Saturday, December 21, 2013

Small Autumn.

It has been a pretty dismal autumn this year.  A lot of making the best of nothing.  It can be tough.  Around here you get used to the season turning on during October or November and pretty much being assured of head high waves in town, and bigger on the open coast, pretty much 5 to 6 days a week.  And that odd day out will typically be shoulder high.  I know a lot of folks who just don't usually bother unless the swell is at least 6 feet and the period 14 seconds.    Well, that has been a very rare thing this fall.  But this past week, and the upcoming weeks look more typical.  And more fun.  Let's just hope that the season has turned on and we can start focusing on carving out some surf time from life, and get into some overhead surf.  

Making the most of nothing can actually turn out to be a lot of fun.  

Knee high plus is all you need to get your head wrapped up.

Surf in town has been fairly meager, but there have still been quite a few small fun days.

And it is still stunningly beautiful.

And we have had a handful of head high days, too.

Conditions have been fairly clean, so you can't complain too much.

Now, having grown up surfing in New England, I'm not about to call the last month flat.  Just dismal.  If you are lucky enough to have a flexible schedule, and disciplined enough to stay on top of it, and know where to go when, then there has actually been a fair amount of fun enough surf.  It just has not been going off.  Ocean Beach actually had a lot of fun small days.  But a small, fun day at OB is basically a long board day here in town.  Facing south has a huge advantage in summer, and handles the big winter swells  and makes them more manageable, but when all you have in the water is small mid period northwest swell, not much energy wraps in.  And that is what we have had lately.  On the good days.  Until last week.  Things started up nicely again.

Middle Peak has been fairly soft and crowded.  Still looked fun.

The lefts are a popular choice at this size.  At least it is a little something different.

And it is hard to complain when waves start breaking along the entire point.

And while we never got any big surf this fall, it was not all small surf.

And it was often glassy.  And there were tons of birds.  And anchovies.

Okay, so it is not like there has been no surf since the start of autumn.  There has.  There has even been a handful of really fun days.  I can recall a Monday in October that we pretty damn fun.  And overhead.  But it was only one day, and it was only a moderate swell.  Nothing to right a blog about.  But it was sure nice to get a little bit of swell to fill nicely into town this week, with another one lining up for this weekend and another behind that.  It finally feels like home around here.  Just in time for Christmas.

And when it did get fun, there was talent in the water.

I'm pretty sure this is a text book maneuver.  

Done shredded.

Even the shoulders get shredded to bits by this guy.  He should be a pro.

Of course, there has still been quite a few placid days out there.

But you just need to make the most of what you got.

This guy always seems to.

Anyway, during this last round of waves I started to think about how much more crowded the open coastline has been this fall, as compared to years past.  At first, I thought it was just more folks braving the cold sharky waters north of town.  And there were.  But then I realized that it real must have more to do with the near total lack of waves in town this year.  Surfers will go out and search when in need.  And this has been one of those seasons.  At times it has even looked as flat as a flat day in summer.  So, they migrate.

Working the little bit of moving water in town.

He is in there, some where.

Waiting for it.

Again, that left, can be a load of fun.

So, yeah, more crowds and less surf this year.  One could easily start complaining about things.  Like how there were 40 or 50 heads bobbing out at Swift Street on Monday.  Or two weeks with nothing but small wind swell.  Or a beach (and point break) closure during one of the better swells due to a drug smugglers boat getting wrecked ashore.  Or, one could just appreciate that they live and surf here, in Santa Cruz, where a bad day, is a pretty decent day is so many other places around the world.  My buddy is looking at the surf right now.  He is calling it and going back to work.  His report?  Not very good.  About head high, and a bit mixed up.  Not worth it he says.

But when the sun comes out, and the surf is running chest high plus, that is really all you need.

If you can't make it happen at this size, you might just be getting old.

You just need to work the sections, and have patience.

And sooner or later, a lip will show itself.

Or you can just grab the log and take it easy.

But it really is more fun being on the short board and becoming one with the lip.

Or just sit by and mind surf the empty waves as they roll by the cliffs.

So, before you call it quits and buy a plane ticket to some were with warmth and waves, just consider this.  Fall was a disappointment, so you are probably not expecting much out of winter.  That means, it can only get better.  And it is only just getting started.

