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Tips for a Successful Pre-work Dawn Patrol

Surfing 101

by Hank Ten


Parking lot showers -- post early morning go-out.

Someone once boldly stated, "Work is for people who don't surf!" Well if you're like me, you do have this minor inconvenience called work, that can get in the way of your surfing. However, there's no reason you can't surf AND work. Below is a list of tips for a successful pre-work dawn patrol session. Hey, if you have to work, you might as well get some surfing in first. Enjoy!

1. Block off some time in advance.
In this day and age of surf forecasting, there's no excuse for not having a good idea when the waves will be good. I won't even explain where to look for this info, as you probably already know. You can usually figure out 3 to 4 days in advance when the an incoming swell will hit. Once you have a good handle on this, block off a some time on your calendar at work, to ensure some BS meeting doesn't get scheduled and prevent you from hitting it! I usually block off 8-10 a.m. I recommend either a vague entry, "Meeting with SA" (in this case, SA, is a surfing mate of mine!) or, even better, "Apt. with Dr. Taraval" or "Dentist apt." People usually won't press you about who you are meeting with, especially if it looks like a medical appointment.

2. Load up
Make sure your vehicle has a full tank o' gas the night before. You don't' want to stop on the way to the surf, or afterwards on your way to work. Why waste an extra 10 minutes or so at the gas station when you could be surfing?

3. The night before
Remember when you were a kid and you had to get up super early? You'd lay out all of your clothes and gear the night before. Precisely what you want to do now! Neatly fold and pack up your "work clothes" and then lay out what you'll wear to the beach. That way, you get up, slip on your clothes and your ready to go!! Also, if you're a java head, prepare the morning brew the night before so all you need to do is flip the switch in the a.m. Have your thermos, coffee cup next to the pot. Finally, get your board, wetsuit, towel and work clothes packed up in your car if you can safely do so. You want to minimize scurrying around in the early morning hours and streamline your exit!

4. Be quiet!
Nothing is worse than a disgruntled wife who has been awoken by a fumbling, bumbling husband at "O'dark thirty" as he is preparing for an early morning surfing lark! You'll pay dearly if you wake her! Slip out of bed, close the door, and be as quiet as possible until you're out the door and in your vehicle. Then you can be as loud as you want! On your way out the door, fill up your SunShower or plastic jug with hot water for your post-session shower.

5. At the break -- don't be too choosy
When time is limited, like a pre-work session, don't be too choosy about your waves! Time spent checking out multiple spots will add up and cut into your precious water time. If you get to your spot and it looks fairly decent, go for it! I've wasted time checking a break up or down the beach only to find it marginally better if that, but usually just the same. Incidentally, the same rule applies when traveling with your significant other and he or she is gonna sit on the beach! You don't want a long, drawn out search for waves, as this will grind away your mate's patience!

6. Your session
Keep an eye on the time in the water and try and maximize your wavecount without being too greedy! Depending on conditions, I like to try and get at least 6-10 waves to count it as a decent session. Also, you should try and surf at least 1 hour to make it all worth it. 90 minutes is about as much as I can get in before work... unless it's really good in which case I'll surf all morning!

7. Parking lot showers
If you've followed tip #4, then you'll have a nice hot sun shower awaiting you at the car. Use it to rinse off so you're not too salty at that 11 a.m. meeting!

8. Slipping in
Once at work, find a discreet parking spot (i.e. not right in front of your boss's window cube!!) I usually make sure I'm not carrying anything into the building that will shout that "I'm just getting in at 10:30 a.m.!" If anything, carry a folder or some paperwork. If you can make it undetected into the building, once in, you'll look like you've been there awhile. Walk casually to your office, and avoid looking to gleeful... or too guilty.

9. Don't gloat...
Chances are, you'll be stoked out all day. However, try not to gloat or smile too broadly. If you're found out, coworkers will likely not share in your stoke, or understand it. Draw it mild... and keep your eye on the next swell.


Hank Ten has been surfing for over 16 years. He enjoys juicy beach breaks and clean, offshore, winter conditions the most. He currently surfs and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Golden-Coast Productions, 2002