Pacific Surf Report 1/09-6/09

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pacific surf report 7/09-12-09

pacific surf report 1/10-12/11 

 LJ surf; GV photo

 

June 21-27, 2009

My sons, wife, and I traveled to Kaua'i for a week. Did some reading (see man bites book), but mostly surfed. Here's the scoop:

June 21, 2009-- Flight, SD to Hnl, to Lihue. Too early at the airport. I ate a McBreakfast, Erik ate yogurt and granola, gave me grief. He's watched "Super Size Me," and now hates junk food. Yeah, baby. Nick's in great spirits, Diane, too.

Watched a silly kid's movie, "Coralline." Fun. Also running now as a play in New York. Made it to Lihue, no surfboards, no luggage. Four boards and four bags dribbled in on the next two flights from Honolulu. Since we paid cash for bags, 15@, and one hundred dollars for each board bag, this was irritating to say the least. Rented a vehicle with one of those electronic keys whose battery failed. Inside the electronic key is hidden a normal, metal key. I am too stupid to figure it out. Oh, did I forget? It is Father's Day, and everybody gave me a card, plus a large bar of 85% cocoa chocolate. Nice, eh?

At last we reached our condo and the three of us paddled out. Three-footers at the usual Poipu reef break. We tried to share waves with a greedy long-boarder (Is this redundant?) who tried to catch every wave. Still, we all caught a few before crashing, exhausted.

June 22. In years past, we harvested bushels of ripe mangos at this resort. This trip, no luck. Seems a mango cracked a car windshield, someone complained, and that was it. Out came the chain saws. All mango trees have been hacked to stumps. So no mango feasting. Bummer. Went surfing with Nick in three-foot waves. Came home, exhausted, slept in the afternoon only to be awakened by three termite inspectors walking through the condo. Am I getting old and cranky, or is this a bit much? Played tennis later with Erik, who feels despondent at the lack of waves. He's too proud to surf in the small stuff. We found two untrimmed fruiting mango tees near the courts, carried home 30 mangos. Must feed my people.

Nick V., photo Diane Vanstrum

 

June 23. Small waves persisted at my dawn surf check-out. Still, I paddled out with Nick anyway at 10 a.m. to find the swell rising, some waves four, five foot. I met John, a retired schoolteacher from Torrance who grew up on Oahu, surfs a foamie, a nice guy. He's impressed with Nick's relaxed style.
Fun surf, Nick had a blast. Dinged my 6' 10", the one I shaped, on the low tide reef paddling out. Did a Sol-Res repair, easy because of the blazing tropical-sun-catalyst.

Later Erik and I took off in the car exploring. He's sick of the local break. I couldn't remember how to get to DOA, but we found a six to eight foot swell running at a place the local kids called Boulders (because of the lava rocks and tough entry). Hard to find the take-off spot, but I caught a good one, and Erik got himself a barrel. Heavy rain while we're out in the water. Nobody else out. Kind of spooky.

June 24. Surf's up and no doubt about it. Went for a morning session with Nick and Erik at Poipu. Six-foot sets, but the tide is too low. Diane took pix, got some good shots of Nick. Later, Erik and I paddled out at DOA. True Hawaiian summer juice. Best summer wave on the islands, in my humble opinion. Only three of us out at low tide. A hot local, Erik, and his 6-foot 4-inch 210 lb. father. Erik shredded. Nick took pix from shore. We all caught some good ones. I hesitated on a drop (should know better), got jack-hammered, had a nifty prolonged hold-down. Took me a while to recover, but I caught some fun ones when I did.

 

Bird-man Erik taking DOA; Nick V. photo.

 

Big Monopoly game after dinner. I didn't try or want to win but did anyway. Up all night thinking about surf.

 

June 25. More south swell today. Surfed DOA with Erik; Nick on camera. Smaller, less intimidating. Very shallow on paddle out, we cut fingers on the coral, both of us sliced the ulnar aspect of the third right finger (to be precise). Later, I shot Erik and Nick back in Poipu. Diane and I drove into town for some food, gave some skateboarder kids a ride. They told us they were burnt out on surfing and just wanted to skate. I guess you can get bored with perfect ten-foot barrels, off-shore winds. Maybe it's the shallow coral. Dunno. Seems like surfing paradise to me.

