Friday, December 24, 2010

Enjoy The Ride

Stand-up paddleboarding is making a comeback in a big way. Although not a new sport, it certainly feels like one with a growing number of followers. Some surfers are completely against it, but some love having the option and enjoy both sports equally. Truth be told, it is the opinion of some surfers that there is no place for stand-up paddleboards in the line-up, and that they are just out there taking waves.

The evidence of the increase in popularity of stand-up paddleboarding can be seen on the water, in the stores and in magazine spreads. Surf shops are noticing a decline in surfware sales and a sharp increase in sales of stand-up paddleboards. As one person asked, "Is this what Jennifer Aniston was doing in that magazine photo?" Yeah, something like that.

There is a difference between paddleboarding and stand-up paddleboarding. Stand-up paddleboarding is like combining two water sports: outrigger canoeing and surfing. A Stand-up paddleboard is thicker and wider than a traditional surfboard making it more buoyant and therefore easier to balance on. With your paddle in hand, you can easily take a scenic paddle or use the paddle to propel yourself into the perfect wave. This makes it a versatile sport since you can take it into lakes and rivers.

Laird Hamilton, a pro surfer, big wave rider and a Stand-up paddleboarding pioneer, is being partially blamed for this skyrocketing sport. Laird Hamilton reintroduced and arguably reinvented the sport. Although Laird is an extremely proficient professional surfer, some surfers blamed him for reintroducing the sport and going as far as to print "Blame Laird" bumper stickers. According to his blog, which his wife, professional beach volleyball player Gabby Reece posts on, at first he was offended, but then he embraced it, taking it as a compliment. Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reese have taken it so well, they have started their own "Blame Laird" line of apparel.

Stand-up paddleboarding has become so popular you can now purchase a board and paddle for around $450.00 at Costco. For the more serious athlete, it would be easy to spend about $2000.00 on the board and another $400.00 on the paddle. Of course you will still need a deck pad and a leash, and unless you can carry an awkward 24 pounds for a distance, you may want to invest in a sling board carrier.

Here in the beach cities, stand-up paddleboarding has become the "in" thing to do. It's not unusual to see stand-up paddleboarders in the water off Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo beaches. That leads me to the question, will this strike up a new "locals only/surfing only" war? I ask this because there is a certain history in the South Bay, with local surfers having the claim on specific locations. In fairness, the dispute between stand-up paddleboarders and surfers has already begun in other locations with surfers calling stand-up paddleboarders "sweepers." Because the stand-up paddleboard is bigger and you are armed with a paddle, it is easy to steal waves from surfers. If you do not follow the rules of the line-up, you could be referred to as a "kook." Of course if you both surf and stand-up paddleboard, you are well aware of the surfing etiquette.

There are always going to be traditional surfers who hate the idea of stand-up paddleboarding. I'm sure both sides can argue their cases. The dangers of an inexperienced Stand-up paddleboarder dropping into a wave at the same time as a surfer is always going to be an issue, as it would be if it were two surfers.

The combination of the stand-up paddleboards buoyancy and the paddle make it easier to balance on and easier to catch waves. Yes, stand-up paddleboards are surf-worthy as well as seaworthy. Which is why as of October, 2008 the United States Coast Guard classified the stand-up paddleboard as a vessel and you will need to have a United States Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device, aka PFD and a whistle if you take it out further than the surf break.

Earlier this year a petition went to the United States Coast Guard to request reclassification of stand-up paddleboards. To date, the United States Coast Guard still considers the Stand-up paddleboard a vessel.

Although some may find the thought of wearing a Personal Floatation Device cumbersome, they will be pleased to know that some manufactures make them the size of a fanny pack.

It seems to me that there is a place for both stand-up paddleboarding and surfing. I look at it like this: If there are waves, go surfing, and if not, go stand-up paddleboarding. If you are out on your stand-up paddleboard and an unexpected set comes in, enjoy the ride.

Waiting Room

I didn't sleep much the night before. I was too anxious.

I walked into a full waiting room and looked around, stunned at what a large waiting room it was. As soon as I walked in, a receptionist caught my attention and had me sign in. She then handed me a clipboard and a stack of papers to fill out. I found an open seat and got started.

For the number of women waiting to be called, the room was awfully silent. Not that I was feeling particularly chatty.

As soon as I finished with my forms, I promptly turned them in and went back to my seat. I took out my book and started to read. Only I wasn't reading at all. I tried to read the same sentence three times and had no idea what I had just read. I tapped, tapped, tapped my fingers on my thigh. Nervous. Yes, that's what it was, I was nervous.

Less than a week before I had been sitting in my primary care doctor's office feeling a similar way. Three weeks earlier, I had discovered a lump in my left breast. It was a painful lump on the side and wasn't showing any signs of going down.

Now I was in the waiting room at the Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center at Torrance Memorial.

According to center director Mari David, 1 in 10 women nationwide will be called back for more pictures. Three to five women per 1,000 who receive first screening mammograms will be found to have cancer.

For six to 10 women per 1,000, cancer will be found on subsequent screenings. (The American College of Radiology provided the stats, which are from 2003, but per David, hospital radiologists say the stats are still accurate.)

