Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fading Swell

Early in the week, a nice WNW swell was forecast to arrive Thursday, offer head-high+ waves Friday and linger into Saturday. Recalling Oct 25 last year, the best (weekend) surf day of Fall, and with only one day of surf since Labor Day, I awaited Saturday morning with anticipation. Reports came in on Thursday and Friday of some great surf days in the South Bay and down at the Park. Hugh shared shots of thick & dredging, head-high bowls from SCSP.

The early departure seemed more winter than fall, with darkness only giving way to a deep-red Eastern sky as I pulled out of the driveway for the hours' drive to the Park. The Calafia lot was crowded for anytime other than summer...a good sign! Neil was waiting as I pulled into Calafia, and greeted me with one word: "feeble," he said. Not believing, I joined him and Hugh at the "rail," and saw a lot of fiberglass out, but nothing looking like the shots of yesterday that Hugh had shared.

EY and Ghattas pulled in and joined us. Looking South, there was a solid line of surfers from the north edge of the main peak straight through to LG1 and LG1 didn't even appear to be breaking. To the North, at least 20 out at Riveria. Sets came through at shoulder-high at best, mainly waist to chest. Straight out, there was a peak working 20 yards to the South and another just to the North, so we decided to leave the traffic to the sticks and go staight out.

It really wasn't bad at all, but really expected better than waist-chest today and the abundance of sticks, worse than most summer days, was really surprising. Neil & Hugh, having had the luxury to ride the swell Thursday & Friday, didn't suit up. With reported water temp of 67, EY, Ghattas & I were a little surprised at how chilly it seemed as we swam out in spring rubber.

Once in, the waves proved nice & hollow but not a lot of punch. Plenty of barrel time and a few long rides. Fun, but not what I'd dreamed of through the week.

To the left is a shot of the main peak, with over a dozen surfers still hanging around in mid morning to contest one peak breaking waist to chest...what's with that?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekend Parking

The dilemna was which day to pick for the sojourn to the Park. Out of town the last two weekends, three weeks ago I was skunked when we found a decent swell totally blown out junk, so I'd been dry for four weeks. Will be gone again next weekend and the prospect of going from Labor day to Oct 17 without surf just couldn't be accepted. Forecasts, though, made it tough: clearly, Sunday would have the better swell - perhaps even head high while Saturday was starting small, barely waist-high, and growing...but Saturday was supposed to be calm while a stiff onshore seemed likely for Sunday. Adding to Saturday's risk was a 9am high of plus 5-1/2.

Decided on Saturday: daunted by the prospect of frustration from an hour's drive, only to find a good swell blown out again, repeating my last visit to the Park - one of only a couple of times that I've made the jouney without gettint in - I decided warm water, small swell and good conditions promised for today were the better bet. Looking at the swell models, it appeared that a little energy should be rising between 8 & 9, hopefully to push through the tide.

2/3 the of the way from Pasadena to San Clemente, the cell rings - EY is a the Park & it's flat; he'c calling to tell me not to bother. Can it be??? I tell him I'm going to come down & swim, anyway, noting that it might start to get better around 8. EY heads to grab some coffee & pastry and await my arrival.

I get to Calafia, and EY's there, with a croissant croque-monsieur for me. Atop the steps, the view South to main peak and LG1 shows glassy surface but knee-lappers. A few sticks out at LG1. I turn to check Riviera to the North as an unexpected, chest-high set arrives, 1/2 up to Riviera; first wave EY's seen in an hour, but enough for me! Neil has joined us and goes to move his car and suit up as we head out.

It feels strange, turning right instead of left, after descending the stairs; it may be 2 years since I surfed Riviera. Nonetheless, the peak a few hundred yards to the North was clearly better & more consistent than "main peak" or LG1 to the South. Trunking for perhaps the last time until next summer, it feels good to enter the cool, 70-degree water. A soft breeze blows offshore, but the bluffs keep the surface glassy inside the break.

EY and I find it amazingly fun; waist and chest-high lines are pitching lips over a glossy surface illuminated as the sun clears the bluff. Corners appear and we take turns - there's no one else in the water from LG1, a half-mile South to Riviera, a few hundred yards further North. Couples stroll on the sand and women jog on the path beside the tracks. Everyone seems to have the same idea - today is Summer's farewell. The last of the 70 degree water; sunny mornings; Southern swells.

Mark appears on the shore, followed shortly by Neil
and Hugh. Hugh fishes in his backpack before coming out and finds his waterproof Canon digital; wades out with camera instead of fins. The calm maintains the surface gloss as EY, Mark, Neil and I exploit the smallies for the camera, checking the shots between rides. The first few waves were the best, before the tide peaked, bu all of us remain continually surprised how fun the surf is, when so little was expected.

Finally, after a couple of hours, the wind shifted to onshore and conditions rapidly deteriorated. Another 1/2 hour and we were exiting, as Steve Short arrived and swam out.

It wasn't a classic surf day. The largest waves never got over chest-high. But it was the last of Summer and I'll remember it.

I made the right call.
(click on pictures for full size)