Sunday, June 23, 2013

Change of Seasons: Beginning of a (Surf) Drought?

Summer's here...but is that a good thing?

Fall and winter were pretty disappointing for surf this year.  Wetsand's "Session Log" feature permits rating sessions from 1 to 5 stars.  From early September through late March, not a single Park session rated better than 3 stars (average), and it was only good enough for me to log an extremely paltry six sessions in the Park, altogether.  Mixed in were a couple of sessions in Del Mar (one decent, the other marginal) and one, excellent session at El Porto (see: Breaking the Drought at El Porto).  Yep, one good session in six months.

With spring came a significant change.  It started with a classic, overhead session in the Park in late March (Change of Season Brings a Classic Park Day), and in less than three months, from late March to mid-June, I logged seven sessions at the Park, of which five were four stars or better.  An exceptional run, capped by a 5-star, well overhead south swell in early June (South Swell Sweeps the Park).  That included one stretch of four sessions in five weeks, three of them 4 or 5 star.  The one week I took off would have been a solid, 3-star day.  Consistency returned to the Park with Spring.

Well, two factors go into a surf drought.  One is the combination of swell and conditions.  The other is my ability to get out.  With the advent of summer, these two are aligning the wrong way. 

Today may have been ok, but far from great.  A late return last night from near a week in the East pretty much precluded surf, anyway.  Although the surf will be pretty decent next weekend - NOT to complain!!! - I'll be fully tied up with Hilary's wedding.  Looking further out, the weekend of the 5th shows no promise of a long-range south swell, such as drives summer surf in Southern California.  We'll be lucky to have a waist-high NW windswell.  There's nothing particularly promising in the South Pacific beyond that at this point.

Hopefully, this is just a lull as we switch seasons, and the South Pac will start ginning things up by mid-July!  After all, doesn't a six-month lull justify at least a good, six-month run?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stentor of Stoke Stopover at State Park

Once the leading denizen of San Clemente State Park's Golden Triangle bodysurfing regulars, the visits now are rare.  Having traded Orange County's beach life for the mile high mountains and lakes of the Denver suburbs, Eric EY_\ Yeisley now has to satisfy himself with one or two trips a year to his old break.  But, he makes the most of it!

After last weekend's near-epic swell, the forecasts through the week were disturbingly bleak: even yesterday, Surfline was predicting 1-2 feet with "poor" conditions.  Notwithstanding, plans stood for an early expression session in the Park to be followed by pancake breakfast at Crawdaddy's.

Pulling into the Calafia lot, I caught a glimpse of a faded, tan pickup, I'd not seen in a long time - Derrik MuDsHaRk Sciarra's wheels.  We walked out for an early check and found a surprising set coming in.  The lip was ruffled by the south wind, but not messed up and it was a lot more than the paltry 1-2 forecast.

Admittedly, a far cry from last Saturday, the Main Peak was nonetheless working, along with peaks further south.  Meanwhile, the forecast had left the break pretty empty.

Gradually, a pod of the old regulars gathered at the rail, to greet the beaming Yeisley on his arrival (top photo).  Chuck Kahuna Herpick and Brent Crawdaddy Crawford join with Derrik to welcome EY, below.

The swell was holding, the water a warm 67 and the south breeze steady but mild.  Shortly, we were in the water for a throw-back session of SCSP smallies.  Stoke permeated every ride, large and small, as our small pod - Sailfish joined Kahuna, Crawdaddy, EY_\ and me in the water as Derrik and Hugh remained ashore - enjoyed Main Peak, essentially all to ourselves, for 90 minutes.  Crawdaddy brought out the new water camera for the latter half...hoping to see some in-water video clips soon.

Afterward, the tribe filtered up to Crawdaddy's house in Laguna, where Brent and the ever-gracious Una served up one of their signature pancake (plain, blueberry& apple) and bacon & sausage breakfasts.  Steve Too Tall Short was there when I got there; Kahuna and Sailfish were joined by their brides and Mark Scruds Johnson of Huntington Chubascos came by.  Sailfish brewed up some thick Egyptian espresso, sweetened with citrus honey as story and stoke flowed over the tasty repast, capped by incomparable homemade flan brought by Kahuna's bride.

The leisurely, late morning gathering eventually broke off, with one contingent headed down to Oak Street for a local reprise to the morning session.

