Pacific Surf Report January/2010-December/2011  Photo below: G. Vanstrum; Erik Vanstrum 2.15.10


man bites book

about GV


surf news

pacific surf report 1/09-6/09

pacific surf report 7/09-12/09

what's new



December 28, 2011

A week-long Santa Ana and a combination of northerly and southerly four-foot swells have made surfers happy up and down the coast. Nothing epic, but good fun surf and summer-like weather that almost makes up for the miserable conditions of fog and cold we've endured the past two summers.

Nick, Erik, and myself shelpped down to the beach for our annual Xmas surf this year. There the boys unwrapped a few wonderful presents. We are all grateful to be healthy and able to find our own bits of Nirvana here in the Eastern Pacific. Yeah, it's cold. But who cares? The sun is shining, the wind is offshore, and life is Merry.

November 29, 2011

Ah, the gales of November. Today a computer website (Wetsand) said we'd get a "bit" of north swell, "head-high", maybe slightly bigger at stand-out spots. After playing music all morning, I hustled down to the beach--and oh, my. Headkick Reef was well overhead, big, smooth sets coming in, Santa Ana winds sculpting the wave faces to shiny offshore perfection, four guys get the idea.

I paddled out and there was me buddy Brian Caldwell, that all-knowing part wizard Scottish surfer who only appears, as if by magic, when conditions and waves are Perfect. I caught a nice wave, kicked out quickly since a body-boarder was deeper, just enough to get my mojo going. And then--along came a proper set wave, a good double over-head. For reasons I don't understand, I paddled in fearlessly, hopped to my feet, and, Voila--the longest, deepest barreling left unwound before me, perfect, bowling curves of water, undulating section after section. As I kicked out, there was Bri on the next wave, following my tracks, surfing so well, ripping.

As good as it gets, IMHO. Waves, friends, sun, offshore. As good as it gets.


October 30, 2011

The Santa Ana's have finally struck S. California. Beautiful days at the coast, and no more Coastal Eddy (low-hanging fog). We had months and months of gray, and now we are blessed with offshore winds, sun, and even a few waves here and there. A not-too-bad south swell hit this week, some six-footers, mostly four-foot, enough so when I paddled into a late take-off and missed, I hyper-extended my neck, making those big muscles in front of my neck sore (the sternocleidomastoids). Scary, but all's well. Another good reason to work out in the gym on those flat days.


October 18, 2011

It's flat again, and foggy, and cool. But over the weekend--a bitchin' south swell on Saturday, a fine thing churning in hard from the Southern Hemisphere, eight-foot sets at Seawind, consistent sets, beautiful waves going right and left. Forty guys out, and the place did not seem crowded. After eight set waves and and an hour and a half of surfing, I crawled from the sea, exhausted. Teens like pro surfer Jake Halstead and Erik V do not get tired. They keep on surfing, for hour after hour, ripping, carving, getting airs. On the inside, Lucas, surfing a four-foot board with two-inch fins, ripped a 360 on an eight-foot face right before my eyes. I hooted so hard I fell off my board.

My son, Nick, paddled out for three hours at PL's, rested, and hit South Flight for another three hours. Oh, to be young again...The kids were smart, though, to surf themselves to exhaustion. Sunday was small and windy, and by Monday--no trace of the swell.


September 16, 2011

The south swell of the decade struck SoCal head-on around the turn of the month, also hitting Hawaii and a host of other spots in the Pacific. Four days of unbelievable power, long lines of pulchritudinous power, power to knock your wet-suit off. Erik caught barrel after barrel at Break-rock before busting his board. Nick surfed himself silly at Seawind, and I caught a wave at Headkick that took me so far north I kicked out at another surfspot, an unbelievably long ride. Of course, all that southern action brought in tons and tons of sand from Mexico, beautiful sand, sand that helped sculpt the waves to perfection, all of it conspiring to make work the curse of the surfing class.


July 19, 2011

Hard to get to the computer these days, but not from lack of surf or surfing. Flew with the gang to Costa Rica last month, drove down to Jaco to meet Edwin Carton, a Tico shaper/surfer who rented me a brand-new board for a fair-dinkum price. Carton exemplifies pura vida, he's charming, happy, and voluble. Also trusting and more interested in surfing than nickels and dimes. After picking up my board we rolled in to Plaza Terraza, our hotel in Playa Hermosa. Four-to-six foot waves peeled in right in front of our rooms. Erik and Nick were on it so fast if made my head spin. Thick lips and grinding barrels, they handled them with aplomb.

