Raising Groms: A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Kid Surfers

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While many surfers consider the option of raising a grom, until you are immersed in this lifelong activity, you might not realize the responsibilities and challenges that await you. As the father of two groms, 15 and 17, I have provided some tips to help you manage this laborious, costly and time-intensive process.

The first issue with groms is that they are expensive. That is because after you feed them (more on this later) they grow.

Groms grow quickly out of wetsuits, surfboards, board shorts, and shoes. Due to the high cost of boards and wetsuits, you must train your groms to raise funds to pay for their own surfing expenses.

As soon as your groms can walk, take them to the beach and teach them to search garbage cans for leftover redemption bottles and cans. You can train them to do this while they are still in their crib.

You can also make the rounds of your neighborhood and or city on garbage collection day to search for discarded boards and wetsuits. When your groms are young there is no need to purchase new gear when you can scrounge from the street.

The surfed hard.

Parents should become as proficient in ding repair as possible. That is because as soon your groms learn to surf, they will return home on almost a daily basis with a dinged or broken board. If you lack a garage or workshop, feel free to turn your grom’s bedroom into a combo ding repair workshop/bedroom. Just make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

Of course, groms must also learn the art of ding repair. Just remove all carpeting from your home. You can be assured that the groms will track resin and fiberglass (in addition to sand and surf wax) in every nook and cranny of your house. Don’t worry: The sand is organic and provides extra nutrients and sodium when mixed with your food.

After your youngsters begin to surf, consider giving up any other formal hobbies or activities or even a social life that doesn’t revolve around the beach or surfing. That is because you will be required to drive them to the beach and dawn patrol on the weekends or even before school. Consider obtaining your chauffeurs license as well, since most likely you will be transporting a pack of groms on most of your surf trips.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Greg Long and groms at the Del Mar Feb. 6, 2008, Coastal Commission on the fate of Trestles.

Groms must be trained to pack surf gear in the car for their entire family. Just don’t be surprised to open the car to find the groms waiting inside without having packed anything, or arriving at the beach and having them be surprised that they were expected to pack mom or dad’s gear too. Also always check to make sure boards have been strapped to the car properly.

When they are young, don’t expect your groms to get dressed and ready to depart the beach when you are ready to leave. Invariably, they will disappear only to be found back on the beach eating kelp, rolling around on a dead sea lion or playing with bird or dog poop.

Feeding groms is the greatest challenge you will face as a surf parent. Many groms surf for extended periods of time and forget their feeding times. They will then invariably complain to their mothers that, “dad starved me” in order to secure a breakfast of homemade pancakes and waffles.

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As mom is ready to serve her own groms their food, she will be surprised by the plethora of extra hands reaching out to grab whatever she is serving. The extra hands belong to neighborhood groms who were invited over to eat without informing mom.

Beware that during their teen years, groms move in large packs from house to house on a daily basis devouring all available food in fridges and cupboards. This will require you to make several grocery store trips each week. Don’t worry; this will only last until they move out of the house. Consider obtaining a second job to pay for your grocery bill.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

A post surf session pit stop at Los Traileros is required for northern Baja surf trips.

Groms need to swim well. Very well.

The ocean if a powerful force and it can swallow your groms. If your groms want to surf with you in critical conditions they have to be physically prepared. Swim team, water polo and/or junior lifeguard programs should follow extensive swim lessons. Ocean safe groms make for happy parents and ocean lifeguards.

Your groms will eventually surf way better than you do and go off to college and move away from home. Don’t worry. At some point they will get a job (hopefully), marry and have their own groms. Then you will get to relive the best days of your life by teaching a new generation to love the ocean and surfing as much as you do.

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Kristy Murphy’s Endless Summer

Two of my favorite people to hang at the beach and surf with are Kristy Murphy and Cat Slatinskly of Siren Surf Adventures. Both are super positive, smart, great surfers with great attitudes–and pioneers in women’s surfing and women-owned surf business. Here’s my interview with Kristy who was the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champ. Cat grew up in my hometown of Imperial Beach.

Kristy Murphy, the 2005 Women’s World Longboard Champion talks about women’s professional surfing and running Siren Surf Adventures, an international surf, Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and yoga tour and retreat company.

