Saturday, March 22, 2014

Del Mar Delights (March 9)

Not much surf the past two weeks, so finally compiling some scenes from two weeks ago in Del Mar with Bruce Robbins, Bill Schildge and the DMBC. Spent most of my time surfing very fun waves, rather than shooting.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mild MidWinter Holiday in the Park

There was some hope, early on, for a pretty good swell to arrive on President's Day.  However, as the weekend approached, the projected arrival of the swell was pushed back to later in the day Monday, and the strength downgraded.  Nonetheless, Monday was the only day with a chance of some surf for the long weekend.

Trying to balance concerns over a mid-moring high tide, the potential for growing onshore winds and the expectation that the swell wouldn't start to fill in until late morning, we decided on a 9:00 rendezvous.  On arrival, there was a little, sporadic, swell in the water under socked in skies, but a slickly glossy surface and clean conditions.

Matt was there, along with Mark Ghattas as we checked it out with tempered enthusiasm.  Despite the heavy coastal fog, the air was temperate and the water temperature reported at 60.  The tide didn't seem to be swamping what little swell there was, so we decided to jump in and see what might come.

I only kept the GoPro with me for about 20 minutes, but a good feel for the conditions comes across in this short (48 sec.) video (turn the sound off; it's messed up):

(PS - midway through the video, I tried shooting back at Ghattas as I lead him in the wave.  Interesting; worked for a while.)

Through the two hours, forerunners of the expected swell kept tempting us with shoulder-high waves and occasional fun rides.  But, as the sun fought to burn off the fog, the lulls were the norm.  It's always great to get in the water, with at least a little swell.  Warming air and 60 degree water in mid-February is tough to complain about.  I'll let photos do most of the talking for the rest of today's blog:

The sun had chased the fog bank well offshore by the time we exited around 11:30.

When the waves did some in , they were nicely formed and remained clean through the session.  The fact that we're looking at left, when the main swell was supposed to be NW from about 300, says much.

But the air and water were warm enough to entice bikinis and board short wearing holiday visitors into the water.

Meanwhile, the sun sparkled off empty corners,

while the waves that did come caught the surfers inside.

Gentle conditions enticed a number of novices into the water to practice their skills,

while a trio of teenage spongers had the most fun:

It got a little crowded at times,

but the sponge pod didn't mind.

Did we hope for better?  Sure.  But who's complaining?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Belated Blog from a Memorable Swell

Last weekend: through the week we'd been anticipating the first solid swell in ages: peaking on Saturday, lingering into Sunday.  The great news was  that it was hitting pretty much everywhere throughout Southern California, taking the pressure off local spots, dispersing the crowds.  

I met SCSP first-timer, Rick Sherburne, a life-long Newport bodysurfer, at the rail at 8:00 Sunday.  The sun was already glinting off a glassy surface with clean, well formed, long interval, head-high waves coming through.  The long swell interval was hollowing the waves and generating plenty of juice.  Inside, the whitewater was brown with churned up sand.

I only paused long enough to snap a couple of quick shots, not wanting to waste the swell and conditions.   Not many pictures today....

From 2014-01-26

Hugh's van pulled in while we were suited up, and Kahuna (Chuck Herpick) came down to check it out, but not to ride.  For once, Hugh decided to leave his cameras behind and come out and bodysurf with us.

In the water, it was all that was promised.  Beefy, head high and overhead sets streamed in with occasional lulls.  Often closed out, like the wave above, nearly as often they were catching one of the sand bars, setting up workable corners and, occasionally, a long ride to deep inside.  

The waves were sucking out the water underneath, making it disconcertingly shallow underneath, often only a couple of feet.  The bottom tended to drop out on the steeper rights, leaving a free fall into the shallows.  I can't remember spending so much time, pinned to the bottom on my back.

Mark Ghattas and Craig Thomson showed up  in due course, and Rick Ciaccio put in a rare appearance, breaking a long drought on a good day to do it!

Throughout the session, we had the main peak to ourselves. Occasionally, a stick would drift through and share a few waves while the stoke remained high.  Plenty of waves and thin crowds make for great ahola in the water.  For the most part, the handful of sticks were working the peak close to the steps, while another group was down in front of the Park at LG1.

