Ventura: A Change of Scene and Wave

Despite torrential downpours, I decided to stick to my plans and head up the coast solo for Thanksgiving. Turkey be damned. I crossed a few lakes and rivers on the 5 freeway north, tamed the 101’s penchant for stop-go torture and sat in bumper-to-bumper while heavy drops pelted my car window…once again, and are we surprised? I was determined.

If you’ve learned anything about me in my almost 10 years of “confessing,” I do not give up so easy, especially when it comes to travel plans and escaping the holiday’s choking crowds.

A cold, chilly C-Street.

I’m jinglin’ my damn bells out of the O.C. and oh what fun it is to ride on…the 5 freeway?….said no one ever.

Would Ventura’s chillier breaks hold anything less crowded? That was the hope as I peered over my car’s dusty dashboard at the rain-soaked Thanksgiving morning. The last time I surfed Ventura was in 2013 before my cousin’s wedding. I was anxious to be going back.

After conquering the concrete jungle’s arterial jugulars, Oxnard and then Ventura came into view like a breath of fresh farm air. Instantly my heartbeat picked up, a huge grin spread across my mug and I let out a small squeal of excitement to myself.
First stop on my list? C-Street, of course. It’s easy enough to find.

The parking lot had open spots—hmm bad sign? All longboarders hoisting their airplane wings out from their trucks—another bad sign? Out front were some fun waist-to-chest high rollers combing through, but what’s this? I spied a semi-chunky wave north of C-Street equipped with a chunkier crowd. Ventura point and the locals, it must be.

The next morning, the tide was too high for C-Street, so I relocated to the point. The point was crossed up and peaky from more downpours and wind the night before, so I settled for a less crowded option just north of the point. The lineup crowd was, shall we say, the strong silent type? Definitely no need for conversations, but occasionally I heard a few encouraging hoots in my direction… I’m pretty sure I was the only gal in the water.

Asking the name of the break quickly gave away my non-local status and questions ensued:

“Where are you from?”
Orange County.
“Where do you surf there?”
Trestles.
A few locals let out some grumbles.

The water felt balmy compared to Ventura’s 40-degree air temp. It was the first time I busted out my wetsuit hood since Humboldt.

The rain-soaked Ventura Point

Easy takeoffs led to a nice shoulder every once in a while, if you waited for the bigger sets. The murky water and occasional kelp brushing against my legs had me on higher alert. I’m not a fan of not being able to see my own feet in the water. The inside definitely liked to thump ya, if you weren’t paying attention, which I’ll admit was hard to do since there were gorgeous snow-covered mountains within view. After eating shit a few times on the inside, I realized the water was only a few feet deep, so I stood to drool over the mountains. My heart soared—waves and mountains, how can it get better?

The morning wind, which had been a chilly northeast, had turned to an ugly west and white caps started to dot the horizon. Damn—it’s only 9:30? After deciding on one more wave, one local guy quietly let me know we were surfing “second point” and that Rincon was only a 10 minute drive north.

Found my afternoon plans.

After my last wave, my very neoprened-self left second point in search of a warm drink—a nice warm chai tea sounded like perfection. At this point, I’d welcome a warm chai shower as my numb fingers attempted to towel change in the now 48-degree air.

So necessary.

I don’t know how locals in Norcal …or Maine or Canada or Alaska… do it, I thought. I could feel my blood freezing as I attempted to change out of my wet bikini top, no free peep shows warranted. At least the water wasn’t cold comparatively. I’m waiting for the duck dive that makes my boogers freeze.

After touring downtown Ventura, I found my beloved chai and croissant, and feeling returned to my fingers and toes. I quickly left the tempting retail stores and jumped onto the 101 north towards Carpinteria. I had been this way many times before and have seen the Queen of the Coast both microscopic and gigantic. Judging by the conditions in Ventura, my expectations remained low, but hopeful.

Today, it was semi-microscopic, but occasionally, a decent set would roll through with a total of four people bobbing in the lineup. Done. Sold. I am finally surfing this place and quickly changed into my dry 3 mil, paddled out to a crowd of mostly longboarders and caught a few decent waves on my Russell retro quad. I can see how this place can make a surfer froth like a mad dog when WNW swells are off the charts.

A few rain clouds closed in and a cold wind blew. That was my cue.

In Terminator fashion, I thought: I’ll be back.
And next time, I’m hoping for bigger, better things, your highness.

Check out my Flickr album below:

Ventura, California

Watch my video:

Five Least Likely Surf Spots to Consider

If you are any kind of surfer, you understand that crowds have been and still are an increasing factor in your wave search. Some have quit surfing all together (NEVER!) while others play hookie in hopes to score two-foot mini-drainers. Those “sick days” no longer apply as more kiddos are now home-schooled and groomed to be the next Slater or Reynolds. Midday lunch session escape? Nah–you’re surfing with your boss and the marketing team on their Wavestorms and funboards at Creek, if you are so lucky.

“Hey, can you teach me how to surf?! I just got this 9-foot board and I don’t know how to duck dive it.” *bangs head against desk repeatedly*

Good luck, buddy ole pal!

Within the last decade, surfers have really pushed the limits to reach out to the corners of an otherwise round globe in search of their perfect ride with minimal crowds. If it has a body of water and some form of wind, there is wave potential, right? After my experience with the latest wavepark craze in Texas and coming out the other side mostly healthy, (albeit slightly worried–see ‘amoeba’ and ‘BSR Cable Park’),  I recognize that not everyone needs Trestles to feel satiated…well, except for me and 50 of my best friends on a Saturday morning.

I want to believe and know for a FACT there is a secret adventurer in all of us aqua wanderlusts…someone who’s been cooped up since the Endless Summer days and so desperately needs to get out of the park-pay-surf routine. If you’ve got the bengies, balls and/or brains, below is a list of options you might consider when scanning the discount travel interwebs.

Now, I wonder if Germany charges for board bags…

Antarctica

Is your surfing mission to solely avoid all people and/or crowds? While I might recommend an easier remote Baja trip, this blog is not about the typical and the easy, but more focused on the “WTF mate?!” reaction. If you’re hell-bent on being completely antisocial with a frigid ‘tude to boot, the approximately 11,000 miles of Antarctica’s icy coastline is your best…friend? Crowds will not be a problem here. If it ever becomes one, I quit. Even with my crappy screen shot here, you can see major point break potential. Chilean pro surfer Ramon Navarro was the first pro to brave the freezing waters of King George Island in 2014. If you’ve got the grapes (assuming you don’t mind frozen ones), I challenge you to surf the sub-zero temperature ranges while I venture to warmer parts unknown comparatively.

