Thursday, October 17, 2013


It seems every few years of surfing you get to experience a day when everything comes together. Swell, wind, etc. These are the days that you will remember forever. Saturday, October 5th was one of those days.

On Thursday I had been listening to the weather report on TV and on radio and there was a high pressure system building. This usually means an offshore flow and Santa Ana winds. This time every year it happens.  The reports were saying sometime Friday it would start blowing. Simultaneously, Surfline was saying that a south/southwest swell was going to start filling in, along with a little northwest. OK, if you surf, this is the news that gets you excited. I surfed Friday morning but the swell wasn’t hitting yet so I surfed at Blackies and had fun on some waist high (at best) waves. The wind was still but not offshore yet.

I got home late from my son’s football game Friday night but was determined to get out there early. In the morning, the wind was howling. My friend Brad met me at Blackies so we surfed there for a while. It was super crowded and just OK so we decided to check out the south side.  The tide was starting to drop and when we looked down towards 18th street it looked pretty good. We paddled out around 19th and there was a mean current pulling towards the pier so we tried to stay in front of the lifeguard tower. As we sat there, the sets started picking up a bit. Another friend Rich paddled out at that time. I had my 9’ 2” longboard and no leash. I was so pumped I didn’t care about any stinkin’ leash! I got a couple really fun, fast and steep lefts. Brad hasn’t been surfing nearly as much as me (he has a job, ha ha) but he managed to get some fun ones. Rich is perpetually stoked and was charging as well. The wind was blowing pretty hard and as I looked south I saw these huge barrels coming through and the water was about 70 degrees. The point is a much different wave then Blackies, San O, or Doheny. Much faster, steeper and less forgiving. Brad finally had to get going so I told myself one more wave. A larger set wave came through and took off a little late and dropped in on an overhead wave, got completely barreled… and didn’t come out. Instead, I got pounded pretty good and had to swim for my board. Still came out of the water with a huge smile on my face. We walked back to the cars, chatted for a minute and Brad took off. But I wasn’t done…

I put the longboard away, took off the springsuit and changed into trunks and a 2mm top, slapped on some more sunscreen, grabbed my 7’ 1” and jogged back down to the point. Rich was still out so I paddled out to where he was. It was such a great vibe in the water, everyone was just smiling and I could tell that we all knew that this was one of those special days that we would be talking about for a long time. No one was being an a-hole as there were plenty of waves to go around. Plus, when it gets a little bigger, some people are more hesitant to take off. Why? Because it hurts when you get pitched on a big, grinding barrel and end up getting tossed around underwater! Rich and I traded waves for a while and chatted and he ended up drifting north as I tried to stay between 18th and 19th. I got at least two perfect in and out barrels going left. My Russell egg was perfect for the conditions. After catching so many waves, plus trying to paddle constantly against the current, I finally gave in to exhaustion after 3 hours in the water. My arms were done.  What a day! Hopefully I won’t have to wait another few years for another one!

Monday, July 22, 2013

I'm baaaaack

It's been a long time since I've written in this thing. For the 2-3 people who read it, I apologize! LOL. I've been surfing pretty regularly as I have been for quite some time. I did go around 10 days out of the water which seemed like an eternity, but when you’re busy and the surf sucks, what can you do?

Unfortunately it looks like I will be going back to mainly a weekend surfer. As you know, I was laid off several months ago from a job that I had worked for nearly 14 years as a graphic/web designer. I tried getting back into what I had done before, had a few interviews but never landed anywhere. And honestly, my heart really wasn't in it anymore. I wanted to do something completely different. Taking the advice of a friend, I ended up doing some extensive (and expensive) testing to determine what I should pursue. When I looked at the overall results, something was crystal clear. I was supposed to help people in some capacity, not sit on my ass, staring at a monitor for 8-9 hours a day. What was more interesting was looking at the top ten professions that would fit me the best. They virtually all had something to do in the medical field. Some, like veterinarian and pharmacist, were just not practical for obvious reasons. However, one that I had thought about for years was very high on the list. X-ray technician. So, to make a long story short, I am back in school studying exactly that! So far I absolutely love it and I'm kicking ass. And I get Fridays off!