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Serge Dedina: When and where did you start surfing?

Kristy Murphy: I started surfing in my hometown of Jupiter, FL in 1999, around my senior year in college. As a kid, I grew up bodyboarding, fishing and free diving with my family. My brother surfed all the time and I was always temped to try. My best friend’s dad was a big surfer in the 70s in Jupiter, and had just bought a new Donald Takayama Model T. We thought it was the coolest and would try to use it every chance we got! My first wave on a longboard I was up and riding.

Dedina: Were there any particular women surfer role models for you when you were into surfing.

Murphy: I loved watching Mary Bagalso (who is now a good friend and continues to inspire me), Julie Whitegon, Cori Schumacher, Ashley Lloyd, Kassia Meador, Julie Cox, Desiree Desoto and Frida Zamba. Thanks to guys like Joel Tudor, by the time I started getting really involved in surfing, the longboarding movement was happening and starting to regain popularity again. It was also right when women’s longboarding was staring to take off as well. I was always drawn to longboarding, ever since that first ride on a longboard, I knew I wanted to noseride.

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Me with Kristy and friends last year in Saladita (Kristy second from left).

Dedina: How did you get into competitive surfing?

Murphy: I first began locally in West Palm Beach, with the Eastern Surfing Association (ESA). I met another Jupiter local girl Jenni Flanigan, and we would go to all the local events together every weekend. It was a blast meeting people, surfing together and creating lasting friendships. After winning the ESA Championship Women’s longboard division in 2000, I decided I wanted to go out and give it a try on the West Coast. Jenni and I decided to take a trip together to California one summer and try to do some of the professional events out there.

Dedina: In 2005 you became the Women’s World Longboard Champion. Did winning the world championship create career opportunities for you?

Murphy: Obviously when you are competing at anything the goal is try to be number one. And after four days of surfing well and keeping it all together in 2005 I did it! It was awesome. I had dreamed of being a “pro” surfer and this was my breakthrough. I figured the sponsorships would come rolling in and I would be paid to surf.  It was funny; although longboarding became more and more popular, that did not mean more opportunities for the surfers. Actually just the opposite happened.

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Kristy cheering on a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

No new sponsors came knocking on my door. However, with my new title in hand, I did not give up and went out looking for sponsors and ending up working out some relationships, most importantly Costa Del Mar sunglasses whom I still work with today. Also, my surfboard sponsor, Siren Surfboards, has always supported me since the beginning to today and Kialoa Paddles for stand up paddling.

I was bummed that I did not get the overwhelming sponsorship support I thought I would after winning the World [Championship]. I was inspired to go out and keep surfing by doing it on my own. I worked at surf camps between competitions and eventually, after enough experience, opened my own surf camp/tour business, Siren Surf Adventures. My championship title has been important to my business, as it has given me credibility in the surf world and with all our clients.

Dedina: What do you think of the new school of women pro surfers?

Murphy: They are so talented. The progress that has been made from only a few years ago is amazing. The women are surfing more progressively and beautifully at the same time. It is awesome to watch! I wish surfing would be more based on talent, when it has the tendency to be based on looks.

Dedina: You and Cat Slatinsky have a solid business with Siren Surf Adventures and what seems to be an “Endless Summer” lifestyle with women’s surfing, yoga and SUP retreats to Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Who is attracted to your retreats?

Murphy: Mostly adventurous, fun, outdoorsy type ladies who are ready to try something new, plus gals who have been surfing a while, but cannot seem to get to the next level. They are all looking to experience surfing in an authentic, fun, safe atmosphere and meet new surf buddies. Our retreats are a unique VIP surf experience. Our group numbers are small (3-4 clients in each group) and Cat and I combined have over 20 years experience in surf coaching. We find that the ladies who come to our camp really want to learn or get better.

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Kristy helping a client in Mexico. Photo: Cat

Dedina: And what is a typical Siren Surf Adventures surf retreat like?

