Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Arrived Early!

Santa Monica, that is!  Yes, really.  

Santa's gift was that much more than expected of yesterday's swell lingered over into this morning ... but, unlike yesterday, the conditions (if not water quality) were clean, wind calm and sun out.

Got a morning text from (son) Allan, who lives on Bay Street - just South of the Santa Monica pier - a block from the water, that there was definite size, if a little walled, but fun and with some corners to be found.  Shortly, another followed, forwarding a text from his friend, Mike Gross, in Venice, with a photo showing overhead surf with shape:

While I woke Joe, who got in late last night from New York, loaded the car and set out from Pasadena, Allan and his friend, Fuzzy, scouted Venice and Santa Monica up to Chautauqua.  Final destination, concluded as we pulled out of the I-10/PCH tunnel: Bay Street.

As we pulled into the lot at Bay Street, the sun had come out and a series of clean, if a bit closed out, overhead sets rolled in.  First surprise as I finned up and waded out, about 10:45, was that the water wasn't all that cold - close to 60.  No visible debris, either, even though we were just South of the Pico wash.  Next surprise was that, though there was a mild cross-breeze from the South, the surface was glassy and the NW swell clean and organized.  Though a few more plus sets came in, height backed off a foot or so but a regular parade of head-high+ rights and lefts, not quite so hollow, presented itself over the next 45 minutes.  

Other than Joe, Allan & Fuzzy, all on boards, there were only four other surfers scattered across several blocks above & below Bay Street.  Another friend, Schwimer, paddled out in full winter suit, including billed hood, and took his usual control over the break.  

Eventually, the breeze picked up and shifted West to onshore, as the surface textured and organization suffered.  But before that, I scored a good half-dozen, head-high...a couple plus...solid slides.  Only one was particularly steep and fast, a big, overhead, right barrel that I dropped into and started to line up into the slot.  It was going to be a short ride, close out in maybe 20 feet, but a nice tube was promised.  Unfortunately, one of the sticks was paddling out and the line I needed to follow to hold the wave headed directly across his path, so I had to exit early.  But good vibe held and he waved his apology.

In the lot afterward, came upon Schwimer, sporting the red/white/blue, NBA-logo style, t-shirt I'd given him last year, worn with pride.  Told me he used it to explain to the spongers up North that they outta try it without a flotation device.

As with last year, on December 20 in Venice, it was a rare treat to share the water with both Joe and Allan.  And this year was much better - an excellent day of surf!  In Santa Monica, no less!

Thanks, Santa!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Filling the Days ... the First of a Series

As we sit through the deluge that's inundating Southern California and reflect upon a Fall that's been the "dryest" (for bodysurfing sessions0 of many years, while anticipating a Winter marked with consistent swells to balance the books, one is want to daydream of sessions past.

With that in mind, I thought I'd fill the dearth of real-time stories with a series of photos from the past, either shot by me or picturing me, in memorable sessions.

This was from a surprising session at the Wedge that I shot in early August, 2006.  The water was cold, but the swell was much bigger than projected. Jeff Lashbrook, pictured here, and his son Chris met me on the peninsula at 16th Street, mid-morning. The original plan was to meet and go out around 16th, but I'd been down to the Wedge earlier in the morning and had found a growing swell and gradually receding fog. Jeff was anxious to get to it, so we headed down as the blackball went up, to find faces of up to 15 feet at the peak, great shape and almost nobody in the water. Jeff surprised me by jumping in, swimming out and taking off on the first wave to come in - a real bomb - pictured above. Later, I got Joe to come join us. I've some nice shots of Joe and Chris, as well, that perhaps I'll share later.

July 25, 2009; San Clemente State Park.  Though one of the smaller waves this day, the best day of 2009, it's one of my favorite shots from the day.  This was the biggest day of the last two or three years, but the waves were extraordinarily well formed at the Park that day.  Russell Riopelle chose to shoot rather than swim out as Mark Ghattas, Rick Ciaccio, Joe (Haldeman), Hugh and I (and others?) got some of the best surf I've every had at the Park.

This shot is about 1/2 way through this particular wave...and a long way to go yet!  What makes the photo a favorite is not only the outstanding shape of the wave but also the inclusion of Mark, enjoying the role of spectator on this one.

As I hope for a session to break the surf drought later this week, I'll put up a few more of these reminiscences.

As always, click on photos for full size....

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wet Again in the Park

Through the week, forecasts for today had gradually turned negative, from 2-4 feet down to 1-2, with Surfline even saying yesterday that the Park would be flat by midmorning.  But the swell charts themselves showed an interesting mix of small swells that often make the Park peaky & fun.  Add to that four weeks dry and predictions for a sunny morning with favorable conditions (tide & wind), and I elected to make the journey South.

As the picture above and those that follow show, it was a good decision.  Big isn't everything; there were regular waist and chest high waves coming in, a glassy surface, occasional mild offshore breeze and lots of peaks.

I got to the Park a bit after 8:00.  There were a few surfers out at LG1, probably campers making a long weekend out of Veterans Day, but the main peak was basically empty.  Immediately suited up - the water having dropped to about 60, full suit for the first time since last Spring - and swam out, not waiting for Mark "Sailfish" Ghattas to arrive.  I was immediately rewarded with a chest-high right with an open tube giving a couple seconds' view of a sparkling tunnel opening across a glittering surface with Cotton's Point beyond.

Mark joined me shortly, and we worked the South side of the main peak for about 90 minutes as it gradually filled in with local sticks and a couple of spongers.  Vibe in the water was great; everybody enjoying the fun little peaks and sunny morning.

As the main peak was getting a bit crowded, we swam down to LG1 and continued on, another hour.  Sailfish kept nailing long, to the shore, lefts, working them with his handboard.

Ultimately 2-1/2 hours of very fun surf on a beautiful morning.  What a great way to quench the thirst!