NOTE FROM NICK V: "Today I took pictures of birds and Nature with Dad's AWESOME camera. Also, I took shots of Erik and Dad at DOA and surfed Waiohai with my bro. My Dad took pics of me and got some great shots!"

June 26. Friday. The swell peaked today at eight feet, some sets bigger. Erik and I paddled out at DOA. Nobody else out. I took off on a set wave, made the drop, couldn't make the section. Tried a second one, got caught inside, dove deep twice. This evoked memories of surfing Sunset Beach in my twenties. Lost my board and had no choice but to take a nice, long swim into the lagoon. Erik surfed as I paddled back out. He made the mistake of looking at how shallow the coral was when he rode inside a barrel, realizing how gnarly the place is. The two of us retreated to the next break east, but had no luck there, either. I wiped out on a big left after making my bottom turn too early. Paddled in, tail betwixt my legs.

Surfed later with Nick in Poipu. Di kept asking us, "How come nobody's out?" We discovered the answer: The place was closed out, with shifty weird currents. A lifeguard (!?!?) zipped up to Nick on a jet ski, asked him if he was OK. We paddled in later without much luck surfing. I found a strange cut on my left thumb that bled profusely and ruined a towel, probably from a coral head.

June 27. Saturday. Hot. Humid. Tired from six days of surfing. Checked out Shipwrecks with Erik. Beautiful break with cliffs, but a thumping top-to-bottom, on-the-sand, whomping shorebreak. Nobody out. Checked out DOA. Three boogers out. Still ten foot. We decide to wait for a higher tide.

At last we load up, Erik, Diane, and I. Nick's had enough of big waves after yesterday's scary go-out at 10-foot Poipu. No camera today. Diane wants to snorkel. We arrive at the Kuhio parking lot--ten guys out at DOA. Double over-head sets. A paddleboarder!!?! My body aches. I'm 56 years old and feel it. I've got me a nasty cut that could've taken a stitch on my left thumb, cut my right middle finger, two sub-costal board-rashes that are bleeding and raw, sores on thighs and chest from board, cuts on feet from coral, etc., etc.

 

Glenn at DOA, photo Nick Vanstrum

.

Erik resolutely paddles out at the inside reform, and I follow. No stress. No camera. Too much current, though. I start working my way west to DOA, then alter course to follow Erik to the more-forgiving break to the east. He's so much better a surfer than I, so calm, so confident, can make aerials, finds, no, conjures tubes out of mush. He's fearless on late take-offs, never goes over the falls, has perfect surfing judgment. Always has, only now he's six foot tall and weighs 135#, is made of rubber and paddling muscles, has his life-guarding certificate, swam 500 yards in 7 minutes...anyhow, I follow Erik.

After ten minutes of futile paddling in the reform, he heads outside for the break east of DOA, where three or four surfers work a big, pealing left. As I paddle over the swell seems diminished--a good thing, the texture less choppy from the usual howling trade winds.

Erik, as usual, starts scoring waves immediately. He sits inside the tight knot of Hawaiian locals and catches two waves to their one.

I wait, finally drop in against the howling off-shore trades that try to push me out. I jump to my feet, soar left, and kick out before the eight-footer closes out between the two breaks. I'm stoked, though. Then I get near-lip launched, take off too late, bail from my board. The gods are smiling, no horrific hold-down like two days ago at DOA.

I bounce back. Even though the best sets run maybe ten foot, it seems smaller. Maybe I'm getting used to the wind in my face on the take-off, the power-wash spray in my eyes, the need for perfect timing. Too early, and you're too vertical. Too late and you're hung up, pinned to the lip by the trades.

Erik, after about 12 waves, disappears. The hot haole local with his white rash guard, a red-head, the guy who back-doored a set wave, leaves. The 10 yo local kid who dropped in on me leaves. The not-so-hot haole with the tattoo leaves. Only a lone Kauaian guy and I remain.

