Old Habits Die Hard, Bad Habits Need to be Murdered

14 10 2015

I got a new board, again. A 6’6″ Parole rounded pin tail, similar to a Lopez Lightning Bolt of the 70’s, but updated and with a 2+1 set up. I sold my 6’6″ Bonzer Egg and my 9’0″ Walden Magic Model 3 in order to pay for it, but after this weekend’s maiden voyage, and yesterday’s extra shot at it, I made the right choice.

The waves on Saturday were forecast to be overhead and I figured it would be a great opportunity to try it out. The tide was on the high side and the swell was more powerful than normal making for bad rips at my favorite secret spot. Rips like I’ve never seen in many years. I’m blaming that one on El Nino, but then, we’ve had some great waves so far this Fall.

With the larger consistent surf, a couple of feet over head on sets, I had to do a lot more paddling and duck diving than I normally would, which always leads to a little apprehension on my part. That apprehension is there because when it gets bigger I always seem to be out of breath, held under longer than I want, and feeling close to drowning. I know the “close to drowning” is a bit dramatic. However, when you wipe out and don’t know how much longer you can be held under only to think “what happens if I pop up and don’t have time to catch a breath before another one hits me?”, it makes for energy loss and fatigue. So yeah, it feels like I could drown.

I’m always confident I could save myself as I’ve done in the past, but still, it turns what should be a 2 hour session into a 1 hour session, or less. And I discovered the problem after I surfed that morning.

As a kid, I hated water going up my nose when I’d swim. I also hated holding my nose with my fingers as I felt that wasn’t something men should do, so I just sucked it up until a friend told me I should slowly blow air out my nose and that would help keep water out, and keep me from the necessary plugging of nose with my finger and thumb. Not bad advice, but it turned into a very bad habit that I realized is a problem, and one of the reasons I might not like waves over 8 feet after 34 years of surfing, which makes the bad habit that much older and harder to break.

It turned into blowing air out my nose every time I’m under water. Swimming, surfing, whatever. I paddle out, duck dive and blow air out my nose and when I pop up I need a breath. I wipe out and blow air out my nose only to be out of breath when I finally surface. That is a terrible habit I developed and didn’t even realize it until this last weekend’s swell.

My eureka moment made me realize that I needed to murder that habit for good, if I expect to surf some of the larger waves expected this winter. I’m still all about surfing, not surviving, so it will have to be good for me to paddle out, but coming to the realization that if I just stopped blowing air out my nose when I go under water will help me relax more when I’m under, will save my energy. I will have more air when I surface in case I can’t take a breath.

It might seem elementary to you, but really, that’s why it’s a “habit”. I made it that way and it’s not just old, but bad.

I got to put my theory to the test on Tuesday Morning. Though the waves dropped a bit, it was still overhead on the sets and I made sure to not let a lick of air out when I duck dived. It was a little harder to remember when I would wipe out, but I still even managed that and after surfing an hour, catching all kinds of waves, I still had energy after my hour was up. I know it wasn’t the same test as putting that into practice last Saturday, but it was a good test none the less.

As I surf more, big or small, I’m going to do my best to remember not to blow the air out. I never had a problem yesterday with water going up my nose, so that helped make it easier to handle. Hopefully I’ll remember that every time I go surfing. Or am in the water for any reason, for that matter.

I don’t know if you have a bad habit you need to murder, but remember, they may die hard, but you can be the killer of it.

Take care and God bless,

Surfer Yoda

They Say #ElNino is Coming

5 09 2015

I surfed a couple of times this week. Wednesday with Uncle Chris and yesterday with Gooch. Both days the forecast was 2 to 3 foot. Not stellar, but with the talk of El Nino I can see there’s something different in the water.

First, though the water felt warmer longer last year, the water temps at my favorite spot finally topped 70. I’ve been trunking it, or at the most a spring suit. Both days were way better than the forecast. There were set waves easily topping 6 or 7 foot faces. And that’s what the 2 to 3 foot forecast is, for face height.

That said, Gooch and I had it to ourselves from 6:30 to 8 yesterday. All alone. Mostly chest high waves, the two of us. It’s a huge reason we call it our “secret spot”. We know it’s no secret, but I know the typical places were already filling out yesterday and we had great, southern hemi waves to ride. With warm water!

It got us talking about the things El Nino was doing. One funny thing we saw were two seals swimming side by side. They looked like buddies. We never see two at the same time, so we blamed it on El Nino. Another was the tropical cloud cover we had which made it look like it was going to rain. We even saw a funnel cloud off in the south western distance. Definitely blaming El Nino for that one, too.