After a few days at Hermosa, we decided to cruise south to Dominical, where we found a ten-foot plus swell, very hairy. We contemplated surfing at Punta Dominical, but too much water was moving around, so we played it safe and surfed at Punta Dominicalito. Two days later, Erik and I caught a sess at the point--wow. It was still DOH, nobody out, long grinding waves that let you throw in six or seven turns...unbelievable.

Back at Playa Hermosa, Nick really found his groove, dropping into one thick barrel after another. He's fourteen, now, and fearless, and a powerful paddler. Unfortunately, his old man, yours truly, is feeling the effect of decades of life. Beachbreaks are for kids, like Trix. And you definitely need a six foot board, no bigger. My seven foot rental just didn't duck-dive well enough. I'd be exhausted after a two-hour sess. Nick can surf for four to six hours in a day. Yikes.

Nick Vanstrum, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

April, 2011

Erik has been shaping--he's getting good. He can whip out a board now in a few hours, a smooth, symmetric rocket. Most of his boards are six-feet or so long, some less, a bit wider at the nose and with less rocker than some thrusters you see. He's trying to find the perfect thickness, a board thin enough to rip air with and snap cutbacks as soon as they are conceived--but not break or buckle after two sessions. This is a difficult tight-rope to walk. He's working on it, though.


February 6, 2011

Lots of time has gone by; and a lots of surf. At our household, many adventures. For about two weeks we had blazing Santa Ana winds this January, with north-swell waves to match. One weekend Southern Cal took a solid ten-foot swell on the chin. The rest of the time things average around six foot. Me, I took a coupla wipeouts and twisted something in my knee. Erik broke a favorite board at BreakRock. Nick scraped his foot on the reef and developed a pair of craterous ulcers, and had to go on antibiotics. But, man, we all scored lots of perfect, offshore waves. The cold water kept the crowds down, and there was plenty of surf for everybody.

As if that wasn't enough, a pod of bottlenose dolphins has been hanging around La Jolla lately, maybe six or seven. They come cruising into the line-up, milling about, beautiful creatures. Big. Their dorsal fins look a bit ratty--they've been around. They have been perfectly mannered, however. No close calls.


December 12, 2010

The water is a San Francisco-cold 55 degrees, but our coast got hit by a ten-foot swell this past Thursday. As luck would have it, I was off, and, armed with a new wetsuit and booties, surfed for a couple of hours. I caught a number of memorable waves at Headkick, my gun handling the odd double-O set waves with aplomb. I only had one nasty wipeout, a lip launch. I curled up and waited for the impact, but for some quirky reason never got caught up in the explosion--another retinal tear avoided. Erik surfed Monster Beach, where he caught a number of giant barrels on his six-foot one board. He's shaping his third stick this season.


November 23, 2010

On and off again north swells grace our reefs, nothing too big, but plenty of fun surf here and there. Erik has been seized with shaping fever...he knocked off a 5'6" hot dog board last week, and he's up and shaping a classic thruster now. Once we take the outer skin off a blank with a power planer, we follow the John Carper method. First you cut the template the way you want it, the way a bird would see your board flying over it as it lies on the lawn, or floats on the sea. Next, you flip it bottom-side up and shave off foam and stringer to get the rocker you desire. After that, it's work on the topside, to hone things down and perfect the foil, the thickness through the length of the board. Finally, you shape the rail system, the biting edges of the board. A thorough sand, a few last-minute adjustments, and Voila! Time to make a mess and glass.

There's only one thing better than surfing on a perfect day, and that is surfing on a board you shaped on a perfect day. Try it. You'll like it.

November 7, 2010

The gales of November came early--a solid ten-foot plus north swell smacked into the coast this week. I missed Big Wednesday, due to work, the curse of the surfing class, but caught the early waves late Tuesday, and man, it was sublime. A powerful Santa Ana swept clear, hot, sunny weather into town, along with offshore winds, and the surf was beyond good. Erik caught some fine barrels near Seawind, and Nick dinged two boards.

