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.