Friday, December 22, 2006

The same ocean twice

You never step into the same ocean twice, even if it's the same exact spot. Different day, different waves. Today's were more of the Texas waves I expected. No one was out at the last spot I surfed, and it didn't look too promising, so I took a leisurely drive down the long beach to check out a couple other spots.

By midafternoon I'd gotten to Port Aransas, the next town down. As I got there another car with a surfboard pulled up. "You going in?" "I guess so."
"Yeah, the sun's out." And it was a beautiful day, though not as warm.

Had a mellow session with that guy, then a gramps (maybe the same one from the other day?). After the first guy left, just me and Gramps. I was getting waves and getting rides but they didn't go very fast or very far. He was getting faster and farther, probably because he was bending his knees more. I tried to work on that, and also making my "popups" more like popups. At least on these waves I can make progress. In just these few days I have gotten much better at using various body parts to keep my balance. I lasted a long time but I could not outlast Gramps. The old geezer has stamina.

I have to say that the surf report here is really whack. Waist high? Seems like they call it waist high no matter what it is. No way was it even close to waist high. Back home we'd call this knee high. What are these Texans, dwarves?

Tomorrow back to hoods and boots and 50 degree water; how can I bear it?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Birthday waves

Whoever said there are no good waves in Texas: you are wrong! There are hellaciously fun waves!

Today I ventured off the hotel beach, and I'm so glad I did. I went to check out a new spot, one which didn't exist the last time I was here. I stood on the pier and watched a guy on a shortboard get the most incredibly long rides. The waves were kinda choppy and small and didn't look like much but they took him on and on and on. What he was doing was, getting up to one knee and waiting for a second or two, and only then getting up. Like I do. And then riding forever.

So after seeing that I said, OK, it's worth the short drive to come here. I can do that.

Plus it was sunny and my birthday. I am forty-frickin-seven years old.

For my birthday, I got the longest rides of my life. I mean, the first waves in which I ever used my legs for anything but holding up my torso.

Because the waves were choppy and shouldery, they weren't as easy to catch as they looked. I thought the problem was that I was taking off too early and then a guy offered the advice that I was taking off too late. I was just watching the others, shortboarders half my age plus a gramps on a longboard (why don't old guys ever ride shortboards?) and trying to do what they were doing. They were all getting long rides. The waves were the teasing kind, that would pretend to break on you and then not. They wouldn't hurt you. They were bigger than they looked from the pier but well within my comfort level---3 ft. maybe. In fact, fun.

And they had power, so much that even the whitewash could get you going almost all the way to the beach.

I caught some breaking waves, and some whitewash, and even if I didn't get up right away as long as I held onto the board there was still plenty of time to get up and still get a long ride. I mean, much longer than is ever possible on the best days at home. And time to balance, and adjust balance, and even do the pumping thing with the knees as I've seen thousands of people do to keep going as the wave gets spent. At times I would go for a wave I hadn't planned for knowing I was getting it too late but it was OK because I could still keep control and get a ride.

And at times the breaking wave had so much power it would force me off or I would stand up too soon and fall. But I got at least six long rides. I think word spread that this was a good day for Texas because by the time I left there were about ten people out, all on shortboards. All guys, but a couple of young girls were coming as I left. I was certainly the only forty-frickin-seven.

This is by far the best day I have ever had in Texas, one of the best days of my life, and much more fun than anything I've ever experienced in New York.

Monday, December 18, 2006


It's 74 degrees and sunny, and I surfed today without a wetsuit.

No, I'm not dreaming and I'm not hallucinating. I'm in Texas.

It's my secret spot. OK, it's not secret. I have a weakness for offbeat barrier islands like this one, Padre Island. I'm staying right at the beach and surfing pretty much where I'm staying, but the water is a lot warmer than Rockaway. It's a family style, faintly blue collar (the fanciest hotel is Holiday Inn) place where the condos on the beach cost half as much as at home. This is Texas, after all.

