Saturday, November 28, 2015

Closing Out a Meager Year (with a few retrospective photos)

As December approaches - thank goodness with indications of some decent surf next weekend - I look back on what was a pretty meager year for least, for those of us Southern Californians who are constrained to weekends and vacations to get in our surfing.

Just a quick count on the blog - back in 2009, when I started this blog, I had 23 entries, followed by 39 in 2010.  Since then, from 2011-2014, I had between 25 and 30 entries each year.  In contrast, through 11 months, I have a paltry 18 entries this year.

As some of you know, while I don't blog every session, I do log virtually every session on SwellWatch, measured from 1 to a maximum of 5 stars.  The results are illuminating:

(2015 YTD through 11 months)

2011 was a banner year, with 32 sessions ranked 3 stars and higher, including 4 sessions ranked 5 stars.  I may have used a lower standard back then, but it's still impressive.  I need to look at the blog entries for some of those sessions!

I thought of 2014 as an exceptional year, mainly for its consistency.  That shows, with 25 sessions of 3 stars and greater, and 11 sessions of 4 stars.  

But what is, maybe, of greatest interest, and most telling, is looking at the number of 1 and 2 star sessions.  There were either 6 or 9 each year, back in 2011, 2012 & 2013, but only 3 in 2014 and 2 this year.  It appears that I'm getting choosier on when to go...something that I've known.  Today was a good example - in 2012, I probably would have made the trek, hoping to find something, and would have ended up with a 2 star session.

So, let's take a quick look back at 2015 highlights ... at that five star session, and some of those four star outings.

2015's lone 5-star session was, surprisingly, at Newport Beach, ranging from 15th street down to Schoolyards.  

Honestly, I was probably a bit generous on that session, since it was only head-high+, but it was both peaky and hollow, with lots of "juice" - all that Newport is supposed to be - and we had all the waves that we wanted.  Plus, the session came a day after completing a week's vacation on the peninsula that was marked by an exasperating lack of swell!  Our week in Newport, quite flat, was sandwiched between two good swells, one ending the day before our arrival and the arriving the day after our departure.

At least I was able to return the following morning to grab some of what I'd been pining for all week!  It wasn't a session on which I expended any time shooting photos from the shore; I was too anxious to get into the warm, glassy water!

So, what about those 4 star sessions?  Two of the six session also were in Newport.  One from July,

and the other an early spring swell in March:

But the Park delivered this, year, as well.  This great shot from June, by Geoff Glenn, is my favorite of the year:

I guess the broad beach at Newport discourages me from shooting from the beach, in contrast to the easy walk from across the tracks from the lot at Calafia ("the Park"), where it's easier to document some of those swells.  A few of my favorite shots include this one from a crowded, foggy morning in March:

Maybe the toughest part about 2015 was that it started out SO promising!  Three sessions in January at the Park, all at least 3 stars, included two four star sessions - the first (January 18) offering this classic photo of a winter swell and offshore conditions, one of my all-time favorite photos from the Park:

That was followed, a week later, with this classic day in the Park, with a great pod,

photographed surfing by Hugh:

Hopefully, we can close out 2015 in the Park in like kind!!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Welcome, Fall!

Under a cloudless blue sky, illuminated by the bright, early morning sun, Southern California shimmered, unusually fresh and clean.  The sustained drought notwithstanding, the recent sporadic showers ushered in on the Pineapple Express gave life to a thin, green cover on the eastern hillsides of Griffith Park and the greying brush appeared more tan and brown.  Further on, to my right the skyscrapers of downtown shone in the reflected light of the low, eastern sun; to my left, the San Gabriel Mountains were a textured green before the deep blue backdrop; and ahead across the low haze of southern LA County lay Orange County's Santa Ana Mountains, dominated by Saddleback.

The first morning without Daylight Saving Time also was the first fall morning of the year.  It wasn't exactly chilly, warming quickly from below 60 to nearly 70 by the time I arrived in San Clemente.  The water temperature seemed symbolic: below 70 for the first time since Spring, but still a comfortable 68/69.  

For a week, a mild intestinal bug had sapped energy, but Sunday morning I felt good, anxious to get in the water.  Forecasts were less than epic - 2-3 feet, with a tide rising from an early morning "low" of over 3 feet to a swamping midday high over 6 feet.  Nonetheless, even with 4 feet of tide, the push of the rising tide should help, along with the lack of winds.  The past couple of sessions had been disappointing, even frustrating.  Today, I was confident that properly low expectations would be exceeded.

Hugh's report upon my arrival helped substantiate that - "There are waves," he said.  "I'm about to jump in."  A quick check at the rail, camera in hand, validated that.  Only a couple of sticks were in the water, but they were having fun in chest-high waves, breaking just far enough out.  Though small, it was pitching and hollow - enough for a crouching surfer to get fully tubed.

With the threat of the rising tide, I wasn't going to waste any time watching.  Though the cloudless sky, windless air, and slowly rising temperature were comfortable, the thought of under-70 for the first time in over 6 months lead me to don the short-sleeved, short-legged lightweight spring suit.

By the time Hugh and I walked over to the Main Peak, it was deserted.  I was in first, greeted as soon as I was ready by a chest-high, hollow right that pitched over my head for a clean, fast welcome.  Yes!  Perhaps my best ride since early September.  As I turned to swim out and Hugh stroked to the lineup, two dolphins lazed by, heading South about 30 feet out.  Ah, Fall surf!

Hugh Slotted
For the next 90 minutes, we had the Main Peak all to board paddled out a bit south of us for a while, and a young bodysurfer with GoPro honed his skills in the shorebreak, but no one else was in the water.  Mark Ghattas joined us about halfway through, as the tide started to drag it down, but for most of the session, anything over waist high was breaking in enough water to ride.  The lefts took you inside to break on the beach pretty quickly, but the rights tended to peel for longer rides.  It remained hollow throughout.

Want to know what it looks like inside the tube?  A little tube-time selfie:

The beauty of the Park on a clear fall day...

As the Surfliner slides by...