the last waves of summer

Me and Dad at Shorties, Monday, Aug. 9th 2010

Before reality set in and I was forced to pack up gear and family and head back to North Carolina, I got in two final sessions, one at Shorties and one at Indian Beach. Conditions were less than ideal, but still, I got in some of the best riding of the summer.

Monday, Aug. 9th: a walk on Indian Beach

Monday morning I left early, intending to surf at Indian Beach shortly after the low tide. A mist was drizzling through the foggy gray air, winds were nonexistent, and the shore was being gently caressed by smallish three foot waves. The tide was unbelievably low. Submarine rock was fully exposed.

Flat surf, low tide, Aug. 9th. If you click on it and expand the image you can just see the head of Mark Mekanas floating alone in the center.

There were a couple of morose looking surfers staring out at the flat waters, looking for a sign that they should go out. I couldn’t see one, myself. There was one guy in the water. It turned out to be Mark Mekanas of Cannon Beach Surf (of course). He appeared to be getting some fun but short rides and to be enjoying having his wave to himself. I spoke to him briefly, he said, it’s a great way to start the day. I agree.

Lion Rock

But instead of surfing, I decided to take a beachcombing walk. I saw starfish, crazy rocks, tidepools, took a look at lion rock, just generally took in the solitude, and I also began to feel the death grip DOMS from the previous day’s deadlifts start to let up.

I thought about the anniversary of Jude, which was coming up Tuesday. Two years since we lost this late stage pregnancy, and the pain is still fresh in the hearts of my wife and I. But my children, and my seven month old son, they fill our hearts back up every day.

Surfing would indeed come on this Monday, our second to last on the Oregon coast, but it would have to wait for a more opportune moment.

Surfing 34: Monday Afternoon, Aug. 9th, at Shorties with Dad

At mid-day, much closer to high tide, my dad and I went out to Shorties and found things were not as bad as they might have seemed. It was almost glassy. After surveying the scene for a while, we suited up and set out, determined to have a good time.

I was riding the 9′ tri-fin Doyle, and my dad was on the 9′ 6″ Bruce Grant Super Ugly. The elevator was working on the south end, and the soft, smallish waves were bouncing off the cliffs, and setting up into nice peaks for us just outside the lagoon.

Small but rideable surf on Aug. 9th at high tide, Shorties. Click to expand and see a rider about to get closed out in the middle.

I paddled right into the first few waves, finding that the shape was right for riding. On set after set, for about 90 minutes, I had some of the best rides I have had all summer, getting up on the steepest peaking wave, then angling into the unbroken swell, and then massaging it, bouncing it, twisting it, and walking it out to the nose to stay in it. On a bunch of rides I managed to stay on the wave into the reform swell and found myself cruising pretty quickly over completely unbroken green swells. On one particularly memorable ride, I even managed to turn that board 180 degrees, transforming a right into a left, and completely playing out a long ride. That one will stick in my mind as a great learning experience. Overall, a brilliant session. ALMOST enough for me. But I knew I had one more in me left for the next day.

Surfing 35: Solo Surfing Dawn Patrol at Indian Beach, Aug. 10th

Aug. 10th. RIP Jude.

I got out of the house before six am and was in the water at Indian Beach by 6:30. It was another mysterious and misty, awesome low tide at Indian Beach. Surf conditions were almost identical to the day before, which meant, flat, calm, windless. Nobody but me was there. Well, me and a few people digging clams in their yellow raincoats.

Low Low Tide Dawn Patrol at Indian Beach, Aug. 10th 2010

I knew there would be some riding to be had, if I was patient and strong. And I am. So I suited up and paddled right out in the middle.

At low tide, the break zone at Indian Beach is compressed to a tight band right on the sloping sand. So you have to wait for more substantial sets to get anything rideable. But when I did that, on this day, the waves seemed impossibly large. The breaking faces were shoulder high, which didn’t square with the surf forecast I had read. No matter. There was also tremendous force in them. I found it VERY difficult to get to my feet, stay balanced, and get ahead of any impending close outs that threatened to toss me from my board. Also, I was riding the single fin 9′ 6″ Super Ugly.

