Sunday, April 23, 2017

Back to Back and Hoping for More

The last time I surfed back-to-back weekends was in 2015.  It's been six months since I surfed twice in a month.  It seemed that the habit and opportunity of surfing several times a month, year 'round, was fading away.  It's tough for one relegated to weekends for most of the year, one who faces a hour driving to get to waves, one that must balance surf with travel and other weekend obligations.  Today brought hope.

Almost immediately upon returning from last Saturday's session, I was checking the forecasts for today.  Through the week, I kept checking - a good swell was forecast, at four to six feet, big enough to power through the 7:30am 4.7 foot high tide.  Winds were a little iffy, but looked to be ok.  No rain in sight as a heat wave rolled across the Southland as the weekend arrived.

Well, the size was not quite as forecast, and the swell less consistent than expected (making for lulls between sets), and a moderate breeze from out of the south was ruffling the peaks and texturing the surface offshore, but there was still enough there for a solid session.

Mark Ghattas & I set 8:30 for rendezvous, allowing the high to drop a bit. When I arrived shortly after 8:00, there were only two surfers out at the Main Peak, plus three just beyond the rocks further south.  It looked peaky and clean, coming in about shoulder to chin high.  The lack of a crowd surprised me, but the lineup at Main Peak filled in pretty quickly.  Further down, it appeared just as peaky and perhaps more consistent, and empty, so Mark and I elected to walk south to the area in front of the #1 Life Guard station, just below the campgrounds.

 The south breeze, dormant when I arrived, had started to pick up by the time we were in the water, about 8:40, but it wasn't really effecting the waves.  The water temperature was chilly, but at least several degrees warmer than last weekend.  The south wind brought some high clouds to dim the skies overhead, which had been clear on arrival.  A small, rising, northwest wind swell was mixing in with a larger, fading, south swell, creating the peaks evident in the photos, but also leading to several long lulls.

The inconsistency, combined with less than expected size, meant the session didn't quite meet the expectations created by the week's forecasts.  Nonetheless, we both caught a number of long, smooth lefts that took us nearly to shore, mixed with shorter, faster, hollower rights.  

This afternoon, I checked the forecasts for next weekend.  Saturday looks small (2-3) and the winds questionable, but there's supposed to be more size on Sunday (3-4) and, maybe, better wind conditions.  Whether back-to-back-to-back is in the cards, it's starting to look like this spring and summer the south might just become a consistent swell generator.  One can hope!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chillin' in the Park ... At Last!

After an eight week hiatus, I finally got out for what was only my third session of the year, and we're already into Spring!  Mostly, it's been wind, rain, tides and/or poorly timed swells.  Last weekend, though, it was when a forecast of light rain, strong winds and a high tide contraindicated a moderately strong south swell...and then proved inaccurate.  Too late, the morning beach cams last Saturday broadcast a scene of clean, head-high peelers.

This weekend, I was not to be denied.  Forecasts were for a 2-3, maybe 3 -5, foot swell, low tide, clear skies and mild wind.  Though on the small end of that spectrum, this time they were spot on; precisely what we found this morning at "the Park" (San Clemente State Beach).  

A mix of northwest wind swell and southwest ground swell made it peaky - stronger, faster rights driven by the larger, northwest swell, mixed with steep and glassy, but slower, lefts from the the southwest swell.  Somewhere, there had to be a north wind blowing, as upwelling had dropped the water temps to a very chilly mid-50's and there was a steady current from the north, continuously pushing us south.

A dozen or so sticks (surfers on surfboards) were clumped at the main peak to the south of the steps, but there was another peak, somewhat less consistent but completely empty, between the steps and main peak.  Mark Ghattas and I swam out there.  Sheathed in my heaviest (4:3) wetsuit, the chill wasn't too bad getting in, other than my unprotected hands, to which the water seemed downright icy.  

In an hour-long session, I stayed right where I swam out, while Mark allowed the current to push him south to the closer edge of the main peak area, where he got his fill of fun, shoulder-high waves.  The crowd (and traffic jam I witnessed in the photo above) notwithstanding, Mark said the vibe was good; one surfer even apologized to him for taking off on a wave that Mark was eyeing, even though the surfer had the better position.  When it's locals, the Park's a great place!

Meanwhile, I worked the further north peak, enduing some long-ish lulls, but my patience rewarded by my pick of the set waves.  Late in the session, as the tide filled in, the waves moved closer to shore. A series of really fun lefts - smooth, glassy faces that were steep, but nonetheless held open for a sustained ride - came in over the last 10-15 minutes, capping a gratifying END to this fast of waves. 

A couple of fried eggs, atop "Monster Hashbrowns" at Adele's, was the perfect postscript.