Friday, March 30, 2007

On Progression

Sister Surf had an interesting musing the other day that I just saw. In response, it gets me rambling about the good, the bad, the ugly. Home Break really is like home. Can you ever really go home again? I've spent the last two weeks out of the water stretching and strengthening my knee, but both Sundays I found myself haunting home break on my way to the Farmer's Market so I could see who was out and what the waves were like. It was fun hooting for my pals. Two Sundays ago I would have liked to be in the water because there was actually some shape on the waves. This past Sunday, not so much.

I think there is truth in what the Old Regulars say the break, Sister, if you can surf Home Break, you can surf ANY wave. I've found it to be true... even if it does psyche me out some time. I've been to other slower, fatter, shapelier places and I back off waves because my natural instinct is that it's going to jack up and smack me like Home Break does. But after my first good Get, I realize the new break is a slow, fat, shapely wave.

Learning at Home Break DID help me as a newbie. I paddled out through some of the crappiest, wind-stormiest waves because I didn't know any better. This helped me figure out how to power through without turtling a longboard.

Learning on this wave helped make me fearless on steep drops. You either GO or you go over the falls. Imagine the bright orange nose of Doc #1 as I went over the falls... over and over and over. I'm sure I cut a wide swath.

I learned turn at Home Break when all the crowds started showing up.

I think the frustration now is that we know how to paddle out through set waves. We know how to pop up. We know how to turn.

The problem is: what we don't know how to do, we don't get enough opportunity to do at Home Break. Either the shape is off or the crowds are on it. Either it's too low tide or it's too high. It also doesn't help that we've had some pretty consistent non-swell for the past few months. Both Sister and I have become weekend warriors so if Mother Nature doesn't hit us with energy on Saturday and Sunday, we're pretty much screwed.

I want to learn how to walk to the nose gracefully and not in a panic. I want to learn how to kick-out backside. And I'd really enjoy keeping my eyes open when I pull into a tube instead of fearing that the close-out is going to wash away my contact lenses.

In all, though, I'm not too concerned. Today, I drove over a hill I've gone over a thousand times, and at the top of that hill you can see the Pacific Ocean. This morning it was beautiful and blue and I had a Yearning. I yearned to be in it. Surfing. Floating. Just playing. The yearning hit me hard, but not in a way that made me regret being out of the water for so long. The yearning washed over me in a way to make me realize that I will be back in the ocean and it doesn't matter how much I suck or rock the board. It's just a place where I belong.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another reason I don't surf in red tide

Sea mammal deaths sound alarm

Experts investigate new dolphin die-offs
By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post

March 27, 2007

SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the summer of 2005 marine animals suddenly started dying off Florida's southwest coast, with scores of bottlenose dolphins, manatees and turtles washing up on shore. In October alone, 22 dolphins became stranded and died, compared with the usual monthly average of three.

Hoping to unravel the mystery, nearly 50 researchers, part of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, commissioned a study of the deaths. After taking samples from 130 stranded dolphins, they concluded that red tide -- an algae bloom that creates a neurotoxin, brevetoxin -- caused the massive die-off.

The working group, formed 16 years ago under the auspices of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has investigated scores of such events. At present, the panel is handling eight such cases simultaneously, an unprecedented high.

Experts believe a range of factors are contributing to the algae blooms and viruses linked to the die-offs, including nutrient runoff from farming, rising ocean temperatures and discarded waste such as cat litter.

The group, now with 12 permanent members and a shifting array of volunteers, has evolved into the federal government's top detective team for these events.

Randall Wells, who heads the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program at the private Mote Marine Laboratory and studied the 2005 red tide, said he and his colleagues are still struggling to figure out whether environmental contaminants or other factors might have weakened the mammals that fell prey to the 2005 algae bloom.

"It is so hard ... to pick all those things apart," he said.

This month the rapid-response team sprang into action again after 64 dead bottlenose dolphins and numerous fish washed ashore on the Texas and Louisiana coasts.

Teri Rowles, senior scientist for NOAA's marine mammal mortality program, said the dolphin deaths have spurred a major response.

Typically, marine scientists first try to determine whether a virus or an algae bloom is to blame. Rowles said she is concerned that the morbilli virus, which is similar to distemper in dogs and killed tens of thousands of European animals in 2004, may be responsible for the recent dolphin deaths.

Frances Gulland, who directs veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif., said that marine mammals dying in waves can serve as indicators for human health.

"They can be early messengers, really, for broader changes," she said.

Monday, March 12, 2007

MCL sprain

At no point on any wave on Saturday was I in any kind of control on Doc III. Left, right, didn't matter. The board felt squirrelly and fast and I'm starting to think I'm not good enough. To compound it all, I was trying to bring the board under me on a right after a bottom turn when the wave jacked up and the board started sliding and pitching me. I couldn't even count on my honed wipe-out skills. My front left foot remained planted on the board as it cartwheeled and started hyper-extending my knee. I was tumbling with the thought, "I am seriously going to get hurt here." I managed to disentangle my leg from the board and hobble into shore. Walking was manageable, but started tweaking out if I rotated the bottom half of my leg.

Great. So now I had to fake walk all day while my parents came for a visit. (They approve of my surfing even less than they approved of my white boyfriend in college.) The first part of the day was fine, and my Dr. Brother, who was also visiting, assured me that if I wasn't in agonizing pain and could walk it was probably just a MCL sprain. He had one while snowboarding a couple years ago. I asked him how long it took to recover. "Fully? Two months." What?! Great.

So, dim sum in Monterey Hills was good . What sucked was discovering that sitting still all day caused my knee to get stiff which caused more pain when I started walking. The day's plan was to drive around looking at neighborhoods with Dr. Brother in preparation for his move out there in the summer when he starts his vascular fellowship. That means me sitting, driving everybody in my car. By the end of the day, I couldn't fake walk from the parking garage to the crab place at Redondo for dinner. I had to limp walk and confess.

"You have to do things right. When you have kids to support you won't do such things."

Is that really true? The majority of my surfer friends are parents who can't wait to throw their kids into the water. I also don't think I did anything particularly stupid. I just have a new board I don't know how to ride. Unfortunately, though, my dad believes surfing in general is dangerous and stupid, so there is no point for debate.

I feel like the MCL sprain has actually given me a new appreciation for preventative training. I'm glad I started going to the gym to improve my cardio-vascular system and build some muscle mass. I believe in the positive effects of yoga to strengthen my core muscles. But surfing is not for any of that. It's just for me. So, will I end up "doing things right" like my dad lectures?