PS - realize I forgot to include Dave DaArm Armenta, a late arrival in the water and participant at breakfast...sorry Dave!  Good to see you.
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Saturday, June 8, 2013

South Swell Sweeps the Park

Kee-rack! Barrrrummmble …(12 seconds)…  Kee-rack!  BarrRUMmmble….  What a beautiful sound to hear as I turned off the car and opened my door in the Calafia lot at 7:30.

I didn't read it until I got home, hours later, but the Surfline "dawn patrol" had it spot on:

4-7 ft. - shoulder high to 2 ft. overhead occ. 8 ft.  This morning's dawn patrol: A little on the inconsistent side, but there are some solid overhead SSW sets pushing in. Looking a bit walled (especially on the bigger waves) with scattered pick-n-choose corners/sections. Clean surface conditions, incoming tide.


As I joined Hugh at the rail, a trio of sticks were struggling to maintain position in the Main Peak area against the strong current running South to North, and one of Bret Belyea's crew was just entering in the distance to join a pair of bodysurfers that appeared to have the "LG1" area south of the rocks to themselves.  The current was strong, and the deep groundswell waves were clearly packing a punch.  Maybe the same size as El Porto had been in January, but much more powerful.


Truth be told, I was hesitant to surf today.  I'd be up since 3:00 and wondered if I was up to the swell.  But I'd told Bret that I'd meet him and there he was, with a couple of buddies.  Gotta swim out.


It was about twenty minutes before I caught my first wave.  Not wanting to be caught inside, I was hanging outside but where ever I was, when a set appeared, it was pretty walled up.  I didn't really want to start my session getting trashed in a 9-foot face closeout. 
Eventually, though, the third wave of a 7-foot set offered a small right corner and the morning was started.  Patience was important this morning, but paid off handsomely.

The corners were there, both lefts and rights, with some long, fast rides.

Bret was there with two of his buddies from San Diego, taking the best that the Park had to offer.  Hugh was dominating, as usual.  For an hour, we worked the LG 1 area, all to ourselves.  While you really had to pick your waves, I came to the conclusion that it's much better to have your choice of waves on day where you need to be picky than it is to have to compete with a pack of surfers, even when there's much more to chose from.

Occasionally, a board would float through, paddling up against the current or sliding along with it.  The was one guy on a board, accompanied by two other bodysurfers, between us and the rocks...plenty of room.

I finally tired of fighting the current and allowed the current to carry me into, and beyond the Main Peak, catching three good waves along the way.  The last was a steep, long right - a duplicate of the last photo above, that dumped me way inside and well north of the peak.  Satisfied and tired, I joined Hugh ashore.  Bret's friends had already exited and Bret was following me. 

Then, Mark Ghattas appears!  Just the motivation I needed to get in for a few more waves.  Mark, Hugh & I walked back south of LG1 again, and swam out.  The filling tide was offering those corners more often now, and a few waves turned into another full hour.  In the water, Mark & I debated whether this was a "high" 4 or a "low" 5 on the WetSand 5-star scale.  By this time, I had had four or five waves that equalled the best of any session I've had in 2013, and certainly the size was the best of the year.  Maybe not quite the equal, for consistency, with other days that I've logged as 5 star.  But the vibe in the water was great - that's what happens when the swell chases off those that don't belong out - and a number of memorable waves.

It was great to see Bret and his buddies, and a leisurely breakfast at Adele's with Mark and Hugh pushed it over the line...first 5 star day of 2013.

Oh, and the title today?  It's a dual reference to the strong current and the fact that the deep groundswell kept the lineup thin and clear of kooks.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Oceanside Beach Safety- Need Blackball up by 9am

The following email from Bruce Robbins should draw the attention of all Southern California bodysurfers:

From: Bruce Robbins MD []
Subject: Fwd: Oceanside Beach Safety- Need Blackball up by 9am PLEASE READ THIS

