Saturday, July 15, 2017

Typical Newport Summer at Schoolyards

The morning Newport Lifeguard report claimed water temperature of 72.  I was surprised as it's normally a few degrees cooler than San Clemente, which was reporting 67.  The drive is shorter than San Clemente and the size looked about comparable at both places.  With relatively small surf - 2-4 feet - the greater energy that a south swell brings to Newport was an additional draw.

Arriving at 15th Street for a rare solo session, I brought a towel & sandals onto the beach, which I rarely do.  Even at 8:00, a few families had set up their tents and umbrellas.  I dropped my towel just south/east of the lifeguard stand in a small stretch between two early beach set ups and checked out the surf. 

The waves appeared small and inconsistent as the tide bottomed out but the surface was glassy and there appeared to be some peaky corners a block down at Schoolyards.  Fingers of brown water stretched to the outside every block or so, evidencing active rip currents.   Between, there were some early beachgoers wading out while to the north/west there were some surfers spread out around 17th - 19th streets.  None were in full wetsuits.

It was a surprise to walk down to Schoolyards then wade out, in my trunks, into water that could not have been more than 67.  Ten minutes into the session, I'd caught a few small, fairly closed out waves and endured a lull.  I began wondering whether I'd last a half hour in the chill water without much activity.  

The recent Orange County shark activity lingers in mind, but shortly after I swam out, a dolphin breached with a burst through its blow hole about 20 feet outside of me.  Throughout the session, a half-dozen trolled the lineup, passing every 20 minutes or so.  I don't know if its only legend, but surfers believe when there are dolphin around they drive off the sharks.

Fortunately, as the tide started rising, so, too did the wave energy.  Fairly hollow sets ranging waist- to chest- to chin-high, with force belied by their size, started showing regularly.  From that point, I didn't go more than three or four minutes without a wave.  Meanwhile, with the incoming tide and rising air temperature, the water slowly warmed.  Over the next hour, the water became increasingly comfortable while the wave energy continued to rise.  The latter part of the session, the sets - shoulder high and up - were pretty regular.  Throughout, I was the only surfer of any sort - no sticks, no sponges, no bodysurfers - within three or four blocks.  

The usual surfers were out around 19th, and after I got out, a solo short-boarder was messing around where I'd been.

A little over an hour in, repeating, intense calf cramps drove me to shore, satiated by the juice of the hollow Newport waves, happy to recall what a bit of summer South swell can do on the Newport peninsula.

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