As always, click on any photo for full size....  For my East Coast friends, here's a link to a couple of video clips shot after today's session with a couple of decent stick rides:  SCSP 11-13-10 or click the blog's headline.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Rare Fall Session - belated post

A belated post for my mid-October the middle of a fall in which I've been getting very little surf!

This weekend, I couldn't go out Saturday and today was projected to be flat. Last weekend we had the first rains of the season, and the morning high tide dampened expectations.

Two weeks ago, though, was a fun session. A shot of the shoulder-high peak is below, and a click on the title above, or on this link [Park Peak in Fall] is a short video.

Park Peak Left
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So, two weeks ago, it was just Sailfish and me in a mild drizzle that continued through the morning. Despite the drizzle, it wasn't really chilly and the water temp was comfortable in the shorty at 66-67.

The surf was fun, head high at the main peak & LG 1 from 8:45 to 11:15. North of main peak, it was hollow and packed quite a bit of juice. The conditions were clean, mostly glassy, even through the drizzle. While more of the largest (head high+) sets were closed out, patience was rewarded with some good corners.

We had the main peak to ourselves for the best of it, early, and then moved south to LG1 when the peak filled it. Another hour down there, and then the last half-hour, slowly worked back up against the current all the way to the steps. In the last 15 minutes, just South of the steps, I got three of the best rides of the day, fast and hollow.

So much travel is getting in the way, and surf or conditions aren't cooperating in the weekends available, but the rare sessions this fall are treasured.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in the Park!

The drought is over and summer lingers!

We found a surprisingly decent swell - waist to shoulder high, plus - with a glassy surface and warm (67) water in the Park on Sunday. It was best from 8:15 - 9:30, during which a pod of six - Neil "Real Deal" Frank, Mark  "Sailfish" Ghattas, Russell "Riptide" Riopelle, Hugh "Huge" Berenger, local surfer morphing into bodysurfer Casey and I - had the Park ALL to ourselves.  The fun sized waves had enough pitch, even on the Park smallies, for some decent tube time as we spread out around the main peak.

About 9:30, as the approaching high tide started swamping it out, creating a beach break only really suited for bodysurfing, five or six 'glass riders appeared but graciously continued to share the main peak with the encumbents of the body.

The warmer water, mild south swell, clear skies and building heat made it seem for all the world a quintessential summer day...entirely welcome to one who's been in dry dock since early August!!!

Words escape me, to convey how welcome it was to return to the womb, the water, the waves after the longest absence in many years. be wet again!

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


OK, returning from abroad today and looking to the first weekend in town since August 7 where my health will permit me to surf and this is what I see (courtesy of SurfLine):

ZERO to ONE?!?!?!  Both Saturday & Sunday?  Report - ankle to knee & poor???

After this weekend, traveling again, the next two weekends.  My next shot at water time is October 16.  I haven't gone this long in years!!

Anticipation?  More like FRUStration!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dry Dock

Yet another solid weekend swell for Southern California - perhaps the fourth in the last six weeks.  Under normal circumstances, I would be bronzed and exhausted about this point.  Unfortunately, not!

The great news is that this week, I'm finally fully recovered from a battle with pneumonia that dates back to August 6th.  Unfortunately, while I'm fit to go now, the only water close by is the Thames, and no swell is showing there...not even in recognition of the Pope's visit here in London.  

Ah, well...hope the boys back home get a bit of action this weekend and share story and photo.  Meanwhile, I'll be back in SoCal next weekend, dearly hoping for a reprise of this weekend as I get seek to get in my first real surf session in seven weeks!

It's not been a normal summer....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Showtime Del Mar

Back in the water after being knocked out of the lineup for two weeks by a very unfriendly bout with bronchitis. We're down in Del Mar for a couple of nights but I'm missing the Worlds (World Bodysurfing Championships at Oceanside this weekend) as I focus on recovery.

Throughout Southern California, the last two weeks have continued to be characterized by exceptionally low water temperatures, frequently dipping below 60 and never getting out of the low 60s. That's perhaps beginning to break, as it's now flirting with 65 in Southern Orange County and San Diego.

A nice 3 - 5 foot South swell is arriving in SoCal this weekend, but it's not doing much for Del Mar, where there is some size but it's pretty sloppy, crumbly and disorganized. On a cool morning, despite the clear, sunny skies, 64 seemed cold as I swam out at the blackball area in front of Jack's and the 18th street lifeguard headquarters. There were a couple of heads in the water, trying to make the most out of what was there. To the south, the longboards were getting the best of it.

Rare, four foots sets would break outside, but it was a long wait in between. I was surprised by the effect of my still-restricted lung capacity, cutting short my dive time and leaving me winded in each swim out. It made me grateful to be working through the Del Mar rollers, which pretty much stay on the surface, rather than the dredging slabs of Newport and elsewhere.

Conditions and lungs notwithstanding, over an hour's period, I managed to nab a handful of set waves with a few decent slides. But what made the morning noteworthy and gives title to this post, came late in the session:

The only impressive set of the morning was a six wave set, the largest running maybe 7 or 8 foot from crest to trough, breaking well outside. A few minutes before the set came in, I noted a couple of dolphin frolicking just outside. As the largest wave crested, a fast left sweeping North up the beach, six dolphin were highlighted, streaking across the lucent blue face, weaving amongst themselves, cutting up and down. As the wave passed me by and I turned to watch from the back, in choreographed unison, they burst through the top into full air, hung for a moment, and slipped back into the water.

Many times, I've seen a dolphin or two surfing a wave, and occasionally the burst out the back. I've also seen the films of whole pods in action. But this the first I've observed in person, and within just a few yards.

Sometimes it's the waves, sometimes it's the stoke, and sometimes it's Nature herself...but in any case, this is what it's all about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Need to catch up on several days of daily sessions.

Sunday afternoon, the swell peaked. It was pretty messed up, all up and down the peninsula, but I swam out, skinning it in 60-ish water, for a half hour that saw a few 8-10 foot (face) bombs come through. Fairly wicked and closed out, there were still some short cuts to be had on the more moderate sized sets.