My time of unemployment was interesting to say the least. And it continues.  My surfing improved tremendously as it should have. But I noticed a few things that I found interesting. A few people at work whom I considered friends turned out not to be. In fact, after I left, two of them wouldn't give me the time of day, and still won't. One of them I've known for over 11 years. I seem to have lost contact with at least one of my friends from my personal life as well. You can only try so hard and at some point you just have to write it off. Live and learn. What is cool though, is that I've grown much closer to other friends. I have rekindled a few friendships from my younger days.These are the keepers. And I've made several more, mostly though surfing. I meet so many interesting people out in the water. I wouldn't consider them friends (yet) but recently I have met a retired oral surgeon, Bob, and another physician, Judy, who is always friendly and loves to talk about surfing and life. I met a cool Hawaiian guy at Newport who I chatted with for an hour. Hopefully I will catch up with him again. There's also Michelle who I met at Blackies a while back. She is so stoked on surfing and drives from Chino Hills regularly to enjoy the waves.

OK, back to surfing. I just surfed three days in a row. Friday at Doheny was not very crowded and lots of fun. The water has cooled off a bit though and I was a little chilly in trunks. Saturday morning I dropped my son off at HB high for a football thing and drove up to Newport and surfed 36th on my 7' 1". I even got a little barrel. Sunday it was back to Doheny for some shoulder to head high fun. Put on the spring suit and was comfortable.

Back at school and looking forward to getting out there again on Friday... hopefully.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Little Somethin'

Yesterday I knew there wasn't much surf so I didn't even check Surfline. I drove straight to Blackies determined to get wet. In the event that it was completely flat and unrideable, I brought my running shoes. It was overcast and as I drove through the parking lot, which was full, I noticed a pretty concentrated crowd right by the pier. I watched a guy get a small, but decently shaped wave. That's all I needed to see. I paddled out a little north of the pack and got some fun ones. I struck up a conversation with a couple guys and one of them complimented me on a nice left I got. Then, one of them informed me that I had a ding on the nose of my board. Huh? Sure enough there was a pretty good sized gash out of the board. I have absolutely no idea how it got there. I don't recall smacking in on the wall of my garage, the side of my car, the ground, or anywhere else. The mystery ding. Maybe at San O, attempting to noseride, I hit the bottom somehow? The rest of the session, I just tried to keep it out of the water. I was having too much fun to call it a day.

As the sun came out, I noticed how crystal clear the water was. It was probably due to the fact there was not much swell in the water and little to no wind. I took off on a fun left and as I looked down I noticed two little bat rays on the bottom cruising along. Then, as I was sitting on my board I saw several more. Everyone was pointing them out and commenting on how they always return as the water starts warming up, oh, and watch your step!

I finally got out and being such a beautiful day, I wasn't ready to head home just yet. I changed out of my wetsuit and into my running shoes and ran down to Balboa Pier and back. Nice day so far.

Later in the day I decided to fix the ding. I cut out the damaged area and let it dry out for awhile. Then I mixed some resin with a couple drops of my daughter's red acrylic paint. I filled the hole, let it dry and then sanded it. Then I cut a piece of fiberglass and soaked it in resin and applied it. The only problem is I forgot to add catalyst so it took forever to dry in the sun. Anyway, the final result wasn't perfect but I'm actually kind of proud of how it did turn out. Below is the before and after. Hey, at least it's water tight.

Monday, April 22, 2013

You Just Never Know

I got down to Blackies around 7:00 yesterday. Excited as usual to surf, I was a little disappointed when I saw crumbly 1-3 ft. slop and a pretty good size crowd. I got back in the car and drove towards the upper streets and checked out 56th. It was considerably bigger but a little walled and fast and steep, packed with shortboarders and not exactly ideal for my 9' 2". I considered just heading home but decided to drive back up to Blackies. Without even checking it again, I just parked over by Sharkey's, suited up and walked towards the beach. However the surf was, I was just going to accept it and try to have fun. It was overcast and there was a bit of a south wind. I paddled out by the pier where there was only one guy. Before too long, surprisingly, a nice medium size right came in and I caught it. I took it right to the pier. The other guy caught a nice right as well. As soon as I paddled back out, here comes a bigger left. I almost missed it but managed to swing around and get it, taking off very late. Luckily I made it and crouched down a bit, right in the pocket, sticking my hand in the face of it, as I could see the lip right above my head . I heard someone shout nice wave - that always feels good! Well, the crew that was sitting about 50 yards north must have seen this because all of a sudden, at least 10 guys come paddling over. Before too long, it was pretty congested.  A bigger right came in and a shortboarder had position on me but decided to back off and let me have it. It was the wave of the day for me. I thanked him as I paddled back out. I got him back later by letting him have a beautiful left which he proceeded to tear up. He thanked me and I joked, "now we're even!" With surfing, each day is different and it can go from crappy to fun and vice versa in a relatively short period of time. 

