Niknonos wave photograph

Analog Bodysurf #3

In the 3rd installment of Analog Bodysurf, we feature a variety of photos taken with a variety of cameras, in a variety of locations.

Nikonos- V (1984). Underwater film camera.

I have very much enjoyed the challenge of shooting the Nikonos V in the water. Judging the focus distance as a wave approaches, setting the focus and taking the shot at the correct moment…makes for intrigue when the negatives are scanned.  Some photos are trash, some are interesting even though out of focus and rarely, a photo is well composed and focused.

Nikon FM2

Tripping Fins: Baja

We left Cardiff at 5:30am, quick 30 minutes to the Border and it’s a whole different world. We stopped to check the first beachbreak south and found gorgeous shoulder high, glassy peaks breaking in the thickening fog. We knew the water temp had dropped significantly at home and we knew it’s always colder down here.

Suited, we walked down the cobblestone street as light poured through the old archway. Yeah, it was cold. June ice cream headaches with stunned fingers and toes. But the bending bowls! Oh those bending bowls. A reinforcing south swell was joined by a touch of NW windswell to provide hollow rides all along. We warmed a bit chasing the peaks in out of fleeting rip currents as a thickening fog swallowed the coastline. Wind picked up side offshore and we departed, heading south. A vibrant fogbow illuminated the beach as we meandered south again.

With no plan for the rest of the morning, we picked a random spot on the map and headed down a winding road scribbled across the prominent peninsula. Reaching the end of the road, we found a beautiful cove, a small town and a long street market. And lastly we found the star of the show: La Bufadora! An impressive blow hole, tucked into a fold of the coast. Every surge of swell entering the Cove focuses into a small crevice in the cliff, blasting water and rainbows hundreds of feet into the air.

La Bufadora!

We drove to our rental just in time for a siesta before some glassy waves in front of the house at sunset. There is something very special about checking the surf from the roof deck then walking out of your abode, to the sand and into the Ocean without ever losing eye contact with the sea.

We had a delicious dinner at one of the fine local restaurants on the cliff with some proper Mexican hydration the locals called Tecate. Followed by astrophotography on the deck, we slept well.

We woke at dawn the next morning and groggily checked the surf. Glass. Not a single breeze or breath of wind. Chest high peaks with a few bigger sets graced the sandbars out front. Of course the water temp hadn’t come up so we gutted up for the chill. But once again, chasing fun peaks kept us warm. As the sun rose over the hill, a deep fog settled in. All of the sudden we weren’t just witnessing a fogbow, we were inside the fogbow. Vibrant colors refracted out the fog and we hooted in excitement as the combo swell kept producing glassy bowls. 

We hadn’t seen another surfer since we’d been down but out of the fog a guy paddled out and caught a couple fun waves. We started chatting and it turned out that like Swell Lines staff, the guy is a special needs educator in North County San Diego…cheers to summer vacation!

We moved to a different rental down the beach and when we arrived, the very sweet owner, Cathy greeted us with her squad of delightful Mexi-Mutts that she rescues. She showed us around her gorgeous house full of amazing stained glass and stone-work.  She also offered us a unique amenity that more rentals should offer: puppy time with a new litter she recently rescued. Everybody could use some puppy time in between sessions of tube time.

The sun was high and the peaks remained glassy so we went to the beach out front. After a solid round of beach paddle ball, with a nice sweat going, it was time for a swim. Air temperature in the mid-80s…water temp feeling like mid-50s. Rising tide pushed the wave energy inside and provided more fun, invigorating waves.

Get out of the sun, siesta time. Then towards sunset, we were watching the waves thinking about an evening swim. But the sky was cloudy and the wind was up a bit onshore. It didn’t look enticing. Then a set of wave clouds formed over the horizon. We had to go swim and just to add a little spice, we only wore trunks. Even the deep bone chill was worth the few barrel visions and fun waves we caught before heading to dinner still shivering. A shot tequila warmed us from the inside while enjoying a Radiohead sing along on the deck of the rental while the Ocean sand backup.

The surf remained glassy and fun the next morning before we packed up and headed north. A record-breaking one hour border wait and we were home with wetsuit rashes, fatigue and a joyful haze. Another successful, simple adventure across the border…we should do that monthly.

Chasing the Weasel

By Jason Hackworth- @SuperBiscuitSC

There’s a spot on the Westside that’s well known as being one of the last holdouts of true, old-school localism; the kind of place where if you’re not a Westsider, or friends with them, you probably shouldn’t be out there.  When it’s working, it’s one of the best tubes in town, and every local pro, ex-pro and general ripper will be on it, sitting amongst a small pack in a very compact takeoff zone.  Although it shows up in magazines and Surfline quite a bit, it’s never explicitly named in print, to my knowledge… one mag of note even did a feature on it in the 90’s, dubbing it “Weasel Reef”, so for the purposes of this story I’m going to go with that.

