Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Smallies on a Summery San Clam Morn

This morning was just as expected.  Small waves, but not too small to ride, on a beautiful, warm winter morning.

To give a little perspective on "the Park" that dominates these blog entries, the picture below shows the Calafia parking lot, a few feet from the tracks and the water.  Our observation "rail" is on the beach side of the tracks, just to the right of the RR lights and left of the closest palm.  "Main Peak" would line up, in this shot, beyond the two palms furthest left, and "LG1," named for the first Lifeguard stand, would be  further left, just hidden by the bluff.  "The Rocks" are halfway between. (As always, a click on the photo will bring up a full size view.)
Bret Belyea came up from San Diego, on his way to something in Orange County.  He  & Mark were suiting up as I pulled in a few minutes after 8:00.  A good sign...when it's lousy, guys just hang around watching.  Neil had already headed up to his parking spot atop the bluff.  We were in the water by quarter after, electing to go out at LG1, where it appeared more consistent and hollower.

It was small - mostly waist & chest high waves - but clean and hollow.  Lots of little tubes.  For the first hour, though, I got a score of right tubes.  Each would hold open a couple of seconds, brightly illuminated by the 
winter sun in the south; sparkling crystal, feathering lip.  A phenomenon only to witnessed in clean surf on a clear, winter morning such as this.  

Through a session that neared two hours, a mild south would texture the surface - perhaps also holding those little right tubes open as a gift? - then ease and it would glass over.  The water was chillier that expected - ice cream headaches from any extended dunk in the earlier hour - but the air was warming and beachgoers in summer attire filtered onto the beach.  For an hour, there was no one to be seen in the water from Cottons to T Street.  Later, three surfers from the campground floundered at the main peak for a while, but it was really just the four of us and the expansive ocean.

Outside, a gaggle of boats were working the kelp beds - see the photo above.  To the northwest, Catalina Island was visible through the summery haze - see below.
So, the surf was doesn't have to have size, especially when it's hollow, with a little punch, and decent corners.  The beautiful morning didn't hurt!
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Surprise in the Park

[Post-session pictures follow the main narrative.]

It's interesting how good something can seem when you go in with low expectations!  

The forecast through the week was for a fading swell.  Surfline projected "1-2" and the chart on SwellInfo was showing just below waist high.  But as Saturday progressed, there were signs that it might be a little better than that for the tidal push - 8:15-10:00 -  and at day's end SwellInfo was showing shoulder high and good conditions.

The morning beach cams were inconclusive. Bret Belyea, who was contemplating coming up from Encinitas, decided to pass, but I headed South at sunrise, not expecting much.  Though cold and clear as I departed Pasadena, dense fog smothered much of Orange County.

Craig Thomson was waiting at the rail when I arrived, studying what little could be seen from shore, due to the fog.  A few sets were coming through, chest high and fairly hollow, but pretty walled off.  A chill breeze came cross-shore, giving pause to the thought of entering cooling waters.  Though we could only see directly in front of the steps, it appeared that no one was in the water.

Nonetheless, we went back to suit up, as Mark Ghattas pulled up.  As we suited up, the fog thinned a bit.  Walking South on the beach, we could see the Main Peak and beyond.  A few waves were coming in, but Mark remarked that it might be a short session.  Just get wet, get a taste, then go warm up.  Maybe "three-minus" on the WetSand five-point scale.

8:30, we swam out at the Main Peak in chilly, but not frigid, 57-58 degree water, glancing hopefully up to overhead patches where the fog seemed to be thinning.  Air temp below 50, pushed by the breeze, cut through the 3:2 suit.  Nobody but us in the water.

As soon as I got out, I hooked into a nice, chest-high wave that offered a nice drop and short tube before closing out.  Within 15 minutes, each of the three of us had snagged four decent rides, warming our bodies and attitudes.

At 8:45, the waves jumped up a foot or two, and with the size began catching the sandbar at the Main Peak, as well as outside the Rocks just to the South.  Two surfers paddled out, and for the next hour, the five of us shared chest and head-high waves, even a few larger, at the Main Peak and Rocks.  Mark grabbed a long, long left, all the way to shore just before I hooked into a large right, that I nabbed right at the corner and dropped in for a long one the other way.  About half-way through the wave, I was startled as the back of a board brushed my fingertips and shot out in front of me.  

The vibe in the water had been good, and we'd been chatting with the surfers while trading waves, so as he paddled out, I just said, "Hey man, I was in that one and you came right across my face."  He looked chagrined and said, "Sorry, man, I didn't see ya."  

I figured he'd keep an eye out, but within a minute or two the scene repeated itself as he dropped in on Mark, well down the line from the peak where Mark had started.  Oh, well.... 

Through the hour, there were plenty of long slides and more than a few hollow tubes that held open surprisingly long.  I had one shoulder high + right, early on, that appeared a close out.  I pulled in and found myself in a long, dimly glowing, blue-green tunnel, with no opening at the end.  I held the line, though, and slid though the fully closed cylinder for almost three seconds before it all collapsed.

After an hour, the Main Peak lost its consistency, so we floated South to LG1 to see if it was any better.  A good set rolled in, just as we arrived, but long lulls settled in afterwards.  A few more rides and we staggered out, fully satiated from an expectedly good session.  "Three-minus"?  No way...for an hour, it was one of the best recent sessions in the Park.  Gotta give it a "four."

After the session, I shot a few pictures from the rail, for those who doubted there was any swell today.  Though it had gotten mushy and lost some size, and these were shot at full high tide (the Park does not do well at high tide), they'll give some idea, anyway.  Above is a shoulder-high wave at the main peak with a couple of surfers for scale.  

Another peak, maybe chest-high, offering both left & right. 

Although somewhat smaller - this is a little over waist-high, though there's nothing for scale - here's an idea of the rights that were coming in earlier, a lot bigger.

Though he didn't join us in the water - other than the three of us, there was never more than one or two surfers out, and for much of the session, we had the entire stretch from Cottons to Riviera to ourselves - Hugh met us after the session.  Here he is (right), with Craig and Mark. 
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