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...

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