I found myself staring at it the other day, leaning against the wooden fence that acts as a railing on the edge of the cliff.  The direction was a bit off, it was smallish and kind of blowing sideshore. But it was definitely working.  And there was no one out.  No one else even watching it.

I had swam out there once before a few years ago, but when I got to the peak it shut off completely.  I found myself treading water for 20 minutes before giving up and heading home.  Now as I watched another set barrel messily over the reef, I found that I was a little nervous… it wasn’t so much that I wanted to go but I felt that I had to go.  Otherwise, I’d probably be kicking myself for the rest of my life.  I had just eaten a hamburger and was fairly hung over… so I wasn’t quite feeling one hundred percent.

Suiting up and grabbing the MiniMother and the UDT’s I had recently acquired in a trade, I started back toward the cliff.  A couple of cars away from mine was an oversized black SUV, with tinted black windows and various stickers.  I felt my UDT’s bump against something on the car, and there was a slight rattling sound.  I turned around as I walked, surmising that the fins must have bumped into the trailer hitch that was protruding from the back of the vehicle.  Seeing that there was no damage, I moved on.

“Hey yo!”  I heard a few seconds later.  Rounding the corner of the truck came a younger guy whose look kind of fit with his vehicle- oversized white shirt, baseball cap sitting too high on his head, white socks pulled up past the hems of his low hanging shorts, neck tattoos.  

“What the f###, you just hit my car and walk away?!?”  He said, raising his arms in the air in a threatening fashion.

“Sorry man, I think my fins accidentally bumped into your trailer hitch there.”

“So that’s what you do?  Just hit people’s  cars with your f###ing fins and just walk away?”

“It was an accident… sorry man.”

He huffed and puffed a little more, and then turned to get back into the truck, still muttering and cursing to himself.  How he thought that the Malaysian rubber UDT’s could have possibly damaged his steel trailer hitch I have no idea, but he was certainly angry about it.

The altercation had actually served to distract me from my nervousness, and I turned and continued toward the edge of the cliff.  Still nobody out.  I slowly picked my way down the steep rocks, eventually jumping off of the last one onto the sand.  Walking toward the other side of the cove, I picked my swim spot just south of where the peak was and walked in, gearing up with fins and camera once I had cleared the shorebreak.  I took my time swimming out to the peak; never having caught this place before when it was breaking, I wanted to get a feel for it and not take too many on the head.  I also found myself turning to scan the cliff from time to time, expecting to see people with boards coming down the rocks.

“Oh shoot… this place is super shallow!”  I had moved to tread water and I came across the rock shelf reef not 4 or 5 feet below the surface. Watching the gurgles and boils in front of the incoming set peaking just outside confirmed this.  Given my condition, I decided to err on the side of caution and remain just at the edge of the reef for the time being.

The first couple were too walled, so I swam over them.  The next one had a nice corner however and I began to swim in an arc a little deeper, getting into position.  The first drop was quick and bouncy from backwash off of the cliff and after riding for a couple of seconds the barrel threw over me and pinched shut. I swam under and through the back.  

On two more, I was able to pull in; I thought I was going to make it out of the first, but it pinched shut on my head and I got rolled for a bit.  The second was bigger, with a jacking, steep entry.  The MiniMother held its edge, as it always does.  This one had the crazy drop but less time in the tube as it closed out…my wave selection there had been a bit lacking.  My next was another steep drop to a long ride almost all the way in, but no barrel.

Resting at the peak for a bit, I saw the group of groms clambering down the rocks with shortboards.  Another set was approaching, and I swam for and caught the second wave, driving down the line until the end section closed out over me, leaving me again almost all the way in.  That was enough for me… I wasn’t in the mood to jockey for position with the groms, and decided to call it a day.  Back on the beach, I leaned against a rock and watched it for a while, soaking in the scene and in disbelief that I had just scored Weasel Reef to myself for a half an hour or so.

After negotiating the rock climb back up, I noticed that the black SUV was still there, this time with a familiar smelling smoke emanating from it.  I approached the open drivers side window and saw its occupant with sunglasses on now, and sporting a big smile.

“Hey man, just wanted to say sorry again about the trailer hitch thing.”

“Ah it’s cool” he grinned.  “I was up in Tahoe yesterday snowmobiling with my friends, and on the way back someone nailed the back of my car, you see that big dent there?  Anyway, I got back late, and missed my court hearing, so I guess I was just all pissed off about that.”

“Ah, yeah… well, that’s understandable.”

Back at my car, dressed, and wrapping my wetsuit in a towel, I see my new friend get out of his truck and start walking towards me.  As he gets close, he holds out an unopened can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“A little beverage, bro?  Always good after the salt water and a boogie session.”

Still a little hung over (and slightly confused about the boogie comment) I hesitate for a second, then find myself reaching for the can.  “Uh… for sure, man.  Thanks!”

