Sunday, December 14, 2014

Packing a Punch in the Park

The rains have gone but the swell from the storm that brought Southern California its heaviest rains in years lingers.  Not as big, perhaps, as yesterday, but a much cleaner swell (and water!) and much more organized, accompanied by an offshore breeze that still left a glassy surface inside.

With almost no tide swing and winds projected to be mild and offshore through midday, timing didn't matter much so I set a leisurely time of 9:00 to rendezvous with Mark Ghattas.  On arrival, I found the storm had sculpted the shore of sand, leaving mini-cliffs of sand along the beach, but also new sandbars that were showing peaks from the rocks to the south all the way up to our steps and further north.  

In response, rather than the customary pack at the Main Peak, surfers were scattered throughout, working the head-high WNW swell as the offshore raked plumes off the pitching lips.

As I observed from the steps, and snapped a few shots, my friend Jamie Knoop appeared, a tantalizing breakfast burrito from Pipe's in hand.  Shortly, Mark pulled in, followed closely by local (body)surfing luminati couple, Bryan Knowles and Scotti Shafer. 

Shortly, we were in the water, remarkably warm (63/64) for December.  Immediately, I caught a head high right with a nice drop in and climb into the face before I was cut off by an oblivious stick.  No sweat.  As the others got out to the lineup, I pulled into a steep, fast left in full layout, making eye contact with Bryan as I slid by under a feathering lip that eventually enclosed me in the first of the day's many tubes.

As hollow as the waves were, they were strangely benign, welcoming today.  The faces held open; tubes remained hollow; closeouts were almost gentle.

I had the GoPro on my wrist, but wasn't concentrating on shooting; today was for riding.  I'll edit and post a composite from the day, but grabbed a fun sequence of Bryan:

 The first shot gives some feel for the size, as Mark looks back on Bryan as he takes off, a wall of wave stretching out behind.
 The mix of swell becomes evident as Bryan slides toward me.
As he reaches me, Bryan tucks into the curl with SCSP signature cliffs behind under a rain-swept blue winter sky.

I had anticipated an hour in the water, it became two and I was reluctant to exit to make commitments back home. A classic winter day in the Park!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fun Fall Swell in South Bay

Early morning presented bright blue skies on a crisp, fall morning in Pasadena.  

Tempted by post-surf luxuries of hot showers, fresh coffee and freshly baked, homemade muffins at Chez Tordella, and lead by forecasts that favored South Bay - i.e., the lower quadrant of Santa Monica Bay - over Orange County for both swell and winds, Hermosa Secret Spot was the call for Saturday.  The early cams evidenced significant swell, but mainly walled up.  However, a quick check of the San Clemente cams showed less height, yet the same, walled up west swell with no cross-swell to create peaks.

Transitioning downtown and heading west, tendrils of early morning fog stretched in from the coast, but, even this early, the sun was fighting to burn it off.  As LAX slid by on my right and Dockweiler Beach approached ahead, varying haze overhung the South Bay.  As I headed south, past Shitpipe, Prat's Reef, Hammerland and El Porto, into Manhattan Beach and Hermosa beyond, regular sets of well spaced swells rolled in.

A variable haze hung over Hermosa as Paul Tordella, Mark Ghattas and I suited up at Paul's house.  From the hill above, the swell was showing in Hermosa, as well.

 A bit of shape was even evident as a modest offshore combed the wavetops.

Soon, we were swimming out in the cool, but still comfortable water - probably 63 or so.  I was glad to have a full suit on for the first time since Spring.  Maybe a dozen surfers were spread out north and south of us.  Head high and larger sets, still mostly walled up, were rolling in, but the mid-sized waves - shoulder to head-high - were showing a little form.  

My first wave was a big, thick right, that I was able to get into early for a fast descent down the face, back up into the curl and into a shimmery tube before the inevitable close out.  Nice!  Paul and Mark starting laying into a series of lefts.  

