First Fall Swell

The last few days have seen lots of quiet little waves. This morning I woke to a bit of thunder and saw waves breaking at the point. I had an hour. Surf was bigger than I like so I grabbed my camera and got a few shots. Enjoy a minute of today’s fine footed friends.

Linda Mar SUP and Surf Oct 14, 2019 from Tom Adams on Vimeo.


Dog Days of Summer


dog contest 1

They came to Pacifica this past weekend and brought Hwy One to a jammed up stop and wait. They parked on the streets all the way up the hill to our place, and clogged the neighborhoods within a half mile of Pacifica State Beach. My son stopped by, and was not heading home unless he wanted to spend an hour in stop-and-go traffic.

We lathered on sunscreen and walked to the beach where we witnessed dog after dog leading their owners away from the beach. We chatted up a couple with a pair of retrievers in tow, who said the tandem contest was about to start so we hustled. Thirty people stood in line for the restrooms, hundreds stood on the sand watching the last of the entries paddling out. It was a guy with a blue mohawk riding a large board with a small dog on the nose. The dog had great balance, sticky feet that did not let go, and the surfer dude with blue hair knew what he was doing.

We wandered the crowd, rapt with attention for these last two rides, and seemed pretty darn well behaved. We got a couple of shots of the surfing duo then headed to the Pedro Point shopping complex to see if the new Cafe, Soul Grind, was open and it was. This was day one, and they were swamped, but it’s a great space, a cool owner, Jimmy, and has views of the ocean. AND they are going to roast their own coffee. Can’t wait to sip a double espresso in front of the fireplace while coffee roasts in the back and rain coats the parking lot outside.

I’ve started a short story asking where are the black surfers, and there they were among a line of yellow boards, yellow jerseys, learning the ropes. The story is morphing into an old white guy getting schooled by a young black girl with powers beyond his grasp.

I think it was spawned from working with Mat Johnson at the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference last week. A man with a black mom and white dad, Mat’s spent a bit of time bumping up against, and flowing to the other side of the divide that we’ve created. More in another article.

Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how…



Back to New Brighton

It was Sunday late morning when Donna returned from yoga. “How about a trip to Santa Cruz and do a little paddling?” I asked, and Donna was game. She made us lunch to go and I outfitted the car with racks and gear. In an hour we were on the road south, through Half Moon Bay, on down to Santa Cruz and eventually New Brighton beach.

Swanton Berry Farm
Swanton Berry Farm

We stopped at the Swanton Berry Farm, not the one near Año Nuevo State Marine Reserve where you can pick berries, but a little complex on the east side of Hwy One a bit north of the little town of Davenport. Swanton has it all. Restrooms, hot coffee, berry pies, cobblers, and some serious chocolate. Payment is on the honor system, with a cash drawer sitting out to make change, plus an iPad for card transactions. The coffee was great, the chocolate truffles were rich and dark. We saved the pie for later.

We took the 41st Avenue exit and drove to the end for a restroom pit stop and a quick peek at the Hook, but for me, it was a chance to see if Sharks and Privates were breaking and they were. We tried to snag a parking spot in Capitola, but no game, no spots, wall to wall packed.

We pulled into New Brighton and showed them our annual Calif State Park Pass and in we went. An hour later we were warming up on the beach. Could have been the south of France, except it was sand, not rocks. We warmed up with plenty of shoulder stretching and then I fired up the GoPro and walked to the water. In two feet of water I just stepped on the board, then landed the other foot, but the water retreated, and the look on my face was pure surprise as I sailed over the nose and nearly collided with Donna. We laughed it off and had a ball. Donna saw a shark just a few minutes into our paddle. She paddled all the way to O’Neill’s house near Pleasure Point, then turned around and fetched me on the return. It was a calm paddle back, gliding over smooth water and emerald-green kelp.



After showers and warm clothes we drove into Santa Cruz and ate on a bench in the park across from Mission Santa Cruz. And that’s where we ate the berry pie.

mission Santa Cruz



What SUP Denmark?

San Francisco’s Ocean beach can be a beast. Even when it’s small and the tide is out, thin waves lay corduroy to the horizon. The place looks harmless, until you paddle out to find a little four foot face that pounds you down and holds you gasping. Now add size, say 15-20 feet, and an incoming tide, that moves water like converging rivers. The rip tide runs parallel to the shore, and has enough teeth to take you south, in a hurry. Toss in twenty-one of the finest Stand Up Paddle Board athletes and what a visual feast for the men, women, and children, all snug and warm on the beach watching. What a feast for the ocean. I’ll take these guys and grind them into so much sand. I’ll swallow them whole and spit them into a sand bar down the coast.

