Saturday, July 16, 2016

Solo Session in the Summer Smallies

A generally unwelcome "troll" who participated in an email list for bodysurfers that was popular in the worldwide bodysurfing community before Facebook drained much of the activity from "the list" liked to denigrate those who chose to surf when the waves were less than at least head high, referring to such surf as "smallies."  There was always a sneer accompanying the term.

There was no reason to expect today to be anything other than smallies.  That troll, nom de plume King Rotten, would never have understood one electing to drive an hour to surf in waves unlikely to exceed waist-to-chest height.  In fact, I was even on the fence for today, as the 2-3 foot forecast was further marred by a peaking high tide at 8:15 (fortunately, a moderate 3.5 feet) and onshore wind direction (thankfully, moderate).  

Offsetting that was the fact that I've not been out in "the Park" - San Clemente State Park beach - since early June, along with the draw of water warming to the low 70's.  More significantly, on Friday, Bret Belyea, he who was instrumental in my inclusion on the Nicaraguan safari - had texted to say he was overnighting in Laguna and would meet me in the Park, in the morning, for a session.

Things didn't work out as planned.  Bret's ride got a flat tire and, ultimately, they weren't able to make it.  To the hour it usually takes in the early morning to get from Pasadena to San Clemente, traffic added forty-five minutes.  At least that put me at the Park after the lull that accompanies the peaking tide.

As I circled the drive through the parking lot, I could see that there were at least some waves.  On the other hand, few spaces were occupied, meaning few had chosen to park and surf, generally a bad sign.  There was nobody out in the water from Rivera, a half-mile north, to the area we call LG1, below the campground 1/4 mile south, where a knee-boarder and a couple of sticks bobbed in water.

The wind was already on the water, crumbling the smaller waves and making for almost - but not quite - light chop.  Nonetheless, a couple of set waves, maybe shoulder-high, rolled in as I scoped it out.  In a few minutes, I was swimming out alone at the Main Peak section.  For the hour I was in the water, not a single surfer of any sort was anywhere north of the rocks that split Main Peak from the LG1 section. 

I had a surprisingly fun session, reveling in the fact that any wave I wanted was mine.  And there were some good ones.  Though from the steps it had appeared that many waves were crumbing - whitewater rolling down the face of the wave before it steepens enough for anything other than a long board to ride - actually, there were many much steeper than I'd seen, and several pitching enough to present small tubes. Fortunately, the waves that were there were catching the sand bars which so often make the beach break peaky, so the rides, both left and right, were of moderate length.

Some sessions, between lulls, waiting for sets and sharing with others in the water, rides might be as infrequent as one in 10 or 15 minutes.  Though I was only in an hour, I had to have averaged a wave every 3 minutes.  Once every five minutes, a solo, larger wave - maybe chin-high - would come in.  Attuned to that timing, I think I got every one that showed in that hour period.

Smallies may not provide the adrenaline of a heavy, overhead tube, or the hyped up vibe in the water, but there's so much more to a session, even a solo session.  Watching the terns wheel overhead as an occasional solo pelican glides by low; floating in the cool, but comfortable water; observing from offshore as the empty beach slowly fill with a summer weekend crowd; and, of course, regularly dropping into empty, well-shaped waves; I think "King Rotten" missed the point.

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