Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winter Swell on a Summery Morning in the Park

Through the week, forecasts of a significant WNW, long interval, swell gradually diminished...projected for the weekend at 8-10 feet on Monday, the forecast was down to 6-8 feet by midweek and 4-5 feet by Friday.  Forecast conditions remained good, and by Saturday night, I was still expecting shoulder to head high waves, with some power from the long interval, clean conditions, a rising tide, relatively warm (58) water and sun.

Before leaving Pasadena, a check of the web cams was disconcerting.  San Clemente looked chest high at best and anemic.  Driving down, through Santa Ana down to San Juan Capistrano, a steady NorthEast wind buffeted the trees, raising the specter of a small swell overpowered by the offshore winds.

On arrival, though, the Park was very clean - glassy - with some nice peeling rights (see above) scattered from Riviera to Life Guard station 1.  One or two sticks were out, south of the rocks between Main Peak and LG1, but it was basically empty.  Brent Crawford and Neil Frank were watching from the rail and Mark Ghattas pulled in right behind me.  It looked decent, so we suited up and swam out with out delay.  While we were suiting up, Derrik Sciarra arrived with a buddy, Chris.

We started at the main peak (above, shot afterward at high tide), which we had to ourselves, gradually drifting into it with the south-moving current.  Immediately, a few fast barrels paid dividends.  The tide was starting to fill in, and the push was evident.  Looking down the line, about a half hour into the session, I saw Crawdaddy snag a fast, dredging left with a big barrel, slot it and just go.
Eventually, we drifted down to LG1 (above, also after the high tide moved the break inside) and were joined by Eric Ackerman and The Lawyer, Dave MacPherson, in a rare appearance by our Strands contingent.  For 45 minutes, with the tidal push, 9:15 - 10:00, the waves gathered some real juice, a few even a foot or two overhead, regularly peaking just south of the rocks.  A snaggle of sticks was scattered across main peak but we had from the rocks South to ourselves.  Midway, Mark grabbed a head high right, dropped in and slid the face all the way to the beach, 100 yards south....longest ride of the day, by far!

At one point, our septuagenarian,  Neil, dropped into a thick, overhead left and made the barrel before a violent close out.  As he swam back out, Ackerman commented that he was amazed to see Neil's nose clip still in place after the thrashing he must have just taken.

Late in the session, a deep, grinding right started breaking back up on the North side of Main Peak, demanding our attention with thunder-like cracks as it broke.  Eric and Mac headed that way immediately, and Mark and I gradually worked our way North, milking what was left as the tide gradually began to swamp it out.
Even after we got out and the tide was at peak, the Main Peak was still working some (above).  

What a great morning - regular chest to head high waves with solid weight, plenty of peaks, no crowd, comfortable water, an almost balmy, sunny morning, and a good pod in the water.  A classic Winter morning in the Park.

[As always, click on pix for full size view.]

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter Visit to Del Mar

Through the week, as I enjoyed spectacular sunsets and summer-like weather in Torrey Pines, I monitored the forecasts for a nice, 4-6 foot WNW swell with good (16 sec.) interval due on Saturday.  Good friends, that I'd not ridden with in many months, Bret Belyea and Chris Lafferty, agreed to meet after 8:00 at 17th Street in Del Mar, and Mark Ghattas decided to drive down for his first time at Del Mar.

I got to the lot behind Poseidon and the Life Guard headquarters early and checked it out.  Some nice lines gave promise of decent surf as the swell filled in and tide dropped from the 5:30 high.

Chris Lafferty pulled in, followed shortly by Bret and a friend of Bret's, we suited up as Mark arrived and headed onto the sand.  Del Mar is usually black balled - no surfboards - at 17th Street from 9:00 on, but the Guard saw us heading out and immediately announced on the PA: "Surfers in the water, black ball is going up and only swimmers are permitted; please paddle one block North or South."
Before the blackball went up
As we swam out, the black ball went up and the Guard again instructed surfers to move away a block.  It was a glorious, sunny, winter morning (see below) with a mild breeze combing the peaks, but surprisingly chilly water.  Posted temperature was 59 but our consensus, as we swam out with ice cream headaches and stiffened fingers, was that it was closer to 56 or 57.

Unfortunately, the swell didn't really fill in much and not much improved with the dropping tide.  It was a bit on the anemic side, but occasionally a fun one would sweep through and there were playful corners on the inside.  Over the next two hours, we'd be teased by what seemed to be a rising swell, but then another lull would follow.  The regular Del Mar crowd filtered in between 9:00 and 9:30, and we ended up with ten heads or more in the water.  Gotta love that black ball!

It's long, too long, since I've been out with Bret and Chris, and it was great to catch up and share some waves, while introducing Mark to the scene in Del Mar.  Mid-session, a pod of about seven dolphin swam up right outside the lineup, trailing the wake of a stand up paddler.  We swam out a few strokes and found ourselves amidst the pod as they trolled by.

Great to get wet in Del Mar with friends!
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back in the Park

, originally uploaded by sosidesc.
For pictures, I'm cheating today. No pre- or post-session shots, as I wouldn't take the time on arrival before getting in and the onshore had picked up by the time we got out such that it wouldn't do the session justice. Meanwhile, Hugh joined us in the water, so no action shots, either.

I am substituting this shot from Hugh, from the evening, showing what's exposed on the beach in low tide, with our observation "rail" and stairs to the beach in the background.

I arrived at 8:15 to find Mark Ghattas, Hugh Berenger, Neil Frank and Craig at the rail, checking out very clean conditions under a thin grey sky.  A few scattered peaks - straight out, at the main peak, at the rocks and down at LG1 - were breaking chest high with nobody at all in the water.  Not wanting to waste the conditions, we suited up and set out at the main peak in fairly comfortable, 58 degree, water.

Craig was in first and told Mark and I as we swam out that he'd already had two great barrel ride.  I immediately snagged a peeling, shoulder-high left, followed in a couple of minutes by a big, hollow right that pitched into a yawning tube held open by the mild ESE breeze.  One of the two best rides of the day, but what a great welcome back to the Park!

Shortly, Neil swam out and Hugh joined us on his long board.  For a half-hour, we had it to ourselves.  Over the next hour, the sticks filled in, but Hugh offered us some protection and the vibe in the water was good.  The main peak was, by and large, left to the five of us as the sticks set up at some of the other peaks. 

For 90 minutes, we enjoyed some fairly consistent chest to shoulder sets, with only a few lulls interspersed but no more of the head-high sets like that second wave.  But the lulls offered a chance to catch up as the aroma of morning fires on the campground drifted out on the ESE breeze, the rights remained hollow and some very long lefts were snagged. 

Gradually, the breeze picked up, roughing the formerly glassy surface and shifting to SE, then South, then onshore SW.  With the tide approaching peak and the wind starting to mess it up, one by one we made our way in.  Hugh and I were still out when a final, chin-high set appeared.  I caught the first, a short right, and popped out the back, only to find myself a short swim from the perfect bodysurf launch point for the left corner on the second wave.  Hugh was deeper and in position to take off on his board but asked me if I wanted it.  A loud "yes" reverberated in my head but only translated into a silent nod as I focused on conserving my remaining breath and gaining position for take off.  A nice long left, along a fast face, completed the session with the other of my two best waves of the day.

Great to start with a memorable wave and to end with a memorable wave.  Today, it was both!

Good to be back in the Park!