It was a water start, along side two US Coast Guard rescue craft, practicing their skills in thick, lumpy water. The Red Bull horn blew the paddle boarders into action. They road rolling waves on 11-12 foot boards, hit the shore running around two flags stuck in the sand, and turned to challenge the ocean. They were supposed to paddle back out, around a set of buoys, and back to shore. They were supposed to do this twice, then paddle around lands end, under the gate, and into St. Francis Yacht club. Not all of them made it past the ocean’s big fist.

Denmark’s Casper Steinfath, not only made it through, but ran away with first place and made it look pretty darn easy. Check out the video.

Hanalei Blues (fiction)


The end of September brings Hanalei back to the locals. There are still tourists. There are always tourists, but they thin as the air cools; as the days grow shorter. And most tourists fear the looming possibility of heavy rain, flash floods and large waves as the calendar turns toward winter.

The pier belongs to the bay, which is nestled in the Hanalei valley surrounded by steep, irregular ridges, shrouded in a lush tropical green. When the sun strikes the mountains in the late afternoon, the green glows like it’s made of light. Waterfalls streak the north facing walls. They are flash flood monitors. If there are more than 7 it’s time to move the kids, cars, and farming equipment to higher ground. If there are more than 10, just get the kids to the cliffs. There’s no time for cars and equipment.

Waves lap at the pier piles as tourists march along the length of it, sipping drinks and chatting into another sunset. Mano sets the hook on a nice fish, plays it longer than needed, and hoists it to the deck. He strikes a pose against the setting sun, like he is the king of this pier, though much younger than his uncle who has four rods in the water, and sits on a beach chair, sipping something from a plastic mug, ice cubes clinking. Mano is pleased to be seen but acts like the tourists are not there. He steps on the spine of the small hammer head. The shark thrashes and shimmies. Mano whacks it hard on the head with the butt of his knife and lays it out on the picnic bench where two tourists play a game of checkers. A pool of blood gathers under the hammer head. Tourists get close to see the tiny teeth.

The last of the sunset sends the tourists back to the bars, the restaurants, the expensive vacation homes. Mano casts again and speaks in hushed tones to his uncle. They laugh as the last light brings their village back to them.

In the morning, Mano tosses a leash at a tourist who is renting a board from the Green Trees Surf Shop. He intends to startle the tourist, maybe laugh at him, but gets a look of contempt from his co-worker who is filling out a rental agreement. Mano acts like he owns the shop, but is just another worker who seems like a truant. Like he’s not working at the shop even when he’s there.

Mano hasn’t always hated the tourists. Not that it matters, but they sold the house next to his bungalow and now it’s a rental. Tourists come in with their red Mustang convertibles, their tan muscular bodies with slinky girlfriends and think they can do what they want with his beach. They make noise until late at night and their leave their haole trash on the beach.

The tourist, a thirty-something guy from San Diego, sweats as the boards are loaded. A twinge of fear gathers in his gut as he selects a paddle. He’d surfed at Hanalei ten years ago, but not on a stand up paddle board. Not at the reef. He is nervous about looking foolish. He is nervous about falling onto the reef in shallow water. He thinks about sharks.

He surfs for an hour and catches his share of waves. As he paddles to catch his last wave, a movement comes from his right. Mano is paddling an outrigger canoe into the wave. The tourist tries to back off, but it’s too late. He jumps from the board as it slams the canoe.  There is a pause, like the ocean has forgiven them. The tourist pops his head up to see the canoe sliding by, then is pulled under water and dragged behind the canoe. His board is caught on the outrigger. His leash is strapped to his ankle. The weight of the tourist pulls canoe to the left. The tourist breathes water. His knee scrapes the coral reef. The canoe exits the wave with alarming speed. It pitches into the air, nearly flips over, but Mano stands, leans into the wave and settles the canoe into the water. The tourist surfaces and sputters for breath. Mano jumps from the boat and yells at the tourist to unstrap his leash. The tourist thinks he’ll be left without his board. Mano yells again for the tourist to remove the leash, which he does. Mano pulls the leash through the outrigger stays, and pushes the board toward the tourist who is standing on the shallow reef, paddle in hand. Against the setting sun the tourist looks like Neptune. Mano tells the tourist to swim to the board and he does. Mano climbs back into his boat and paddles hard. As he passes the tourist, he stands and slows. The tourist is standing on his board. He does not know what to do.