The Great Lakes

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

Not exactly balmy. Great Lakes for the win! Photo: secondwavemedia.com

The Great Lakes are nothing to sneeze at–they hold 6 quadrillion gallons of water and are considered one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. First: have you ever even heard of anyone using ‘quadrillion’ outside of space travel? I haven’t. The lakes also offer more than 10,000 miles of shoreline, which, according to magicseaweed.com, is more than the U.S. West and East coast combined! Because of the Great Lake’s size, the fetch produces large, surfable waves–with the right conditions. Often requiring lots of neoprene and vasoline (protect that mug!) as well as patience and an interest in surfing in the snow, the Great Lakes can have good waves, but do you have the balls? Someone did and I wonder where he got them–The first Great Lakes surfer was a G.I. with a longboard, who was returning from Hawaii in 1945. According to the same site, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and northeastern shore of Lake Erie saw more surfers combing their shores throughout the 60’s and it now exists today–remember that part in Dana Brown’s “Step into Liquid” movie back in 2003??

See also:

Vans’ “Weird Waves Season 1

Surf Shop’s “Unsalted: A Great Lakes Experience

Red Bull’s “Surfing in the Great Lakes

Eisbach River–Munich, Germany

In the most landlocked of European countries, it turns out surfing is a thing in Munich, Germany–namely ‘River Surfing.’ The mile-long man-made Eisbach (aka: “Ice brook”) river is a side arm of the Isar River. Although at this point crowds MAY be a factor since pros like Mick Fanning have given it a go, the wave is not exactly ‘friendly.’  Also known as “E1,” the wave was specifically

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

Germans mean business about not just beer. Photo: Riverbreak.com

created to be ridden by experts. Folks literally sit in line and take turns (imagine that!) for waves, so dropping in on someone is completely unacceptable. Not gonna lie: I would absolutely LOVE to hear an errant tourist get bitched out by a German local.

According to this website, the concrete baffles that support the wave’s flow can break your neck and the fast-moving current combined with a rocky riverbed will gladly take out your board that probably you paid a hefty travel fee. Is there ding repair in Germany? The wave and the crowd may be tough, but getting to the lineup isn’t: Throw your board in front of you and use the river’s momentum. But, beginners be warned: according to the site, if you’re a beginner, “just forget it.” However, there is a spot named “E2” that is supposedly more approps–not sure how the Germans view the Wavestorm crowd or how they define “beginner” while they nonchalantly slug “Das Boots.”

Clarks Fork River–Missoula, Montana

Brennan's Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana. Photo: Sean Jansen

Brennan’s Wave in the Clark Fork River, Montana.
Photo: Sean Jansen

My longtime friend Sean Jansen wasn’t planning on moving to Montana, or planning anything that does not involve being outside and in nature. The San Clemente local-turned Montana resident is no stranger to thinking outside the box or shall we say, wave? With the nearest wave being over 2,000 miles away, Jansen has taken up river surfing in the icy waters of Clarks Fork River. Just as in any kind of wave, there is a science and adventure to river surfing and Jansen is no stranger to either. See his river surf explanation below:

The same winter storms that hit Washington, Oregon, and California keep marching inland after they hit. Once in Montana, those storms land as snow, coupled with storms from Canada. Once spring hits and temperatures rise above freezing, snowmelt happens and floods the river, hence the brown water. And river surfing is born.

Brennan’s Wave is the name of the wave and it is an artificial wave created by concrete submerged.

Silver Dragon–Qiantang River, China

 

I hate to disappoint, but this is NOT Game of Thrones…or were you already disappointed by that anyway? :) However, maybe I will take my cool braided locks and my future …Lost board, which will have Drogo painted on it, to China to surf the elusive and rare Silver Dragon -Qiantang River Tidal Bore. A tidal bore happens during specific conditions–the spring or fall tide and full moons. There’s even a festival dedicated to this occurrence known as “The Tide-Watching Festival” held on the 18th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar. The festival brings 170,000 people and has been celebrated for hundreds of years. The break is named the Silver Dragon because it is first seen from a distance as a stroke of silver on the horizon along the Qiantang River located in East China. The river and Hangzhou Bay are known for the world’s largest tide bore. As you can see here, the wave is really nothing to snub. It’s got some juice.Reminds me of a certain man-made wave in kicker country. Photo: npr.com

 

A Few Things to Expect When Surfing Hawaii’s Big Island

I’ve noticed the very utterance of the name “Hawaii” often sends surfers into either one of two reactions: pure froth or pure frustration.

Like that one who got away or that one you’ll never forget, Hawaii has a tendency to have these effects on surfers alike, although I’m no well Hawaiian-ized surfer gal. Yes, I have surfed Oahu’s Waikiki a few times, but never the famed and over-photographed North Shore. And more recently, I can now add the Big Island to my list of “have surfed there” spots, namely a not-so gentle break called Kahalu’u located in Kailua-Kona.
The Big Island is, so far, my favorite spot out of the three Hawaiian islands I’ve visited—Kauai, not included above because I did not surf there. As a pasty gal from the mainland innocuously asking random locals for a nug of info about surfing in Kailua-Kona, I was met with more discouragement than anything. At first, I wanted to blame it on the fact that they just didn’t want a mainlander to take their waves, but as I learned, the big island locals and I share similar sentiments about sharing waves and wave-hog tourists.
Here are some tips for fellow mainlanders and anyone else who thinks about surfing the Big Island.

1. It is reefy—not rocky, well, yes, razor sharp LAVA rocks make up the majority of the island’s beach landscape. However, once you paddle out, don’t forget to look into the water to double check for reef that is pretty much everywhere. Right up there with lava, reef can be ultra-sharp, so it is in your best interest not to eat it feet or head first on waves (see number “4”).

A Kona reef doing it's thing.

A Kona reef doing it’s thing.

2. Respect the locals
—as one local lady told me with some serious ‘tude to boot: “this ain’t Waikiki…the locals wait all year for their waves.” And, thanks to our LA-folks, out-of-town people have inherited a reputation for wave hoggery. Once again, LAliens, THANKS. This ain’t a competition…wait your turn on the shoulder or hang out in the channel and watch the locals put on a clinic. If you show some respect and not paddle straight to the peak, they will most likely let you catch a few, but don’t paddle out thinking you’re going to take every wave. When I checked Oahu’s surf report and compared it to the Big Island, I noticed Oahu gets far more (and bigger) waves, so these locals are HUNGRY. Let them gorge themselves before you start nibbling at the peak. Oh & avoid the “Billy Badass” attitude—pretty sure that gets you nowhere.
Show the locals some R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

3. Sit on the shoulder
—as I mentioned above, avoid the “Billy Badass” attitude. Billy Badass goes nowhere with Hawaiians. These are some of the hardest-charging surfers I’ve ever seen, so just because you’ve surfed double-overhead El Porto doesn’t mean you get to take everything that comes your way. The question is not whether you can surf, it’s whether you can take the time to respect the locals and the wave. During the winter months, Kailua-Kona is a little less exposed than it’s neighbors, like Oahu and Kauai, so the swell is little less consistent and, while it’s still pretty damn impressive, the size was not as significant as the neighboring islands. The locals need their waves and it would behoove you to let them gorge before they have to go to work or home. Nothing worse than a grumpy local, right? Take the back seat and let the locals have their waves first…and don’t be a jerk about it.

