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

240 FPS: Short Film by Misfit Pictures

Pierce Michael Kavanagh is a lifelong bodysurfer with a deep appreciation for the Ocean. In the premiere of his short film, director PMK shares the fast-paced world of the womp at a speed our feeble human brains can process. Enjoy it on repeat.

240FPS from MISFIT PICTURES on Vimeo.

Pierce is also the director of the San Diego Surf Film Festival. Checkout the line-up of international filmmakers set to debut May 20.

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

 

 

 

Bodysurfing’s Rosetta Stone

Every subculture develops its own nomenclature to describe their endeavors. Skiers and snowboarders use dozens of words to articulate different snow conditions. Skateboarders have a name for every kick and flip. Likewise, waveriders have hundreds of words to describe the Ocean and waves.

Bodywomp
Bodywomp

Bodysurfers have developed our own words to chronicle our Ocean passion. In the United States, womp or whomp has become synonymous with bodysurfing. “I’m gonna go for a womp.” However, the origin of the word comes from early surf days when people would go for a “bodywomp” in shallow shorebreak. Womp being the sound that the body makes when splattering on the sand.

Shacked, pitted, tubed...
Shacked, pitted, tubed…

 

Many words are used to describe a barreling wave: tube, pit, shack, cave, keg, green room, cavern etc. We use a multitude of words to discuss conditions: glassy, blown-out, closed-out, clean, bowling, heaving, funky, crispy, lined-up, peaky, offshore, victory-at-sea, thumping etc.

 

We’re members of a worldwide tribe. From all corners of the globe, everywhere waves break on shore, people ride the energy. Bodysurfing is an ancient endeavor, probably the first form of recreational waveriding. It stands to reason that many cultures developed their own words for riding waves and more specifically, bodysurfing waves.

Kaha nalu in Hawaii. Image: Keali'i Punley
Kaha nalu in Hawaii.        Image: Keali’i Punley

Kaha Nalu is the ancient Hawaiian word for bodysurfing. The spirit of Hawaiian bodysurfing is summarized by the Hawaiian State Bodysurfing Association’s motto:  Hōpūpū i ke kaha nalu meaning “to be extremely emotionally excited about bodysurfing.”

Viya on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. Image: Selman Kiran
Viya on the Black Sea coast of Turkey.                               Image: Selman Kiran

 

On the Black Sea coast of Turkey, for centuries people have been partaking in a past time they call Viya, meaning waves in a Greek dialect dating back before the Ottoman Empire. Fishermen challenge themselves by bodysurfing in wintertime storm surf along the jagged Turkish coast. It is still practiced today, passed down from father to son.

In Brazil, bodysurfing is known as jacaré which translates to alligator. It has been used since the 1940’s, when bodysurfing gained popularity at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1980’s, the term surfe de peito meaning chest surf became popular. In Peru, bodysurfing is known as “pechito” or little chest. Costa Rican’s refer to their swim fins as patas de ranas or frog legs.

Similar to a womp in the USA, Australians go for a bodybash and South Africans might run out for a quick goef. In Japan, bodysurfing is  ボディーサーフィン  and also known as sunori  素乗り or bare riding. Italians enjoy the Mediterranean Sea and sometimes bodysurf, called surf con il corpo.  Many countries use the word bodysurf but add their own accents including: Mexico, France, Spain and Portugal.

 

Whatever you call it, bodysurfing is the most supreme pleasure experienced by people across the globe. If you ever find yourself on a foreign coast with waves breaking, ask around, you might be surprised to find bodysurfers enjoying waves and talking story in their native tongue. 

-KS

Special thanks:
Rodrigo Bruno in Brazil, Keali’i Punley in Hawaii, Tunc Ucyildiz in Turkey, Ricardo Añorga in Peru, Masakazu Miura Fleming in Japan, Oliver and Axel in Italy and Belly Slater in Australia 

 

In This Place

Sam punches the clock at eight. Shortly thereafter he crawls through a web of memos in passive-aggressive tones. Upcoming deadlines dot his plain desktop calendar, so he fills another cup of joe. Tuesday’s powerpoint and quarterly review roll in and out of memory. Sam’s glassed over eyes would draw attention, but all are focused on the suits. He blinks and lunch is already gone.

Drones, fueled by coffee, tap away at their keyboards through the afternoon to keep the machine churning. Sam closes his eyes and can almost liken the sound to the surf washing over shallow sands, but it is not yet time. He is bound to this place, these buzzing fluorescents. The starch of Sam’s shirt, the very tie around his neck constricts his lungs and yet he dons them day after day. Hours have given way and Sam is speedwalking out the shiny revolving door.

Sam’s white civic darts from lane to lane as he races the sun to the horizon. He arrives at the portal to his other life. The familiar chill of damp rubber stretching over his skin brings Sam’s mind back into the present moment. His fins in hand, Sam jogs across the sand. Ocean rushes to greet him and he rolls around the shore break for a fleeting moment of regression.

He swims out through the breakers, squinting into the quickly fading orange glow. Reaching the place where the swell’s energy loses touch with the Ocean’s floor he settles his body across the choppy surface. Sam melts into the sway of the sea. The emails, handshakes and starchy shirts are all someone else’s memories, foreign. They’re no more able to touch him in this place than the clouds reaching for the Earth. He aches for the Sun to hang still in the sky, for the tide to forestall its retreat and for his last wave to stay open and glimmer just a few moments more.