Murphy: Most days are like this: You wake up in a beautiful, relaxing, beachfront setting. We prepare coffee, teas, fruits and yogurt in the morning while excitedly chatting about the days surf session. We usually do land lessons and visualization before we paddle out, and by land lessons we don’t mean only working on the pop-up. We find it easier to work on turning methods on land before we enter the water. Then it is just surf, surf, and surf until we are hungry. Then into town for the best local flavors. In the afternoons we usually offer a yoga session, some flat water SUPing or napping and relaxing. It is a super mellow environment and we always want our guests to feel like it is their time to do what they want. Basically our daily retreat schedules have been molded from our personal experiences as professional surfers in surf travel. Surf, eat, sleep, stretch, and then surf some more!

Dedina: What is the key to getting more women in surfing and sustaining their interest in the sport?

Murphy: Programs like ours help to safely introduce women to the surf. Surfing can be so intimidating, especially when you go at it alone. To be able to experience it with people you trust and respect that you can learn heaps from as well, is priceless.

Dedina: One of the reasons I’ve been so impressed with your work is because it goes beyond surfing into community building and making sure your business has a positive impact on communities and the coastal environment. What are some of the ways you and Cat give back?

Murphy: One of the great pleasures that is a benefit of our constant travelling is having a chance to meet new people all over the world. We learn a lot from them and we try to teach them about what we know as well–and that’s surfing. We do a Dia de los Niños, in Mexico, where we teach all the kids in the area how to surf. Lourdes at La Saladita, helps us heaps with that day. We’ve also had a great partnership with WILDCOAST as well as other organizations like Azulita, The Humane Society, and Women for Whales. It’s not even something we think about doing. We enjoy it and do it for the love of our natural world.

Dedina: So what is next? Are there new retreat locations on the horizon?

Murphy: In the future, we are going to have a few special retreat trips, but for now we are enjoying the locations and adventures we have. We feel so blessed to be able to work doing something we truly love.

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Kristy on the nose. Photo: Cat

Another Weekend of Perfect Waves at San Miguel

We spent the weekend at San Miguel for the 3rd Annual Walter Caloca Open, a surf contest that brings together competitors from Mexico, the U.S. and around the world.

The waves were a blast!!

Sunday morning--San Miguel channeling Lowers.

Sunday morning–San Miguel channeling Lowers.

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That’s me channeling Terry Fitzgerald at J Bay in 1975.

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My eldest son Israel.

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My youngest son Daniel.

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IB surfer Sean Fowler.

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San Miguel local Kevin Meza.

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Zach Plopper

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Israel

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Israel

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Contest organizer Alfredo Ramirez of UAPO.

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From left to right: Me, my youngest son Daniel and friends Josh Johnson and his dad Daren Johnson.

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Junior boys finalists including from left to right: Gavin (3rd), Daniel Dedina (2nd), Dakotah Hooker (4th) and Josh Johnson (1st).

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Daniel.

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Daniel

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Josh Johnson

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Daniel

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Beach cleanup Saturday.

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Sharing Waves and Stoke at the 6th Annual Rincon Invitational

The Wildcoast team.

The Wildcoast team.

“What a stoke and a privilege to share good waves at the cove at Rincon with only seven friends for an hour,” said Jeff Knox, a longtime Imperial Beach surfer and retired elementary schoolteacher.

Jeff was at Rincon to surf with the WILDCOAST team in what is arguably the world’s most unusual surfing “competition.”

This year more than 200 surfers representing 22 surfing organizations were blessed with two days of consistently fun waves and a great weekend of camaraderie and hospitality and the 6th Annual Rincon Invitational.

With my sons israel and Daniel.

With my sons israel and Daniel.

“We designed the event to recognize surfers for their public service efforts,” said event committee chair Glen Henning. “It is not about commerce or competitio. It is about community.”

According to Henning, “Each team had the famed point at Rincon to themselves for an hour. The Black Surfers Collective rode 143 waves. The Best Day Foundation had two or more surfers on over 70% of their weaves. The Barbara Surf Club logged an astounding 247 rides. The surfers from the Third World Surf Company had up to eight riders linking hands.”

Josh Hall of the Pacific Beach Surf Club directed his totally stoked team into the “Wave of the Day Award.”

