Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Curl vs. lip

What a weekend. I went out every day on small waves. But there was plenty of drama out of the water. K's vendetta continues and her efforts to alienate me from the entire community haven't lessened. For the most part, she's succeeded, as I've said, because of the group dynamic of surfing: sticking together takes precedence over everything. If one person hates you, everyone hates you, even if they don't know you. If one person says something bad about you, everyone is honor bound to believe it and act as if it were true out of loyalty. And these are adults? Well, screw it. I'm not going anywhere and I will be on the beach all summer. If it gets any uglier---more than hate looks and insults and name calling, like threats to my person or property---I'll deal with it with the cops. I hope it doesn't. But I can see it's a possibility. Sadly, that's also part of the culture of surfing: locals chasing out people they perceive as not entitled to waves by any means necessary.

Yesterday I went out late and was tired, but had a surprisingly good time. A couple of people even complimented me on getting rides, and even if that was out of pity, I'll take it. Not everyone agreed. C. was particularly vicious in his criticism, but then, given our history, that's what I'd expect. The most honest assessment, I think, came from others: I do get up, but I don't do anything remotely resembling a popup. Although I try, from what they say it is very unattractive to watch. Heard the phrase "hauling ass?" That's what I do: haul myself up ass first, then, if I'm still on the board, try to raise the rest of my body. Funny, I don't really think I use my knee that much any more, or if I do I'm not aware of it. But even if I don't, it's not a popup. It's not just that it's so slow; it's completely different. Part of the problem is I'm confused about what body parts and muscles you use for a real popup. I tend to just think about my feet, and I do get them on the board one way or another, but along the way my ass, head, shoulders, and arms just kind of arrange themselves any old way. And it's not pretty.

Yesterday there were probably twenty-five people in the water. I was accused of "dropping in", which is funny; first of all, every single person out there was dropping in any time they could, including five little boys who magically arrayed themselves in a row in a kind of parallel line up outside the main line up and so were in the way of anyone else who tried to take off. Second, would that I had the skills to drop in.

Today was so different, only me and one other person. He was catching plenty of little waves and rides and I only got a few. Once he left, I got the catbird spot, right next to the jetty, where I never usually get to go. I got to see, and feel, why this is such a good spot. The wave curls so sweetly there. There's actually a curl and not just a lip. So you can see exactly where and when the wave is breaking and position yourself, you know? I learned quickly to keep my eye on that spot where the wave began to curl, and how far down from there to be and how much time before it traveled down to me. That meant that catching waves was mad fun, and even though I didn't get any rides today (the rule of every other session), I still had a good time. Further down from there, at the end of the surfing section where I usually go, you're looking at the lip forming over your head, and the ony question is how long before it dumps down on you. When it breaks, it's breaking right on your head, not giving you any shoulder to slide into it.

Chances to surf that spot are slim to nonexistent, especially in summer, but I hope to do it again. I didn't get to stay out long enough today because I had the 3/2 on for the first time this season and it wasn't warm enough.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's pre Memorial Day

The law holds: each good session is followed by a crap session. What is the way around that law? Only go out every other session? No, that wouldn't be possible...

I didn't get beyond catching waves today. No rides at all. Well, I struggled to my feet once, but I wouldn't call it a ride. Yeah, the waves were small and bad, but that's no excuse. Those are the kinds of waves I usually do well on!

The good side is I'm working on my timing and getting better. What seems to work is, when I feel like I want to take off, count to two and then go. That keeps me a heartbeat in front of the breaking wave, keeps me from being too late and getting rolled.

In other news, it's almost Memorial Day weekend. Anyone have any exciting plans? Mine include bathing suit shopping. At this point in my life, that is followed by three stiff drinks to defuse the horror. Let me ask you one of life's most perplexing questions: How do you (if you're a woman) know when you're too old to wear a bathing suit in public? I mean, I just can't be objective on that. When I look in the mirror, what I see is colored by what I want to see. In other words, I can't believe what I see, so I deny it.

OK, the worst that can happen if you don't accurately answer this question is that you gross people out. We've all been grossed out. But I have too much pride, or something, to be one of those people that doesn't care about grossing out other people on the beach by showing body parts that shouldn't be seen in public, let alone in sunshine.

It's not like anybody is going to let me know when it's time. I have to decide for myself.

Meanwhile, the wetsuit will be on for a while. I guess, if I can't bring myself to buy a bikini, I can always do knee length men's boardshorts for the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Yesterday was bombing, overhead and more, and all I could do was watch and hope that one day I'll be up to that. Today was quite manageable, though not so well shaped by the time I got out.

I got a couple of very nice, long rides right off, which did wonders for my confidence. Once in a while, I do something that feels like what everyone is telling me a popup feels like...perhaps it's a popup, though I haven't got visual confirmation on that yet. All I know is, it felt like fun.