I continued to hold my book open as if I had intentions on reading. Instead I scanned the room. I looked around and saw a variety of women of varying ages. There were a couple of men there too, but I soon figured out that they were there to support the woman in their life.

As I looked at each of the faces, I imagined them in their "real" lives. Mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, grandmas…loved ones. I knew all of these women, myself included, would be getting mammograms today. I also knew that statistically speaking we wouldn't all hear the coveted all-clear, "See ya next year."

Every time the door opened to call in another patient, I watched each woman walk through the door with a similar look on her face.

The Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center at Torrance Memorial did almost 32,000 screening mammograms within the past year. It sees about 60,000 patients a year. The American Cancer Society encourages women to have a baseline mammogram at age 40, and sooner if they have a family history.

When my name was called, I headed through the doorway. No cancer was found. I was relieved, to say the least. I will go back for my follow-up mammogram next month.

Ed Pilolla contributed to this report.

The Best Gift Ever

While writing about the perfect gift for the favorite surfer on your holiday list, I began to reminisce about Christmas gifts past. Quickly I came to one of my favorite memories.

I won't ever forget it: My husband and I were dating at the time and this was to be our very first Christmas together. Although we had known each other fairly well, I struggled trying to find the perfect gift. And to be honest, I don't even remember what I bought him, but I remember very well what he bought me.

I drove to his apartment in Hermosa Beach nervously wondering if he would like the gift I bought for him. And I was very curious about what he bought for me. We weren't far enough in the relationship for jewelry, so no pressure there, but I wondered how well he knew me.

Did he know I hate glitter? Even cards sprinkled with the stuff, making a mess and somehow ending up on my face. Did he know about my love of books? And how instead of going out to a movie I preferred spending the time in a bookstore?

When I walked in the door there was a large wrapped gift leaning against the wall. I had no idea what he could have bought me that was about 4 feet long, but I couldn't wait to open it. I knew for certain it wasn't a book and I seriously doubted it was covered in glitter.

The package was fairly soft and as I began to slowly tear the wrapping paper, I saw silver. Soon I had the paper off completely, revealing a padded silver Pro-Lite surfboard bag folded in half.

I have an 8'0" longboard and he purchased just the right size to fit my surfboard without having to remove the fins. I didn't know I even needed one, let alone want one, but suddenly I did.

I was so touched by this gift. Not because he purchased such a nice bag, but because he really thought about the perfect gift to get the surfer girl who has all she needs to go surfing…except a board bag.

Years have passed since that wonderful Christmas and I am happy to say my board bag is still in great shape. It has come in handy on numerous occasions and has kept the wax from melting off my board in the summer more that once.

So many people say, "It's not the gift, but the thought that counts." For me, the thought really was the gift.

Dear Santa: Surf WIth Style

The challenge to find the perfect gift for each and every person on your list may have you in a panic, but I have some ideas to help you find something for the surfer in your life.

Most surfers already have the basics, or the essentials, such as a leash and wax. And surfboards come in such a large variety of shapes, sizes and styles that it may be best left to the rider to decide on the perfect board.

For me, the perfect gift to give is not the typical, but the luxurious, being items most people wouldn't purchase for themselves.

Although there are many surf shops to choose from in the Beach Cities, I went to visit my friend, surfer and stand-up paddleboarder Tamara Lentz, at Spyder Surf on PCH. While I was there, I became the proverbial kid in a candy store.

I walked in with a few ideas of what would make the perfect gift, but it didn't take long to find more than I could have imagined.

  • Rip Curl E-Bomb Men's Wetsuit ($299.95): This is a performance driven full wetsuit. It also comes in a version for women called the Rip Curl Girls G-Bomb. This may be the nicest way to make the frigid water of winter a little more bearable.
  • GoPro Hero HD Camera ($269.99): The GoPro Hero HD Camera can be mounted to your surfboard so you can record yourself riding that epic wave. You may recall Chuck Patterson using the GoPro Hero HD Camera mounted on a pole to film his encounter with two great white sharks.
  • Short Ugg Boots ($140): A classic. You can find these just about everywhere, and for me they are a must-have item to slip on after getting out of the water. Ugg makes these in several colors, but I like them in sand because they remind me of a pair I had in high school.
  • Future Fins Clay Marzo RTM Fin Set ($69.99): One of the things I like best about my surfboard is my center fin's floral inlay, that is, until I saw this fin set. This set of three fins is so cool. It was hard not to buy this on the spot.
  • Hooded Changing Towel ($50): When changing your clothes at the beach, there is always the chance that your towel may slip off while you shimmy in or out of your wetsuit. This towel is perfect to use for changing since you slip it over your head, covering you front to back.
  • Power Balance Band ($29.99): Made of surgical grade silicone, this wristband comes in five different sizes and an array of colors. The hologram on the bracelet is designed to work with your body's natural energy flow and intended to optimize balance.
  • Innersection DVD ($24.99): Released on Nov. 23 this year, Innersection is a Taylor Steele surf film with 25 directors and 25 surfers including Clay Marzo and Kelly Slater. I have not yet seen the film, but I have seen some of the footage. I hope this one makes it in my stocking. It looks amazing.
  • Summer of Color 13-Month Calendar ($11.99): This calendar features color photos of the Summer of Color lifeguard towers. (Warning: Supplies may be limited.)