“They had their entire 10 person team all riding on three different waves,” said Henning.

San Diego shaper Josh Hall.

San Diego shaper Josh Hall.

Probably no one is more stoked on sharing the wealth of the ocean than Josh, a surfboard shaper and student of legend and stokemaster Skip Frye. Hall, a longtime visitor to the surf coast of Spain invited a couple of Spanish friends to join the PB Surf Club team at Rincon.

Josh even let me borrow his 12′ single fin pintail which I managed to maneuver on a few of my early waves. But I couldn’t figure out how to ride far back enough on the tail to avoid wiping out. So I ran the board back to the beach, thanked Josh, and ended our session on my 6’0″ Stu Kenson “Pleasure Pig.”

Daniel with my Stu Kenson Pleasure Pig

Daniel with my Stu Kenson Pleasure Pig

I shared all of my waves with teammates. But my best ride was a long ride with my two sons Israel and Daniel. At one point Daniel hopped on Israel’s 5’10”.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

The boys and I sharing a wave.

When the boys are off to college in a few years I’ll think back fondly to that wave. For a surf dad sharing a wave with your kids is as good as it gets.

“There’s so much competition for waves these days, and amateur and pro contests are a constant presence,” said Henning. “So we think it is important to keep alive a version of surfing that’s all about sharing. And ironically, we end up getting really good waves, and a lot of them.

A baby elephant seal shares the stoke.

A baby elephant seal shares the stoke.

Thanks to Glen Henning for the invite and reporting.

Results 6th Annual Sharing the Stoke Rincon Invitational, March 16-17, 2013

Saturday

Total Waves

1. Sunset Cliffs Surfing Association, 2. Malibu Surfing Association, 3. Great Lakes Surf Crew

Total Shared Waves

1. Third World Surf Co., 2. Coast Law Group, 3. Surfrider Advisory Board

Sharing Surfers

1. Best Day Foundation, 2. Pacific Beach Surf Shop, 3. Huntington Beach Longboard Crew

Wave of the Day: Project Save Our Surf

Spirit of Surfing Award: Ventura Surf Club

Sunday

Total Waves

1. Black Surfers Collective, 2. Santa Barbara Seals Surf School, 3. Wildcoast

Total Shared Waves

1. Doheny Bob’s Surf Crew, 2. California Adaptive Surf Team, 3. Oceanside Longboard Surf Club

Sharing Surfers

1. Santa Barbara Surf Club, 2. San Diego Surf Ladies, 3. Surf Happens Surf Kids

Wave of the Day: Pacific Beach Surf Club

Spirit of Surfing Award: Childhood Enhancement Foundation

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Chasing Mavericks: Surfing in Northern California

The swell had finally hit.

Steamer Lane was 6 to 8 feet on the sets with fun waves and not that many people out. My sons Israel (16), Daniel (14) and I quickly donned our wetsuits and jumped into the lineup.

We were on the second part of our Thanksgiving week excursion up the coast of California to visit college campuses in the world’s best public university system (Israel is a junior in high school) and hopefully catch a few waves.

Before heading north, we checked out Southern California schools and surf spots.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

My wife, Emily, flew into San Francisco the day before Thanksgiving and we planed to join my dad, my brother and the rest of our family for a feast.

The Lane, a World Surfing Reserve, is ground zero for Northern California surf culture (technically it is Central California—but I’m calling Santa Cruz and SF Northern Cal). It is a frenetic beehive of surfers, waves, coastal culture, and surf-gazing tourists.

It is the Main Street of surfing in the United States, with a lighthouse and panoramic view for the wave-filled lineup of Monterey Bay. I couldn’t think of a nicer place to spend an afternoon.

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While the boys gleefully jumped off Lighthouse Point and into the Slot, I carefully walked down the upper staircase and delicately threaded my way down the rocks and into the lineup at The Point.

While I fought the crowd for a few lined-up rights, the boys snagged set waves, then found waves to take them inside, where they would run up the inner staircase,  back to the outer rocks, fling themselves back into the lineup and start all over again. Grom heaven.

After a couple of hours at the Lane, we hurried northward along the Pacific Coast Highway. Our destination was Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point, home to Mavericks, one of the world’s most infamous and challenging big-wave surf spots.