Cruisin' the shoulder.

Cruisin’ the shoulder. Photo: Kona Surf Photos

 

4. For the love of all that is holy: starfish

–to state the obvious, if you are surfing over reef, which is a living, breathing organism/ecosystem, be sure to “starfish” when you eat crap. Unless you want French fries for toesies, or want to find out what it feels like to have your skull pierced, make sure to flatten your body or aim that bootie towards the water, if you can help it. I was specifically told by the locals to not eat it feet or head first.

Although they told me that there is a slight buffer between the white wash and the reef (apparently you are more likely to roll over the reef rather than straight down to the bottom), it’s always good to exercise caution and give the seasoned local a good chuckle and flatten out as much as possible. Take a page from that epic T.V. show ‘Sponge Bob’ and absorb your best Patrick impersonation. In the interim, try not to belly-flop.

 

 

5. If you really want to surf, don’t give up

—Mini-story time! Despite the fact that I ran into a lot of

I played nice and the locals played nice back. Reaping the rewards. Photo: Kona Surf Photos

I played nice and the locals played nice back. Reaping the rewards.
Photo: Kona Surf Photos

discouragement from some locals, surfing was going to happen, come hell or double over-head high water. Kahalu’u had piqued my interest after I tried to paddle into the wave during a building swell and a dropping tide. At the wave’s peak during the low tide, the wave turned into a mutant exposing dry reef and the drop-ins looked damn near impossible. So, I sat on the shoulder, told myself I was being polite for the locals while my heart pounded in my chest and waited patiently for a small-ish shoulder to come through in between thumping well-overhead sets.

Over the next couple of days, the swell climbed to double-overhead and all along Ali’I drive in Kona, the reefs were seen straightaway from the road firing on all cylinders while lifeguards posted red flag warnings.

I really wanted to surf one more time, even tho I was scared shitless of the wave. I just wanted to give it another go. I found another place to rent a board right in front of Kahalu’u, but “because the conditions were red flag,” the shop refused to rent me a board because they didn’t want to be held liable. In the meantime, I watched them rent a SUP to a 10-year old—an excellent way to make my blood boil.

Kona Boys rented me this pintail beaut for my last day to surf Kahalu'u. Very stoked surfer girl. Photo: Dave DuPre

Kona Boys rented me this pintail beaut for my last day to surf Kahalu’u. Very stoked surfer girl.
Photo: Dave DuPre

I was so put off …I felt sized up…angry…discouraged…I tried to look beyond their blatant rejection and obvious “see you coming” attitude, but only saw red.

After some encouragement from my boyfriend, I picked up the pieces of my shattered ego and rented a stunning board from Kona Boys Surf Shop—polar opposite experience. In the end, I scored some great waves and the locals, who had come to refer to me as “Trestles,” were hooting me into sets. I left the water with the biggest smile I’ve had in years for surfing. Don’t give up.

 

P.S.
After a surf, I highly recommend trying out Da Poke Shack off Ali’I drive. It will ruin any inkling of “fresh fish” you’ve ever had, even if you live by a coastline…on a boat…or in the sand. I watched them slice and dice the fish, which (sorry vegans!), was a beautiful array of hues ranging from deep blood to bright red. On our first attempt to find the place, we arrived just in time for them to sell out–it was noon.

Surfing Deep in the Heart of Texas at NLand Surf Park

Just outside of Austin, Texas, sits a giant pool, as large as approximately nine football fields, that is literally a perfect wave machine. Not to be confused with our jargon-ish “inlander” term—NLand Surf Park is the closest any central Texan will get to learning how to surf without paying lofty vacation package prices.

Make an expensive-ass reservation, drive to the boonies, park, sign your life away (waiver), watch the do’s and don’ts video, strap on a ton of wristbands, and pick your stick–if you’re renting.
Pretty sure I wasn’t going to Schlitterbahn…

...Schlitterbahn??

…Schlitterbahn??

Visitors have three different wave options, depending on experience level:
1. The Bay
2. The Inside
3. The Reef

If you are learning how to surf, The Bay and a soft top board are your best bets.

If you’re feeling a little more confident and want a step up from the whitewash, The Inside and a soft top board or a longer standard board are good choices for you.

If you are confident in your surfing skills, know how to pop up, drop in and cruise (and want those thighs to burn), The Reef (& the rest of the NLand quiver) are your digs.

Between the serious Texas heat, humidity and thunderstorms popping up on the flat horizon, the water temperature is a balmy 85 degrees and incredibly murky and brown. Think Nicaragua or Costa Rica.

So, absolutely no wetsuit, spring suit or even rashie required.

And to state the obvious: no need to worry about sharks or crocs, this water is fresh, which makes it a bit denser than our beloved ocean water.

Although the park offers a pretty decent quiver, which includes Channel Islands, Russell, Timmy Patterson, etc… if you are very insistent on bringing your own board, bring your floatiest and fattest. In fact, you know that one epoxy board that you got because it was trendy at the time and it’s now collecting dust in the back of your garage because it floats you too much at your local spot?
This is its time to shine.
Dust that puppy off and tote it to kicker country, if your heart so desires.

Channel Islands/Al Merrick's 5'8" epoxy flyer.

My ride: Channel Islands 5’8″ epoxy flyer.

But, it will cost ya a chunk of change and it’s probably not worth the board bag fee since, well, this is one of the ONLY worthwhile “breaks” around for hundreds of miles, unless you plan to skip off to Central America, OR you have solely dedicated a “surf” trip to Austin–said no one ever.

I was a little nervous to leave my surf fate up to the park’s quiver, but I found their 5’8” epoxy Channel Islands Flyer worked perfectly.

Now for the wave—it’s interesting.
The wave is based on a blade-shaped technology called the wavefoil, which hurtles at a specific speed from one end of the lagoon to the other underneath a “pier” lined by a chain link fence to create a wave that adjusts to the pool bottom’s customized bathymetry, or the water’s depth. When I asked for specific wave heights, the park staff said “8 feet” for the reef, buuut–I think it was more like 6 feet.