Monday was another solid day of swell on the peninsula, much like Sunday. I went out later, around 11:00, on my first solo session of the summer. I had 15th Street all to myself for a couple of hours in consistent, shoulder/head high waves. It was still very chilly; the shorty barely cut it. Although it was overcast throughout, there was a fair amount of texture on the surface but not enough to mess up the waves. Plenty of open tubes on a fun, relaxed morning.
Yesterday, Joe & I decided to head down to San Clemente State Park, where we hoped the fading swell would hold up better and in quest of a reprieve from the cold of the peninsula. It was fun, but disappointing. Four different swells combined for often crossed up but still peaky waist to shoulder high waves. We left a bright sun in Newport for heavy overcast in the Park and the water was still quite chilly at 61 or so.

While it was ok, it was disappointing against expectations, compounded not only by the chill water and overcast but also a pervasive infection of pea-green algae and pesky backwash. The fact that we had the main peak down to the rocks at the Park all to ourselves was mitigated by the sickly green hue of what would have been fun little barrels.

This afternoon, we were surprised to find that a bit of the swell still remained on the peninsula.   Mid-afternoon, the sun was out and the breeze was mild, texturing the surface without messing the waves up.

I spent about an hour, drifting from 10th Street to 13th, catching thick, shoulder to nearly head high waves, a few of which had decent left and right shoulders.  Skinned it, again, in low 60's water.  The shot above, at 6th Street, was afterwards...wish I'd shot a few earlier!

As I returned to 6th, Joe was in the water on a sponge, messing in the closed-out set waves, while my mother took photos from the shore, and daughter Hilary and her boyfriend, Doug, dozed under the sun on the beach.

Through the afternoon, the sets came in regularly, until about 4:30, when a long lull set in.  The shot below, at about 5:00, may be the last set of this swell.

Not much expectations for the next couple of days here, but it was nice to have an extended stretch with waves and occasional sun.  Would be nice if the water would warm up, now.  Something over 65 would sure be nice.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Begins

At first peek, 8:30 this morning, a steady, head high swell was showing at 16th Street, thick and hollow under a thinning gray sky.

Hastening back to the car, I vacillated between the full suit or just the spring "shorty."  The Newport Lifeguard report for the morning was "61.4 degree" water temperature, but it seems to be warming.  Right  at the decision point, the sun popped out, warm and bright.  The springer I decide, and slip it on.

Head back to the beach, where the sticks are filling in from 17th north to the Point (19th).  But 16th  (actually all of 17th to 15th) is the province of a lone, white-haired bodysurfer.

Mark Ghattas (Sailfish) has arrived and is at water's edge getting ready to enter.  Neil Frank, the septuagenarian wonder, joins us eventually.  Definitely chilly getting it, exertion kept us warm as, for the next two hours, we have the stretch from 15th to 17th to ourselves, sharing for a while with the white haired guy.   The cooling interludes between waves feel good. 

Through the first hour, the height held up and it became less closed out, allowing some long lefts and a few decent rights on 5 and 6 foot faces.  Wide barrels held open for sparkling tunnel views, and even the more closed out, rogue set waves, while thick and hollow, allowed for some decent face time on early take offs.  

We swam south against the current to the 15th LG stand, drifted back to the 17th Street stand then worked south again.  Near the end of the session, a fairly heavy rip developed right in front of the 17th Street guard, while others slipped up the coast, pulling sand-brown plumes out well beyond the break.  
With the sun came texture on the water, not the slick gloss of yesterday, but I'd readily trade the glassy surface for a couple of extra feet, albeit rippled.  

After a quick change, Mark, Neil and I met at the Stuft Surfer, on the boardwalk at 15th for breakfast eaten on a picnic bench on the sand as the parade passed along the boardwalk, brought out by the first sunny morning in a while: bicyclists, joggers, groups of walkers, surfers skateboarding with sticks underarm and skaters pushing big-wheeled strollers.

It's August.
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Brightening Up in Newport

Things continue to brighten here in Newport.  The sun did, indeed come out for the afternoon. 

Went back over to the ocean side of the peninsula about 2:30.  

Some swell appeared to be started to show, so I walked up to 11th Street and swam out.  Though the water 's still very chilly, though warming (maybe 63),  I skinned it.

Just as I got to the 10th Street guard, he replaced the green flag with yellow and put up the black ball ... thanks!  Went out for an hour in surf with 4-5 foot faces, sometimes 6 foot.  Textured surface and a bit lacking in organization, but the swell is definitely starting to show and it was nice to ride in the sunshine.  

Swam back South past 6th street and exited, chilled & tired, but satiated.

Tomorrow AM should be decent on the peninsula.  Planning on hitting 16th Street at 9AM.  Expect Sailfish, perhaps Hugh, and whomever else....

Newport: Slow Start but Picking Up

It's day two on the (Newport) peninsula.

After getting wet in small, frigid surf to begin day one, yesterday, we had low expectations for this morning. Yesterday, we put in over an hour in inconsistent, waist-high surf, on a chilly, gloomy morning and frigid - 55 degree - water. The sun never showed and the day never warmed up. Went back over to the beach in the evening, hoping for swell, but only had a chilling, steady breeze and nothing to motivate re-entry. The hope was for a little better today, but not much.

So, son Joseph and I collected a couple of neighbors who were joining us and headed out to 18th Street about 8:30. Joe and Tim (Joe's peer) had boards but Tim's father, Burt, elected to bodysurf.

We were surprised to find that it was glassy and clean. The waves were that typical, hollow pitch that characterizes the Newport peninsula, but, surprisingly, even a bit peaky, too. Regular sets were coming in chest and shoulder high, with a little juice. The water has warmed up to 60+ (still full suit time, though).

We spent two hours, mainly about 16th street, where we had the peak off the sandbar totally to ourselves. Lots of waves, few lulls, a few plus sets and lots & lots of only Newport consistently offers. It stayed glassy through 10:30 as the blackball came up and we took off.

