Sunday, September 20, 2015

Marginal Is Still Better Than...

How do you blog about a day that was marginal?  How to explain that it's worth rising early on a Saturday and driving 72 miles just to catch a handful of waves that wouldn't be overhead to a four-year-old, such as yesterday?  Or even worth it had it been completely flat, which, gratefully, it wasn't?

The concept of a surf park with man-made waves doesn't appeal to me.  Too predictable; too assured.  It misses the point.  On the surface, it's all about riding waves, but really it's about immersion in nature.  Wild, unpredictable, quirky, beautiful nature.  Why is a surf session so spiritually cleansing?  Because it demands total focus and attention, no distractions from life ashore.  It's totally in the moment.  

I didn't set my alarm yesterday, figuring if I was awake early, I'd go surf.  As the early morning was breaking, I did a quick check of the surf cams on my iPhone.  Not much showing.  Go back to sleep.  Still awake 15 minutes later, I rolled out of bed, sipped a coffee and yogurt, then hopped in the car for the hour's drive with few expectations.

I was greeted by sporadic, waist-high waves and a rippled surface, approaching light chop.  But the waves showed some shape and were hollow, rather than crumbling.  Buoyed by water temperature reports of 75 degrees and up, I figured there was little down side to slipping into my trunks and into the water.

I started at the main peak area - pictured above - but the lulls were long and the size pretty meager.  There appeared to be a little more energy down below the Park at LG1, so I swam a couple hundred yards south and found some playful waves, amongst the lulls.

It was peaky enough for some length to the rides and the larger waves, creeping into the chest-high range, were hollow enough for even a little sunlit tube time.

An hour was plenty to feed the Jones that had been creeping in after a couple of dry weeks.  Maybe only five good waves, with another half-dozen marginal rides, interspersed.  But an hour of respite and replenishment.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Smooth... Small... State Park

I'm going to let the photos speak, for the most part, about Saturday's session in the Park.  Mostly because I don't get that many actual shots of bodysurfers.

As I arrived, two heads were in the water straight out from the steps/rail, easily identified as Hugh Berenger and Neil Frank.  Steve Harkins was walking down to the water with his UDeeTs in hand.

There was some size in the glassy morning, chest to chin high, breaking in very shallow water.

Very warm water - mid-70's - offered small, but shapely, lefts & rights for Hugh and Neil as I snapped a few shots from the rail.

I didn't spend alot of time shooting from the rail, but strapped the little, GoPro Hero4 Sessions to my wrist and headed into the water.  Video of the small, but fun, waves at the end, but a few decent stills came out of it...a couple of Hugh slotted in the smallies, and...

 ... one I kind of like, showing my POV: 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Blog-Worthy Session in Newport

A week on vacation at the beach, on the waterfront at 17th Street on the Newport peninsula.  Warm days and evenings, clear skies, beautiful water and the warmest water temperatures in memory.  Ending Friday, it was a fantastic vacation, but offered little grist for a blog focused on surf.  Until Thursday, the surf rarely exceeded waist-high wind swells barely able to propel anything other than a longboard.  Thursday afternoon and Friday morning offered a tad more, some fun, stomach-high waves, but still pretty anemic.

The only answer was to return to the peninsula Saturday morning, when a long-interval ground swell from the south was expected to mix in with the western wind swell we'd frolicked in on Thursday and Friday.  Meeting up with Derrik "MuDsHaRk" Sciarra and Mark "Sailfish" Ghattas in the 15th Street lot about 7:45, we were quickly assured that'd we'd not be disappointed.

On a hot, sultry morning, the glassy smooth surface glittered as well defined lines offered thick, dredging head-high, and sometimes bigger, breakers.  No wind to mess it up; little current to fight; and the west swell to help break the otherwise closed out south swell lines into peaks and corners.  Fast, steep rights in pitching tubes interspersed with longer lefts, peeling slowly enough to ride into the deep inside but still with enough speed and power to thrill.

Oh, but what about the crowd on a five-star morning?  None.  Nope.  A scattering of sticks and spongers were spread out from 16th Street down to 19th, but the swell was hitting everywhere equally from Schoolyards at 13th Street to 19th.  Through a 2-1/2 hour session, occasionally, two or three might drift through but there was not a wave that one of us had to give up.  We worked between the corner of Schoolyards at 13th to in front of the guard stand at 15th essentially without interference or competition.