But I was determined to make it happen, so I battled my way onto the surprisingly powerful swells, until I found myself standing up and really riding some of the fastest rights — and lefts! — of the summer. These were quick rides, in which I started out on lovely green shoulders and then rapidly found myself traversing extremely steep and powerful faces of impending close-outs. The waves were too steep for me to maneuver my longboard up to the lip and over to safety. So I just had to take a beating. When those waves broke, they broke over me completely, hurling me from my board, slamming me down, and in a couple of cases, kinda hurting me. Wah.

The most memorable ride of the morning was also my last real ride of the summer. I angled my board to the north, got lined up correctly, and took off to the left, and wham bam I was on my feet, in balance on a perfect line to stay on the rapidly rising face of one of the larger waves.

Ecola State Park

Such a ride is not a big deal… for a real surfer… but for me, a spectacular left ride like that is a real achievement. It stoked up a glow inside that I know I will carry with me, a powerful craving for another glide like that one. Until next time!

On my way out I snapped a picture of the beautiful forest in Ecola State Park. What an amazing place. What a blessing to be here. What a blessing to have spent my summer with my family in the company of such trees, such ocean, such waves, such beauty.

how we surf or fail to

Here are some notes on my last two “sessions,” one a near miss and the other a full miss, both demonstrating that my summer surfing adventure is in danger of going out with a whimper, though my addiction to the water remains firmly in place.

Surfing 31: Friday at Indian Beach With Dad

Friday afternoon Aug. 6th my father and I set out for Indian Beach. We were blessed with some sun, comparatively light winds, and warm waters. But there were problems. First off, I forgot one of my booties. So I went out without footwear. My feet were instantly numb, and I was handicapped for every wave I attempted to stand on. That in itself was a joke. Also, waves were small, inconsistent, and it was difficult to track them and/or stay in position for them. Where they were breaking, they were breaking too far in. It was pathetically small, but get caught inside, in the break zone, and it might as well have been winter. At one point I really lost it, Captain Dan style, shouting and cursing at the waters. But I was only railing at foam and spray. A few lateral steps to the north revealed a passage back out to the flat waters. What few rides I got were nose-rides, in the reform and on the slop, fairly ugly overall. It was disappointing.

Surfing 32: Saturday afternoon with John, Ebet, and Dad at Arch Cape

Saturday was going to be a rest day before lifting on Sunday and hopefully getting a great surfing session in. But flat waters seduced my father into taking out the sea kayak. And John suited up and followed him on the soft-top, with a plan to switch out with Ebet after a few minutes. It’s a mark of my addiction to surfing that, in spite of extreme fatigue, and decidedly non-surfable flat waters, I decided to suit up and follow them out on my super-ugly. It was super ugly. I paddled and paddled looking for a ridable wave. The tide was out and the waves were breaking on the outer sand bank, where they would suddenly rise up steeply and then mostly close out in very shallow waters (twelve inches or so). The swell was so small that even when I was “beyond the break” I found that if I sat too far back on my board, I was in danger of scraping my fin on the sand. Again I managed to stand a few times, but mostly I just purled again and again, trying to catch these tiny and shallow waves before they were breaking. It made me sore and it wasn’t worth it. I pray this wasn’t the last session of the summer.

Crazy for the Storm (Review)

Reviewed in this post: Norman Ollestad, Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival (New York: HarperCollins, 2009; Ecco 2010).

A father's day present from my parents became my second summer read

A wonderful and exciting read, Norman Ollestad’s personal memoir Crazy for the Storm should appeal to surfers, skiers, fathers, and sons, and anyone interested in stories of eleven year old boys who survive alpine plane crashes against all odds.

The book centers around Ollestad’s recollections of his relationship with his father, Norman Ollestad senior, a compelling and larger than life figure. The elder Ollestad was a fixture in the heyday of 1970’s surf culture at Topanga bay in California, before he was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1979, when the younger Ollestad was only 11.

The younger Ollestad, who is now 42 and has a son of his own, brings to his memoir of childhood the depth of insight that midlife grants, and also the sympathy for his father that his own parenting has given him. He has reconstructed events in a believable and detailed fashion, only occasionally offering us more than realistic detail of the 30 year old story of disaster and familial love.

