Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Surf Vacay (Day 2 Continued) - October 8, 2011

So the surf this morning was a little deceiving.  It was plenty clean and they were bigger than yesterday when I arrived, but there was no power behind them.  In over an hour of attempts, I caught zero waves, got pitched over several, was hit in the back with my board, and mostly worked my arse off, only to watch the waves roll on without me. 
To make things worse, there was a group of guys watching from their balcony for a while.  I of course wanted to prove that girls can surf too – I know, I know, but it comes from being a little sister.  I’ve always felt that I need to show I’m worth my salt. 

I think it’s from not wanting to be left behind by my brothers and their friends who were always doing something cool: building forts, climbing trees, jumping the creek, you name it.  That sort of stuff was way more fun to me than playing with Barbies.  So I learned early on that if I wanted to be included, I need be able to do what it was they were doing.   

circa 1987
Unfortunately I proved nothing of the sort today.  The only thing I showed those guys was that I could get nailed by my board and be dumb enough to keep trying.
The 1mm IST Dive Skin
After an hour, I threw in the towel but I have to say, the experience wasn’t totally lost.  I was wearing my IST dive skin for the first time and I really liked it.  It looks like a wetsuit but it’s not meant to keep you warm; it’s just to protect you from “marine life” (read: jellyfish).  More than that, it keeps the sun off so I didn’t have to go through half a gallon of sunscreen. 
Good thing I had it on because I saw a few jellies in the lineup and one looked nice and purple-y.  

Man of war, anyone?
Photo Credit: condenaststore.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Surf Vacay (Day 2) - October 8, 2011

I just finished breakfast on my balcony.  Watching the sets roll in, I enjoyed my new favorite cereal (Optimum Power Cinnamon Blueberry).  Seriously, it’s life changing.

Worth every penny...all 600 (or so) of them
When I woke up, I didn’t even have to get out of bed to see check the surf; all I had to do was look out my sliding glass door!

I slept with the door open so I could hear the waves and the wind blowing through the top of the palm tree that reaches just to my balcony.  The winds started to pick up yesterday evening after I came in from surfing and they’ve been going ever since. 
About a week ago, I started noticing a bump on Swellinfo that promised of good surf for this weekend and I’ve been holding my breath ever since.  The surf here is just so unpredictable so to plan a trip around it is a little bit of a gamble. 
But I think that’s the whole thing about surfing; you just have to go when it’s good – which is why the majority of surfers are teenage guys who don’t care about their GPAs or middle-aged hippies who probably don’t contribute to the tax base.

It looks like there’s some weather brewing, as it’s supposed to rain this afternoon, so I guess that’s what is pushing up this swell.  The waves are coming in from the southeast and the northern winds are keeping them clean. 
They were pretty tiny yesterday so I only scored a few rides but there was a family on the beach watching me.  They were packing up when I came drifting by (yes, I continue to do that – I still don’t hold my lineup very well) and they stood on the beach for a while waiting for me to get up.  Luckily, my one good ride came during this point so I didn’t embarrass myself too much. 
I stayed out long enough to see the sun dip into the gulf before packing it in.  As I rinsed off my board at the top of the staircase, I looked down about 30 feet to the gulf.  The elevation in this area is the highest of the surrounding counties so it makes for some stunning views.  

The sky was still glowing with oranges and pinks from the recent sunset and flitting around in the peach light were hundreds of dragonflies.  I’ll never forget the beauty of that moment; it was an incredible sight.

The dragonflies buzzing around the top of the dunes after sunset
I walked across the green lawn to the building where my room is and when I reached the top of the stairs, I came up to the coolest collection of flowers sitting just outside my door.  There are sunflowers, red and yellow daisies, these fantastic orange flowers in the shape of bonbons (hello - my favorite).  It is the most cheery arrangement I've ever gotten!  Ted (always one to rise to the occasion) had flowers sent to my door! 

What a way to begin the weekend.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Surf Vacay (Day 1) - October 7, 2011

I’m here!  I’m here!  I’m here!  I’ve arrived to my home for the next three days – the Seagrove Villas Motel

The Seagrove Villas Motel - built in 1952
photo credit: www.sowal.com
So...I'm not exactly staying in one of these cute little cottages, mine is more of an "efficiency condo."  However, I'm on the 3rd floor of the three-story building across the courtyard from these precious little bungalows, and my view of the gulf is AMAZING. 

