. K. said it was because my board wasn't angled. It worked better when I angled it, but that falling off the board thing still happened.

The really good thing about today was that after each wave I really thought about what went wrong (or right) and then tried to do it better on the next one; and I was pretty much able to tell what was wrong or right. Also, that I recognized I was beyond my comfort level (one to two feet)---but it didn't scare me, because I kept telling myself I could handle it, and I could. There were no scary moments. And seeing some guy watching while I was getting my good ride, and thinking to myself, He sees a surfer. I look pretty much like everyone else instead of like a retard.

Plus the no pearling. I hate pearling.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The freelance life

You think it's easy setting your own hours, working as you choose? Hah! It only makes it harder to take a surf day when you are your own boss. Because really, you could be working all the time.

Like today. It was sixty degrees and sunny and felt like spring! I saw that forecast last night, said, I have to surf today. But when I woke up the surf report was inconclusive. I wanted to go so bad I called up E. to give me a first person report from the boardwalk. He said: it's not so great, 2 to 3 foot choppy, you can ride it if you want to, nothing special.

Well, that's the conditions about 350 days of the year around here! In other words, there is rarely if ever a day that is so good the decision to go surfing is made for you by the surf goddesses. It's always 50/50.

So then the question becomes: Well, what will you do if you don't go surf?
How important is it, what are the consequences of not doing it?

You know the answer to that question when you're a freelancer: work.

Today, I thought if I didn't go surfing I could get about eight hours in. But if I went surfing, with the three-to-four hour travel time (have I mentioned that?) I knew I wouldn't get anything done.

So I voted to stay home and work. I ended up getting only about four hours of work done. That's four more than I would have gotten if I'd surfed.

Am I glad?

I wonder how good it was out really?

Shit, it would have been fun.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Las Olas Surf Camp

OK, while you're waiting for my wetsuit, here's a review I wrote of my experience at the Las Olas surf camp for women in Sayulita, Mexico, last June.

I went there because I thought a surf camp just for women would be a good idea, and because I've had bad experiences with men surf instructors. Boy, was I ever wrong!

The short version: Don’t go to Las Olas unless you’re an absolute beginner thrilled just to be pushed into a small wave on a beginner board, i.e., a surf tourist, not a surfer. There is a crucial difference. Las Olas has way too many people, both at the break and in the classes, and “Lessons” consist mostly of crowd control.

Longer version: First the good part. The hotel where we stayed was great, or at least my room was. It faced the ocean and I could hear the waves and see the surfers from the room. The setting is beautiful. The mosquitoes mercifully left me alone. If not for these blessings, a frustrating and disappointing week would have turned into a miserable or even unbearable experience. However, this was just luck, as others complained of hot stuffy rooms and got eaten by mosquitoes.

You might be happy to pay 2000-2500 bucks if you like to stay in a nice place, but if you care more about surfing, the instruction is not worth the money.

You can stay in a hotel room in town double occupancy for $25, eat the same food we did for $30 a day, get a private lesson and a board for $30 a day. The six days would cost you $510. So you’re paying at least $1500 for the surf instructors of Las Olas. What you get are five group lessons of one hour each, with six people to each instructor. What this consists of, mostly, is waiting your turn for a wave over on the shoulder. Because you’re not allowed to try for a wave when it’s not your turn. “Instruction” consists of being placed and pushed on a wave. You might get two or three waves. The priority of the instructors is rationing waves: keeping you away from the peak where the locals are, keeping you from taking waves from the other women in the group. The reason for this, I guess, is that the break is too crowded; there just aren’t enough waves for everybody. But a break like that is the last place on earth anybody should put a surf camp!

When it’s not your lesson time, but the two hours when other groups are having lessons, you’re not allowed to go in the water----because you’d be taking “their” waves and “it would be disrespectful” Hell, if you were there by yourself and not in Las Olas, no one could keep you out of the water! Seems like everytime I tried to go in someone was stopping me; and everytime I got near the peak, one of the SurfNazis was yelling at me to get onto the shoulder because the peak belongs to the locals and I might get in their way and get hurt. After years of surfing NYC breaks as crowded as this one, I found that hilarious, but not in a good way.

You get one private lesson during the week. Mine did not result in any improvement in my ability. I asked about additional private lessons, but they’re not allowed: again, on the theory that it wouldn’t be fair to everybody else. (?) So I took two private lessons, at $30 each, from the boys at the Tigre surf school. That was the only fun I had all week.

Frankly, it was a relief just to be around men again! The Las Olas women were, overwhelmingly, girlie girls, more interested in jibberjabbering on the beach and buying every worthless trinket offered by the local vendors than going in the water. Not surprisingly, most of them said they found out about the camp through a puff piece in Lucky magazine. Now I’ve never heard of Lucky, but was told it’s “a magazine about shopping”. That tells you what type of women you’ll meet here. I tried hard, but couldn’t relate.

To make things worse, there were no waves to speak of; they were about the same size and quality as in Rockaway, two feet. I don’t blame Las Olas for this, however I do blame them for pushing the season into when they know the waves can be crap just to make more money. And I do blame them for not giving us the option to seek out spots where the waves might have been better. Those of us not thrilled with the 2 footers should have been assisted with transporation and logistics to seek out other spots, even if there were only a couple of us (most of the guests wouldn’t have known the difference between a closeout and a barrel). In the end, I travelled across the country to find waves I could have found at home. I paid nearly three grand and I have yet to ride my first wave.

I regret my choice of Las Olas, and don’t recommend it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A sweaty hour with a mens' rubber suit

I know, I know, this blog is getting boring. I am trying to get back into the water, but if I even think of it I get cold. Here's the update: I ordered a 7 mil wetsuit---women's!---from a scuba dive outfit. They make warm scuba suits for women; go figure. It arrived looking all jazzy and sexy, and was easy to get on, but didn't fit right. Even though I ordered the smallest size there were just pockets and pockets of surplus rubber. I can't imagine that they wouldn't fill up with freezing cold water. Wetsuits have to fit tight, right? Maybe it doesn't matter so much in scuba diving because you're not jumping and paddling and bending all the time. I don't know. But the suit had to go.

I guess there is no other solution---but I dread it---of dragging myself to the surf shop and spending a sweaty hour in a cramped dressing room wrestling myself into mens' rubber suits.

The first time I ever tried that was November of my first surfing year and the experience made me resolve to give up surfing until summer. I get panicked and claustrophobic in that second or two when you're not quite into a zipless suit but can't escape from it either. I've got to try again. Perhaps it will be better this time. I'll try to remember to breathe and not panic.