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.

Read more: My Favorite Moments of Surfing

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.

Read more: Firewire Unibrow Timbertek - The Review

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

[Note: If you want to find out current water quality information, head over to http://www.sdbeachinfo.com/]

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.

Read more: PSA: Don't Swim or Surf After a Storm!

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.

Read more: Glassy at the Secret Spot
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