Sunday, August 21, 2016

Surprising Size on Saturday in the Park

While most of the bodysurfing community congregates in Oceanside for the annual World Body Surfing Championships, I slipped in a session in the Park Saturday before leaving town for work on Sunday.  

The forecast was for 4 - 5 feet, cooler water, a rising tide, and mild onshore wind.  On my way down to San Clemente, having re-routed to Coast Highway at Dana Point due to construction on the Interstate, I was surprised to glimpse a couple of pretty large - well overhead - sets along Capistrano Beach.  Upon arrival at the Park, I was greeted by more of the same.  

The sand bars were pushing up peaks, with ride-able shoulders for many, while other sets were pretty closed out.  There was an unusual pattern to the sets.  Three or four waves, a bit larger than head-high would roll in, and then, quite often, there would be two substantially larger, waves on the outside, followed by a couple of head-high waves, and then a lull.  The pattern is evident in the next couple of photos.

That wave outside has to be a couple of feet overhead.


Of course, it wouldn't be Southern California without a bit of traffic:

It looked like it was working pretty well down at LG1, so Mark & I walked down there to swim out, figuring that the current would bring us back up through the Main Peak.  As it ended up, we spent the session down there, joined by octogenarian Neil Frank and one of the local lifeguards.  Had the stretch south of the lifeguard stand to ourselves for a 90 minute session.

The water was a cool 63 or 64, but comfortable in a rare summer use of a full wetsuit.  To start, as evidenced in the photos, conditions were clean, semi-glassy.  The first half hour was marred by lulls with occasional sets, but then, for about 30 minutes it really picked up and we were getting a lot of rides on head-high and larger waves.  

 Some were pretty fast and walled, but there were some great corners that slowly peeled into the deep inside.

Unfortunately, after that, the tide started swamping out the waves, so they just weren't breaking, moving closer and closer to shore and losing some of that height.  About the same time, the wind started coming up, at first ruffling the surface but pretty quickly creating a bump that further messed up the waves.  

So, it was a session of three parts.  Starting with three or four waves in the first 30 minutes, followed by a 30 minute session that, if extended, would have qualified as solidly "four star," and then a final 30 minutes of increasing slop.

What will linger in memory is the mid-session segment, with a few exhilarating slides on faces that were much larger than we had hoped for and expected.  I hope that's what the competitors are finding down south in Oceanside!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Sojourn: Lolling on the Newport Peninsula

In the years since my family sold the vacation house we had in Newport Beach, my mother has rented a house in August.  Originally, a house on the bay, close by the old family home, the last two years it's been a beachfront house along the boardwalk on the peninsula between 17th and 18th Streets.  For a week, or as much of it as each of them can, my family joins my mother to enjoy the surf, sun and opportunity to reconnect.

Especially over the weekend, this has become an annual opportunity to share surf with my sons, frequently with various of their friends joining us in the water.  Mornings, most are on boards but, in the generally sloppier afternoons, with black ball flying (a yellow flag with a round black circle in the middle indicates no surfboards, fiberglass boards or boards with fins permitted), all turn to bodysurfing.

The switch to the beachfront has had great promise: formerly, most surf mornings, we'd load cars with boards and paraphernalia and drive 13 blocks up the peninsula to around 18th, and then seek out parking.  Many afternoons, we'd walk the 3 blocks across the peninsula and then at least 5 blocks along the beachfront to where the waves would break better, and further out.  Now, the 18th Street surf can be checked directly from the second story and it's a short walk across the sand to jump in the water.

Beauty of beachfront living: Joe
As luck would have it, this summer, as well as last, our particular week has not been blessed with much swell.  Last year, there was nearly none from the Friday we arrived to the Friday that we left.  This year was a bit better, as a small swell - 2-3 feet - lingered over the weekend, before dying off to maybe 1-2 feet through the week.  

How to exploit a smallie (1)

How to exploit a smallie (2)
On arrival day, Friday, I got in a nice solo surf in the afternoon in moderately small and somewhat closed out surf that nonetheless had some of that punch that Newport gets on a summer south swell.  Later, as the sun slowly sank to our right and the wind gradually slacked off, Joe and I enjoyed similar, slightly better, conditions, and Allan joined us briefly as the light faded and dinner preparations called.

Small, but well formed and clean
Saturday, while the swell remained, found my sons, Allan & Joe, along with two of the Schwimers, Kevin and Michael, and an Abeger, Sam, all on boards, joining me in fun little surf in comfortably warm (71 degree) water.  This was the best of it, particularly late morning, as the wind held off while the tide filled in.  All pictures are from Saturday morning & midday.

Allan found a little size
Mini-floater - Joe
Air Schwimer
Kevin, seeking barrels
Sam, trimming
 Sunday morning, there was still enough for Joe, Allan and I to get in session in the fading swell.  By Sunday evening, the south was largely gone, leaving the 1-2 foot westerly swell that would provide slim pickings - but more than nothing! - through the remainder of the week.

Monday through Thursday, Joe and I would jump in periodically for a little recreation and to cool off.  There were periods of onshore breeze, sometimes stiff, but some glassy mornings and evenings.  At one point, the water cooled to a chilly 63, but eventually worked its way back up to 70 or 71.  

Through the week, my mother fretted, concerned that the lack of meaningful surf would ruin the vacation.  She need not be concerned!  Nothing can match it: a week of falling to sleep, and waking, to the sound of surf; of lolling on the sand, staring at the unbroken horizon or reclining on the front deck watching the constant parade of creatively and colorfully clad pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, skaters and surrey riders slide past; of tuning into the Olympics when events got interesting; of striding down to the water's edge and wading in for a swim, and a wave or two, whenever the impulse struck; and, of course, of reconnecting with family through lazy days and extended dinners.

Joe & Grandmother
Evening on the boardwalk