The Whorled

Rachel Satterfield

Surf Camping Roadtrip

6/14/19 Thursday

Packed the car with boards, suits, tent, sleeping bag, books, and clothes. Left Oakland around 11am. Rolled through Pacifica. The surf looked blown out. Ate burritos and rolled past Half Moon Bay, peeped it, and continued on down HWY1 to Santa Cruz. Surfed Cowell's 1-2ft slow rights for an hour and headed to check out Pleasure Point. Looked good. Slow rights. Not too many people. Kind of high tidy.

I'm a beginner learning how to stand up on my board (an 8ft Wavestorm). I’ve been bodyboarding at Ocean Beach, surf camp in Costa Rica, and after some dedicated practice and guidance from L (my boyfriend, surf teacher and overall #1 surf inspo), I'm catching my green waves for knee rides and belly rides. Standing up is still elusive. I have a monstrous social fear of paddling out, paddling for a wave and then "kooking" out as I struggle to stand up and ride. Part of that fear is from surf culture that makes fun of mistakes; sometimes out of good humor and sometimes out of ridicule. Part of that fear comes from my own self-critical, self-limiting thoughts. All this to say, Pleasure Point looked fun but my self-doubt kept me from jumping in. Also, afternoon was quickly becoming evening, so we headed south to our campsite at Morro Strand State Beach.

6/15 Friday

Woke up to the sound of the ocean at Morro Strand State Beach. 6:30am on the way to brush teeth and check the beach, we stopped to chat with a fellow camper who just got out of the water. It was fun he said. But it looked like a bunch of unorganized waves to us so we rolled to closer to Morro Rock to drink coffee and watch the locals surf. Sinking feeling that the swell might not be favorable for our weekend plans. We prayed for surf and drove 30min south to Pismo Beach.

I had a great time at Pismo. Popup practice on the shore with Luis helped me patch in some missing pieces. I've been a yogi for many years and while yogis have an affinity for surfing the two movement styles don’t feel all that similar in my body. I've been trying to untrain years of flat-footed yoga lunges and years of burpees. While burpees are pretty good training for the explosive effort to push up, my mind-body translates a burpee into squatting on the back of the board! If I could get more central on the board, it might-could-may-be a style and I could just graduate straight to riding the nose... obviously, I'm joking.

I loved Pismo beach for it's enthusiastic teenagers and moms teaching their kids. We surfed next to the pier and were delighted by the options of lefts and rights. I enjoyed my usual assortment of catching waves for knee rides and belly rides and to my utter delight a couple successful both feet on the board moments. A harbor seal entertained us. The best thing about that spot is the surfboard rack next to the showers.

Headed south for an early dinner in DTLA at Grand Central Market and barely squeaked out ahead of traffic to arrive at our San Diego hotel at nightfall.

6/15 Saturday

Pacific Beach. Heavy winds and heavy PMS feels running interference on my stoke.

Pacific Beach. Heavy winds and heavy PMS feels running interference on my stoke.

We were in San Diego to see L's niece graduate from the Economics dept at UCSD. Bungled plans to see her commencement that morning meant we reconvened over a burnt breakfast at a diner at 630am in La Jolla and planned where to surf. The abundant Rockwell posters and historical pictures of the diner full of white folks reminded us of the explicit racism in that time and how Rockwell scenes are used to perpetuate the lie of the triumphant American Dream at the cost of the genocide of our First Nation peoples. I digress. We headed to Scripps. We got in the water right at the pier with a bunch of old heads and 2 recent grads who charged into the water with their graduation gowns still on. Due to our early alarm (4:30am) I didn't feel much energy for standing on the board but I did catch some knee rides. Glassy conditions. Dreamy surf spot thanks to warm water and friendly faces. I couldn’t imagine how awsome it would be to surf a spot like that every day.

Lunch and family took us down to Pacific Beach. My stomach still hurt mightily from the gut bomb breakfast. Acai bowl was my lunch.

Later in the afternoon, L and I had a hilarious session at Pacific Beach. All bets were off. It was 3-5ft, choppy and windy and I got thrashed. Really anything goes at that beach even tho the life gaurds do their best to get swimmers and waders to stay out of the surfer's “section”. The conditions felt like Ocean Beach except with shorter distance inside to outside, warm water and overall gentler waves.... so not really like Ocean Beach at all. I had a blast paddling like a maniac for totally unmakeable waves.

Crashed out at the hotel b/c Fathers' day kept us from finding any open campsites in the area.

6/16 Sunday

Feeling a little sun/wind burned and on the first day of my moon cycle. Low energy but high interest in surfing Old Man's at San Onofre. Due to the holiday, we waited about 35 min in line for parking. If that was a busy day, then it was worth it. I can only imagine how awesome it is on an "off day." High tide was coming in when we went out. True to its name some old guys were out, a few other beginners, requisite Dad and son duos, and styley locals. I might have been the only female in the water at that moment. I got spooked by some high tide outside sets and headed in after about an hour and a half. Even though I left the water feeling grouchy and spooked, I also felt like it was my favorite spot. I had knee rides that were on my best waves of the trip! The ocean was warmish, the waves were soft, and the beach not too crowded even though the parking lot was full. Even though I was already out of the water, I wanted to get back in, bad attitude and all.