Anyway, we then talked about the stand up barrels we were going to get and that got me thinking more: risk vs. reward. I’m all about risk if the reward is there, but where surfing is concerned, I’m kind of happy with chest high to a foot or so over head. Heck! I’m fine with waist high to a foot or so overhead. So why do I care about a stand up barrel, that needs to be about 8 foot in the face for someone my size to be in a full stand up position? I’m not sure I do!

Anyway, I guess I’d paddle out to any size I could get out to and still be able to ride the waves. I don’t know exactly what that limit is, but I have a feeling I know what it is at my local breaks because there’s no way I’m paddling through double overhead waves to get out and surf closeouts. That’s the most likely scenario if El Nino plays out. The reward just isn’t there at a lot of the spots I surf.

Now, when I was a much younger man it mattered to me to say I paddled out in double overhead surf whether I caught anything or not. Today, though, I just want to surf. I want to catch the wave and ride it. Do turns. Sure, get barreled if its their, but I don’t want to be in survivalist mode. That’s when it’s just not fun anymore.

In 1982/83 I did surf at 16 and that El Nino I even caught great waves. I wrote about a near death experience a few years ago you can read about if you Click Here.

Anyway, El Nino is on the horizon and that’s good for our water situation in So Cal, as long as the snow pack in the Sierras breaks records. It’s also good for the surf situation because not all spots will be closeouts. It could be an epic time to be in Southern California. It’s also bad because we can expect flooding if the rains they say are coming, do come, which of course they will because of El Nino.

Anyway, if it all pans out, I guess the only surprise we’ll have is if it doesn’t happen at all. Then all that hype will be for naught.

Hope your favorite surf spot gets epic this winter and that it’s not survivalist conditions. Thank you and God bless.

Surfer Yoda

Too Long Between Writing

22 12 2013

Well, it’s been a few weeks. I’ve surfed a few times in that time frame. I haven’t really had the time to sit in front of my computer to write my thoughts on surfing down. I got some hits on my last piece, about the Red Bull Decades series. Thank you for reading that.

As of today, 3 days before Christmas, Gooch and I are friends again. We saw each other yesterday at Leo Carrillo and it was like there was nothing wrong. It’s better that way because I’d rather have a friend than worry about whether I’d see him again or not.

This week we had a forecast pretty much the same from Ventura to the South Bay, all of the areas I’d most likely surf. So we made the decision to stay near our favorite spot, Staircase. We planned to meet up at 6:30 or 6:45 and hope for the best.

Baby Gorilla had some snore surgery, so he was out, and Rip Van Ronnie had a recent near death car accident he walked away from, but was too sore to surf. We had Spock, the Rev, Uncle Chris, Gooch, and Dave Mac.

As we drove by Leo to meet up at Staircase, Gooch was getting ready to hit it. I knew Spock was probably at Staircase, so we continued up there. He was and had also looked at the surf. Since Gooch and I hadn’t officially made things right between us I wanted to just skip looking at Staircase and head back to Leo to surf with Gooch. After all, I wanted us to be friends again. Gooch had the right idea anyway. There were a few knee to waist high waves coming in when we pulled up.

It was pretty cold getting ready, but it was the place to be along that stretch of coast and I was glad to get a warm reception from Gooch. We all paddled out with a couple of random surfers and ended up catching quite a few waves. It wasn’t stellar, but it is always fun to get wet. There were sets nearing chest high, too, so I can’t say it was even a “get wet” kind of day. I just didn’t seem to have my own abilities together.

It’s kind of funny, but sometimes that’s how we describe things. I remember when I was in high school and we’d drive the canyon roads. If you were on your way to the beach and saw a car with boards on top, you’d give the thumbs up thumbs down sign a few times asking the other guy how it was. Mostly I think it had to do with size more than conditions. I always hoped if I got a thumbs down it wasn’t because the guy just had a bad session. Also, I guess it didn’t matter because I’d find out for myself. It wasn’t like I was going to turn around and go home because of that sign.

Anyway, my session was still fun and even though I didn’t catch all of the waves I would have liked, I’m so glad to have gone and met up with Gooch again.

Afterwards we hit Lily’s Cafe and Pastries and had our favorite breakfast burrito, reminiscing about our morning.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and if for some reason I can’t get back to my writing before then, a Happy and Safe New Year. Thank you and God bless.