I rented out an epoxy board. The waves were sucky but no worse than home, nor harder to catch. I caught some and got up and riding. In Texas slop if you catch a wave you'd better get up and riding; you don't want to waste it. I swear I felt just like Gidget, out there in just my vintage-looking bathing suit, the only woman, naturally. Killing it, relative to the other people in the water.

Once caught, the waves lasted longer than at home, long enough to be fun. I'm still working on the balance thing but this board made it easy. I like it. It has the honor of being the first rental board I've ever actually ridden. Oh, I've rented many, in five states and one foreign country, including during the California sojourn chronicled earlier in this blog, but that was all before I was actually able to get up. I never rode on any of them.

Today I was working on leaning forward and bending my knees, both of which were necesssary in order to keep from getting stalled on these little waves.

Wow, I had a blast!

Later on I checked out the Texas Surf Museum. Yes, don't laugh, there is such a thing. There are a lot of old amazing longboards shaped by Texas surfers dating back to the 1960s and even earlier, surf posters and photos and memorabilia, movies, a replica of a shaper's shack, an exhibit devoted to tanker surfing (a la Step into Liquid), etc. Plus lots of vaguely Texan and/or surf related CDs. If you are in Corpus Christi it's well worth visiting. They have a website too.

Corpus (as they say) is a nice town. I had a surreal experience driving to the surf museum tonight in the dark. There was such fog as I drove right along the bay, not sure of where I was going but trusting in the word of the surf museum guy, that I could barely see, but what I could make out were the Christmas lights of the mansions along the road. This part of town, which I hadn't seen before, is where the serious money lives. Although no one skimps on lights, what struck me was how it was all done so tastefully. Have I ever described the Christmas decorations in Rockaway? If I had a digital camera I would send you pictures. Oh Lord, I don't think words exist to describe such things. And I say that with no condescension and great affection, because I love the very over-the-top tackiness of it. No such thing as too much, too many, too tacky, too tasteless. The more the better. Reindeer, snowmen, Santas, sleighs, plastic Mary Joseph and Jesus, inflatable bigger than life Grinches, angels, snowmen in bubbles (I love that one), plastic carolers, candy canes, even speakers playing Christmas music 24/7. And lines of lights thrown artlessly up into trees.

Here the lights are, well, choreographed onto the trees. And instead of a plastic nativity set, I saw 1) a sepia toned faux folk art one; 2) one in which the figures were merely suggested with outlines of white light--a light sculpture, you might say. Beautiful.

This ain't the ghetto, which my neighborhood still is in many ways despite the overbuilding of half million dollar condos. I wonder how much each house along the bayfront here costs.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How can you tell who's a local?

Yesterday we got the first real waves we've had in weeks. Not big, only a foot or two, but enough to bring other people out that morning. I've gotten so used to being the only one out. I've also gotten used to surfing right in front of my house, literally; it never used to break well there but lately it has been, so I have had the luxury of not having to walk down to the jetty (a two minute walk).

But just as I was stretching on the beach in preparation to getting out to "my" spot another guy went straight for it and got on it before I did. Such was my sense of entitlement that I went out there anyway. We were close enough to strike up a conversation, and he did. I could tell as soon as he opened his mouth that he was not a local---that sexy Australian accent! But even without the accent, I would have known by the friendly conversation we had---where'd you grow up, why did you start surfing---a conversation I have yet to have with locals I have seen in the water year after year.

And I would have known by the way he was so encouraging, even offering helpful advice (after asking if I wanted it). Wow, if I had more of that, I might actually get somewhere! He'd seen me pearl and wanted me to know that there might be a way to save myself from wiping out if that happened, simply by pushing my body back on the board with my hands once I realized my nose was going under.

Even when I got a ride where I couldn't let go of the rails until the wave was almost over, he was so complimentary, telling me I was up when, really, I wasn't, or only marginally. And eventually I got up and got a ride where I didn't fall off and really went somewhere, which was great fun. (But he didn't see it.)

