Post session surf reports for Monterey to San Francisco

December 3.

6 ft/16 seconds.

After an early morning meeting that I couldn't avoid, I was to head in to work for a few hours and possibly surf the afternoon. But with bluebird skies, a decent swell running, and being on the verge of total domestic disaster, I did the only logical thing -- I blew off my day and went straight to the beach to get some waves. Pulling up, I saw off-shore plumes blowing off the backs of 8-10 foot waves (3-4 foot Hawaiian). I'd scored.

This would set off my policy to take every Friday in December off. MattH and I paddled out around 1 P.M. The paddle out was surprisingly easy. I was on my 6'8". Once out there, MattH and I didn't hang much, as I was paddling south of him to catch the lefts. I did dial in to a number of them too. A couple short punchy ones, and one, long memorable one –- a big old drop-in, buttery bottom turn up into the pocket, hanging tight then shooting out of the pocket, back down, back up, then down the face and off the back w/ arms raised over head just like they do in the videos. That wave alone erased about 4 crummy sessions previous. I scored another memorable right hander which is backside for me. I dropped kinda late, but it held up in the off-shores allowing me to set up high on the wave, before sliding down the 6 foot face (2-3 Hawaiian) and banking hard off the bottom and slicing the top with my inside rail, backside; just a lovely feeling. The waves got bigger for a bit and just as I thought, “This is pretty easy out here… very makeable…” I ended up taking a couple spectacular falls getting hung up badly in the lips of the biggest set waves and then having to bail off the board only to free fall down the face. But it was so nice out, and waves were so good, this hardly phased me. After nearly 2 hours of this, I took a big set wave on the head and it snapped my leash. My 6'8" floated 20 yards inside of me and I swam in for it, grabbed it, and bellied in on the next wave. What a spectacular day and just what I needed in the face of some serious shit going down that day.

December 10, 2004. A beautiful late fall day with pumping swell. Met up with TB and Jimmy in Santa Cruz and we surfed one of our favorite reefs in SC. The first spot we paddled out proved to be really inconsistent and pretty weak so we paddled to a different reef / point to the north. Big right handers poured through every 15 minutes or so and despite 20 or so people out, we all got our fair share waves. My best and last wave included a really late drop, sketchy bottom turn, then 75 yard right with a couple bottom and top turns and decent speed.

December 11, 2004. After a bunch of indecision, SA and I railed north to the beach. The south and middle looked solid double overhead and we both admitted to not wanting that kind of challenge on this afternoon. So we surfed the north end. Early in the session, I watched SA score two great waves. The first wave he went right (his front side) and I watched him make his patented, controlled bottom turn before turning up high into the pocket then down the line. He would exit the wave and paddle out and get another wave (a left) as I sat on the bar getting worked. On the left, he carved high up on top of the wave and I thought he was gonna come crashing down with the lip, but he slid back down it with control. I paddled south and tried to get on some of the peaky lefts coming through, but seamed to keep missing them. The one good right I got, I got dropped in on and s so straightened out. Towards the end of the session I went to catch one in – at this point I was up in the “nasty zone.” I made a good drop and cut down the line and went for the inside section. As I did, a surge came in from the north and I straightened out. Behind me, the wave jacked up a solid 8 or 9 feet (3-4 Hawaiian) behind me and I fell off as it detonated behind me. After getting rag dolled, I surfaced to find my magical 7’0” Rusty in three pieces. I think it must’ve gone into the sand bar and been destroyed. I think I started riding this board in '97 and enjoyed so many good sessions on it. I suppose 7+ years of surfing fairly heavy Central Coast surf is pretty good longevity.