This surfer has been grabbing all the set waves. I don't care--no camera, remember. A decent set waves looms over the horrizon. I ask him, "Want it, brudda?" He says no. Without further thought--a good thing--I paddle straight down the face. After a week, I've finally got it down. I put it all together. 1) No hesitation. 2) Paddle straight down the fall line. 3) Stay low, reduce windage. 4) Ignore howling trades, spray blinding in face. 5) You're in!

I'm zipping along a monster, my 6' 10" skittering along the face like a flower pedal in a tornado. Somehow I don't fall. The two of us flutter along this massive wall for fifty yards. I pump, try to work top to bottom to gain more speed, though I must be going 20-30 mph. Faster than a man--even a Jamaican 100-yard dash specialist--could run. The water shines in that green-blue aquamarine you only see in Hawaii. I find myself at the trough just as a massive section throws. It's too late to kick out gracefully. I shoot my board down the line and take the lip on my head.

A roaring sound that would deafen a Dalmation assaults my tender, twice operated-upon ears. A force equal to umpteen mgatons throws me to the bottom. Water drills into my maxillary sinuses. Thank God, I think, no camera to record this ignominity. I rush for air, gulp it in, see my Kauaian pal streaking along an even bigger waver, in perfect postion, kicking out before the close-out.

I toss my just-recovered board, dive under his wave, right into the coral, take not-too-bad a ding to my left middle knuckle.

Two more waves on the head, but I'm whooping anyhow. I took a worse hold-down when my leash came undone at AD. I paddle back out, chat with my local friend. "You gotta pick -em right," he says.

I grab a medium wave, kick out, paddle in more or less unscathed. No one on shore, neither Di nor Erik, witnessed my epic monster. No pix. Just my own private neurochrome. Di saw three turtles, though, on her snorkel through the murky, wave-churned water. Everybody's stoked.

Epilogue: I went body-surfing with Nick at sunset to finish off the day. He played in the whomp like a baby seal for an hour.

At last, we're done with Kauai. Our trip: a success in every way.

 

June 20, 2009

The solstice comes tonight at 2245--how and why it should be known to the minute is beyond me. Anyhow, we're having a good time here in San Diego recovering from a prolonged series of south swells. To catalogue what the last weeks hath wrought: a whacked-out patella and a swollen right knee, two palm-sized bruises from fins on my legs and rear-end, a number of board dings (repaired today), and a pleased, sated smile on my sun-burned mug. Did I mention that Nick and Erik each surfed two hours for my one? The water has warmed, but the Glooma of Juna keeps her damp and heavy hand over the coast. As long as there are waves, who cares?

 

June 7, 2009

Southern California has had a long flat spell, along with a hefty dose of May Gray/June Gloom. Surfboards gathered cobwebs. Muscles atrophied. People thought they'd moved to Seattle. Some folks hit the bottle, kids fell into long computer-game-addiction spells. Some guys even went so far as to buy SUP's and start sweeping the ocean. But it all resolved with a nifty south swell that crept in on Thursday. I took my longboard down to the beach for a paddle, and found, to my surprise, waves. It proved a bit hard threading through a trio of tenacious boogie-boarders, but we all got waves and delighted in the first vestiges of a four-foot southern hemi-swell.

Somewhere in there I had to work an all-nighter, but when I paddled out, bleary-eyed, for a sunny (!!) sess the next day, there were real waves, with real sunlight, and the gloomy flat-spell blues dissapated. Even the harbor seals seemed to dig it, the Forster terns came back for the summer, gracefully diving for baitfish, and the garibaldi swirled in orange streaks beneath our feet over the reef.

Friday night I took advantage of the late sunset for an evening session. A few other surfers joined me at a favorite LJ break. We poked around on the inside--the tide was crazy high--when a set hammered in from points south. Twenty waves blew forth, all about six foot, and to my joy I finally scrambled outside to catch one. Man, I had some speed on that 6 10 of mine, a board I shaped that I'd never used in real waves. It worked fine, and that brought joy, too. Try it some time--shaping is work, but you can see and ride and feel the results of honest labor.

