Category: Surfing

My Favorite Moments of Surfing

The snow falling in the mountains is now measured in feet, not inches and the temperatures are so low (-10F) that I had to move my remaining boards into the utility closet, where the furnace will keep them warm. For now, it appears, I have to cut back on my surfing sessions while still not being able to drive up the mountains to snowboard (because of the feet of snow that block the freeway). A good time to reminisce!

I took up surfing late. I mean, I didn’t live in SoCal until 2009, but even then I waited years before I tried it out. Surfing, from the outside, looks boring: most of the time, surfers are just sitting in the water waiting for waves. Not exactly the most appealing thing for a hyper person like me.

One day I realized UCSD had cheap surf lessons and I decided to give it a try. Even if I didn’t like it, I’d still meet new people that were trying to have fun, how bad could it be? 

Turns out the lessons were not so hot. Or they were too hot: in my ignorance, I had bought a 7mm wetsuit on sale and showed up on the rare fogless day at La Jolla Shores. To make things worse, Day One was on land. I think I may have overheated several times and had to jump in the water (much to everyone’s amusement) to just cool off.

Surfing is really hard, probably the hardest sport I ever tried. Yet I stuck with it, because it is much more of an experience than anything else I’ve ever done. Here some of my favorite moments in the five years of surfing:

1. Boop

I had just finished the beginners’ class and was a total noob. Not a kook, because the class had taught me proper etiquette and rules of engagement – which meant that I barely got a wave an hour to even try. To make up for the boredom, I had put an MP3 player in a plastic bag and listened to music through underwater headphones. 

I was just sitting there, bopping up and down at Scripp’s, praying nobody would take the next wave. I hadn’t paddled in maybe 15 minutes and was bored. Once in a while, I would turn around to see how far it was to shore and how embarrassing it would be to paddle back.


Firewire Unibrow Timbertek – The Review

Firewire UnibrowIt seems impossible that I’ve had the Unibrow for just two months! It’s grown on me so fast, it feels like we’ve been best buddies for a very long time. So here my impressions of my new BFF in the ocean.

First Impressions

I wrote about the Unibrow briefly when I mentioned Firewire Demo Days. They hold them frequently enough that I got a chance to form an opinion. Not a good one at first: the board is very narrow and it takes a while to get used to it. Because of the form factor, it tends to like some types of waves better than others. Since I couldn’t pick the waves on demo day, my experience with the Unibrow was so-so at best.

Basically, this board underwhelms on small days, where its salient features can’t shine. Also, it feels a bit unstable at first. The combination can be quite toxic, and it took me a while to catch a good wave on the demo days. Granted, I was mostly demoing the Baked Potato (that I then bought) and had to split the remainder of my attention between the Unibrow, the Vanguard, and the Spitfire.

The Choice

I never did a good demo on the Unibrow, and my guess is that not a lot of people do. Still, every time I tried it out, I liked it more. It felt radically different from the Baked Potato to which I was starting to get used. It was less forgiving, but more precise. If the BP is a micro-aircraft carrier built for small waves, the Unibrow felt like a precision tool meant to dissect large open waves.

I wavered for a long while. As with the BP, the price turned me off: it’s a piece of foam with an epoxy shell, how could it possibly cost $800 bare? But then I realized how much fun I had with the BP, and that I wouldn’t want to go out on overhead days with it. I needed a winter board, and the BP wouldn’t cut it.


PSA: Don’t Swim or Surf After a Storm!

[Note: If you want to find out current water quality information, head over to]

I recall my first days of surfing. I was young(er than now), dumb (as much as now), and certainly had no idea what I was doing. I would go out on a closeout six foot day, paddle until exhaustion, and give up as soon as my stubborn self had reached the lineup. Literally: I’d be sitting there after 30 minutes of non-stop paddling, and just wait for the next large wave to push me back ashore.

Christmas Day of 2011, I was in the water for an early session. It wasn’t bad, as the waves were nice and the lineup not crowded. I got out after a good two hours, got into the car, and drove home. There, my famished self had some lunch. Finally, I went out with friends for a Christmas dinner.

The next morning I woke up with sores in my mouth. Nothing tragic, just big pimples on the roof and sides of my mouth. They cleared up after a few days. So I thought nothing of it.

Today, I know those were surfer sores, the kind of infection you get when you decide to surf in dirty water. We get that here after a “storm,” which in San Diego means any rain beyond a mere drizzle. The sewage plants and storm runoffs are typically combined, so that whenever there is atmospheric water coming down, pipe water tags along with it.


The Latest Wave Status – Past and Future

In case you hadn’t read the article on creating wave plots using NOAA data, here is the latest version of the same plot. To the things mentioned in the article, I added wave forecast including a highlight of the waves in my preferred range, 1 to 2 meters (waist high to overhead). Enjoy!

Latest Plot

Glassy at the Secret Spot

What do you know, we found a new secret spot. It’s not really secret, it’s just that it’s not widely considered a good surf spot, but it really is. I am not going to tell you where it is, and I am not going to post any pictures, but believe me, it’s sweet.

It was Saturday morning, a week ago. The remainder of the hurricane swell was still grazing our coast, and my buddies and I decided to go to the secret spot. As we walked down to the beach, we could see the gentle waves rolling in at an angle, creating long lefts that looked simply too much fun to let go.

