Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Peen

The first time we walked down the path to Short Sands, Gee and I noticed a strange formation in the roots of one of the old growth trees. At first we laughed about it, joking that the old pines around here have gentile genitals, et-cetera, proceeding to "knock on wood," and create all manner of immature puns and wordplays to kill the next 20 minutes as we made our way to the beach. After scoring good spring waves, we acknowledged the tree on the way back up the hill, thanking "The Peen" for delivering a good session. From that day on, we ceremoniously rubbed it for luck like Buddha's belly on our way down the trail, and most of the time it delivered. Even on days when we had crappy sessions (like the one where I busted my nose) Gee pointed out that maybe it would have been worse had I not paid homage to the ancient dong. I agreed.

We touched The Peen yesterday, Nash, Kato, and I, and that wooden weenie smiled upon us. Short Sands displayed why it is one of the best spots on the Oregon coast, with glassy 3-4 ft. peaks popping up all over the cove. I had one of my best sessions ever. I could fearlessly drop in late, drag my hand, stall back into the steepest part of the wave, release, speed ahead, cut back, crouch low, fly forward again, and turn off the top. Guys were getting tubed and even landing aerials.

It's funny how people diss Shorties, calling it the "Kook Corral" and referring to the beautiful hike as "The Walk of Shame." Then, on nights like last night, when the wind instigates chaos across the surface of the sea, where do all of the North Coast's best surfers flock? Oswald West State Park. Hopefully the haters will keep hating and never discover the secret of "The Peen." It's pretty gay after all.

Anybody else have surf superstitions?

Stevie Wonder "Superstition"

Monday, April 24, 2006

Risk Vs. Reward

Nash and I made the big hike to one of Oregon's legendary mysto spots on Saturday. Two miles down a muddy switchback trail without any indication of what the waves would be like was enough to keep the weekend warriors away, but we'd done a little homework and were fully committed. When we reached the beach, we were greeted by a speedy a-frame barrel rifling in both directions. Not a soul in the water.

I paddled out first and quickly realized that my inexperience in hollow conditions limited my ability to make the most of the waves. For the first hour I didn't make ANY... Some would break with that perfect head-swivelling peel, but others would close out like a curtain call. The difference, when paddling into a peak, was sometimes tough to judge.

I eventually figured out where I needed to be to make the drop - right in the middle of the "U" where the wave was bending. After that I caught a couple steep rights and directed the heel side of my board toward the highest line it could hold, but I never even tried to duck into the tube, content to get speed and distance (and also a little wary about the prospect of getting slammed so far from civilization).

A few hours later, after checking out a peak where a couple other surfers had made their way into the water, Nash and I decided to take a break. By the time we had finished lunch, the wind picked up, the tide changed, and the waves were gone.

As we hiked back up the steep path, I kicked myself for not charging harder earlier. I'd have to get over my new fear of injury if I wanted the reward of my first tube.

Surf Punks "My Wave"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Snowboarding: Not Like Surfing

At least that's how I felt after last weekend at Mt. Hood Meadows, where I spent a few hours tearing up the bunny hill -- literally tearing holes in it with my ass, my knees, my elbows, and my wrists.

I had snowboarded twice before this on my home "stash" at Mt. Ashland and actually made some progress, going from their beginner run one day to some blue runs the next. But that was 5 years ago, before I started surfing again. It seems like my learning curve made a serious bear descent as a result of the new skills I've picked up in the ocean. Here are the biggest differences between surfing and snowboarding:

1. You can't move your feet.
2. The snow-covered ground hurts.
3. It takes forever to get your boots strapped in.
4. Most of the time, your knees are being tweaked at awkward angles.
5. You can slide sideways pretty fast down a steep hill (until you catch an edge).
6. You can actually slide backwards down the steep hill before crashing too.
7. It is a real bitch to stand back up after you fall.
8. If you "just go straight" you go faster than on a wave.
9. There are big poles, trees, and little children on tiny skis in your way.
10. You need to clip your toenails before wearing the boots.
11. Goggles really squeeze the bridge of your nose, which can hurt if it's broken.
12. People can easily push you down.
13. It takes longer to get to the mountain than to the beach.
14. On a positive note, there is nice music playing all the time and beer close by.

Don't get me wrong, it was such a fantastic day on the mountain. It was alternately sunny and snowing every couple of minutes and the air was so clean it was like sinus rejuvination with every breath. My wife absolutely loved it and she proceeded to show me up in her ability to connect turns and keep herself under control (i.e. going at a snail's pace down the hill with perfect form).

I'd like to thank the following people for making it possible: O.S. for the day passes he gave to us for Christmas (we just barely squeezed it in before the mountain closed!) and Kato and Roomy for lending me gear and a board (pictured) which several people offered to buy off of me - one even offered to trade a new CI surfboard for it.