After hitting a bizarre pre-Thanksgiving traffic jam in Half Moon Bay (which is literally in the middle of nowhere), we found the Mav’s parking lot at the base of Pillar Point.

The boys with Greg Long.

The boys with Greg Long.

The boys ran down the trail ahead of me.

“Hey, Dad,” said Israel, running back toward me after a couple of minutes on the trail. “That’s Greg Long,” he said, pointing to a lone surfer walking down the beach carrying a big-wave gun.

And sure enough, we were lucky to catch a moment with one of the world’s best big-wave surfers.

“The waves are coming up,” Long said. “It’s not super big, but I wanted to get ready for tomorrow.”

Sunset at Mavericks.

Sunset at Mavericks.

All I can say about Mavericks is that I have a deep well of respect for the surfers who challenge themselves on what has to be one of the gnarliest and most difficult waves to surf on the coast of California.

The rocks, the waves, the paddle, the sharks, and the boils come together to make it a true surfing gauntlet.

As the sun set, the boys and I joined a couple of locals and a group of Japanese surfers on the cliff above the beach and watched 12- to 15-foot waves pour through the surf zone.

It was gnarly. And it wasn’t even that “big.”

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For the next two days, in between wonderful meals at my brother’s house, the boys and I enjoyed great waves at Fort Point and Ocean Beach in San Francisco. We couldn’t have been more stoked.

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So for those of you who spend your time and money searching the world for great waves and adventure, make sure you haven’t overlooked our wonderful surf-filled state.

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5 Ways to Save on Gas While Surfing

With gas averaging $4.72 a gallon in San Diego County, commuters and especially surfers are scrambling to reduce their fuel consumption. Surfers waste gas while driving non-stop coastal loops in search of the best waves and endlessly idle their vehicles during street end or beach parking lot surf checks.

Surfers love their gas guzzling bro-dude monster surf mobiles that boost macho core-scores but put a strain on bank accounts and produce smog alerts. Find a surfer and you can guarantee he’s packed his quiver in the back of a lifted 4×4 F-350 crew cab, which makes sense when hauling a trailer filled with sand toys to Glammis but not so much when it comes to driving a mile to the beach.

A typical SoCal surfer bro-mobile.

There are, however, some creative and innovative ways to save fuel, the planet and money in order to arrive at the beach for a surf. That’s because although for some conservatives, “conservation” is a dirty word, for this old-school cheapo, anything that directs less of my paycheck to the monolithic retrograde oil industry and all the dictators who love to sell us petroleum (e.g. Hugo Chavez), is a good thing.

Trade in Your Gas Guzzler

For everyone who bought their mega-truck on zero percent financing and now  pay $170 to fill it up, run to your nearest auto dealer and trade it in for a hybrid or electric vehicle. My 2010 Honda hybrid averages about 40 MPG and it fits four groms  With the money I save on gas I can afford to buy the groms tacos at Rubios after a run to Blacks. If the groms don’t like your new wheels with less legroom make them hitchike.

Carpool

You know that really mean and grumpy silverback who screams at you everyday in the lineup even though you’ve surfed together for over twenty years and live down the street from him–well, next time he lovingly blasts you with an insult, pitch him on a carpool. As in, “Hey bro—look I know surfing makes you incomprehensibly angry, but why don’t I ease your pain by joining you on the beach commute and we’ll share some tasty waves together.” Paint a picture of all the fun you’ll have and even offer to let him bitch slap you around in front of his crew for spilling yerba mate on his ride. So make some new friends, save some money and bring peace and joy to your spot by bringing carpooling to your lineup.

Here’s my 1980s Schwinn girls ten speed beach cruiser with Carver Surf Racks.

