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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I don't know about you but I am exhausted. I thought that since we were staying in town over the holidays things would be a bit more mellow and relaxed. Not quite. The past two weeks or so have been jam-packed with visiting relatives, family gatherings, Santa visits, Christmas tree decorating, trips to visit my in-laws in New Jersey, and lots and lots of presents for the kids. It's hard to believe that it's almost the new year and I feel like there's a lot of organizing and cleaning and prepping that needs to happen in order to start the year off fresh.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking and decorating Christmas cookies. It started off as a chance for me, my sister and our two cousins (also sisters) to get together, bake a ton of different kinds of cookies, make dinner and celebrate the holidays. The best part was the decorating - with a rainbow of frosting colors, colored sugars, sprinkles and other decorations. My sister would inevitably immerse herself in some intricate patterns and designs, trying to replicate an Old Master masterpiece on a sugar cookie shaped like the Statue of Liberty or a giant mitten. Now, our cookie decorating sessions have changed a bit with the inclusion of my sons, my sister's daughter and a some friends - all under the age of 5. Now, we pre-bake the sugar and gingerbread cookies so that the kids can start decorating right away. It's fun to watch the kids choose their frosting colors and dig their little chubby fingers into bowls of sprinkles. The kids are so proud of their creations. While our cookies aren't "cookie masterpieces," they are the sweetest tasting treats in the house.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quiksilver Pro New York...Cancelled for 2012

Adriano de Souza surfing in Round 5 against Jadson Andre
Kelly Slater in Round 5

Joel Parkinson in Round 5

Last week, the ASP and Quiksilver announced that the Quiksilver Pro New York event for 2012 was cancelled. I'm kind of bummed about the announcement. 2011 was the first year the event was held in Long Beach, NY and the first ever World Tour event held on the East Coast. New York isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think about world class waves or world class surfers so this was an incredible opportunity to bring greater exposure to the sport and its East Coast athletes. The event definitely had its supporters and detractors - folks who were upset about the exposure and attention the event would bring to surfing and a surf culture that now lies largely out of the mainstream. For me, I thought it was an incredible opportunity to be able to see some of world's best surfers surf in conditions that I could potentially surf in. Yes, that would mean that I would no longer be able to blame the waves for my surfing foibles but I would also witness the potential of NYC waves.

However, Hurricane Irene had other plans in mind for Long Beach which was directly in the hurricane's path. Quicksilver had actually planned a huge music, BMX and skateboard festival along with the surfing contest to make a big splash in the NYC media market. But a week or so before the event, it didn't look like the contest was going to run because of the damage caused by the hurricane. But the town and the surfers rallied together and Quiksilver pared down the event to just the surf contest. And luckily they did. Hurricane Katia sent a well-timed swell straight to the NYC area and huge crowds came out to watch the surfers. The consensus seemed to be that it was a great event. There were big crowds, good waves and the word was that the surfers had a lot of fun. You can see the highlights from the contest here.

Ed and I even got a chance to take our boys out for the afternoon to watch Rounds 4-5. It was our first time at a pro surf contest and we had so much fun. The boys even took a few breaks from playing in the sand to look out to the water and watch. I was really looking forward to taking the boys out again in September to experience it again.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Spirit and the Truth about Santa

Do you remember when you first found out the truth about Santa Claus? I don't remember exactly how old I was when I figured it out but I don't remember it being a huge traumatic discovery like it was for some of my friends. I just remember that one year there was Santa and then the next year there wasn't Santa and it wasn't a big deal. I had hoped that when I had kids, it would be a little different, a bit more of the Christmas magic. It's not important to me that they believe in Santa per se. It's more about the wonder and awe surrounding Santa and the holidays and seeing that reflected in their eyes.

Well, it appears as if the gig is up, at least for my older son who's almost five years old. He seems to have figured it out. He's always been a perceptive boy who thinks through things very logically. So, of course, he started asking very logical questions like how Santa can see/hear what all the children are doing all over the world from the North Pole, how reindeers fly, how does Santa know to bring some gifts to his grandparents house in New Jersey when our Christmas tree is in New York, etc. The best was when he saw Santa at one of the many holiday celebrations around town and asked, "Is that really Santa or just a man dressed up in a costume?" I knew that he would eventually learn the truth about Santa but I wasn't expecting the questioning to begin at this early of an age.