“Haole dude. Ok now?”

The tourist nods his head. His knees shake as blood drips to the deck of his board.

“Dat some kine ride brah,” says Mano. “Betta you paddle in brah. Sharks like sunset. Sharks like blood.”

Mano paddles toward the setting sun. As blood drips onto the deck, the tourist paddles toward shore, scanning for the fin of a reef shark.

30th Anniversary SUP

Donna and I celebrated on the eve of our 30th.  We paddled around Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai.  We rented 10-6 Laird Hamilton SUPS.  They are big and heavy, but I caught my share of waves at the reef and Donna paddled to the end of the Hanalei River.  I took a little break, ate a cookie, then paddled up the river to find her.  That’s what I do.  Find Donna.

There were fish, turtles, herons, egrets, flowers, rain, and DONNA.  I found her just below the bridge.  We paddled back in the rain to another stunning sunset.  Even caught a few outrigger canoe teams working their stuff.  Check out the scene with this 1 minute video.

30th Anniversary SUP from Tom Adams on Vimeo.

Dog Days of Summer

The waves have been small in the dog days. Fires burn the state and cast a faint filter on coastal light bringing fall into focus a shade early.  Our street is strewn with red and yellow leaves. I’m betting on an early winter but I have been wrong the past three years.

Got a few waves this week.  Check it out.

Solstice Sunset SUP Surfing

My son, Matthew, and I surfed into sunset on summer solstice.  We used to do this every year, but I wasn’t surfing last year, or the seven preceding years for that matter.  But then I got into SUP.  Then SUP surfing.  So Matthew and I planned an outing for Tuesday evening, not realizing that the actual solstice was Monday, but hey, we were close.

We got in the water about 7:30, and got out just before 9.  The sun had set, and we had wide grins.  My wife, Donna, was there to greet her lads.  Matthew, by the way, had never surfed a SUP, but he’s a fitness trainer at Empowered Fitness, has great balance, used to surf a long board with grace and agility, and boy did he take to SUP Surfing like a duck to water.  Check it out.


SOLSTICE SUP SURFING from Tom Adams on Vimeo.

Spirit Matters

Kwan yin
Kwan Yin from Spirit Matters

We were packed for a Bolinas outing.  We’d planned to paddle the lagoon, check in on the nesting herons and egrets, maybe snag a few waves at one of the surf spots.

The sleepy little town of Stinson Beach is set against the steep western flank of Mount Tamalpais.  It’s really quite the treat just standing at the shore looking out to sea, or up the coast toward Bolinas, or over your shoulder to the massive mountain that holds this little town so carefully.

We had a great breakfast at Parkside Cafe, scouted the surf for long enough to know that there might be waves at Bolinas, then hit the road for the last stretch.  But by the time we got there the beach was packed, the town was heading toward bumper-to-bumper traffic and it was already 75 degrees.

We paid a short visit to Audubon Canyon Ranch.  At least we could see the heron and egret rookeries.  But there were none this year.  There’s speculation that an increased population of bald eagles may be the culprit.

Onward to Point Reyes Station where we put in to paddle up a creek.  Lagunitas creek to be precise.  What we found was quite stunning.  Maybe a half mile of water just deep enough to paddle.  There were cormorants, turtles, and the odd cow in the rolling meadows beside the water.  A few fish jumped along the way.

If only I’d brought along the GoPro.  But we did visit Spirit Matters, the lovely little shop in Inverness Park that hosts so many treats for the spirit.  Donna found a Kwan Yin seated on a turtle, just like the ones we saw in the creek.

The next day, back in Pacifica, I snagged a few little waves right out my own front door.  Check it out, all set to some nifty little jazz.  Hey, it’s only a minute.

Linda Mar Maestra from Tom Adams on Vimeo.

African SUP

It’s been at least two weeks since I stepped foot in the surf.  The waves have been large and unruly but it rained which is good. My ten week workshop with the San Francisco Writers Studio has been fulfilling. This class ends Tuesday. I signed up for the next one which starts in two weeks. Between now and then I plan to publish some of the work I’ve done in the class.

Yesterday I got wet and it solidified the notion that SUP days are better than others.  Even though I lost my footing more than once, I caught waves and paddled the length of the beach. After an hour session I left the water with a clear head and sore muscles.

So why the title African SUP?  Watch the one minute video: It’s the music.