My buddy, Brian Caldwell, journeyed down to Todos Santos, near Ensenada, on Wednesday. The place, as you can see from the photo below, is a swell magnifier. I showed this pic to Erik and his buddy, Bub. They asked each other: "Would you go?" That, indeed, is the question. Would you paddle into this monster? Brian did.

Todos Santos, Mexico. photo, Brian Caldwell


October 24, 2010

Had five days off, surfed every day, four at Seawind and one at PL. 'Twas a solid south swell, six foot, some sets bigger. Plenty guys, as they say in Hawaii, but all in all a great week. We are all very sorry to see that a body boarder got munched Friday by a whitey up near Vandenburg, close to Santa Barbara. Nearly 40,000 of our citizens died last year on the highways, but we're all still driving. Whaddyagonnado, but keep surfing and hope for the best.

In the newspaper report, they mentioned the guy's buddy did CPR. A word to the wise from a trauma doc: if there's no blood in the heart, CPR is worthless. In trauma, there are but three rules: Stop the bleeding. Stop the bleeding. Stop the bleeding.

October 16, 2010

Erik, in addition to his four AP classes and honors chem, is now taking surf PE his junior year at LJ High. He asked me to sign a paper stating I was his coach. Trying my best to keep honest, I've been surfing Seawind as much as possible to keep an eye on him. Of course, since he can surf circles around me (see above photo) this is all a big joke. He surfs his three hours a day, then goes home and cracks the books.

The week began with some north swell action; a few Wednesdays ago it rose to a solid ten foot and I was able to catch a couple on my seven-six gun before getting caught inside and having my leash-plug ripped out. A quick fix at Joe Roper's and the board's good to go for the next north.

One day, Tuesday, October 12, I worked late and found Erik cracking the books. In my new role as surf coach, I asked him how his daily session went.

"So fun. One thing, though."


"We saw a shark. I was surfing the north at dusk, Yertles Rights with four or five guys, inside the main peak at Seawind. Lucas says, 'Erik, look.' A fin goes by, a three-foot fin, heading north only thirty yards away."

"You're sure it was a shark?" I make a horizontal waving motion with my hand. "Not a dolphin?" I motion up and down with my hand.
Erik gives me a tired, Dad-I-wasn't-born-yesterday look. "It was a shark. Come on."

I should mention Lucas' dad is a commercial fisherman, and Lucas is one of the hottest surfers in La Jolla. He pretty much lives at sea. Ditto Erik. If they both said a shark with a three-foot fin swam by, it happened.

"So," continues Erik, "One of the kids says, "So what, it's just a fish." After about five seconds, though, everyone decides it's getting pretty dark, and all paddle in to shore.

For some reason hearing this story from my kid bothers me. He's my son. I don't want some damn white shark eating him. I worry about him the next day, and, again working late, phone home at dusk. My wife answers.

"Where's Erik?"

"He's surfing at Seawind."

"Isn't he worried about the shark?"

My wife, grounded soul that she is, laughs. "It was swimming out to sea. It's long gone."

Since then we've had a beautiful south swell, solid six-foot waves bringing joy and warmer water (if no sun) to all and sundry. Still, I keep thinking about the fish. He was probably headed north to the snack-bar seal colony at the Children's Pool. They're probably out there all the time, the whitey's, but they stay deep enough so we can't see them. They probably don't bother with bony surfers, when they crave munching on pinniped fat. Probably.


September 6, 2010

The year of the two winters. OK, not exactly. We had a few fine south swells this summer, powerful surf that rocked Seawind and Headkick and the other LJ reefs. Not bad, really, as summers go. The big deal was the water, the cold water. I mean, we're talking San Francisco cold, under sixty F for much of the summer, or in the low sixties. A few days the temp wandered up to maybe 65, but upwelling would happen and erase the warm water gains. Along with the cold water came June Gloom, July Gloom, and the August Gray. Dense, cool coastal fog that rarely burned off. Oh, sure, we had a few nice days, but you could count 'em on ten fingers.

I guess we are experiencing the flip side of El Nino, as in La Nina. Read: cold water, calm seas. Not exactly a surfing paradise. Oh well. On the many flat days, the three of us, Erik, Nick, and myself, have been paddling around on foamies and longboards. Have you ridden a foamie yet? 100 bucks at Costco? Soooo fun. If you lose it on the rocks, no biggee. I've always believed that if it's small enough for a longboard, it's small enough to leave your leash at home. But I've fixed my share of rock dings on long boards. Nobody's perfect. With a foamie, it doesn't matter.