Surfer Yoda

El Porto’s Juvenile White Shark

10 11 2013

In the last month and a half there have been 20 or 30 sightings of a juvenile white shark in the range of 6 to 8 feet long. The thought is that there might actually be two of them feeding in the surf line at El Porto. Even a few months back there was a story on one being caught off the Manhattan Beach Pier. They released it because it’s illegal to fish for shark in California. With all of that, El Porto is one of our regular surf spots and no one has been attacked, yet.

I do watch Shark Week when I can because it’s nice to know the behaviors of something I never see. So that hopefully one day if I do run across one I will know how I should be around it. Divers dive with sharks all the time and even at times are not in protective cages. I’m guessing that’s because the kind they are diving with are eating other things in the ocean and not the little men in rubber. However, I also know that when a Great White attacks someone off the coast of California, they usually only have a bite taken out of them and so we must not taste very good to them. I’ve heard that somewhere, but really, none of us is a shark, so how can we really know?

The swell forecast called for nil to nothing in the way of waves, but west facing beaches were supposed to be the best. Even though the shark sightings have been frequent the last two months, the LA County Lifeguards haven’t closed the beach because no one has been attacked. We picked El Porto because we like it, there was going to be some sign of waves in the water, and it’s close by for most of us. Even in my e-mails I mentioned that it was shark infested, but the conventional wisdom was to surf El Porto. Admittedly, somewhere inside I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the little White Shark swimming around and since we usually dawn patrol I thought it totally plausible that we would. I mostly wanted to see it before it saw me, but really, the ocean is it’s domain, not mine no matter how much I love it.

Sure enough, Spock, Baby Gorilla, and the Sailor met me at Porto at 6 am and we surfed it.


The crazy part is that little 6 to 8 foot juvenile white shark showed itself. It was way closer than the GoPro’s depict because “objects in view are larger than they appear.” Within about 25 to 30 feet. It was headed straight for Spock and he noticed it first. I don’t think it picked him as his next meal, but seriously, when you see a dorsal fin that isn’t acting like the typical dolphin you’ve seen coming toward you, there’s a bit of nervous excitement, I’m sure. I had it and I caught the side view of it trimming through the water. It was between Baby Gorilla and myself, and the beach.

It really was a cool sight, too. The nervousness because it’s a shark. The excitement because it’s a shark and I got to see it in person, and hopefully caught it on video. The waves weren’t that great and I seemed to mostly catch closeouts, but it was still an awesome day.

Baby Gorilla had to leave early so the breakfast was just Spock, the Sailor, and myself at Wendy’s. It was a great time to reflect on something in God’s creation that we got to witness.

I hope you enjoyed the videos. Until next time, take care and God bless.

Surfer Yoda

Old Friends and Head Trauma

4 08 2013

It was a good week. I got to go up to Morro Bay on Tuesday to do an equipment survey at a hotel and on my way home I stopped at Emma Wood and surfed. I hit it for about 45 minutes, just long enough to really enjoy getting wet, and short enough to justify taking time away from work.

I surfed again yesterday, of course, as it was my usual dawn patrol with the crew. Baby Gorilla couldn’t make it. Uncle Chris was in San Francisco. Spock is in Hawaii, I’m sure the Rev told me a couple of weeks ago why he was a no show. The Sailor was doing something with his wife. Others just couldn’t make it.

So Rip Van Ronnie met me at Kohl’s and we rode down and met Gooch, arriving at our favorite surf spot around 5:15 am to check it out. Just the 3 of us, and Powder, who was already checking it out when we arrived, as usual.

Tuesday when I hit Emma, it was the beginning of a South that was winding down Friday. Saturday another South was to pick up, but forecasters kept pushing it to arrive later and later in the day. That meant that our Saturday dawn patrol was in between swells.

Our favorite wasn’t appealing, though very surfable on a longboard. However, it looked like we should at least go check a couple of other spots we just couldn’t see in the dark as we drove by them.

Powder headed to Zeroes and we headed to County Line. County didn’t look much better than our favorite, so we headed south and stopped to check Leo Carrillo. It had potential!

As we suited up to longboard two others paddled out. We hadn’t seen them and really thought we were going to be the first in the water, but Leo is also a campground so we figured they must have walked over from there. Then I noticed a third and figured he was with them.

Gooch and I were the 4th and 5th in the water followed by RVR about 15 minutes later. He always likes to wait for it to get a little lighter out.

The crew of campers was a really mellow crew and in fact, one of them wasn’t a camper, but a friend from High School I hadn’t seen in over 25 years probably! Dave and I sat out there catching waves, catching up on all those years, and reminiscing about the old days. He was good people back then and still is, now married with children. (So he wasn’t with the campers, who turned out to be from San Diego.)