Today I'm taking my aching arms surfing.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy "A Minor Place"

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Nose Is Mightier Than the Board

It seems unlikely that the face, with all its fleshiness and fragility, can actually be stronger than a six-foot plastic plank, but on Sunday my nose proved that it is more resiliant that the nose of my surfboard. Suffice to say, Sunday was an eventful session, filled with great turns on open faces in the spring sunshine, the lowlight of which was a ride that came three hours into the day when I wiped out on a benign inside reform, falling headfirst onto my upwardly mobile McCoy. I know what you're going to say. My nose looks worse than the board's in the picture. Well, I can assure you that while my broke beak is on the mend today, the surfboard still needs a few patches.

With the complete, unabridged, photojournalistic version of the story still to come, I must pose this question to my surfing friends out there:

What's your worst surf-related battle wound?

Animal Collective "Flesh Canoe"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blow me.

We got a late start Tuesday (4pm) so we had to drive directly to a break and commit to that spot instead of searching for more condition-receptive locations. When we got to Indian, the winds were blowing hard offshore, creating great plumes of spray that flew in the air in vails triple the size of the actual waves. The waves, which were about 4-6 feet, would stand up and the lip would jiggle like jello before finally succumbing to gravity.

The gale seemed to present easy drop-in situations, so we decided to give it a shot, pulling on our wetsuits quickly and scrambling down the hill to the waterline. The rip along the northern cliff was pulling like a conveyer belt, sheilded from the blunt of the swell and the whipping wind. Depositing ourselves in the outgoing current, we looked left and I pointed out a perfect hollow wave reeling toward us, halfway to the safety of the outside. The question was, how would we put ourselves in a position to find that peak as we battled the NE wind and resulting chop, not to mention larger outside sets.

Once we drifted far enough outside, we paddled due south, pulling ourselves from the tidal reflux. Nash had the first wave and went right on the peak. Nice drop, but the wave petered. I howled like a banshee, though. I hadn't seen Nash look that comfy on a drop-in and turn before - he was really improving.

After another set rolled in that I barely punched through, I realized that getting caught inside was a bad idea. There wasn't much of an interval and the waves were heavy closer to shore, so getting pushed too far would require walking back up the beach to the rip again to get back to the lineup. I also noticed that the NE wind was blowing us south at a rapid clip. I was soon halfway down the beach and periodically paddling north to stay on the peak I wanted, which I lined up with a saddle in the rocks at the north side of beach and a reddish cliff beyond the shorline.

I spotted a good swell running at me and knew I would be able to get into it. It jacked up to the north, meaning that I'd have to go right, so I paddled and angled myself slightly right to give myself a chance of making the wave. The offshore wind spat water in my face like a motorcycle in a driving rain and I squinted hard as my board propelled forward. I popped up despite the heavy wind and flew down the face, looking back over my lead shoulder. The wave was overhead and I was going really fast, but ahead of me I could see the lip starting to feather and throw. There was no way that I would make the section, as tempted as I was to take a higher line on the wave to see if I could get tubed. So I straightened out a little and bailed into the rumbling wall of whitewater, lunging into it with as much power as I could to get through the back.

When I broke the surface of the sea, I quickly grabbed my leash and yanked my board back to me. There were two more set waves exploding outside and advancing quickly. I pointed my nose directly at the first and paddled like hell to get some speed for the duckdive. When the foam was 10 yards away, I pushed the font of my board deep and kicked the tail down with my foot. When the stick was flat and at arm's length under the water, I pulled my body down to it. The foam passed over head and I exhaled through my nose as I came out the back.

I scratched toward the shoulder of the second wave and duckdove again, this time just under the falling lip. When I broke through the back, the spray rained down in sheets, like hammers and nails.

I would make the section on my next wave.

Love Is Laughter "Corona Extra"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My iPod Loves Me.

I put my iPod on shuffle this morning, and this is what it told me:

Wire "Outdoor Miner"
Robert Pollard "The Right Thing"
Jimmy Cliff "Many Rivers to Cross"
BRMC "Ain't No Easy Way"
Camper Van Beethoven "Laundromat"
Pixies "Holiday Song"
Joggers "We've Been Talked Down"
Jens Lekman "Oh You're So Silent, Jens"
Red House Painters "I Feel the Rain Fall"
Metro Area "Nerves"
My Bloody Valentine "Off Your Face"
Love Is Laughter "Idol Worship"
Broken Social Scene "Shoreline"

Sometimes I think it knows my moods.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Brown Balled

I got sick this week.
Sore throat.
Brown phlegm balls in the toilet every morning.
Needless to say, I won't be submerging myself in ice water this weekend.

T. Rex "Slide"