The novice clinic is supposed to be long over from last year, but due to bad weather the day of surf launch practice had been canceled. The plan was to make it up at a later date. Will Tate, one of the novices who has a lot of experience in Mendocino County, suggested that we do the surf day at Caspar Beach. I have been at this beach on days with large swell and noticed that the waves breaking on the protected sandy beach are usually mild. We planned our surf day here figuring that no matter what the weather was doing we would be able to give the novices some practical instruction in dealing with surf.
But as the day approached the weather did not look good. The swell was large, but that was why we chose Caspar. What was bothering most of the instructors and novices was the prediction of rain. Nobody wanted to camp at a beach on a cold rainy weekend. The novices started backing out and so did most of the instructors. Will talked to Lisa Weg at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse and convinced her to offer her house for the weekend. We could "camp" on the floor in her living room, dining room, and spare bedroom. Even with the cold wet camping problem solved, most of the people did not bother to come. In the end only two instructors, Maryly Snow and I, and 5 (out of 13) Novices showed up.
I took the day off and arrived by 2:00 PM in the afternoon. I didn't expect anybody else to be there so I went straight to Caspar Beach and spent an hour surfing in the waves. (Just checking it out before the novices get there). The large swell that had scared off a bunch of people had calmed down to 6 feet but started rising up again. Friday evening everyone who was going to be there arrived and we went out to a restaurant for dinner.
On Saturday morning I gave the on-the-beach talk about broaching and bracing. I demonstrated it a few times so they could see good (I hope!) technique. Will helped out as an instructor. We took the 4 remaining novices (Tom, Linda, Matt, and Jenning Gee) out one at a time and went through the procedure, turning them sideways in mild breakers and coaching them on their brace. I had everyone try paddling out and turning sideways without my help and broaching back in. They should be able to practice this on their own later (well, with someone to assist when they fail).
After lunch we did the surf-launch procedure. Will launched through the surf first and tried to predict the swell from outside the break. He raised his paddle when he saw calm sets and we launched one at a time. Everyone made it OK. Then we reversed the procedure. Will decided to stop half way in and called everyone in one at a time from the impact zone. This was a great boost to some people's attitude. If Will could hang out near the impact zone, then they could probably make it back in. Two of the novices lost their brace and fell over in the surf, but they both got washed into shallow water and walked their boats to shore. It was a great choice of beach for this event. Afterwards Bob Kenyon (a visiting BASKer from Oregon) and I demonstrated surfing in the waves so the novices could see how much fun it was going to be when they get their braces down!
On Sunday Bob, Will and I launched from Van Damme Beach while the novices watched. The swell had calmed down but the water was very choppy. None of the other Novices wanted to put on their wet gear to brave the water. We paddled into some very rough channels behind the rocks on the north side of Van Damme and then turned south to try to get into a little cove Will knew about down there. Despite the swell calming down to 9 feet the reefs were all booming viciously and the cove was closed out. As we started to pass behind one spectacularly big boomer, Will decided that there was no sense in looking to see if we could find another way into his cove. We turned back. Once I knew that we were going to be on shore soon, I invoked "Roger's Rule" and did 6 rolls before we landed.