Nah, screw that.  Go out and get wet.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Small Days Can Be Fun, Too

September started off fairly decently, and all in all it was not a bad month of surf.  But after a few early storms, the NPAC pretty much backed off providing only minimal mid period surf from the north west.  As is typical, the SPAC was winding down, and pushed just a bit of back ground energy north.  While not epic, these swells would combo to offer up the diligent surfer a few waves running from thigh high to maybe a few head high days.  Due to the lack of awesomeness in the water, I rarely had my camera with me and only grabbed a few shots for the month.  But every time my son and I were hanging out by the water, it looked like it would fun to be out there.  And the days I did surf, for the most part, were plenty of fun.

With the outside and the inside breaking, but the Sidewalk silent, you have to wonder what kind of swell this is.

Then the Sidewalk breaks.  Small combo swells can be hard to find, but they often deliver.

Natural Bridges State Park offering up some limited fun surf.

Hoping around and making the most of the small surf.

I just love this sngle.  Driving toward the shallow part of the reef.

And the barrel section is a commitment.

Just north of town the surf is not breaking much bigger, but there is a bit more juice to it.

If you surf here, you know this guy, trying to get into the green room on another small day.

Winds across the top of the point, and fog in the distance.  Guess it is time for a slash.

The take off at the Slot on small days is right up against the cliff.

Cliff shot.

To the nay sayers of small surf, you must have forgotten how to just enjoy being out in the ocean.  Not this guy.

The long boarder here has no idea what is going on behind him.  For each their own.

Even the small days can throw a bit of water.  Working on that pop up is all important.

Small Middle Peak always has a bit of traffic around it.

But that left can be so much fun.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Going Home.

Warning:  This post contains very few actual surfing pictures, and those are not of very exciting waves.  

If you are like many who are bitten by the bug, and did not grow up in a town with consistent surf, you likely have migrated to greener pastures.  Our at least better line ups.  Still, no matter how meager the surf, it is always pretty epic to go back and visit your home break.  No, not the spot that you claim is yours, or where everyone knows your name.  But that spot that you first picked up surfing.  That break that is home.  For me, that is Wells Beach in Maine.  Hell, the entire coast of the state south of Portland feels like home, but I logged the most water time between the Jetty and Forbes in my first few years of surfing.  This past summer, my family headed back east to make a tour from New York, through Connecticut and Boston and on to Maine, visiting family and old friends.  This was about visiting, not about surfing.  I mean, July is just about the worst time for surf in New England, but the hot humid days sure beats the fog that is summer in Santa Cruz.  Most years, I also leave surf drought conditions behind.  Oh well.  This year is seemed like the south machine kept on kicking through the month.  Lucky for those of you who stayed behind.

The new New York skyline from a different Brooklyn than I recall from 20 years ago.

Brooklyn clock tower.  Tallest thing in the borough.

Hot and humid and high tide at Wells Beach.

2PM and the surf is still clean.

Empty micro tubes and boating buoys.  

The stiff breeze is blowing off shore.  Got to love that.

The shore break was a lot of to play in.  Maybe it was the 92F air temp and 92% humidity.

Looking down toward Forbes and the outer reefs.

I got lucky.  I was in Maine for just eleven days.  I got in the water on five of them.  And had I put water time ahead of family, I might have scored nine.  It was small, but there were waves.  There was even a session or two down at the Ogunquit river mouth that may have been worth getting involved in.  One of my favorite things about summer time surf in Maine is that with the right conditions it can be 90F on the beach and glassy conditions on the water, along with an abundance of sunshine.  And this summer the water was a balmy 68F.  That means when the sun was out, board shorts were an option.  But the best thing about surfing in Maine is not the waves or the weather.  It is getting back in the water with old friends.  I was able to surf with two of the guys from our old crew.  Really the only other two who are still getting wet.  Swapping waves and stories was a blast.

More green and blue to enjoy.

A set is about to hit the sand bars as this shore pounder hits the sand.

You will see a few like this.   Sure, it is small.  About waist high.  But empty and inviting.


I just rather like this one.

One of the more crowded line ups along the beach.  These guys seemed pretty mello.

