Saturday, October 20, 2012

Skinnin' It in Del Mar in Mid-October

All of Southern California had sweated through a sweltering week, despite the fact that the season was Fall and the calendar said mid-October.  But Thursday, the skies clouded over and San Diego County daily high temperature dropped 25 degrees overnight.  Water temperatures had been hovering in the high 60's, but Thursday morning, the Del Mar Lifeguard Surf Report was that they'd dropped to the low 60's overnight.  A healthy, mid-week swell, that had thrived in near windless conditions, was dropping and forecasts were for a cross/onshore breeze to kick in.

Nonetheless, we were overnighting in Del Mar, 1/2 block from the 17th Street Lifeguard Headquarters, also headquarters to the Del Mar Body Surfing Club - an inveterate group that celebrates the 365-day blackball covering the two blocks around the LG Headquarters.  A visit to the blackballed beach - where fiberglass, stand up and/or skegged boards are prohibited - was mandatory, even if the water had cooled, the skies clouded over, the swell faded and the breeze waxed.

As Friday morning arrived, my enthusiasm was tepid, restrained by the considerations just mentioned, plus grogginess induced by the free flow of wines at a decennial birthday celebration the preceding evening.  Surprisingly, though, the skies were clear, no wind was to be seen, and an interlude in the cool water promised to chase the cobwebs.  The air outside was already warm and humid, leading me to vacillate between trunking it and the spring shortie wetsuit.  Finally, figuring it may be the last chance to skin it in 2012, and with the fallback that, should the water prove too chilly, I could always backtrack to the hotel to slip on the suit, I donned trunks, grabbed the fins and walked down to the beach.

On the way, I queried a surfer, changing out of his full wetsuit at his car, on the water temperature.  "Real warm," he said, "you're fine without the wetsuit."  Bolstered, I headed onto the beach and slipped on my fins as I watched a couple of bodysurfers slipping into very clean, well shaped, chest-high peaks.  To the North and South, scores of sticks were working some of the most consistent surf I'd seen at Del Mar.  Often very crumbly, this day the wave lips were pitching to form tight, little tubes.

The water was chilly as I entered without any insulation, but refreshing as well.  For the next hour, I enjoyed regular sets chest and shoulder high, with nice fast slides and plenty of tubes to tuck into.  Once, a slight breeze came up for about five minutes, but it was more offshore than anything and the rest of the first hour was all glassy.  The sun continued to rise, illuminating the tube rides, as a fog bank lingered off shore. 

The two heads in the water proved to be Jody Hubbard, matron of the DM Bodysurfing Club, and another member, Delores.  From their comments, I took it that it was the best conditions they'd enjoyed at DM in quite some time...though, in their full suits, they couldn't understand why I wasn't rather chilled after an hour out.  In fact, it was probably at least 67 degrees and quite comfortable.

I put in another half hour, as the water warmed but the conditions began to deteriorate.  Lips stopped pitching as the DM crumble returned and a modest breeze textured the water.  The off shore fog bank crept in as high clouds, filtering the sunlight and flattening the light on the water.  The tide filled in and the swell flattened a bit.

Satiated, I returned to the hotel with a head much cleared to enjoin the coming day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Summery Sunday Smallies

High tide and a modest swell don't work well together at the Park.  The forecast was 2-3', with a high tide over 6 feet at 8:40.  

I arrived shortly after the tide peaked, to find a warm, summery morning, with the sun shining and winds calm.  The swell was small, and swamped by the tide, but looked ride-able, as least as the tide dropped.  No one was out, from T-Street a mile north to Cottons Point a mile south.  But the water temp registered 68 at the pier and waves like that below showed promise.

So, it was indeed swamped by the high tide, by and large, most of the waves breaking on sand, or nearly.  But every five minutes or so a set would come in that was breaking in water, pitching to form crystalline tunnels fitted to a bodysurfer.  

After a while, Mark (Ghattas) and I moved from the main peak, south beyond the rocks to work the LG1 area, where it was a  bit more consistent.  Throughout a 2 hour session, we were scoring hollow little tubes while enjoying the warm water, clear and sunny skies, smooth surface and the fact we had the Park entirely to ourselves while the shore gradually filled in with those seeking a last bit of summer.
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