It has been a rainy winter so far in Nor Cal. I'm stoked because we need it! I'm bummed because the runoff and overflowing water treatment plants empty into the ocean making for dirty water with high bacteria levels. A good rule of tumb is to wait 72 hours after storms to surf again. I have gotten sick from dirty water in years past, but also have been fine after rainstorms. It is a tough call, but probably best not to risk getting sick. If in doubt, don't go out. You can "mind surf" and do some yoga instead!
Malibu's Surfrider Beach is one of the best waves in California and a spot I grew up surfing. Early in September 2014, I had the opportunity to surfing in the annual Malibu Surfing Association Classic, one of my favorite contests of the year. This year a hurricane produced 4-6 foot waves at 1st Point in sunny and glassy conditions. Best of all, only a handful of girls are in the water during the heats, so you have the wave all to yourself. Malibu breaks over a sand-and-rock bottom and produces a beautiful right-breaking wave. The wave reels for 100 yards, which gives plenty of time to let your surfing style shine through. I placed 5th in my division (Women ages 30-39)and had fun in each heat surfing the racy sections, hanging five, and wearing only a Seea bikini in the warm water. The MSA event is always a great time visiting with old friends and watching great surfing.
I hope everyone caught some waves this summer and perhaps the best are still to come as the waves have been non-stop here in California. If you're interested in a coaching session, shoot me an email and let's set up a time to get in the water together.
Photo: Julie Cox hanging five by Hollie Trosper
One of the great things about surfing is that you're getting a workout OUTSIDE of a gym!
You're in the beautiful outdoors smelling seaweed and salty air while watching birds dive for their dinner. Your gym is the great outdoors and there are so many ways to take advantage of it.
Although paddling and riding waves does provide a great aerobic workout, strength training, and Vitamin D, there are 3 great activities you can do to improve your surfing while on land.
Ten minutes of yoga every morning: Stretch out that tight neck and shoulders, loosen the lower back, and get your balance practice on. Yoga is my go-to practice for pre- and post-surf remedy. Go to You Tube and get your daily dose.
Take a hike: If you live in Santa Cruz or in the Bay Area, you know how many killer hikes we have in our backyards It is insane! You could find a new hike everyday for 365 days and still be discovering new trails. Hiking is great for straightening legs, back, torso, and and for aerobics.
Biking: So good for your quads and back! You'll be doing much stronger turns and will be able to noseride for longer periods of time if your legs are strong. Again, with so many trails and paths in the area, it is awesome!
Choosing where to paddle out can be the make or break decision of your day. Paddling out at the right spot can have you feeling like a wave magnet, in the groove, and stoked on your session. Paddling out in the wrong place can be a frustrating and demoralizing experience. The waves can look good from the beach, but then back off as you try to catch them, the crowd might be too thick, or the currents too strong. Recently, I paddled out in the middle of a really crowded spot with a current pulling north. It looked good from the beach, but every wave I tried to catch had 3 people already going for it and many more in the way as I dropped in. It was dangerous, I was tired of fighting the current to stay in position, and I was super annoyed with my session. After 45 minutes of struggling, I got out of the water and decided to give it one more chance at a peak I noticed breaking 100 yards away. Sure enough, I caught a nice waist high right and discovered my stoke.
Find those certain peaks and surf spots that work for you and surf them often. You'll become a better surfer by knowing where to go and though you may have to jump in the car for an adventure, it will be worth the effort.
The best way to end your wave is to KICKOUT! Think about how you end your waves. Do you jump or fall off? Do you surf all the way to the beach until your fins hit the sand? Do you even think about stopping or ending your ride with control? Well, you should! Think about getting off of the wave by pivoting your body toward the horizon. When you're done with the wave: 1. Put most of your weight on your back foot to stall. 2. Think about your arms and hands leading you to the horizon. 3. Instead of riding in toward the sand, watch the nose of your board go toward the "outside" and you'll be off the wave. 4. Get back down on to the board and paddle back out for more. Try it out!
Photo of Julie after kicking out at Ocean Beach by Stephen Amato
Photo: Surfer Julie Cox steps out in Pacifica; photo by Paul Ferraris Photography
Surfing is a full body workout. You need the upper body strength to paddle out and into waves, push up power to pop to your feet, strong legs to pump and turn, and healthy lungs for the inevitable wipe outs. And as if that's not enough, you need stamina and endurance to rinse and repeat the whole cycle a few times over. It may sound like a lot, but the exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment from a successful surf sesh more than recompense.
And here's the game changer: there's no need to fear the Bay's frigid waters. A few extra steps before and after your surf will keep you protected against the chill. So put aside the anxiety and excuses and paddle out. It's a new year and it's high time to make it about the new surfing you. And on the days that the surf isn't any good (whether too big, too small, or too windy), head over to Aquatic Park for a swim. The same tips apply—even if your wetsuit disqualifies you from joining the Dolphin Club.