Before I even entered the water, the very kind staff reiterated multiple rules, which made smoke come out of my ears.

 

Can’t I just paddle out and figure it out?

Nope. They said if anything, remember this:
“Paddle out” right by the chain link fence, drop in at a 45 degree angle and make sure you drop in as close to the fence as possible.

Okaaaaay. So, no duck diving?

Nope.

K.

I’m not sure if it was my unusual two cups of coffee or all the rules that were unloaded into my brain, but suddenly, I was nervous. This ain’t the ocean, I’m not paddling out to Trestles. I’m going to ride a man-made wave, how the hell am I more nervous about a man-made wave?! Surely, any break in California would greatly disagree with my odd jitters.
I mean, the reef breaks bigger than what I usually prefer, but, as my grandma always said, que sera sera.

No duck diving required, no sharks or crocs spotted.

No duck diving required, no sharks or crocs spotted.

After paddling out, I sat by the marker on the far end of the “pier” for the left-breaking “west reef” wave. Man, why’d I choose backside?!
Suddenly a small roar sounded about 50 feet behind me and the wave appeared out of nowhere. I paddled a few strokes and popped up. Rode it a little bit before I lost the face and succumbed to the whitewash.
Okay cool. I guess I can do this, I thought. I got a few tips from the helpful lifeguards and paddled next to the chain link fence towards the right.
Once the wave jumped into view, I took off and trimmed immediately to the right, where I successfully stayed on the face and rode the wave all the way to the “inside,” kicking out with a boost of air and a canon ball, thighs shaking from the ride.

Yelling out “yew” seemed odd, and so did “yeehaw,” so I settled for “owww!” And paddled back out for another…

Conclusions:

A man-made surf experience helped me appreciate the small things about ocean surfing. Unlike the ‘au naturale,’ wave parks are scheduled/predictable, there’s no aquatic wildlife to observe, the water is, well, warm but ugly, every wave breaks perfectly, and I’m sure if you would consider anyone as a “local…” Maybe the lifeguards?? I certainly didn’t see any 10-gallon hats bobbing around the oddly shaped ‘lineup.’

Even tho this wasn’t ocean surfing, I definitely felt like I was in a better mood once I was done. But that better mood cost me about $200 for two hours.

After leaving high school and Austin for college in California, I once told my friends that if Austin ever builds a wave pool, I will move back. While I’m not exactly eating crow, I did consider it for a New York minute as I do have a soft spot for Texas. But! Living and “surfing” in Austin would be incredibly unsustainable for the amount of time I would need per week. At minimum-with NLand’s pricing, I would require at least two hours for two days on the weekends, which would come to $400 per week, that’s $1,600 a month to surf…hmmm that smells like California rent prices.

Who can complain about consistent thigh burners? Just bring down the price tag and perhaps I'll return to being an 'Austinite.'

Who can complain about consistent thigh burners? Just bring down the price tag and perhaps I’ll return to being an ‘Austinite.’

Not to mention I would sorely miss the ocean in general and become incredibly bored with the predictability of the same wave day after day, session after expensive-ass session.

Although it’s fun to feel my thighs burn (baby!) and encourage beginner folks to go for the ‘Reef’ wave, I know that for the same $400 or less, I could pop over to Baja and find something similar–cold water temp and possibly sharky, but similar.

Sorry Austinites, breathe a sigh of relief because this California transplant is staying on the west coast.

Maya Gabeira Surfs Biggest Wave by a Female Surfer…Gets Blown Off by WSL

On January 18, 2018, renowned Brazilian big wave surfer Maya Gabeira charged the mountainous peaks of Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal. According to videographers, oceanographers and academics, her wave clocked in at 80 feet.

8-0, people.

Let’s take a moment to marinade on that number.

That’s eight stories tall…when the rest of us are shaking in our boots over 10 feet, multiply that by eight and that’s what Gabeira rode. The hard-charging waterwoman matched Garrett McNamara’s November 2017 record of 80-feet at the same break.

“Since 2013, I have been trying to bring the idea that we should have a women’s world record,” said Gabeira. “I started talking about it through emails with The Big Wave Awards, which, a couple years back, was bought out by the World Surf League. Since 2013, I have had very vague responses on it…nothing was clear at all.”

Aside from being one of the most decorated and pioneering females in the big wave arena, her 2018 wave was not Gabeira’s first record-breaker. In 2009, she broke the record for biggest wave ridden by a female at Dungeons in South Africa clocking a 46-foot ride, nearly half the size of her Nazare wave.

With her mind focused on riding the world’s biggest waves, Gabeira set her sights on Nazare’s massive size-holding capabilities, a wave that nearly ended the young charger’s life.

In 2013, Gabeira nearly drowned after wiping out and losing consciousness on a massive wave at Nazare.

“It almost ended my career with the complications I had with injuries and to come back and be able to surf, it was already my dream,” said Gabeira.

After five years of dedication, recovery and training coupled with her passion for big waves, Gabeira put pedal to the metal and caught a massive mountain of water–a wave large enough to put her in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Photo Courtesy of: Stephanie Johnes Maya would go.

Photo Courtesy of: Alex Laurel
Maya would go.

When Gabeira approached the Guiness Book of World Records, they referred her back to the WSL for certification.

But despite reaching out,  the WSL gave very vague and inconsistent responses to Gabeira’s amazing accomplishment. Every few weeks, Gabeira followed up with the WSL and still no confirmation of any progress. Frustrated with the organization’s lack of support or responsiveness, Gabeira let them know her intentions and in August 2018, started her petition.

Although, the organization did at the last minute ask her to present at the annual Big Wave Awards this past April for the Men’s Big Wave Award of the Year. To add more salt to the wound, during the women’s division, none of her clips were displayed.

“I had to hold my tears, breathe and go back stage to then present the men’s division,” said Gabeira. “I was kind of really baffled because I flew all the way to LA to not see any of my waves [displayed], to be celebrating the winter and pretend I wasn’t participating in the winter. While all my [male] peers had all their waves they rode on the same day exposed and won awards and records.”

After multiple backstage apologies from the WSL’s director post-awards, Gabeira sat down with him where he reiterated the WSL’s interest and dedication to her accomplishment. But radio silence from the WSL soon followed…again.

“I just want this [record] to be established because I think it’s important for women–it’s always been to me, at least” said Gabeira. “When Garrett [McNamara] discovered Nazare, it’s always left such a big impression on me to be able to see somebody credited with “The biggest wave ever” and have a number on it. Being in a sport that’s very subjective, it was something that I got attached to. I just want to finish it off so the next person doesn’t have to make it all happen from the beginning. They can just have the category established, surf a bigger wave and break the record and BOOM–it’s registered.”