Then he stumbled upon some Christmas gifts stacked up high in the hall closet which I thought were out of his eye sight. Having spied a New York City Transit articulated bus on the top shelf, he asked "Is that a gift for me for Christmas?" Then, not meaning to snoop, he came across the gift he wanted to ask Santa for, except that we hadn't visited Santa yet. Oops. In that moment, I kind of felt like I failed as a mother.

Now I believe that he's just messing with us. The other morning, he asked about the gifts under the tree, "Did Santa bring those gifts last night...or did Mommy put them there?" While he hasn't come right out and said that he doesn't believe in Santa - maybe he hasn't fully put two and two together - I know that there doubts setting in. I just hope he doesn't tell his younger brother.

Regardless, I'm starting to get into the Christmas spirit. We finally got a tree and put up some decorations. New York City is kind of magical during the holidays. I love walking around and seeing all the holiday displays and soaking up the hustle and bustle around the city. I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is a week and a half away. With family coming into town and other holiday preparations and celebrations, I feel like it's a race from now until the end of the year. How are you all preparing for the holidays?

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pipe Masters

Round 4 - Gabriel Medina, Michel Bourez and Evan Valiere. Evan Valiere surfing.

When one of the ASP World Tour surf contests is running, I can't get any work done. Pretty much, for the entire day, my laptop is open and streaming the contest. I guess that's one of the perks of being a freelance consultant who works from home?

I love watching sports, from baseball to tennis to swimming to soccer to football (when my husband has it on TV), but I had never really thought about watching professional surfing. Maybe it's because it's not televised on a national level and I just assumed that you had to be there on the beach in order to be a spectator. Now, you can watch all these contests online and it's pretty cool.


Yesterday was the final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters held at the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. It is the 11th and final event of the ASP Men's World Tour and the final event of the Vans Triple Crown. Pipeline is considered by many the world's perfect wave with its picturesque barrels. But it's also one of the most dangerous waves and you definitely witnessed that during the competition this year - Josh Kerr sustained a grade one concussion, Laurie Towner dislocated his shoulder, Julian Wilson got stitches in his heel, Shane Dorian took a nasty spill and showed up in the commentary booth the next day with his right elbow bandaged up. With 6-12 foot swell, Pipeline was pumping this year, the biggest it has been in years during the Pipe Masters contest. Kelly Slater reckoned that there hasn't been a good swell like this during the contest window since 2000 when Rob Machado won the event.

There were a lot of amazing stories at Pipe this year which I'm sure many of you have already heard about but you can read more about them here and here. The two stand-outs at the event were John John Florence, the 19 year old Hawaiian who grew up surfing Pipeline, joined the tour at the mid-year rotation and won the Vans Triple Crown title (the youngest ever), and Kieren Perrow, the event winner from Australia. Keiren was on the verge of falling off the World Tour, needing to make the Quarterfinals in order to qualify for next year's tour. I'm really happy for Kieran that he won.

Needless to say, I have come to enjoy watching professional surfing. Some might say I'm obsessed. I admit that I can drive my husband crazy with my recap of each heat. However, I just say that I'm a big fan. Yes, you get to see some of the best surfers perform at top surfing locations around the world but I think I enjoy the mental aspect of the competition more, not just the mental focus it takes to charge hard and be committed but the mental tactics and strategy - wave selection, how to use priority, etc.

For example, John John Florence was on fire during the event (and the two prior events of the Vans Triple Crown - The Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa and the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach). Afterall, this is his home break and he dropped a couple of 10s during the event. In the Quarterfinals against Kelly Slater, he committed what many consider a rookie error. With about five minutes left in the heat, he had Kelly in a combo situation, meaning that the combined total of Kelly's two highest scoring waves at the time was more than 10 points behind John John's two highest scoring waves. That meant that Kelly needed the scores from two new waves to overtake the lead. This was the second time in two days that Kelly found himself in this situation against John John. Then, Kelly somehow summoned an amazing wave and scored a 9.7. As the minutes ticked down, John John held priority. All he had to do was stick to Kelly like glue to prevent Kelly from catching any wave that could potentially get him the 7.0 score that he needed. Literally, at the last second, John John let Kelly take off on a wave. The scores didn't drop until they were already on the beach - 7.9 for Slater. He won the heat and moved on to the Semifinals.