As Gooch, RVR and I decided it was time for breakfast because about 7 more surfers were hitting the one take-off zone Leo has, it was time to say good-bye to Dave. (Not forever as he remembered my e-mail address and e-mailed me.)

I caught my last wave to go in and it wasn’t too bad. Smaller than some, but something I could ride all the way in. After a couple of turns I got up to the nose, lost speed and pearled it. I went under the surface as usual in these circumstances to avoid the board, but the board did a crazy 360 in the air and as it landed back in the water I was almost surfacing and one of the fins caught the back left side of my head leaving a 3 inch gash above and behind my ear.

It hurt right away and happened so fast that I actually thought the rail of the board hit my head causing a blunt force split.

As I got to the car RVR was describing how funny and cool the board looked as it did the 360. I turned around to show him the aftermath and his first reaction had me worried, but by now Gooch was there and was able to snap a pic on my phone for me. It was bad, but I didn’t need Urgent Care in Malibu. From their perspective they couldn’t see what happened.

No breakfast at Lily’s. 😦

RVR drove my car to Urgent Care in SCV and they saw me right away. They did all the “look at this light” exercises and determined I was fine, just bleeding, and put 3 staples in my head and sent me on my way.

I was able to put my footy together and narrate it, so I must be okay. That’s how I figured it was the fin that got me. 32 years of surfing with this being the first serious injury. Let’s hope I can go another 32 years before the next one. 😉

Take care, thank you, and God bless.

Surfer Yoda

Baby Gorilla’s Near Death Experience

22 07 2012

Baby Gorilla and I met in the summer of 2004. The company we worked for was opening a location in Oxnard, CA, a “roll-out” of the Los Angeles version of the company. He came here from their Phoenix, AZ location.

I know what you’re thinking: “Arizona doesn’t have a beach! How’d he get into surfing?!”

Well…BG grew up in Michigan, worked for this company in Pittsburg, PA, then Phoenix. Somewhere in there he took a vacation trip to Australia where he tried surfing for the first time. Like most people who continue to do it he got the “bug” and made it his destiny to find a way to get closer to the beach whenever the opportunity presented itself.

That opportunity came with the opening of Sysco Ventura.

He got the transfer, moved to Southern California, and started surfing on a regular basis as much as possible.

I worked for Sysco Los Angeles and my territory was in the Ventura roll-0ut. One day I needed help with a program that helped us sell restaurant equipment and BG rode with me in my area to help me learn how to use it. Surfing came up and the rest is history. Bud’s for life.

BG had a friend from Michigan who was already in So Cal (this is where Gooch comes into the picture). BG wanted me to meet him and surf with them where Gooch lived in Manhattan Beach. I believe it was that winer 04/05. We were meeting Gooch and his buddy, Weedo, at El Porto.

So BG and I met Gooch and Weedo at the 45th St. Parking Lot. When I got there I was pretty sure I didn’t have the right equipment. It looked 5 to 8 feet, easy, and glassy and hollow.

(An aside here: Depending on how a wave breaks, low or high tide, direction, etc., can all determine how powerful and scary it can be. Mushy 8 foot is way easier than hollow 8 foot. Think Pipeline from here on out.)

BG arrived and I got introduced to Gooch and Weedo. We suited up and headed for the line up.

It seemed that some sets were even a little larger than the 8 foot variety. I managed to catch one that was well over my head riding a 7’11’ shallow rocker fun shape with a 2+1 fin set up. I’m pretty sure I was wishing I had more rocker and a shorter board design, but I still got in a few turns before it sectioned out on me in a thunderous pounding. I turned toward the beach because I was sure I saw the guys there.

For some reason we decided to go check Hammerland off the jetty. It looked just like it’s nickname says. Guys were getting amazing rides, too. Photographers were there. It was epic.

By this time I was spent and had to work my way back home. The rest is what I remember BG telling me.

Even though BG was tired from paddling out in this super washing machine, he, Gooch, and Weedo decided to paddle out at Hammerland.

BG didn’t catch anything. He was already tired from the paddling and duck diving when a clean up set (usually larger than what’s been normal) came through. It knocked him off his board as he went under it, ripping it from his death grip. He was out of energy anyway, and then it happened: The leash stretched to beyond its capabilities and snapped!

Now BG was 50+ yards from the beach, exhausted from the pounding he’s just received, and boardless (no floatation device).