1. Invest in good neoprene (and lots of it)
To get ahead of the temperature game, a well-fitting, highly functioning wetsuit is a must. But in the world of wetsuits, thicker isn't always better. 5mm neoprene often restricts movement and makes paddling more difficult. For SF waters, thePatagonia R3 front-zip wetsuit works year-round but needs the addition of a hood and booties for the colder months. When it comes to booties, don't skimp on the thickness because the old adage holds true in the ocean: if your feet are cold, you are cold.
2. Change in the car
This step may sound silly (and a little difficult). But changing in the car in a warm micro-climate sets you up for later success. Baring all in the cold weather very easily dampens spirits and leads to a case of the shivers that are hard to shake. Although figuring out the seamless deck change in a reclined passenger seat is tricky to master, it's one of the most valuable maneuvers in a surfer's game.
3. Pour hot water into your suit before hitting the waves
Cold water that enters a wetsuit takes time to warm up from the body's heat. Eliminate that bone-chilling period by filling your suit in the parking lot with heated water from the Bully's Hot Water Rinse tank. The insulated tank keeps water warm from your house to the beach and even throughout your surf session (so remember to bring another jug for a post-session warm up).
4. Ride a larger board
Buoyancy is your best friend in cold water situations. The less you are submerged, the less cold water pours into your suit, making you miserable. By riding bigger and thicker boards, you're able to stay afloat and out of the cold stuff (for the most part). It also helps that the bigger boards like longboards are the best kind of surfboard for the beginning surfer.
5. Keep moving
This sounds like a no-brainer but it's amazing how often surfers become sitting ducks in between waves. You may think you're conserving energy but instead you're growing stiffer and inviting in more of the cold. It's best to keep paddling (even if it's in circles) to keep the blood flowing and to keep the water inside the wetsuit warm.
6. Dry hair, won't care
After shredding the gnar, hurry back to the car to begin the lengthy process of peeling off the various layers of neoprene. The first piece to go is the hood. Once it's pulled off, wrap your hair in a super-absorbent towel before taking off the booties and the wetsuit. Cold, wet hair is the quickest and easiest way to invite a chill. Once you're back into your thickest sweats and layers of jackets, jump into the car to blast the heat in lieu of a proper hair dryer. And bask in the success of tackling the cold Pacific without flinching for a second.
Happy 2014! I hope everyone had a great holiday season and your 2014 is off to a good start. Here's to more surfing and more time outdoors connecting with nature.
Here is a shot taken of me surfing a frothy and crisp December morning at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. I love surfing here when it is small and clean. No bigger than 3-4 foot is my preference. Lately the waves have been so incredible with offshore and sunny conditions with some enormous days which I love watching from the dunes. Whatever your local break and wave size preference is, hope you're surfing more in 2014!
Photo by Stephen Amato-Salvatierra.
Written by: Julie Cox
I'm stoked to have been able to coach 9 year old Caity in the waves lately. She is a smart young girl and I am so happy to be able to share in her surfing experiences. Let's support these young surfers by encouraging their stoke and giving more kids the opportunity to learn to surf. Here's to the next generation!
Definition: as·sess1. evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of.
Assessing the surf involves keen observation skills. Yes, sometimes you don't care what conditions are like... You have made it to the beach and you are OUT THERE! Or, you saw the surf online and it didn't look very good from the online cameras, so you're not going to bother. But, if you find yourself at the beach with surfboard in hand, check in with nature before paddling out.
Ask yourself these 3 things: 1. Is the tide coming in or going out? 2. Where are the waves breaking most consistently? 3. What are the crowds like? Are there peaks to surf without the crowds?!
Begin to answer these questions for yourself and you'll become increasingly more in tune with your surroundings. The more in tune you are, the more waves you will catch and more relaxed you will be in the ocean.
Photo: Julie assessing the surf in Todos Santos, Mexico. Credit: Lori Adamski-Peak for Athleta
Written by: Julie Cox
You're underwater getting worked and starting to panic. You're not sure which way is up and you feel like a pebble getting tossed around a washing machine. When you finally reach the surface you're exhausted and scared. Humbled to say the least. But don't worry, it happens to the best of us. We all wipe-out and get beat-up by the ocean from time to time. When you panic and struggle against the waves, you use up your oxygen. Oxygen in your lungs is crucial to help you float back up to the surface. The more you struggle, the more you use that precious resource. Instead of freaking out, try to relax your body, mind, and spirit and wait for the waves to ease up. Be confident and know that as you relax, the wave energy will also eventually dissipate and you'll be able to find your way to the surface. FIND YOUR ZEN.
Photo: Julie finding her zen while getting worked by a Hawaiian monster wave
Credit: Paul Javier
Written by: Julie Cox
The Cross Step, Explained
by Julie Cox on January 25, 2013
It’s not easy to catch up with surfer Julie Cox, but while she was in Carmel last week, she slowed down for a face-to-face with Bev Sanders, founder of Las Olas. The subject of the day? Cross stepping on a longboard.