Ollestad senior had been a child actor on television, then, as a dashing young man, joined J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. But he earned infamy after he quit his career as an agent and wrote a popular non-fiction book, a tell-all expose of the FBI in the 1960’s. He then went on to become a lawyer, surfer, and extreme skiing pioneer. As a father he was demanding and yet tender. He trained and toughened his son from an early age, testing him with crazy surfing and skiing adventures. The young Ollestad junior proved to be a talented ski-racer. The plane crash took place while he was on the way to an award ceremony in the mountains outside of LA.

Chapters alternate between Ollestad’s tense and fast-paced first-person sole-survivor account of the plane crash, and various thought provoking and illuminating stories of significant episodes in the life of the young Ollestad prior to the crash. The technique creates a gripping undertow that pulled this reader through the short chapters rapidly and compulsively. Growing up in the sometimes distant glow of his father’s intelligence, drive, and mania for the glide, the son developed his own powerful love for living and warm sensitivity, an energy that breathes through almost every page of the book.

Thoroughly recommended.

a little more Oswald

Surfing 30: with Johnny C and Dad at Short Sand Beach

Thursday morning we set out early, driving out at just about exactly six am and getting into the water by about six thirty. We were the only ones there for the first hour or so, and then we were joined by one or two others. J.C. and my Dad had already gotten out and toweled off by then, however.

It was nice to have the place to ourselves. It was about two hours after low tide, the elevator on the south corner was working, and the big peaky pile-up at the south end was happening, when we first got there, in spite of the calm and small conditions. It was a gray morning, with patches of fog off shore, and the waters were super cold.

The first thirty minutes were the best. I got a number of classic, fun rides, and even a few lefts. The middle thirty minutes were fun and energetic. The last half hour was kind of a battle of attrition; each failed attempt left me less and less capable of getting into the next wave. So I finally called it a morning and left, just so glad for the company, for the cold water, and for the opportunity to be here, to be alive, to enjoy this summer of water-sports.

Heart Disease

A dear family friend, an athletic and “healthy” man, reaching his golden years, just had triple bypass surgery. We are holding him in the light. Everybody knows what causes heart disease, or thinks they do; nobody agrees about what causes it. God I hope I never get it. It makes my heart hurt. If I don’t get heart disease, will it be because I eat a high-saturated fat cholesterol laden “Paleo” diet? If I do get heart disease, will my diet be the cause? Is heart disease caused by diet? It’s a crazy world.

phase two part B and Oswald again

5/3/1 Cycle II Phase ii B: Deadlifts and Shoulder Presses

Warm-Up (Brief)

10 burpees / a few minutes of jumping rope and double-unders / shoulder dislocates / hip mobility / 10 squats / deadlifts 8 x 45 lbs / hang power cleans 8 x 45 lbs / shoulder press 8 x 45 lbs

Shoulder Press

3 x 90# / 3 x 100# / 8 x 110# (PR)

This is a new shoulder press “5-rep” PR for me.

Deadlift

Various warm-up lifts, i.e. 1 x 90, 1 x 100, 1 x 110, 3 x 135. Then:

3 x 215# / 3 x 245# / 6 x 275#

Certainly no PR here, but more volume than a single set of my 5 rep PR (280). Not feeling very good about this session, though. It’s safe to say I’m not that comfortable doing heavy deadlifts without lifting partners or coaches; also: I don’t like doing max-rep sets of heavy deadlifts. There’s too much risk that a desire to move more weight is going to lead you to injure yourself when you have to decide, on the fly, that your set is finished.

I’m gonna say right off the bat that one reason I won’t continue this program indefinitely is because of that.

Surfing 29: Tuesday Afternoon at Oswald West with my Dad

A short time after finishing today’s lifting session, Dad and I took a little trip down to short sand beach. It was a funky day; mostly the waves were small but some shoulder high sets were rolling in. The first 2/3 of our session was better than the last 1/3. I had some memorable — I hesitate to say epic — rides, cruising the rights on the steep and somewhat chunky green swells, really carving with my rail and staying high and finding my way in and out of the power of the waves. It was fun. Towards the very end of the session I ran into Paul, a local surfer from Cannon Beach, whom I had met two years ago. He was shredding the lefts off of the powerful peak that forms up on the south end, using his cool little square tailed shortie board. We chatted a bit, maybe too much, and had a nice reunion in the surf. I didn’t surf too well thereafter but it was a blast anyway.