“Have a good one!” he says, returning to his truck.

The Pabst is kind of warm… but as I lean on the hood of my car sipping it, taking in the view of West Cliff Drive and the passing pedestrians, I figure it’s a pretty fitting way to wrap up an afternoon of chasing Weasels.

 

Perspectives from Professional WaveRiders

Rob Machado:

Rob Machado

Bodysurfing played a huge role in my development as a wave rider.  My first memories were from the shore break.  It was my first understanding of what it felt like to get tubed.  From there I graduated to riding a body board and then eventually on to a surfboard and I took those same fundamentals of “how to get tubed” along with me ever since.

I love when I see guys bodysurfing.  I always give them the right of way.  It takes so much more effort to get in the line up and put yourself in the right spot for the right wave… They deserve more respect.

I still bodysurf and I don’t leave home without my fins… Always in my car or in my board bag.
*Cover Photo: Sean Davey

Greg Long:

Greg Long Photo: Robert B. Stanton

Bodysurfing…. The most pure and beautiful way to experience the act of wave riding. Every surfer out there should occasionally take a step away from their conventional wave riding craft and dive back into the water with nothing but a set of fins. There is no freedom quite like that which you experience when you’re body surfing, fully immersed in the ocean, gliding in harmony with mother natures energy. Body surfers are welcome in any lineup as far as I’m concerned.

Gary Linden:

Linden Surfboards

Bodysurfing was my first experience riding a wave and one I will never forget. My Father grew up in Hermosa Beach and started teaching me about the Ocean from an early age. In those days there were no Boogie boards so we learned to bodysurf. Once I had a feel for how the Ocean worked with the currents and swells it became my number one priority. I eventually got a surfboard but the knowledge acquired from bodysurfing is still in use to this day.

I am really stoked that a group of guys are bodysurfing at the beach where i always surf. It reminds me of what we are out there for, to feel the force of nature. Bodysurfing is the root of all wave riding and seeing it being enjoyed keeps it all in perspective for me.

Pikers Gamble

By  Nick Brbot @nickbrbot
All Photos by Keeland Tracy @keelandtracy

So much anticipation and days of swell checking means the forecast looks ideal. The fins, handplane, budgies and towel are packed into a bag. With a last check of the swell forecast to settle the nerves, the lights are switched off, and some rest is sought.

The 0430 alarm goes off, but I’ve already been awake, so much excitement meant I couldn’t sleep. With a final check of the live wave and wind conditions the message is sent out to the crew.

ITS ON!!!

@nickbrbot

In need of sustenance for the day, a couple of bananas, a water bottle and some RedBull are grabbed from the kitchen for the drive. The roadtrip begins. From all corners of Sydney the boys drive to get to Pikers Hole before first light. For me, the dark morning trip to the place where I grew up is filled with anticipation and questions. Is the swell big enough? Is it too big? Are the winds right? Is the tide right? Bodysurfing a place like this you need to have all weather conditions in your favor otherwise it is a recipe for a broken neck.

@bornwithgills

As we make our way into the national park, with the deep throaty sounds of the swell crashing on the rocks in the distance, the cockatoos and kookaburras lighten the mood and swell the heart with their morning sings. Rounding the hill and into the car park, and there it is.

Pikers Hole.

Car by car the crew arrive hastily, Peter Sperling (@peter.sperling), Rikki Gibley (@wawhandplanes), Russel Pollard (@bornwithgills), Dan Carr (@captain_kookman), Vic Ivec (@whomp_dog) and Keeland Tracy (@keelandtracy). The initial signs are great, the thunderous sounds of waves crashing against the cliffs and the light offshore winds giving us a false sense of security about surface conditions. By now there is a touch of light in the sky and a bomb rolls through. More than enough to excite the bodysurfer inside.

Everyone suits up, a few stretches are performed and then a rock hop down to the entry. Timing is crucial. An error here can be an early and abrupt end to the morning session. The right wave is eyed off, followed by an entry as the water drains back off the cliff.

The chill of the water immediately wakes you up. But the swim out to the take-off zone through the channel is enough to get the blood flowing. A bump on the horizon presents itself. As it hits the shallow rock ledge this bump triples in size, it is no longer a bump but a mountainous wall of water. You kick as hard as you can onto the face of the wave, a large initial drop that makes it feel like you’re flying, followed by a huge push along the face. The roaring sound of the wave crashing down over you, coupled with the view of the oncoming cliff and rock ledge definitely gets the adrenaline going, those chills from the jump in a distant memory.

@peter.sperling

The wave starts throwing over you. Enjoy this moment while it lasts. If you’re in luck, the next 10-20 seconds will consist of you being washing machined into the shallow reef with a collection of cuts and bruises to take home with you.

Sometimes the wave will let you out but most of the time it won’t.

This is the gamble of Pikers Hole.