Even looks like the sun's going to come out today.

(No pictures today, but I'm sure later in the week, I'll get some....)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back in the Game

Sooo nice to be back in the water!

The Park was showing why I so favor it: clean and peaky, picking up a bit of NW along with the shoulder-high (sometimes head high) South swell.  Glassy and fun on an overcast morning with cooler than expected, maybe 64/65 degree, water.

Only Mark Ghattas along this session, we had a nice peak in front of LG 1 to ourselves for an hour then spent another hour shifting around between LG1 and King's Corner as a small pod of sticks kept drifting or paddling into our space.  But they were cool and the vibe was good.

Though often a bit crumbly, there were some nice tubes, nonetheless, and some long slides to be had, both left & right.  Laid back, low key, simple water time on a modest yet classic Park morning.

I was concerned about the ankle, and it's clearly still a bit weak, but it held up through a two-hour session. 

Shot some video on the way down and when I first arrived, but haven't had the chance to edit it and it's not classic, anyway.  So nothing attached at this point.

I'm ready for Newport!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


airborn, originally uploaded by sosidesc.
Last post here from Hugh's series of the Wedge this week (7/21/10).

For more, go to Hugh's flickr site:


Go further back for some outstanding surf and bodysurf photography.

Photos for purchase at:


Wedge Peak

wedge front view, originally uploaded by sosidesc.


by Hugh Berenger


Mel, originally uploaded by sosidesc.

One of the Wedge greats, Mel Thoman, 7/21/10

Shot by Hugh Berenger

Wedge: Visitor and host

visitor and host, originally uploaded by sosidesc.

visiting brazilian bodysurfer rod bruno walks the wedge beach with legendary wedge bodysurfer kevin "mel" thoman

by Hugh Berenger

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Calif Bodysurfing Championships

Sunday were the California Bodysurfing Championships, hosted by the Golden Triangle at the San Clemente Pier during the Ocean Festival.

Steve "Too Tall" Short picked up the organizing responsibility from Eric EY_\ Yeisley and did a great job. I timed the competition and assisted Beachmaster Chuck "Kahuna" Herpick moving the heats along. We had a great turn out, a ton of stoke and were surprised by decent waves, which weren't forecast. It remained overcast through the morning but that was a nice respite from the humid heat of late, and kept it glassy for the competition.

All had much fun, but none more than Rod Bruno. I discussed Rod in the last blog. After flying up from his home in Brazil to brave the monsters at the Wedge on the weekend of the Fourth, Rod continued to Tahiti to try bodysurfing Teahoopu. Apparently, he didn't get the best conditions in Tahiti, but accomplished his mission then returned to Southern California to compete and medal in San Clemente.

Rod is a great ambassador for the sport, and his stoke is infectious. In the photo below, he's urging the younger generation at the competition to eschew their body boards, strap on fins and commit to bodysurfing. Received great response!

So, after the competition, and after 3 weeks in dry dock, I swam out with several of the competitors and judges to test out the ankle in fins again. Pretty tentative at first, in decently formed, shoulder-high surf, I got the water legs back in a short session before heading home. Looking forward to a full session, next weekend!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wedge Works

I've focused this blog on my own bodysurfing adventures, but every so often it's worth turning to what's happening within the bodysurfing community of which I'm a part.  In my last post, I mentioned the swell that hit the Wedge last weekend while I was sidelined by my ankle.

Well, I'm long past any thoughts of swimming out at the Wedge when it's breaking like this, preferring more forgiving breaks when it gets big, but I had friends in the water and others on the shore last weekend.  I shared a couple of links last post, but decided to put this up, with a little more focus on the Wedge.

 This is a shot by Hugh Berenger of a correspondence friend of ours, Rod Bruno.  Click on photo for full size.  (Used without permission; sorry Hugh)

Rod came up from Brazil, where he lives & surfs, and endeavored, quite successfully, to time his trip to coincide with a decent swell arriving in Southern California, especially the Wedge.   Today, he's in Tahiti, but it's rainy and flat.

Hugh, the photographer of this shot, swam out after shooting this, and the other shots that can be seen at his SmugMug and his Flickr sites (click for links).  Apparently, got a few good ones by being patient and choosy.

Also on shore Monday was Brent "Crawdaddy" Crawford, with his trusty video camera.  He got some excellent clips of the action - a few before the blackball went up, then quite a few of the purists after it went up.  Rod's in a couple, and I think I see Hugh in one.  View his video by clicking here, or on the title of this post.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fluid Fireworks Fizzle on the Fourth ... 'cept at the Wedge

I was pretty discouraged by the prospect of a great swell coming through, on a holiday weekend no less, and being sidelined with the ankle sprain from last Saturday. 

Improving, but nowhere near where I would it need to be to be out swimming in 10 foot surf, during the week I had visions of a long, warm, sunny weekend with large waves sweeping up the coast and the pod all coming up with "best of summer" experiences. 

Then, unrelated to the swell, the cold & damp sweeps in and really messed it all up: cool, overcast, even drizzling.  What were supposed to be calm mornings with mild offshores instead were characterized by steady onshore winds, the morning ocean surface already pocked with whitecaps. 

When everything – swell size, direction & interval – is “right” for the Wedge, conditions don’t matter that much…it’s powerful enough to just push through it.  And so it did on Saturday, as evidenced by the LA Times story, and photos by Hugh (at SmugMug and Flickr)  and others. [click the links]

But elsewhere, it was pretty consistent reports of jumbled up, messy surf.  Some found a few protected breaks, and reports from San Diego were much better, but my haunts - the Park, the peninsula - were just big, closed out, and choppy.

I guess I avoided the disappointment of  scouring the coast, especially Monday morning, in anticipation of an epic session and finding slop instead!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Missin' It on the Fourth

The morning's LA Times contained a warning for beachgoers:

Big surf to hit Southern California beaches; public is warned about dangers

The big surf promised for some Southern California will begin to materialize Sunday morning.

