It’s Always Been About the Toob

It was the summer of 2001, heading into my 2nd year of college, I rented a surfboard on a family vacation to the Jersey Shore. It was raining and the waves were ankle high. I definitely did not successfully ride a wave, but it didn’t matter. I was hooked. I wanted more.

Cory Lopez- Teahupoo 1999. I had this on my wall soon after riding my first wave. Photo: Tom Servais
Cory Lopez- Teahupoo 1999. I had this on my wall soon after riding my first wave. Photo: Tom Servais

Back in Ohio, I used the growing Internet to learn more about waveriding. Watching short clips and seeing hundreds of photos, one thing stood out immediately above all else. I didn’t care about tail-flick turns or the progression of aerial surfing. I was instantaneously fascinated by hollow waves. I stared at empty barrels and endlessly watched clips of Pipeline and Teahupoo. I would sit and think about the sensations that a surfer must experience inside.

As a beginner surfer, I quickly became aware of the difficulties in tube riding. After college, I moved to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and spent a couple years going over the falls on the hollow beachbreak waves without any success. But I was never deterred from my love of the barrel. I would sometimes stand on the sand and jump into shorebreak barrels without even knowing that bodysurfing was a thing.

My first toob photo- OBX 2005.
My first toob photo- OBX.

I then moved to San Diego and slowly became a better surfer but tube time continued to elude me. A good buddy would sometimes bring fins to the beach and occasionally bodysurf in between surf sessions. It looked like fun, so I bought fins and…WOW! A whole new world opened up and I mean literally opened up. Instead of surfing the soft, rolling reefs around Encinitas, I started swimming around local beachbreaks. My tube time started multiplying exponentially. It was all I really ever wanted from waveriding. Bodysurfing provides it and so much more.
-KSKyle Under Blue

Cylinder 20x16 canvas

Fractions of a Second

A billionth. A millionth. A thousandth. Just a fraction of second. But it can last for weeks. Slowed down, replayed in my brain over and over. Whether it is early morning as the bright light peaks over the cliff, blinding the world in crystal water or sunset as the world turns orange. Outrageous forms of bending water and crystal orange light.Empty 3

I’ve simplified my greatest joy and leisure fulfillment into fractions of a second. That’s all it takes. I do not require much more. If I can swim out into the Ocean and glide into a wave that is throwing out over top of itself and experience the inside for just a fraction of second, I am joyous and fulfilled. Anything else is just a bonus. If the tube ride lasts a bit longer because the conditions are perfect, well that’s just extra swell.

Conditions are rarely perfect. But if it’s hollow, I’m stoked. The messy, closed out days are still fun bodysurfing. Those fleeting moments on the inside of a wave. Over the course of a solid week of swell, the amount of time spent in the tube can almost be quantified. Let’s say tube rides average 1 second. Roughly 6 tubes per hour, averaging 3 hours per work day and 5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. So with some poor math, we can say we spend 3+ minutes in the tube. All fractions of second adding up to much fun in the Ocean.AR8A2390

Time warp. The first hundred or so barrels of a waveriders life are over in a flash. But after dedication and plenty of solid womps, it all slows down. From seeing the bump outside, swimming hard to the spot, gliding in and watching the section ahead bend and throw and barrel. The sensation of speed dropping in, the feeling of weightlessness as the bottom drops out, the vision looking out, the force of the Ocean pounding… all experienced in a fraction of a second but lingering in thoughts and memories for a lifetime.

-KS

Closeout Comrades

Abandon all hope of glory

let it fall from your hand,

float through grit

and settle to the sand.

Swim on comrades

the Closeout is come.

 

Breathe in Earth’s aura,

the magnificent clear.

Where you go you’ll stay

held under your fear.

Swim on Comrades

the Closeout is come.

 

Kick with resolve

the most euphoric whim.

Hoots and shakas

Outlook is grim.

Swim on comrades

Closeout is come.

