Monday, July 4, 2016

Swiming Out in Oceanside

The long, holiday weekend found us in North San Diego County for a reunion of as many of the Nica pod who could make it.  Hosted by Meredith and Hayley at their home on the Del Mar bluffs, good food and story, and the opportunity to mix significants and kids, were highlighted by Froggy's video of the trip - so professional, so funny!  So, of course, the question was where to surf Sunday morning, ultimately deferred until a morning call to be made based on observation and the cams.  

A dropping south swell portended small waves in Del Mar but maybe more up toward Oceanside.  Unfairly, I'm not a big fan of O'side, largely because the swim out there can be pretty tough.  But as the morning dawned, texts were flying, with a consensus developing that the dawn patrol would swim out at O'side, where the "eyes on" observation by Bruce "Sensai" Robbins reported a glassy, 1-3 foot swell, while the later, family, contingent would loll at Del Mar.  I joined the dawn patrol.

With water temps reported in the low 70's around south OC and north SD counties, despite a thick, grey overcast, cool air temperature and mild offshore breeze, I opted to "skin in" in my trunks, a quick change on arrival in O'side.  Walking down the steps on the south side of the pier, with sticks arrayed off to the south, I saw three heads - Bruce, Brett and Jody - in flat water about 200 yards offshore.  As I "finned" up on the beach and waded out, I wondered whether their positioning so far out was wishful thinking.  Take care what you think, because Maia will hold you accoutable!

After a very short wade out, there was a long trough, maybe 75 yards, at least five feet deep to traverse with a mild, north-bound current running through it.  No sweat.  But as I stroked toward the end of the trough, outside set - head high and overhead in size - started arriving another 75 yards out.  A lot of water was moving shoreward, and a strong channel of side current began pushing north into the pier.  I swam out against the unceasing shoreward flow.  I swam south against the pressing north current drawing me into the pier.  For five minutes, I made a little progress toward the lineup, ducking again and again under the white water, got pushed back, then made a little progress again.  Checking my progress against markers on the pier, I'd be encouraged by seeing them draw even and start to fall behind, only to be dismayed after a few waves to see them again in front of me.  But each time, disconcertingly, a bit closer to that pier.  Yeah, once or twice, I actually thought about just packing it in and trying to swim out on the other side of the pier.

Finally, I seemed to be making some progress without backsliding and hit a break when I could stroke out into the line up.  No SoulCycle, no interval circuit training, prepares you for that.  Bret greets me to the lineup with the information that they had been drawing straws to see who got to come in and get me.  Thanks.

Once out there, I was surprised by the size of the surf.  And it wasn't without some power.  Unfortunately, while there were a few corners for the patient, or for the intrepid willing to take off closer to the pier, the sets were fairly walled off, closing out.  However, the faces were holding open for a while, so even the more closed out walls offered a ride of several seconds.  The sets were head high, and plus, with some inside waves with a bit more form, offering some longer lefts that Jody and Brett were exploiting.  Meanwhile, Bruce was picking off the set waves that had any kind of shape, and making far more of them than I ever could, driving far inside toward the pier.

The waves I did catch - and I got my share - tended to be shorter, but hollow and pitching while being strangely forgiving.  There was no real "price to pay" at the end, as every exit was clean.  While the left corners were more obvious, and longer, they carried with them the levy of fighting the current back south from the pier and a longer swim back out.  The rights were fast, hollow and fun.  But short.

The sticks pretty much left us alone, ranging to the south, which was peakier but also allowed longer lefts without the immobile stopping point of the pier to consider.  

Bret & Jody had to leave after an hour.  I lingered another 30 minutes with Bruce, starting to get a bit chilled without any rubber - Jody & Bruce wore full suits and Bret was in a spring suit - leading to leg cramps on pretty much every wave.  

It was great to share some waves with some of the Nica pod, even if so different from Nica.  While the waves were fun, I can't say that Sunday's swim out in any way decreased my antipathy toward O'side...though maybe I should have heeded the local's suggestion from Bret to swim out on the north side of the pier and then swim down through the pier.  You think?

I love the the variety of different spots.  And, yes, rising to the unique challenges that they present.  Next time, though, I think I'll lobby for Encintas.

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