With the WSL’s recent leadership falling under CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, Gabeira was hoping this would propel the industry and open a new chapter for women in the sport. The WSL gave this response via email:

“We have a huge amount of respect for all our big wave surfers. We have been in active discussions with Guinness for some time on the topic of reviewing Maya’s incredible ride from Nazare earlier this year for submission, and look forward to continuing to celebrate men’s and women’s big wave surfing with an announcement soon.”

The WSL got back to me within hours with this response, however, when I asked them specifically why the process took as long as it did and why the WSL couldn’t give Maya a solid answer, I was told…(am I surprised?)–> all they could say was just that.

“I don’t know if it’s just a lack of professionalism or if it’s just a lack of care for an athlete,” said Gabeira. “It’s my job, it’s what I’ve done for many many years of my life and to not take that seriously, it’s extremely disrespectful and it really hurts.”

To no surprise, after Gabeira’s petition launched and the world became aware of what was going on behind the bro-curtains of the surf industry, the WSL now crowds her inbox. :)

Best of luck, Maya. We are rooting for you! <3

Check out Maya’s video:

 

Operation Surf Takes Surf City by Storm

On Sunday, June 3rd, a motorcade could be seen trailing a Hummer limo that carried 26 veterans and active duty military through downtown Huntington Beach. Locals lined the streets waving mini-American flags and cheering for those joining Surf City’s week-long annual “Operation Surf” program, which is dedicated to exposing veterans and active-duty military to the healing power of the ocean through adaptive surfing. The program helps participants work towards overcoming perceived limitations connected to their physical and psychological disabilities.

Relaxing on the beach before a surf session. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

Relaxing on the beach before a surf session. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

For one week, Huntington Beach Pier’s Northside was packed with anything but grumpy locals. In fact, most of these locals were smiling, cheering and pushing folks into waves.

“The ocean has a healing aspect to it and when we work together as team to learn to surf, we create new reference points that help us change our perceived challenges,” said Danny Nichols, Huntington Beach Event Director. “It also teaches us that we are not different. Yes, we may have certain physical or mental challenges, but we are all in this together and knowing that creates harmony and trust within this group.”

Military often experience traumatic body and brain injuries, which can lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, PTSD is developed after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. One in three combat troops report symptoms of PTSD.

Pure stoke. Getting read for another wave in Huntington Beach. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

Pure stoke.
Getting read for another wave in Huntington Beach. Photo Courtesy: Operation Surf

In recent years, “surf therapy” has been studied as a way to relieve symptoms of PTSD. In the book “Blue Mind,” author Wallace J. Nichols’, Ph.D., explores the effects of water on the human psyche. In a not-so-recent article, Dr. Nichols highlights that unlike a busy city street, because of nature’s high predictability, it allows parts of the brain to “relax.” The movement of bodies of water (a.k.a.: waves), causes a “surprised” feeling, which leads to the release of dopamine, the coveted ‘reward-pleasure’ neurotransmitter we often receive when we score a great wave.

Dr. Nichols says that because bodies of water change and stay the same simultaneously, people experience both soothing familiarity and stimulation or the perfect recipe for triggering a state of involuntary attention, a key characteristic of problem solving and creativity.

On Friday, June 8th, I got the opportunity to volunteer with Operation Surf, to help with inshore safety by assisting veterans in and out of the water. Some folks were old pros at catching waves and others were still learning to cruise the whitewash, but none of that seemed to matter–the overwhelming camaraderie made me wish I could have participated the entire week, but day jobs do call.  The stoke was truly palatable when I watched a young lady score great rides and feverishly paddle out for more, an infectious smile constantly plastered to her face. The city of Huntington Beach truly came together in full force to support everyone involved in the event.

It was refreshing to see the amount of love and support throughout this tightly knit community. For a week on the northside of Huntington Pier, a spot noted for it’s territorial locals, those same locals were pushing folks into waves, smiling, hugging, and encouraging even myself to paddle out.

HB, you have my respect. <3

Product Review: COR Surf’s Excursion Waterproof Travel Pack

If it’s not obvious already, I LOVE to surf Trestles…along with thousands of other folks from in and out of town. It’s not just about the wave, tho. I enjoy all aspects of the experience–walking there and back again, checking out the ever-evolving street art/graffiti and saying ‘hi’ to my fellow ‘Trestlers.’ While surfing Trestles for many years, I have learned that high quality equipment is essential for a top notch surf experience–and have specifically noted the evolution of my backpack.

It started with a simple drawstring sack used to carry records, which evolved into Dakine’s backpacks. At first I adored my Dakine pack, it went with me everywhere and endured all things ‘beach.’ It wasn’t until boating out to a particular break in Nicaragua that I noticed my Dakine was not 100 percent waterproof–I almost lost function of my DSLR camera because water invaded my pack. Add on my post-Trestles soggy bottom trek back to my car and you’ve got a surfer girl determined to find the perfect pack.

Enter COR Surf’s Excursion Waterproof pack.

The deets:

Designed for a two-seven day trip, this pack has removable interior laptop sleeve and pocket, a secret passport pocket, waist and chest straps, a top cinch strap for your towel. It is made of 100 percent TPU waterproof material–nothing is getting soaked unless you spill your drinks inside the pack–but of course, there’s a feature for that. Two drink holders made out of mesh material can be found on either side of the pack, although I like to keep mine on one side so it doesn’t bump into my board. Did I mention this particular pack carries 40 liters worth of stuff??

4-0.

If a magician were a surfer, this would be his dream pack.

What I love:

The depth…not like “letstalkaboutthemeaningoflife” depth…I mean, I can literally fit my entire head and shoulders inside (I’m also 5’3”), but the point is the pack is deep deep deep. I fit my wetsuit, towel, small stuff, change of clothes, and water with plenty of room to spare.

How I’ll use it:

Trestles and travel–seriously, this pack makes me want to travel (*cough* wheremysurfergirlsat *coughcough*)

I wish:

There was a separate area for my soggy wetsuit

Price:

On sale for $79.99

One Man’s Reflection of Two Separate Great White Shark Attacks

 

Royce Fraley, long-time surfer and Northern California local.

Royce Fraley, long-time surfer and Northern California local.

It’s no secret that surfing comes with its lists of risks. From drowning, bacterial infections, reefs and rocks, jellyfish and stingrays, crazy locals, to random freak accidents, the list can go on and on… There’s even rogue dolphins who miscalculate their beautiful leaps onto the unsuspecting surfer. Ouch.

