Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Growing Swell on the Peninsula

Tuesday morning through Wednesday morning is evidencing growing swell here.  While the peak is due this afternoon and tomorrow (Thursday) morning, there were some serious forerunners in evidence today between 9:00 & 11:15 at 17th & 18th Streets.  With red flags flying, some thick, heavy closed out walls, some with faces approaching 10 feet, were arriving every 15 to 20 minutes.  Inside, swimming out, count on some significant hold-down time, even in 6 or 8 feet of water.

Fortunately, in between, there was a steady diet of 5 to 7 foot faces, still long interval with plenty of Newport juice, that weren't so closed out...some with broad, gaping tubes and others with corners for the patient.  Overcast skies over a glassy surface, the water temperature remains in the mid-60's.  

Yesterday, the morning session featured regular shoulder to head high waves, somewhat shorter interval, and some with decent corners for some longer slides.  Brent "Crawdaddy" Crawford drove up from Laguna and was waiting for us when Joe and I arrived about 8:30.  Mark Ghattas joined us a bit later for a short session before work.  For 2-1/2 hours, the conditions were good and we enjoyed a typical summer swell on the Newport peninsula. 

Both days, we worked between 17th and 18th, sharing it with a light crowd.

Yesterday afternoon, "straight across" from the Island, at 6th Street, the size had started to show, with some thicker, head-high plus grinders - walls that were fairly well chewed up by a steady West wind.  I got in alone, and was swept North five blocks in just 15 or 20 minutes.  But the wind created some fun opportunities.  Joe arrived as I walked back down from 9th street, and this time we were able to hold our position and work an area that had just enough of a corner to be able to drop in before the close out. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Newport: Continuation...

So, today (Monday) I decided to change it up; sleep in and take a break from surf, after four straight days of two-a-day sessions.  Each of the last four days started with a couple of hours out at 18th Street, followed by an afternoon session at 6th Street.

Yesterday was good, again, at 18th.  Not as good as Thursday, which remains the standout, but continuing to improve with glassy, shoulder-to-head-high surf.  Lots and lots of tube time on Sunday's session, and a couple of longer rides.  17th Street was nearly as good as 18th-19th, but no one was working it, so Allan, Joe and I just stayed there and had it to ourselves for over two hours.  Not epic, but a satisfying session that we packed in when the wind started messing up the surface.

Weekend on the Peninsula

I've not had the patience to photograph at 18th each morning, but will do so later in the week.  Instead, I'll continue to break the text with scenes from the afternoon at 6th Street.

Contemplating the Future
The afternoons have been just been fun, whomping around in waves from waist to head high under hazy sun.  Yesterday, a fairly stiff, steady breeze from the West - which at 6th Street is cross-shore - was chopping creating little runner sections off the straight-lined swell, that offered a chance for some fun, longer improvement over the normal, two-second closeouts.

An Occasional Set
 Tomorrow, the two-a-days resume.  Prospects for the remainder of our stay look good, with Thursday (again) looking especially promising, with a four foot South swell due and a strongly rising morning tide.  May have to bring the camera Thursday morning!

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Newport Beginnings

[Sorry, no surf photos, yet, so I've included a couple of Newport scenes to break up the text.]

It's midday, day three of our annual stay at Newport.  I've been out each of the three mornings at 18th Street - "the Point" - with my sons, Allan & Joe (Joe missed today), Joe & Allan on boards.  Already, there has been one, quite exceptional day.

Our first morning out, Thursday, though, was anything but exceptional.  The only positives were that the water has warmed up to the upper 60's and on Thursday, we had the water all to ourselves.  Of course, there was a reason! The waist/chest high waves were messed up by a surprising, steady onshore breeze.  Under persistently overcast skies, I managed to catch a few of those classic Newport tubes, amongst the slop, but left with a hunger for many, many more.  Thursday afternoon, at 6th Street, held a promise of improvement. Another foot or two of swell was showing and the late afternoon was, atypically, cleaner than the morning.
 Beach View at 6th Street
The promise of Thursday afternoon was manifest Friday morning: just an outstanding morning at the Point!  Long interval, thick swells were throwing up 6 to 8 foot, sometimes 9 foot, faces with wide open barrels.  Clean lines on a glassy surface.  Sticks doing full stand up cover ups in the the tube.  

Sure, some of the sets were walled up, but there were plenty of peaks and corners for the patient.  I took away a number of memorable rides.  On one, I happened to be right at an 8 foot peak that, after a fast drop in and trim up to mid-face, leveled into a steep, 6 foot face, which then hollowed into a wide barrel that held open, full cover-up, for a good four seconds before collapsing around me.  My hoot of exuberance started before I even broke the surface.

