For 90 minutes Saturday morning, Mark Ghattas and I feasted on a steady diet of chest-, shoulder- and head-high peaky tubes and long slides.
This was, easily, my best session since Nicaragua, but came on a day of modest expectations. A big high tide crested over 6 feet shortly after 10am, which assuredly would swamp out San Clemente, along with most other places. The beach break at Newport, though, is relatively impervious to the high tide. Instead of depending on the sand bars, like most other beach breaks, the shape and energy on the Newport Peninsula are created by a steep drop off relatively close to shore. The tide may rise, but a reasonable swell still hits that ledge, pops up and breaks.
However, the Peninsula bends to face nearly due south, and the swell for today was primarily from the northwest, albeit with a small south swell mixed it.
Between the tide and the swell direction, we really didn't expect much. What happened, though, was a pleasant surprise. Some of that northwest swell was clearly bending around, then mixing with the smaller south swell to present a semi-consistent flow of unusually peaky crests.
From the Point, where the peninsula bends at 19th Street, down to "Schoolyards" at 13th, there were two or three peaks within every block where every three to five minutes a set of two to four waves would pop up, at least chest high and often chin to head high. Most of the rights began fast and hollow, often offering a two or three second barrel ride before close out, but some would open up and peel far inside. The lefts were softer, and generally longer, but also slower.
Conditions were ideal: a mild offshore, combing only a mild spray off the lips, helped to hold open the wave faces while still leaving a glassy, unruffled surface. The deep overcast present when we arrived thinned, and patches of blue appeared overhead while the ocean surface took on a silvery sheen. The water temperature has cooled to the mid-to-low 60's, but with air temperature around 70 and insignificant wind, it felt perfect in the 3/2 full wetsuit.
Because there were so many peaks, the 20 - 30 surfers out this morning were scattered over the four blocks from 19th to 15th, where we went out. Hanging between 15th & 16th, we had pretty much any wave we wanted, only occasionally crossing paths with a small group to the south of us and a revolving couple of sticks to the north. We each got probably about 20 good rides over a 90 minute session.
One will stick out, though. Perhaps the best wave I've seen Mark Ghattas ride, I had caught the previous wave and was standing in the shallows inside as I watched him take of on a nice, steep right with a 6 foot face. Mark quickly got slotted and went into his old trademark, spread-eagle layout with both arms flung wide. Like a cross he slid across the vertical face, while lip starting pitching and catching up to him. It got as far as engulfing all but his head, and threatened to overtake him, then backed off as he accelerated and cleared the tube, emerging fully. The face softened slightly and Mark adjusted into a more conventional, "chcken wing," postion, with his lower arm extended but upper arm cocked and trailing back. Still moving fast, he shot past my inside position and continued in, far into the shallows. Unfortunately, I had made the (wrong) decision to leave my GoPro in the car today and just concentrate on surfing, as I was in perfect position to have captured the entire ride.
Summer may have been a bust, at least for me, but it looks like (fingers crossed) fall surf is here!