December 17, 2004. After a crazy morning at work giving away TiVo boxes, I was ready to go home and take a nap before the big Mother Hips holiday show. I got a call from SA telling me what a glorious afternoon it was in SC. I went home and grabbed my surf gear and met up with SA. By the time I got there, SA had been out in the water for awhile and I paddled out between sets of the monstrous shore pound Absolute sheet glass, bright sun and waves in the 6-10 foot range (3-5 Hawaiian). SA had a shit eating grin when I greeted him… he’d been scoring. It took me awhile, but I dialed in to a few big ole’ rights and enjoyed some fast, snappy turns backside. I also attempted a couple lefts that were not really makeable. After 90 minutes I got out and trotted up the beach as the sun was setting and a couple dozen onlookers on the beach watched her go down.

December 18 and 19. Post Mother Hips show go-outs in S.F. Saturday big, glassy, shifty, off-shore, fun. Solo go out. Sunday, smaller, more tame, more consistent. Surfed w/ MattH and Jimmy.

December 24, 2004. Beautiful day in Steinbeck Country (en route to Mom’s for Christmas). Surfed MattH’s 7’0” though I didn’t really need it. The forecast was calling for bigger waves than what I found. After my session I went and talked to Ward Coffey about getting a 7’2” min-gun shaped to replace my broken 7’0” and my sold 8’0”. Fairly quickly we decided a bonzer was not the call, but instead would go for a 7’2” round pin.

December 25, 2004. I showed up at Mom’s in the early afternoon, dropped Willy Dog and a couple gifts and bolted for the surf. Mom’s neighbor David A. knew the spot and we piled in to his neat 4Runner with his wife and cooler of sodas and drove down to the beach. He flashed a permit or badge at the gate and from the back of the cramped 4Runner (both our boards jammed into the vehicle) I watched big, majestic cypress and rocky coastline go by as we cruised through Carmel to a little beach break action. As we went along, David pointed out various points and talked story about one winter or another and how certain spots would fire under the right conditions. I quietly got a kick out of this in the backseat and tried to contribute to the conversation. At one point he pulled over to the side of the road under a Cypress grove, next to a golf course, and his wife stammered, “I get car sick. We just need to sit here for about a minute.” “Oh, O.K.” I replied. David continued to tell me more surf lore and then she gave him the high sign and we continued. We pulled in at the parking lot and watched peeling lefts and rights, and a 100 of tourists on the beach and rocks, enjoying a sunny, lovely Christmas day. With only about 90 minutes of daylight left,, we pulled over and suited up for a late Christmas day go-out. The clouds started to take over and soon we were surfing under purple-grey skies with offshore breezes. With the clarity of the water and the blue-green hues, I was reminded of surfing Hawaii, only 30 degrees colder! I surfed my 6’8” though definitely would’ve rather surfed my 6’4” fish. Nonetheless, I enjoyed at least a dozen fun lefts during the session.

December 26, 2004. I left Mom’s around 10:30 a.m. and headed south on Hwy 1 into Big Sur. Save for 1 or 2 beach breaks on the drive south, the sea looked pretty textured and I wasn’t expecting much in the way of surf. But I was hopeful. I stopped for a bag of ice in Big Sur proper, and continued on. I felt a bit forlorn making this drive with only Willy at my side, but some good music and the hope for good surf brightened my mood and kept me going. Driving along I noticed "Vacancy" signs at the Inns and ample space at camp grounds. With an imminent wet and wooly storm en route, I understood why.

Pulling up at the break I was stoked to find glassy fairly orderly conditions, light off-shores and 6-8 foot waves (2-3 Hawaiian). I watched it for a few minutes then took Willy onto the beach, where, to my alarm, we stumbled across a giant elephant seal! Never in some 20 years of beach coming have I stumbled on something like this! Willy sniffed it's tail and when I realized it was alive and gigantic, I yelled for Willy to "leave it." He was none too phased and trotted back to me.

The large beast cocked his head slightly and eyed me wearily with his left eye.

