Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Surf: NH Summer Surfing Redeemed (sort of)

OK, so anyone who read my rant Why New Hampshire Summer Surfing Sucks knows that in June I swore I wouldn't hit the waves again until the fall. Well, I caved (what can I say? My wave jones got the better of me 😏). I recently took a couple of cracks at catching some waves, with mixed results. My first try (about a week ago) was on a sunny day with plenty of bathers in the water, lots of board surfers (many of whom do not practice surf etiquette - even among themselves), and various other yahoos playing in the surf (I actually saw one guy trying to ride waves with a giant inflatable lobster 😒). I was careful to stay out of the "no surfing" zone, which has been made much more identifiable at my local break by signs with arrows designating where the surfers are not allowed (this was probably done more for the benefit of non-surfers, as surfers usually understand the flags alone). Of course, this doesn't mean any non-surfers are going to pay attention to the signs.They're not excluded, by any means, from the "surfing allowed" areas, but they should be aware of the risks. From my observations, they typically aren't. I had to pull off many waves to avoid running into bather's heads bobbing in the water. That said, I knew ahead of time this would be the scenario, so I made the best of it, and managed to catch a few decent shore break waves.

Walden Milo waveski
The author surfing his Walden "Milo" earlier in the season

My second attempt was much more successful. Conditions were aligned such that everything was in the surfer's favor. The tide was inbound at dawn, with a few hours left before high tide. The skies were overcast, so beach attendance was minimal - especially that early in the morning. The waves were a little better than typical for this time of year, and some were bigger than had been forecast. I wore my full 3|2 wetsuit, which would have been too hot if the sun was out, but was perfection with the low 60's F water temperature. The water was at that perfectly refreshing temperature that makes you glad to be alive, and glad to be in the waves. The only down side relative to fall conditions was that it was a Saturday, and the waves were crowded. They will be much less crowded as water temperatures cool in October and November. In the section I was surfing, though, everybody seemed to click in that wordless understanding that allows surfers to share waves and not hurt each other. Etiquette was mostly followed, and over the hours, we each got the feel for what the strange but increasingly familiar faces gliding past would do. It's also good to re-establish my waveski (see my post What's That Thing Called?) in the lineup and to show fellow surfers that I generally know what I'm doing, and that I belong there. By about 10:00, though, I was ready to call it quits as the late risers paddled out, and I felt like I was practically rubbing shoulders with the "boardies".  

I caught a bunch of decent shore breakers that day, both lefts and rights. The rides weren't exceptionally long, as the waves were closing out faster than I would have liked. It took a little while for them to clean up too. They were pretty choppy and difficult to position at first. They cleaned up a bit as the tide rolled in and the light came up, which was welcome. I was particularly happy with a left where I was barely hanging on to the steep face, and actually found myself in a mini-curl before it closed out. I was sure I was headed for a tumble as I held my rail edge just onto the wave face, but I managed to hold it together and slide out the end and over the shoulder. A waveski can be a lot like riding in a go-cart; you're so close to the surface, it increases your perception of the speed you're going. I mentioned this to a friendly dread-locked board surfer who asked me about the 'ski - I get a lot of interest in the busier warm water months. Some of these surfers haven't seen me before. During the cold water months, I get a lot of "hello"s from more hard core surfers who recognize me.  

All in all, I felt much better about summertime conditions in the local waves - but again, this was a specific and unusual situation. For there to be little in the way of beach attendance on a Saturday in August is a happenstance that is few and far between in these parts.

I'm still looking forward to watching ducks fly south as I wait for the next set, but for now, I feel better about New Hampshire summer surfing (except for the inflatable lobster - really? 🙈).

- TB on the Water



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