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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Friday, November 29, 2013

Swell Sliding in the Rain

I can't remember the last time that I've surfed in the rain, particularly in Southern California!

Starting early on, the forecast was for a significant swell to hit (finally!) but for there to be pretty widespread, sometimes heavy, rain ahead of it.  Usually, in SoCal, rain means pretty lousy conditions and always it means contaminated run off!  I was holding out for a decision, but as the week progressed, the swell forecast remained unchanged while the weather forecast increasing showed that the rain would be nearly entirely well off shore.  Winds were forecast for not more than 5kt, from the Northeast, or Southeast, benign directions.  

So my anticipation grew daily and I set out south with high expectations.  However, along the drive, I was in rain for well over half the 72 miles.  In the early morning hours, the rain had come onshore.

A light sprinkle was falling as I crossed to the rail, to join Craig Thomsen, checking it out.  The rain and breeze made it chilly, and the surf appeared squirrelly - sometimes lumpy, seemingly long lulls, and some sets when they arrived were pretty walled up.  After over a half hour of watching, Craig was unconvinced.

Nonetheless, there was some size.  Faces getting at least a couple of feet overhead at times.  And, there was a rising south swell mixing in with the dominant, long period, WNW.  Certainly, the period was giving it some unusual juice.

A few of the sticks out there were making it work...

...while others, well, weren't:

Some with skills were milking it...

..and then, there were the clueless.

Craig went for the raincheck, but there was too much happening out there for Mark Ghattas and I not to break this 2-month-long drought of surf.  Honestly, it would have to have been terrible for us not to get in.  What it proved to be was very good.  For the patient, there were some sizable waves with well-formed shoulders and some long rides.  Mark got one right away and was hooked.  Mine came later in the relatively short (1 hour) session.  

The south swell was creating some lefts, but it was mainly and hard.  Sets were only one or two waves and there were lulls, so, even though surfers were pretty well strung out by the steady current, the paucity of waves without a stick already pulling it to kept this from being a really exceptional session.  But there were some great waves.

Oh, yeah, the rain.  Strangely, there was either no wind or a bit of offshore.  Through the hour, a drizzle would come and go, sometimes morphing into a true, light rain, with big drops plunking the water around us.  Actually, it was kind of cool.


So, with the rust that's built up over the past couple of months, and a pretty decent swell, I decided today was not the day to try taking out the GoPro for the first time.  I'd like to practice a bit with it in some smaller stuff first, I think.  Nonetheless, practicing my video skills, I used the iPhone to capture a bit of live action this morning.  Gives an idea of the swell, anyway.

Swell Slidin' in the Rain from Hank Haldeman on Vimeo.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dialin' the Decade at Del Mar

The surf wasn't exceptional and the weather gradually deteriorated, but it's hard to think of a better way to see the digits on the age dial click over a decade than an extended weekend in Del Mar with Heather and our (adult) children!

Friday afternoon was bright and shining, with a small swell showing as we settled into the cozy inn above the old Del Mar train station. 

Saturday, the sun made a valiant effort to break through, then gave up for the remainder of the weekend.   By early Monday, we had rain and blown surf.  But Saturday AM showed decent conditions while Sunday stayed glassy through the morning, albeit in chilly (60 degree) water under a leaden sky.  

The surf was a presentable waist to shoulder high, sometimes a bit bigger, and the Del Mar Bodysurfing Club made a valiant showing, with up to a dozen surfers gradually filling in the lineup over the hour succeeding the posting of the 17th Street black ball at 9:00 each morning (Saturday & Sunday).  Along with Allan and Joe, on their surfboards, we got a jump on it Sunday morning, enjoying having 17th Street  to ourselves, just the three of us, before the blackball went up.

Surf in the morning, lazing in the afternoon, drinks at L'Auberge then Del Mar eateries at night; the newly-weds, Hilary & Doug out from New York to join Heather, Allan, Joe and me.  Not sure that there's any better way to usher in 60!
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Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Beaut in the Park ... the photos

Back to small-to-negligible surf in So it's time to post the photos from last Saturday's memorable session in the Park.  Remember, click on any for full screen.

First, those from Hugh Berenger, shooting from shore:

The Pastor was here...

My take off on the beautifully formed wave that was my ride of the day.  Watching the take off, from left to right, are Steve Harkins, Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas & Matt Hughes.
First of a series.

Late in the wave, trimming under lip.

Lifted high, inside the tube, by a surge of backwash.