I headed back to the car and suited up. I paddled out on my 6'8" and joined only one other surfer and he and I both traded off waves for nearly 2 hours, marvelling at our good fortune. I watched him stroke in to some sizey lefts and charge down the line as I'd paddle over the backs and out to the horizon. Big sprays of water would blow off the back of the waves, very Hawaii-esque feeling. I commented that the water actually felt warmer than it does at the same spot in the summer. This session felt much more wild than the tame Carmel surf on Christmas day. The longboarder I surfed with said this day was tame compared to the day before. I probably rode 12-15 waves during the session and got a couple really memorable lefts. The waves were very makeable on the drop (though I did pull back from some pretty steep, hairy ledges!), then would build as they rolled in to the inside section and over the shallow boulder laden bottom. I got some pretty serious speed on a few of these lefts covering 50 yards effortlessly with good flow. After the session, I came in and heated up some soup on my tailgate and let Willy play with the other dogs. I conversed with a guy from San Diego who was picking up a dirt bike and claimed this was his "turnaround point" and I convinced him to paddle out into the desolate surf. A woman smoking a cigarette with a Coors light in her hand approached me and asked if I'd take a picture of her and her family "next to the '31!" The "31" was some sorta old car that the husband had restored. Walking over she enthusiastically asked, "Have ya seen the yurts? They are these giant tents that you can rent down the road... kinda upscale camping!" I asked her where these were and she just kind of motioned with her hand to the south. I was sorta annoyed as I was cold and trying to enjoy a little soup, but I indulged her and went along to take their picture. Her daughters reluctantly got out of the car and in a somewhat sarcastic manner, I told them "This will make a great picture!" I snapped the photo with their disposable camera and they thanked me as I walked away.

November 16 , 2004 - SF
Buoy: 5.2 ft / 11 sec

Fantastic session this a.m. Met up w/ Matt at 7:15 and paddled out just as the tide was reaching it's low, 3.3 feet. Plenty of guys in the water, and they were getting some great rides. Matt paddled out ahead of me and went north as I paddled south. I didn't see him the rest of the session, but man what a great session. The sky was gray and water like apple juice -- glassy smooth and waves pouring in w/ great consistency. Sets were in the 8 foot face range and very a-framey. My second or third wave into it I dropped left bottom turned, crouched and jammed my hand into the wave hoping for a barrel. 20 feet later and no barrel I straightened out and the wave closed out. I was left with a left wetsuit arm filled with water, but stoked on riding the pocket of the wave for so long in such an inspiring position. Later in the session I nabbed a left set wave, dropped made a big accentuated bottom turn and jammed up into the middle of the wave. Fuck that feels great... Coming down the line I nursed it way to the inside, inching up on my board and riding into the foamy whites of the wave. I would pay for that overconfidence, paddling back out, having to duck dive some 20 waves to make it back out. Maybe 20 waves in the span of 80 minutes. The 6'8" was definitely the right board to have today.

November 14 , 2004 - Santa Cruz county--
Dolphins, sea otters, glassy kelp bed, afternoon surf

9 ft. / 14 seconds. Low to minus tide.

Afternoon session North of Santa Cruz. Classic coastal
Fall afternoon. Slightly hazy on the coast, grey-blue
water, hardly a breeze, mid-high 60s air temp.
Scrambled down the cliff and suited up around 3:30 and
paddled out to a well overhead set. The low tide was
making a clean peak on the far outside. The right
produced big takeoffs, with short sectiony shoulders,
peeling for close to 100 yards. Not super juicy or
powerful once the first section was made. But the left
was quick, with a peeling wall allowing 2-4 turns
before drying up on the inside reef. On one wave I
kicked out as I watched a couple rocks surface not to
far from me. After that first set we thought we were in for an all time session, but ended up waiting about 20+ minutes for the big ones. The 'tweeners were nice though and the lefts gave me a good chance to work on my backside turns. TW agreed that the "secret" lefts were firing as well. Low tide was key. Size was great
also. Just could've had a little more consistency with the big sets. Although a full lineup, the crowd was super cool and fun to surf with.

Editor's note: Surfed into twilight/semi-darkness. We changed quickly in the dark and walked back out to the car, in the cool, damp November evening, acknowledging our extreme good fortune to experience nature and enjoy an activity like surfing.

