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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