A downside coinciding with the cold water and the increasing sea lion and seal populations: a definite increase in white shark sightings off San Diego, as reported on the front page of the SD Union-Tribune. Yikes. In the first year of this decade, there have already been 50-plus attacks, compared to about 100 from 2000-2009. Not good. But whaddyagonna do? Stay out of the water? Fuggediboutit!


May 16, 2010

It's been the usual spring topsy-turvy conditions for the past month. A cold north swell came in a few weeks back, lowering the water temp to 57 degrees F., but then a nifty three day south churned through Seawind with eight-foot sets, beautiful waves, and all that southern water warmed things up. The past few days we've had another south, smaller, this one, but Saturday 5/15/2010 was fun.

The kids are surfing their brains out, nothing like a trip to Hawaii to get the ol' surfing mojo workin'. We're getting into May Gray and June Gloom, but as long as those south swells keep on coming, nobody's complaining.



March 28-April 2, 2010 Hawaiian Surf Diary


It's Nick's birthday; we celebrate on the plane. 13 years old. Two teenagers in the fold now. I bought him, for a present, Gerry Lopez's book, Surf is Where You Find It. He reads it non-stop in the air. He's got a taste for surf history--I remember a school report he did once on Eddie Aikau. Arriving exhausted, we negotiate the usual rental car and condo hassles. Erik and I can't get birthday boy to budge from our new home, so the two of us drive around in search of surf.

After a food stop at a roadside fruit stand, where we gorge on barbecue pork sticks, fried bananas--fat dripping from every delicious morsel--pineapples so sweet they fairly ooze sugar, small succulent plantains that vanish into one's mouth, leaving but one word--"more"-- we set out. We make two aborted not-right surf checks: Sunset--8-10 guys out, but Erik has the wrong board for ten to twelve foot sets, and Rocky Point, too big, only one guy out and he's getting worked by a set. After winding west past Waimea and Pinballs--nobody out, 10-12 foot--we come to a place with a few cars parked at a rocky shoreline. 8-10 surfers work a left, a forgiving left. Finally--Erik gives me the green light.

With ginger steps we creep over jagged lava and coral heads. I only cut my right great toe a little. At last we plunge into the water. We paddle out, lava scraping our board fins, aquamarine liquid carressing our arms, the water every bit as warm and gentle as the sharp blades of coral are harsh and nasty, our arms making angel wings in the soup to avoid slicing our fingers, the coral giving way to deeper, darker water, churned by relentless waves, small waves at first that we shoot through, then bigger waves forcing us to duck-dive, waves lining up from the northwest, waves sweeping hard across a limitless fetch of ocean, waves smacking into the reef unimpeded by a continental shelf, waves that up close jack up tall and powerful, exploding in an ear-splitting roar as they break in forn of us, to the right, to the left, behind us.

And the wind. The trades batter us, sweeping, like the waves, over thousands of miles of clean ocean, pumped by convection and Corialis effect, unyielding, steady, heedless of the specks of rock we call islands, sculpting each wave into an off-shore billow, casting horsetails of spray, rainbows hanging in the mist for a second or two, then vanishing, carried away by the ceaseless blowing, blowing, blowing.

"Blow wind, blow wind," sang Muddy Waters, "Blow my baby back to me."

All our trip-worn weariness fades away in the pulses of energy from waves and wind. Erik wheels and paddles down a face, fighting the trades, the water piling up behind him as the tip feathers in spray. He launches, graceful, his feet firmly planted to his quad-fin 5"11" board, his arms held out in a gull's wingspan for balance, a look of joy and content on his face.

The wave pulses underneath me, and he disappears. I see one, two, three arcs of spray from his board as he hits the lip hard in a series of cutbacks. He vanishes.

When he was nine, I used to worry about him when the ocean so swallowed him. Now, he's sixteen, six-foot-one, 150 pounds of vibrant teenage muscle. If there's any fat on him, it's not visible.

Even in ten-foot Hawaiian surf, he's in his element, as sure as the green turtle I see swimming next to me.