 

-EJ

The Science of Sand

It is everywhere. On the streets, your feet and in your sheets. In your car and your carpet.  Sand. One of the most useful resources on Earth and the foundation of our waveriding dreams. Concrete, glass and microprocessors, sandbars and beaches: sand is ever-present in our lives.  Where does it come from? Why is it different across the globe? How does it impact the formation of waves?

IMG_6789
Dynamic Newport Beach
Indonesia. Black sand from volcanic rock, rounded by flowing water.
Indonesia. Black sand from volcanic rock, rounded by flowing water.

In geologic terms, “sand” refers to a certain size of particle in sediment: smaller than gravel and larger than silt. A sand particle measures between 1/16mm and 2mm in diameter. The main mineral components of beach sand include: quartz, feldspar and hornblende.  All three are silicate minerals. These minerals, with their different combinations of silicon and oxygen, make up 90% of the Earth’s crust.

Quartz is the most abundant beach sand mineral because it is resistant to chemical weathering and thus able to withstand the tumultuous journey from mountain to beach. Rock forms in a variety of ways inside and out of Earth. Sediments layer to form sedimentary rock. Liquid magma cools inside and lava hardens outside Earth to form igneous rock.  Forced upward by plate tectonics, rocks are exposed to wind and rain, freeze and thaw, plant roots and battering waves. Weathering slowly works boulders to cobbles to gravel to sand to silt and then to clay.

Encinitas, CA. Fine grains of quartz and other silicate minerals.
Encinitas, CA. Fine grains of quartz and other silicate minerals.
Orange County, CA. Coarse grains.
Orange County, CA. Coarse grains.

Erosion moves the sediments and deposition drops them off in a new location. In California, boulders cleave off granite mountains to the east. Rivers carry chunks of the mountain downstream, continuing to break it down along the way.  Rivermouths flow into the Ocean, depositing cobbles and sand on the beach. California beach sand is a mixture of these inland minerals and the erosion of the marine terrace (sea cliff). Wave action along the cliff bottom weathers large masses of the sedimentary rocks. The rocks fall to the beach and are gradually worked into sand. California beach sand also contains a living ecosystem and various other detritus.

North Shore of Oahu. Shell, volcanic rock and coral.
North Shore of Oahu. Shell, volcanic rock and coral.

Because there are many different rocks and minerals, there is a great variety of sand across the world’s beaches. Differing landforms and ecosystems create different sand. Hawaiian beach sand is a mixture of eroded volcanic rock, shell fragments and parrotfish waste. They eat coral that passes through their digestive tract and is then deposited as sand. Sand partially composed of the remains of living organisms is called biogenic sand. Many of the world’s tropical beaches contain fragments of coral and shell.

Tweed River used to provide sand to Snapper and Kirra. Image: Google Maps
Tweed River used to provide sand to Snapper and Kirra. Image: Google Maps

All Ocean waves break over some amount of sand. Point breaks often have rivermouths nearby to nourish the sandbars that wrap around their shores. Reef breaks become covered by sand during a long flat spell. The next swell removes sand from the reef to expose the proper wave-making bathymetry. Beaches change shape frequently as sand is moved by swells, storms and longshore currents.

IMG_6223
Wind bedforms. Oceano Dunes, Pismo Beach.

Beachbreaks are synonymous with shifting sand. The formation of sandbars is a complex process. A bedform is created when a fluid flows over a moveable surface; in this case water waves over the sandy seafloor. It is the same process as wind blowing over a sand dune. Ripples form in the surface, sand falls out of suspension in the water and continues to build up the sandbar. Incoming swell shoals on the sandbar and a breaker forms. The water flowing back out to sea becomes a rip current that reshapes the sandbar. When conditions align, perfectly shaped waves can result.

Coarse sand=steep beach=shorebreak womp
Coarse sand=steep beach=shorebreak womp

The shape of the beach and the type of the waves that break there are often dependent on the size of the sand grains. Wide flat beaches are formed from smaller grained sand than steeper beaches. North Carolina coastal geologist, Gregory Rudolph, puts it this way, “If you fill a bucket full of mud and pour; it will essentially ooze out and your pile of mud will look like a pancake. Fill that same bucket with gravel and you’ll have a pile that is almost as high as the bucket itself.” Much to bodysurfer’s delight, steep beaches often create hollow, womping shorebreak waves. Swell energy comes out of deeper water to load up and plunge powerfully on the coarse sand. There is something special about washing up and back down a steep beach fully covered in soft sand.

Granitic gravel variety in Yosemite Valley. All will become sand.
Granitic gravel variety in Yosemite Valley. All will become sand.

Vital to beach communities and even controversial in some, sand is pervasive in our lives.  Embrace the sand in your ears. Cherish an afternoon spent basking on the beach. Appreciate the geology that forms our coastlines and shapes our waves. Eventually, every grain of sand on our beaches will return to the internal furnace of the Earth to become magma and then mountains again. What waves will break on that next generation of sandbars?

-KS

Sources:
SandAtlas.org
National Geographic- Parrotfish
Carteret County, NC- Shore Protection Office