(No time to read? Click here for a full audio version of Julie’s interview.)
[Bev] Julie, describe your background in surfing?
[Julie] I fell in love with surfing at about age eight, but I didn’t feel like a surfer until I was about age 16, when I had my driver’s license and could get myself to the beach regularly. Since the age of sixteen, it’s just been a part of my life and what I’ve put as a priority. I’ve done surf contests and taught surfing, of course with Las Olas, worked in surf shops and designed surfboards and worked in surf museums. So surfing has been a driving force in my life, you could say, for quite a while.
Okay. Today, we’re going to talk about the cross step and I believe you’re a master at that (and it’s amazing to watch you do it). Can you remember when you first saw someone cross step?
Well, thank you for the compliments, first of all, that’s nice. I think I first noticed the cross step happening at Leo Carrillo State Beach, where I used to surf a lot. People were surfing and getting nose rides. Also down at Malibu, a lot of people were cross stepping. I noticed that it was different and a little more graceful than the shuffle step, so I started to practice that.
Do you think it’s difficult?
I don’t think cross stepping is difficult. I think it’s a little more of mind over matter, like getting over the fear of just trying the first one. Shuffling is definitely a little easier because your feet are both planted and you’re not taking too much risk. I really don’t think it’s that hard, it’s just different and takes some practice.
The first one’s the hardest.
Yeah, it’s just taking that first step.
What kind of board is best for cross step?
The more stable the board the better when it comes to cross stepping. Because the goal for the cross step is to get up toward the nose of the board. You could do a hang five or a hang ten or put your weight a little bit more forward. A nice wide and semi thick board is best because you want that plank-like feeling to be doing a cross step on.
What do you think is the best kind of wave?
If the wave has a nice little wall to it, a bit of steepness, but not too steep. It shouldn’t be too mushy or too flat, because that’s when your nose will sink into the wave, when it’s too mushy. But if the wave has a nice little curve or wall to it, that’s when you want to try your cross step.
Could you explain a little bit about what’s happening in the process, to describe how you initiate the first move?
Yeah, I think of it almost like you might want to stall the board. You caught your wave, you’re going down the line and you put some weight on your back foot to slow down a little bit. Because of the cross step, you’re going to put on the gas by going forward on the board. You’re creating some speed, so to counteract that, lean back a slight little bit which sets you up for the cross step. So, your front foot is planted while your back foot takes that first step along the stringer. And then you bring your other foot forward. It’s kind of like walking on a balance beam, I guess. And the surfboard, the fin, and the width of the tail are what is keeping the board from nose diving. The back part of the board is what holds into the wave and lifts you up to create more of a surface area for you to cross step on- if that makes sense.
It does. How long did it take you to actually learn how to do it, where you felt confident?
I think that once I did the first one and realized it wasn’t so bad, my learning curve was much faster. I just got the hang of it, but it’s so easy to want to shuffle step because it feels safer. I don’t remember how long it took me. I think it was just taking that first step was what took me awhile and to realize that it was an actual functional move. It was functional and it also felt cool. It felt like it was something new to accomplish. That’s when it was like, okay, this is what I’m going to tackle now. I think it happened fairly quickly. I think going forward sometimes isn’t the hard part; but it’s almost going backwards- that’s where you’re cross stepping towards the nose, then you’ve got to get back. And if you can get back doing the cross step, that’s like Phase Two.
How do you know when it’s time to retreat?
That’s a good question, too. Say, you’re up on the nose, or you’ve done your one cross step up, at least to get some weight up toward the front. If the wave is going to close out, then I decide that that’s when it’s time to go back. You’ll see the lip coming down or the foam start to come in front of you. That’s when it’s like, okay, I want to get back to my stance in the middle of the board where I’ll be able to turn from. You just want to get back to that spot. Let me rephrase that. I know when it’s time to get back to the middle of my board- when I want to turn. So then I’ll cross step back, get to the area of my surfboard where I have the most control. That’s when I know it’s time to get back because you don’t have a ton of control once you’ve cross stepped forward, at least as far as turning goes. You can’t really turn from the front of the board.
Can we practice at home or on the beach? Is that something you recommend?
[Julie] Absolutely. It’s kind of fun, because you want to get your muscle memory feeling that cross step motion. So you can practice on a curb or on a parking block in a parking lot and just stand on that to balance. Taking your front foot keeping it there and just tapping your back foot, going over your front foot. Even just doing that a few times without even moving your front foot, that’s good way to start practicing the cross step.
So all in all, the first step is the hardest?
Absolutely. Once you take that first step, you’re on your way.
Julie Cox is a professional surfer who lives, works, and designs surfboards up and down the California Coast when not teaching at Las Olas in Mexico. Currently, she’s manager of Mollusk Surf Shop in San Francisco, but prior to that she was director of the California Surf Museum in Oceanside, California.