Sunday, October 2, 2016

Desperate Measures

How to write about what was basically a poor session, yet convey why I was glad that I drove an hour this morning for an hour session in the Park, during which I caught a total of five waves, all more or less average at best?

I guess I start by noting I haven't been in the water since August 21 - six weeks - and only about 30 minutes of that session was any good (though, for that half hour, it was very good).  Add that, three weeks ago, I trekked South with pretty high expectations - a moderate tide and decent swell forecast - only to watch the Park for nearly an hour without seeing anything to persuade me to get in.

The fact is, a surf session - virtually any session - is rewarding and therapeutic.  But some come with an edge.  Most often, that happens when it's too crowded or there's a bad vibe in the water.  Or, maybe, the timing's just off and you're missing, or failing to execute on, some great waves coming through.  There's the frustration of a grueling swim out, as with my Fourth of July weekend session in Oceanside.  These can turn what could have been a great session into something less.  

Saturday, the tide, rising toward a near six foot high at 10:00, was causing problems.  But it was compounded, as was the disappointing surf three weeks ago (I suspect), by recent sculpting of the beach at the Park.  Again, the swell was there, but, again, it was struggling to break.  I did see a couple of shoulder-high peaks, though, down in the Main Peak area, that looked pretty fun...and I was desperate for water time!

As I walked the 100 yards down to the Main Peak swim out in my shortie wetsuit - water temp reported at 68 - even three foot waves were breaking on shore.  White water would surge up the beach and withdraw to a loud clatter of loose rocks being rolled up and down the sand.  Wicked currents were clashing right at the low water line.

Finned up, as I reached the low water line, I found that the flat slope of the sand dropped precipitously; kind of a submerged cliff that went from ankle deep to deeper than I could touch.

It seems that sometime in September, most of the sand was carved away at the low tide line, leaving behind a submerged flat that stretches out maybe 25 yards.  Shallow in low tide, it's at least 4 feet deep even in mid-tides, so that any swell under about 3 feet will simply surge unbreaking up to the wall, then jack up and crash.  Underneath, loose rocks bared as the sand had been dredged away accumulated at the base of the underwater sand cliff, creating a polishing turbine, tossing the rocks like clothes in a dryer.  

A lone surfer was out at the Peak, a couple more were trying to work the shorebreak further south at LG1.  He greeted me with a nod and we waited for a set large enough to break in deep water.  A deep fog engulfed the ocean offshore and throughout the wait sun battled fog for turf along the edge of the cliffs.

It wasn't until about 15 minutes into the session that some energy arrived, and over the next 15 minutes I caught four shoulder to head-high waves.  Three were rights, fast and steep, but also short, as I had to pull out on each before reaching the maelstrom created by the submerged cliff.  The left was strange, crumbly and bumpy, but longer.  Then, another 15 minute lull ensued.

50 minutes into the session, I found one more of those rights, pulled up before hitting the no return spot that would leave me smashed upon the exposed sand, and then struggled to surmount the ledge onto the shallow sand.  

Five waves.  One hour.  Warm water but an unsettled surface.  Not even three stars on the SwellWatch five star system, but I was surprisingly satiated as I navigated the freeway on ramp to commence the return trek home.

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