Hi Fellow Bodysurfers-  I know you are all partial to Del Mar, but this is an important issue for all bodysurfers who want to go to Oceanside, and for water safety in general.  With increased crowds of board surfers and tourist surfers in Oceanside, conditions are getting dangerous in the morning for bodysurfers, swimmers,  and other non-hard board surfers.  We need Oceanside to catch up with the rest of San Diego County beaches and get the blacbkball up in one section of beach by 9am.  Their current policy of 11am blackball and light enforcement is not good, and people are going to get hurt. 
See the email below I sent to Bill Curtiss, the Chief Lifeguard at Oceanside.  Please  send Bill Curtiss an email of support.  (You could mention something like you don't go to Oceanside because they don't have a good blackball policy like Del Mar; or you could tell the story of our DM Bodysurfing Club that could only have formed because of Del Mar's blackball policy- you get what I mean....)  Also, feel free to send this along to any other bodysurfers you know who would be supportive that aren't on the Del Mar list.
thanks a lot!! 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bruce Robbins MD <>
Date: Thu, May 30, 2013 at 7:11 AM
Subject: Re: Beach Safety
To: Bill Curtis <>

Hi Bill-  Thanks for getting in touch with me. 
I have a serious concern regarding water safety that I want to communicate with you.

I am a resident of Oceanside and a very experienced bodysurfer; I have been bodysurfing at Oceanside for over 28 years, you have probably seen me and my friends bodysurfing on the north or south sides of the pier.  We like to go out in the morning when the conditions are good.  Up until the recent redevelopment of downtown Oceanside, the water was never that crowded with boards, and being experienced in the water, we always felt safe.  Also, traditionally, Oceanside board surfers were generally experienced and good surfers.  However, in recent years, especially last summer, and now this spring, the water in the morning is getting ridiculously crowded with boards, and especially with surfers who are beginners.  These inexperienced surfers are creating DANGEROUS conditions for us, as they don't know how to control their boards, and they don't know how to get out of the way for a bodysurfer (or bodyboarder).  Many are not perceptive enough to even see a bodysurfer on a wave.  This is creating hazardous conditions for bodysurfers and bodyboarders who have no designated swim zone. 

I know that Oceanside has had a policy to put up the blackball flags at 11:00 am, but there are MANY non-board surfers who want to go in the water before 11am, and who are now at risk of injury from the crowded conditions with hard surfboards and people who don't know how to control them.  Every other beach I am aware of in San Diego County has a section of beach that is blackballed at 9:00 am - this includes Del Mar, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach (which has a 24hr. blackball zone), to name some examples.  And these blackball zones are strongly enforced by the lifeguards all year long.

It appears to me that Oceanside Lifeguards have not examined policies that were put in place many years ago, and were appropriate at the time.  However, times have changed. Oceanside downtown is totally different, there is a big new hotel going up, there are more tourists in the water.  My concern is not just for the safety of myself and my friends without hard boards, but for the increasing number of tourist visitors to Oceanside beaches, many of whom will want to go for a swim before 11am this summer.  I am concerned that someone will be seriously injured from an out-of-control surfboard. (I have had many close calls myself, and one time suffered broken ribs by running over the back of a longboard at Oceanside)  I am concerned for the City of Oceanside that is at risk for a lawsuit from someone who is injured because there is no safe place to swim before 9am.

So, I am writing this letter to ask you to PLEASE seriously consider changing your blackball policy to have at least one section of beach blackballed for no board surfing at 9:00 am, and to vigorously enforce this policy.  It doesn't have to be the whole beach.  In Del Mar, they blackball one section of beach which is approximately 100 yards wide, in front of the lifeguard tower at 17th street, with flags on the beach.  My son was a lifeguard at Del Mar for several years, and I know all the head lifeguards there.  Pat Vergne is the Lifeguard Chief, Mark Rathsam is second in charge, I'm sure they would be happy to talk with you about their policies.  I know that board surfers have an attitude about blackball zones, and a change in policy like this will be unpopular with board surfers; but like I said above, times have changed, and this is important for safety of swimmers, bodysurfers and bodyboards, who will be in the water whether you change your policy or not.

Thank you very much for your attention to my request.  I would appreciate a response.  If there is anything else I can do to help make this change happen, please tell me what I need to do.

Thank you,

Bruce Robbins MD
500 North The Strand #47
Oceanside CA

On Wed, May 29, 2013 at 11:07 AM, Bill Curtis <> wrote:
Mr. Robbins,

Lifeguard Sergeant Masson Turvey forwarded me your e-mail regarding your concern for Beach Safety.

Please feel free to correspond directly with me regarding any ideas or concerns regarding our city beaches and their safety.

Thank you,

Bill Curtis
Lifeguard Captain
Oceanside Fire Department
“All email and voicemail to and from the City may be considered public information and may be disclosed upon request.”