Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Wall of Green Stained Glass

Finally! We got a late jump on our evening session Wednesday night, but Nash drove like Jehu and we made it to Squaw's in 1.5 hours. The conditions were almost identical to the last time I surfed there with Slim, (see my entry, "Uncomfortably Numb") but it was actually a little better.

Speeding down Sunset Highway, Nash and I said to eachother, "We're gonna get some waves today," but in our hearts we knew that the surf report we studied all day was less than ideal. I think the swell was 7 ft, with an 11-second interval. The x-factor was the wind, which should have been gusting at 25 kts.

But when we arrived at our destination, jubilation! Grinding 4-foot lefts were going unridden at the middle of the beach. There were only four guys out, and they were laying flat on their Bics on the north side. The wind had a slight effect on the outside waves, but a wind shadow cast by the rocks at the north side kept things relatively smooth at the take-off spot.

I realized with a north wind the lefts were harder to catch, after paddling like an Alcatraz escapee for several waves and being spray-blinded and blown back before I could drop. It almost felt offshore!

My first wave was my best: I dropped in late and at an angle, which afforded me a view of the peak that will forever be recorded in my mind for easy playback. As I descended the wave, heading left, I glanced up and saw the triangular shape of the face illuminated from behind like green stained glass. I had been staring into the sun at the horizon for the previous 20 minutes, so dropping behind the swell was a relief to my eyes. The surface of the water was slightly textured by ripples of wind, creating a mosaic effect on the surface where the the darker green wrinkles on the face made a net-like pattern over the slab of water that seemed to glow yellow-green from the inside. It must have been a second or two before the wedge folded over, but I was already down the line on a shoulder that was presenting a long ride. The wave went from vibrant green to dark blue, and I carved up and down the convexed sea. As the wave flattened a little, I had to transfer my weight forward and pump a few times, but it was steep again a second later. Now the water was brown and I knew I was seeing sand that was sucked off the bottom. I could see the wave begining to close out and I knew the ride was coming to an end. I thought I should try some kind of maneuver on the whitewater that was rapidly approaching, so I faded down, did a quick bottom-turn, came back up and tried to hit the foam hard. I ended up flying off my board and over the back of the wave.

I paddle back out and Nash was smiling. He said it was the longest wave he'd ever seen me get. We both proceeded to pick off a few more before the conditions deteriorated and our fingers felt like popsicles. I actually shoved my hands in my mouth to try to warm them up, which really didn't work.

Despite the cold (again) it was the best session I've had in a while - one which I really needed to rekindle the stoke!

Mark Kozelek - Find Me, Ruben Olivares

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Big Swell

The epic swell came and we sorta missed it. For the past week, it seemed like everyone was walking around with woodies in anticipation of the Big South. The surf forcast maps showed a flame-like swell pattern eminating from below the belt of the equator and nailing the whole west coast. promised 4-6 ft. swells with 17 second intervals. There was even a 5-star day predicted for Saturday!

So we drove over and hit Short Sands on Saturday, timing our arrival to coincide with the falling tide an hour after high. When we arrived at Shorty's, the most swell-friendly place on earth, our hopes were immediately deflated like a punctured beach ball. The full moon made the high tide more like a low tide. Smallish waves closed out across the beach. And the tide was only going to drop lower. To make matters worse, all the swell-horny surfers from Northern Oregon were bobbing in the lineup like a hundred black bouys. We suited up and joined the crowd, only to come to the realization that we wouldn't be getting many waves with 25 people paddling for the corners of the sets, which only came every 20 minutes or so...

So we bailed, hiked back up the hill, threw boardbags over the car seats, and drove in our wetsuits back up the beach to an empty beach break we spotted on the way. When we arrived, with only an hour left to redeem the day, we noticed that the beachbreak had improved tremendously with the exaggerated low tide. As we charged to the water, we saw five other guys paddling out at the same time. We got outside easily and caught a couple, but quickly realized that the other guys had the spot wired, grabbing hollow barrels on a peak further south. Looking at a guy manuvering himself into yet another tube on his fish, I said to Gee, "Why aren't we doing that?"

Without another word, we paddled closer to the wiser guys and tried our hand at the hollower waves. We only had a half hour left before we had to meet our girls in Cannon Beach. Gee and I were both a little tired from the double-sesh and it showed. Not paddling hard enough to get in early, popping up late: it was a dangerous combo in these punchy conditions. I watched Gee stand up late on the back of a breaking wave and go over the falls slowly. Next thing I knew, he was paddling in.

I snagged a 3-foot right and tried to grab my rail. It worked, but I didn't end up in a tube. I was in front of the curl too far. I realized that I probably wasn't turning my shoulders to face forward enough, making it impossible to see my posistion on the wave, let alone drag my front hand to stall. My next wave was a right. I missed the bowling section but made it around the broken whitewater for the reform, which was fast and fun.

Then, I also knew it was time to go. Just when it started getting good. The next day, the swell got a little too big for most of the exposed beach breaks. From what I heard, it became a closeout fest.

Today we're planning on checking out PC, a spot further south that seems to get a little protection from wind and chop. That will be important, since the swell has dropped and the wind is gusting now at 20 kts!

