Sunday, March 3, 2013

Satisfying Sunday in the Park (with photos by Hugh)

 Yesterday (Saturday) it dawned sunny and was over 80 degrees at the beach by 8:30, driven by offshore winds that combed a decent winter swell.  A real beach day.  Rather than surf, I opted to catch up from a week's travel, postponing my session until today, and spent most of the day second-guessing myself.  Sunday's forecast may have been for a better "combo" swell (combined swells from NW and WSW), but the wind was projected to shift onshore, bringing air temperatures more than 20 degrees cooler and overcast skies.

The sky was mottled gray with a few blue spots peeking through as I pulled into the lot.  Mark Ghattas was suiting up but shook his head as he walked over.  "Clean, but no size, and kind of closed out," he commented, holding his hand up just above his waist. 

As we crossed tracks and walked up to the rail to check it out, though, a peaky, shoulder-high set rolled in.  What wind there was, was gentle and out of the Northeast.  Just clearing the bluffs, the sun was peaking through those gaps in the gray and glinting off glossy wave faces.  There were a couple of surfers out, along with a hand-boarder, who caught a nice left as we watched (below - remember - click on any picture for full screen).

Mark headed down the steps and down the beach as I returned to suit up.  The sun continued to fight the clouds, but was enough to be mildly warming; the water was cold - 57 - but not bad.  For the next hour, we enjoyed inconsistent, but sometimes quite good, shoulder high waves ... sometimes a bit bigger... in that nice mix of corners and tubes that makes the Park so fun.
 --click on photo for full resolution--

As the session progressed, surfers filled in and Mark had to take off.  I moved around, finding peaks where I didn't have to fend too many off.  Paddling south at one point, having nodded as I passed a guy in the line up, the surfer commented, "I've been watching you getting shacked a bunch up there; great view of you in the tube, down the line here."  

Good vibe...unfortunately, not totally shared:  I'd set up just north of the rocks, enjoying the energy coming off that submerged mini-point, when two sticks paddled out right where I was.  Sets were coming in as single waves, and one proceeded to set up behind me and take the next set wave.  Then he paddled out and did it again, and then a third time.  I was in perfect position for the next set wave, the best of the four, when he paddled up just two feet behind me.  As I started to swim, I looked him in the eye and said, "This one is mine; I am taking it."  I turned and dropped in, but out of the corner of my eye could see that he continued to paddle for it behind me.

When I popped up after a nice right, he was right there behind me.  "Why do that?" he asked.  "You took three; I get a turn.  We can share the waves out here," I responded, maintaining cool.  "I share!  Why are you talking to me?" he asked.  "You asked!" I responded.  He continued talking as we paddled back out, but then turned and paddled 20 yards north (mission accomplished from my viewpoint!).  As he paddled up to his friend, I heard the friend say to him, "I've never seen that!  Snaked by a bodysurfer, then heckled afterwards!"

Shortly afterwards, I saw that Hugh Berenger - San Clemente surf photographer par excellence - had come back up the beach with his camera.  I'd seen him earlier, walking the beach with his coffee.  Time to perform for the camera!  And, of course, a long lull set in.  After 10 minutes, I took an inside wave to shore, but Hugh convinced me to head further south to LG1, where it seemed a little more consistent with larger gaps between the sticks.  As we walked up (me, still wearing my fins), it looked like "Kings Korner," that peak right in front of where Life Guard stand #1 (hence, "LG1") sets up in summer, was working, so I swam out there.

Indeed, it was!  With minimal interference from sticks, the next 15-20 minutes were a flurry of moderate sized rights, while Hugh snapped photos ashore.  The sequence below was typical.

As Hugh & I walked back to the lot, I noticed the "why do that?" guy and his friend (whom Hugh had earlier described as some kooks recently arrived in San Clemente from Huntington who'd been seeking some help from him to promote a product they were developing) were coming up behind us.  Not so surprisingly, they worked pretty hard to avoid encountering us....

To enjoy more Hugh's incredible photography, check out his Flickr site:

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