That can be very scary in bigger surf. There are rip currents that pull in all directions away from shore and you still have to try to hold your breath to go under the waves only to get tossed like a rag doll around and around losing sense of which way is up. BG’s life was starting to flash before his eyes and he didn’t think he was going to make it in!

Then out of nowhere another surfer came up to him and gave BG his surfboard to get to shore on it. He told him to take it and paddle in. This guy rescued him from the surf zone, a total stranger.

BG gathered what strength he had and rode the massive white water on his belly to the beach. The rescuer came in a few minutes (or less) behind, grabbed his board and paddled back out. Not sure if BG got to thank him.

BG survived to surf some more, that’s for sure, but it would be a few years before he’d surf El Porto, again.

I’m sure there’s more to it he can comment on at the bottom, but I’m glad he made it. He’s a good friend.

So be careful when the surf is beyond your limits. You want to live to surf another day.

Thank you and God bless,

Surfer Yoda

PS – Please check out Some On Boards on Facebook, Twitter, and our website www.someonboards.com. We will be getting up and going in the next few months.

Near Death

18 03 2012

I once had a “near death” experience. I look back and think that maybe it wasn’t that near death, but it was pretty scary.

It was El Nino winter 82’/83′ when the storms in the North Pacific were raging. They’d send huge waves our way on clear sunny days and then slam head on into our So Cal Coast. Basically, the jet stream would be lower allowing these storms to come into So Cal instead of hitting way farther north. The huge waves coupled with the intense rain caused a few of our beloved piers to break near the ends and flood everything inland. Seal Beach was having both problems, but the Huntington Beach Pier and Santa Monica Pier also got splintered in the large waves.

So one of those clear days Russ and I headed to C-Street in Ventura (a.k.a. Surfer’s Point today) after school to surf the big waves.

When we got there we had no business paddling out. The inside waves were 10 feet and I couldn’t even guess what the sets were. I don’t remember anyone even being out there. But I was 16 and Russ was 15 and we were, of course, invincible.

I lost track of Russ after we paddled out. At C-Street in big NW to west swells there’s a current that runs down the point from north to south (basically) and it’s best to paddle out farther north of where you think your final sitting spot will be. That paddle alone can make you lose track of your friends.

So my first wave came to me and it was easily 10 feet. I was riding a 5’10” Greg Liddle Twin Fin; so much not the right equipment for the conditions, but I managed to paddle into it, get to my feet, and ride it about 50 yards, not realizing how far down the point I had drifted. I was able to kick out and not have it close out and push me to the beach, though in hindsight that’s exactly what I should have done.

As I was trying to paddle back out, duck diving monsters, I realized I should actually get out and walk back up the point to paddle out. The current was taking me into the pier, though, so as I started to paddle for the beach I realized I was going to be lead into the pier before I could make it to the beach. In my head I was so far from both, but in reality I was probably 20 yards from the pier and 100+ yards from shore when I kicked out. With the current, my only option was to paddle under the pier and try to get to the beach on the south side of it.

As I started paddling as fast as I could, a set was coming through and it looked like it was scraping the bottom of the pier. The first wave I managed to make it through two pilings without hitting, but the second wave knocked me off my board. When I came up for air I tugged my leash and nothing moved. It had wrapped around a piling and my board wasn’t coming to me.

The third wave hit me and now I was stuck under water, tied to my board that’s supposed to save my life in situations like this, but now is acting like an anchor tied to the piling.

I managed to keep my head and reached down to rip the velcro wrapped around my ankle apart so I could get away from the pier and the fourth wave sent me between two more pilings. The nice part was as I came up for air I was on the other side and done with the pier!  Praise God!

To say I was pretty tired from the survivor mode adrenalin rush would be an understatement. I still had at least a 100 yard swim with no surfboard to make it to dry sand. So I kicked in whatever energy I had left and swam for it, getting tossed like Ragedy Andy every time the smaller 10 footers rolled in.

When I got to the beach I was breathing harder than I had every breathed. My muscles were weaker than I had ever felt. Basically, I just laid there like you might expect someone who just got washed ashore from a shipwreck. I was praying and thanking God for sparing my life. He was the only One to meet me on the beach. No lifeguards on duty; not a soul around this afternoon, for some reason.

After I felt it was time to get up I prayed one last prayer and it was about finding my one and only surfboard. Just then it happened to wash up, right there next to where I was. It only had a ding in the tail. It was pretty bad, but could be fixed. Russ was back at the car waiting, not knowing what had just happened to me.

A few days later I was back to surfing and enjoying the waves. It didn’t scare me out of surfing. I still had the bug.

Thanks for reading and God bless.

Surfer Yoda