Monthly Archives: March 2015

Meet the Beach – Honeycomb Worm

Phragmatopoma caudata washed up in Fernandina Beach, Fl.

::WARNING:: This post is potentially full of incorrect information.

On the last Meet the Beach I left off promising to share what I consider the COOLEST thing I’ve ever found on a Florida beach. Here it is! I was wandering the beach one evening after a couple of days of NE winds and spotted a common whelk washed up on the shoreline. As I bent down to pick it up I noticed something I believe to be quite uncommon in this area.  A tiny worm had attached itself and built a home on the whelk. He was slowly moving in and out of his house as I picked the shell up and seemed as interested in checking me out as I was in checking him out.

Phragmatopoma caudata, peeking out of his tube.

I took a few pictures of him and then returned him to the sea with well wishes that he and his shell would find whatever habitat it was that they needed to carry on. I sent one of the pictures over to David’s sister, Emily, who’s work has led to knowing and befriending lots of biologists. She was kind enough to forward it along, but without better pictures and more information, the response that came back was more of an educated “best guess” than a “I can’t believe you found a …”

The best guess was that this little guy was a Phragmatopoma caudata, also known as Honeycomb worm from the family Sabellariid. These are the worms that make up Bathtub Reef in Stuart, Fl. They use special sensory organs around their mouth to find a suitable location to build their home and somehow, through the magic of nature, a thin mucous layer forms around them to which various small particles of minerals, diatom frustules, sponge spicules are then implanted, eventually building the honeycomb, tube like structure they call home. []

Phragmatopoma caudata, Fernandina Beach, Fl

As stated, this is a best guess at identification and I have no idea how often they are found on NE Florida area beaches, but if you ever come across one, there’s no denying how cute they are!

P.S. Honeycomb worm is the coolest thing I’ve ever come across in NE Florida, but if you’re curious as to the COOLEST, CUTEST thing I’ve ever come across anywhere, that would be micromelo undata, a species of sea snail. Their  Atlantic habitat range stretches from South America to Florida, but I spotted this guy in Puerto Rico a few months ago. He was no bigger than my pinkie nail and was hanging out on some exposed rocks at Tres Palmas.

Micromelo undata, Rincon, PR


Lacto Fermented Escabeche


Carrot escabeche

This recipe came together at the spur of the moment last fall when I was trying to figure out what to do with a few carrots that were hanging around in the fridge. I’m a huge fan of any and all form of vegetable, except carrots. I don’t like them raw or steamed or any other way and for years I’ve thought their only acceptable use was in cake, (the reason I bought them in the first place) until now.

Eager to expand my fermentation prowess beyond kombucha, I had begun to make lacto fermented (Wondering what the heck lacto fermentation is? Click here.)  pickles over the summer with some of the bounty from our garden. Successful with pickling okra and jalapenos, David told me about this condiment of pickled peppers popular in Mexico and asked if I thought I could make it through fermentation. A little research told me that the flavor of his Mexican pickle might have been similar to the flavor of a Cuban relish I had been served (and loved) a few years back. The wheels got to spinning and our version of a Mexi-Cuban escabeche was born. That first batch was so good, I was eating it straight out of the jar, we were applying it to everything we ate and it was gone within a week.

Don't panic, they're organic!

Though I’m not a fan, David and Jonah are, so I kindly threw in a packet of carrots with our fall seed order. We harvested a bumper crop and I immediately got to work making another batch of our escabeche. I still eat some straight from the jar, but we also use it on veggie dogs, tacos and on any other dish that  might be looking for a little jazz of flavor. If you’re new to fermenting, there’s tons of information on-line to get you started. I personally have found Sandor Katz’s ‘The Art of Fermentation‘ book and the online blog, Phickle, inspiring and helpful.

Chopped veggies, ready for fermentation.

I’m one of those “dash of this, pinch of that” cooks and have no true measurements for this recipe except that with most vegetable fermentations, my brine is 1/2 Tbsp sea salt to 2 cups of water. I was using a 4 oz jelly jar as my fermenting vessel, so I just eyeballed what I thought would fit snugly. This escabeche is simply diced carrot, yellow onion, jalapeno and garlic.

Carrot escabeche.