It has prompted public warnings from surf experts and lifesaving officials -- especially for those less familiar with the rhythm and power of big surf.

The swells, formed by a large storm near New Zealand, will generate waves with faces of up to eight feet in height along south-facing beaches in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, according to forecasters at Large surf is expected to continue through Tuesday before tapering off.

The Southern Hemisphere swell will not hit all beaches equally. The South-facing beaches in San Diego and Orange counties will see the largest surf.
The swell is expected to create the typical summer spectacle at the Wedge, next to the mouth of the Newport Harbor. Body surfers will test their nerves and their necks on waves that can double in size after refracting off the rocks and then slamming onto the shallows or onto the sand. Forecasters project some sets at the Wedge could reach 15 feet.

Excerpts from Surfline this morning:

SOCAL on SUNDAY: New SSW groundswell is on the rise this morning with better South exposed breaks already picking up ...

Forecast Outlook:
MONDAY: New SSW groundswell tops out with chest-head high+ waves and sets running 2-3'+ overhead at top spots. ...

The swell chart is even more enticing:

But none for frustrating is that?

Ankle is on the mend, but it's only been a week and the strength and stability is not there to swim out in any kind of surf.  Here's to hoping that it's just the beginning of an active summer of swells!

Meanwhile, Crawdaddy's posted his video from last Saturday's well-attended Expression Session in the Park.  No appearance for me, this time; I was already beached.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Respect for EY and the Park

Despite forecasts for only waist, maybe chest, high surf, in honor of the return to Colorado day for Eric " EY_\ " Yeisley, founding core member of the Golden Triangle (our San Clemente State Park bodysurfing tribe), we put out the call:

Thou who art dry of gill, come forth and moisten thy piscine lungs
Ye who walk lonely upon the earth come bask in the sea of brotherhood.
Thou who are waning of spirit, drink in the living aura of Gaia
Come ye all, emerse thyselves in the water and emerge freshed and with energy
Ye of the body are called to the Park. Smallies await ye.

Expectations for surf were modest, but the Park really delivered!

Upon arrival, a fairly stiff South wind, grey skies and cool air made it seem much more like winter, but there several swells showing good height, regularly into the head high range, and the wind didn't seem to be messing it up too much. Eric had arrived, with Joanna and a box of pastry. Crawdaddy, Neil and Hugh were checking it out. Tim "Hacksaw" Hankins pulled in, having driven in from Phoenix, and his friend Mike from Strands joined us. Kahuna stopped by to pay respects but had to take off. Paul Tordella came down from South Bay with John Rogers.

After short debate over whether the wind was a problem, the tribe donned gear ranging from board shorts, to spring suits, to full suits and walked up by LG1 where the break was totally empty. Water was a still warm 68 and the first few waves showed that the mixture of swells would have no problem pushing through the wind for long rides over the textured surface.

Mark "Scrudz" Johnson from Huntington Beach's Chubasco showed, along with Mark "Sailfish" Ghattas. Near the end, Jeff "JPL" Lashbrook swam out.

Gradually, the wind relaxed through the morning and the touch of morning sickness cleared for a solid Park morning. Shoulder and head high peaks, some plusses, gave the pod a perfect stage on which to showcase the skills and variety of talent while the SC lifeguards watched. EY_\ was cleaning up the inside as usual...wave after King's Corner wave...spinner upon spinner.
For over two hours, we had the stretch from the rocks south to beyond LG1 much all to ourselves...just 15 heads in the water with plenty to go around. Quite an impressive showing for EY and his devotion to the Park.

Unfortunately, early in the session, I rolled my ankle pretty bad on a shallow rock on a close out - came down on the edge of the flat, submerged rock, then slid off, ripping the hip of my spring suit and leaving a few long, bleeding scratches along my wrist, hand and arm...looks like I've been donating at SUROL!

At first, I unsuccesfully tried continuing with the fin on, then switched to a single fin but that wasn't working in the deep water and fast swell. I finished out with both fins but favoring the side.

Wished I'd been able to take as much advantage as others of an excellent morning in the Park!
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Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in the Park

The forecasts were for knee to chest high waves with a mild onshore/sideshore breeze. The morning cams showed pretty weak stuff, drained by a negative low tide; a rippled surface under a flat gray sky.

But son Joseph and I had decided we'd give it a try anyway - first bodysurfing outing since Joe's return from school. We were surprised to find guys suiting up in the parking lot and a pod of sticks already out at the main peak - activity more common when there's a decent swell.

We walked south past the crunch at the main peak, and swam out just beyond the rocks. Joe hung there, working the sand bar corners around the rocks while I worked a bit further south.

I feared it would be worse, but there were some fun little rides with an occasional chest high set. Even three solid tube rides, early on.

Sailfish - Mark Ghattas - joined us shortly and we gradually worked further South. Had the entire area from the rocks South to ourselves, save for a father and two young sons on boards, most likely down from the campground. Decent surfers but rather clueless about sharing waves with bodysurfers....

A mild wind kept a texture on the water through the mornging, but didn't really mess it up.

Though the water was colder than expected - definitely under 60 - it turned into a beautiful, sunny day with Memorial Day crowding on the shore. Later in the session, as the tide filled in, "King's Corner" started working for some small but long lefts & rights.

