Sunday, July 27, 2014

Newport Narrative (no pix today)

One of the things I love about San Clemente State Park is that I park about 50 feet from the beach.  On arrival, it's easy to check out the surf, snap a few photos to document it, then slip back and suit up.  Not only is parking in the western part of Newport a challenge, but in all probability you're at least a block or two off the beach...and then, the beach is so wide you must cross it for any decent shots.  So, that's my excuse for my text only post today.

OK, there's a second excuse.  I could have strapped the GoPro on my wrist and documented the session from the water.  I didn't because our expectations for the surf and session were so low.  This was really a session driven my just not having been in the water (other than that quick, cold, outing in Carmel) in three weeks...but the surf was supposed to be meager and the conditions evident on the early morning cams looked crumbly and a bit choppy.  So, I figured there was little reason to be burdened with surfing with the GoPro.  I was mistaken.

SCSP hasn't been responding well to the surf this early summer ... a lot of backwash and lumpy shape, so Mark Ghattas, Paul Tordella and I had agreed by Saturday night that we'd meet in Newport, most likely the jetties.  After checking the morning cams, I was very much on the fence but the water temp was supposed to be 70 and Pasadena sweltering, so an ocean swim beckoned.  Mark had found parking at 48th Street and was texting us that there were some waves, but Paul and I were frustrated in our quest for parking until we headed further north/west to the 58th Street lot, which was only 2/3 full. 

Paul pulled on his wetsuit, while Mark & I concurred that no rubber was necessary, and we headed straight over, to the final, north/western-most jetty.  A thin line of surfers spread from the jetty, west for blocks.  There were few breaks in the line up, but there was a peak to the right a block with only a couple of boards out working it.  After observing a decently formed, chest-high set, we slipped in the water and headed out ... to a surprising fun session. 

The first hour in the water, from 8 to 9 was actually quite good.  Set waves up to shoulder height appeared fairly regularly, and the steep south angle of the swell regularly presented little peelers that could be taken deep inside - frequently with enough pitch to get some extended tube time.

Paul had found a perfect spot, picking off four or five outside waves at at peak that offered a steep, but not too fast, left to the deep inside.  In between, there were plenty of waves.  Mostly, the boards around us were novices, so we pretty much had our pick of waves for the hour.  A father with his two blonde sons, maybe 10 and 12, appropriately outfitted in their DaFins, swam out and joined us as, for a while, we carved out a bodysurfing zone.  

90 minutes rolled by quickly, with lots of waves, though it slowed down ... and the competition for waves picked up, after the first hour.  10 more minutes and we exited, to head over to Lido for a good post-surf breakfast at Woody's Diner. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Carmel Quickie

This post won't be long, mirroring my brief session this afternoon.

Up here on business; two blocks from the white sand crescent of Carmel Beach.  On arrival Sunday evening, the surf looked semi-decent - waist and sometimes shoulder high, and fairly smooth, but time didn't permit getting in.  Mentally, I committed to using a couple hour break in the afternoon Tuesday to slip in my first surf in Northern California.  

I'd asked a couple of exiting surfers on Sunday about the water temperature.  One said 56, the other 60, with a debate ensuing.  Silently, I thought, "ok, cold."  Having driven up, the fins were in my trunk.  With the warm summer waters South, I'd removed both my 4:3 and 3:2 to inside the house, but dug around and found an older, slightly leaky 3:2.  Not ideal for upper 50's but maybe enough.

Through midday Tuesday, a heavy overcast coupled with mild onshores.  I decided to first check it out.  A stroll along the beach left me unmoved.  (Pictures here are from that stroll.) The surf had lost a foot or so of height, sapping my enthusiasm for dunking in sub-60 water in a leaky, lightweight wet suit and dreary conditions.

Early afternoon, the sun burned through but the wind had picked up to a steady breeze.   I went to the pool for a read in the sun, but the sound of waves in the distance kept drawing my mind back to the water.  Warmed by the sun in the protected pool area, I committed.  I figured by now the small swell would be trashed by the steady onshore, but a dip in the ocean always brings some benefit.