I think that knowing what the judges are looking for has helped me to enjoy watching contests. I now know that it's not just about the length of ride or the one cool maneuver that someone pulls off. It basically boils down to this: The surfer who performs the most committed maneuver, with the most speed, power and flow, in the most critical part of the wave gets the most points. Of course there's a lot of controversy as to what this actually means in the eyes of judges and surfers but that's the judging criteria. I know that it's much more complicated than that but as a novice surfer, it helps me look at and think about surfing more critically.

You're not necessarily going to see the most innovative or daring or high performance surfing during contests. The format of the events, with their timed 30 minute heats and judging criteria, limit some of the creativity and risk that you might see in a free surf session, but isn't that how it is with all professional sports to a certain extent?

If you didn't get a chance to watch the contest, you can watch the heats on-demand here. Definitely check out the John John vs. Kelly Quarterfinal. John John's Round 2 heat against Kai Barger was pretty good too. I'm looking forward to the 2012 World Tour which commences in February on the Gold Coast of Australia as well as following the women in competition too. Here's the rest of ASP schedule for 2012.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Last surf session of the season

I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks now but the weather here on the East Coast has been so unseasonably warm that I kept thinking that there would be a chance that I could make it out to surf again.  But, looking back, I am kind of glad that my session in the water a couple of weeks ago was my last for the season. I had a lot of fun. It was a good way end to my first few months of surfing.

A week or so before Thanksgiving, Ed and I went out to Rockaway with a friend - someone we met while in Costa Rica and who we have since become friends with. That morning, I was a bit reluctant to go out.  It had been a little while since I last surfed and I think that I was anxious and nervous and excited all rolled into one. You know that feeling you get sometimes when you don't do something for a while? You begin to think that you can't do it? That's what I was feeling and I was starting to get into my head too much.

It was a beautiful day. Crisp blue skies. Low 60s. Light wind. And there were waves. Nothing huge but some decent waves coming in with some regular frequency and shape. The waves weren't crumbling or breaking too fast. The only problem was the water temperature. It was probably in the mid-50 degree range - not freezing and comfortable with my wetsuit on. But, since I don't own gloves or booties, my hands and feet got cold quickly so that when I caught a wave, I had a hard time gripping my board and adjusting my stance. As much as I tried and stared at my foot to will it to move, I couldn't square off my stance.

I had a lot of fun out in the water. My goal for the day was just to work on my positioning out the back - not too deep and not to shallow - and just catch some waves. If I stood up and rode the wave, great but I really wanted to deal with the issue I had been having the last couple of times that I had been out surfing. Namely, my constant nosedives and inability to catch any waves. During our morning out in the water, I felt like I was finally starting to get a feel for surfing at Rockaway, a better sense of where I needed to sit and what the waves needed to look like when I try to catch it. There were no nosedives!! Not only that, but I felt like I caught four to five decent waves - which is a lot for me!

I think that by tempering my expectations, I was able to have more fun. There was just one thing that I wanted to work on that morning but, in the end, the rest kind of just fell together by itself. I wasn't expecting to catch a ton of waves and to pop up and ride them all beautifully. I think that by removing that pressure, I was able to relax more and just enjoy being out there. I think that that's something that I often forget about. I can get so focused on how I perform and what I can or cannot do that I often don't take the time to appreciate the moment before me - the beauty of being out on the ocean, the gorgeous day, the time with family and friends.

There was this one surfer out that day who I couldn't stop watching. He moved so smoothly, paddling and catching a wave, standing up and riding across its face. It looked almost like he was moving in slow motion, making everything look so effortless. There were a couple of times when I was sitting off the shoulder of a wave.  I would watch him as he caught the wave and start to move towards me. The lip of the wave would just start to curl over and it almost looks like he's in a barrel, albeit a minuscule one where he's literally squatting down on his board to get as compact as possible. But it was beautiful. I want to be able to surf with such grace and effortlessness.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

So, what's the point?