I am obviously beside myself with excitement and this clip captures it all:
My check-in time wasn’t until 4:00, so I scheduled a massage appointment a few hours earlier to kick off the weekend.  The therapist had a take no prisoners approach to deep tissue work, so I definitely got my money’s worth (nothing like productive pain, kids) and I’m ready for a weekend of paddling.  

Spirulina: Who wouldn't want to eat this?
Afterwards, I stopped off at a juice bar a few yards off the beach and got a smoothie with bananas, almond butter, brown rice protein and spirulina…I feel like I could paddle for a week straight after a meal like that baby.
So the room!  It’s exactly what I was looking for.  No frills, lots of character (note the mismatching and rattan below), and it’s got a to-die-for view of the gulf.  I couldn’t be happier. 

Rattan and Wicker - nothing says beach bungalow quite like those two
I just don’t know what to do first – yoga, surf, write – I feel like I’m in a chocolate shop and the chocolatier behind the counter is telling me, “Just take one.” 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Ride of my Life - September 7, 2011

I think I just had the best ride of my life…actually, I know I did. 

Surfer in the pass during a storm
photo credit: vcstar.com
Hurricane Lee was making its way up to Louisiana when we started getting a swell last Thursday.  Many surfers traveled over from the east coast to take advantage of the swell and they were certainly rewarded for their effort as the waves were reported at 10-13 feet, i.e., “double overhead.”   
Some of those brave souls even surfed inside the pass.  Here, the water is almost 70-feet deep and like all passes, it funnels the water into and out of the bay system.  With the high volume of water that moves between these jetties each day, sea life travels that route as well.  A surfer told me once that you have to watch your toes when you sneak a paddle across the pass.  I’ll say.  But if you don’t have a run-in with a critter that mistakes you for lunch, you’re in for quality waves that are unheard of elsewhere in the gulf.
For some pretty impressive pictures of surfers in our pass, check out this flicker page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjofpcb/4093824785/in/photostream/ 
Now, Ted and I are not quite at that caliber of surfing yet, so we waited for the storm to pass.  Eventually, the  winds shifted around to the north and slowly cleaned up the waves.  Once the surft is cleaned up though, there’s only a small window of time before the winds knock it down to kid size, so we knew an early morning session was a must with this one. 
I guess Charlie does surf...
It felt like it had been ages since I had gotten up before dawn and schlepped myself into some flip-flops for a journey across town in the name of wave riding.  As I was heading to the beach, I passed an early 1980s VW Vanagon with a sticker on the rear windshield that read, “Charlie doesn’t surf.”  I looked at the (total hippy) driver as I passed by and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him in the lineup…and I’m pretty sure he too was going surfing that morning.
Ted and I met at his place then jumped in the Fj with our boards in tow.  When got to the beach, we saw nothing short of perfection.  The waves were clean, slow-breaking, waist-to-shoulder high; plus, the tide was in, which translates into longer rides.  We hadn’t seen waves near this good since the winter. 
A few rides into the session, I caught a beautiful wave on the outside.  I had a fun, fast drop-in, which put a smile on my face so big that the tourists could see from their condos.  Just when I thought the ride was coming to an end, another wave rolled in and I dropped down the face of that one!  I played around on it for a while and as I was winding down on that one, I caught another section of that wave and had a third drop-in! 
It was phenomenal!  Seriously the best ride in my short surfing life and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.  It’s official, I’ve got surf stoke all over again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mayday Meltdown - August 20, 2011

Sooo….today wasn’t so good.  I just think the stars were aligned…against me, and I maybe should have stayed home.

I was already having a tough time walking because I cut my foot on a shell a few days ago when I jumped off my board (I know, I know, I really shouldn’t do that – I should fall off instead).  Got it.  In spite of my aggressive cleaning regimen of hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin, it has still managed to get infected.  So I was already battling that delightful reality when we walked over the dunes to the beach and saw the seriously dumpy waves.

