Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hoedown in the Park: How Many is Too Many?

Stoke is great, and it has to be shared.  But how many is too many?

Broadening the corps of real bodysurfers and the respect garnered for what we consider the purest form of surfing is a quest, along with pinning the Park as a base for a respected pod of this, most esoteric, expression of human interface with waves.  But at what price, and what "qualifies"?

Saturday was the second "Handplane Hoedown in the Park."  Depending on your viewpoint, the 'alternative' segment of surf is comprised of some portion of the spectrum from "pure" bodysurfing, to hand planes, paipos, surf mats and knee boards.  

I crossed the tracks approached the viewpoint rail at the steps with some trepidation.  A call had gone out on FaceBook for the hoedown, with over 1,000 individuals "invited" and over 250 "attending."  What kind of zoo was going to be in the water? 

Looking South, there were 30 heads in the water, clumped between the Main Peak and rock area, and another 20 scattered toward LG 1 past the rocks.  One half of the mind says, "Wow! Look at the turnout!" while the other screams, "how the hell are you going to find a decent wave?"

In fact, as I watched a nice, chest-high set roll in, at least 15 people dropped in on the first wave, hooting and hollering.  

 Looking closer though, at the Peak, two riders were getting unmolested rides.  More significantly, there was not a single "stick" - surfboard - evident, anywhere!  Clearly, the "hand plane" crew had chased them.

As I walked down the beach, analyzing the waist to shoulder high waves that were fighting through the high tide, sporadically, the good spots were pretty much as usual: the Main Peak was best, seconded by some nice corners peeling off the rocks further south, and some reasonable consistency further down at LG1. 

I could see Mark Ghattas on the South side of the Main Peak, with the scores of handplaners beyond him, but there was only a couple of kids working the Peak.  I swam out there, and was rewarded quickly with a couple of fun peaks. 

For the next 2-1/2 hours, I worked that area, while about 100 "hand planers" were in and out of the water to the South.  Some would spread North, into the Main Peak area, all pretty loose and stoked.  I seemed to be grabbing all the best waves, so I really had no problem, as I gathered plenty of respect for each of my rides.  Shortly, Craig Thomson joined Mark and me, along with his son and a friend.  The surf was very inconsistent, troubled by the high tide, but my patience was rewarded with a good wave ever 10 minutes or so.  I was definitely having fun.

 Cool water (64 - "shortie" time), warm air (80's), glassy surface, just enough swell to break through the high tide ... and 100 bodysurfers/hand planers to the South of me.  I did meet a few that I had a loose connection with through Facebook, but couldn't help myself from fearing how many were likely to be back.

For most sessions, we have between two and six bodysurfers out at the Park.  Better days, maybe ten, and with a call for an expression session, twelve to fifteen.  That makes for a great pod.  We know each other, respect each others' waves (for the most part), maybe take over a section for some stick-free surfing.  Share the stoke.

I didn't understand, but was glad of, the invaders' tendency to clump together, all take off on the same wave, and leave the best of the pickings to me.  It was amazing to spend over a couple of hours in the water at the Park without a single stick around.  

If this gets the Park some respect in the bodysurfing community or gets bodysurfers at the Park some local respect, that's great!  I am happy to share "my" spot with some that will appreciate it.  But what if, instead, more and more of these guys make it a habit to come ride what has essentially been a "secret spot," enjoyed by small, close-nit group...a group that, as I said, respects each other and the essence of the wave...which, in itself, is a solo experience?  What if this group, not a single one of them local or regular at the Park, creates a backlash in the stick community, with which we - the regulars, the locals, at the Park - have forged a good, shared vibe? I wrap this, Joe just arrived for Sunday dinner, and commented that there's a ton of social media "press" on the hoedown, beyond the bodysurfing/hand boarding community.  A good thing for alternative surfing?  Yes!  A threat to the sanctuary of the Park?  Yes, as well.  