Late in the session, a rangy-looking guy drifted into the main peak area from the North.  Ghattas was taking off on a wave, and the guy started to drop in.  Both ended up pulling out, so Mark gave him a questioning stare.  Which lead to a bizzarre interlude.  In a loud voice, the surfer advised Mark that this was an area for "surfers" and he needed to get out of the water.  He gestured to a lifeguard truck on the shore (who'd been enjoying watching us for the last hour or so) and told Mark to go ask them: these waves are for surfers only.  In a total non-sequitur, the guy asked Mark if he was from Texas and (??) continued on gabbing, asserting that "these waves" are for "real surfers."  

Given that he was a lone board surfer amidst six bodysurfers, it struck all of us as rather absurd, if not quite foolish.  The pack of bodysurfers took it up, parodying the foolish comments.  To his, "Why don't you try catching a wave without your fins?" we answered, with laughter, "Why don't you try catching a wave without your flotation device?"

I caught a long right,  which ended up just inside of him.  One of the others called in, asking how it was.  My response was, "How would I know?  I'm a bodysurfer!  That wave was for a real surfer."

The scene was so absurd, the waves so plentiful and the stoke so high that, rather than being any kind of a downer, the whole thing was just a comic interlude providing additional color to a memorable morning.  

Two hours into the session, I told Mark I was taking the next one in.  He looked at me like I was crazy - quitting already, when it's so excellent.  Persuaded, I lingered another 40 minutes!

When I got home, at Ciaccio's recommendation, I read the article on "kooks"  in the new issue of The Surfers Journal.  It suggests that you know one when you see one.  We saw one Sunday morning.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beautiful Winter Morning in the Park, in Words and Photos

[As always, click on the photos for full screen, high resolution.]

A week ago, the forecast was for overhead surf, maybe even to 10 feet, today.  By the time Saturday evening arrived, the forecast had been significantly downgraded, on SurfLine to 1-2 feet.  Nonetheless,  hearts were set on getting something this weekend, so off to the Park to see what we might find.  What we found was a beautiful, sunny, glassy morning:

But there was some surprising swell in the water:

 While there seemed to be more folks out shooting the swell than actually surfing it

Mark Ghattas and I were getting ours in.

 Some nice, hollow, waist to shoulder high smallies
 [definitely click though on this one!]

that were perfect for a bodysurfer to tuck into:

(That's Mark in the shot above.)

 A different view of the same story on the video:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Del Mar Double

Heading out of Torrey Pines about 10:15, back to Pasadena for a 1:00 appointment, I followed my usual route along the beachside between Torrey Pines and Del Mar.  The swell was a bit bigger, and nice clean lines were sliding across a glossy surface under a clear blue sky.  Instead of turning in to take Carmel Valley or Del Mar Heights to the freeway, I continued into Del Mar, telling myself I'd stop for a minute if there happened to be a parking space by the 17th St. LG HQ.

There was a space, and a pod of at least a dozen denizens of the Del Mar Bodysurfing Club, out enjoying the black ball protection on one of Del Mar's better days.  I couldn't resist the decision to shine on the appointment and slip into my wetsuit.  By 10:30, I was in the water, entering as most of the DMBC exited, leaving only Bill "Froggy" Schildge and Ray "Best Bodysurfer" Sullivan (the same two that I shared Thursday with) in the water.

 A little bigger, a bit more closed out, but otherwise it was a carbon copy of Thursday.  Beautiful day, glassy surface, the waves were mostly pitching.  Irresistible!  For an hour, I shared the water with Bill and Ray and a sole sponger, with very good conditions.  Bill had his GoPro - I've lifted (without express permission) the one shot he's put up on Facebook thus far.  (It's of Eric "Butter Bee" Phleger.)

After they exited, I had it all to myself, but it was such a beautiful morning, my mind kept turning to the GoPro sitting in the car.  How great it would be to share the serenity of the morning, the glassy water reflecting blue sky, the pelicans sweeping the peeling waves, the dolphin cruising just outside.  So I hopped out and went back to the car - stopping for a brief chat with Vince Askey and the DMBC - and grabbed the GoPro, enthused over the opportunity to share here.