A rainbow over the mauka mountains. A flickering half rainbow... then the full-on arc, stretching for a mile, ROY G. BIV. Every color there.


March 29, 2010

Erik has decided he must surf Laniakea. We load the car, a million subtle details: sun screen, cash, security, camera, wax, towels, keys, cell phones, drinking water...Diane and Nick come, Nick's all rested and ready to go. We meet a carload of friends, two boys roughly Erik and Nick's age, and six more non-surfers.

The weather is cloudy, the surf slightly smaller than yesterday at 6-8 feet. Nick and Remy go with Diane to try Puena Pt, or maybe Haleiwa. Erik and I, alone, charge Lani's.

It's easy getting out, nothing like Leftovers and its shallow coral/lava. We paddle through the channel--I grab a quick right warm-up. Erik's working the inside, I'm going for the peak. I'm surfing out of my mind, catching one, two, three set waves, velocity like you can't imagine, spiraling over each section, warp-speeding along, too fast for an easy cutback--spray from the wind flying everywhere, size and power, one hundred yards covered in seconds, shifting, now hollow, now the distance a pair of humpbacks breach--it sounds artificial, like yesterday's rainbow, but it's true.

A long lull. Eight of ten of us surf the outside peak, waiting for a set, paddling, wind and current pressing against us, pushing us west, ever west. Make westing, make westing, wrote Melville. We, however, paddle east. I line up the two telephone poles on the mountain over the end house. If you stop paddling, you're out of position. The constant motion, after five or six good waves, starts to take its toll. A peak rears up, I'm too deep to go right, so I drop in for a fine left.

30 years ago I surfed here with Mark Richards for three hours, a smaller day, sunny, he was on his twin fin, shredding, me on a Benny Aipa Stinger. Mark didn't know me from Adam, but he was nice all the same. So long ago.

That day we surfed lefts, so I take this one, jamming along, knocking off two or three hits, kicking out inside over the shallow reef.

Soon it's clear why nobody else seems to be going left today. The north swell makes it hurt to paddle back out. I duck-dive under one wave after another, caught in a washing machine, knocked back twenty feet, paddling up twenty feet, knocked back twenty feet--ad nauseum.

Exhausted, I finally get back out to the peak gang. I'm in perfect position as a set wave lines the horizon.

Forgetting my state of exhaustion, I paddle in, jump to my feet...and promptly fall. Ingloriously. In sight of every surfer in the line-up. Stupid. I paddle back, a sheepish smile on my face.

Now I am not so well received. Earlier I'd been surfing way over my head. A local, hot surfer, maybe 30 years old, paddles by me.
"When you fall like that, brudda, you go to the end of da line..."

I laugh, but there's truth in what he says. My arms limp, every muscle wasted, mentally crushed, I slip into the inside peak, fall again. I'm done. I tell Erik to keep surfing, but the old man paddles in.

Erik is having the time of his life, shredding inside peaks. Laniakea. What a wave. From shore, though, he's too distant to make out. The rain picks up. At dinner, he tells me: "I paddle into this set wave, jam down the line, pump a little make the section, and start a big hit. I don't realize how fast I am going, though, and find I'm in trouble. I grab my rail and smack into the white water. I have way too much speed, and the wave is way too big. It blows me to smithereens."


March 30, 2010--Oahu's North Shore.

A fifteen-foot swell has hit the island. I walk up to Turtle Bay and see a chaos of waves and wind. Heavy trades. We make a series of phone calls, pack our gear, and drive to Makaha. Nick, Diane, and Glenn, that is. Erik elects to hang with Cassie, his girlfriend.

On the way, we see 20 surfers waiting at Waimea Bay. It looks like doable Waimea--that is, if I had my gun. I could ride it at 15 feet. Maybe. Too bad I can't find out if I might drown or not.

On we motor, to sun-splashed Wainae-town--kids are still in school!--and the blazing beaches of leeward Oah'u.

Makaha--some kids are surfing the inside--not many, for there's a lot of water moving around, lots of brilliant backwash as waves rebound from the shore and crash into oncoming surf. Far out, beyond the point, a cluster of 15 surfers sit. Stand-up paddlers, longboarders. The sets look to be over 12 foot.

I plop down in the sand, setting up the camera as Nick and his pal, Remy, paddle out to join the kids on the inside. The light is tropical-intense, the water blue and green and glowing. The beach feels radium hot.