During the session I also had a few reminders that I have things to work on. Namely, all my take offs when I am tired and the waves are steep, and any take off to the left, tired or no. Getting up and staying balanced on a left breaking wave remains difficult for me. I get it maybe 1/5 or 3/10 of the time. The number of sessions left in my summer is few. I’ll have to be content with what I have achieved so far. I feel my progress has been great this summer… in spite of it all. Life is… in spite of it all.

rays of sun

Surfing 28: Sunny Monday Afternoon at Indian Beach

When I left Arch Cape at 3:00 on Monday afternoon, it was gray, cloudy, even drizzling. But as I arrived at Indian Beach it was sunny. The winds were light to non-existent, and I set out into blue water on a surprisingly glassy surface. Waves were two to four feet, and nicely shaped. Paddling farther and farther south as the afternoon wore on, I got a number of lovely rides, including a spectacular final showpiece, that took me from beyond the break zone right to the sand. I stepped gracefully from my board and was done for the day. If only they all ended that way!

phase two

Been too busy to write down sessions and such but I lifted today and it seemed like I should make a record. Since I last lifted (last Sunday) I have been on five good surfing sessions (Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat) and on Thursday I did an approximately 5 mile run / 500 foot climb (in ~48:00). I will put up backdated posts to these in an hour or two. But I hadn’t moved anything very heavy in almost a week. So today had to happen.

5/3/1 Cycle II Phase ii A

Warm Up:Jog 1/3 mile; shake it out; Sprint 1/3 mile; 2 min jumprope; hip mobility and shoulder dislocates; 10 burpee sprint; 10 sit ups; 10 squats; 10 push-ups fast; 8×45# power clean and jerk; 8 x 45# back squat

Back Squat

Squat 3 x 125# / 3 x 145# / 9 x 160#

Clean and Jerk

C&J 3 x 110# / 3 x 125# / 6 x 140#

Analysis

What’s missing in my training, besides CrossFit Asheville workouts, is an on-track diet, sleep, and rest schedule. But it’s summer and I am in a beach house. More often lately, I’ve also been ignoring my various blogs, journals, and personal records and paperwork. It’s mostly just living ad libitum. Family, children, friends, food. And surfing almost every day.

All that aside, 160 x 9 is one kind of PR: a new max reps PR for 160 lbs. It’s not a volume PR, since, during my last squat session, Cycle II Phase i Part A I did 12 x 150 = 1800, versus today’s 160 x 9 = 1,440. My 5 rep max is 160, and has been since Cycle I Phase iii Part A, when I lifted this same sequence of weights (but at 5 / 3 / Max Reps) for slightly greater overall volume but one less rep at 160. I’ll interpret this result generously and call it status quo for the past month, in a generally positive trend line.

Back in the Swing

This post is more of a placeholder than anything else. The week of July 26-31st was an active one for me. The surf was mellow, and the winds even more so, especially in the mornings. We were being visited by Kelley Droege and Sophie Beckham with their kids, so we were pretty busy with friends and beach living. But there was time for surfing, and for running. I got five extended sessions in, and a long run with Kelley. I can rest later, I guess. Or does two hours of surfing count as a rest day?

Surfing 24: Tuesday Mid-Day July 27th at Indian Beach

On Tuesday Kelley was again not ready to join me, since his parents were in town. After spending the morning low tide with the families, beach-combing, at about 11:00 am it was my time to surf again. I went back to Indian Beach, and had fun chasing the 3-4 footers on the rising tide.

Surfing 25: Wednesday Afternoon July 28th with K. Droege at Short Sand Beach

Finally on Wednesday Kelley joined me. We had fun on the small mellow waves at Shorties. The afternoon waters were a little bit blown out, but it was nothing like the week before. I caught a lot of fun rides on the mini-big wave at the southern end of the beach.