Went out with Nick on Saturday, the swell dropped some, but we caught a few. Trouble was, the rest of the population got wise to the swell, so we had to share. But the crowds were congenial, proving once again it's not how many people paddle out, it's WHO they are. I've been teaching Nick to smile in the line-up, to offer praise when somebody rips a set wave--and it all pays off. Good vibes beget good vibes. All it takes is one surf-star who takes himself too seriously to ruin a good sess. Had one of those on Thursday. Luckily, he must have jetted off to Fiji or someplace with the ASP tour, cause the gang on Saturday were there to have fun and nothing else.

 

 

May 20, 2009

Another fine week of surf has passed, although it's been flat for the past couple of days. Still, the weekend was great fun. I surfed with Nikko again at the reef breaks. He caught some solid four-footers at a gnarly high-tide break, ate it a few times inside, but gained confidence surfing with a mature crowd. He learned that when you catch a reef wave, everybody watches--you're on the spot. It's not the same as at a beach break, were a kid can make mistakes on the inside and nobody will notice.

I've been surfing my six-ten, a board I shaped last summer. It's working well, although I wish I'd kept the tail a bit wider to make it looser. Funny how, when you're shaping, you can make a board smaller, but not bigger. Still, I caught a sizzling right at a place called Hospi's on Saturday, a hollow, fast wave, and my board felt rock solid. We're gonna surf Kauai in a month and I think it'll work fine at places like Acid Drops. Unless there's no swell, and Acid Drops becomes Placid Plops.

Nick, May 16, 2009

Erik, May 2009

Mother's Day. We're going out to a Thai restaurant in a couple of hours. Nick and I surfed for two hours this morning in fun, gray, four-foot waves. We had the reef break to ourselves for an hour, surfed ourselves silly. Two days ago a solid DOH swell from the north surprised everyone. Perhaps I should be looking at the computer forcasting programs more; lately it's easier to just go down to the beach and check it out, like in the old days. They kicked me off work on Friday, and I surfed the Shoe with one other stalwart. Sets were ten to twelve, bumpy from a south wind, offshore on the take-off, difficult, heaving slabs. I caught some so-so waves before connecting on a bomb that gave me a thrilling take-off before spinning into a long, sucking, hollow section that stole my breath away. I made it, then cut back hard near the channel to get tossed by the three-foot chop. Can't say I was ready for big waves this late in the year, but you've got to take what the Pacific dishes up.

Left, Erik, Big Rock; Right, Nick, Shores. May, 2009

 

 

April 26, 2009

The first south swell of the year hit on Thursday and Friday, cloudy weather in the morning (coastal fog) but fine waves from the Southern Hemisphere. Friday, in particular, seemed incomparable. I surfed a favorite left reef break, maybe six of us out, everybody traded waves and there was lots of positive vibe in the water. On my non-surfing days, I've been practicing "ups"--exercises where you lie on a towel, pretend paddle, and pop up to your feet. And again. And again. After ten or twenty of these, you'll be huffing and puffing. Good exercises for an old man. Functional. Really helped in the water.

 

Left: Nick (12) at Emergency's, April, 2009; Right: Erik (15) at Seawind Spring Memorial, April 2009

 

April 20, 2009

Another sweltering Santa Ana has hit SoCal, along with a fine four to six-foot northwest swell. The water chilled back to 58 degrees, but the air is in the high 70's, maybe even 80's. I surfed Seawind today with five to 15 others, lots of waves for everybody. Near the end of my session, a set wave caught everybody inside. Just before it broke on my head, a ten-foot dolphin, a thousand-pounder, shot sideways through the blue water just in front of my head, then spun around in a 180-degree turn. That bottlenose was moving, chasing invisible prey at what seemed like 30 knots. Rather than duck dive and risk getting smacked, I paddle high into the peak and let the wave hammer me.