Mix everything together in a bowl and season with your favorite spices. I used chili powder, coriander and cumin. (Never use salt to season, it’s in your brine.)

Escabeche in fermenting vessel.

Pack everything as tightly into your fermenting vessel as possible. Mix 1 Tbsp of sea salt into 1 cup of water to make a brine and slowly start to pour it into the vegetables. Continue pouring in the brine until it covers the top of vegetables.

Marble fermenting weights.

It’s important for the vegetables to stay beneath the brine to prevent mold, so I weigh mine down with something. Sometimes I use clean rocks or stones, this time glass marbles were a perfect fit.

Seal your lid on tight and place in a warm, but dark place. I tuck mine in a  kitchen cabinet. Once a day, pull out your jar, unscrew the lid and then screw it back on. This releases the pressure that builds up as the fermentation occurs. This is a fast ferment and should be ready in three to five days. Taste it after the third day and if you like the flavor, move it the fridge. If you think it’s not quite ready, put it back for another day or two, remembering to release the pressure daily. In the end, you should have a spicy, pickle-y, mouth watering relish.

Carrot escabeche on tacos.

What does any of this have to do with surfing? Not much except that hungry surfers like to eat and in our house, those surfers eat well. Enjoy!

Lacto Fermented Escabeche

(as previously stated, I have no proper recipe, below are my best estimates for making a 4 oz jar)

2 med-large carrots, diced
1/4 – 1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp sea salt
1 cup of water
several dashes of chili powder, coriander and cumin

Mix the vegetables and spices together in a bowl.

Fill a 4 oz glass canning  jar with as much of the vegetable mixture as possible, leaving about a quarter of an inch of breathing room below the rim. Really push down on the veggies, making sure there isn’t a lot of extra space in the jar. You want them packed tight.

Mix the sea salt into the water and slowly pour into the jar of vegetables. Go slow and stop couple of times to allow the water to seep into all the crevices between the vegetables. You should see air bubbles coming to the top. Pour in enough water to cover the veggies, use something to weigh them down beneath the brine and screw the lid on the jar.

Place the jar in a dark, but warm spot. “Burp” the jar once a day by unscrewing the lid to release pressure. Escabeche is ready in 3-5 days. Move the jar into the fridge by the 5th day.




Angie Ray


One of the first things I did upon moving to Fernandina was try to find other girls and women in the line-up. I kept hearing something about a “surfing science teacher” and finally met Angie at a local ESA contest. We never ran into each other because Angie’s looking for high performance waves on her shortboard (She got 1st place in Sage Sisters Shortboard at the 2014 Sisters of the Sea Contest) and I’m usually looking for something a little more casual for my log.  Thankfully, there are some days when we’ll end up surfing the same spot and I eventually came to know that not only is she currently ripping, but that she has been for quite some time. Anyone else ever consider Lisa Anderson competition?

I admire Angie both for her dedication and humbleness to surfing and for her willingness to work so hard at improving our community. If Angie believes in something, she gives it 110%, whether it’s directing the local ESA district, organizing a community garden group or training lifeguards in Nicaragua (instead of surfing Popoyo all day).

You grew up in California, when did you first start surfing?

I started surfing during an El Nino year around 1981-1983 in Santa Barbara, Ca. There was a lot of consistent surf and it was consistently big, very much like this past year California just experienced. Myself and my friends gained a lot of experience surfing in a very short period of time.

Do you remember your first board? First wave?

Yes, I had an old 7 ft classic single fin made in the seventies. But, pretty quickly I was sponsored by a man named John Bradberry and he made me a 5’2 twin fin! I do not remember my first wave, but amazingly I took surfing as a PE class at a very small alternative middle school. I took the class because all the cute boys were in that class. 🙂 I was afraid of the ocean, and honestly, I still am!

In the mid-eighties, you were a finalist in the West Coast Surfing Championship and the US Surfing Championship. You were also on the Channel Islands Surf Team, can you tell us about that?

Surfed in the WSA (Western Surfing Association) for many years. I eventually rode for Channel Islands Surfboards and Victory Wetsuits. I was lucky to have very supportive parents that let me go to contests all up and down the California coast. Three weekends a month we were on the road. I was on the WSA All-star team for several years and placed 2nd at the West Coast Championships and 3rd at the US Championships when I was 15. I traveled to Hawaii and Florida for United States Championships.