November 06 , 2004 - SF
Finally got my surf groove back after a handful of crummy sessions. Met JimmyH at the beach late morning . The south end looked quite challenging with plenty of white water on the inside and 10 foot faces on the outside. Definitely doable, but looked like a lot of work. I met Jimmy at the north end and found conditions much smaller, but overhead and clean. The tide was dropping, wind calm, and crowds medium. Surfed for a couple hours and got some really good waves. I surfed the 7'0" and enjoyed the extra foam, getting into waves early. Standout wave for me came late in the session. A big peaky left rolled right into me, I paddled to the peak, spun and dropped in. Steady long dropin, smooth bottom turn and came up right into the pocket, turning again mid-face and shot down the line for a couple more smaller turns and off the back. Choice wave. Very satisfying session and felt good to be "on" again. Went over to Jimmy's afterward and talked story and drank some coffee.

October 23, 2004 - Golden Gate Swim.

Well I finally did the famed and daunting Golden Gate swim with the Dolphin Club. The DC has been doing this swim annually for some 60 years. I'd qualified twice before for this swim and twice got fogged out. This year, while there was some high fog, and even rain, visibility was excellent as was the water conditions. The temperature was checking in at a brisk 57 degrees! Had we swum it in August as scheduled, it would've been more in the neighborhood of 63, which is a huge delta when you are swimming sans wetsuit.

The swim was everything I imagined it to be -- cold, awe inspiring, exciting, and triumphant feeling. We jumped off the ferry on the backside of Fort Point and swam to the small spit of sand on the west side of the bridge. That initial jump off the boat was probably the hardest thing; the water took my breath away and I scrambled the 75 yards to shore. After a minute or so on shore, the boat blasted its horn and we were off! Swimming through backwash and tidal surge off the beach, we swam out west of the south tower, then underneath the bridge for most of it, and finished east of the north tower, touching Lime Rock and getting our stick before swimming back to the boat. There was only about 100 yards of rough water near the south tower, but the rest of it was pretty smooth going. I felt pretty strong despite a head cold all week and upon touching Lime Rock I was stoked! I did not hurry back to the boat, but rather soaked it all in, taking in the mighty Golden Gate, watching other Dolphins finish the swim etc. I casually stroked over to the boat and hoisted myself aboard. I shivered pretty bad for a good five minutes before the hot chocolate and layers of clothes warmed me up. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend this swim. Check out photos from the swim.

October 15- 16. 2004 - Crummy waves, good sessions.

In between a week of glorious weather/decent waves and the first big Fall rain event, MattH and I surfed a couple sessions in less than perfect conditions. Friday afternoon we paddled out at the south end, despite a fair bit of south wind, textured waves and cold looking water. The good weather was gone and it looked like a fine Summer day at the beach. The only upside? The crowds were way down and there wasn't that desperate vibe in the water. Nobody was expecting much. We surfed for an hour plus, MattH on his 8'0" and me on my 6'4" fish. The waves were crumbling instead of the sharp, hard breaking lips of the days prior. But, it made it kind of fun -- one could take off as the wave was crumbling onto you, and then ride out in front of the white water and hope it would bowl up on the inner bar. Some of them did. I scored one really fast right that allowed for some nice backside turns and speed.

Saturday morn, we surfed the north end. Part of the parking lot was blocked off for what looked like an imminent foot race. Nonetheless, the parking lots and crumbling waves were empty. Folks had had their fill. MattH and I suited up as the brothers Bluhm were coming in. Conditions were similar to the day before, perhaps better. We talked story in the lot for awhile before suiting up. Matt and I did a fair bit of paddling and we saw some pretty nice waves come through. Neither one of us really got any of the rare good ones. I took a couple real diggers on late drops and just lame footing or whatever. Hit the water pretty hard too. But we both enjoyed 10 or so waves before calling it a day.


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