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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