There were a few lulls, but they were just time to reminisce for a few minutes until the next sets arrived.  A pod of maybe a dozen dolphin was rounding up a school of bait fish just outside the break, then drifted in and were weaving amongst us in the break and even inside, passing within a few few and occasionally sharing a wave.  As I was swimming back out once, diving under a wave I heard loud and distinct dolphin chatter - chirps, beeps and pops.  As I emerged, Joe and Allan, both a bit inside of me, wanted to know if we'd collided: one of the dophin and I were a foot apart and apparently headed on crossing paths as I dove under the wave.  He was a few feet off by the time I saw him afterwards.

Something very special about hanging with the dolphins, riding some thick Newport grinders and just being there while the Newps Peninsula is doin' what it's supposed to do....

The Bay
Yeah, photographic evidence of the morning Friday would have been in order, but was I really going to hang around shooting pictures when I could be in the water on a morning like that?  No way.  The only improvement would have been if there'd been some sun.

This morning, our hopes were up but expectations moderate.  The swell had slacked off a bit in the afternoon session at 6th street and the wind had picked back up Friday afternoon.  But the air was still in the early morning and it looked like some decent swell remained as Allan and I walked onto the broad, 18th Street beach.  The simplest recap for Saturday morning is that it was half as good and twice as crowded as Friday. 

Maybe there were some pluses, but mostly shoulder-high waves.  Not quite as clean, not quite as glassy, as Friday, either.  But still quite peaky and I got a couple of long rights...longer than anything on Friday but slower and smaller.  When we first got it, about 2/3 of the way from 17th to 18th, Allan and I had a nice peak pretty much to ourselves.  Then Allan snagged a couple of impressive lefts and suddenly there were a dozen surfers paddling our way from above the 18th St. LG stand.  For the rest of the morning, from mid-way between the two stands on to the Northwest was a solid line of sticks.  In fact, when we were leaving, I counted 20 boards in the water just in the half block Southeast of the 18th St. stand. 

Mark Ghattas showed up midway through the session, and we just worked the far less consistent but also far less crowded peak around the 17th Street stand.

Altogether, it's off to a good start.  Warm water and swell.  We can deal with variable conditions and we can go several years without a session like yesterday.

It's great to be here!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Surprise - It's the Park ... Again!

The intent, today, was to hit the Newport peninsula.  Friday afternoon through Saturday morning, a good pulse from Eugene was hitting the Southland. With the steep South source, the greatest energy should be in North Orange County, so I had arranged to meet up at 15th Street with Mark Ghattas, as well as Paul Tordella - the latter coming down from Hermosa.  Mark was concerned about 15th perhaps being walled up, facing the swell a little too directly, so planned to check the Newport jetties - 30's & 40's - as a possible fall back.

[Click on photo for full size]

However, with John Rogers in tow from South Bay, Paul got to 15th early and called - nice size, but just walled up.  We discussed going to the jetties, but Paul voiced one of my objections: the jetties get awfully crowded with surfers, especially summer weekends.  Willing to sacrifice a little size instead, he and John decided to continue South to San Clemente.

I checked with Mark, who had just arrived at 46th Street and advised it was well formed but already fairly crowded.  After brief deliberation while I was heading down the 55, I decided to turn left at the 405 and continue on down to the Park.  As the above photos show, good call!  

Finding head high plus peaks, and only a handful of surfers out, I didn't tarry more than a few minutes at the rail, shooting these photos and getting a briefing from Hugh.

To the North, there was a concentration at Riviera - I count 22 heads in the photo below - but in a wider stretch at Calafia (the Park), from just South of the steps to the rocks, there were maybe eight people out.

Paul and John arrived, and we quickly suited up.  The spring "shortie" was plenty for the 64/65 degree water, and I was in the line up by 8:30.  Shortly afterwards, I watched John grab a set wave left at the corner and commence a 50 yard slide nearly to shore.  Sweet.

For an hour and a half, we worked the glassy, peaky swell.  Some real interesting ones - a quick drop in at the peak would open into a slow, fat section for three or for seconds before bumping up further inside into a steep fast tube like the photo above.  For most of the first 90 minutes, John and I had the area between Main Peak and the Rocks virtually to ourselves while Paul worked Main Peak with a couple of sticks and a couple of sponges.

The peaks - see above - were fun and consistent.  Only minor lulls.  With lots to go around, and, apparently, most surfers elsewhere in search of more size from Eugene, the vibe in the water was relaxed and low key.

Around 10:00 a mild breeze picked up, texturing the surface. Meanwhile, the swell was backing off a bit and sets becoming less frequent.  In another 20 minutes Paul and John hit the beach.  I hung outside, every hopeful, and was rewarded by a final, head high set of four waves, of which I was able to catch both the first and last.

A perfect conclusion was the introduction of Paul and John to Adele's.  Adele was there, being, as ever, Adele.

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