This is what a summer Newport swell is supposed to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Newport Peninsula, a Year Later ...

Well, I committed to blogging on Newport irrespective of whether it was epic or flat.  What a difference a year makes!  As expected, it's been much closer to flat than epic, whilst a year ago it was, quite literally epic: a strong south swell generated by Lowell followed by the region's biggest summer surf in 25 years generated by Marie.

Allan on a mini-left - from our bedroom balcony

Fortunately, though, it's not been completely flat.  When the wind hasn't been too much onshore and the tide hasn't been too high, there have been waves that could be ridden.  Knee to waist high, sometimes encroaching into the stomach to chest range, has been the rule for the last four days.  Too crumbly when the tide gets to its afternoon peak, and sometimes troubled by "morning sickness" - a phenomenon of choppy, jumbled surface early the in the day resulting from onshore winds in the late night and early morning hours - there also have intervals of clean surf, smooth surfaces and hollow mini-tubes. 

Kevin Schwimer right / Allan left - not a bad bedroom view!

Combine that with the clearest water I've ever seen in Newport, where the bottom six feet below is crystal clear through a warm blue-green water tone seeming more like Hawaii than SoCal/Newport, tropical water temperatures in the low 70's and an abundance of sun after mid-morning, and there can be little cause for complaint. 

Then cap that with a perfect, beachfront location between 17th & 18th Streets (the middle of the stretch from 14th to 19th that is my preferred surfing haunt in Newport) sporting an unbeaten view of that sweep of beach ... a bit of heaven!

Meanwhile, the forecast is for some swell to start to show Thursday, so we might even get some real surf before our departure Friday morning.  And, of course, I can always come back down for the day Saturday or Sunday.

However, here's a glimpse of how 17th Street looked - right in front of the house that we're in - a year ago:

The Marie photo/blogs are here:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tale of Two Sessions

Two weekends
Two favorite surf spots
Two sessions

Seeking a south swell remnants of a tropical storm at 15th Street on the Newport peninsula last weekend.  Looking for a bit of energy from reliable San Clemente State Park on an off-weekend this weekend.

Success with both!  

On the peninsula, we look for meaty, hollow, steamroller lines when the South comes in, long period.  In the park, we look for peaks and corners pitched up by the sandbars.  While last weekend was substantially larger, as to be expected, the sessions weren't as different as might be expected.
Glassy Newport
Newport was surprisingly peaky.  It appears that some sandbars have developed through spring and early summer, morphing the shoulder and head high lines into hollow rights amongst the peeling lefts.

Sailfish Slides Right at Newport

At SCSP, we were just hoping for something to ride, and it was surprisingly fun, with the small mix of south and west swells periodically aligning over the sand bars for nice corners running in both directions.

Chest High Peaks in the Park
There was little crowding in either spot.  In both, we headed to the south of the better-known sections, to 15th, rather than 17th-19th in Newport, and beyond LG1, rather than Main Peak in the Park.  At the Park, to our North there was a steady string of summer groms struggling on their sticks, with only a few locals mixed it.  In both places, we had the area that Mark and I were working all to ourselves throughout the session.

Some Lines in the Park

At Newport, I decided to try out a new GoPro Hero Session camera.  The camera is great - downsized from prior GoPros and waterproof itself, rather than needing housing.  But, as with most equipment, it takes getting used to.  One button push turns the camera on and starts filming ... but with about a two-second delay, something I didn't realize until reviewing what I had shot.  Pretty much missed most of the action that I was going after, unfortunately.

GoPro Selfie, Mid-slide in Newport

At SCSP, the deep overcast combined with the smaller waves lead me to stash the camera for the session.

As a result, from Newport, there are only some GoPro stills, while at SCSP, I've got the usual "rail"shots. 

Hugh and Mark at the SCSP Rail

Though Newport is always a couple of degrees colder than San Clemente, despite the fact that it was the end of July, it was completely comfortable "skinning" it through both sessions.  So continues a run of record warm water that's stretched over a year, with no end in sight.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Swell on Schedule

You can see a summer swell coming from a long way off.  Born deep in the Southern Hemisphere, waves are on their way 10 days before they get here.  Since last week, the models have forecast a playful, long interval, head-high swell to arrive on Friday and last into Saturday.

