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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