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!

1 comment:

hnazdad said...

I notice at the top of the blog page there is a link to report abuse. I would like to report being abused by not being notified on Friday morning of the exceptional surf. Sounds like a great time Hank, sorry I missed it! Charlie