Went down, really expecting nothing, and ran into a very pleasant morning instead. Wish I had brought a camera as we headed back up the beach - it was packed in three and four deep. Tents set up where the rising tide would get them within an hour or two, but a holiday crowd enjoying the summerish holiday day nonetheless.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Melinda Morey on Bodysurfing

Melinda Morey is the daughter of Tom Morey, the inventor of the boogie board. She's also goddaughter of a frequent bodysurfing companion of mine, Chuck Herpick (Kahuna), Tom's partner. Melinda is a recognized & respected waterwoman, who wrote this email on bodysurfing several years ago. On a weekend when I'm travelling and unable to surf, and the waves in So Cal are blown out anyway, I thought it worth sharing:

Melinda Morey on Bodysurfing

It's interesting that you define bodysurfing as a subcultural activity and not surfing as well. In this I assume you mean subcultural in the microcosm of modern day surfing which, as others have already pointed out, has entered into the stream of mass consciousness as an activity (largely due to consumerism in a fetishist mediated culture) ...but I maintain that like skateboarding, surfing is still fairly marginalized in the overall scheme of things, particularly depending on where in the country [U.S. - ed.] you live (I've had people ask me as I'm putting my longboard on the car in Jersey City, NJ "is that a canoe, a snowboard?"...go figure).

As far as being social anomalies...I think these days bodysurfers tend to be like surfers used to be - more renegade individuals who don't really give a shit what other people think, because they know what they're about. A lot of us also surf. The more toys you have access to, the better to enjoy the ocean. Some days/conditions are better for one or the other activity.

The loyalty to one being better than another is ego stuff - who needs it.

It used to be that most water people learned to bodysurf as kids, as part of their education of the ocean. That has been all but replaced by learning to bodyboard, except in places where overall skills in the ocean are emphasized - Australia being a principle example. Otherwise, from bodyboard to surfing is the progression now. Hence you see most good/serious bodysurfers are over the age of 30 (the boogie board was invented in 1971 - I rest my case).

Most true waterpeople (lifeguards, surfers, bodyboarders, paddlers, etc.) respect others who are highly skilled, regardless of what they ride. Most lifeguards are excellent bodysurfers, water polo players too. Surfers have an advantage because of speed and take off positioning, but respect is there nonetheless - even if grudgingly so.

As far as the "insurmountable" differences's apples and oranges. The two activities are entirely different animals. There is nothing like being immersed in water and feeling that energy rushing around you...when you are on a board, you are on top of it, not in it. Surfing, you are freer of the water's drag being above it...totally different experiences, not better or worse.

It is much harder to catch a wave bodysurfing than surfing. What bodysurfing offers is the opportunity to learn wave judgement, timing, and a more intimate understanding of currents and pulses moving through the ocean. It improves your stamina and conditioning, your confidence in the water, and your ability to help others less able than yourself. These skills translate not only into surfing or other water activities, but to life itself.

Hope that is of use.

A committed waterwoman who does not support factions.


Melinda Morey

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Park Perfection (Saturday)

Today was San Clemente State Park approaching its best: a four to five foot swell from the South on a rising tide and a glossy slick surface. Head high and plus sets peeled up the beach, gathering energy from the tidal push, pitching a fat lip over deep, hollow tubes.

Though it was overcast and the water has cooled a bit, today was all about the waves. A quick glimpse from the steps sent me quickly back to the car to suit up…no lingering with the camera or Flip today.

Walking up the beach with Crawdaddy and Kahuna, we saw Paul Tordella catch a couple of long, fast left slides despite the gaggle of sticks, and debated swimming out at the main peak. But further South, beyond the rocks at Life Guard Stand 1 (LG1), it looked just as good and was empty. It proved a great choice, as we had the place to ourselves for over two hours, only interrupted when a couple dozen aspiring Junior Lifeguards made their qualifying swim out and around the buoy.

Sailfish and Real Deal joined us shortly and we traded waves while fighting a steady current pushing us North into a quartet of surfers accompanied by a guy shooting them in the water. The first hour was fairly steady - lots of lefts, but the swell was catching sand bars to peak up with some fun, fast, hollow rights as well. The latter part of the session grew more inconsistent but the sets,when they came, were even larger.

First wave out, Saifish (Mark Ghattas) snags a long, gaping right and comments as he's swimming back out that he's already got his wave of the day. (That held up until late in the session, but there were plenty more to be had.)

Good vibe in the water today - lefts, and the steady push North, would bring us into the area being ridden by the four sticks, and they were as psyched as we were. One dropped in on Mark then apologized when he realized Mark hadn't been telling him to go, but, rather, trying to call him off. Another dumped his board, donned fins and swam out to join us.

Tiring after a couple of hours, but still stoked by the swell, it was only Sailfish and me in the water. Mark rode a couple more and got out, but I decided to drift through the rock reef into the main peak and up to the steps instead of walking back.

Great choice - I caught at least six more waves over that 20 minute stretch. A good right to the South and then a perfect set wave left to the North as I crossed over the reef from the rocks. Only one surfer hanging South enough to catch the lefts off the rocks.

Then, as I came across the "main peak," another set showed. While all the board surfers were digging to get back South and outside, I had the first wave of the set all to myself. Three waves later, I finally snagged a final lift inside to the shore.

The coda was a well-earned breakfast at Adele's with Mark, Neil and Mark's girlfriend, Mandy (and a few minutes playing with their Boxer puppy, Penny). Could barely slide out of the booth afterwards, as the legs tightened up after over 2-1/2 hours fighting the current.

Postscript: Great to have Crawdaddy (Brent Crawford) back in the water! He's been out since October, when his doc punctured the membrane into his brain cavity while doing sinus surgery. Stuck on the sand, shooting video and imagining for over 6 months, today he was able to get back in the water. Great day for it!

PPS - Mandy was shooting pix from the shore with her new camera…will incorporate a few as soon as I can!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Classic Spring Day in the Park

Head-high peaks were in evidence everywhere at 8:30 arrival in the park, but so were the sticks! Seemed almost a solid line of stand-up surfers from the steps through main peak, past the rocks and to LG 1. The photo extracted from a Flip video is a bit fuzzy, but both the peaks and the sticks can be seen:


Four heads were already out in the water: Jeff JPL Lashbrook was beginning his switch from snow-skiing to bodysurfing and Chuck Kahuna Herpick had joined Neil Frank & Mark Ghattas in the rapidly warming water.