There were, as usual, diminishing returns after that, but I still did OK. Got rolled when I took off too late, tried to remember my surf instructor's advice to wait to paddle til later than I am accustomed to. Does that make sense, I am taking off too late, paddle later? Maybe it's a bit mixed up, maybe I'm not describing it right, but it describes something real.

I am seeing my new board everywhere! Two other people had the same board today. It's a great conversation starter in the water. One of the guys with my board (same color, different size) was an even worse surfer than me. You know that term, schadenfreude? (Did anybody see Avenue U? Oh, probably not). It means glee at another's misfortune. It's part of the human condition and it certainly applied today. I loved, loved that this guy didn't even know how to sit on his board. And that he was older than me and more clueless. He looked like me, four years ago. I even started giving him tips. I had to restrain myself from offering him lessons. He even sounded like me four years ago: "I am determined to be up and turning by the end of the summer." Hmmmm. Of course, he might make it. But I hope not.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Having learned my lesson yesterday, I got on it earlier today, and what a gorgeous day: sunshine, north wind, tiny little waves.

And having just said that no one helps me out, today I got advice from two guys (for free) that was actually helpful. Although it was painful to hear how I am still mostly getting up (sticking my butt up and laboring to my feet), at least I was getting up, and I did get several rides that they could see and critique. That's what I've been missing, all along: feedback. What a fun day! I wish they were all like this---not too crowded, friendly faces, helpful advice, nice small waves. I got out happy after a couple hours.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


You know what I mean. You wake up, look out the window (well, if you're me), see nice little waves and people on them. But then you go make coffee, check your email, feed the cat, make some oatmeal, wash your face, look out the window again, think about what you won't get to do today if you go surfing for two hours, think about whether you're OK with that, check the surf report online (WHYYYYYYY? To confirm what I already saw with my own eyes?), brush your teeth, make a phone call...

And then it's two hours later. And I swear, the minute I got out there, all the good surfers got out of the water. Cause they knew: wind was turning around. Or maybe they just figure I change the wind around with my powers. From that moment forward, the nicely shaped waves turned to slop.

So the lesson is this: Grab a power bar and go before it's too late.

However crappy the waves were, I got three rides in less than an hour, so I actually had fun.

Oh yeah, on the last wave I actually turned intentionally. Well, I guess I did. Some guy was coming at me and I successfully avoided him.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Surf lesson

Yeah, I did it. I paid for it.

Ridiculous, to pay someone $100 to watch me surf. But I don't have anyone willing to do it for free and it was actually helpful.

What he told me was that, as I suspected, my timing was all off. I am catching the waves too late. I'd be going and he'd yell at me, Don't go, too late! And I did and it was.

So I tried it his way, just waiting, starting to paddle later though all my instincts told me to go. His way I saved a lot of paddling energy and got waves just by doing nothing but paddling four or five strokes.

When I got waves that way, it was different from what I've done myself, yeah, even when I got the waves earlier by myself. It's hard to describe, but I was on top of the wave. I didn't go down the face. I didn't take off on top and then sense, quite rightly, that there was going to be a drop down and then wait for it. I was just---how shall I say this---on top of the wave the whole time.

If that's how it's supposed to be, I've only done it the right way maybe six times in all these years.

I don't know, though. I thought you were supposed to wait for, and feel, a drop down the wave before you stand up. He says no. He says just stand up the minute you get the wave.

I did this once and got a long ride. That was the only one I got.

He also told me not to angle the board on takeoff like everyone else says to do so I don't go straight. He told me to go straight.

Cripes, maybe this guy does know what he's doing, but at this rate it will cost something like a thousand dollars to get me surfing.

I still really hate it when people tell me to stop thinking so much. What kind of person doesn't think, ever?

Oh yeah, that must be why stoners are such good surfers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Glassy day

You know already that one great day is never followed by another. (Rule of Surfing #4, right behind the rule that the more important the engagement you cancel to surf, the worse the surfing will be.) But today wasn't bad. I was pretty much getting the takeoffs, still had some pearls, but mostly not. There were so many little waves and they were so easy to catch. Plus the water really, really deserved the word glassy. It was hard to make myself come in after two hours.

Rides? Well, I got up a couple times but couldn't really balance and/or the board just stopped moving (those things are related aren't they?) Once I was up, once again the board and my body parts were moving in different directions. I wasn't one with the board, let alone the wave. I couldn't really count those as rides but I finally got a real, in synch one at the end; it worked because I bent my knees. Yeah, I can't bend them far, but far enough. I finally figured out to do that after watching how far down everyone else was on their boards. No way I'll ever get down like a sixteen year old boy again, but this grandma can get down a little.