As the tide dropped over the first hour, the surfers dissipated south while corners presented themselves with increasing frequency.  The morning was a blend of big, fast, hollow ones and longer, slower slides into deep inside. 

After the tide turned, again starting to rise, a significant rip current developed, challenging the effort to maintain position.  About 90 minutes in, consensus grew that showers, coffee and muffins beckoned; perhaps one more ride.  About that time, I worked out of the rip and into a series of four solid, mid-sized rides, within a few minutes of each other.  Over another 15 minutes, I caught a couple more set waves and a couple inside.  

50 yards north, a surfer waved me over - and I recognized my son, Joe, who was just getting in.  His first wave was a kamikaze right close out ... with a full cover-over before the inevitable.   

Finally, as the two-hour mark approached, Paul worked his way ashore.  Shortly after, a head-high wave arrived that was just soft enough to allow a slide straight down the face out into the flat water ahead and then a whitewater-assisted coast all the way across the shallow flats inside and to the shore.  As I waded ashore, I watched Joe drop into an 8-foot wall, carve a classic bottom turn and climb back into the slot for a ride of several seconds in and out of of feathering lip.

As we headed across the sand, back toward Tordella's, the strand was awash with walkers, skaters, joggers, cyclists and sun-worshipers, soaking in a perfect fall day...before the rains (hopefully!) arrive Sunday.

The morning's exertions, camaraderie in the water blended with good vibe from the surfers drifting through, and a solid swell on a beautiful morning made the homemade muffins and fresh coffee at Tordella's taste that much better.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back in the Park ... Feelin' Good!

Seems like an age since I've been out where I consider my "home" stomping grounds, San Clemente State Beach, a/k/a "the Park" (for San Clemente State Park, which sits right above it).  I guess that's because it's been six weeks since my last session in the Park, and another month since the one before that.  Nonetheless, it still feels like home.

In actuality, when I went to bed last night, I figured the chances were slim that I'd be heading south early today: most wind models had 12- 16 mph winds out of the southeast for the morning, enough to severely mess up the 2-4 foot swell anticipated.  Nonetheless, it was worth a check of the cams in the morning, since there'd be at least some swell and the tides were benign.  

Ah, the cams!  Some decry what they've done to surfing, removing that "all in" if you commit to surf, and getting there, or depriving the true local of the advantage wrought by the ability to wake up and personally check the surf.  I understand the viewpoint, but can't share it.  Left to the forecasts, I'd have been deprived of a nice little session this morning, and it's not like the Park was overrun - it was a pretty modest gathering of sticks and sponges out, throughout the morning.

So, what I saw on the cams was completely clean conditions.  Until a couple walked by on the beach to provide some scale, it looked pretty small - like, knee high - but with the human bodies to measure against, I could see that the wave height, as forecast, was up around shoulder-high.  So, I hauled myself out of bed, downed a first cup of coffee (with a roadie to go) and some Kefir, and jumped in the car for the drive south.  I was not to be disappointed.

A thin grey overcast kept the sun struggling to peak through, but what little wind there was came from offshore.  A thin line of sticks, with a few sponges interspersed, stretched from LG1 to the south up through the main peak area.  

The waves were chest and shoulder high, and peaky, with a bowl working inside at the main peak (above) and sandbars creating a variety of shifting peaks.


Amazed that I could still be surfing in my shortie, in 66-degree water, in November, in a rare solo session, I swam out to an empty area just north of Main Peak, and remained there throughout an hour and a half session, with an occasional stick (surfboard) or sponge (bodyboard) drifting through.

My first two waves were classic Park. One a right, the other a left.  Both at least shoulder high, and with a great corner that presented a fast, hard slide, followed by a pitching lip that closed over me to enclose me - for the first of many such this morning - in a shimmering crystalline tube.  