Backwash opens it up to reveal me on my way back down!

...and down & out the back.

Matt on a feathering right.  

Sailfish (Ghattas) left.

Me, right.

Crawdaddy (Brent) was in the water with his video camera, from which he extracted a few stills. 
Me, take off on a set wave.
(Full screen, you can see that we got some size.)

While shooting, Crawdaddy had a too-close encounter with Paul Tordella's fin.  (Photo Hugh)

Paul shared some snaps of the crew in the lot from before the session:

Sailfish, bundled against the cool morning breeze.

Matt Hughes

Me.  The RR crossing and steps (behind me) were closed for construction work on the tracks.

Cut over the eye from Paul's fin.  Cut on the forehead from his tailgate.

Reprise: Hugh's compilation of the latter half of my ride of the day:
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Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Beaut in the Park

Four weeks off, and a beauty of a day to break the fast!  One photo by Hugh tells a lot:

I will post a second entry soon with more from Hugh and Paul.  Meanwhile, a quick recap of the morning yesterday.  On arrival shortly after 7:00 - yeah, and EARLY start for a promising day! - I found Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and Matt Hughes already suiting up.  The air was chill, with a soft offshore combing the waves and putting a little texture on the water, but there was swell, it was peaky and not at all crowded.

Despite the pier report of 65/66 degree water and the clear skies, we all elected full suits due to the chill.  Getting in, it seemed a good idea, but by mid-session, spring suits seemed to have been the call.

Brent Crawford showed up before we left the lot and quickly joined us in the water with his cam in tow.  Can't wait to see the video!  For over two hours, we had regular, shoulder to head high, peaky surf.  Mostly glassy through the morning, the longer-period south in the swell, combined with the offshore, kept it pitching with large, open barrels. 

Soon, Steve Harkins joined us, and Hugh showed up, shooting from ashore.  

The top photo was from my wave of the day - others said it was THE wave of the day.  I found myself lined up perfectly on the corner of a head-high left that had a beautiful, long, soft shoulder trailing a long way off.  The initial face drop gave me the speed to shoot out onto the shoulder for a long slide before the face steepened and pitched a thick lip over me.  The tube stayed wide open as I continued, fully covered up.  Then, the wave exploded as several feet of backwash jacked it - and me - up to double-size.  The photo catches me dropping back into the tube before rolling out the back on a ride to remember.

Breakfast afterward at Adele's - decorated for Halloween.  As we were departing, I noticed the guy who'd been looking over my shoulder through the meal: A Crawdaddy Mini-Me, matching the wounds that the original was sporting from a too-close encounter with his tailgate followed by an eyebrow clip from Paul's fin.

So, I am sitting an airport as I write this, anxious that I've not done the day justice at all.  Warm water, low crowds, a good pod of stoked bodysurfers controlling the main peak, glassy surface, a great swell and plenty of sun.  Hopefully, some of this will come through in the photos to follow in next post!  Now to board....
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Glass in the Fog

Last Saturday, Southern California remained mired in yet another muggy heat wave, but this time, the forecast was for a decent swell - 2-4 feet out of the Southwest with some Northwest windswell mixed in...just the kind of mix the Park likes.  A moderate tide joined prediction for mild winds, though from the Northwest.  Nonetheless, a promising prediction for relief from the heat and summer trend toward minimal surf.
Though skies were cloudless blue through the drive down from Pasadena, I entered into thick fog as soon as I hit San Clemente.  Cooling waters encountering overheated air create the offshore evaporation that was then pinned against the cliff-rimmed bay of San Clemente.
Checking for surf from the rail - maybe all of fifty feet from water's edge - nothing could be seen.   The lifeguard station, 100 feet to the south, was nearly lost in fog.

Paul reported that the water in Newport had been frigid, so I walked down to water's edge to check the temperature.  It seemed quite a bit cooler than the 64 being reported at the SC pier, so I abandoned plans for the spring/shortie and donned the full 3:2.  Entering the fog-shrouded water, I was glad of my choice.

There was a string of surfers from the Main Peak south beyond the rocks, but a nice peak was working just north of the Main Peak, with no one on it.  Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and I swam out there, and ended up having the peak to ourselves throughout the session. 

Through the next two+ hours, inconsistent size ran from chest to shoulder, to occasional head-high sets.  Unlike most of summer, though, it was a thick, long-interval swell, offering up consistently hollow tubes with some solid power behind them.  The dense air maintained a slickly glossy surface throughout.
Time after time, I found myself inside the eerily luminescent, blue hollows created by the soft light filtered through the fog.  Oddly, it seemed brighter inside the shack than floating on the glossy surface.