Mild wind, 63 degree water and sunny skies enduced me to break out the 2mm SS spring suit - what a pleasure to divest the full-body neopreme! Very comfortable through a 2-hour session.

Moving back & forth between main peak, LG1 and peaks between, we managed to get our fair share of waves amidst a great vibe as all seemed to be really enjoying the good surf and beautiful day. The mixed SW and NW swells brought long lefts & rights, some wide tubes on head high faces making for a classic Spring day in the Park.

Walking back to the steps, it was clear that the sand had already started to build back up as beachgoers enjoyed the sun and sand.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Kua Bay Beauty

A year ago, FBI (from big island) bodysurf queen, Noni Roberts, introduced us to Kua Bay, a little gem on the Kohala/Kona coast. Last year, were some barely-rideable shore-break waves.

Heather & I connected with Noni again, in a return to Kua Bay.


The beauty of the little, white sand bay lapped by clear azure water is a reflection of our host's beauty of spirit. Noni gives true meaning to the word aloha, bringing us her home-grown mangoes while overflowing in her love of the water and anguish over the plastic bits spoiling the sands.

We had a little more surf today, as miniature, sand-dredging, 2 and 3 foot (faces) slabs pounded in foot-deep water. So wonderful to bask in the warm (low 70s) water, squeezing into mini-tubed closeouts as Heather floated outside the break.

Not an epic surf day, but an afternoon in Kua Bay with Noni will always stick in memory.
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hiatus, Interrupted

The calendar says last weekend in Florida, this weekend off to London, next weekend in DC, and the following in Hawaii; five weeks away from the Pacific and six from Cali surf. Swam in the Atlantic in Florida, just to get salt water wet, and have been hoping for a little spring swell on the Big Island in a couple of weeks.

But for present, the expectation was that I'd be on a trans-Atlantic flight today. Courtesy of mother nature in the guise of an Icelandic volcano, London is off for this week, and cancellation of my London trip was compensated by better than expected surf at the Park today.

My excuse the negative low tide at 6:45, but reality being the Eagles concert at the Hollywood Bowl last night, I got a late start south about 7:45.

Arriving at the Park at 9:00, a combination of South & NorthWest swells made for peaky, head-high surf in warming waters under sunny skies. Clean conditions combined with the rising tide to impel me into the water without pause.

A few sticks were spread around the main peak but only one down at LG1, which appeared to be just as consistent, so Hugh & I walked down there to swim out. For 90 minutes - as Mark and then Ciaccio came and joined us - we pretty much had free reign.

At one point, within just a few minutes of each other, I got two rights that started outside and held up all the way to close out on the sand. Looong rides on nice, open faces, the entire way in. Figured the tide was hitting stride and I'd found just the spot, but then no more followed....

Late in the session, I realized that the sticks had filled in around Mark, Rick and I, but, looking North, Hugh was virtually alone at the main peak. So the three of us swam back up and enjoyed sharing Main Peak with just a couple of surfers and a drifting boog.

Two-plus hours into the session, lulls were growing longer and thoughts drifted to food, when a well formed set, a couple of feet overhead, rolled in, bearing promise of more. Just Rick and I were left, but we extended another 45 minutes and were rewarded with several more of those sets.

Weary and satiated, I staggered out after about 2-3/4 hours.

After a rinse in the beach shower, I went back to the steps to take a few shots of the swell, and found that the Main Peak, which not long before we'd had quite to ourselves had fully filled in with sticks:
An incoming set now looked like rush hour:
Meanwhile, just a bit closer to the rocks separating main peak from LG1, a nice peak goes unridden:
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And the best part of yet another, as well:
The photos give a little impression of what was coming in this morning, but early, it was so much cleaner...and we had it all to ourselves.

Wonder what the weather's like in London?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Excellent Sendoff

This week, ultra-core Golden Triangle member Eric ( EY_\ ) Yeisley trades the ocean for the mountains and heads off to a new life in Colorado. Got me thinking back to my first session in the Park. That day, I wrote:

"Just entering the water, a blue-hatted dude drops into a nice little, but long spinner...two spinners...three spinners...close out. Pops up and sez, "you Hank?" Great intro, EY! Way to show the first timer how SCSB is to be ridden!" the king of the smallies! Yeah, we all know that EY_\ rips, large and small. But he earned the sobriquet, at least from my view, not only because of the length and spinners he milks out of the little ones but also because of his tendency to hang inside, catching at least triple as many waves as I and, most likely, the better, if not bigger, ones.

Crawdaddy's send off video - link here - is a great exhibition of EY_\ at his finest, mid-week last week.

Today was no exception. Yeah, he got his share of set waves, but most of the time, there he was, inside, milking the Park for all it had to offer today. And it had a lot to offer, today, especially early!

EY_\ and Mark (Sailfish) Ghattas had arrived early and were by 7:15. Hugh preceded me, briefly, at 8:00. Park was at its best, at the main peak: lefts & rights peeling off a pitching peak, hollow and fast - but not too fast - with solid juice. Sets were consistent and regular, combed by a steady but mild offshore. A small crew of local sticks - good vibe - were camped on the main peak, but the pod of the body claimed the stretch between the main peak and the rocks, and had it to ourselves until after 9:30.

Sailfish exited to drive EY_\ home about 9:30 while Hugh and I tried to maintain our exclusive peak. By the time Sailfish rejoined us, we were staving off an increasing horde of not-so-local, not-so-aloha surfers, now picking over surf that had lost some size and power and was getting a little crumbly. Hugh exited not long after, and Sailfish and I swam down to LG1 where we had a little more space and snared a few, last good rides before exiting about 10:45. A very satisfying, 2-1/2 hour session, especially when I really didn't expect much today.

Drove home, thinking back over the number of times over the last five years that EY_\'s put out the call for the Park. Over the years, the most consistent company in the water. Always up for it & always psyched. His in the water enthusiasm earned the Golden Triangle the appellation of "talking heads" from the local stick population. No doubt, he made his contributions to our earning the "chatty cathies" title from #9 as well.