Kim Mearing was the Women’s World Champ in 1983, followed by Frieda Zamba from 1984 to 1986 (Zamba won again in 1988), did you ever compete against either of them?

I surfed with Kim all the time growing up because we were from the same city (Santa Barbara) and surfed the same breaks. She was not in my age division as an amateur and I think she turned pro when I was about 13-14 years old. I did surf the local pro-am competitions, like the Rincon Classic with her, and I did beat her at least once! Lisa Anderson was my true rival. She moved out to Huntington Beach, Ca. from Florida at the age of 14 or 15 and we hung out and competed against each other. She went on to become 5 time world champion! I have old surfing magazines with contest results showing that I beat her as an amateur, which I am really proud of!


You recently stepped up to be the Director for the First Coast District of the Eastern Surfing Association (Thank you!), are you excited about this position and what are your plans for this next season?

I will run the contests similar to how the district has been run in the past. We like to hold all the contests during our season of warm water and waves which is between August and November. We will have a group of 4 scheduled contests and then call a few more when the surf forecast looks good! I am super excited about this season, we have a great group of young surfers who have just joined the ESA and have really great energy! We are seeing more girls interested, and that is great. There also seems to be a lot of parents that are very supportive and I am excited to have them participate in the district operations. Surf Asylum will be helping us with some surfing workshops to help competitors be more successful. They will be held in the spring and summer, so stay tuned!

Outside of surfing you have an interest in edible gardening and are the President of a new non-profit in Fernandina, The Island Gardening Project. Tell us a little bit about how you got started with gardening and what the mission of the IGP is.

I love gardening and I also want to eat food that is natural, safe, and nutritious. I do not like to buy much food from the super markets, I mainly shop at the farmer’s market. I would like to be able to produce food for myself, family, and friends. Luckily there are many people in the community who feel the same way and are passionate about the ability of communities to be able to feed themselves. We have a great group of people in the IPG. We just started our first project at the Elm Street Community Center, where we will have a garden to share with the community.

As a lifeguard, swim coach and water safety instructor, you’re obviously passionate about safety around water. What was it like volunteering for Lifeguards Without Borders in Nicaragua last year?

It was such a great experience, and I am leaving again March 30th, 2015 for Nicaragua. We work with the Nicaraguan Red Cross by bringing them equipment, training their guards, and working with them to guard the beaches during the busiest holiday in the country.

I run the Amelia Island Lifesaving Assc. and working with Lifeguards Without Borders and The International Surf and Lifesaving Assc. has really inspired me to work towards lowering the rate of drowning in our community. Amelia Island has on average of at least one drowning a year. I recently received a grant from Lifeguards Without Borders to sponsor free swim lessons for the community this summer. The grant also covers free water safety clinics at Main Beach for tourists once a week all summer. But, my favorite part of the grant is that we will be able to sponsor a few kids who would like to be on the Stingray’s Swim Team but could not otherwise afford it.


One time you told me a story that you hadn’t done much surfing after moving to Florida and that it was your high school science students who encouraged you to get back in the water. How long had it been since you had surfed regularly? Did you find it challenging?

I did not do much surfing from the time I was 22 to about 32 years old! When I started teaching high school and talked to my students about my amateur surfing career they could not believe I was not surfing. So I jumped back in the water with them and have been surfing ever since. I got back into surfing contests and that is when I got involved with the ESA. I surfed many local contests, and a couple of Southeast Regionals, and a couple of Eastern Surfing Championships. It was a challenge to get back in good enough physical condition to enjoy surfing again. But once I did my surfing felt great and I feel like I am surfing better then ever. Staying in shape is key to surfing and staying young. Lucky, I became an ocean rescue lifeguard around the same time I started surfing again and that helped a lot.

Your daughter, Mary, is an avid surfer; do you ever offer her advice or tips on surfing?