But none other than one of our most widely whispered topics, SHARKS, are more associated with the risks of being a surfer.  Royce Fraley, a long-time surfer based in Occidental, California, is incredibly aware of this risk and has encountered our infamous grey suited landlord not once, but twice in the chilly Northern California waters.

“In both situations, it’s amazing how your brain kicks into a ‘fight or flight mode’ real quick,” said Fraley. “You automatically want to believe it’s not happening to you, but it is. All these thoughts happen within milliseconds.”

Like jelly to peanut butter, sharks and surfers go hand-in-hand by reputation, sans, well, let’s hope tastiness. In fact, based on my personal conversations, one of the most cited reasons why folks decide to not surf is because of our association with our oceanic toothy counterpart.

But consider statistics—for the average surfer who is in the water maybe not every day, but most days and is floating in the ocean for an extended period of time, what is the actual risk?

“No one plans to paddle out and hit a rock,” said Sean van Sommeron, Founder and Director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, California. “Of course, every time you paddle out, you’re taking a risk. The statistics on shark attacks on surfers is very low on the list of possibilities. Surf board accidents are much higher on the list.”

Surfer Magazine did a lovely and realistic calculation for California surfer folks and concluded that California surfers have a 1-in-25,641 chance of being the victim of a fatal shark attack.

We’ve heard it all before—“you’re more likely to get struck by lightning.”

But sometimes lightning can strike twice for those special outliers, although they are few and very–VERY far between. For Fraley, who has logged more than 40 years of surfing around the world, charging double-overhead mysto reefs smack dab in Northern California’s “red triangle,” a little “brush” with our toothy landlords may be expected. However, for Fraley, not once, but twice did he pay rent and came out relatively physically unscathed.

Royce Fraley charging in Northern California. Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

No hesitation or barrel dodging–Royce Fraley charging in Northern California.
Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

Northern California’s got a reputation among the salty-haired to mean two unpleasant things with one tempting caveat: cold and sharky…but lots of uncrowded spots! For Fraley, 10 is a crowd and spots are most often protected from wanton commercialization by thick blooded locals, that is if the break and pirate-like foggy coastline doesn’t scare you off first.

I got to know Fraley over the interwebs and he shared both stories of his attacks, which were covered by the SF Gate in 2006. More than 10 years has passed since his latest attack in 2006 and I was curious to see how he still manages to charge the crazy Northern California surf.

First Attack: September 1, 1998

Royce Fraley hacking a little off the top in Northern California. Photo by: Patrick Parks

Royce Fraley hacking a little off the top in Northern California.
Photo by: Patrick Parks

A smallish surf day brought Fraley and a few of his good friends to surf Russian River, a spot located north of Bodega Bay, which is known for beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and draining barrels. The trio were the only people in the water. Just as Fraley’s friends caught a few waves towards the inside, Fraley laid down on his board to rest from paddling along the sandbar.

Out of nowhere, he was launched around four-to-five feet into the air and disappeared into a giant burst of whitewater.

“If you took both palms of your hands and slam them on the hood of your car as hard as you can, that was the sound of this incredible impact,” said Fraley.  “All I could see was whitewater all around me.”

Luckily, after that shocking launch, Fraley landed perfectly on his board in the water. The nose of the shark left a half-inch imprint on the bottom of Fraley’s board, even leaving behind a little skin.

“I think that shark was very surprised it hit something that was so damn hard, which was my fiberglass surfboard,” said Fraley. “That strike was like an ‘okay, I’m going in big time’ attack.”

After he landed, Fraley did not hesitate to paddle his 6’10” Campbell Brothers pintail towards the beach, his friends waiting on the sand, when he saw the water close to him swirl and watched as the shark drew up alongside him and chase him in.

“All I saw was the shark’s back and it’s dorsal fin,” said Fraley. “His dorsal was parallel to me and I was like ‘are you kidding me?!’ And before I knew it, I was in super shallow water and the shark just turned off.”

Royce charging big cold water A-frames, sans crowd. Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

Royce charging big cold water A-frames, sans crowd.
Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

Once he reached the beach, Fraley collapsed while his friends quickly checked him for wounds. A little shaken, Fraley and his friends decided to conclude their session with much needed tequila shots and local Indian cuisine to celebrate his most interesting, rare and harrowing encounter.

“If you’re tracking the shark, it will be eyeing you, too and eventually it will take off,” said Dr. Chris Lowe, director of the California State University, Long Beach’s Shark Lab. “If you lose track of the shark, the first place you should look is behind you because that’s what a predator, like a shark, will do–they’ll move out of view.”

Dr. Lowe explained they often see this tactic while tagging great white sharks off of Southern California’s coastline. The smaller, more juvenile great whites are more easily scared off, however, the bigger guys and gals will often move off to the side and sneak up from behind. Dr. Lowe recommends that if a surfer loses track of a shark, to do a 10-second count and look behind. Sharks can identify an animal or person’s head and might often consider the surfboard’s nose as a person’s “head,” therefore recommends a surfer to also track with their board, too.

“If their prey know they can see them, there’s a chance that the predator won’t be able to take them down and may get hurt in the process,” said Dr. Lowe. “Your surfboard’s ‘head’ will make them sense they are being watched.”

Second Attack: December 10, 2006

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A pack of dolphins catches waves in Northern California. Photo: Royce Fraley

Eight years had passed since Fraley’s Russian River encounter, and surfing was still on his to-do list. Fraley was itching for an evening session at Dillion Beach at a spot the locals like to coin as “the shark pit.” About 1,000 yards off the beach awaits a perfect and incredibly long A-frame peak that used to produce 3-500 yard rides in the 90’s. The spot is still filled with it’s fair share of big wave action as, according to Fraley, they will often see Mavericks crews and tow-in folks cruising the out-to-sea style lineup. If the location doesn’t make you flinch, then maybe a nice long paddle over the deep channel will.

“At this point, I had been surfing this spot for 15 years, had done this many times before,” said Fraley. ” It was a beautiful sunny December evening, right after a storm. A big set came through and I caught a couple of waves, which pushed me over into the channel.”

With the increasing swell, Fraley took his time getting back to the lineup, pacing himself for more waves. He rested on his brand new 7’6″ big wave board and as he was gliding over the channel, the water around him began to boil like a cauldron, the right side of his board lifted out of the water and Fraley rolled off the board.

“It was almost like the shark was a submarine surfacing,” said Fraley. “His bottom jaw hit the underside of my board and I started rolling off as the shark bit down.”

Fraley felt a sting in his right  hip as the shark dove down with Fraley’s 10-foot big wave leash wrapped around it’s mouth. As Fraley instinctively grabbed ahold of his board for flotation, the shark dove even deeper beneath the surface with Fraley in tow. In the time spent below the surface, he experienced a gamut of emotions beginning with strong denial, anger and pain–to acceptance.

