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.

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