Frothing, Forecasts, and Fool's Gold

It's been a record June for Conatus Surf Club. I want to start this post off by thanking everyone that has taken lessons with me and also give a huge shout out to those of you who have recommended your friends. 

The waves have been consistently in the 1-3 foot range. A few days have been better than others, but I've seen a lot of the same crumbly small waves that are great for beginning, and well, pretty terrible for people who prefer bigger, cleaner, juicier surf. I cannot lie, I love the bigger, cleaner, juicier stuff just as much as anyone else who has been surfing for 20+ years, and unless it's over waist high or I have a lesson I won't drive out to the beach. Instead I'll swim laps at the pool and work on my dissertation. Regardless, I'm in the water 5-7 days a week, and usually 1-4 of those days I end up driving to the beach. But how do I decide? 

I rely a lot upon websites like Surfline and Magic Seaweed and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) buoy number 44025 and their marine forecast link. And so do a lot of other surfers, which is why when the websites are calling for waves above 3 feet and coding them with 'green' and the words 'fair' or 'good' it creates a hype, especially here in New York where all information travels like wildfire. The truth of the matter is, the forecasts are not entirely reliable, nor are the realtime cameras. It's often either a lot smaller and junkier than predicted, which is a total bummer; or shockingly way better, either the conditions or the wave size or both, which is a total score. The only way to truly find out, is to go to the beach.

Of course driving to the beach every day in New York is (almost) totally unreasonable unless you move out there. What I want to suggest is that if you only have that one or two days to go, go anyway. Don't get stuck in the trap of only going when it reads 2-3+ and fair. Go those days too if you have time, of course, but don't become a 'surf snob' before you know how to surf. And let's be real, if you're just starting now, you need all the practice you can get. If you only wait for the days when the forecast reads 'good' you'll end up surfing like 10 times a year! 

So my friends, get your froth on and while you're at it start documenting your sessions. I love to take 'fool's gold' pics every session and text them to my friends. Sometimes they are real gold, and sometimes they're not. I mostly only take pictures of empty waves. If it's too crowded I usually hunt for a beach or peak where there are plenty of waves going unridden. On the small days the key to fool's gold pics to wait for the best sets and snap it at the right time--the wave is it at its most mind-surfable--just throwing over, the line of the shoulder well defined, no drops of water out of place. On the larger, more crowded days, the key is finding those waves that no one else is on. I call these #emptyinsidenuggets. These are medium sized waves that usually scoot past everyone because they're all out the back waiting for the most obvious and coveted set waves. I mean, don't get me wrong, the set of the day photographs well too--it's just more likely that someone will be on it, which diminishes the allure of an empty lineup. Doing this might also help you read waves. Where are the best peaks? Predominantly rights or lefts? Both? If it's crowded are there peaks or spots no one is surfing/waves no one is seeing? Use your camera like you would your surfboard. 

The point of all this is really to say that even if you cannot be on vacation all of the time, you can find moments of surf trip perfection right in your own backyard. Like anything good--anything worth striving for--this takes time and work, but the rewards are tremendous, worth more than gold.

 Long Beach, New York. This day was pretty crowded but here an #emptyinsidenugget left slides by unridden. 

Long Beach, New York. This day was pretty crowded but here an #emptyinsidenugget left slides by unridden. 

 An A-frame peak in New Jersey. Just a 1.5 hour drive from New York. No one out. 

An A-frame peak in New Jersey. Just a 1.5 hour drive from New York. No one out. 

 Rockaway. Was it good? Or is this fools gold? One thing is for sure, no one is out. 

Rockaway. Was it good? Or is this fools gold? One thing is for sure, no one is out.