Monday, February 17, 2014

Mild MidWinter Holiday in the Park

There was some hope, early on, for a pretty good swell to arrive on President's Day.  However, as the weekend approached, the projected arrival of the swell was pushed back to later in the day Monday, and the strength downgraded.  Nonetheless, Monday was the only day with a chance of some surf for the long weekend.

Trying to balance concerns over a mid-moring high tide, the potential for growing onshore winds and the expectation that the swell wouldn't start to fill in until late morning, we decided on a 9:00 rendezvous.  On arrival, there was a little, sporadic, swell in the water under socked in skies, but a slickly glossy surface and clean conditions.

Matt was there, along with Mark Ghattas as we checked it out with tempered enthusiasm.  Despite the heavy coastal fog, the air was temperate and the water temperature reported at 60.  The tide didn't seem to be swamping what little swell there was, so we decided to jump in and see what might come.

I only kept the GoPro with me for about 20 minutes, but a good feel for the conditions comes across in this short (48 sec.) video (turn the sound off; it's messed up):

(PS - midway through the video, I tried shooting back at Ghattas as I lead him in the wave.  Interesting; worked for a while.)

Through the two hours, forerunners of the expected swell kept tempting us with shoulder-high waves and occasional fun rides.  But, as the sun fought to burn off the fog, the lulls were the norm.  It's always great to get in the water, with at least a little swell.  Warming air and 60 degree water in mid-February is tough to complain about.  I'll let photos do most of the talking for the rest of today's blog:

The sun had chased the fog bank well offshore by the time we exited around 11:30.

When the waves did some in , they were nicely formed and remained clean through the session.  The fact that we're looking at left, when the main swell was supposed to be NW from about 300, says much.

But the air and water were warm enough to entice bikinis and board short wearing holiday visitors into the water.

Meanwhile, the sun sparkled off empty corners,

while the waves that did come caught the surfers inside.

Gentle conditions enticed a number of novices into the water to practice their skills,

while a trio of teenage spongers had the most fun:

It got a little crowded at times,

but the sponge pod didn't mind.

Did we hope for better?  Sure.  But who's complaining?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Belated Blog from a Memorable Swell

Last weekend: through the week we'd been anticipating the first solid swell in ages: peaking on Saturday, lingering into Sunday.  The great news was  that it was hitting pretty much everywhere throughout Southern California, taking the pressure off local spots, dispersing the crowds.  

I met SCSP first-timer, Rick Sherburne, a life-long Newport bodysurfer, at the rail at 8:00 Sunday.  The sun was already glinting off a glassy surface with clean, well formed, long interval, head-high waves coming through.  The long swell interval was hollowing the waves and generating plenty of juice.  Inside, the whitewater was brown with churned up sand.

I only paused long enough to snap a couple of quick shots, not wanting to waste the swell and conditions.   Not many pictures today....

From 2014-01-26

Hugh's van pulled in while we were suited up, and Kahuna (Chuck Herpick) came down to check it out, but not to ride.  For once, Hugh decided to leave his cameras behind and come out and bodysurf with us.

In the water, it was all that was promised.  Beefy, head high and overhead sets streamed in with occasional lulls.  Often closed out, like the wave above, nearly as often they were catching one of the sand bars, setting up workable corners and, occasionally, a long ride to deep inside.  

The waves were sucking out the water underneath, making it disconcertingly shallow underneath, often only a couple of feet.  The bottom tended to drop out on the steeper rights, leaving a free fall into the shallows.  I can't remember spending so much time, pinned to the bottom on my back.

Mark Ghattas and Craig Thomson showed up  in due course, and Rick Ciaccio put in a rare appearance, breaking a long drought on a good day to do it!

Throughout the session, we had the main peak to ourselves. Occasionally, a stick would drift through and share a few waves while the stoke remained high.  Plenty of waves and thin crowds make for great ahola in the water.  For the most part, the handful of sticks were working the peak close to the steps, while another group was down in front of the Park at LG1.

Late in the session, a rangy-looking guy drifted into the main peak area from the North.  Ghattas was taking off on a wave, and the guy started to drop in.  Both ended up pulling out, so Mark gave him a questioning stare.  Which lead to a bizzarre interlude.  In a loud voice, the surfer advised Mark that this was an area for "surfers" and he needed to get out of the water.  He gestured to a lifeguard truck on the shore (who'd been enjoying watching us for the last hour or so) and told Mark to go ask them: these waves are for surfers only.  In a total non-sequitur, the guy asked Mark if he was from Texas and (??) continued on gabbing, asserting that "these waves" are for "real surfers."  

Given that he was a lone board surfer amidst six bodysurfers, it struck all of us as rather absurd, if not quite foolish.  The pack of bodysurfers took it up, parodying the foolish comments.  To his, "Why don't you try catching a wave without your fins?" we answered, with laughter, "Why don't you try catching a wave without your flotation device?"

I caught a long right,  which ended up just inside of him.  One of the others called in, asking how it was.  My response was, "How would I know?  I'm a bodysurfer!  That wave was for a real surfer."

The scene was so absurd, the waves so plentiful and the stoke so high that, rather than being any kind of a downer, the whole thing was just a comic interlude providing additional color to a memorable morning.  

Two hours into the session, I told Mark I was taking the next one in.  He looked at me like I was crazy - quitting already, when it's so excellent.  Persuaded, I lingered another 40 minutes!

When I got home, at Ciaccio's recommendation, I read the article on "kooks"  in the new issue of The Surfers Journal.  It suggests that you know one when you see one.  We saw one Sunday morning.