Monday, September 28, 2020

Don't know what got into me,

The first big north swell since the doldrums of summer arrived Thursday afternoon. I opted to wait until Sunday when the swell was smaller, but more importantly the wind was lighter. My plan was to recon around and surf maybe twice. Coordination with JB was for dawn at the creek.

I arrived before dawn and went to the overlook. The tide was the highest since I found this overlook, but the reef was still out of the water. There were more waves than I've seen there, but nothing too organized. I headed back to the creek to meet JB. There were cars arriving and people suiting up and heading to Scotts. I wanted to watch, but JB wanted to find somewhere to surf. We watched a little bit and weren't excited at what was coming into Scotts. We decided to go to another overlook to see what was happening down at the left.

It looked good and empty, so we suited up and did the walk. I brought the Fred Rubble and the TH with the intention of getting a feel for both. JB did something unusual, he asked what the plan is if one of us gets bit by a shark. A fair question because these spots are out of the way, out of sight, and a good effort to get to. The plan is to stop the bleeding and then run to go get help. Seems like the best plan.

I started with the FR and struggled a bit. I couldn't get my feet set right on the takoff, and the wave was pretty short so there wasn't time to make adjustments. I rode some waves but never felt right, so I headed to the beach and traded for the TH. On the way back out I got rejected because I didn't have the strength to properly duckdive the TH under the set that caught me. I went back to the sand and walked around to the other side of the reef. When I got there, the group of three were all coming in saying one had seen a fin come to the surface too close for comfort. I asked him if it was a dolphin fin and what the shape was. He said it was just too big for a dolphin. I was skeptical, but because JB had brought it up, something he'd never done before, the situation got to me. My approach to sharks has always been to listen to my gut and follow my instincts. I've gone surfing after being told there is a shark in the water, and I've stopped surfing just because things felt off. This time I was 50/50, but decided to not go back out. All four of us tried to signal JB and we waited for him to come in. He finally came in (he said it was weird he was suddenly alone out there and came in to ask why) and by that time more guys were heading out. We told one guy the situation and he said, "Yeah, it happens." and paddled out anyway.

This would have been a good time to go look around and recon other spots, but for some reason I wasn't in the mood. It's a shame because this is what I've been waiting for, an opportunity to see these spots with a little bit of swell. Instead I headed to my parents place to reset the router for my dad and to steal some of his fishing gear. I should have checked the rocks and the point, but instead I just drove home. I don't know what got into me, but I just didn't take full advantage of this trip to the beach.

The good news is the family will be heading to my parents beach house next weekend, and there is a bit of swell forecast too. I'll get a bunch of chances to go surf.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


I wasn't going to post about last weekend's session because I was irritated at getting skunked. Worse is that the buoy made it look like it was going to be slightly better than the good time I had the prior weekend. I awoke and checked the buoy at 3am to find 1.6' at 17sec from 195deg. I was too excited to fall back asleep so I got up and went down early. Arriving at the beach in the dark I could hear the sound of waves through the closed car windows. I must have been a weather phenomenon because even in the first light when everything was still monochrom blues, I could see it was very small. I walked slowly taking a good look at every little spot. I didn't see much and even walked around the slippery rock to get a straight on view of the left. I ended up sitting on the beach for an hour, not seeing anything to get excited about, before finally paddling out because maybe it was better than it looked. I rode one wave and missed a bunch. I stayed out for 45-min only seeing one or two waves that were maybe just okay. I paddled in and walked back. I tried the left at the old man's spot and although it looked better, it was still not enough to ride. I gave it 30-min and paddled in. I walked up to the main reef, walking slowly because the tide was still a bit too low. I got there to find one person making the most of it, which wasn't much. I sat on the beach for 30-min and then again paddled out hoping it was better than it looked. I might have been able to make something of it but it was meager at best. I was done and not in the mood to fight it. As I was paddling in more people were heading out to give it a try. I got the impression that I wasn't missing it anywhere else.
I don't understand why the prior weekend was so good and this weekend was so bad. The buoy looked so similar!

Looking forward, the first big north swell since spring is on it's way. The forecast calls for wind, and the tide is high in the morning. It will be quite different and even if I don't surf I'll have plenty of looking around to do to see how different spots are working.

But first, I have several holes in my wetsuit I should repair before the weekend...