Happy holidays!

Teen Drama Downright Comical About Surfing

Today I'm going to admit to something publicly that only two people know about me. I am going to admit to a guilty pleasure that I would have preferred to keep secret, but I can no longer hold back.

So, here it goes: I watch 90210! OK, there, I admitted it. I watch a teen show about not-so-teen drama.

I have been watching since it premiered last season and until now, I was able to ignore the absurdity of the show and just watch without opinion. But last week all of that changed.

You may recall reading about 90210 filming at both Torrance and Redondo Beach awhile back. Well, the episode finally aired last week. The location couldn't have been more obvious since you can clearly see Palos Verdes in the background, not to mention the "Color of Summer" lifeguard towers art project.

The filming took place on one of our many gloomy days that we had this year and that, too, is obvious.

In this episode, riddled with surf clichés, Ivy the resident "surfer chick" is entering a surf completion, which (no spoilers here?) she wins. Ivy's friend Naomi, an obnoxious rich girl, eyes a surfer friend of Ivy's named Zach and leads him to believe she is a proficient surfer in order to obtain a surf date.

When Ivy offers to help her prepare for her surf date by giving her some surfing pointers, Naomi declines saying she is just going to paddle out, but has no intention on trying to catch a wave; besides she watched half of Blue Crush.

Naomi thinks all she needs to do to impress Zach is use surf slang and paddle out on a board. Her plan is to avoid the waves so he won't know she doesn't know how to surf.

Although this will be Naomi's first time in the water, she is arrogantly confident she can pull it off looking like a pro.

After breathlessly paddling out, Naomi, who is paying more attention to Zach than the wave headed her way, gets pummeled. Zach saves her after she gets hit in the nose with her board.

With Naomi's secret revealed, she doesn't get a follow-up date with Zach, who is angry that she lied about her experience level. Naomi tries to smooth things out with Zach, explaining that her nose isn't even bad enough to see a plastic surgeon (like, totally).

As if last week's episode wasn't funny enough (was it meant to be funny?), this week's episode picked up where the last one left off. Naomi no longer has a bandage across her nose, and when she is complemented on her "healed" nose, she credits "a boatload of Crème de la Mer" (at $130 for 1 ounce, she may have needed a couple of ounces) for her recovery.

Call me crazy, but as many times as I have gotten bumped and bruised, I have never heard of using $130 face cream to speed up the healing process.

Once I was past all of the obvious contradictions and absurdities, I watched the rest of the comedy, ahem, I mean drama.

And although I find some of the acting a bit (just a bit) over the top and annoying (but just a bit), still I watch.

Now that I have freed myself of this secret and gotten some things off my chest at the same time, I can sit back, relax and enjoy seeing my hometown on TV, knowing that I really have surfed there.

15 Again

Today I did something I hadn't done in years: I went to the beach to watch surfers surf.

It was different than the days I take my kids to the beach to play in the sand or the days I cram my surfboard into my car to go surfing.

I parked my car, paid the meter and walked down to the sand, tossing off my flip-flops before I headed for the water. The surface of the sand was warm, but as my foot sank in, the cool layers reminded me that summer is behind us.

The waves rolled in and out in a hypnotic rhythm, beckoning me to get closer to the waters edge.

I watched each surfer with his or her unique style of surfing. Although like most, I am "regular footed" (left foot forward), I look for someone with a "goofy foot" stance (right foot forward). The water temperature was a cool 51 degrees and everyone in the water was wearing a full wetsuit.

As I watched, I vividly remembered being 15 and going to the beach with my friends. We would do our hair as if we were going to a party, not the beach.

My friends would never go in the ocean, and I had a hard time keeping my feet on dry sand. I didn't want to be the oddball, so I secretly vowed not to go in the water…this time.

We would lie on our towels talking about our secret crushes at school and who we would "like totally" marry. While they went on and on about our high school quarterback, I thought about my secret crush.

I didn't have a crush on just any boy; I had a crush on a surfer. In fact, he was on the surf team. He was 17 and he was very handsome.

I can still see him, with his bleach blond locks dangling in front of his eyes. A flip of his head and his hair would swoosh to the side revealing his golden brown face.

He was just cool.

I could abstain from the water for only so long, hairspray be dammed. I jumped in, swam and dove underwater as if I was in an enormous swimming pool. I frolicked in the ocean without a care in the world.

When I got out of the water and headed toward my towel, I was greeted with stares of shock and disapproval from my friends. I could almost hear their internal thoughts about how my hair was now dripping wet and no longer perfectly coiffed.

I decided I didn't care; the swim in the ocean was worth the stares and the messy hair.

At 15 I was inching my way to adulthood, craving the freedom that in reality was much more than I could handle.

As I headed back to my car before the meter runs out, I thought about how my life turned out, and I was happy.

I headed home with my memories and I wondered, whatever happened to that handsome boy with the perfect hair.

I really don't know for sure, but I bet he still surfs.