I get itchy, wanting to join Nick, so Diane comes over and I show her the camera. We are talking when Nick connects on an inside bomb, jetting back-side down a huge face, his body tiny against the immense wall of wave. Angry with myself for missing the shot, I paddle out anyway, anger giving way to exhiliration. I try surfing mid-way to the outside peak on my 7'6" and catch a bumpy wave. The lure of the bombs outside seduces me, though, and I paddle to the gang outside.

Here I struggle, not finding a wave to myself. Hard to compete with SUP's and longboards. I spend a long hour flailing before a giant set catches me inside, forcing me to bail and swim under three huge waves. Each one slams me with a 30 second hold-down.

After that, I retreat to catch a mid-sized white water wave that reforms beautifully into a solid eight-foot aquamarine beauty. I swoop and turn and bounce like Tigger, jetting for an infinity until just before the beach, where I avoid a near-collision with a surfer paddling out by falling in an ignominous heap.

Two waves, ninety minutes of paddling. Nick and Remy went in right after I paddled out. Too much juice for the little guys. A rough day on the Westside.

Nick at Makaha.

March 31, 2010.

It's Wind'sday. Roofs are blowing off houses, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. I'm used to trade winds, but this is ridiculous. Nick and I hike up to the hotel to check out Turtle Bay--and we nearly get blown off our feet. Gusts to 50 knots. At Turtle Bay, the surf is smaller, but still potent.

The North Shore skies are cloudy, the air moving with near-hurricane force. We assemble a semi-reluctant crew, urged on by Nick, who has surfing fire in his belly.

"I wanna surf. I wanna surf. I wanna surf."

We tool by Sunset in our rented Dodge minivan, a veritable soccer-mom boat after my Prius, seats seven, room for boards and a bunch of people. Erik, Nick, Cassie, and Diane accompany. No ones' out anywhere on the North Shore. It's soooo windy. We check Haleiwa, finally find three guys surfing and getting some waves, but it's semi-closed-out and the howling off-shores blow surfers right off their boards.

The word from our friends the Jabooris--Makaha is small, tame, and sweet. So...another long drive in the boat. We get there, and it's truly perfect. Six-foot outside sets, four-foot inside. .. and half of the population on the west side is out surfing. But the sun's blazing, the winds have mellowed on this side of the Waianae Range, and Nick and Erik attack.

I shoot photos for a while, then get antsy to surf. Surrendering the camera to Cassie and Di, I paddle out. As I'm stroking, the water delicious on my skin after the 90-mintue drive, Nick flashes by on a set wave, no one cutting him off as he rips off the top, turning back, a look of fierce determination on his face, his knees flexed to take up any wobbles from the water, his body twisting, fluid as a morey eel, his youthful sinews handling each nuance of backwash and pulsing tube, his board casting a million sparkles of spray in the sun-blessed dry air.

Wow. I wonder if the girls have caught his wave "on film"--turns out they were chatting and missed it. C'est la guerre.

I catch a few myself, opting for the wait-outside-and-catch-the-set-wave ploy. It works. I'm riding the same 7'6" that felt too small at the same spot 24 hours ago--now it's perfect. Amazingly, no one cuts me off. Maybe I'm too grizzled and big and scary on my gun. Maybe people are just nice these days here Waianae-side.

After one wave, I see a father and his six or seven year old son struggling next to me on the inside with a boogie board. It"s obvious they have no business swimming in Makaha in six-foot waves with 50 surfers. The kid is in a full-on panic, terror written across his face, tears streaming in a futile cascade into the salt-water, his dad trying to comfort him, telling him to hang onto the boggie board for dear life.

"You guys need help?" The whitewater is pushing them to shore, so they tell me they're OK. Later I chat with the lifeguard: he was in the water on his way to rescue them when he saw they were out of the impact zone. He was on top of it.

The author surfing Makaha. Photo: Diane Vanstrum



April Fool's Day 2010

Smaller today. I take photos of Nick and Erik at Laniakea. Nick gets a few good ones, but leaves the water frustrated over some wipe-outs. He doesn't surf a lot of rights at home, though, and his backside technique here is improving at a quantum rate.