Recover a Bike from the Trash and Ride it to the Beach

I come from a long-line of hardened dumpster divers or what eco-hipsters now call “freegans.” As a grom, my crew and I roamed the streets salvaging bikes, surfboards, wetsuits and anything else that could propel us to the beach and in the water (no one in IB had any money in the 70s). I continue that tradition with my kids and often depend on the largesse of my eighty-year old immigrant father—the Freegan King of California—for a parade of old bicycles we’ve cobbled together as urban surf machines (my kids first line of bikes proudly emerged from a dumpster run—we fixed them up together). I’m currently cruising a 80s’ Schwinn ten speed girl’s beach cruiser that my father either liberated from the street or found very cheap at a garage sale that I’ve outfitted with Carver Surf Racks (that cost more than all of our bikes combined), and a big basket  No more parking problems and I burn a few more calories during my daily surf commute. The Trestles locals are the fittest surfers in California and seem to have bike rack and trailer systems dialed. I have noticed more people switching to bike surf commutes in the past month than ever before. So search the streets and alleys of your local millionaire laden beach town (La Jolla is gold) and enjoy the gifts of our throwaway consumer society in order to save money, get in shape and improve air quality.

Take the Bus

The Southern California coastal region is chock filled with trolleys, trains and busses. A monthly pass costs anywhere from $72 for adults to $18 for seniors. So go ahead and make a few friends while swinging your longboard around the bus during the morning beach commute. Last year my kids and their friend Jake caught the ferry, two buses and the Coaster from Imperial Beach to San Clemente in order to spend a few days surfing Lowers, and it only took five hours one way. Time is money and since no one seems to have any money, spend your time wisely, meet new people, and cruise to the waves in our wonderful transit system.

Stop Surfing

Your significant other and mom are correct–surfing in an incredibly selfish and self-centered sport that accomplishes very little and interferes with your job, life, and relationships. So nix surfing, reduce your overhead, and spend more time at home with your spouse and children. Who knows, they might even remember who you are.

Salina Cruz (Oaxaca) Surf Companies Protest Surfing Magazine Article

According to this post on ESPN by surf scribe Kimball Taylor, Salina Cruz surf companies are angry about a funny article about surfing in Oaxaca.

In an email dated September 22, Cesar Ramirez — a local surfer and a cornerstone of the surf tour business in Salina Cruz — asked flatly, “What was the guy who wrote the article thinking?”

The email went on to explain the delicate relationship forged by local surfers, businesses, tour guides, and the foreign surfers they hosted. It posited the rhetorical question of why the name of Salina Cruz hadn’t been spilled in such dramatic fashion before then. “Maybe for respect or friendship,” Ramirez answered. “All was good until today. Somebody with no balls to write his [own] name wrote the s—-iest article a surfer can write … Did it without respect and in the lowest form of professional ethics.”

The interesting aspect of this email, however, was that it carried weight:

“I hearby advise everyone that there has been a meeting between the local surfers in Salina Cruz including all the surf camps and as a result to this disgusting article … as of now, for 2 years foreign photographers and videographers are not welcome in Salina Cruz, doesn’t matter what surf team or what magazine they work for.”

Of the enforcement tools listed, the first was a legal one: an inspection of a photographer’s Mexican work visa — something few, if any, surf photographers obtain. The second tool was a bit more mercurial, depending on, “if we are in a good mood.”

Here is my comment on the ESPN site:

It is unfortunate that surf operators in Salina Cruz chose to proclaim a “fatwa” against international media coverage of surfing in southern Oaxaca. The irony of course is that it is the surf companies themselves that promote Salina Cruz as a destination through their websites that even include maps and site information.

Mexican tourism and surfing companies can’t have it both ways–they can’t complain about the unfair media coverage of violence in Mexico that has literally killed tourism and then threaten the only journalists and media companies who are promoting Mexico as a positive and beautiful place to visit.

I find it regrettable that these local operators would actually threaten physical violence against journalists which is a federal crime in Mexico. Few other countries direct as much violence against journalists as Mexico. This surfing “fatwa” is really a product of the unfortunate history of authoritarian rule and political culture in Mexico that has resulted in the deaths of many reporters.

The key issue in southern Oaxaca to remember, is that an indigenous community such as Barra de la Cruz has developed a very interesting and so-far positive tourism management plan that benefits the community rather than outside surf companies.

Other Chontal communities along the coast are following suit. It is important that visiting surfers respect the real locals on this coast–the historically marginalized and poverty stricken Chontal communities who view small-scale surfing tourism as a way to promote sustainable and community development and keep out Huatulco-style mega-projects.