Califone - "Slower Twin"

Pictures courtesy of Slim (from later in the day)!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Morning Glass and the Man with the ‘Stache (Mexico, Part 4)

Our last full day in Mexico was idyllic: Dawn patrol revealed that the swell was still there, though not quite as insomnia inducing as the day before. After a great morning session on the Haut, I came in and had a Michelada (a tall beer glass with a salted rim filled ¼ of the way with lime juice, the rest with Corona and ice, and accented with a splash of Tobasco and Worcestershire sauce). As I ordered my third, I noticed an older guy making his way down to the beach with a red rash guard and floral trunks. He stood over six feet tall, with silver hair, a perfect bronze tan, and a big yellow epoxy Mickey Munoz noserider under his arm. The restaurant was abuzz. A middle-aged surfer dude dad craned around behind where we were sitting and pointed him out to his son: “That’s Mike Doyle.”

The one-time champion waterman had finally made an appearance at the surf spot he put on the map. He paddled out effortlessly, right into the middle of the lineup. As if on cue, a solid 3-foot wave appeared out of nowhere. He swung his board around, took two easy paddleboard strokes, and he was in.

Doyle stood up and sped straight down the face until the whitewater threatened to engulf his tail. At the last second, he raised his arms above his head, dropped a knee, and stomped on the back of his board, kicking the nose upward like a yellow bird’s beak. The longboard responded by banking hard right, sending a rooster tail off its outside rail. With the casual grace of a soft-shoe dancer, he adjusted his footing so that he was close to the middle of the board. The Munoz elevated to the middle of the face and he entered the state of “trim,” where no tweaks are necessary and the surfer slows down time by standing like a statue in the sweet spot of both board and wave.

When he glided too far out on the shoulder, he stepped back to the tail, did a cutback and repositioned himself on the steepest part of the wave, closest to the curl. Rinse and repeat, again and again, until he was right on the shore where the wave was reforming and about to crash on dry sand. He stayed in the wave through the final pitch, kicking out at the crucial last second.

This was more than a great surfer I was watching; Doyle was an artist, and I can assure you that his creativity on the waves was even better than his paintings on the walls of the hotel behind me.

I also had the opportunity to watch the upstart pro surfer girl I met earlier. She ripped. She positioned herself halfway to the beach from where the longboarders lined up. A smaller wave would roll in and the guys on the outside would let it go. She would get in easily, flying right or left on her little Flyer. Her petite size made catching waves easy; a shoulder-high face was way overhead on her. Her tanned mom was constantly standing on the ridge by the pool, filming every move with her camcorder. Stage mother/surf mama, I suppose.

After a few hours and a few more beers I was ready for my evening session, even though the waves had dropped a little and the sea had become choppy. I slipped my underwater camera on my wrist, grabbed the Hogfish and paddled out. On my way to the outside the shredder girl was paddling in. She said, "It's smaller, but still so fun out there!" I ended up sitting on my board and taking pictures of Mike Doyle and his girlfriend as they cruised by on their longboards. By this time, my ribs were bloody nubs and I was fairly surfed out.

One thing I noticed was a surfer a little further south, sitting amongst the rocks, all alone. This is a zone known as "Mike's Hole," according to fellow blogger Patch. I assumed it was a crazy Loco who was so intimately familiar with the spot that he could easily glide through the boils and jagged rocks inside without wiping out. Then, I saw him catch a wave and tuck perfectly into a small tube. That loco local was damn good!

When I paddled back in, I traded the fish for the JC again, wanting a board I was comfortable with for my last session the next morning. I jumped in the swimming pool to wash the saltwater away. By this time, Doyle had made his way to the hot tub next to the pool. He and his girlfriends were drinking beers and watching the surfer riding on the south side of the beach. When the unknown surfer did an agressive turn off the top of a wave and followed that move with a roundhouse cutback, they all went "oooooh" and "ahhhh" in unison. By this time my interested had piqued.

The guy rode the next wave all the way into the shore. I noticed his board was a thick resin-tinted orange single fin without a leash. The blue fin had a wacky vee extension off the end. As he walked up the beach, I realized he wasn't Mexican. He was wearing unbuttoned shorts with Surfer magazine covers all over them. He had a beer belly and a moustache. Shit, mang! It was Donavon Frankenreiter! After he shook hands with the kids running the surf shack, he ran up the steps and jumped in the pool with his board. He called his 2-year-old son, "Marley" over and had him stand on the board in the pool. Marley had better form than me.

That night, my wife, our new friend Heather, and I went to dinner at a cool Italian restaurant in town. It was really great.

The next morning, I went out for my final dawn patrol of the trip. It was 7am and for some reason I was the first guy out. My first wave was one of my best. It was perfectly glassy and overhead. By the time I paddled back out, there were three more guys in the lineup.

As you can tell by my unwillingness to let it go, Mexico had a profound effect on me, especially during a summer like this, where trips to the Oregon ocean have been few and far between. During my five days in Cabo I fell in love with the place. I immediately bought Mike Doyle's book "Morning Glass" when I got home and read it in a week. He loved Cabo too, and I admire his ability to still enjoy it even though the crowds have moved in (he may be partially responsible for that, actually).

I will return to San Jose Del Cabo someday, but first I have a trip planned to hit Short Sands tomorrow ... where the swell will be 5 feet at 14 seconds!

I hope to be blogging more often now that I'm home again...

Bloc Party - "The Bluest Light"