You know that summer has arrived when...
... a large, south swell pounds Southern California beaches
... inland temperatures soar daily into the upper 90's
... fires burn across the state
... water temperatures approach 70
... and it's time to hit the Newport peninsula.
Weekend parking is hard enough to find in the Newport jetties in winter. Summer is more difficult; add a swell, bringing in surf crowds, and it becomes almost impossible. Our initial call was along the peninsula at 15th Street, hoping that the south-facing beach would be angled enough not to be closed out.
Even before I could see the waves, I suspected that hope was to be dashed: walking across the lot at 15th, I couldn't see the water but had no problem seeing the whitewater leaping high above the sand horizon as a set came in. I watched for a while, but, as I said to Mark when he arrived a few minutes later, "it just looks big and mean."
The regular sets, overhead in height, were heavy and closed out. Just didn't look like fun.
We watched for a while longer and decided to check Blackies, up at the pier, which generally is much smaller but peaky. There's a large lot on the north/west side of the pier, but the dory boat fish market combined with a farmers market and sizzling inland heat to bring in an early crowd. It was backed up just entering the lot. Amazingly, though, a car pulled out just as I inched my way into the lot. I went to check Blackies, but it was not only breaking small - maybe waist high - but was nearly as crowded as the parking lot - long boarders, soft-toppers and sponges galore! Basically a beginner's beach, it was probably the only spot within miles that most of them were proficient enough to surf.
However, looking back south/east, beyond the pier, The Point - 19th Street - seemed to hold promise and was uncrowded.
More important, the uneven, shallow shelf that juts out at the point was creating some nice little peaks. Though much smaller than 15th street, the shoulder-high corners looked promising.
Mark went off to find a parking spot around 19th and I added a couple of hours to my parking and suited up in my spring "shortie" for the first time this year. For a little over an hour, we fought a steady current to maintain position around the 19th street lifeguard stand and shared some fun, hollow, Newport waves with a couple of knee-boarders and an occasional stick.
As Mark had to leave, I was tiring of the constant swim and had noticed that somewhere around 18th Street, those closed-out lines from 15th appeared to bend into big, fast lefts.
For my final half-hour, I decided to walk up the beach, nearly to 17th, and drift into a few of those. I got several of those larger lefts, then allowed the current to carry me up to 19th and close the session out with several final waves at the point.
First taste of summer surf...not bad.