On first glimpse, crossing the railroad tracks, there it was.  The wind was calm, the tide mid-low, and water temp bumping up on 70, and the water was full of surfers ... not!  It was nearly deserted.  Mainly because, as is hinted in the picture above, it was pretty walled up (arriving parallel to the shoreline and breaking all at once instead of peeling).  

Surfline, and the other websites, had warned to head to the point breaks instead of the beach breaks.  It appears that, in Southern Orange County, people took notice - I couldn't resist taking this shot of Cotton's Point, a mile & a half south of where we stood:

Click on it for a full-screen image.  I counted over one hundred heads in the water!  As one of the guys standing at the rail, watching, commented: Even if only one decent wave comes in up here, that's more than you're going to get down there!

But there were decent waves, as the tide fluctuated, and the swells hit the various sand bars along the Park area:

Yeah, you had to be picky.   While there was head-high size, it was often walled:

 But walled is where the bodysurfer loses his disadvantage against the surfer.  There are still short rides, tubes and easy exits, while waiting for the occasional corner.

As Hugh and I swam out at the main peak, there was only one surfer in the water.  The area further south, just below the campground, was starting to fill in with visitors from the campsite who would have paddled out in anything.

After an hour or so, more & more guys started paddling out.  Few regulars, none particularly proficient.  That left the two of us shifting around to avoid them as they'd see us score a wave or two and move in to shadow us.  But there were plenty of waves for us.  Rights & lefts.  A few long ones; mostly short, fast and hollow, though.  

As the lineup filled in, the wind, onshore today, started picking up, first ruffling the surface then starting to make the top of the waves crumble into the the midsection, eliminating the tubes that had been our compensation for the shortness of the rides.  We'd had a good 90 minutes ... time to call it a morning and leave with all the good pickings behind us.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Unplanned Peaks in the Park

I went to bed last night uncertain whether or not to surf today.  Most models were showing a steady onshore wind and small waves - I'd most often pass.  However, there were inconsistencies in the wind model and the swells showed two, separate, long interval SSW ground swells with a WNW wind swell mixed in ... all a foot or so in height.  Sometimes that can work well as the swells double up and then peak with the WNW.  I left the decision to whether I happened to awake early.

I awoke early and am glad I did!  We were surprised by pretty consistent chest, shoulder and even head high surf.  The long interval made for some power, with some pretty hollow.  The WNW mixed it up nicely, so that there were shifting peaks all around.  Pretty regularly, the swell mix created a long runner to the left off the peak.

For those who can't picture it based on those words, imagine standing on shore.  A shoulder-high swell, the SSW, is coming in at a little bit of an angle from the left.  A smaller swell approaches from the right at the same time.  The bodysurfer takes off at the peak created by the intersection, but is able to slide down into the smaller wave on the right (as you look out) and ride it all the way to deep inside, while the bigger SSW swell trails behind.

The rights were the opposite, but much faster, steeper, hollower ... and shorter.

What made the session exceptional was that we had it all to ourselves.  Hugh Berenger and I were joined in the water by water photographer/surfer/bodysurfer Geoff Glenn, shooting stills with his GoPro mounted on a trigger grip.  For the first 45 minutes, there was no one else in the water from the rocks all the way back nearly to the steps.  We had the extended Main Peak area to ourselves.  

I found it a little more consistent coming off the rocky underwater spine we call the Rocks, and between there and Main Peak 25 yards to the North.  Eventually, a few sticks paddled out, but all went in at Main Peak or further north, so we had the area we'd chosen all to ourselves for over 90 minutes.  

The wind remained slack - ruffling the water surface but not affecting the waves at all.  The water was a cool 65 or 66, but the shorty sufficed as there were no long waits or lulls.  Geoff was getting some great shots and Hugh and I simply had our pick of waves.  I know that on a handful of waves, I was sliding right toward and past Geoff, so I'm hoping for some action shots to share later in the week.

Unplanned, I had my best session in the Park, or anywhere, since March!