Maybe it’s the hurricane in the Yucatan, but whatever it is, the waves are big and dumpy right now.  For me, this usually translates to getting pearled (a lot), and you know how I don’t like that.  The only thing more frustrating than face planting into a wave is doing it over and over again, regardless of how far back on the board you think you’ve moved.

To add to the inherent delight of pearling, the surf hat (that I now have to wear to hold down the pterygium growth) is shoved back by the water when I face plant, which causes the bill to stick straight up on my head.  Because that looks cool.  And with the chin strap (I know), I can’t just pull the hat back down; I have to undo the strap, reposition the hat, and re-clasp the strap – which isn’t as easy as you’d think.  So that got old, real fast.

In addition, there was an incredible amount of algae in the water, which was getting everywhere – even in my eyelashes.  This of course made me nervous because, I mean, if dust is bad for pterygiums, algae can’t be good.  It must have also been an irritant because after just a few minutes in the water, my throat began to burn.

About midway through our time on the water, my leash got wrapped around my arm.  As I was trying to untangle it, a big wave crashed on top of me and tried to rip my board away…only it was affixed to my arm, via the leash.  It felt like a tourniquet that someone new to the medical field had tied with unnecessary gusto.  The bruise from that is deepening by the minute.  It’s a real beaut.

This was the last straw (well, second-to-last, really) and Mad Mo ended up coming out.  I unfortunately got way too sassy with Ted when he was only trying to help by suggesting I move back on my board.  Lucky for me, he doesn’t take it personally when I get petulant from surfing poorly.  I really need to rein that in.

By this point, all the algae in the water was seriously beginning to irritate my throat and it started to feel like I had strep.  I could really go for some water…maybe I need a camel pack.  Yep, that would seal the deal – long sleeve rash guard; long, boyish board shorts, surf hat (with chin strap, mind you), sunglasses, and now a camel pack.  I’m so “special needs.”

The final kicker came when I was riding probably the best wave of the whole day and I lost my balance.  The Civil Corps of Engineers had recently finished a dredging project, which pushed in the sand bars quite a bit, and it just so happened that when I fell off the board I landed in about 12 inches of water with very packed sand below that.   I fell on my side so my shoulder took the fall…hard.  It didn’t feel good and it still doesn’t feel good, so needless to say, I’m currently icing it.
So that was it.  I unlodged my shoulder from the bar (don’t worry, it wasn’t lodged – I’m being dramatic), grabbed my board, and huffed into shore. 



Party Wave - July 30, 2011

I’m getting more and more settled into my shortboard popup and we’ve been getting some great footage with the GoPro. 
This morning was just one of those mornings when we didn’t have high expectations (the first step to happiness) and all we wanted was a ride or two before we started our day. 
We started out having the waves to ourselves but then a couple of paddle boarders arrived on the scene.  One of them was a former yoga instructor who owns a successful studio in town (www.yogaforyoupc.com).  Paul discovered paddle boarding in the last few years, which was almost like discovering religion.  He realized that he could not only get a great cardio workout by paddle boarding, but that he could put down the paddle and do some yoga right there on the board.
After we all chatted for a while on our boards, Paul paddled on and Ted and I returned to catching waves.  Soon we were joined by employees from the local surf shop, and before we knew it, we were sharing waves with teenage guys on their shop’s rental boards.  These kids are all shortboarders, so for them, riding these 9-foot foam boards was like going from an Audi TT to a Chevy Caprice.
At this impromptu surf party, everyone was grinning because of the unexpectedly good surf for the doldrums of late July.  It was beach bum’s version of a snow day and we were all getting in some pretty fun play time after not having many notions of such when we woke up that morning.
Mr. Surf was out taking pictures before the surf camps began and I made it on the site again.
Ted made another fun GoPro video of our day and it captured our ride together.  We try to catch at least one wave together each time we go out and when I got ahead of it a little more, I decided to taunt him a bit…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Surf Camp - July 2011

Definitely two of the cutest children on this earth are the son and daughter of our lucky coworker Jason. 
He and his wife have been told that they should just “make children for people” – and you’ll know why once you see a clip of their children surfing (and after you get past the whole creepiness factor of that idea).
Ted has had quite a bit of experience teaching kids to surf by teaching both of his children, not to mention me – essentially a child when I’m not having a good surf session.  So Jason asked us if we’d be willing to take his 7-year-old daughter out with us one morning before work.

