Tag Archives: Tres Palmas

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. [floridaocean.org]

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


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.

Freaky Friday Swell

With the forerunners of today’s swell starting to trickle in late yesterday afternoon, I wanted to run into Aguadilla and check my favorite ‘the waves are huge, I need a sheltered spot’ wave. Turns out the direction must have been just right to push into my spot because I expected some fun little loggin’ waves in the thigh to waist range and was greeted with head high perfection. I scored about a dozen beauties before the wind and crowd each wreaked their havoc.

We drove straight up to the Maria’s lot from Aguadilla after my surf to see how much swell had filled in throughout the afternoon. Rincon had basically doubled in size from the morning and David thought he should paddle out at Dogman’s, “just to get a good look at what’s going on out there.” He’s the tiny dot in the 4th pic down with waves pushing into the double overhead range.

We woke up this morning to a buoy reading of 9.2@15.4 seconds and after checking Maria’s and the Tres Palmas look out, went straight to my friends at Mar Azul Surf Shop to rent David something bigger than his 6’1″. The owner of Mar Azul, Bobby (super cool, knowledgable guy with rental boards, a shop and apartments to rent) told David not to even think of anything less than 9′ and told us with the high percentage of breakage on Tres board rentals, you pay the price of the board up front and get a refund when you bring it back in one piece. Slightly ominous?

Just after he told us that another friend stopped by and pointed out that it was Friday, the 13th.  Freaky Friday!  The waves were freaky, freaky big and freaking beautiful.

The following images were all taken this morning, 02/13/2015.

When Tres is breaking, traffic gets a little backed up on the 413.

I didn’t have quite the equipment I needed to get a good zoom on the line-up, but I saw David charging a few during both his sessions. Hopefully someone with a bigger lens got a few of him and we can share them in a future post.

Why didn’t I run back into Aguadilla to my not so secret spot? I was pretty excited to see David surf Tres for the first time and I’ve got a little chest congestion I’m trying to kick so I can enjoy the rest of the trip. The forecast is pretty solid for our last eight days, so I’m sure I’ll be putting in my time around the Rincon and Aguadilla breaks.  Anyone who’s ever seen Tres break (or Waimea or Pipe or any giant challenging wave) knows that it’s enthralling just to be a spectator when the ocean decides to put on a show.