Saturday, February 28, 2009

The skurf blog

I think I'll just say that the afternoon I spent out at Cowell's in Santa Cruz was one of the most miserable surf days of my life, and leave it at that.

Well, no, I can't leave it at that. It's supposed to be a beginner beach, and so easy, so my expectations were high. I even caught and rode my first wave that afternoon, which qualifies as the first wave I have ever ridden in the state of California, so yay for that!

But things fell apart after that. It was so-o-o- crowded. I guess it was the first sunny day in Santa Cruz in quite a while. As the tide dropped it got more and more crowded. And people were all over the place. I mean like, scattered out over a mile: inside, outside, all sides. There was not, as far as I could tell, any takeoff spot or spots. And people weren't keeping the minimum distance between surfers that we just automatically keep at home; they'd sit right next to you or right in front of you, two deep. And when you'd look at them like, what the hell is this, they'd just smile at you.

I guess that's the difference between California and New York: in New York they'd glare and give you a dirty look as if it were your fault that they were sitting in your way.

Every time I paddled for something there was someone in my way; but mostly I spent my time just trying to figure out where to be.

You can paddle out a short distance there or a long one; I opted for the long one, because I thought that's where people were catching waves, but it wasn't worth it. It was just a long ass paddle, about six times what it takes to get out at home. I have to say, though, that "no pain no gain" applies; our short paddles net us five or six second rides, where the long paddles get you...guess what...long rides. Or, got other people long rides, all I got was the paddle.

I didn't get another ride til the end of the session, when I caught an inside wave on the way out.

Skiing California was way, way more fun. Half the time there were blue skies, sunshine, warm temperatures and really good snow; the other half there were blizzards, howling winds, and really good snow. Those whiteout days were my most challenging ski days ever, I think. I was on expert trails I didn't know, at a resort where I'd never been where trails weren't well labeled, and I couldn't see for shit; I could only guess where the trail was if I saw someone else head down it, and then they soon disappeared into the blizzard. With nothing to see but whiteness everywhere, I lost track of where was up and where was down, so much so that I'd fall while practically standing still cause I couldn't tell where I was going. It was extremely disorienting. Plus so few people were out in the midweek blizzard, no one might have found me for a long time if I'd gotten lost. It was a little scary.

The next day the sun would come out and the trail that had been so challenging would be easy. And fun. Sports you actually know how to do well are fun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sewage, seaweed and seals

I'm in California halfway through my skurfing (skiing and surfing) trip. So far the snow has been much more impressive than the waves. In Santa Cruz I was told this was the "worst winter for waves in years."

I spent yesterday trying to figure out the wave at Steamer Lane without any success. It was choppy and shifty. And how do you guys out here surf with all that vegetation (seaweed or sea grapes or whatever it is) in the water? Seems like your leash or board or arm would always be getting stuck on those vines.

Conversation in the water: "Why do you wear those glasses? Is it to keep water out of your eyes so you don't get an eye infection?"

Me: "No, it's so I can see. Are we going to die from surfing in this water?"

"It's probably not the healthiest water."

The best and only good thing about the session were the two cute baby seals floating not ten feet away, happily chomping on the sea vegetation and making baby seal noises halfway between a squeak and a bark.

Oh yeah, and Donavon is staying at my hotel. I saw his show in San Francisco and now he's in SC.

It's been raining here so much, it's been impossible to avoid going in the water after a rainfall, which I know you're not supposed to do. There are posted signs about deadly runoff and avoiding contact with skin. Now I suppose there's nothing to do but wait and see if my skin turns green or I mutate into some sort of sea monster, or just get hepatitis or the nasty sort of malady I contracted in Malibu...

It just started raining again but I am going back in today, my last day here. If I die I die.

The good thing about surfing in sewage, I suppose, is that it keeps the crowds down. Yesterday I was told Steamers was unusually uncrowded. It seemed pretty crowded to me with at least fifteen people out (one other was a woman). I was surprised that so few of us were getting rides. Only a couple really good guys were. There was a degree of ineptitude I didn't expect at such a renowned break, except from myself.

Well, at least the water temperature is balmy compared to New York.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

3 for 4

Yesterday I tried to surf, I really did; but when I woke up early, there was little out there. Went back to bed, and by the time I woke up it had started snowing and snowed all day.

I confess I was just too comfortable watching the snowfall from my easy chair, being warm.

And I didn't think there was much of a wave. It was hard to tell without going outside. But late in the afternoon, I saw the surf couple down the street heading out with their boards, so I knew something was up.

Turns out Surfline had put out a late late afternoon good surf update, which few people saw...but those who did surfed if they could.

I hope they had fun. I was just enjoying the luxury of staying in on a snow day too much.

But today, there was no question about waves. Well, the question early was whether they were too big for me. Probably; but by noon they were a little smaller.

They were still a little above my comfort level. As usual when that happens, I hung back too far, anticipating one of the big sets hitting me if I didn't; but the result was I kept just missing waves. And there were long lulls between sets which made getting out easier but also meant I got cold much quicker than I would've if I'd had more sets to paddle for. After hanging up on top of a couple of waves I finally did what I thought I couldn't do: took off later than I felt comfortable with on a bigger wave than usual. I made it. So late wasn't late at all, I just thought it would be.

Having learned that lesson, I was ready to go in before I froze to death. I felt a little like a wimp for getting out after only an hour, but the guy who was going in when I did was going out at the same time, so we were both wimps.

I coulda stayed out until my fingers hurt more...nah.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Surfing to Schubert

Yes, it's possible. (Franz Schubert, early nineteenth century composer of classical music; look him up if you don't know.)

I've had this Schubert piece (well, you can't exactly call it a song) that I've been playing and listening to a lot lately stuck in my head; and I couldn't get it out while I was in the water today. That's OK; it went very well with glassy water, gentle waves, and especially a glorious late winter sunset.

I actually think it helped me surf better. Today was a lot of fun.

It was my second surf day in a row (yesterday really wasn't worth writing about, with choppy conditions, hate vibes, and few rides) and it's looking like I could go for three or four.