Speaking of not knowing what to expect, lately I've been wondering about the surf reports, more specifically Surfline, and whether their reports are very accurate. I understand the concept of the swell models - wind and swell direction and all that, but too many times they seem to be just wrong. More specifically, their spot forecasts. One example was last Wednesday. I checked the report, trying to decide where to go. I was pressed for time so I was thinking Doheny. Surfline said it was 1-3 ft. and poor. I decided I would shoot down there, catch a few small ones and head back. Not expecting much when drove over the bridge, I was surprised to see what looked like a nice right peeling with no one on it. The wind was blowing offshore and I started getting anxious to get out in the water. At the ranger station the sign said 1-2 ft. Interesting. No need for the leash if it's going to be small. I must have paddled out between sets because after sitting on my board for a few minutes, I see some lines on the horizon. Sure enough, here comes a head high set. I got the second wave and flew down the line. It closed out after a while on the inside and as I pulled out I went flying over the back of the wave, grabbing my board as we were both in mid air. Wow! A guy paddling out had the biggest smile on his face. The next set was even bigger and, not having a leash, I had to scratch pretty hard and just made it over. Several guys got pounded on the inside. It ended up being a day that I'll remember for quite some time. I heard the next day was actually 1-2 and poor! Like I said, you never know!

One last thing, surfing A LOT at Blackies the last several months, I've gotten to know more people. A couple of them happen to be homeless. Some, maybe most, are mentally ill. But some are not. Many have substance abuse problems. But all of them have a story. After speaking to a few of these people, my perception has changed. Many people just figure it's their own fault and try to avoid them at all costs. In a lot of cases, it is their fault that they are where they are due to bad decisions. But who am I to judge? I started speaking to a man named Eric a few weeks ago. I offered him a cup of coffee and a donut one morning, which he refused due to something to do about his teeth, which many are missing. Plus, he doesn't like coffee. Surprisingly, he didn't ask me for money, although I did offer him a couple bucks, which he took. He was sitting with a man named Charlie. They were both fully alert, intelligent and friendly. I had a nice conversation with them and have talked to them since. They were both in their early fifties but looked much older with weathered skin and scraggly beards. From what I could gather, the homeless in Newport stick together and at least these two guys seemed to have each other's backs. I saw Eric a couple days ago and he had fallen in the dark the night before, apparently breaking at least one rib. He was in a great deal of pain but said that he had a ride to Hoag Hospital. I brought him a couple Advil and a sleeping bag I brought from home as well as a blanket for his friend. He was so appreciative. Hopefully he got some care. I will see tomorrow or Wednesday. I must have a soft spot for people like this, maybe because my mentally ill brother has been homeless, on and off for many years. These people are considered the losers or dregs of society, ignored, shunned, and forgotten. But they are humans and deserve to be treated as such. As Eric told me, "When you get to this point, it's almost impossible to pull yourself back up. No one wants to hire you. You look different, you smell different. You're not trusted. So you just try to survive the best you can."

OK, lecture over… now go catch some waves.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Today I wanted to surf but it is so blown out it looks like "Victory at Sea". I did go surfing yesterday and had a blast. Blackies was a little unorganized but had some decent sized sets. I stayed fairly close to the pier and managed to get quite a few quality waves. It was very crowded as was to be expected on a Sunday. There was even some police activity this morning. As I was driving past the Russell surf shop, I saw a female officer with her gun drawn on someone in a red car. I have no idea what happened but there were cops everywhere.