“There’s a part of me that accepted what was happening, I felt peaceful,” said Fraley.  “Right when I felt that, I bumped off the side of the shark. It felt like someone pushed my whole right side up against a school bus.”

Royce shows relatively minor cuts after his attack. Photo: Royce Fraley

Royce shows relatively minor cuts and board damage after his attack.
Photo: Royce Fraley

When Fraley reached the surface, incredibly shaken, he paddled towards a surfer, who immediately paddled away from him towards shore, and Fraley was left to make the long paddle on his own. A lifeguard, Brit Horne saw the commotion and quickly came to Fraley’s rescue where he found three imprints from the shark’s teeth on his right hip, which did not require stitches.

The University of California, Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab estimated the great white shark Fraley encountered to be about 15 feet long and weigh about 3,000 pounds.

“Not all bites may be predatory, sharks may be sending signals saying ‘you better back off,'” said Dr. Lowe. “Surfers often don’t even know the shark is in the area, and the shark hits and takes off. We just don’t know what the motivating factors are prior to those bites and it’s very rare that people actually witness those behaviors happening, so we have no context.”

Post-surf/attack session, instead of tequila shots and yummy food, Fraley was greeted with a barrage of news media at his front door when he got home. Even Good Morning, America! wanted an interview, but Fraley preferred to keep the news media’s often jarring sensationalism out of his evening and simply reflect on the greater lesson.

Reflection

"The shark pit" looking good enough for a surf. Photo: Royce Fraley

“The shark pit” looking good enough for a surf.
Photo: Royce Fraley

Since his latest shark attack, Fraley has had time to contemplate his extremely rare attacks. Although from time-to-time, he understandably experiences a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Fraley still manages charge big waves, but, seemingly remains more vigilant and paddles out with friends, on most days.

“The biggie for me was to actually go back out at the same spots,” said Fraley. “I had that need to be around other people and even now, I’ll be surfing any spot and sometimes I have a mini-panic attack, It’s almost like PTSD, but I usually tell myself to calm down and breathe and that definitely helps.”

Even still–it certainly hasn’t deterred him from charging full NorCal swells. In fact, he and a few friends will often search for lonely peaks along the less traveled areas of the north coast.

“Since the shark attacks, it really made me look at the way I carry myself and the way I am with others,” said Fraley. “The sharks taught me to get over myself, be humble, be considerate of others in and out of the water, to have a reverence for every moment you have, and to get over your own bullshit.”

Similar to how Native Americans often associated these experiences with predatory creatures, Fraley relates to this school of thought and sees both encounters as blessings.

“That’s how I have to look at my situation,” said Fraley. “It taught me to have a little bit more respect for yourself and life. It helped me realize how precious things are. So much of our society is ‘dog-eat-dog’ when we should be giving waves away, hooting someone into waves–bottom line: don’t be freakin’ selfish.”

Another Royce NorCal nugget. Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

Another Royce NorCal nugget.
Photo: Scott VanCleepmut Photography

 

Nine Questions for Sensi Graves, Kiteboarder & Bikini Designer

About 10 years ago, Sensi Graves picked up a kiteboard in North Carolina, didn’t hesitate to shred it and never looked back. Much like how we fall in love with a board sport, kiteboarding took the Hood River local by the arm and led her down a path of adventure, friendship and, in 2012, to start a swimwear business. The elusive “perfect” action sports bikini constantly escaped the many who tried, and few seemed to conquer in the early days, which is exactly what lit the fire for Sensi–enter Sensi Graves Bikinis. Her suits were created and are designed out of the clear need for women who once struggled to enjoy action sports and still retain a feminine appeal during a swimwear fashion v. function era.
Fast-forward only five years later, and you will find women all over the globe kiteboarding, surfing, adventuring, diving, practicing yoga and playing volleyball in her bikinis. When I first saw a Sensi bikini in an online store, I thought the name to be fitting with surfing’s niche culture–very feminine and strong, much like her bikinis. Interestingly, it was kiteboarding that drove her to create a bikini line that looks good while staying put.

*All photos picture Sensi in action and are courtesy of Sensi Graves & Sensi Graves Bikinis.*

Read more on the woman behind the ‘kini:

Q: What made you want to create your bikini line?

A: The concept for Sensi Bikinis was born out of a need. The summer before I graduated college, I moved to North Carolina to coach kiteboarding. I was in the water every single day; teaching, kiting and surfing. Bikinis were my uniform and my recreational outfit. I quickly grew tired of adjusting my swimwear. We’d teach for three hour time blocks and my suits were just not comfortable to wear for that long. The pieces that were designed to stay on were frumpy and geared towards a much older audience. I was 23 and I wanted to look and feel good in my bikini, but I also wanted something that would perform. I decided it was time to do something about it–and Sensi Bikinis was born!BetsyLindsy_Grapefruit2

Q: What does Sensi Bikinis represent for women?

A: Sensi Bikinis represents a mindset that we are strong, powerful and beautiful creatures. We embrace and celebrate our bodies and not judge ourselves.  We empower our customers to get out there and try new things and want to give them the confidence they need to do what they love. For us, that starts with delivering a well-fitting, comfortable and supportive bikini that is, at the same time, fashionable, flirty and makes our customers feel good while wearing it–all while delivering peace of mind that it will perform. We want to show our customers what’s possible for us, as women!

Q: What is your most popular bikini right now and why?

A: We have a few current top sellers: the Colleen top and Kyla bottom and the Dawn top. Most recently, we’ve seen an uptick in the Jennifer bottom, the Katie top, and Elise bottom, which just won the 2017 SELF Healthy Living Award for “Best Two-piece that Stays Put.” Our designs are clean, unique and comfortable, which delivers all the best swimwear qualities.

Q: Tell me about your love for kiteboarding–what keeps you coming back for more?

SENSI GRAVES-lukas-stiller-DawnJennifer_TechnicolorKiteA: I learned to kite in 2007 when my dad brought my three brothers and I out to North Carolina. I hadn’t even really seen the sport before then and had no idea what I was in for. After two weeks, I fell in love and kept in touch with the school where I had learned. In 2009 I had the opportunity to move out to North Carolina for the summer to work as a kite instructor and I jumped on it. From that point on it was live, eat and breathe kiteboarding. I just fell in love.

My favorite part about kiteboarding is the freedom. You can take it so many places: in the waves, in the flat-water, on exploration missions… There are so many different aspects of kiting–whether you go for a solo soul cruise or are out with friends.

The community in our sport is also amazing, you won’t find a better group of people anywhere. I love that you can meet up with like-minded individuals all around the world and connect over this amazing sport.

