Monday, February 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Coasts?

This one is for my snow-bound friends in the frigid Northeast.  Hopefully, it comes off not as a gloat, but as a hope that it sends some vicarious warmth!

A three-day weekend, amidst a span of summer temperatures in Southern California, brought a nice swell to accompany sunny skies and minimal winds.  Many of the surf forecasts, though, had the swell largely missing lower Orange County, which didn't really make sense to me, given the size and direction.  Bolstered by what I'd seen on the surfcams on Saturday, I spurned the urgings of my South Bay (Santa Monica) friends and decided to trek south to the Park, counting on its variety of sand bars to bring peaks and shoulders to a due-West swell.

Though I've not seen the reports from South Bay yesterday (though I did peek at the cams), I was not disappointed.  The early haze was burning off under a cloudless sky on arrival, and shoulder-high peaks went unridden in a near empty lineup.

I greeted Hugh, joining me at the rail after completing stretching on the knoll in the middle of the Calafia lot.  Two surfers were out at the main peak area, but it was otherwise empty all the way to Cottons to the south and Riviera to the north.  Evidently, the combination of forecasts and an early high tide had sent the packs elsewhere.

Not wanting to squander it, we quickly suited and swam (or paddled) out - Hugh on his longboard this session.  I found a consistent right to the north of main peak, where I remained for the next two hours.  Hugh paddled down to set up outside at the main peak.  We were four of only six surfers in the water at shortly after 8:00.  A younger (20-ish) surfer had paddled out in the same area about the same time, and we shared the rights while Hugh shared the peak with a couple of others.

As evidenced in the video - below - of Hugh's ride, it remained glassy throughout the morning, as regular, shoulder-high sets came in, with an occasional "plus" set.  The sand bars were working, setting up both rights and lefts, hollow enough to get tubed in most rides.  At about 60, the chill in the water was a nice contrast to the warming air, comfortable throughout.  

Mark Ghattas came out after we'd been in about a half hour and joined Hugh in the main peak area, while I retained my spot to the north.  It seems, however, that either folks were checking the cams, or had been waiting for the tide to drop, or perhaps just were driven to the beach by sun and warmth and a long weekend.  By 9:00 there were at least a dozen scattered around the main peak area,  an additional few to the north of me and another dozen out to the south in the campground/"LG 1" area.

While Hugh maintained sole command of the outside of  main peak on his longboard (see video for his long ride of the day), Mark was seeking to pick off what he could from the position further inside required for take off as a bodysurfer.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of short board surfers that apparently operated under the misconception that they had exclusive rights to the waves ... dropping in not only on Mark, the relatively defenseless bodysurfer, but also on Hugh as he enjoyed the deep takeoff permitted by the longboard.  This lead to a ... discussion ... in the water, basically unresolved.

 Main Peak got crowded

Meanwhile, though, a mere 30 yards north, I continued to enjoy my rights, interspersed with an occasional left coming off the main peak, largely alone.  One of the guys surfing to the north of me commented that, watching me, he felt like paddling in, stashing his board, and grabbing his fins.  About 15 minutes later, there he was, out in the lineup up with a couple of yellow Vipers.  

There were at least two or three waves in every set; as a result, I always had at least one, uncontested.  Although, perhaps, not highlighted by any spectacular or exceptionally long rides, I ended up with scores of waves, most sliding across the glossy surface, punctuated by a second or two in the barrel before the final close out.  Entirely satisfying!

As we exited the water over two hours after entering, conditions remained essentially the same ... glassy and peaky, if a good deal more crowded!  There were the "Barneys" you'd expect on a holiday weekend, but some solid surfers as well.

As I walked ashore, the Brazilian surfer that I've mentioned a few times in the past - one of the best surfers to occasionally show up at the Park, and one who totally respects the bodysurfer - was just entering.  We chatted a bit before he paddled out, as he told me about his new, 2 month old, adopted daughter and how she's changing his life.  He stuck the landing above.

Empty when we arrived, the beach was filling in with winter sun worshippers, and more guys arriving with boards under arm.

And the waves kept coming.

The video clip below is Hugh's long ride of the day.  Shown at 1/2 time, it tracks his take off in the distance outside main peak to the south of me, through passing right behind me, and finishing deep inside in the distance north of me.  The actual length of ride was 21 seconds.