Five Mile Run: Thursday Afternoon July 29th with K. Droege in Arch Cape

I took Kelley out on the loop that I do from time to time here, on the logging company roads in the hills behind Arch Cape. We did the reverse direction (counter clockwise), climbing the steep southern end first. For the route see my previous post from June 14th. I was sick during the last run, and I stopped at the top of the 500 foot climb for a rest. On that occasion my time was 60:00. This time, it was 48:00.

Surfing 26: Friday Mid-Morning July 30th with K. Droege at Indian Beach

Kelley and I paddled south at Indian Beach and chased some of the 4 foot swells in the center of the break. It was fun, really fun.

Surfing 27: Saturday Early Morning July 31st with K.D. and Brad Hunter at Short Sand Beach

Kelley’s friend Brad Hunter joined us, driving down from Portland, and meeting up with us at 7:00 am at Oswald. It was a small morning, with 2-3 foot waves, and cold waters, but light winds, so, a semi-glassy surface. There were way too many people out, even on a small Saturday. But we had fun anyway! We got lots of rides. And we worked ourselves over nicely, spending about two hours in the water. I was pretty damn tired after this week. So, of course, instead of resting, I planned another week just like this one!

Antepenultimations

Feeling almost whole again, just in time for summer’s end, went surfing on Saturday, warmed up and lifted on Sunday, surfed on Monday and have plans for the week. The surf is up, the winds are down, and I’ll be taking advantage every day. It’s the next to last week, and these are the next to next to last sessions of the summer.

I notice I’m weaker and deconditioned, but my system is starting to ramp up. Although I’ve probably lost some power capacity and overall strength in the past few weeks, I can tell that all I need to do to get it back is eat right, sleep, and hit it!

Future Plans

I’ll be back to CrossFit in two and a half weeks. (Probably I’ll get my first WOD in on Friday, Aug. 13th. Which should be unlucky.) “Work” re-enters my life on Monday, Aug 16th. Then, starting August 22nd, I’m doing 30 days of strict Paleo. Resolution for first month of school: clean eating, sleeping seven to eight hours a night, parenting, making house, working, and working out.

Surfing 22: Saturday Hard Paddling Outgoing Tide at Short Sand Beach

Saturday Arch Cape was socked in by fog but a quick recon run to the store in Manzanita revealed sunny weather south of Cape Falcon. So I hit the afternoon session at Short Sand, arriving during the middle of the outgoing tide. Nearly every spot in all three parking lots was full, although I managed to find a free space near my favorite parking spot. I could not believe what I saw: it seemed like every damn surfer within 100 miles of Oswald had brought out the family for a sunny Saturday on the waters.

But! Conditions were crazy. The swell was NW, at five feet, with a six to seven second period… and winds were high, straight north, not great conditions for Shorties. But at least it was sunny! Furthermore, high winds on Friday had kicked up an incredible chop. Wind wave and swell combined, the southernmost waves reached about head high, when they cooperated.

The northern end of Short Sand Beach was not looking particularly cleaner than the south. It appeared to be smaller too, and with danger of having to fight my way back out against the shore break. Also: it was crowded with surfers.

So I went out on the south end, along the channel. Paddling out, it felt more like a wild river than the surface of the ocean. The north winds and an outgoing tide combined produced a river of surface waters flowing south and out. At least that made the the south end a speedy, if roller-coastering paddle out. But then, I spent an hour constantly paddling towards shore in order to stay in the river like current that wanted to take me out of Smuggler Cove, around the southern cape.

I maneuvered over to the big pile up that occurs at the southernmost and outermost breaking spot at Shorties, out by the rocks. I have never seen the waters of Smuggler Cove so wind-tossed, white-capped, and crazy as they were on this occasion. and paddled out to where an outer break was mimicking a “big wave” reef break. The swell was humping up in one place, breaking both left and right, then surging and returning to swell. A perfect short ride, like a mini-big wave.

But the crazy battle to stay in position against the rock! I paddled against the current constantly — I could hardly remain in the area where the wave was breaking. Though I did. I rode that wave (pretty badly, but I rode it) a few times. I was trying to practice my left. It was a wildly unstable surface, but for some reason, probably the slightly offshore angle of the wind, and the river-like current of the water, the messy surface rose up in a rolling swell every 8 seconds or so. The angle was perfect for practicing take offs. Getting caught in the break caused only temporary distress. So I played.