EY_\ - look forward to the next time we see you in the Park! Meanwhile, good luck in Colorado!

[Crawdaddy's sendoff video is also linked to the title, above.]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Summer Came Early

Other than 60 degree water, it seemed much more like a summer day in the Park: a moderate swell out of the Southwest, glassy through the morning and clear water on a warm and sunny morning.

I had figured to surf from 8 to 10, but ended up staying in a third hour. South at LG 1 seemed most consistent, so EY, Neil, Mark and I spread out there for a couple of hours while various of the tribe joined Crawdaddy as he filmed from shore: Ciaccio, Steve Short and Kahuna all showed for a bit. Sticks drifted through from time to time, but we had it largely to ourselves.

After a couple of hours, the others (in & out of the water) filtered off to breakfast at Cafe de Sole, but Mark and I stayed in another hour. As we gradually drifted the 1/4 mile back to the stairs, we were rewarded by one of the best sets of the day as we passed by the rock area.

Three memorable rides today:

EY was straight down the line as I took off on a shoulder-high left, offering a hi five. I rose on the face for a solid connection, then spun as I reached the lip and rolled down the face into the close out.

Second was a perfectly formed, big left. Taking off, I pushed to beat the foamball and took a high line onto a sloping, open face that gradually steepened. As it morphed, I dropped down into the mid-face slot and was rewarded with a little tube time before the close out.

Last, as we drifted back North, a nice, clean set off the rock offered another clean left, approaching head high...with no sticks!

I know Crawdaddy shot a lot today; will look forward to seeing if he got anything. Will post the line in my next post.

Meanwhile, here's the link to his memorial of EY's birthday, our frustration and the passing pod from last weekend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Visitors at High Tide

I feared that the high tide would swamp the modest swell, but that there might be a small window if I gotthe Park a couple of hours before the peak. Besides, it's EY's birthday - gotta show - and a spectacularly beautiful winter morning.

Unfortunately, the fear was well founded, and even at 7:40 it was already swamped. A nice, well-defined 3-4 foot swell, coming in too fat and crumbly for decent bodysurfing - all save the set waves were surging up to the rocks. Really best suited for a long board, but Sailfish (Mark Ghattas) & I suited up and swam right out from the steps while Crawdaddy, still confined to the shore, post-surgery, for a few more weeks, watched and shot a little video. EY_\ (Eric Yeisley) showed up shortly to swim out in the chilly (56) water and collect birthday greetings, while Too Tall (Steve Short) joined Crawdaddy, watching from shore.

Sailfish, assisted by a handboard, managed to snag a few long ones, but for me, it was mostly frustration and alot of kicking for a couple of hours. A few local surfers in the water, hanging around the main peak with us. Sunny and glassy, if the tide had been decent, would have been a classic winter morning.

A large pod of dolphin had been hanging around, and after we exited, lolled in the break straight out from the steps while Hugh, a late arrival, and I shot a few pictures:

Click on either photo to see large.

I also stitched several together into a short video that also gives a glimpse of the beauty of the Park on a sunny winter morning. You can view by clicking here or on the title above. View the video in 1080p HD.

Even if the surf left alot to be desired, you still have to love a morning like this in early March!
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Last water time - February 14.

As recounted in the last entry, the 20th/21st was windblown chop. The next weekend, Sunday (28th), the Park was firing big - up to 12 foot faces - but unmanageable due to strong currents and tides, and full of debris. Reports from Neil and Mark in Newport was that it was not surfable. This past weekend, it stormed Saturday (3/6) through the early morning hours of Sunday, leaving Sunday small, windblown and dirty.

Late December through mid-February brought a great run of swells and decent conditions. This weekend will make it a month since last water time. Unfortunately, current forecasts are for a small weekend and perhaps questionable conditions.

If there's no surf this weekend, the last time I would have gone this long without surf was late 2008, a year & a quarter ago.

What's one to do, but relive through photo & video? On Jan 9, Hugh shot a series of still sequences that he gave me. I'd put some of the stills up on Picasa, but while reliving a sparkling, sunny, winter morning, experimenting with FlipShare, I knitted together a video of the sequences and put it up on YouTube. Turned out ok.

Gotta deal with the jones somehow.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Ah, the dilemma of a dedicated surfer who lives 40 minutes from the closest water and 72 miles from his favored break!

Last weekend, the forecast was for a decent, head-high swell, favorable tides, and clear skies...but onshore winds upwards of 15 mph through the morning. After deliberation, made the call to pass. Right call, as reports were of nothing but sloppy chop.

A bit harder call for this weekend. Today, it's just small and totally blown by the storm passing through. But a large swell is supposed to fill in tonight, with waves several feet overhead and clean conditions - maybe a mild offshore. Would be ideal, but for two things: a 6.25 foot high tide at 8:30 and the bacteria in the run-off.

If the tide was favorable, would take my chances with the bacteria. Two weeks ago, very similar forecasts - slightly smaller swell but clean conditions and a 5.4 high at 8:50. The first hour of surf was great, then it got a bit fat as the tide peaked and stayed that way well into the morning. With nearly an extra foot of tide and earlier peak, it's likely to be ridable but fairly crumbly for the whole session. Is it worth it??

In the meanwhile, take a look at some very large storm waves in the Park from mid-January.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Park Perfection

One of my first waves didn't have an optimal outcome, but some of the size from Sunday is evident. This one was a close out...other waves were better formed & better ridden!
Another photo by Hugh Berenger (click for full size)
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I put up a video of the swell, after the session (after the peak and not as clean) on YouTube - click here or the title above.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Park Perfection

Great morning at San Clemente State Park!

Before the tide peaked at about 9, consistent sets to a few feet overhead...glassy, sunny...and five bodysurfers had all to ourselves!

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Photo by Hugh Berenger, second day out with his water rig. Click for full size.
More of Hugh's water photos from this AM at flickr