Shortly into the session, local father & son denizens Shawn and Cheyne O'Gorman joined us, gritting though the cooling water without wetsuits.  Five of us in the water, with plenty of glassy, hollow rides to go around, many quite long, and no competition at all for the waves.  

Over two hours, the fog alternately thinned and reset, but never relented.  That we had our peak to ourselves, combined with the blanketing gray and smooth surface, gave the session an unusual intimacy.  Just us, the ocean and our waves.

Intrepid beachgoers, driven to the shore by the inland heat, continued to fill in sand, happier with the comfort than upset by the lack of sun.
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Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Wrap Up .. SCSP Smallies in the Fog & Saturday Video Link

First, a treat - Sam's video from Saturday's session at 58th St. in Newport. 

Surfing 58th Aug 31 2013 from Samuel Abeger.

Not sure if Newport today would have matched Saturday, but, with Labor Day crowds in the offing, Mark Ghattas, Paul Tordella, Neil Frank and I decided to meet up in the Park, where there was likely to be less swell but far less crowding in the water.  A decent call.

Checking the cams before setting out, both San Clemente and Newport were totally socked in - the San Clemente cam was simply gray and Newport not much better.  There was no morning surfline report, due to the lack of visibility.  

Trusting the swell models, we expected - and got - a moderately consistent 2-3 foot swell (waist to shoulder high).  We swam out at the Main Peak in warm-ish (68), glassy water and dense fog. 

Due to the fog, which at times seemed to try to clear but never did, the photos are from after the session  - still fairly dense at 11:00.  

The swell was small, but well-formed, with some long rides - particularly on the lefts.  Whether it was the fog or the fact that other breaks were probably doing better in the swell, we basically had the Main Peak area to ourselves for a 90 minute session.  For a while, around 9:30, it got quite good, teasing that it might turn into a pretty decent session as the tide continued to drop.  But by 10:00, the energy seemed to drop off and by 10:30 a mild onshore breeze started up. 

 Despite the lack of sun, by 10:45, the narrow beach that comprises SCSP was filling in with holiday beach-goers, seeking respite from the hot, muggy weather just a few hundred yards inland...with more arriving by the minute.

We've had some memorable Labor Day sessions in the Park.  This doesn't qualify, but compared to the total flat of preceding weeks, we'll take it!

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Surf in August ... at last!

With the last day of August finally came some surf!  And, much better than expected, at that.

A pretty steep SSW swell, forecast at 2-3 feet, pointed to the North/West end of Newport rather than points further south.  Desperate for any surf, expectations were for a small swell but heavily packed lineup as the whole of Southern California sought to break the August surf fast of the past four weeks.  We - Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and I - decided to meet up at 59th Street - the very end of the Newport Jetties - in the hope the crowd would be a little lighter there without sacrificing much swell.

We were surprised to see a peaky, head-high set and glassy conditions as we crossed the broad expanse of sand in Newport.  Less surprising was all the fiberglass in the water - but it was moderately spread out.  We swam out right between 58th & 59th, where it appeared a little thinner: there was the expected, dense clump at 54th, the last jetty, and then concentrations further north.

 The swim out in warm-ish, 65 degree water, was easy, and, nearly immediately, a clean, shoulder-high set came in, hollow and pitching with a bit of that Newport punch. 

Joe on a glassy shoulder high right

Despite the number of sticks in the water, the vibe was good...everybody was just happy to see surf and there was plenty to go around.  As I held position at 58th Street, with a mild current running north, the spot would go through periods of intense concentration - maybe a dozen surfers clumped in - to periods where there'd only be one or two within the block.

I had lots of fun rides, long ones on slowly peeling lines and faster ones in pitching tubes.  So good to be the in water again!

Joe joined us, along with Sam Abeger, who brought his new GoPro out and got some good shots.  Video to follow soon.

Two memorable rides of the day:  First, a 50-ish guy, shortboarding off the end of the 56th Street jetty, dropped in on a peeling, head-high left and worked the wave all the way to the inside - past 60th street...a four-block-long ride.  The bodysurfing wave of the day, hopefully caught by Sam, was another peeling left that Paul caught right at the peak, for a long, fast slide to the deep inside.

With Labor Day weekend sealing off the disappointing summer season, we can only hope this was a harbinger of the the fall season!