What is lamentable is that local surf companies don’t see the real threat here–from Mexican agencies such as FONATUR that is continuing its ongoing campaign of destroying Mexico’s pristine coast to build mega-resorts that no one will come to.

Massive Swell Pounds California: An Interview with Surfline Forecaster Sean Collins

From a Patch article I published on Friday September 2, 2011.

Waves from a storm that originated off of Antarctica have pounded Southern California beaches since Wednesday resulting in at least one drowning in Orange County and resulting in broken surfboards up and down the coast and epic rides for the region’s best surfers.

Beaches that saw larger than usual surf with sets up between 8-10 feet included Imperial Beach, Coronado, La Jolla, Solana Beach, Oceanside, Trestles, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach among others.

“Yesterday, one reef in La Jolla was breaking with eight wave sets and was at least triple overhead,” said marine biologist and surfer David Kacev.

According to Surfline, the size of the sets breaking at Newport Beach’s infamous Wedge, were between 15-20’ yesterday.

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Image via CrunchBase

Lifeguards from Imperial Beach to Zuma are patrolling beaches to make sure inexperienced surfers and swimmers stay out of the water and out of trouble.

The drowning victim, Jowayne Binford of Long Beach, was an inexperienced ocean swimmer according to his mother, Gail Binford, in an interview with KABC-7.

On Tuesday, Sean Collins, Chief Forecaster and President of Surfline, alerted Southern California authorities about the dangers posed by the swell. In a press release he stated that, “Extra caution is urged to keep the public aware and safe from these large waves and associated rip currents.”

Sean Collins at work. Photo courtesy of Surfline.

Collins was the first person to accurately forecast swells on a regular basis in the ’70s and early ’80s. He pioneered and created the first ongoing surf forecast available to the surfing public via Surfline and 976-SURF in 1985.

From his coastal headquarters in Huntington Beach, Collins and his Surfline team provide surf-related weather and forecasting services to lifeguard agencies in California, the Coast Guard, US Navy Seals, National Weather Service, and surf companies.

Surfer Magazine named Sean one of the “25 Most Influential Surfers of the Century”. In 2008, he was inducted to the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. He is the author of California Surf Guide: The Secrets to Finding the Best Waves.

Sean acted as Chief Forecaster for last week’s Billabong Pro Tahiti surf contest at Teahupoo, in which the same swell that is now pounding Southern California resulted in 40-foot waves and closed harbors throughout the island chain.

When I caught up with Sean, he was on his way to New York City to act as Chief Forecaster for the $1 million Quiksilver Pro New York surf contest, that will be held on Long Beach, New York from September 4-15.

Q. When was the last time we had a southern hemisphere swell this big hit California.

A. Actually this is the biggest out of the southwest for quite a while, I think that last one like this was April 2004. The swell in July 2009 that hit the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach was actually a little bigger, but not as long period. Depending on the swell period some areas will focus the swell energy better like on Wednesday. The 20-22” periods were really focusing into some areas but completely missing others. Once the period dropped on Thursday most other areas began to see the swell.

Q. It seems like the swell hit earlier than forecast and the estimate of its duration is now longer than originally forecast?

A. Only because the spots that focus the longer periods picked up earlier. If we forecasted for that, most spots and surfers would have said we were wrong. We did say that the swell would be filling in Wednesday afternoon. Longer periods travel faster than shorter periods so that is why the long period spots flared up first. Longer swell periods also help the swell to wrap into San Diego County where spots need more southwest in the direction, or longer periods to feel the ocean floor to wrap in.

Q. Is it hard to predict the surf that is generated from southern hemisphere storms?

A. It’s the most difficult because there is so little data in the middle of the ocean to validate the models, and the models are off all the time. A difference of 5 knots of wind speed between 40 knots to 45 knots in a storm off New Zealand will result in a 24-hour difference in arrival time here in California and a difference of 4-feet in surf face height.

Q. These large storms off of Antarctica that produce massive swells are pretty unique. Generally how often receive southern hemisphere swells?