These may have been the best two waves of the day, but as the session evolved, it was about those few seconds in the tube...some just pure crystal, while others ranged from luminescent cyan to glittery sapphire.  The beauty of bodysurfing: while some of these cylindrical enclosures may have been of sufficient size to embrace a surfer on a board, there were those this morning, inaccessible to board surfers, that were sized only to the bodysurfer.

I did strap the GoPro to my wrist before swimming out.  Today's shots are more oriented toward the scenery and environment - the gestalt, if you will - of being out there in a shimmering, glassy morning with the sun peaking through, than really of the surf conditions.  I hope you enjoy!

SCSP: November 15, 2014 from Hank Haldeman on Vimeo.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Del Mar Beach Break at Its Best

I don't get to Del Mar beach break that often, but until today I didn't realize just how good it can be!

I enjoy surfing Del Mar because of the vibrant bodysurfing community there, anchored by the Del Mar BodySurfing Club; because of the daytime black ball, reserving two blocks centered on 17th Street, 365 days a year; and because it's a half-block walk from where I frequently stay when visiting North San Diego.  Those of us that don't live at the beach really appreciate the occasional luxury of suiting up before heading out to the water and returning to peel the wetsuit off in a hot shower!

I've had a number of fun days at Del Mar, but this morning beat them all, by a bunch.  Yesterday's swell continued to linger, with waves consistently breaking with 5, 6 and 7 foot faces.  Sometimes bigger.  As I walked through the park to the sand, sticks and sponges alike were ripping...getting tubed...full of stoke.  Most surfers were concentrated on the reef at 15th street, but peaks were showing all the way to the river mouth.

Again, the water was warm - 69 or 70 - as I waded out as far as I could before commencing the long swim out.  A steady, offshore breeze was combing the wave tops and texturing the surface outside, but inside was smooth and clean.  Overhead, the sky was cloudless.  As the early sun peeked over the Del Mar hills, the white froth of broken waves took on a glow.

My first wave was a big right.  Not terribly long, but hollow and pitching so that from deep inside I could see the lineup of sticks and glowing foam of the reef area to the south.  Clearly, though, some southwest swell had mixed in with yesterday's northwest swell, and my second wave was a long left with a soft shoulder that took me deep inside.

I swam out right in front of the 15th Street guard station and had to work continuously to maintain position against a strong current moving north to south.  A teenager surfing a stick was messing with a GoPro a half block to the south and another local stick was a hundred yards to the north.  For 90 minutes, no one was any closer, so I had my pick of waves.

I realize it was a weekday, but wondered where any of the DMBC were on such an excelllent morning.  Perfect, peaky swell; warm water; sunny skies; offshore breeze.  Does Del Mar get any better than this?

You know it's a good session when a stick paddles by to the following exchange:

"Good, man, you?"
"I'd swap my board for my Churchills right now. You're getting shacked every second."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adding an Annum in Del Mar

Sixty-one and still surfing; hoping to emulate septuagenarian Chuck Herpick and octogenarian Neil Frank!

Heather and I slipped down to Del Mar for a couple of nights to celebrate another notch in my belt of years, just as the first solid northwest swell is due to arrive.  Northern San Diego forecasts were for four to seven feet, but the forecasts for conditions were all over the place.  Some projected onshore winds staying close to 10 mph overnight and into the morning, while others were holding for mild offshore through the morning.  Meanwhile, the water temperature in Orange and San Diego continued to hold at or over 70 through the week.

I was optimistic, and arranged to meet Bret Belyea and Chris Lafferty at a preferred spot in Encinitas.  By sundown Saturday, little two-footers continued to dribble in, raising fears that the swell would be insufficient to push through a tide that never really got low and was due to approach 6 feet around 10:30. 

I remained optimistic, and was justified as I walked up to the observation point atop the stairs at D Street: glassy, clean lines, widely separated at a good 14 second interval, slid in under a slate gray sky.  Few yet were in the water, even without a body against which to measure the height it was clear that these were head-high at least.

