Sunday, January 20, 2013

Breaking the Drought at El Porto

I don't like El Porto.  Although a couple of my most memorable sessions, ever, have been at El Porto, I haven't surfed there in probably five years.  

El Porto is a "swell magnet."  Most times, when the South Bay (i.e., the south part of Santa Monica Bay) is breaking, El Porto is 25-50% bigger.  Every LA surfer knows that.  As a result, El Porto is crowded.

For a week, on the West Coast, we have been watching a huge storm in the Northwestern Pacific, finally anticipating a northwest swell after the long, long, swell dry spell.  As the week evolved, though, it became clear that, due to the angle from which it is coming, it would be "highly selective."  It would miss most of Southern Orange County (no State Park for this one!), as well as all of Newport.  Huntington, where it would hit, isn't my turf.  In South Bay, parts of Manhattan Beach and Redondo might get it, but El Porto was the call.  And, El Porto did, indeed, get a nice overhead swell this morning:

Having written off anywhere else, I went to bed last night leaving it that my son, Joe, who lives in Venice, would check it out in the morning and let me know.  As expected, the only place breaking was El Porto.  Joe and Kevin were headed out at 40th Street.  Doubting I'd get in the water but looking at a spectacular Southern California winter day, I grabbed my camera and jumped in the car for the relatively short (30 minute) drive down to El Porto, which is between Manhattan Beach and El Segundo - barely south of LAX.

Did I mention El Porto tends to be crowded?

OK, a solid wall of "sticks" really isn't terribly attractive to a bodysurfer.  From Hammerland down to Manhattan Pier, there wasn't a bodysurfer in sight.  There were, though, plenty of board surfers.  

Nonetheless, guys were snagging uncluttered rides, and, when the solo set wave would arrive, most of the time, everybody was caught inside.  I was of divided mind, but figured I'd try to find Joe and Kevin and shoot some photos.

Joe found me, shooting on the shore, as he walked back north after being swept south six blocks by the strong current.  

As Joe and Bennett Givens re-entered, Hammerland jetty in the background, Joe exhorted me to join them.

Contemplating cold water and heavy crowds, I vacillated, but caught a few shots of Joe.

Finally, my reserve dissolved.  Overhead surf?  A sunny, balmy, winter day?  Gotta get out there!

I did.  And am SO happy I did!  After the relatively grueling swim-out (remember...I haven't swum out anywhere, in seven weeks, and El Porto is not an easy one!), I found a little space around 41st Street that was relatively unpopulated.  Every ten to fifteen minutes, one of those set waves would roll in.  Without fail, I was the only one in position to take it...and did!  In between, an occasional, smaller left would roll in.
 I spent about 45 minutes alone, working my little piece of El Porto.  But I knew that Joe, Bennett and Kevin were somewhere, to the south of me.  Eventually, I stopped fighting the steady current and drifted south. I connected there with Joe and Bennett, but there was a heavy rip pulling strongly out, along with a much stronger current, pushing south.  It was also every bit as crowded as the shots above.  Satiated, I grabbed a long ride into the inside and exited.

This one, I owe to Joe.  Without his urging , I likely would have stayed at home.  Even once at El Porto, I was inclined to shoot rather than ride.  But Joe pushed me.  And I got in.  And had a great time, in some fun surf on a beautiful day.  Thank you, Joe!
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