EJ

Bodysurfing a big Closeout

Fleeting Womp Perfection

Sure it’s closed-out, but if you spend enough time swimming around a womp, you find moments, instances, flashes of Cloudbreak, Pipeline perfection. A doubled-up right meets a tripled-up left as the backwash flares… and a single, fleeting section of mindbending beauty appears. Warping, slabbing, sandsucking dynamism.  These are the waves that are most synonymous with bodysurfing and bodywomping and bodybashing.

Dynamic
Dynamic
Wedge: the ultimate Womp
Wedge: the ultimate Womp

Heavy shorebreak forms when there is an abrupt change from deep water to shallow directly on the beach. Without shallow reef or sandbars on the outside, all of a wave’s energy is focused without dissipating. The waves surge up the steep berm and plunge into increasingly shallow water. Sometimes, waves break on the outside and reform into a womp on the inside. Waimea Bay shorebreak is a prime example of the reform womp.

Coarse grained sand is common at many womps because the heavy wave action washes away the smaller grains. The large grains also stack higher than small grains, forming the steep, tall berms. Sand is a major factor in the world of womping as no other activity puts sand deeper into human orifices. If you crunch on sand during lunch on Wednesday, you probably had a good womp session on Tuesday.

Backwash Cowboy
Backwash Cowboy

Womps can be tide sensitive, with most preferring a higher tide to focus the energy over any outside bathymetry and onto the beach. But if the tide is too high, the waves energy will surge up the beach without the needed plunging, barreling action.  The steep beach causes serious backwash as the previous wave’s water rushes down the berm and back out to sea. A true womp has the steep beach and coarse sand, but most beachbreaks can have days of wompy conditions.

The whole coast can be knee-high and gutless, but find a steep beach with the right tide and there is much fun to be had. Every single wave at a womp offers a barrel vision. A knee high barrel is better than no barrel at all!  While surfers on the outside struggle and fight their way into meager waves, a bodysurfer gets barreled on the beach.

Sandy womp tube
Sandy womp tube

Riding in the pocket of an ankle high wave, chest an inch off the sand…sure it’s small but all the beautiful hydrodynamics are there. It’s fast and hollow, sucking sand off the bottom.  A mini turbine. Whatever swell energy there is, is focused right here on the steep beach.

It’s the most dangerous place to bodysurf. The shallowness, unpredictability and power of a solid womp can damage egos and bodies. The human body exposed to such violence can be twisted and smashed: from sprains and concussions to broken bones and even paralysis. Waist-high womp waves can be much heavier than some overhead outside waves.

Hawaiian Womp Photo: Keali’i Punley
Hawaiian Womp Photo: Keali’i Punley

Every womp wave is different.  There are many dynamic forces acting to create the turbulent shorebreak conditions. Sometimes, it quadruples up and closes out for a hundred yards. Other times, the backwash and various waves/reforms create a wedge that has a perfect pocket. It is up to the patience, skill and imagination of the rider to find themselves in these fleeting moments of perfection.

-KS

 

 

 

Tripping Fins: Dynamic Coast

Depart Encinitas 8:30pm Friday evening: seven hours straight to Eastside Santa Cruz urban camp. Breakfast with Homeboy Eric and Homegirl Rachel then northbound to Ocean Beach, San Francisco to meet up with our buddy Dallas. Sloat St. swim: overhead and super fun. Snagged a couple solid peaks in the strong drift. Dinner and spectating in the Haight. Chat with Child: coffee shop drug dealer representing “Dead Nation.” Vibrant humanity.

Urban camp at the Pacifica Pier. Sunday 6:00am Kelly’s Cove check: not working and no orange swim cap. Back to Sloat: overhead+, catch a rip way outside. Plentiful swimming, as expected at OB. Sets on the head. Luck into a beauty of a right wall: nice speed, sensational feel.

OB
OB, SF
Photo: Rachel Newton

On to FP- too much tide- Crissy Park nap. Awake to dropping tide-rising swell. The Point woke up. Thought it was novelty, discovered a legitimate wave. Head high and incredibly dynamic. Sets swing swiftly into rocks. EJ charges. Once heard a big-wave icon say he can instantly decipher who truly has the proverbial “Right Stuff” by the way they react to an approaching set…EJ is the guy swimming into the guts of It because It “looks fun.”