Kind of perfect, eh?

I just kept on mid surfing these beauties.

Wells Beach is a slightly curved beach with a long jetty at the north end protecting the entrance to Wells Harbor and a craggy rocky reef outcropping at the south end.  Occasionally bits of the reefs work on a decent swell, and the harbor entrance has been know to hold a good wave when it is working, but the majority of the waves break right up on the beach.  Best at high tide, there can be fun surf through the full ten plus feet of tidal swing.  As kids we named the regular sandbars that formed based on the house that is was in front of.  Spirals, Dena's, Ugly House, Blue Porch, and Lisa's tended to hold the best waves.  Now when I come to visit we tend to surf the dunes near the jetty end of the beach.  I guess when the surf is micro and you are basically just chilling with friends, there is no need to go further.  Especially when it is basically an empty line up.

Thunder clouds threaten this busy line up.  Even if you wanted to surf this peak, there is no way you could avoid this many tourist.

Looking toward Kennebunkport.

This guy was soon scrapping for the outside.  

He missed the entire set.  Oh, well.

This girl was totally ruling it.  And the only one taking advantage of the surf on a board.  

She kept on riding them all the way to the beach.

The best peak was down by the Dunes.  Parson's House looms in the background.

Early morning at the Ogunquit Rivermouth.  No surf, but good views.

Growing up there were just eight of us who regularly surf the beach.  Our crew of six, and two brothers.  Occasionally when a hurricane swell pushed in with off shore breezes, one or two older dudes would wipe cobwebs from their boards and paddle out.  But basically the 3/4 of a mile of beach break was mostly empty peaks.  Seems to be the same today.  Not gonna say we didn't see anyone else surfing, but we never had to share a peak.  The closest we got was during one session when one guy was surfing the peak just to our north.  I paddle over to say hello.  He was a summer regular.  He said that this was pretty much what to expect.  No one out.  Even when things are on.  Gotta say that it is kind of nice.

Surf casting is pretty epic at the river mouth as well.  Low tide.

Just a few miles north, the Wells Harbor entrance is getting some nice morning light.

If you've never visited a tidal marsh, you really must go.  Kayaks and tide charts are your friend.

You best pay attention if you keep a boat in Maine.  That sand bar can be tricky at mid tide with a current over it.

While primarily a fishing harbor, there are a few pleasure boats in the water at Wells.

If you need to duck out of a rainy morning, may I suggest the Maine Diner.  Yum.

And they have a garden to enjoy as well.  How many dinners you know that grow their own veggies?

Another great spot to duck away from a drizzle is the Rachel Carson Preserve on Route 9.

I'm pretty sure these are the type of berries that make princesses sleep until kissed by a handsome prince. 

There are other waves around when the swell is running.  Firehouse might be my favorite.  Moody Point can turn on.  The Rivermouth is a pretty regular spot.  J-Land for high tides and south winds.  York has a few breaks.  As does Goose Rocks.  But I doubt I'll surf any of those again.  Unless I move back.  Which I likely won't.  And when I visit, I just seem to want to paddle out with old friends, at my home break, and have it all to our selves.  And even occasionally we still bump into Dena or Lisa and their families.  Kind of nice.

Lonely surfer enjoying some morning grey glass at Lisa's, Wells Beach.

Everyone else is busy getting dinner together.

The crowds were insane.

That buoy reads: No Swimming.  Duh, clearly that is a surf zone.

Just a slow right and a fishing skiff.

The view from the mainland.  High tide fills the harbor nicely.

And if empty surf ain't your thing, you can always go antiquing.

Looking out at my old home.  As a kid, we would watch for white water hitting the jetties to determine swell size.  More accurate than Surfline.

We came home and enjoyed the last five days or so of waves before the August flat spell kicked in.  Things are looking a little up for September, but nothing yet epic.  Maybe a bump up this weekend and again middle of next week.  Hoping the NPAC fully kicks it into gear, or the SPAC sends us some late season love.  Perhaps one of the best things about going home is the reminder that it does not take much swell for things to be fun.  If you have the right perspective and expectation.  I'll be in the water tomorrow morning.   And as soon as the swells start running, I will be back taking shots and and watching waves.