But I made a rookie mistake: I knew the battery in the device was less than fully charged, but didn't want to replace it with a fresh one using my wet hands.  I figured it would give me a bit of time.  Unfortunately, there was barely any charge and it shut off within a few seconds of initiating any video.  I thought about going back to change the battery, but the wind had brought a little texture to the surface and the ideal conditions I was so anxious to share were fading.  Better just to get another hour of surf in!  So I did.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Slippin' in a Sweet Session in San Diego

Well, the pattern since mid-October appears to be holding: I've got to surf a weekday to get a decent session.  The Friday after Thanksgiving was the only reasonably decent outing since October.  Again, the forecast for this weekend is meager, but I was able to sneak away from a conference in Torrey Pines to get in a nice little morning session in Del Mar this morning.

It was tought o know what to expect, with forecasts all over the map for both swell and wind.  The morning cams didn't look great, but it was worth taking a look.  Driving up the stretch between Torrey Pines and Del Mar, it looked pretty good - tending toward glassy and not as crumbly as I would have expected from the short-interval, NW swelI.  

I got to the lot behind the 15th St LG HQ about 8:45 and walked out to find nice, clean, chest & shoulder-high waves and a glassy surface.  One guy was surfing out front of the HQ (above), and a few peaks were scattered around.  I wasted little time taking photos and headed back to don the 4:3 wetter, since reported water temp was 56, and that was warmer than the early morning air temp.

The water was indeed chilly getting in, but no "ice cream headache" on first dunk (or later).  Eventually, I concluded it was probably more like 59.  I swam straight out, and for 30 minutes traded waves with the lone surfer.  Pretty consistent stomache - chest - shoulder high waves; well formed and nicely peeling.  The sun was breaking through, illuminating a few blue-room tubes, and there were several long slides to the deep inside.

As the surfer exited, maybe 9:30, the first of the local bodysurfers arrived.  First Bill, then Ray "Best Bodysurfer" Sullivan.  Unfortunately, the switching of the guard occasioned a long lull - the better part of 20 minutes.  Eventually, the energy picked back up, but not quite as good as those first 30 minutes.

With no wind, broken clouds and gradual warming, the water felt fresh and comfortable; almost warm. Responsibilities pulled me from the waves after 90 minutes, feeling the revitalization that only a successful surf session brings.  

I can withstand another off weekend, now ... and, further downstream, there looks like there may be a real swell coming in on the 19th!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Perfect Session to Christen the GoPro

Have only had one session since receiving the GoPro from my kids on my birthday - the day after Thanksgiving.  Between the size, and drizzly weather, of that session (blogged here: Swell Sliding in the Rain ), I chose not to try it out.  Today was the virtual opposite of that Friday session.

A stunningly beautiful winter morning started a crisp 45 degrees as I left Pasadena, but was 68 as I drove into the Calafia lot and over 70 by the time we got in the water.  Tiny smallies glittered under the bright morning sun.  Only a couple of surfers were out in the Park, scrapping for what they could get, while to the north, Riviera (below) was more consistent.

Mark arrived, as starved as I for surf, and a few minutes later, Hugh's van pulled in as well.  The chilly water (59) was a refreshing contrast to the balmy air.  Slowly, the high tide drained, and the sandbars started catching a few swells, for some waist high - sometimes larger - rides.  Other than a short period where the wind shifted to the south and threaten to blow the session, it remained calm.

Perfect conditions to try the camera!  Unintimidating, though not non-existent, surf; bright sun; little wind and no crowd.  We camped on the main peak and I messed with the camera.  Check the results:

1st GoPro Session, SCSP 12/15/2013 from Hank Haldeman on Vimeo.

Actually, not too bad, shooting literally blind.  To explain, a number of the shots are the beginning of my endeavor to show my point of view.  The GoPro is strapped to my left wrist.  On several "rights," I tried riding with my left arm extended up at about 45 degrees, shooting the wave face and ahead.  On one shot, I left in the sequence of paddling, as the hand (and cam) rotate under water then skyward, before dropping into the wave.  All sequences have been slowed at least to some degree.

The monotony of these experiments is broken by a few shots of Hugh on his board and Mark with the handboard.  With some practice, and working into bigger surf, maybe these will get half-decent.

A fun, but small and sketchy, session on a great morning.  Nothing wrong with that!  Hugh seems stoked to have gotten his first water time since Thanksgiving!

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