A. On the long term average we receive about 50 swells a year from storms in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of those swells create surf of 3 feet on the wave face, 40% of those swells are over 5 feet, 10% are over 8 feet. This swell is obviously in the top 10% and we usually receive about 5 major overhead southern hemisphere swells a year. But this swell is definitely at the top of the best swells and will probably be the largest southern hemisphere swell we’ve received in the past few years since the July 2009 swell. Again, most of San Diego County is not exposed to all of the southerly directions like other areas in Southern California so you may not see as many there.

Q. When large sets hit one location are they hitting different areas around the same time?

A. Powerful long crested swell like this one do have sets that arrive at the same time along a few miles of beach. And the swell energy travels in these big patches through the ocean with big lulls in between.

Q. Besides the Wedge in Newport Beach, what locations in Southern California Cal received the brunt of the swell?

A. La Jolla wrapped in it great. And then everywhere from Oceanside up to Huntington Pier was solid. North of there was shadowed behind the Islands (Catalina and Channel Islands). The LA County South Bay around El Porto, north to Ventura was also very solid. Malibu was epic Thursday but saw very little of the swell on Wednesday, due to the swell period and island shadowing issues.

Oaxaca Dreams 2011

Here is a video slideshow from our summer Oaxaca adventure. One of my best surf trips ever.

Sandy Beach and the Pure Joy of Waveriding

Sandy Beach on the southeast tip of Oahu is arguably one of the world’s most unique waveriding locations. On any given day a group of committed individuals gather together to ride waves on the most diverse collection of tools used anywhere.

Visit Sandy during a south swell and you’ll find kids young and old expertly surfing the vicious shorebreak using bodyboards, soft-top surfboards, fiberglass surfboards, McDonald’s food trays, handmade wooden hand planers, swim paddles, and bodysurfing with swim fins and without.

This is the beach that President Obama famously bodysurfed during his first presidential campaign. When he stuck out his arm in the classic bodysurfin position, surfers all over the world recognized him as the real deal. Our President knows how to bodysurf. And whether it is 2 feet or 10 feet, the waves at Sandy are not easy. You have to want to be there.

South swells are wedged together to pound this 400-yard long beach with terrifying precision in about one foot of water. A local told me, “It doesn’t matter if it just 2 feet. You are guaranteed to get a barrel.” The waves are round and hollow.

The water at Sandy is crystal clear and warm which makes it an inviting place to get wet. But don’t be mistaken by the tranquil looking sea. Just getting in and out of the shorebreak requires negotiating the current, the shorepound and the steep beach.

Turn your back on the waves at Sandy and you’ll be sorry. The lifeguards continually monitor the crowd from two portable towers. They announce on loudspeakers, “Please be careful, the surf is up today. There is no other location in the U.S. where more people have their necks broken. So be cautious and careful.”

On our first visit there, a new south swell was building. With a strong tidal push in the middle of the afternoon, we could feel and see the surf increasing. Since the waves break onshore it was difficult to judge their height.

While out bodysurfing I observed one surfer scratch into a wave. Just before the lip destroyed him, I caught a glimpse of him at the very bottom. The wave was twice his height or about 11-12.’ But estimating the size of shorebreak is difficult. Let’s just say the waves were poundful.

On the east side of the beach are two reefs. Both offer up slabby gnarly A-frames, with the lefts beating out the rights. Waves on the inside reef wedge up and alllowed a couple of expert surfers to snag a few choice barrels. One surfer backdoored the rights all afternoon scoring deep barrels. Another surfed  the left, avoiding a large rock on the inside and connecting to the shorebreak where he was either decimated or barreled or both.

The most impressive performers were the surfers riding bodyboards. They had no fins or leashes and took off on the gnarliest set waves, stood up and ripped, hitting the lip, carving 360s and getting deep barrels.

Sandy is popular, crowded, sunny and perfect. And best of all, after you get tired of being pounded into the sand there is a Wahoo’s Fish Taco Truck standing by to provide up lots of bowls, burritos and tacos to help you get over the pain.

My sons and I surfed a lot of spots on Oahu. We had the most fun at Sandy’s.

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