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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