Friday, October 21, 2011

October. The best time of the year.

If you are ever planning a trip to the central coast of California, it would be wise to plan for October.  It really is the best time of the year around here.  Summer is finally over, along with the ever lasting fog and chill.  The sun comes out, and the air finally warms up.  Add to that the fact that lodging prices drop and more of the tourist disappear.  Butterfly season is just beginning.  And perhaps best of all, the fall swells begin to pour in.  The first half of this month has blessed us with fairly consistent daily surf.  Some days have been bigger than others, but it has been easy to get in the water.

The month started nicely up on the north coast.

Chokes starting to show just a little of what she got.

Subsiding swell and good local conditions make for some fun times.
October started off what seemed a little lack luster.  The last 10 days of September had a variety of swell, including some bigger long period north west.  That was followed by more head high waves in town, with much bigger waves up the coast.  But it also started off clean, with plenty of options available outside of town.  And the crowds were thin.  First, because of those who did get in the water, they were spread out.  And everyone was tired from all the paddling they did in September. 

Early morning glass at an open coast beach break.

Fun waves for throwing some fans.

Small, but still offering some punch.

Plenty of little spots opened up with small fun waves.  If you went out searching, you were sure to find some waves.  And the first half of the month never really let off, with several mid and long period northwest swells, and more than a few long period, late season souths.  And a few sunsets went off as well.

Size matters.  You get noticed when your spray is bigger than the wave.

Of course, the competition around Santa Cruz is fierce.

While clean days out side of town are the prized jewel, it is often nice when West Cliff and Steamers begin to light up.  The south swells of summer never quite make this side of town go off.  It is the bigger and burlier north west that lights things up.  Options open up, and the bowl shifts just a bit.  But it makes all the difference in the world.

Many fun sized days at the Lane. 

And a few plus sized days.

 This time of year it is mostly about the new north Pacific swells that start to impact the region.  Still, we can get a few late season souths that fill in as well.  Sometimes, they just mess things up, but often they create great combo swells for the beach breaks.  Of course, you need other things to line up like decent sand bars and slack winds.  This year, and early rain helped with the former.  And another great thing about October is with the fog machine gone, the wind machine tends to turn down.

There are always folks making the most of the wave.

It helps explain why the competition is thick.

Spongers get little respect, but many of them around here rip.

With the early rains, plenty of sandbars started to form.  Reports came in from all over the county of fun waves and lined up bars.  Some faired better than others.  The beach breaks made the most out of the smaller days.  When the swell was up, the points in town looked very fun.  On a few select days, the reefs up north lit up.

The northwest swells like to wrap, giving plenty of opportunity for rebounds.

Occasionally, the inside left lines up nicely.

Off the lip.

West Cliff is certainly the best place to go for a walk and watch the action.  Whether you are at the Lane, or further up the way by the Streets, the action is always right in front of you.  And plenty of it.  It is interesting, how the surfers seem to arrive out of the wood work every year, as West Cliff really comes to life.  While the tourist are mostly gone, the surfers are not.




Things do get crowded at the Lane, and it is definitely not for everyone.  On more than a few days this month, there were plenty drop ins and collisions.  Not to mention snakes.  But the wave is nearly perfect for ripping things up.  While the waves up north have a lot more punch for the fall swells, in town, waves wrap in, clean up and get much more pristine.  And instead of surfing with 5 or 10 folks, you can surf with 50 or 70.  There are plenty of options.

The Slot has been fast and lined up.  Dumping speed.

Or you can just go off the top.

More rebounds.
There is more to October than just fun waves.  This is the time of year when the sunsets start becoming spectacular.  During the summer months, the fog tends to obstruct most of the sunsets.  Then, if the fog is actually out, there are no clouds at all for the reds, oranges and pinks to reflect off of.  October, again, is perfect, with the ideal combination of clearness and cloudiness.  The best yet was last Friday.  Brilliant.

Plenty of floater sections to be had.

Making the most of the end section.

Field Goal.

Who does not like getting a little barrel or cover up?  Some of the best tubes are not in town, but West Cliff does have Sidewalks, which, when conditions are right, can get real throaty. If you are not willing to risk your life on the exposed reef, the Slot tends to offer up a little barrel when tide and swell are just right.  Be alert, because it comes and goes quickly.

Lined up through the Slot.

Looking for a little shade.

Finding a little shade.

And let us not forget to mention the Monarchs.  They are back in town.  Headed over to Natural Bridges to take a look.  Or just stay aware as you walk around town.  Soon they will begin to fill up Lighthouse Field.  These beauties arrive each fall, and stop in town along there way on a migration that traverses thousands of miles.  Want to hunt them down.  Look for any eucalyptus that is protected from the typical  local winds.  They enjoy the nectar of the flowering tree, and baking in the sunshine.

And a little carve.

One way to beat a section is to go over it.

Plenty of opportunity for cut backs down the line.

If you are coming out on a trip, bring a few boards.  Bring a short board without a doubt.  Most of the days in the month will be in the waist to head high range.  You may also want to consider bringing a bigger board.  A lot of folks love their slightly gunnier short boards this time of year.  Or perhaps you will want to bring a 7'0" or bigger.  Or maybe a fish.  If you can, check the forecast before you come, and bring the right equipment.

Wrapping it all the way around.

Warning.  Waves may be glassy and fun.

Even the smaller days have had a few gems.
The first two weeks of October in 2011 saw some great surf and plenty of fun surf.  Week three was not so hot, with the surf mainly staying below shoulder high.  And that was up the coast.  But not far away is San Francisco and Ocean Beach, which seem to light up when it is too small for Santa Cruz to do much. And if that is too far to drive, you can always head on down to Moss for relief.  Just avoid the locals and their stink eye.  They may write something mean, like "scoot kook!" in your dirty rear window.  The point is, if you are willing to search, the surf tends to be out there.

October sky.  Waddell Creek.

Monarch and Cosmos.

Next week, the final week of the month, is looking to be potentially epic fall time goodness.  Off shores should take over the region later on Monday.  By Tuesday, we can expect to see the ocean surfaced well groomed.  Warm dry air will ride into the area, just as the first in a series of swells arrive.  First we have a moderate sized NW swell arriving by Monday evening and a moderate (for October) SSW starts showing by late in the day Tuesday.  Perfect timing for the O'neil Coldwater Classic that will be in town through the end of the month.