After a while this exercise wore me out and I basically decided to go home. So I looked toward shore and paddled harder. For a long time. A really long time. Whereas it had taken perhaps forty strokes to get out, it took me hundreds of strokes to get back in to shore. In the end I had to paddle northward in order to get out of the flow.

If you think too much about that it is kinda scary. I loved being out there. Know before you go.

Lift Heavy Things: Sunday 5/3/1 Cycle II Phase i part B

Sunday afternoon I got my act together and did Deadlifts and Shoulder Press at Arch Cape Lift (aka Grass and Gravel Driveway Gym).

Warm-Up

Ran 1/4 mile, sprinted 1/4 mile, 2 min jump rope, stretching, shoulder dislocates, 10 burpees, 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats, 8 x 45# deadlifts, 8 x 45# shoulder press.

Shoulder Press

5 x 80 / 5 x 90 / 13 x 100

I think this is my record for 100.

Deadlift

5 x 200 / 5 x 225 / 8 x 255

I wish I had a coach here to help me see my form better. But I think I did well. These numbers are nothing impressive. And the session left me feeling weak.

Kipping Pull Ups

Set of 8. Not up to more. My hands are soft again.

Surfing 23: Gray Monday Morning Bigger and Cleaner Low Incoming Tide at Indian Beach

So yes. My workout on Sunday left me feeling deconditioned, indeed. But I’ve been keeping my nutrition pretty darn clean. And my recovery was good. Monday, there was a spring in my step, and the forecasts were for clean and big NW waves. I had to go surfing.

The only trouble was, the tide was way out during my window of opportunity. I arrived at Indian Beach at 8:40 am. I was in the water at 9:00, and back at my car at 10:05 am. There was a negative low tide, and it was coming in slowly. So I surfed about a solid hour, chasing these nice head high swells in the incoming low tide. The waves had a rideable shape, but if you got too far inside the breaking face it might as well have been a close out — down you go! I actually had a few great rides, all rights. I got pitched off a few funny waves, got rolled a few times, and did a lot of paddling After riding one wave a bit too far to the inside, I found myself fighting through the shore break. While I was going over a big wall of white water on my way out I realized that taking a long board through a breaker is like doing a burpee to muscle-up. I was feeling stronger today.

Junky Junk

Surfing 21: Thursday Lunchtime at Indian Beach

In a gray drizzle, on a day with middling winds and ugly, junky surf, I returned to Indian Beach for yet another mediocre surfing session. The tide was very gradually falling towards a mid-day low that would come in the late afternoon. But there was plenty of water. And Indian Beach was crowded with newbies and others playing in the slop zone inside the breakers.

The buoy data said the main waves were coming from the northwest, at five feet plus, at 7 seconds. Waves with short periods like that are called wind waves, and are driven by local weather systems. They can be unpredictable, ill-shaped, and difficult to ride, and this day was no exception. These kinds of local wind waves also lose energy quite rapidly. Between the Columbia River Bar buoy, 20 miles off-shore, and the cove at Indian Beach, the waves had lost at least a foot in height. Swimming out among them, I could see: they just weren’t that big.

Confirming my observations, the much close Clatsop Spit buoy had been reporting four foot waves at 7 seconds. Also, the Spit buoy reported a SSW cross-swell of two feet at 17 seconds. These waves I didn’t see at all.

Long period swells are generated by distant storm systems, have traveled many hundreds of miles across the ocean, and are called groundswells. They can be great surfing; they make the water look flat when they are the only waves. But today, the groundswell was swallowed up and undetectable by the wind waves. Together, the bad weather, rising winds, and mixed direction ground and wind swell meant that the waves were junky junk.

But it was still fun. Isn’t that crazy? I am tempted to complain, because this entire summer has been so messed up, combining often crappy surf conditions and a really lousy series of unfortunate health events for me. But I really can’t complain about having the privilege to just suit up, paddle out, and match my wits and skills against the random energies of the Pacific Ocean shore. I got in some rides, I got some exercise, and I felt like things might be returning to normal for me, physically speaking. We shall see.