I'm glad it wasn't a classic day at the Park, but glad the hoedown was fun and enjoyed by all.
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Monday, September 3, 2012

Classic Park Session to close out Summer

Privately, I was holding hope for an epic session on Sunday, the second full day of one of the best swells of summer.  Saturday, by reports, had been big and strong but disorganized and troubled by onshore winds.  Late in the week, a growing group of bodysurfers targeted Sunday for an expression session in the Park.  It fell short of epic, but was a memorable day, nonetheless, with 14 bodysurfers in the lineup at various times.

On arrival, it was sunny and mulitple peaks were showing virtually from the steps all the way down past LG1.  The heads of several bodysurfers bobbed, amongst a line of surfers that ran unbroken from the steps through LG1.  A dozen surfers are visible in the shot above, which also shows the great form on an overhead wave.  Much fun was promised!

Jeff (JPL) Lashbrook, was just leaving as I arrived, having joined other early birds, Brent (Crawdaddy) Crawford, Russell (Riptide) Riopelle and local surfer Casey.  Riptide is pictured on a long left slide, on an inside wave, below.

A great, two-hour session followed.  The water had cooled to 66, but it still felt good - refreshing - trunking it with the sun, warm air and negligible winds.  Consistently, there were good corners for long rides.  Early on, the pack of board surfers waxed & waned as the surf broke consistently outside, ranging from shoulder to head and overhead heights. 

Most of the faces were softly sloped, and the break was relatively slow, allowing long, easy rides.  A couple of bodysurfers swim out, above, as a stick-rider enjoys the slowly peeling lip and glassy conditions.

With a lot of sticks and a solid pod of bodysurfers out, there were a few run ins. There were a few unfortunate kooks, (see below - this guy nearly took out Hugh after earlier dropping in on Akerman), and some back-paddling wave hogs.

Not all bad, though. There were a number of good surfers out who were respecting those of us without flotation devices. On one long right, a board was starting to drop in on me, but I called out, as I slid across the wave, "hey, hey, yo yo yo!" Though he was well into the wave and I was rapidly approaching his board, he pulled out when he heard me. Rick Ciaccio saw the whole thing and commented as I emerged on how much he had enjoyed watching me call off the surfer.

As you can see from the sequence below, not all were as respectful, as the guy on the left robs the other surfer of a great wave.

A great pod filled in, during the morning; fourteen, overall.  Russell was out for his first time in over a year.  It had been awhile since Rick (#9) Ciaccio had joined us in the Park, and Dave (DaArm) Amenta made one of his two or three annual visits.  In addition to the early birds - JPL, Crawdaddy, Casey & Riptide - the O'Gormans (Shawn, Ian & Cheyne) hoofed it down from Lost Winds while Eric Ackerman cycled down from Strands.  Regulars Neil (Real Deal) Frank, Mark (Sailfish) Ghattas also rode while perennial denizen Hugh Berenger shot it all.  It is always so amazing to ride with a stoke-filled group like these guys.

Unfortunately, about 45 minutes into the session, the rising tide started to approach its peak and swamped it out a bit.  The sets formerly breaking outside moved inside, compressing the lineup and making waves harder to come by.  They were still fun, though: DaArm got there long after it shifted inside and still was stoked about "the call" for the day, and #9 also missed the earlier action but still appeared to be happy to be wet.

Nonetheless, it remained glassy late into the morning, as the shots taken after I'd gotten out (all of those after the shot of Russell) show.  In fact, after the tide peaked, the swell started to move out again, offering gems like the one above.

There were still glassy, empty nuggets (above), but plenty of fiberglass, and still a few heads, in the lineup (below).

Saifish stayed in for a few extra rides after my still-weak ankle finally demaned that I exit.  Below, he makes his final slide toward shore.

I know that Hugh has a bunch of shots of the crew. I am not sure if these links will work, but he's posted some on Facebook here:  Sept2 Bodysurfing Session.  In this nice one of me, you can really feel the soft slope of the face and slow peel:   HHH .

And don't miss Crawdaddy's Video <- click here !!

A memorable session to close out summer and segue into fall on a three day weekend!