After that we all started sharing dolphin stories. Somebody reminded me about the guy surfing at Black's years ago who got his back broken by a collision with a dolphin. It can happen. Usually they're such water acrobats that they miss you, but if you make contact... I'm replaying the event over and over in my mind. The speed and agility of a cetacean at full bore is sobering. Talk about localism. If they wanted to do us damage, we wouldn't have a chance. Good thing they choose to ignore us.

 

April 11, 2009

Spring Break. I've had to work some days, but my now 12 yo son, Nick, had the week off. We've been the recipients of unpredictable spring swells and conditions. Standard fare for April, really. Saturday last a strong four to six foot wind swell hit the coast, combined with an off-shore Santa Ana. Wow. Perfect beach break conditions, so Nick and I surfed the Shores with about two hundred other surfers of all abilities, long-boarders, stand-up-paddlers, even a kayak. No matter. We caught plenty of waves. Later, in the parking lot, a fellow short-boarder called over to me.
"Hey, Dude, your son rips!" Needless to say, we both felt good to hear that.

Sunday I convinced Nick to leave his computer and hit Sternkorb's, a little-known reef break, for an early sess. After the crowds yesterday, we hoped for solitude. There were already three guys out, but they were jolly, proving the adage, it's not how many people are surfing, it's who's surfing. One guy, a talkative character, kept calling out to Nick. "OK, little man, here's one for you. Go, little man." Surfing when you're four-foot ten and weigh 98 pounds can be intimidating enough, just the waves, the rips, the wildlife, the reef. Add adults in their twenties and thirties, and one can see how scary it could be from a kid's perspective. But Nick, even though of a reticent, bookish, nature, hung in there and caught dozens of waves. It sure helps when the grownups are kind.

I had to work Monday, but my wife, Diane, took Nick back to the break and he had a good session, all by himself at first and then with two other guys. Even though she sits on the shore, Di gives him confidence. I slipped away from the hospital at three-ish, relaxed, paddled out at four for an insane session. The surf picked up dramatically, with solid six-foot sets coming in from the North and West. I surfed a high-tide break with some juice, and the Santa Ana groomed the sea to perfection. After six or eight hollow lefts, the crowd got dense, so I paddled over to Hots, where only two guys surfed. Here a hard-hitting eight-foot set knocked me on my tired keister and I paddled in.

Tuesday I had to carry the beeper again, but I took Nick to the Shores, the reefs not being an option for him: eight-footers and even ten-foot sets, a lot of water moving around, not for him yet at his age and ability level. He struggled with dozens of other surfers at the beachbreak, caught a few, but mostly got thrashed. Too crowded. But he got a workout and took it in stride.

Wednesday sped by in a blur since I worked all night Tuesday. Lack of sleep and overwork create a definite altered state. It sucks.

Thursday I carried a beeper but took Nick to the reefs, where he caught some nice waves. I shot some pix, maybe will get them online soon.


Friday-I worked, but Di took Nick to Sternkorb's and he caught "a jillion waves."


Saturday-blown out conditions. Unsurfable.

Sunday-Today-it's glassy and sunny. We're waiting for the tide to get right. Hope to have a good sess.

 

March 31, 2009

Southern California continues to receive intermittent wind swells, 3 to 6 foot, on and off. The usual kind of peaky stuff, every now and then a prime wave. I surfed today, a cloudless, windless jewel, at Seawind with 7 to 15 others. I caught a couple of delicious set waves, one left, one right, did my best to throw some spray, then paddled in early to make a doctor's appt. I showed up on time, he was 150 miles away and had his PA see me. Would have liked to surf more. Maybe later today.

Surfed at high tide reef breaks with Nick the last week, pulled out the 6'10" board I shaped last fall, seemed small (I'm what some call a Clydesdale), but I caught some good ones. Nick had a blast, he can make a four foot wave seem like a set wave.

I think the water's finally warming a bit, it seemed warm today. Supposedly it's still in the 50's. We'll see. It's gotta get warm someday.

 

March 8, 2009

I had three good surf sessions at the beach break with my 11yo Nick. As the spring progresses, beach break wind swells really come into their own. How have I missed this? For years I've surfed only reef breaks, even concentrated on one (Headkick); now I'm an equal opportunity surfer. Nick had a rough time yesterday, got seduced by the rip area, mostly because he found a friend his age to surf with, and the guy led him there. From the bluff, I watched him paddle north for thirty minutes, go nowhere, and not get a single wave. Ouch. He's game, though, and paddle muscles are the key to power surfing. Meanwhile the old man had a blast a bit further north with the twenty-year-olds even riding his oversize seven-two epoxy thruster.

Imagine what it's like to be a grommet. You haven't reached puberty, you still have baby fat, a voice that hasn't broken--and you're surfing with young men in their absolute prime, young men without families, selfish and lacking compassion, and men who will, in essence, run your ass over if you get in the way. Nick, to his credit, goes out and battles the crowds at Scripps, the Shores, Seawind. When he hits puberty, when the muscles come in, he's gonna do fine. In the meantime, he's gotta keep his eyes and ears open.

 

February 22, 2009

Erik and I had a bang-up adventure yesterday. J.D. took us on a boat ride at 30 knots out of Mission Bay south, to Point Loma. We cruised outside the kelp bed on the way down, looking for blue or gray whales but striking out. We did get a minor prop foul in a lobster trap, though.

Anyhow, we found our way through the kelp down near the shipping lane, sped back north to DT''s, where the Navy (to keep military secrets? to keep animal rights activists at bay?) restricts water access from land. Here we found eight surfers enjoying a long, winding left, juicy enough for some speed but mushy enough for the odd cutback. After a while, the crowd dwindled to four or five. My arms, after dozens of endless waves, dwindled, too. Near the end of our sess, though, I caught a hefty set wave and had a blast flinging my tired body off the lip.

We zipped home inside the kelp, admired the swell from an ocean perspective along Sunset Cliffs, and made it home. Me, to sleep, Erik, to go dancing at some wild party with girls. Oh, to be fifteen again.

 

February 15, 2009

A sweet north windswell blew in for our Valentine's Day weekend. Surfed with Nick both Saturday and Sunday at the beach break. Instead of closeouts we found fine peaks, four or five-footers, not crowded on Sat. but crazy on Sun., when Erik joined us, muttering at first about how much better the reefs would be. He caught some and started having fun, we stayed out for three hours. The old man caught a few, threw some spray, yippee. I never surf beachbreaks except with the kids. Maybe I should reevaluate this habit.

Even with a pack of surfers, it seems like you always ride more waves surfing over the sand. You certainly get a better workout paddling back out without a channel. There's the sweet satisfaction of having a perfect wedge pop up, your name written across the water. You wheel, paddle, smack the lip, get the feeling. Beachbreaks--when they're on, they're a blast. Don't forget it, Dad.

February 8, 2009

Yesterday my 15 yo son, Erik, took me out to a hollow right-hander reef break. Nick, my eleven-year-old, went surfing with a buddy down at the beach break. Sets at the reef were six-foot. Lefts were not a possibility. An inch and a quarter of rain the night before murked up the water, but we tried not to swallow any. Erik seems to like hollow waves, doesn't mind a crowd. I'm not opposed to getting barreled, but I hate scrapping and maneuvering and dodging and yelling at people. I like a break that has both right and left options.

Erik caught a bunch, I caught a few. There's something special about surfing with your kid, though, even if he can surf circles around you. And I felt good and tired by the time we paddled in. I forgot my sunscreen, got a face full of rays. Hard to remember that stuff when the water's 56 degrees.

Today the waves jumped up. Sets were DOH+. Too big for Nick. I dropped off Erik's board and wetsuit for him at a high-tide hollow reef break near Windansea, and paddled out at mid-tide at my 'secret' big-wave spot. It's a booming, scary right hander that sometimes empties out into a channel.

On my eight-four gun, I worked my way out through immense chop and turmoil on the inside. In spite of my last-legs wetsuit with its left knee hole, right ankle rip, and worthless neck Velcro, I stayed warm--at first. Paddled into a bomb, barely made a vertical drop, kicked out in the channel.

The wind picked up, my ancient muscles stiffened, and I let a few pass, couldn't quite be sure if I'd make 'em. I hate those lip-launches, those plummets twenty feet through the air. I've broken eardrums, sprained my neck, you name it. That water feels hard as concrete when you crash into it in a free fall.

Got caught inside on a set, had to deep dive, down with an octopus and some garibaldi. Had to do it again, and again. Caught two more, went in, exhausted. Not the biggest waves I've surfed, but big enough. Biggest this year, anyhow. Glad I had the gun.

 

January 31, 2009

Lake Pacific. One foot swell, every five minutes. Two foot at Seawind. Went for a two-mile paddle today, a Santa Ana, beautiful, dry weather, good to be outdoors. Our rain looks to be done for the year, the Sierra snowpack is wasting away, and they're going to institute water rationing. The waves, except for the solid swell mid-January, have disappointed this winter.

But it still feels good to paddle, to be out at sea, to marvel at the reflections on the water, to see a cormorant ten feet away, to watch a harbor seal bobbing up next to you. The brown pelicans are back in force, big squadrons of twenty or more birds that swoop over the glassy waters, most heading south.

More and more people are stand-up-paddling (SUP). I haven't tried it yet, despite a lot of pressure from Mitch at Mitch's Surf Shop. He's been doing it every morning at the Shores, flat or big swell. He says he uses every muscle in his body when he goes out. He avoids surfers, because SUP's catch waves way better than even a long board, and he doesn't want to piss people off.

Why can't more people be like Mitch?

January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. Barrack Obama. Bless both the holiday and the inauguration, for a concurrent five-day ten-foot swell smacked San Diego in celebration. The great weathermaker must care about historic events, for the waves followed a two week flat drought.

The MLK holiday took the honors, though, over inauguration day. My 15-year old son, Erik, had Monday off. We threw our stuff into the car at the crack of teenager dawn (11a.m.) to hit our favorite reef break, where twenty surfers worked a renewed swell. We'd surfed this particular, tricky break for two days, and from the big-wave mist hanging in the air we knew the oceanic energy had grown. I had a knot in my belly paddling out, as did Erik. The inside rip section warbled, foamed, and fizzed with turmoil, waves churning in five different directions, bounding off each other and off a very, visible reef.

Once we paddled outside, the sea glassed off. In spite of the crowd, I spun and grabbed a decent eight-foot left off the bat, zipping inside down the line pedal to the medal. Not a chance for an old fart like me to cut back, too much juice. Erik caught the next one. I watched him cast buckets as he twirled down the line, a fruit fly on a double over-head wall. Together, we shared a long paddle back out. Amazing how far you travel in big, powerful waves.

I thought that first wave might have been a fluke, but no, we caught one after another left after that. Bored after a while, I grabbed a few rights. These walled up at the take-off, but if you jammed quickly you could make them before the wave made a sharp left turn in shallow water, an odd quirk that can bless the lucky rider with a barrel. Erik got a tube right away. I took a big set wave but got blown off my board by the spit on the inside in about one foot of water.

It seemed like nobody came out at all with us, even though some twenty surfers shared the line up. We talked about it later, decided most of the guys were under-boarded (I had a 7-6 gun, Erik a 6-3) or under-experienced. But the crowd proved congenial, lots of encouragement and whooping.

Did I say fluke? A California gray, late for the lagoons in Baja, tooled by during the session. Just to add to our delirium.

MLK. Perhaps the US should start observing this holiday, not just schools and government, but private industry, too. The average American gets two weeks vacation per year, the average European, six. When you're on your death bed, will you think back over your life and say, I wish I worked more? Doubt it. Just so everybody doesn't go surfing.

After two hours, exhausted, we headed back to the pad, me to rest and Erik to eat. He would go back out for another two-hour sesh late in the afternoon. But hey, he's fifteen. He's got a Ferrari engine in that Volkswagen kid-body.