Can you say, "Future Olympian"?!?!
Marie is an incredibly talented gymnast who’s got both balance and strength going for her, se we weren’t really surprised when on her second try, she rode the board all the way to the shore.  Once there, I helped her get the board (about three times as tall as her) turned around and back out to where Ted and Jason were waiting.
This continued for about an hour before we had to wrap up and start our work day, but we planned to meet again the next morning, a Saturday.
At 7 o’clock, we met the whole family at the state park, and Marie’s younger brother EJ also wanted to give it a shot.  While he may be too young right now, he made for some precious videography.

I know - cutest thing you've ever seen
Marie continued to improve throughout the morning, but her success was completely lost on her.  She had no idea just how well she was doing – only that she was having fun.  How great would it be if adults measured the enjoyment of activities far more than their success at them?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Go Pro! - July 2, 2011

Ted and I are the proud new owners of some of the coolest advancement in recreational technology: a GoPro.  These little puppies are high-definition video cameras that can be mounted to a borage of things like helmets (to capture skiing, skydiving, or anything else that requires a helmet), bikes, boats, but most importantly, surfboards.
A friend of ours got one a while back and he (a much better surfer) has the best video of some winter surfing and paddle boarding

Now, I’m most certainly not what Malcom Gladwell would have classified as an innovator in his book, The Tipping Point,­­­ nor would he call me an early adopter or even a late majority.  I’m pretty much the last to embrace new technology: a laggard.  Trend setting explained by Malcom here.

I'm sorry, who doesn't love this hair?
Photo Cred: themixedcommunity
It wasn’t until a persistent friend in college downloaded AOL’s Instant Messaging (SEVERAL years after its inception) that I started using it (and loving it, p.s.).  I dismissed the advent of navigational devices in cars because I viewed them as another way to drop several hundred on something that “does the same thing as a map” (though I totally respect their functionality now).  And when Ted first mentioned a GoPro, I thought, but why when we have a perfectly good waterproof camera that we can shoot video with?
Because they’re awesome – that’s why.                      
Check out the ridiculous hi-def(ness) going on here.  You can see the water droplets on my legs (and yes, I'm wearing a fishing hat - have you already forgotten the pterygium story)!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Terrible Pterygium - June 15, 2011

So back in the winter, I started noticing a fleshy spot in the corner of my eye that would get red when I’d spend too much time on the computer.  When it didn’t go away (and when my coworkers were telling me with increased frequency that I looked tired), I figured I’d make an appointment with an ophthalmologist.
“It looks like you have a pterygium,” the doctor told me.  That doesn’t sound good.  “What exactly is a pterygium?”
The answer: a noncancerous growth, common in light-eyed people who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly on the water. 
“Are you in the sun or on the water a lot?” he asked.  I felt so convicted.   I’ve been on the water more in the last six months than I have probably my entire life, thanks to this obsession hobby.  So I confessed that I started surfing last summer, causing me to be on the water quite a bit more than I ever used to be. 
Dr. Mallory smiled. He’s a dear man in his 70s who has a very pleasant nature.  But unfortunately he didn’t have very pleasant news.  These growths can be difficult to get rid of and surgery has a low success rate because the pterygiums usually return, often times bigger than they were originally. 
Surgery?!?!  On my eye??  Oh no thank you – I don’t even do eye drops…let alone stitches on my eye ball!!  I’d rather have a glass eye.
Luckily, my pterygium had not yet begun growing over my iris, and surgery isn’t suggested until the pterygium begins to impede vision.  So he took some measurements and prescribed steroid drops to use twice a day.  He told me to come back in two weeks to see if it shrank at all.  The upside of this was that I had to conquer my eye-drop fear. Yes, just like Rachel Green.