I have helped her become comfortable in the ocean, mostly through being her junior lifeguard instructor for many years. She has decided she loves to longboard and is not interested in short boarding. I do not have much experience surfing longboards so at this point she is looking up to surfers like you Betsy! Kevin Leary has helped her a lot and other local surfers who have enjoyed watching her become a longboarder. She just had her first custom longboard made for her by ROZO and was able to paint it herself!


How has surfing influenced your life?

My love for surfing has kept me in the ocean, kept me motivated to stay in shape, and helped me have a sense of community here on the Island.

Small Poems on Small Waves

Relaxing, NE Florida Surf

On one hand, the last two days weren’t much to talk about. The waves were small and the water still chilly. The sun was overhead though and it felt good to stretch out on my board, relaxed, taking in the reflection of the green ocean and the occasional glassy face of a wave. I was done with winter before it began and think of these days as little treasures, gifts conspired by the air and sea to remind us that spring is near. While the faces of larger waves are like giant canvases, begging for big and impressive strokes of genius,  small waves beg for something different. They ask for patience and creativity. They want you to slow down and get playful.

These small waves, big on beauty, inspired me to want to see how much meaning I could fit into the least amount of words.  Haiku’s seemed a perfect fit.

Casual. North Florida Surfing

sit up on my board
the horizon shimmers calm
stories in water

Chill. Northeast Florida Surfing.

unexpected peak
deep breath and determined strokes
feet dig into wax

Small wave. Northeast Florida Surfing.

right foot crosses left
the nose rises as toes wrap
dancing on water

Loose. Northeast Florida Surfing.





Relatable Round 2 at Snapper

Round 2 of the Snapper Rocks WSL event in Queensland, Australia ran in dismal surf by “Dream Tour” standards but I’d venture to say it was halfway decent surf by Florida standards. Especially during those times of the year when we’re craving anything remotely rideable. If you’ve followed Snapper throughout the years they often have to resort to running on days with buoy readings comparable to some of our own here in Florida, like 3 ft. at 8 seconds. However, this year takes the cake for the most relatable conditions I’ve ever seen the top 34 have to contend with.

The competitors had to really want to win and channel every bit of imagination they had to see scores in some of the waves they were paddling for. You could tell that Ace Buchan wasn’t really feeling it. The surfers that felt the most at home in the conditions were the Brazilians. Owen Wright showed up for the bigger surfers on tour as well as Mick and Taj for the usual suspects. Filipe Toledo levitated over sections, showing us why everyone on tour is afraid to draw him when it’s small. The slugfest that was Round 2 Heat 7 between Kolohe Andino and Jeremy Flores was a clinic in applying power and rail work to mediocre waves.

I was captivated. Take a 2 turn combination (since we still don’t realistically see that length of ride here in Florida) from any 5 point ride or better from Round 2 of the 2015 Snapper Rocks contest and study it. It’s a perfect example of where to wait on the wave, when to compress, how to lead with your shoulders, etc.. for applying the next time our surf is waist to stomach high. Hopefully this Saturday (2/14) or Sunday (2/15).

Heat Analyzer for the 2015 WSL Snapper Rocks Pro

Meet The Beach

Thistle blossom, Fernandina Beach, Florida

Though we’ve had several beautiful days as of late and there have even been a few with fun waves, the ocean temp is still struggling to get near sixty degrees. David’s got himself a new 4’3 and declares himself “hot” in the midday sun, but I’m trying to stretch my old 3’2 for one last season and until the water gets above sixty or the air gets into the eighties, you’ll find me admiring the surf from the shore. Yes, three weeks in tropical Puerto Rico does spoil one.

In doing my best to enjoy my time out of the water, I’ve tried to take in more of the beauty of the beach aside from the waves. I’ve been paying more attention to the animals and plants that live along the waters edge and admiring the many features of the landscape that come together to form the beach. I thought it might be nice to start a series on the blog featuring different things you might see on the beach in Fernandina with a bit of background information.

First up is one of my favorite plants, Cirsium horridulum, or Purple/Yellow Thistle.

Yellow Thistle growing in Fernandina Beach, Florida

Thistle can be found all over Florida, from the beach to pasture land, so long as it is a sandy, open area. It’s considered a Florida Native Plant  and though dormant through winter, by February you’ll see them starting to blossom out.