Shortly, Bret, Chris and I were finning up on the beach and slipping into the water.  Tempted to "skin it," the cool morning lead me to don my summer "shortie," but Bret & Chris were in full suits.  The water was cool entering, but very comfortable through the 90 minute session.

I'm not so used to the long swim out presented by Encinitas, but overcame that and got out to the break just as a seven-foot right swept through.  I thought about it, but gave in to my temptation to catch wind before dropping into a set wave.  Immediately regretting my decision, my angst was allayed shortly as I saw another approaching on the horizon.  With a couple of strokes, I was sliding right down a fat face that just continued to hold up for an easy slide, well inside.  I pulled up after maybe 20-30 yards, concerned about another immediate swim out and figuring there would be plenty more, but I could easily have continued on at least an equal distance, if not a good deal further.

Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time for that wave.  Less fortunately, it proved to be my best wave of the day.  The second wave was a bit more typical - a bit smaller, the face was again fat as I dropped in, but shortly, the swell hit a shelf and quickly steepened into a tight, fast, closeout barrel.  Fun, but the long easy slide of the first wave.

Through the session, we struggled with placement and judgement, as the rising tide played tricks with us.  A swell would rise up as it hit the underwater reef, even start to break top-to-bottom, then back off entirely to break another twenty feet in.  The next one would curl and break as soon as it came upon the reef.  Nonetheless, there were plenty of fun rides for all over the session, and no one to compete with us for the waves.  

90 minutes and a couple of calf cramps later,  would work my way ashore to rinse and climb the D Street stairs with Bret and Chris, thinking that the sixties could be pretty damn good.

After the session, I snapped a few pictures from the D Street view point: some nice lines with a glassy surface still in evidence. There were several bodysurfers working the area between D Street & Moonlight, who show up in the photos above. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Summer's Still Sizzlin' at SCSP

Ever put time into polishing something up to publish then somehow deleting it?  Yeah, we all have.  That was my story Sunday after writing up my blog entry.  And that's my excuse today for late posting and abbreviated entry.  The original was good...

Inland air temperatures hitting triple digit.  Water temperature over 70 degrees.  Long period, deep south swell sweeping through So Cal.  July?  August?  Nope!  October.  Really.  One departure from what otherwise was a perfect masquerade of a summer day at the Park was that it was completely devoid of the usual concentration of surfers at the Main Peak.  On arrival, absolutely no one was out.

It wasn't until I got home and was looking at the photo above full screen that I realized the stark contrast at Cotton's Point in the background.  Here's a zoom in on the same shot:

Perhaps more obvious if you click on it for a full rez version, but each one of those little dots is a surfer.  I guess chased by the fact that the Park generally struggles with a high tide (over 5' at 7:45), the pack went south.  Nonetheless, there were shoulder-, chin-, and even some head-high sets rolling in, thick with the long interval and often hollow, 

and not right on shore: 

Some were combed by a mild off-shore breeze, but for the most part, it was smooth and glassy.

By the time I got in, there were two surfers out, down by the Rocks, and I had the Main Peak to myself.  Mark Ghattas eventually joined me, and for two hours a stick or two would come or go, but throughout, any wave was there for the taking.  Some hollow, sometimes a bit mushy.  Lefts came in looking like closeouts, but would open up on drop in.  Mellow vibe in the water as all enjoyed the clean conditions, warm water and total lack of crowding.

I slipped the GoPro on before swimming out but didn't feel like sacrificing wave time for shooting.  At one point, I regretted that, we watched one of the longest rides I've seen at the park.  Taking off 50 yards south of the Rocks, the surfer dropped in on a nearly head-high left, then set a high fast line as he traversed all the way to the Rocks, over them, then continued on another 50 yards to the north side of Main Peak before the final inside close out on the sand.  

I did take a few, though.  Enjoy!