Q: Do you compete?

A: Yes. I compete in a number of kite events throughout the year, namely on the Kite Park League World Tour. Our season just ended and I finished third overall.

Q: Have your ever tried surfing or any other extreme sports?

A: I love surfing. It’s by far the hardest board sport, you have to really watch and learn the ocean. But, once you’re on that wave, it’s the most exhilarating feeling. I can’t get enough. I’m also an avid snowboarder and mountain biker.TOBY2590

Q: Do you do any cross training for kiteboarding?

A:Kiteboarding is an all-over body workout, so many types of training get you in shape. Personally, I do circuit training, yoga and ride at cable parks. For the discipline of kiteboarding that I compete in (park riding), cable parks are the best cross-training that exists.TOBY5645

Q: What is your perfect kiteboarding day?

A: Waking up to a slight breeze rustling the trees. Enjoying a leisurely breakfast and coffee with friends. Riding in a slider park in tropical weather until I simply can’t any longer. Eating a fresh lunch. Taking a nap. Finally, ending the day with a foil session (another discipline of kiteboarding) as the sun goes down.

Q: Any advice for people who want to try it?

A: Take a lesson. You’ll need the basics and it helps immensely to have someone there, holding your hand as you learn to control the kite. Kiteboarding is all about kite control. Get good at that first before you attempt the board.

Check out Sensi’s bikini designs in action on:
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Seven Jedi Mind Tricks that can Save Your Crappy Session

By: Shawna Baruh

The best surfer is the one having the most fun, right? What if the waves suck or you suck or some punk keeps dropping in on you–still having fun?
Here are seven Jedi mind tricks that can help you have a great time, even when you have all the reason not to:IMG_8320

1. Set Low Expectations

We’ve all heard that surfer in the line-up screaming profanities at themselves when they blow it on a wave. They are not having a good time. Don’t be in a one-man contest. No matter what the conditions are, if your only goal is to strengthen your paddle and catch a mediocre wave, then you are more likely to have fun. The pressure is off at that point. I usually do this if the conditions are terrible. Once I make my session only about ‘paddling and exercise,’ any wave I get is a bonus.

2. When the Inevitable Quarrel Arises…

Don’t fight back. If your goal is to have a pleasant session, any altercation is going to bring you down. People are going to be assholes. And for some reason, it’s double-time in the water. Even if they are wrong, you are better off paddling away. I’m speaking from experience of doing the opposite. I have tried talking about it calmly and defending myself. It never works. Let the assholes be assholes while you keep your stoke.

3. Turn Crap into Gold

Ouch. Surfer at Wedge about to eat his breakfast...in sand and sea water.

When I do have an altercation in the water, I try to put my fragile ego aside and think ‘what can I learn from this?’ As cliché as it sounds, it can be powerful.
For example: while longboarding I saw a set wave and started to paddle for it. There wasn’t a person near the peak and I was closer than anyone else. As I paddled towards it, I noticed a guy paddle-battling me from behind for the same wave. I was closer to begin with and in position for priority, so I stayed my course, got to it first, as expected, and caught the wave.
As I took off, he screamed at me. I paddled back to him and asked him why he yelled at me. He told me to “Fuck Off” and then paddled away. The next wave I caught, he screamed at me as I got up, again. I kicked out of the wave and I asked him again what the hell his problem was. He said I was  “catching too many waves.”
Before this, I was having a mellow session. It was not crowded, the surf was 2-3 feet and fun. I was catching a lot of waves, but I wasn’t burning anyone. I tried staying calm while attempting to talk to him about it, but all he wanted to do was fight. I paddled away and tried to ignore him, but the damage was done. I was no longer having fun.
So, I asked myself “Could I give more waves away?” Maybe I could let some go by every now and then. At that point, I decided during every session, I would give away waves, for no reason other than ‘just because.’ It has been incredible. People are so thankful and approach me in the parking lot to give thanks. It has raised the quality of my sessions like I never thought it would.
So, to the assholes out there – I will turn your shit into gold and have an even better time. :)

4. Break the Silence

Epic tales of uncrowded points, sketchy roads...and bodily functions, of course.

Breaking silence and beer caps in Baja.

It’s okay to talk to strangers. Compliment someone on a nice wave, ask a question about their board or introduce yourself. You’ll be surprised how many surfers are open to conversation.
Drop “yews” on anyone getting an exceptional wave, or express your ‘stoke’ for the beginner you just saw make a break through. Remember what it felt like to catch your first wave? Pour some gasoline on that fire and pass the positivity around. It’s a great way to ensure that no one looks at you with aggro vibes and you will be less likely to get them back.

5. Get a Foamie

Once you take out a foamie, the only real goal is to try to have the most fun out of anyone in the lineup; it’s like being a kid again,” said Professional Longboarder Christian Stutzman. Christian has placed in longboard contests up and down the California coast, including winning the National Surfing Scholastic Association State College Longboard title in 2016. He also placed third in the noseride divisions of the Guy Takayama Pro. He is no beginner.
So, when I saw him driving around town with his foam board I had to ask.
“I love surfing foamies because they give me the freedom to just surf without any pressure, and it lets me have fun on any wave–big or small.” If you see Christian on his yellow foam board with a giant neon pink plastic fin, you can pretty much guess he  is having the most fun. And he just might invite you in on a party wave.

6. Get Better

Kelly Slater throws some spray at the 2012 Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles. Photo: Jackie Connor

Kelly Slater gets better…and better…and better…

In direct contrast to my foamie advice, another way to have fun is to get better. Pick one skill to work on and make it a practice session. Since surfing has one of the longest learning curves of any sport, you should expect to get only slightly better at said skill with each session, if you’re lucky. Upgrade your shuffle to a cross step or work on ditching the bottom turn during your takeoff and set a line. It feels good to be working at something out of your normal bag of tricks and even better when you master it.

7. If it still sucks…

IMG_9346If you are still having a bad session, then decide the universe is conspiring against you and just yield knowing there are better days ahead.

About the Author

D3S_1825_favShawna Baruh grew up in Western Massachusetts and in her early twenties moved to Cape Cod. There she learned to surf in the Northeast’s frigid waters and the joys of a 5mm wetsuit. She split her time between Cape Cod and Boston and earned a BFA in photography from the Art Institute of Boston. Her new love for surfing brought her to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Mexico in search of adventures and new waves. After graduating college, she decided it was time to move herself to warmer waters. She and her dog trekked across the country and landed in San Diego where she still lives today. She appreciates the warm weather and water like a true New Englander and firmly believes that sunny days are meant to be enjoyed outdoors. She is currently a marketing consultant, photographer and a proud Mother of a toddler and two teenage step-children.