My takeoffs were, to paraphrase Barbra Streisand, like buttah. (You younguns won't get that reference, never mind.) Smooth, sweet, perfect. I couldn't even believe how good they were. Effortless. That wasn't the problem (well, except for one or two pearls), it was the standing up. But still I managed it a couple of times.

I was so encouraged I stayed out beyond the limits of my suit, even longer than the shaggy haired Australian, who waved goodbye as he was leaving.

What a contrast today was. I put the 5/3 back on, knowing it's the last day I'll wear it this season and that next time I must don the dreaded hood. Today it really was breaking better at the jetty than at "my" spot, but there were five people surfing down there already and I didn't feel like being with people, and even though I couldn't tell who they were I had a hard time imagining they'd be friendly. One person on a blue board was getting nice rides.

So I went to my spot and tried hard, but I was not getting the buttah takeoffs. Close, but no buttah. When I figured I was about halfway cold I decided to try down by the other people to see if I'd do any better.

Turned out the person on the blue board was K., my former friend now trying her best to drive me out of the neighborhood. She made the cold water more icy by pretending I didn't exist. The others were her boyfriend and people I didn't know, but who at least smiled at me as if I existed. It was better down there and on one wave I managed to struggle to my feet at the end, proving that I can sometimes balance on a board for more than two seconds. That was the best I could do before hypothermia set in.

The reality is that we spend at least five months here in the thickest suits, the 6 mils. The other suits only get a month or two wear out of the year. I'm putting away my 5/3 and it won't see water again until May.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The art of the wave

As I've said before, any day you get up and riding on your first wave of the day is a good day, and I did that today.

I've also shared my theory that you might as well go in after that, because you're not likely to do any better. That was mostly true today, except I got my first wave in the first ten minutes, so I couldn't really go in. But after that, mostly what I did was freeze. It was in the 40s but there was a fierce west wind.

I did get another wave, got it late, but got up on it too. Then more freezing and thinking, this is nuts, it's too cold to be out here, for about another half hour, but not going in because I'd had a pretty good time. Then a wipeout and time to get out, cause my sunglasses came off and I was too cold to struggle to get them back on.

Some of the women out here have raised bitchery to an art form. Or so it seems at times. For example, E. She's probably reading this. Hi, E. I have nothing against you. I don't even know you, so I can't really call you a bitch. But why does it kill you to say Hello back to someone who says Hello to you?

Of course, the answer is so high school. E.'s heard some gossip about me, some vicious and fabricated crap about what I supposedly did or didn't do to K., and so she "hates" me because K. hates me and she's K.'s friend now. So she can't say Hi to me on principle. Ugh. Can we all just grow up?

The long distance version of Hello is the beach wave, of course. You see someone from the boardwalk, or they're on the boardwalk and you're on the beach, and you're out of earshot so you just wave Hi. Who wouldn't return a wave? I do it even when it's somebody who's mistaken me for someone else! And that happens, cause everyone looks the same in black.

Usually I'm a bit shy about initiating the wave thing, lest it not be returned, but what the hell, what's the worst that can happen? So I've been doing it first. Today I saw E. on the boardwalk checking out the waves, and waved. Do you know what she did? She did this little thing with her wave hand, lifting it up to fluff her long blond hair in such a way as to say, Can't you see I have to fluff my hair and don't have a spare hand. Or maybe it was meant to be so ambiguous a gesture that I could have mistaken it for a wave if I wanted to but she could say, if seen by K. or any of the high school crowd, I wasn't waving, I was just fixing my hair! Or maybe the hand just started to do the hand wave thing automatically by itself but she corrected it and saved face by sticking it in her hair halfway up.

E., let's talk, let's have a beer! Hate me if you must, at least find a good true reason first!

I'm even open to the possibility that you truly didn't see me waving to you. Was that it?

Any way you look at it, this is just retarded. It's even retarded that I wrote five paragraphs on it. I'm a long way out of high school and don't need this shit.

In other news, my blind senile almost 16-1/3-year-old dachshund banged up against the radiator today and burned the black off her nose. Poor little thing, she looks so funny now, insult added to her injury. The fun never stops with this dog. But I wish it would.