Paddling in was amazing. The water is still so warm, you almost feel like in Hawai`i. I somewhere heard that it’s about 7 degrees warmer than normal for this time of the year. You won’t hear any complaints from surfers, especially because it is seemingly too hot for stingrays (haven’t seen one in months).

The lineup was unusually crowded. Not as crowded as at the more famous spots nearby, but still too crowded for us. After all, we were used to sitting in the water by ourselves, only occasionally joined by a dolphin or a wayward human wader.


Big Ones

It’s been the usual summer fare lately in San Diego. Storms in the South don’t quite make it up here, and there is nothing in the Northern hemisphere that creates enough of a stir to pass through the Channel Islands. We are left to fend for ourselves, making the best out of 2-foot waves.

Out of nowhere, a combo swell showed up. It wasn’t said to be much more than we’d had – instead of being 2-3 feet, it was rumored to be 2-4. That would give the waves a chance to have better shape. In particular, combo swells work really well on our long sandy shores, because they create beautiful (if unpredictable) peaks when waves converge before they break.

My buddy and I decided on an evening session, after work. Since our usual spot was crowded and the new spot too far for rush hour traffic, we settled on Black’s. Surfline (which is getting worse by the second) called it a POOR TO FAIR day, so I wasn’t expecting all too much. Admittedly, the range of what Surfline calls POOR TO FAIR is humongous, going from dribble in windy conditions to chopped up storm surf.


Firewire Baked Potato – The Review

I’ve had my Baked Potato over the summer now: time to update my first impressions and get you a real review!

Who Is It For?

The Firewire web site is a little cagey about the intended audience, and they have videos of Gabriel Medina on a Baked Potato. The smallest adult size you can get, though, is the 5’1″ which has a volume of 29.3l. That’s a tad large for an advanced surfer and indicates the board is mostly targeted at an at most intermediate audience.


Since it’s such a short board, it’s really not well-suited for beginners, either. While the small size compensates (to an extent) for flaws in the stance, overall the board is too unstable in the width axis (forward backward) to appeal to a beginner. In essence, it is so short that you might find yourself pearling or stalling more often than you’d have to.

Since I am getting into intermediate territory (or am already there, depending on who’s counting), I thought the Baked Potato was an almost optimal choice. The one problem it has, though, is the price tag: it retails (summer 2013) for $649/$699 (RapidFire/TimberTek), and there are virtually no discounts.



I was not happy when I read the surf report this morning. It called for FAIR TO GOOD conditions, which happens only once in a blue moon and was bound to attract the crowds. Not exactly what I needed on my first day back after the accident and the staples.

But my buddy said he wanted to go, and we went. 9:15, an unusual time, trying to get in after the morning mass and before the lunch crowd. The latter being notorious for pushiness: all the guys trying to squeeze as many 6-footers as they could in the lunch hour they got.

Conditions were amazing: a perfectly calm ocean, no kelp debris, light winds from the West. The water was strangely cold (the report said 63F, much colder than the 68-70 we had gotten used to). The crowd was hanging out fairly concentrated at the peak (from now on called The Zoo for obvious reaons).

I told my buddy that he should feel free to go into the water wherever he saw fit, but that I would have to avoid the crowd. The last thing I wanted was to have someone else’s find slice me open again, possibly on top of the slice I already got. (Would it be a parallel slice? A cross? Something fancier?)


Stitches Out

After my ER visit last Sunday, I got a slip with a date and time and location. That was to get the staples out.

Now, the staples were not really painful, but I thought removing them might be. After all, they had hurt a little when they were put in, and now they had probably bonded with the tissue near them. Tearing them out was bound to cause pain, right?

Turns out it didn’t. The removal of the staples was about the least painful thing I have done in my life. I felt more when I simply touched the staples to check how they were doing during the day. Prodded by friends, who claimed I could do it on my own, I even pulled (gently) on one or two, only to find it was quite painful.

Not the staple removal with the appropriate tool. Looks like scissors, one-time use. My nurse went to work, and in five minutes the staples were gone, and if he hadn’t put them in my hand for safe keeping, I would have thought he hadn’t even started.

So, lil’ piece of advice: when someone says you can do it yourself, don’t. I went primarily because I wanted to have a medically trained professional look at the wound, in case something went wrong or looked wrong. But the comparison between what I would have done and what the nurse did… It was well worth the $40 copay.

(As an aside, it was the first time I went to Kaiser and they didn’t make me wait forever. Go Kaiser!)


Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, after many years of no major issues, I finally had a surfing accident. I am posting the picture along with this entry, but hid it after the jump to hide it from the more sensitive readers. It’s not pretty.

What happened? It was a nice Sunday morning at Black’s North Peak. It wasn’t too crowded, but a whole lot of douchebags around. You know, the kind that snakes your wave and when you call them on it, they say, “Sorry man! I didn’t see you!”

One guy, in particular, stood out. Young, maybe 25. Slender, with jet-black hair and a lust for waves but no skills to match the location. No patience and no skills is a terrible combination anywhere, but at Black’s it’s lethal (for others, apparently). He was getting frustrated at not catching as many waves as he thought he should have, just like everybody else. More and more, he started getting frantic, paddling into anything at as high a speed as he could manage, in the hope … I don’t know in what hope.

A particularly large set was rolling in, and the lineup moved out. I was constricted in my motion, since I had three guys (including this one) ahead of me, so I steered towards the area they had left open. The wave was approaching, but we were all out of the danger zone.