Saturday, March 23, 2013

Change of Season brings a Classic Park Day

SCSP surf today, the best day since September, reminded me of the first spring that I discovered San Clemente State Park.  It was thick and hollow ... dredging lefts and rights and packing a punch.

The forecasts were good, and the Park delivered.  In the dim light of a heavily overcast sky, as I crossed the tracks to the rail, I was met by that welcome and familiar, but recently absent, crack and rumble.  Surf!

Immediately, a couple of sets, two or three foot overhead, rolled in, a thick lip pitching off the peak at "Main Peak."

A concentration of sticks at the Main Peak were getting consistent, long barrel rides, like the one below.  This guy emerged after a sustained cover up. (Add: Hugh identified the surfer below as Casey, who as often bodysurfs as board.)

Ghattas pulled up and we quickly suited up and headed down the beach.  The take off zone seemed pretty narrow at Main Peak, with a clump of sticks scratching for position, while further south beyond The Rocks, stretching to LG1, there appeared to be shifting peaks and more consistency, if a bit less size...and just a couple of sticks and kneeboards.  We set up just south of the Rocks and enjoyed shoulder-high, head-high and overhead waves for the next 90 minutes.  There was a great vibe in the water as it wasn't overcrowded and everyone was getting theirs.

As the Park often will, in addition to some thick, steep, hollow slabs, it was also throwing up corners, offering long, long slides from the lineup into the far inside.  About an hour into the session, Craig Thomson showed up to join us as his 13-year-old daughter watched from the shore.  She's a junior olympics swimmer, and was suited up in her full wetsuit and had fins in hand, but sat a long time at the water's edge, sizing up the sets, before deciding not to swim out today.

We decided to use our last half hour in the water, allowing the mild current running north to carry us back past The Rocks into the Main Peak area and towards the steps.  Just north of the rocks, we encountered Casey, with his board today, working the left off the north side of The Rocks.  Further up, Hugh was sitting outside on his board, like king on a throne, ruling over the Main Peak.  As I swam up, he offered to run interference for me on the next Main Peak left.  

We ended up hanging around a bit longer than intended - I was getting calf cramps on every other wave and Ghattas was running late for an appointment - but the vibe at main peak was really exceptional.  It was mostly locals and many were enjoying viewing us deep in the barrel, from up and down the line, between their own.  Further north, a pod of sponges were working barrels and aerials of their own.  It's really fun when you have competent bodysurfers, board surfers, bodyboarders and kneeboarders all out, making the most of a good swell and sharing the stoke.

As evident from the last two shots above, and the following shots, as we exited the water, the wind had turned to come from the south and cleared out the overcasts, unveiling a warm, sunny day.  The size was holding up (see the second photo above) and there were some very solid surfers out, showing off their best moves (photo above).

There appeared to be a couple of new techniques being tried out, too:

But lording over the pack of sticks, showing home break knowledge beyond the others, Hugh was putting on a clinic.  In the time I was photographing him - below - he caught five set waves while nobody else had more than two waves of any kind.  

Hugh was working them, too, with radical cutbacks, floaters, you name it - see photo below.  

I have one long, long sequence - my camera clocked it at 15 seconds - of Hugh starting from deep outside and working a wave through several steep sections, a couple of cutbacks and a floater, all the way into the far inside. 

Did I mention, there were some new techniques in evidence (not Hugh!):

So, today was the first surf day of Spring.  Fall and Winter this year weren't so memorable in the Park.  But seasons change...
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