Afterwards I paddle out at Sunset, no, Sunset Point, no, Backyards. It's still screaming offshore winds, but the waves are a gentle (this is Sunset, remember) three, four feet. After an hour of this I catch a five-footer that sections nicely on the inside and tries to barrel.

The sun is beaming, girls show their flesh on the beach in their bikinis, and the coral flashes beneath my board in a yellow-red chaotic checkerboard. The water is so clear the wave blends and disappears into the air. A rainbow appears in the cast-off spray. Hawaii!!


April 2, 2010

Small surf again. Nick surfs at Pupkea, catches some good ones by Di's report. She watches him grab a long winding right, as he competes with various surf stars like John Florence.

Erik and I surf Laniakea at three to six feet. Some fun ones. My 'friend' from the other sess, the one who told me to go to the end of the line after my wipeout, drops in on my final wave, a six-foot set left. Rather that make a big deal out of it, I ride the white water in, exhausted, happy as only a satiated surfer can be. Six wonderful days of surfing.

Aloha, Hawaii, we still love you and always will.


March 26, 2010

It's been a wild period of surf here in California. Wednesday last, I was in a hurry, knew I had but a short time to surf because of a scheduled music session. I paddled out in ten foot Headkick with my 7'2" David Craig everyday board--everyday for a six-four 210-pound guy. I barely got out, perfect offshore conditions, sun shining, when a lip caught me inside. I tried to duck dive, failed, left the tail hanging out, BAM. Broken board. Second one of the season. Drove the mile home, brought out the right board, my 7'6" Ellington, and had a good session, clean sharp drops, long lines. Took my 6'10" out on the weekend, surfed with Nick, had a good time. Worked all night somewhere in there, doing the anesthesia for a heart transplant. With the day off the next day, I surfed six-foot Seawind, scored some great waves, including a memorable winding left. Surfed again at the same location, more six-ten foot surf, with a south creeping in. Even with the little board, I nabbed a pair of unbelievable rights.

A final session with Nick at Sternkorbs--some weird, mouthy guys in the water, cussing and carrying on, who finally paddled in and left Nick and I in pleasant solitude. Then...into the jet, off to the North Shore.


March 7, 2010

A long streak of continuing intermittant medium and big surf. Last Wednesday I could see it breaking from the house. I took my gun down, knowing it would be ginormous. Indeed. Only three guys were out at south Headkick, the waves easily double-O. I paddled out, my guts churning, but the sets stayed spaced out and the sun shone and for once I caught six or eight good ones. A friendly guy named Sam was out, getting some bombs. He asked me how big I thought it was, mentioning he'd just gotten back from Hawaii. I told him it looked a solid 12-foot. "Oh, they call that six-foot in Hawaii." I groaned. I lived for two years on the North Shore and am familiar with the local macho method of island wave measurement. "Oh, sorry, it's two-foot, dude," I said.

Oceanographers measure waves from peak to trough. Look in any oceanography textbook (I have two in my office). Any other way of measuring waves is, IMO, phony. Years ago I surfed with Benny Aipa in big Makaha. My seven-five board couldn't handle it, nor could I. The waves were a solid fifteen foot. I asked Benny how big he thought it was. "Fifteen-foot, brah," he said. You see? When you've got nothing to prove (like Aipa) you can speak the truth.

On the same day (March 3, 2010), a guy took off on a big wave at Black's. It closed out and he bobbed up face-down. Three medical pros, a doc, a paramedic, and a nurse, worked together to haul him to land and get him breathing again. Either the lip or his board knocked him out. The newspapers said he remains in serious condition. The question, of course, is whether or not he's brain damaged. Maybe there's something to wearing a helmet in macking surf. I suggested this to my son, Erik, who surfed that Wednesday last by himself at Seawind/Right Tubes. "Ah, he was probably some kook, didn't know how to surf."

Teenagers. They think, of course, they're immortal. My buddy, Brian, hurt his right shoulder at Headkick on the same day. Guess I was lucky surfing the "six foot" waves.


