Having reached what is roughly the half-way mark of my trip, here’s where I think Im up to. As I’ve spent much of the last fortnight at Doheny and San Onofre beaches with only one trip to Oceanside, I’ll focus on those two locations.
San Onofre – each time I’ve been, there has been really great swell coming in and have managed to catch many of the breaks I’ve gone for. There have been some really smooth 6/7ft crests, with lots of gliding down the face and back up and as high tide approached, the wave energy was dropping in readiness for the tide to turn; however, by careful shifting of the feet and weight I have been able to dip the nose sufficiently for the board to keep catching the swell and ride to shore again. This has been really pleasing as I now know I’ve got the ability to control the board better, enabling me to steer it properly and maintain momentum. Just the one incident to report:
- On one occasion while I was out waiting for my wave scanning the horizon with my 2000 yard ice-man stare, I thought I saw a dorsal fin. I shook my head to clear my eyes and it was gone, so I put it down to surfer’s equivalent of ‘cabin in the woods fear’ and resumed my search. About two minutes later I saw it again, but this time, it wasn’t one, but two dorsal fins which very definitely crested and then submerged, they then turned around and went by me the other way. My attention was grabbed and I looked about to see if any of the other folk out had seen them, but no-one appeared to have noticed, so I paddled gingerly over to a couple of guys and as quietly and calmly as possible asked them if they’d seen them. They both looked at me like the kook I clearly was and one of them dismissively said “It’s just dolphins, dude”.
- I tried (and undoubtedly failed) to retain an air of nonchalant detachment and replied “Oh, yeah. Cool, thought so.” Pause. “Get many of them here?”.
- To which I was informed “Yeah, quite a lot, they’re cool though, just doing their thing.” Pause. “You go a bit further out you might see Grey Whales, they’re migrating right now, to the Arctic, to feed”.
- At that point I felt I’d been educated enough in the presence and habits of the local sea-life and gave them a low key “Cool” and paddled off. After about 10 minutes my heartbeat had slowed sufficiently to enable me to breathe in and out normally again and resume my flint-eyed glaze for the next wave.
Doheny – with the exception of a couple of flattish days, the waves have been pretty consistent – 3-4ft when cresting and good levels of energy – meaning that there have been good opportunities to catch and ride, provided I paddled hard enough and so I’ve had a decent amount of practice. My paddling has now improved to the extent that I can consistently catch the waves before they have broken. Couple of incidents to report:
- Having got out to the line up early one morning, I was quietly minding my own business waiting for my wave when a turtle surfaced directly next to my right leg – I don’t know the correct terminology to describe turtle size, but whopper seems appropriate. Its shell was – at a guess – 60-80cm in diameter, its head and neck were about 15-20 cm long, its eyes were large and black and it’s mouth was wide open. I don’t know which of us was the more surprised as I’ve not seen enough turtles to know if “startled” looks much different to “meh, another bloke on a board”. As it happens once it heard my “Gadzooks! What the blazes is that?” (or words to that effect) it dived under and swam away, leaving me to resume searching for my wave. About ten minutes later another surfer paddled by and told me to be careful as a snapping turtle had been seen and it would think nothing of helping itself to a toe or other appendage within reach of its jaws…
- Towards the end of one particularly good session, I was planning to head in after my next wave and once I caught it I rode to the shore and in a bid to look cool, tried to casually step off the board onto the beach. However I rather mistimed it and was knocked forwards by another incoming wave and face planted onto the sand. Ahem, feigning an insouciance I really did not feel, I brushed my self off and headed back out for just one more…
Ability: definite improvement, wave selection much better and ride rate is greater
Technique: Pop-up is much snappier (turtles aside) as I’m landing my feet 60-70% of the time correctly, reducing the wobble as I try to adjust; paddling much stronger and more co-ordinated giving me better power to catch. Further work needed though on pop-up as sometimes I unbalance the board and end up in the drink
Style: not on the cat-walk yet, more like watching from the wings
Approach: getting bolder with wave choices, but def need to try for the larger beasts as even if I miss, I’ll be picking up info for future
Enthusiasm: no dips here, still full-on – perhaps more haste, less speed as a former teacher once put it to me
Best Day: earlier this week when I caught 13 of the 15 I went for – pretty good result there
Next up is a session with Carl, the instructor who has got a shortboard he wants me to try – this could be my transfer to the big leagues. Watch this space…