Thistle is the larval host to the Little Metalmark and Painted Lady butterflies, as well as a nectar source for bees.  The spines of the plant provide shelter for insects and  other invertebrates  attempting to escape becoming a meal for birds, including what I think is the invasive, Otala punctata, a species of land snail. has an interesting article on the colony of otala punctata found in Fernandina Beach, here.

Despite it’s menacing appearance and typical treatment as a ‘weed’, thistle is considered an edible, with first and second year leaves, stems and blossom end able to be eaten raw or cooked. Green Deane, of Eat the Weeds, has complete details for harvesting and preparing. I mean really, what doesn’t taste good after adding butter and salt?

Who wouldn't want to take a bite of this?

It looks like the air temps are trying to push into the seventies and even low eighties this week and I see a few days with south winds in the forecast (fingers crossed that it will push up some warmer water from the south!) so I’m hoping I’ll be in the water by the end of the week. I’ll try to keep this series going, exploring the beach and it’s features through the upcoming changing seasons. I already know what I’m sharing next and while I have no clue the background information on it, it is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever stumbled across while combing the shoreline.

Foam Canvas

Stripes versus circles. Mint and grey versus teal and black.  Once I’ve got the dimensions (9’2, 18,23,15 for the curious) of a new board hammered out, my mind immediately goes into overdrive working on the graphics. One bonus of working with a local shaper (Have I ever mentioned how much I love Rozo?!) is the opportunity to put a personal touch on the board by painting it myself.

I see a lot of great art on boards that’s been applied over the glass with paint markers, but Rozo allows surfers the privilege of painting directly on the foam. I prefer this method as the work is protected underneath the glass and there is no way I would have the patience to paint a board that’s glassed and ready to surf!

I love adding such a personal touch to my boards.

I had been playing with the idea of a butterfly over the past couple of boards I’ve gotten, but was too worried about getting the scale right and happy enough with some other designs I came up with. This time, after sketching out five or six other ideas with no satisfaction, I knew it was time to go for the butterfly. David’s childhood butterfly collection came in handy for viewing a few different species up close.

Even after deciding on a design and having it fully sketched out on paper, I try to give myself a few days to commit  (it’s permanent afterall.)

Inspiration from David's childhood butterfly collection and my design sketch.

If I’m doing  something fairly abstract I’ll  usually freehand the design onto the board or, if I’m doing something like stripes, I’ll use painters tape to keep things exact. With this latest idea, I was still concerned about getting the scale right, so I went as far as to draw and cut out a stencil on posterboard.

The stencil made this design SO much easier to put on.

Rozo’s got dozens and dozens of bottles of cheap, acrylic craft paint at his shop, but I’m picky about colors so I pick up my own from Michaels, along with a few brushes and a paint marker.

I'm ready to get to work!

The simplest of designs can sometimes take a couple of hours and this one took me a little over three with David helping where he could. Rushing is where I’ll end up making a mistake, so I try to schedule the painting sessions for times when the shaping bay isn’t being used.

Even just a pencil mark on your bright white, freshly shaped board can be scary.

Foam is different than canvas, paper, wood and so on. It will grab the paint and soak it in, making it difficult to brush on with regular strokes. Saturating the brush with the paint makes it go on a little smoother.

Surfboard painting, though daunting, can also be therapeutic.

I use the larger brushes to get the bulk of the color on and go behind with the tip of the foam brushes to trim out the edges.

Trimming out the edges takes me awhile.

I finish a lot of my work by tracing the entire outline with a black paint marker. It’s a style and technique that I’ve sort of used to personalize my designs, but it also tightens up any slightly messy edges and, in my opinion, makes the piece “pop.”

That white line around the lower wing will disappear as I outline with the black marker.

One of the biggest challenges is staying aware. Resting an arm or a wrist down in wet paint or accidentally brushing myself along the rails  is easy if I’m not paying attention and usually leads to either smearing or getting paint somewhere it wasn’t intended.