SCSP 10-05-14 from Hank Haldeman on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sizeable Swell to Celebrate the Stentor of Stoke

The large swell that's been traveling up from New Zealand over the last week arrived on time late Friday to greet this year's sojourn by the Stentor of Stoke, Eric Yeisley, back to his hunting grounds in the State Park.

Before moving to Colorado, EY_\ was the glue binding the Golden Triangle - SCSP's looseknit bodsurfing association - together.  

Golden Triangle founders Hugh Berenger & Eric Yeisley semaphore the ohana's /_\ logo
 Now, on his once-a-year visits, the tribe gathers, this year finding a solid swell to celebrate the visit.  
Solid swell draws scores of sticks to the Main Peak
While the Main Peak was densely populated by board surfers, the area at the bottom of the path down from the Park in front of LG1 and King's Korner to the south were given over to the band of the body.  When I arrived there were already 13 heads out in the water, mixing up long left shoulder slides on the inside waves with tubular action on the sets waves.  Solid, 4' - 8' surf, carrying a lot of power in the long-interval swell.  Though smaller than the hurricane waves of preceding weeks, the much longer period created more power per foot of swell...the quest of the bodysurfer.

Crawdaddy got some fun footage of the pod

In the water, joining the itinerant EY_\, were original GT/_\ core members Hugh "Huge" Berenger, Chuck "Kahuna" Herpick, Brent "Crawdaddy" Crawford and Derrik "MuDsHaRk" Sciarra.  GT regular Mark "Sailfish" Ghattas (duck model above) joined long-timers Steven "Hawk" Harkins and Eric (nickname omitted) Ackerman.  Bret "da threat" Belyea made it up from SD county for his occasional visit, with a buddy in tow, while SC denizen and frequent Park-er Shawn O'Gorman drew several friends of the SC Waveriders into the water.  There were a few I didn't know, and apologies to those I've overlooked!

While the sticks fought it out further north,

the extended GT ohana enjoyed our stretch over a couple of hours.

Photo - Heather O'Gorman

Ashore, the stoke of the stentor shouted out, "We've been Pastor-ized!"

Crawdaddy, Sailfish, EA, EY_\, MuDsHaRk - Photo Kahuna

MuDsHaRk, Kahuna, Crawdadday, "Pastor" Hank - Photo Sailfish

Friday, August 29, 2014

...Meanwhile, Back at the Park...

After a couple of days sidelined by Marie to spectator status, it was great to get back in the water at SCSP today.  Nothing epic, not even picaresque, but actually an excellent session.  

Paul Tordella and I met at the Calafia lot, to find shoulder - sometimes head - high, glassy, peaky surf on a nearly deserted break.  

The water was cooler - maybe 67 at first - but I still trunked it comfortably for over 1.5 hours.  The early photos don't show it, but it was sunny throughout, yet the glossy surface remained undisturbed.  

Paul and I found the stretch between the Main Peak and the Rocks empty, and worked long lefts and occasional tubes alone for most the session until a couple of sticks decided to paddle out exactly where we were and endeavor to take every wave ... whether they could make it or not.  Not nearly enough, though, to spoil a sweet session.  Dozens of waves, sliding along glossy, shoulder-high ramps, deep into the inside.  

Just the day for a guy about this size:

Not writing a lot today ... off to see if the peninsula has morphed into somewhere amenable to an evening surf.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Postscript: Marie

Let's be clear.  The waves today did not match those of yesterday, nor, unfortunately, do the pictures.  I hesitate to offer more, as they don't really compare, but there was still a lot of Wedge energy, and some great rides by incredible surfers.  So, with that in mind, I offer a modest postscript to yesterday's photoessay.

Today, I arrive just as the blackball went up.  It was a pleasure to meet a star of yesterday's photos - including both the first two in yesterday's blog, my favorites of the day - Teddy Banderuk, to meet Chris Colima and greet Starkey. 

Mel Thoman had already entered the water, and I failed to capture his early ride.

But, I did catch a few moments, as 10 - 18 foot surfed pulsed through: