Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Magic Dusk in Del Mar

I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures to convey what was an unexpectedly magical sundown session at 17th Street in Del Mar.  The stats don't tell the story but they set the scene:

Swell: Beautifully formed, head high, hollow-breaking peaks.
Surface: Smooth, with a slight offshore breeze
Water Temperature: 71 (yes, in late October)
Air: 90 and clear
Crowd: Nobody within a block in either direction

Yes, for 90 minutes, I had moderately-sized surf that approached perfect, all to myself, in warm water on a balmy fall day. 

I'm so used to morning, and even mid-day, surfs that I was enchanted by the phenomenon created by a clear, bright sun, dropping behind a good-sized wave: on take-off, behind a face shaded by the wave, the swell itself, illuminated from behind, glowed a luminescent turquoise.  

In the tube, I am used to the morning sun transforming the lip into a glittering, crystalline curtain.  Instead, at dusk, the lip is a dark curtain to the inside, and the tube instead is lit by the glow through the wave behind.  

The blackball was up, from 16th to 18th street for part of the time that I was out.  As the sole bodysurfer in the water, I wasn't surprised to have it to myself (though I wondered where the locals from DMBS were, given the great conditions!).  But after the guards took down the blackball, the surfers, even though in some concentration, left the traditional bodysurfers' zone alone. 

The only thing I was missing was someone with whom to share the stoke.  About an hour in, I caught a perfectly-formed left that included some nice time closed in high in the barrel, after a reasonable open-faced slide.  As I returned to the lineup, I noticed a local regular, Morgan Launer, whom I'd not previously met, swimming out.  "Beautiful left," she commented as she sought her position in the lineup.  Shortly, she was dropping into a set wave right, showing perfect trim as she slid out of sight.  

Morgan's arrival occasioned a burst of wave energy, with shoulder & head-high sets coming in nearly continuously.  We traded waves for a while before exhaustion got the better of me and I caught a "shore boat" ride to the inside and staggered up the sand. 

As I fell asleep, images of backlit waves, glowing turquoise, filled my head.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

In the Water Again, At Last!

The forecasts were sketchy: reasonably benign conditions but questionable swell.  Most of the forecasters were hedging their bets, with things like "1 - 3 feet."  There's a lot of room between one foot - basically un-rideable - and three feet, which can be a lot of fun!  There was also the threat that an early high tide, nearly five feet, that wasn't going to drop very fast, would swamp what was there.

On the other hand, I'd not been in the water since August, with the sole weekend (last week) with good surf since August arriving on the only weekend I was out of town.  I was desperate.  Besides, the winds were favorable, the air warm and the water temperature continued to hover around 70.  Had to give it a chance.

As I pull off the freeway at Calafia, I note a text in from Mark Ghattas: "Haven't seen a single rideable wave!"  The State Beach parking lot is completely empty, except for Mark's car.  These are not encouraging signs!  As I walk across the tracks to the rail, there's nobody in the water and the "waves" in view are more of a surge up the sand; what little was there was swamped by tide.  However, as we watch, occasionally a couple of waves, a couple of feet in height, break in water, rather than on the sand, and the decision is made to, at least, get wet.

 It seemed that it was breaking a little further out, further down the beach at LG1, but we stopped at Main Peak to give it a try.  Still alone in the water, it didn't take long to find out that those 2 - 3 footers were breaking in just enough water to be ridden, and had surprisingly decent shape.  There's really no difference between a stomach-high wave ridden a few feet from shore and one ridden 20 yards out - what matters remains the size, shape and direction of the wave.  And these were actually pretty OK.

About 30 minutes into a session that ran almost 90 minutes, a burst of energy arrived.  For about five minutes, both Mark and I were catching fun little rights and lefts, peeling off the peak area, as fast as we could get back out after each ride.  Inevitably, a long lull arrived.

About the same time, the only surfer to come out the entire time, anywhere between Riviera to the north and Cotton's to the south, arrived.  Inevitably, he paddled out right where we were.  Fortunately, though, he didn't have the skills to take many waves from us and he didn't stay long.

There were some long lefts...

...at least, for those that know how to ride them.

Altogether, it was a beautiful morning, with plenty of fun little waves, making for an excellent break from the so-dry month of September.