Simple Ideas

Ventura Surf Blog

Sport | September 16, 2011

"Hey Mister, you Ok?"

Of course I was OK. Kids these days, they have no idea the abuse that a 53 year old can take. The kindly little four year old that ran up to me and asked that question had just witnessed one of my more inelegant dismounts from my longboard. But I raised my hand to show that all my fingers were attached. That combined with the lack of blood spurting from an artery is my definition of OK.

I'd spent the better part of an hour north of the pier shown in the above photo. The waves were thundering in to the beach and anyone silly enough to get in their way. I was in the way and got pounded into the sand enough times that the idea of hiring a staff chiropractor was batted around the inside of my head.

But all in all it was a good day. I started at a tame beach called Mondos. Mondos is populated by two kinds of surfers. Hot Chicks and old guys. You would think Mondos would be the place for me. But I'm only old on the outside. I was bored out of my gourd at Mondos. It was worse than the day at Waikiki where I caught two waves in an hour. This is not surfing. This is lallygagging on a board with friends while pretending to surf. I don't lallygag. After a half hour, I bailed and headed south.

I visited Silver Strand. There the only car in the parking lot was mine. There was one more car in the lot than there were waves on the shore. Not good, but I remembered a guy at Mugu saying Hueneme Beach was good...

I think the Silver Stand/Hueneme Beach set up is like Scripps and North Island in San Diego. If one is flat, the other is firing. Hueneme was firing. Yes it was very sectiony, which is to say nearly closed out. But there were a half dozen guys outside and me inside.

I was happy inside. I have the basics of surfing figured out. Paddling, popping up, looking cool...all good. But there is thing called "turning" that I'm looking to add to the list. Turning, that I don't have figured. But I've seen other people turn. And I've watched a how to video on the Internet. Actually had to watch it three times to really get the idea. Basically, I was trying to turn in a not very effective manner. I was trying to turn the board like a steering wheel on a car. Wrong. The right way is to bank it like an airplane.

In theory, it works fine. But it takes practice. Involved in that practice is falling off the side of the board as you turn. Falling a lot. Then getting slammed into the beach. Slammed hard, in ways that tweak your lower back. On the upside there are those adrenalin charged moments where you notice you are actually turning. Up til that day, I'd never turned the board more than about 20 degrees. Here I somehow made a 90 degree turn at one point.

The goal is 180 degrees. Once you are there you can go down a wave and back up it. So I'm not there, but I've gone from maybe 1/6 of the way there to halfway there.

I left the beach with a number of aches and pains that would be more noticeable once the adrenalin level dropped. But that was a long way off...

New day, new beach.

My next attempt at becoming adept at turning would take place a little farther up the coast. This would be Ellwood Beach. This is just north of Sand Beach. Sand beach is a well known surf spot. Ellwood, not so much. I expect part of the reason is that most people end up having to park 15 minutes away and hike over a sizable bluff to get there.

This was an interesting area. There was an offshore oil rig visible and a couple large ships docked to the left. Took a while to figure this beach out. The waves would crash and roar with lots of power about 50 yards offshore. Then by 40 yards they were flat an mushy. Then they picked up again about 20 yards out. I know that meant the sand was at differing depths, but it made surfing a challenge. Unlike Hueneme, where once you got a wave it screamed to the shore, here you can catch a wave then lose it before it gathered itself for the final assault on the beach.

The key to this I found was to really paddle hard into the wave. I needed to get enough speed to carry me through the mush until it started hopping again. Once I got that figured I made a few good (for me) turns. One mental highlight was carving a turn and watching spray (yes, Ocean Spray!) flying off the side of my board. Just like getting the board parallel to the shore the day before, this was a wonderfully puzzling sight.

I was just inside a kelp bed, so there were lots of tangles around my legs. And I was at the beach alone. I saw two ladies walking the beach when I arrived but they quickly departed. No lifeguard here. I'd say I was somewhere between hypersensitive and hallucinating for the first half hour. I saw a 3 meter diameter piece of metal, a skeleton and a couple of fins. In retrospect, I didn't see any of that when I looked a second time.

About 40 minutes in I heard a chopper overhead. Odd, I thought. That usually only happens at home right after I hop in the hot tub. Five minutes later I see a guy walk the beach, no shirt and jeans. Also odd. I think about exiting the water as I had my glasses and car key on the beach and it would be tough to get home without them. But I catch one more wave.

When I'm done that I see a local sheriff has appeared and has the guy on his knees and is cuffing him. I now think this is probably a good time to end my day at this beach. I walk by the sheriff who asks the guy

"So what is your policy on telling the truth, again?"

the guy answers

"It just gets you in more trouble."

The truth was, I had a very good couple of days and was totally wiped out from fighting the surf inside. It was a good workout, but it was time to quit while I was ahead.

Made it back to the car and eventually cranked up the stereo. I'd been listening to a Bruce Springsteen CD that materialized while I was cleaning my car earlier in the week.

The key line from that CD has been...

"Baby if you wanna be wild, you got a lot to learn!"

True. Doubly true, actually.


Any Comments?

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