I have been thinking a lot about this blog, why I decided to start writing it and what I want to get from this experience. I know that some people may consider surfing to be an "extreme" sport which may make it feel like some of the posts are difficult to relate to. I think that there's something about the combination of the ocean/the unpredictability of the waves and the idea of trying to stand up, balance and maneuver a surf board that is a bit intimidating. Unlike skiing or snowboarding, you are pushing against and reacting to a surface that is constantly changing. However, it is a sport that is growing in popularity. I mean, I see surfing mentioned in practically every fitness magazine I read and it seems like every other celebrity is trying it from Reese Witherspoon to Lady Gaga. And I don't mean Stand Up Paddleboarding. I mean surfing.

But I guess the point of this blog isn't just about surfing, although that is a big part of it. It's about how I, as a mom-wife-freelance consultant-daughter-sister,etc., can take better care of myself and incorporate my interests into my life while balancing it with family and work and everything else. It's about how you can take up a new hobby and keep up with it and not let it just be a fleeting thing. For me, that thing is surfing. I know that if I were at a different stage in my life, I would completely immerse myself in surfing, spending time reading about it, talking to other people about it, training, and practicing.

One of the things I struggle with is finding and maintaining my own identity. I think that many moms experience this - how your life and identity can often become subsumed once you start a family. Suddenly everything revolves around caring for the baby - as it should - but it's easy to lose a sense of yourself. But among all of these changes and changing priorities, how do you find and maintain your own identity in addition to being a mom and a wife? How do you continue to nourish your own soul, identity and interests without seeming to be selfish? 

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Saturday, December 3, 2011


Recently, Ed and I have been feeling frustrated with our ability to catch and ride waves and the general lack of improvement in our surfing. So, Ed decided that he was going to pursue bodysurfing instead as a way to get himself riding more waves. With bodysurfing, he reasoned, you don't actually have to try to stand up on a board and keep your balance. Seemed simple enough - you just had to catch the wave. Then, he just had the most brilliant revelation this evening. "Oh, I figured out the problem with body surfing. You have to swim out there to catch the waves. You don't have the big board to paddle out on." Yes, minor detail.

Either way, Keith Malloy's new film, Come Hell or High Water, is a beautiful and inspiring look at the sport of bodysurfing. Can't wait to see it.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Surfing in the Rockaways - Part 2

Like I said, the first couple of times I went out to surf at Rockaway, I was super anxious. I was anxious to get back in the water. I was anxious to see if I was really able to do this surfing thing on my own or if my experience at surf camp was just a fluke. I was anxious to apply some of my lessons I learned - on my own surf board and beach. I was anxious because I was some place new and wasn't familiar with the territory. 

The hardest thing for me was and still is getting my timing right and figuring out exactly where I need to sit in order to catch the wave in the right spot. That's a big part of what surfing is all about, right? Being able to read the ocean and catch your own waves? If you can't catch any waves, how can you surf?

When we went out in September and October, the waves at Rockaway were small, broke close to shore and crumbled fast. There weren't quite the nice, consistently breaking waves and off-shore winds at Playa Guiones. These waves felt less forgiving. I often found that I was either sitting too far out the back, thinking in my head that I couldn't possibly sit closer to shore, or I overcompensated and sat too far inside. In the first case, I would paddle hard for a wave but wouldn't be able to catch it. In the second case, I would paddle for a wave but because I was too far in front of the wave as it started to bump up and break, the tail of my board would get picked up and flip me right on over. See for yourself.

I'm too late to catch this wave. I think that my board needs to be about half a length further back than where it is in this picture. I think...

Nose of my board starts to dig into the water while my hands instinctively plant themselves out in front of me to try to stop the inevitable.

Oh no!!

Oops. Oh well. Paddle out and try again.

Those first few sessions were so very frustrating and discouraging. But I tried to keep paddling out and trying again. With each wave and its attendant nose dive, I became a little more familiar with the waves at Rockaway, how they behaved and how I needed to behave in concert with them. I figured out that I do have to sit closer in than I think and, as I paddle for a wave and look over my shoulder, the waves tend to look a little steeper than I would think they would. To set myself up in the right place (or close to it), it's usually a two step process. I start off by sitting a little too far out the back. A wave comes towards me, I paddle for it and I don't catch it. While a little annoying, it helps me learn where the wave breaks and where I need to be to be able to actually catch  the wave. Then, I have a better sense of how far I need to be from that spot, based on my paddle speed and how long it takes me to spot the wave, spin around and get myself down on my board. It's a start, right? A work in progress? 

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