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Double dip

Small swell similar to last weekend was forecast, but a little more west in both the N and S swells. The low tide was also very pre-dawn. I decided my best chance was to hit the new left at first light. This meant getting up at 3:30am, and walking the sand in the dark. The effort paid off and I got some waves. About an hour after I paddled our, JB joined me. He got a few as well, but the tide was killing it. The next part of my plan was to walk back and surf the other, mid-tide left. I hung on the beach waiting for JB and watching the rim. There were certainly waves to be ridden, but nothing that got me to paddle out. JB came in and we headed to the other left. It was good with the 3.5’ tide and small swell. I felt it was even better because it had all the size, a better wall, and was more consistent. JB thought it wasn’t as good because it’s a steeper drop and more shifty. Anyway, we got waves at both spots and had a good double dip session. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Science is a LIAR sometimes

The title references a funny bit from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" that is appropriate for this past weekend. The WWiii forecast looked promising, but the best part, the SW swell forecasted, didn't happen. There was a small NW swell, but the bigger NW wind swell didn't show up. There was a long period south swell, but it was supposed to be a bit more from the SW, which would have hit with more size. The true SW never showed up, but maybe it's just the 12-hour too early situation that WWiii has been doing lately. (I just checked and the SCA buoy has a bit of it now.) The weather was great, and far as I can tell the tides were correct.

Saturday morning had the least potential and after a cursory review of Scott's, I parked at the Landing and walked the cliff to the north. I wanted to see how far I needed to walk before I could see around the corner. It was further than I expected, but well worth the effort because it gave me a different perspective of some spots I've been watching from afar. One of the spots looked good enough for longboarding. I continued to check spots as the tide changed and it's pretty clear that small waves and low tide is unsurfable at Scotts, and it looked almost worth it after the tide came up a little. I saw some ridable lefts off the top of the reef. I didn't surf that day.

Sunday morning I looked at the buoys at 4:30am and saw nothing had changed so went back to sleep. Around 7:15 I left the family and went back to the spot I'd looked at Saturday, this time along the sand and with the V-pin underarm. I rode several waist high or smaller waves on the right. It was fun enough, but only for a short portion of the wave. Even the set-waves were only good for a short ride. I never caught one as good as the few good ones I had seen from the cliff. I've been watching the left as well and paddled over to it to see what it was like. It was better than the right but shifty and a challenge on the longboard. It reminded me of rock view, but going the other direction. I got some rides and got a feel for the way it worked. Scott's looked small, but better with a bit more water over the reef, and the left looked tempting again. That evening I coordinated with JB. I convinced him to go to this "left" spot with me, with our funboards.

Monday morning I was nervous that I had made a bad call because the North swell got smaller, and the SW never showed. The S was a tiny bit bigger (2.0 instead of 1.5 feet). We took the long walk and there were waves along the way, but nothing exciting at all. Even the left we were heading to didn't look like much, until we paddled into the channel and a set came. It wasn't amazing or anything, but it was more than a lot of other places, and it was enough. We traded waves trying to work out the shifty nature of the place. We both got some shoulder high drops and a few that lined up allowing for two full cutbacks. But also several smaller ones and several that just had a drop and then died. It seemed softer than Sunday, but maybe that's because I was on the funboard instead of the longboard and could handle it better. Things seemed best at the bottom of the 2 foot tide, and deteriorated when the tide turned and filled. Scotts started looking good at that point, but I didn't look closely.

So, I think I found another spot along there that likes a low tide and a south swell. The others being the Landing and foremile, both of which get too crowded on the weekends. I can say that I haven't found anything that stands ahead of the best of the "in-town" spots. If nobody was around I'd probably go to the Lane, or First Peak instead. I imagine foremile would have been better (but crowded) too. So with that in mind, I think I need to hide these spots. Even just two more people would make these spots not worth the effort. (At least on these marginal days.) 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Final Countdown

Coming to the end of the quarantine, just in time for a long weekend at my parents beach house. The weather forecast isn't perfect for surfing, but I will be able to work something out. The swell forecast is promising with a little something from S, NW, and even a SW expected. The only hang up is that, at the moment, the road to Scott's is still closed. Although the firefighters are getting things under control, the burn map shows the fire crossed Hwy 1 hear Ano Nuevo. If there are burned trees or damaged cross-culverts, then driving the road could be a hazard. If there are unprotected houses, or just a need for emergency crews to have a clear road to do their work, then that would also explain the continued closure. In any case, I hope they get the road open in time for the weekend. If not, I'll still get some surf, just maybe not at my first choice. With the wind, my first choice might not turn out to be the right choice anyway.

Since it's been a few weeks, and longer since I got any good surf, I'm extra stoked for the prospect of what's to come. I'm going to savor the moment by summarizing the forecast:

Friday Evening: Mixed South and NW swell, 1.70 low tide at 6:30pm, light S/SW wind forecast in town.

Saturday Morning: Same mixed South and NW swell, small SW swell, 1.15 low tide at 6:45am, calm wind forecast in town, 20kt NW wind up the coast.

Saturday Evening: Fading South, NW, and small SW swell, 1.63 low tide at 7:15pm, calm/variable wind forecast in town, easing wind but still around 10kt up the coast.