February 15, 2010

Sorry for the hiatus, I can only offer the usual excuse: humongo El Nino surf has been battering our poor coastline. I may be getting older, but I ain't dead yet. I've been out chasing elephants with my gun. Last year I used it one day. This year, I've paddled out on it over a dozen sessions. Today, for example, President's Day, I went out at Headkick with five others. The tide was high, I should have waited, but I'd been working in the hospital all Valentine's Day, so I snuck out between sets as the whomp struck the staircase in two-story explosions of white water. It took twenty minutes to paddle out--the channel seemed hard to find. I finally caught a big one, elevator drop, long ride, and, another twenty minute paddle outside. Four more and I my arms turned to toast.

One of the guys I surfed with lost his board. I worried it would be smashed to smithereens on the armored walls in the high tide Waimea-style shore break, but his buddy managed to find it and get it out to him. I washed in a half-mile south of where I paddled out.

Later, Erik surfed near Seawind. I caught him in the barrel:


January 23, 2010

The rain stopped, the sun came out, and the giant waves continued here in San Diego. I surfed at Headkick--only because my buddy Brian told me he'd meet me there. I paddled out alone through the six-foot inside chop, made it outside after only taking one on the head (I tossed my board, dove under, and hoped my leash wouldn't break). After scurrying in and out, trying not to get dumped on, I finally grabbed a big left, hung on to my rail, made the drop, but lost it in the extreme chop. Did I mention that things hadn't cleaned up totally? Did I mention the water was a bit brown after five inches of rain in three days?

Anyhow, I forgot all about Brian, paddled in, and found him at his car suiting up. After talking it over, we drove to LJ Bay, where we paddled out into cleaner waves with some forty other people. Here we each caught a few, but the session at Headkick did me in and I paddled in after three drops. The photo below, an unidentified surfer, gives you an idea what the hell-raisers were riding. Ya-hoo! LJ Bay!



January 22, 2010

It's been a wild and wooly January. The surf jumps up to fifteen foot, then dies down to six. Back up, and down again. This past week I've been off, just as a series of El Nino storms has rocked the San Diego coast. Sunday Erik and I surfed at Seawind during the Chargers game, a pleasant, glassy day with four-to-six foot waves coming in. After surfing DOH's the week before, we had a blast. The best thing about surfing big waves, well, one of the good things, is the fearless approach it enables you to bring to small and medium surf. The week before, a Santa Ana bathed us in dry, perfect weather. I surfed some bombs near Seawind, just didn't have the urge to risk my life at Headkick, although I surfed there one day when it was damn big.

Catching a ten-plus wave is a memorable experience. You gauge your chances, not wanting to waste energy, miss the wave, and find yourself caught inside by a set. But let's say the wave's big enough to catch. Scary, even. It ought to be scary, ought to look like it's gonna break on your head, or else you'll never catch it. You force yourself to paddle into it, still gauging if there's enough of a shoulder so you can make it. At Headkick, especially, only about one-third of the waves are ridable. So you go, paddling straight down the face, committed. If you bail, you're in trouble. The wash of the wave will carry you over anyway, and a nasty wipeout awaits you for certain. Better to commit.

You make your drop, straight down, resisting the urge to turn early, to angle your drop away from the source. Only when you're going straight do you have a stable platform. If all goes well, you land on your feet and feel the solidity of the water under your board. ride all the way to the bottom, again resisting the urge to turn early. You can't pivot on a vertical face. You wait, and crank your bottom turn to see what on earth the wave is doing. If you're lucky, it's holding up, and not closed out. You shoot for the lip, power a turn, and begin painting on the world's biggest canvas. Down again you come, second bottom turn, another off the lip...on and on it goes. If you're unlucky, it fades or closes out. Worse, it might suck out and engulfs you, holding you down.

I had a five-stroke swim to the surface somewhere in there.

Erik's been borrowing my 7'2" everyday board and using it for his big-wave gun. He's surfing at Downwind, a fine big-wave spot that has a lot of rip and forces you to paddle constantly. No matter. Erik caught dozens of waves with the big (for him) board. Best of all, he didn't break it.

Anyhow, back to this week. El Nino storms. Giant surf, almost unridable, windy, rain. The beachbreak has been best. I surfed it twice, four to eight foot screaming barrels, blistering off-shore winds, raindrops pelting your face. Like surfing Sunset in howling trades. Crowded, too. With the bad visibility, a lot of people cutting each other off. Some bad tempers. Some deep barrels.

Even though it's hard to argue with the saying "Hell is other people," keep smiling in the lineup. Nobody owns the ocean.