The rest of this post is not about surfing. Maybe you're wondering why I titled this "Heroes". Let me first say that hero is not a word that I use lightly. When I think of heroes in my past, I think of my parents, and of course my wife. My dad, although he was too busy working as a physician when I was growing up to spend enough time with me, was honest to a fault, brilliant, and loved his family more than anything. Believe me, he was far from perfect - short tempered, yelled a lot, and suffered from moderate depression and anxiety. But he still was my hero. My mom was simply a saint. Toughest woman I've ever known - beat cancer twice and fought valiantly against it a third time. I was a momma's boy until we lost her in 2010. My wife is the ultimate multi-tasker and my kids' greatest advocate. Super opinionated but a heart of gold, and most importantly she puts up with me. I've had a couple more heroes over the years but no need to go into that or this will get too lengthy... and boring.

Don and Brent after doing the "Blazeman Roll" together across the finish line.

Well, I have two new heroes. I have mentioned in a previous post about my friend Don Young and his battle with ALS. The bravery, dignity, perseverance and even humor he has shown is just plain, for lack of better words, awesome. Don would not think of himself as a hero, just a guy trying to live out his remaining time with his wife, kids and friends the best he can. But his attitude of live each and every day to its fullest and don't take life for granted is something I have truly taken to heart and I thank him for that. Yes Don, if you are reading this, you are a hero my friend - at least to me.

My other hero fits into this story quite well. Brent Bieshaar is another high school football teammate and friend. Brent, an avid mountain biker living in Colorado, became involved in off-road triathlon races, (three-sport races which include swimming, mountain biking, and trail running). From there, things get interesting. He had followed the plight of triathlete Jon Blais and how he had competed in the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii - with ALS. He passed away in 2007. At a high school reunion, Brent found out about Don's diagnosis and decided that he was going to do every XTERRA event for the entire season to raise money for the study and hopeful cure of this horrible disease. On Saturday I drove out to San Dimas and along with Don and his family and Brent's wife Paula, had the privilege of watching Brent complete his third of 23, that's right, TWENTY THREE of these events, most of them of on consecutive weekends! He and his amazing wife are traveling around the country to the different events and spreading the word. This guy is 48-49 years old and is charging hard. He is a warrior and I'm proud to know him. You can read more about their adventure here:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nice Afternoon at San O

I checked the cameras in the morning yesterday and didn't see anything worth getting excited over so I passed. The kids are on spring break so I kept busy with their activities throughout the day. Then, after bringing my son home from his football workout, I got the itch. You know it, that feeling that no matter how crappy the surf, you just have to get wet - even it's it's just to paddle around.

So I packed up the board and wetsuit and as I was walking to the car I got the look from my wife. It's the look that I periodically get that translates to, "Really Mike, again? There's so much work to be done around the house and you're going surfing?" But then I informed her that I have two job interviews coming up  soon and the look faded into more of a reluctant, "OK, have fun and be careful. I know you're going anyway," kind of look.

When I got to the beach around 4:30, I was pleasantly surprised. Gorgeous day, very light crowd, and some fun looking little waves coming in. I paddled out just south of the point (4 Doors?) and ended up getting some pretty lengthy rides. I could only surf for an hour because I had to rush home to take my daughter to swim in MV.

Good day.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


If you want to improve your surfing as well as your overall health, I highly recommend yoga. People who haven't tried it tend to think it's all about flexibility, but it's so much more that that. Since I started doing it I've become more flexible of course, plus my core strength has improved greatly as well as my balance. My breathing is more relaxed and with increased lung capacity paddling becomes easier. I've also noticed a difference in my weight/cross training. The mental aspects are just as beneficial. Being more aware of what your body is doing translates beautifully to surfing.

Group classes in your community is a great way to start.They are pretty easy to find in just about every city. If you are in OC, I highly recommend Yogasmart. Christine is great and just added a new location - a beautiful studio in Laguna Canyon. 24 Hour Fitness and LA Fitness have classes throughout the week and are usually free or very inexpensive. Also, there are lots of DVDs to choose from if you want to practice in the comfort of your own home. There are even some geared specifically for surfers like Yoga for Surfers.

Remember, start slow and don't worry if you can't perform all, or any, of the poses perfectly. I surely can't! But it's lots of fun and the benefits are numerous.