Sunday Morning: Fading South, NW, and small SW swell, 1.61 low tide at 7:15am, calm wind in town, 6-10kt NNW wind but probably not starting until mid-morning.

Sunday Evening: Fading South, NW, and new SW swell, 1.59 low tide at 8pm, calm wind in town, 6-10kt NNW wind but probably not starting until mid-morning.

Monday Morning: Tide 2.06 at 7:45am. 

So the problems for surfing up the coast appears to be the short period NW all weekend, and the Saturday winds. Saturday morning is also the lowest tide of the weekend, so considering the forecast, I think I know what I'll end up doing. I'll go for a longboard surf early morning at the patch of reef I "missed it" at a few weekends ago. Then I'll do some recon in the wind to help determine where the next session should be. I sure hope they get the road open!

Monday, August 24, 2020

the rundown

 Well shoot, a whole lot has happened.

1) A rare lightning storm.

2) I got a new TH by selling my TH one day and buying a smaller one a few days later. 

3) Fires.

4) Quarantine.

At 3 am on Sunday morning the flashes of light woke me up even though I didn't hear thunder. I checked the weather page to see what was going on and the coast was lit up with thunderstorms. I drove down the inland route before cutting to the coast around the back side of the storms. I got to see lightning in the dark but it was mostly offshore and I didn't experience much wind or any rain. Unfortunately the low tide and small waves left nothing surfable, at least not to me. I hung around an exposed reef watching the tiny waves occasionally roll in, but mostly exploring tide pools and watching the sunrise light show of dramatic clouds and sunrise rainbows. As the breeze changed directions I occasionally smelled smoke. Later, two guys paddled out around 8 am and I was shocked to see the "tiny" waves weren't as small as I thought. In fact, for the 2 hours nobody was out, I would have had fun out there if I had my longboard with me.

Picking up the new TH happened mid-morning after hanging around the beach. I drove down to Aptos and got the board before returning to the same spot along the coast. The tide was higher and the wind hadn't picked up too much. I drove around a little looking at spots I've been trying to figure out before returning to Scott's. It didn't look good, but it looked good enough. I paddled out on the new TH to see what I could make of it. The board felt much smaller under me. Maybe not too small, but close to the limit. Less of a mid-length and more of a shortboard for a 44 year old who lives inland and surfs once a week. That's okay, it'll do. The waves weren't good enough for me to really get a feel for the board, but besides the volume I got the sense that the nose was less forgiving. The first TH had belly and rocker in the nose. The new TH seems to have less of both. 

So I made the most of what I had and went home. JB and I agreed we'd surf whatever we could the next weekend. But by Tuesday, the news was all about the fires started by the dry lightning storm. Several smaller fires were burning in a complex along the mountains of southern San Mateo and northern Santa Cruz. The smoke was heavy and Highway 1 was closed off because of it and to clear the way for fire crews. JB and I came up with alternate plans to try Pacifica and Montera, but by Thursday HMB and Pacifica were announcing their beaches were closed due to smoke, covid, fire crews passing through, and evacuees needing space. So I started looking around and realized OBSF was one of the few places open. It didn't look very good on the cams, but maybe it would be okay one of the weekend mornings.

Then Friday my son's pre-school called to tell us one of the teachers tested positive. My son had direct contact with that teacher recently, so he's on 14-day quarantine, and so are we. I updated JB that I was out of commission for the next two weekends.

So that's where I am now. The good news is everyone in my family is healthy so far, we both still have a job, and I haven't missed any good surf. With any luck things will be back to normal in early September and I'll be able to update about the good waves I surfed.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Rocks and reefs

Last weekend I rode the V-pin at 4-mile. The forecast was for very small waves and a bit of wind, so 4-mile was the obvious choice. It ended up being difficult to get rides, but fun enough. I got one good one from the top of the point, but "good" is relative.

This weekend I was lucky enough to spend two nights at my family's beach house. The forecast was similar to last weekend and I didn't expect the windswell to make any ridable waves, but I was wrong. Saturday mid-morning I rode my surf mat at Rockview. It was great making the most of the small waves and skimming over the kelp that kept the longboarders away from where I was riding. Sunday morning I went on a reconnaissance mission up the coast. Its not as hidden as other places I've surfed, but it's enough out of the way that it's not frequented. Sunday clearly wasn't the best conditions for this spot, but it was good enough to be worth getting wet. I think I'll go back sometime when there's a bit more swell in the water.

We did less cleaning of the beach house this time. Instead we did more relaxing and breathing of the cool beach air. There's something about that place that eases my mind. The wifi signal is also weak so playing on my phone is no fun. Instead I'll be content just sitting, or leafing through a field guide to birds.