EJ under the bridge and dreaming.
EJ under the bridge and dreaming.
Photo: Rachel Newton

Say goodbye to dear friends. Stretch out solo. Cruise the Piers and Wharf: clam chowder and people watching.  Urban camp Stockton St. downtown San Fran. Next morning to Pier 39 for whale-watching cruise to the mythological Farallon Islands: decomposing granite monoliths 28 miles offshore. Homestead of innumerable seabirds, pinnipeds, intrepid biologists and the largest of great white sharks.

No whales today but more than my money’s worth. The reefs at Indianhead and Mirounga Bay firing with 8-10ft of raw NW Ocean energy. Apparently never ridden…the last California wave frontier. It’s out there, if you want it bad enough.

Mirounga Bay- Farallon Islands

Our vessel, The Kitty Kat looks like a plague cruise. Seasick zombies stumble to the “Ralph” spot and unload, immobilized by sheer misery. Make new friends: literature teachers from Paris: Ocèane and Aurelie. They didn’t have much fun on the cruise, but we made plans to discuss Rimbaud and Sartè later in the week. Drive over the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands…overlooking everything. Stunning views abound.

Big Set
Big set from the Marin Headlands through binos.
Dynamic City
Dynamic City

Next morning to Point Reyes National Seashore. San Andreas Fault heartland. Exposed to North Pacific fury like few places in California. Steep blowing sand shorebreak at South Beach. Double overhead+? on the outside…head high warping wedges on the sand. Chilly swim, washed down the beach, exhilarating wompy visions. Cruised the dairy farms way out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rocks. Fascinating physical oceanography.

Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore

Southbound down iconic Route 1 back to the city. Muir Beach sunset. Quick stop back to Fort Point.  Dirtbag shower in the bathroom before meeting up with new friends from France. Found them perusing the poetry at a classic Beat bookstore.  Intellect and cute French accents make for a late night.

Urban camp Pacifica Pier…rocked to sleep by shorebreak energy. Next morning southbound, hike to the Boneyard and pay homage to Mavericks. On to Santa Cruz. A little nook is working on the Westside- waves bounce off the backside and wedge into fast hollow peaks…super fun. Watch The Point get torn apart by a heavy Westside crew including Flea and Nat Young.

Nat Young- Steamer Lane

South to Big Sur’s golden sunset light. Camp: Ocean front forest service road. Glorious dark skies…”What’s that glow in the West?” WOW! The Zodiacal Light!  First observation, been looking for years. Dust in our solar system reflecting light…beautiful!  Morning at head high Big Sur reef.

Big Sur Gold
Big Sur Gold
The Zodiacal Light
The Zodiacal Light

Southbound: Incredible wave potential everywhere. NW swell lingers. Every turn-out offers dynamic new potential. Epicness awaits the extra hearty. Somewhere: big lefts slab over an abrupt rocky reef…mindsurf. The giant elephant seals swimming on the inside have the best view.

Mindsurf
Mindsurf

Southward. Cayucos is offshore and amazingly walled down the beach…400 yard cylinders. Swim out but avoid the guy getting barreled on a jetski. Pushing South into Morro Bay: volcanic plug geology and peregrine falcons. Camp: Pismo Beach, Oceano Dunes. Put the Tacoma back on sand where she belongs. Sandy sweet sleep.

Central Coast
Central Coast

Headed South early. Straight to SB: to spy enchanting spinners.  Glassy, stomach high turbines roping along the breakwall. Best barrel view in California? SB framed by the Santa Ynez Mountains. Top of the list to score solid. On to the Queen. Glassy, waist to chest and hollow at the Rivermouth. Magic point…everyone should have one in their front yard.

The barrel looks out to a mountain range.
The barrel looks out to a mountain range. Santa Cruz Island out the back.

To Oxnard with the wind and fog. Cool town and I didn’t get punched in the face…bonus. Down the 1 through the wave potential of Pt. Mugu. Here the coast changes. No more secret nooks, not much open space…masses of concrete from here to Baja.  Stop at Surfrider Beach, fogged in but can see knee high waves peeling across First Point.

Dynamic coast, excellent adventure!
-KS