Saturday, March 26, 2011

Park Delivers, Wish I'd Received More!

Anticipation was pretty high for a good session, with a solid swell coming in and conditions expected to clean up after the chain of storms that battered SoCal over the last week.  Hugh had reported 12, even 15, foot faces yesterday evening, and even the water temp had broken into the sixties.  But an early check of the surfcams showed some serious "morning sickness" - unsettled, choppy waters, causing pretty lumpy surf.  But there was swell, and an itch to get wet, so I hit the road for "the Park."  

As I parked & walked to the rail, a good sized set - a foot or two overhead - rolled in.  As the  two photos below show, it was still a lttle lumpy, but a mild offshore was smoothing the inside, and there were both size and corners.  Note the two sticks off to the left for scale. 

Suited up, Mark, Neil, Hugh & I entered right at the peak shown above, which was empty at that point, while sticks were rapidly filling at the Main Peak slightly South.  The water temp, listed at 58 at the pier felt several degrees colder, but there were some fairly hollow sets rolling in, with short lulls in between.  A solid rip current hung between the peaks, offering an "elevator" out to the break.
The first 20 minutes were great, with some fast, hollow lefts & rights on seven to nine foot faces.  Hugh, Mark and Neil drifted South with the current to compete for the peaks with the growing pod of sticks while I hung at the original peak, which was more closed out but empty.  

I noticed Brent Crawford, waving from the side of the train track on shore, video camera in hand.  Immediately, a long lull set in.  Brent whistled from shore, and a fairly closed-out, two wave set arrived outside.  Barely able to set up for the second, I took off late, failed to make the drop and pulled a classic over-the-falls for the video.  Oh, well.

Yet another lull...a bit of frustration, looking South to Main Peak where it seemed to be building consistency...but as I toyed with relocating, another whistle, and again I'm too far in.  This time, on the second wave, I at least get headed down the face before the bottom drops out and over the falls again!  I can't remember the last time I took two OTF in a single session, much less back to back!

Time to head south, where the others are now sharing shifting peaks between the rocks and "Main Peak" with about twenty sticks.  It's more crowded than we've seen in ages, outside of summer, but it's mainly the local crowd and vibe is good.  Still, it's tough for a bodysurfer to compete for waves with the more mobile board surfers.

For another twenty minutes, I never seemed to be able to be in the right place at the right time...if there wasn't a stick dropping in before me, I was too far in or too far out.  The peaks were shifting, but not for me!  Finally, I spotted a large bump outside, about four waves out.  Glancing around, it appeared that none of the surfers close to me had seen it.  Discretely, I started swimming for the outside.  Nobody else was moving, and I was nearing the take off zone when one board surfer saw the swell and paddled out - deeper than where I'd be able to take off.  Of course, he launched...but the sets were coming in pairs right?  Not this one.

Shortly, Crawdaddy took off, and, of course, in the final twenty minutes, I was able to score a series of smaller, but pretty sweet, rides.  Through the 100 minute session, lumpiness subsided and the lines cleaned up, and the wind didn't shift to onshore until the end.

It was a good session, for me, but better than that for the others.  Hugh & Mark were both really stoked as we walked back to the parking lot.  It leaves me with mixed feelings - it was a good, solid session, but, with the waves and conditions, it could have, should have, been great.  

The shot above, taken after the session, and after the wind moved onshore, still shows how the lines cleaned up not long into the session.

The wrap was a quick breakfast at Adele's, then back on the road home.  All in all, gotta be satisfied.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Rare Winter Visit to the Peninsula

Even while posting this, I've an eye to continuing breaking news out of Japan in the aftermath of earthquake and tsunami...during today's session, Gaia's power was ever in mind.  

(Pictures patient.) 

Only a few times a year, I'll surf Newport in winter.  The jetties (30th - 50th), which are more consistent in winter, are pain to park in on a weekend morning and are often too crowded with too much attitude if they're working.  I love the peninsula (13th - 19th), but it's inconsistent in winter and, most often, five degrees colder than the Park.

But Mark (Ghattas) had related that he'd had an amazing afternoon yesterday at 15th and was anxious to return this morning, notwithstanding expectations of significantly smaller swells.  SCSP water temperature had been hitting 60 the last couple of days, a temptation on an overcast winter morning, and the forecasts showed a little more swell on a morning that looked like it might be pretty weak.  An early check of the webcams was inconclusive - San Clemente wasn't looking like much, but the tide was still dropping.

So, I headed South, awaiting eyewitness feedback.  As I approached decision point: the 5 x 55 interchange, Mark was checking the point (19th) and reporting at least something there to ride.  55 it is!  12 minutes later, I pulled into the 15th Street meters, met up with Mark, and went out to check it out.

At first, a set rolled in:

But then, we watched and didn't see much more.  You can see - it was grey and dreary, and we knew the water was going to be a definite chill.  Mark was teetering on departing, and I on heading South to the Park, where at least it would be warm.  As we vacillated, a couple strolled by on a Sunday walk close to shore (click for full screen):

But, we're here...there've been a couple of least get wet.

Good call!

Through a two hour session, there were plenty of peaky waves, lefts and rights, ranging from waist to even head high.  The peninsula puts a little extra juice into almost anything, so there was plenty of push and some nice barrels to complement some long slides as we drifted between 15th & 17th.  

Yeah, the water was cold...a few "ice cream headaches" and aching hands in the first hour, but it was glassy and consistent.  In the second hour, as the sun emerged, it seemed to warm up.

Amongst many very fun waves, I had a couple of memorable ones.  First was a left - the lefts were a bit faster & shorter than the rights, but hollow - maybe only chest-high, but the curtain closed over me yet held open - Newport pier visible out the opening four feet ahead of me - and gave me a full three-second count before closing out.

Wave of the day ... and one of the best in recent months ... was a head high peak at 17th.  I dropped into a steep right face, climbed into the slot and got covered up... and then came out.  Worked the wave face, up and down, for another 20-30 yards, before it tubed up again for a nice cover-up before close out, close to shore.

The waves held up through the morning - above shot after we got out, after a mild onshore picked up.

The one taint on the morning was a high school aged jerk on a stick that dropped in repeatedly on Mark.  Rather than backing off when Mark asked him about it, he suggested that, since bodysurfers are able to surf a closed out wave, guys on boards were entitled to snake them on better-formed waves.  It's unfortunate that this kind of ignorance is too common amongst brash, young surfers, though not shared by those they idolize.  What was really strange is that his father was out with him, on a long board.  The father, a Tim Robbins look-alike, readily acknowledged his son's penchant for snaking even him, but seemed to think it mildly amusing.  The son was an ass; the father nice enough but clueless.  Wonder if there's a connection?

It's hard to figure out how to deal with stoke-killers like that.  But it was kind of cool - as Mark & I gradually worked our way back south the the 15th St. LG stand, there was another surfer - upper 20's - who'd been close by earlier but had moved south to ride the peak down there.  As we swam by, he asked if we'd had our fill of the "stoke" of the little pod that included the father & son ... clearly, as put off as we were.

But that was a small blemish on a great morning.  A solid, two-hour session with plentiful waves and some excellent rides.  Really nice to get back in on the Newport peninsula, where I've spent so many hundreds of hours over the years.
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