Friday, January 31, 2014


Author:  Mike Hassur

Warning:  this blog post is not about cycling – it is about surfing.  This is a blog for The Puyallup Cyclopaths, and it is usually reserved for cycling related stories/adventures.  Unfortunately, when it’s January in the Pacific Northwest, there are not as many cycling related stories to tell as in the more “cycling friendly” times of the year – hence I am hoping that a post about our latest surfing adventure in Santa Cruz, CA might be acceptable.

When I was 48 years old (I will be 66 next month), I found a surf board at a garage sale.  I’d always wanted to learn how to surf, but there weren’t a lot of opportunities in Kansas where I grew up.  Anyway, I called my running buddy, Woody Harris (I nicknamed him "Mog" when we were in optometry school together and still call him that), and asked if he would be interested in giving surfing a try if I bought this surf board.  He said “sure”.  I bought the board, and we have been surfing (or at least trying to surf) ever since.  Our surf adventures have evolved to the point where we now make three one week trips to Santa Cruz, CA per year to surf (and bird watch, hike, go to movies, drink the occasional oatmeal stout, and eat badly – calamari, fish and chips, pizza, etc.).  This post is about our latest trip which took place a couple of weeks ago (January 11 – 16).

We had done our homework and knew that the tides were particularly low during the period from January 11 through January 16.  The lower the tide, the further out the waves break, and the longer the ride; so we always try to pick a time to visit when the tides are extra low.  Also, our trips are always in the winter and early Spring months (i.e. November, January, and March).  There are more storms in the Pacific during the winter which means more “energy in the water” (i.e. wave action). 

We flew into San Jose Airport on the morning of Saturday, January 16th.  The low tide was scheduled to occur at around 2:00 PM that day; so we had time to pick up our minivan at the airport, stop at the house of some friends who are kind enough to store our boards for us and who happen to live in Los Gatos which is right on the way to Santa Cruz, make the 30 minute drive to Santa Cruz, catch a bite to eat at Subway, check into our usual hotel room (the one with a balcony from which we can hang our wet suits when we are done for the day), put the fins on our boards, put on our wet suits, and head to Cowell’s Beach where we do all of our surfing. 

 The area (called Cowell’s Beach) where we surf lies between the Santa Cruz Wharf and a long point of land which, basically, parallels the wharf.  When we arrived, we saw lines of waves running

** NOTE:  click on any of the photos to enlarge them, and click on the "x" in the upper righto-hand corner of the enlarged photo to return to the blog **

Cowell's Beach Surf Area:  wharf across the way and point of land to our right

almost all the way across from the point to the wharf which meant that there was a lot of energy in those waves.  We were so excited to get the boards out of the van and into the water that I totally forgot that I had intended to take some pictures of Mog surfing before I got in. 

We had two hours of good surfing before we wore out.  Usually, my first day is never great.  I’m not sure if it is the plane ride down or what, but I always lack energy on that first day.  This day was no exception.  The waves were good, and I got a few good rides; but I just felt like I was struggling the entire time.  Mog did considerably better than me and got a lot of nice waves.

After the surfing; we went back to the room, took a shower, and headed to the Seabright Brewery where they make the best oatmeal stout known to man.  We enjoyed our beer and watched the Seahawks hang on to defeat the New Orleans Saints.  Keep in mind that Santa Cruz is very close to San Francisco, so most of the folks in the bar were rooting against the ‘Hawks.  Thankfully, there were a few other Seahawk fans present, and the 49’er fans were pretty friendly.

We spent Sunday morning honing our skills at identifying the 7 or 8 different species of seagulls that are found around the Santa Cruz area.  For me, seagulls used to be like sparrows – meaning they all looked the same to me.  When we actually started to make a study of it and learn what to look for, the differences between the species became pretty obvious.  Sunday afternoon’s low tide was around 2:40 PM.  The surfing was good and more enjoyable for me than the previous day, because I had more energy.  That evening, we watched the San Francisco 49er’s hammer the Carolina Panthers.  They looked really good, and I was wondering if the Seahawks could beat them (even with the advantage of the 12th Man).

Monday’s surfing was okay.  Good waves, good rides, and nice people to share the waves with.  Then came Tuesday – probably as good a day of surfing as we’ve ever had. 
The waves were good (i.e. they were consistent and the conditions were right for long rides).  We enjoyed one 300 to 400 yard ride after another and got lots of photos.  Since it was a weekday, most people were at work; and there was plenty of room for everyone on the waves. 
Mog and I have gradually improved to the point where we can enjoy cutting up the face of the wave and back down (not like the guys on TV but enough so that we think we are pretty hot stuff – of course, none of the other folks out there seem to recognize these qualities in us)?!  Rich Larson, a Santa Cruz college professor that we met surfing a few years back was out with us. 
Rich is a really nice guy.  He is a Ironman triathlete, so he and Mog usually do some running together during each of our visits.  We spent a few hours surfing our brains out until we were too tired to surf any longer.  In the end, we had stowed the boards and were sitting on the on the back of the van giggling in disbelief at what an amazing afternoon we had just experienced. 
There are times in life when it seems like things just couldn’t get any better – this was certainly one of those times for me.

The next day (Wednesday) was our last day of surfing.  We ate lunch at our favorite pizza place “Pizza My Heart” and enjoyed another fun day of surfing later that afternoon.  That night, we made one final visit to our favorite restaurant in Santa Cruz, Riva.  It is a little place on the wharf where you can get a combo plate of calamari and fish and chips with more calamari and fish than one person can eat for just under $10.  We go there three or four times per trip, so we know all the bartenders and waiters/waitresses well enough that they know us by name.  The bartenders are surfers so we spend most visits sitting at the bar, watching sports and talking surfing.

The next day we left Santa Cruz, stopped in Los Gatos to leave our boards at our friends’ place, and headed for the airport. 
This was an awesome trip – can’t wait for the next one.


  1. Great write up Mike, sounds fun! Might take up surfing sometime just by the excitement of your explanation of surfing the waves.

    1. Hey Brent, if you ever want to go surfing, just let me know. I've got an extra wet suit that will fit you. We'll rent you a board and head out - you'll be a natural...
      Mike H

  2. It's nice to see what your "other" passion is all about. Looks like a fantastic way to spend a week. You look like you DO know what you are doing on the board!