We chatted with the old guys in the parking lot for a minute. They told us about some trails south of us that would lead to some exclusive spots. We drove around looking for them but came up empty handed. A mystery for next time.

Lunch in San Clemente. Last time I was in San Clemente was for a friend's wedding almost 15 years ago. Katy Spicer and I drove down the entire length of HWY 1in her red 80’s Benz for Bethanne and John’s wedding and then jammed back on faster freeways. L and I chatted at the surf shop with the super friendly kids who were stoked to hear about our ongoing surf trip. They suggested we check out Blackie's at Newport Beach (our next destination).

Another night in a hotel. Didn't eat dinner because I was asleep by 6pm. Even though it was partly cloudy for most of the trip so far, I was feeling burnt from 4 days straight surfing and mynstrating.

6/17 Monday

Early out to scope Blackie's but it was meh so we grabbed a couple donuts from the shop by the pier and hauled ass to Malibu. Malibu Lagoon State Beach was def the highlight of the trip. Dolphins. Faster peeling rights. Plenty of point break for everyone. Lots of locals, old guys, and a few ladies. Surf schools going for it on the inside. I paddled out with L and paddled over to the where it seemed to be more mellow. But I was intimidated. I watched a lot of amazing waves pass me. I felt frustrated and irritated. I felt disappointed that apparently, I'd rather just sit on my board than try and catch a wave and possibly bail. I was choked, spiraling and not my usual bold hilarious self. It seemed like all the surfers around me were decent, but I also couldn't figure out why so they were leaving so many sick waves unridden. L paddled closer and started charging part of the peak that was reforming and breaking nearby. The little crew I was chilling with scooted over to his spot, and it was a feeding frenzy. Lesson on the escalating competitive nature of surfers. Personal lesson to go for the waves that I want. Cuz if I don't, I end up feeling crappy with waaaay more emotional work to do than necessary.

Peeped Emma Wood, Faria, and Refugio on the back up to Pismo Beach. We will be back 4 sure.

I felt subdued and stuck in my head until we reached the Oceano Dunes Campground south of Pismo Beach. Clear skies invited us for a sunset session that was far from chill. 5-6ft close outs stretched the length of the beach. After my apathetic sesh in Malibu, I felt like I had something to prove. So we went for it. Once I paddled to what I thought was the outside, I took a set wave to the head trying to get up and over. Ended up ditching my board for the last big wave of the set. Navigating shifting closeouts at sunset wasn't appealing to me. I figured the experience of paddling out was as good as it was going to get and caught an epic long belly ride into shore. I exited feeling triumphant. L followed not long after.

Hot dogs and s’mores for dinner. Wet wood made for a slow starting fire. Late night with full moon gazing.


6/18 Tuesday

Skipped surfing in the morning. Instead coffee at our fav cafe in Cayucos.

Jammed all the way North to Santa Cruz. Exhausted. Watched groms with expensive wetsuits and boards charge Steamer Lane.

Headed up to the campground at Henry Cowell Redwood park. L got the fire lit and grilled veggies, roasted sweet potatoes, and a can of beans was dinner. Debut of the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup s’more received lackluster praise.

Asleep by nightfall.

6/19 Wednesday

Woke up early in the Santa Cruz fog to surf Cowell's consistent slow 1-2ft waves. My frustration at not standing up is at maximum levels even after processing Malibu’s lessons. Honestly, the scene at Cowell Beach doesn't help. It is a wildly dissonant group of surfers. Seasoned nose riders snaking through surf schools, parents pushing their kids into waves, and people waiting on the inside laying on their boards with their backs turned to the oncoming whitewash. I had 4 or 5 solid popups with both feet on the board, but it felt anticlimactic. And I was always more worried about my board hitting someone than about nailing my ride. I spiraled out, and even knee surfing didn't feel fun anymore. So I got out.

When I review my arcs in surfing over the last year, I notice I have ALWAYS been frustrated, irritated, and impatient with myself. Overly self-critical and holding back, for fear of what? Other people's judgments? I've had nothing but the kindest funniest teachers (and I'm even luckier that my boyfriend is a saint of a teacher). I've surfed some fantastic spots and I have a reliable set of water skills for variable conditions. Clearly, the significant task rather than standing up and riding, is to shift learning into curiosity, lightheartedness, and delight/gratitude in having the privilege of so much free time to dedicate to this sport.

car nap.jpg

After lunch L put on his cold wet wetsuit for session #2 in Pacifica. It was foggy and windy. I napped in the car and ear hustled parking lot conversations. Lots of complaints about the cold water. A long story about someone's stolen car. Surf students remarking how small their teacher's board was and the logistics of farting in wet suits. Someone's boyfriend endlessly explaining the conditions and how it could have been better. What sounded like two female voices chanted “ni-pple! a-re-o-la!” I rested, imagining my future rides, future fun, and future fearlessness in the water.

Dinner at home was leftovers from our lunch in Pacifica. Suits unpacked and dripping in the shower. Happy to be cozy in our own soft bed with new inside jokes from our trip to entertain us until we fell asleep.

Listen to songs from our roadtrip HERE

Summer Solstice

Why I Rest (Part 1)