I’ve made enough mistakes doing my boards to know not to panic if something goes wrong. If a slip of the hand results in a small mistake, let the area dry and paint over it. If paint gets on a part of the board it wasn’t intended, it can usually be covered up with bright white. Mistakes that seemingly can’t be fixed have to be shrugged off. The best part about painting a board is adding  character to it. What’s the worst that could happen? I always tell myself if something turns out really awful, I can always paint the whole thing black. Kidding!! ::knocks on wood::

I balanced out the boldness of the butterfly's color with some greys and greens coming up from the tail.

This lovey is finished and ready for glassing.

Ellie Jean, ready to fly over to the glassing room. What, you guys don’t name your surfboards?



Steps to Surfing Tres

David surfing Tres Palmas

It’s a long paddle out to the line-up at Tres Palmas from Steps Beach, but feeling ready to surf the break was a much longer process. The last time I was in Rincon, PR was almost 12 years ago during spring break. On that trip I experienced one day that was on the edge of what my board could handle. On this trip there were 5 or 6 days on that edge and for at least 3 of those days I would have had a lot more fun on a 6’6” or 6’10” at Maria’s, Dogman’s or Pistons. The day I surfed Tres the swell was essentially 10 ft. @ 15 seconds and it seemed like my options were either rent a board big enough for Tres or spend the day watching from the beach.

A couple days prior to the swell I told everyone I was 50/50 on whether I’d surf Tres this trip. When it started to seem like Tres was going to be the only break in Rincon that could handle the size I started listing reasons why I thought I could do it to get in the right headspace:

David preparing to surf Tres Palmas (1)

I successfully scratched into two waves on my 6’1” at Dogmans the night before when it was 6 to 8 ft. @ 14 to 15 seconds. In Florida the surf from hurricanes Irene and Sandy was heavy but I hadn’t experienced anything close to the kind of deep water waves I was going to see out there since my time living in Southern California. This was the most important thing I did to feel prepared.

During my last year in Encinitas, CA I was surfing Blacks Beach a lot. I was a regular face in the line-up and had a 6’6” made that I thought would go better than my standard shortboard when it was around double overhead. This experience gave me a much better frame of reference on what to expect than I had during my first trip to PR. There is a type of wipe out (or sometimes a wall of water to get through) where you patiently bide your time under water to conserve air until a moment when attempting to get to the surface is less futile. Blacks taught me that.

Taylor Knox’s SurfFit and Yoga for Surfers featuring Rochelle Ballard were part of my routine in the two months leading up to the trip. As much as I like to consider surfing my gym these exercise programs showed me that my core could be a lot stronger with focused surf specific exercise than from just surfing Florida waves a couple times a week. We started a fitness regimen a couple months before the trip to get the most out of our money and time spent in PR and it was one more reason I felt like I could be confident out in the water pushing my limits.

I surf decent-sized windswell in 55 degree water wearing a 4:3 wetsuit regularly. One thing I couldn’t duplicate or work on in a land based program however was paddling. By the second week of the trip I was extremely confident in my paddling and swimming and I credit that to paddling out in ugly, head high Northeast wind swell in my 4:3 every chance I got before the trip.

Bobby of Mar Azul Surf Shop helped me get my equipment dialed. As soon as they opened that morning he put me on a heavy glassed 8’8” by local shaper Jose Muniz with a hand tied big wave leash from a company called Stay Covered out of Oceanside, CA. He bragged about the leash as I hooked it through both leash plugs on the board and after seeing scores of broken leashes that day I was glad I had one worth bragging about.

I was told that riding a big wave board was like riding a longboard. In the year leading up to this trip I’d been longboarding whenever conditions seemed to call for it which was nearly as much as I was shortboarding.

There were other people out. Once in the water I was grateful for the light crowd. The wave was so far out to sea that finding a line-up and figuring how far out you needed to sit to be safe was daunting. I observed that there were at least three places or distances out that waves would break and it was incredible how big the waves that were too small to break were when you were sitting in the right place.

David preparing to surf Tres Palmas (2)

Despite all of my preparation, big wave surfing was like learning to surf all over again. I looked to others to figure out where to sit, when I put my head down and committed to paddling for a wave I was so focused that it was hard to keep track of everything going on around me, I acted much more on sensation than awareness, and the proper level of fitness was extremely important. Hopefully this experience is one more step in pushing the limits of my personal surfing. Next time I’ll be looking to go a little bigger and a little deeper than before.