I slipped on the wetsuit, and walked down the hill to the oceanfront, carrying my fins and finsocks.  Emerging from the oceanside mix of pine and cypress, the wind in my face was stronger, steadier, and colder than I'd anticipated.  As I crossed the fine, white sand, the gaggle of locals and tourists trying to enjoy the sun through the cool breeze eyed me with degrees of curiosity to incredulity.

Finned up, I slipped into the water, which wasn't as cold as I'd feared.  Certainly not over 60, but no stinging and no "ice cream headaches."  Although the waves appeared sloppy, much less clean than the photo above, they were more rideable than they appeared.  There were even a couple of shoulder high breakers strong enough not to crumble under the onshore onslaught.  As it turned out, I spent a pleasant half hour, dodging kelp strands along short little slides and emerged the happier for it.

And so I sit, back in my room overlooking Carmel Bay and north to Monterey Peninsula, preparing for the evening activities but evidently - by the length of this entry - more satisfied by my NorCal baptism than I realized.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Impressive Pod Presides over the Park

Stimulated by forecasts of head-high waves, warm water and benign winds, the call went out:

Expression Session in the Park!

The hope was to be able to take over a peak or two from the anticipated swarm of board surfers, similarly drawn by the alluring forecasts on a holiday weekend. The call was answered!

[Disclaimer: I took little time to shoot photos, preferring to maximize water time.  I hope to share video from Brent Crawford and in-water photos from Hugh Berenger soon.]

On arrival, a large, but lumpy and somewhat walled up, swell was obvious in evidence:

Surprisingly, there were but a few surfers of any sort in the water - no doubt drawn to the point breaks and beaches with other angles in search of better peaks.  I arrived on the tail of most of the pod, which had concluded that the southern area, beyond LG 1, held best hope for corners and peaks.  The South Bay contingent, Paul Tordella, John Rogers, Scott McPherson, Paul's son Brian and nephew Kevin Barnett, and frequent Park visitor, Neil Frank were just heading down the beach (below), as Craig Thomson and his daughter descended the steps.

After rapidly snapping these few shots, I rapidly returned to the lot, slipped into a pair of trunks, grabbed my fins and followed.  (What a luxury it is not to have to squeeze into rubber!)  Others were visible in the water - Brent "Crawdaddy" Crawford's bald pate was unmistakable, as was the trademark slide of Jeff "JPL" Lashbrook.  Steve Harkins was out as well, and it wasn't long before Mark Ghattas arrived, as well as a contingent from Team O'Gorman: patriarch Shawn, Cheyne and their friend JP, and Hugh Berenger, dean of the SCSP bodysurfing pod, backed in, camera in hand.  As a couple more joined us, we had as many as 20 bodysurfers out, stretched from north of the LG 1 guard stand over several hundred yards south, through and beyond "King's Corner."  Though there weren't many boards out, anyway, few ventured into our stretch over the next two hours.

As for the surf, the South swell was there, the water was warm, the breeze was mild and the tide was amidst an imperceptible drop from a predawn 3 foot high to a 10:00 2 foot low.  All the right ingredients, seemingly.  But, today, the Park failed to put its best foot forward.  The swell wrap was such that it was often walled up and the lumpiness evident in the first shot remained.  Even more irksome was a persistent backwash that seemed intent on appearing whenever a good peeler presented itself.  In the picture above, the inside wave is actually backwash, moving out ... often even breaking in a mush of whitewater.

Lack of perfection notwithstanding, there were still plenty of good rides to be had, and lots of stoke at finally seeing a punchy swell.  Half of us enjoyed a traditional breakfast at Adele's, regaled by stories of the recent Nicaragua trip from which Paul, John & Scott just returned.  Had the surf been a little better, I would have missed the breakfast...two hours wouldn't have been enough.