Love that show.
The downside was that the pterygium hadn’t shrunk.  So Dr. Mallory told me to continue to use the drops (though not twice a day since they can cause glaucoma – score) and make another appointment in six months to see if it had grown.
My checkup was yesterday and I was very confident.  In addition to using the steroid drops (enough to hopefully shrink the pterygium, but not enough to increase my risk of glaucoma – quite the little tight rope I’ve been walking), I had also been using artificial tears.  Those both keep the eye moist, which reduces the redness around the pterygium, but they also can act as sunscreen for the eye when in the sun, I learned. 
More than that, I went the extra mile by investing in a surf hat, which is a ball cap with chin straps.  And yes, it is absolutely as nerdy as it sounds.
Let’s be real honest – as a 30-year-old, fair skinned, freckly woman learning to surf, I could use as much help in the Cool Department as possible.  But I was committed to not having someone bust out the sewing needle anywhere near my eye ball, so I wore the damn hat.

What's left to say?
Unfortunately, my efforts did not pay off like I had hoped as it has grown 1 millimeter, thereby doubling in size.  That’s right, doubling.

My male coworkers (who have gallantly taken on the role of my older brothers by teasing me relentlessly – damn them for being too funny not to laugh at my own expense) had fun with this latest saga.  They asked me if I was going to wear a patch while I surfed and looked up horrible pictures of pterygiums on Google – don't do it, you will seriously regret it...or thank me for losing your appetite for a week and dropping a couple of pounds, in which case, you're welcome. 
How could a person take a sport so cool and turn it into a fountain of nerdiness?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Popup for a Shortie - May 31, 2011

This past weekend was Memorial Day and we were among a group of people invited out on our friend’s sailboat for a trip to Shell Island.  This barrier island, separating the Gulf of Mexico from St. Andrew Bay, is a hugely popular spot for boaters in the area.  Because there’s limited access there for the tourists, it’s the most local beach around.  

We persuaded the Captain into letting us take our boards so we could paddle to shore and walk across to the gulf.  He obliged, so after we anchored up on the bay side of the island and ate our picnic on the boat, we jumped onto our boards and navigated through the other boats having their own Memorial Day parties.

Since getting the shortboard for Christmas (okay, no – a 7-foot board isn't a shortie, but it's short to me...kinda like my 2004 Volvo, it's not new, but it's oh-so new to me), I’ve been diligently practicing my shortboard popup.  Because my feet hang off the back of this board, I can’t use them to pop up. 

For grins, lay down on your stomach and don't let your toes touch the ground.  

Now try, in one swift motion, to push up with your hands

 and swing your legs through to a standing position…  

without using your feet.
Photo Credits: learnsurfschool.com

I know – it’s tricky.

So after searching “How to do a shortboard popup” on The Google Machine (thank you Sallie’s dad), I found several videos of pre-pubescent guys practicing popups on their shortbards (and annoyingly, making it look very easy).  For example: 

Because I’m neither 14 years old, nor 100 pounds with most of my strength in my upper body, I knew I’d have to put some work into getting this down.

Luckily, I enjoy working out; more than that, I enjoy working out toward a goal.  So this was a fun initiative for me.  I did extra pushups, planks, jackknifes on a yoga ball, and tons of popups.  I used my office (since that’s the only carpeted room in my house) for my nightly – okay, almost nightly – popup workout and each time I was thankful that I don’t live in an apartment with anyone below me to hear the thudding.

Through the course of several weeks, I was making progress in getting my feet up closer to my hands.  This is a critical element because if you don’t get your feet pretty much right under your hands, you’ll wind up too far back on your board when you stand up, which will weigh down the back of the board and cause you to stall out.

When we got invited on the boat, I thought this would be a good opportunity to take my shorter board and put all my practice to the test.  It was weird at first, not being able to put my feet down on the board, but I had to figure this out since I can’t surf my "fun board" forever. 

Since Ted is officially the most patient person in the world, he offered to push me into the waves so all I had to worry about was my popup.  All the practice must have paid off because with the first wave, I took a few paddles then planted my hands directly below my shoulders; with as much power as I could muster, I used my core to whip my feet up pretty close to my hands. 

I couldn’t believe it – success on the first try!  I LOVE being rewarded for hard work!  So I did it again and again, working on my speed and getting my feet closer and closer to where they should be.  Even though guys everywhere are doing shortboard popups, it was a thrilling breakthrough for me. 

After a while, we figured we should probably get back to the party.  So we started our trek back across the island and out to the boat, where there were a couple of Coronas waiting for us.

Here’s to breakthroughs.  
Photo Credit: thesaltedrim.com