Saturday, September 21, 2013

Glass in the Fog

Last Saturday, Southern California remained mired in yet another muggy heat wave, but this time, the forecast was for a decent swell - 2-4 feet out of the Southwest with some Northwest windswell mixed in...just the kind of mix the Park likes.  A moderate tide joined prediction for mild winds, though from the Northwest.  Nonetheless, a promising prediction for relief from the heat and summer trend toward minimal surf.
Though skies were cloudless blue through the drive down from Pasadena, I entered into thick fog as soon as I hit San Clemente.  Cooling waters encountering overheated air create the offshore evaporation that was then pinned against the cliff-rimmed bay of San Clemente.
Checking for surf from the rail - maybe all of fifty feet from water's edge - nothing could be seen.   The lifeguard station, 100 feet to the south, was nearly lost in fog.

Paul reported that the water in Newport had been frigid, so I walked down to water's edge to check the temperature.  It seemed quite a bit cooler than the 64 being reported at the SC pier, so I abandoned plans for the spring/shortie and donned the full 3:2.  Entering the fog-shrouded water, I was glad of my choice.

There was a string of surfers from the Main Peak south beyond the rocks, but a nice peak was working just north of the Main Peak, with no one on it.  Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and I swam out there, and ended up having the peak to ourselves throughout the session. 

Through the next two+ hours, inconsistent size ran from chest to shoulder, to occasional head-high sets.  Unlike most of summer, though, it was a thick, long-interval swell, offering up consistently hollow tubes with some solid power behind them.  The dense air maintained a slickly glossy surface throughout.
Time after time, I found myself inside the eerily luminescent, blue hollows created by the soft light filtered through the fog.  Oddly, it seemed brighter inside the shack than floating on the glossy surface.

Shortly into the session, local father & son denizens Shawn and Cheyne O'Gorman joined us, gritting though the cooling water without wetsuits.  Five of us in the water, with plenty of glassy, hollow rides to go around, many quite long, and no competition at all for the waves.  

Over two hours, the fog alternately thinned and reset, but never relented.  That we had our peak to ourselves, combined with the blanketing gray and smooth surface, gave the session an unusual intimacy.  Just us, the ocean and our waves.

Intrepid beachgoers, driven to the shore by the inland heat, continued to fill in sand, happier with the comfort than upset by the lack of sun.
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Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day Wrap Up .. SCSP Smallies in the Fog & Saturday Video Link

First, a treat - Sam's video from Saturday's session at 58th St. in Newport. 

Surfing 58th Aug 31 2013 from Samuel Abeger.

Not sure if Newport today would have matched Saturday, but, with Labor Day crowds in the offing, Mark Ghattas, Paul Tordella, Neil Frank and I decided to meet up in the Park, where there was likely to be less swell but far less crowding in the water.  A decent call.

Checking the cams before setting out, both San Clemente and Newport were totally socked in - the San Clemente cam was simply gray and Newport not much better.  There was no morning surfline report, due to the lack of visibility.  

Trusting the swell models, we expected - and got - a moderately consistent 2-3 foot swell (waist to shoulder high).  We swam out at the Main Peak in warm-ish (68), glassy water and dense fog. 

Due to the fog, which at times seemed to try to clear but never did, the photos are from after the session  - still fairly dense at 11:00.  

The swell was small, but well-formed, with some long rides - particularly on the lefts.  Whether it was the fog or the fact that other breaks were probably doing better in the swell, we basically had the Main Peak area to ourselves for a 90 minute session.  For a while, around 9:30, it got quite good, teasing that it might turn into a pretty decent session as the tide continued to drop.  But by 10:00, the energy seemed to drop off and by 10:30 a mild onshore breeze started up. 

 Despite the lack of sun, by 10:45, the narrow beach that comprises SCSP was filling in with holiday beach-goers, seeking respite from the hot, muggy weather just a few hundred yards inland...with more arriving by the minute.

We've had some memorable Labor Day sessions in the Park.  This doesn't qualify, but compared to the total flat of preceding weeks, we'll take it!

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Surf in August ... at last!

With the last day of August finally came some surf!  And, much better than expected, at that.

A pretty steep SSW swell, forecast at 2-3 feet, pointed to the North/West end of Newport rather than points further south.  Desperate for any surf, expectations were for a small swell but heavily packed lineup as the whole of Southern California sought to break the August surf fast of the past four weeks.  We - Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and I - decided to meet up at 59th Street - the very end of the Newport Jetties - in the hope the crowd would be a little lighter there without sacrificing much swell.

We were surprised to see a peaky, head-high set and glassy conditions as we crossed the broad expanse of sand in Newport.  Less surprising was all the fiberglass in the water - but it was moderately spread out.  We swam out right between 58th & 59th, where it appeared a little thinner: there was the expected, dense clump at 54th, the last jetty, and then concentrations further north.

 The swim out in warm-ish, 65 degree water, was easy, and, nearly immediately, a clean, shoulder-high set came in, hollow and pitching with a bit of that Newport punch. 

Joe on a glassy shoulder high right

Despite the number of sticks in the water, the vibe was good...everybody was just happy to see surf and there was plenty to go around.  As I held position at 58th Street, with a mild current running north, the spot would go through periods of intense concentration - maybe a dozen surfers clumped in - to periods where there'd only be one or two within the block.

I had lots of fun rides, long ones on slowly peeling lines and faster ones in pitching tubes.  So good to be the in water again!

Joe joined us, along with Sam Abeger, who brought his new GoPro out and got some good shots.  Video to follow soon.

Two memorable rides of the day:  First, a 50-ish guy, shortboarding off the end of the 56th Street jetty, dropped in on a peeling, head-high left and worked the wave all the way to the inside - past 60th street...a four-block-long ride.  The bodysurfing wave of the day, hopefully caught by Sam, was another peeling left that Paul caught right at the peak, for a long, fast slide to the deep inside.

With Labor Day weekend sealing off the disappointing summer season, we can only hope this was a harbinger of the the fall season!