Friday, May 31, 2013

Hanging at the Hook in Santa Cruz.

Some mornings are foggy, cool and small.  Still a surprise to see one sneak by.

Summertime weather is not a common thing in Santa Cruz.  Beach weather we don't get a whole lot of.     From Memorial Day through Labor Day you are more likely fog in the mornings and wind in the afternoons than a sunny, hot, calm day.  But we do occasionally get some fine weather.  And when it is less than ideal, there are some places that are better than others.  Sure you can duck behind the cliffs at 4 Mile, but the wind still hits you on your walk in and out.  One of the real positives of the relatively new sea wall on Pleasure point is how much sand is getting caught and making some fine little beaches.     It is pretty much a low tide thing only, but when the water is out, it is the place to go.  And it is were my son and I have been getting our beach time recently.  Turns out a few surfers like to catch the waves  near there as well.

The reason why I am here.  Fun times with sand castles.

Everyone is getting some, whether you are out on the skiff looking for fish, or on a fish looking to skiff.

For each their own.  The Hook is very longboard friendly, especially on the smaller days.

If you are willing to work it a bit, it is well worth being on the small board.

It makes it easier to throw some buckets off the back.

It is pretty much perfect for hanging out with a two year old.  Paved, free parking lot right at the end of the avenue with a bathroom and outdoor shower.  A short walk across Eastcliff Drive, down about seventy steps, and you are there.  Sandstone benches are up above the high tide level and living reef showing only on the negative tides, with hard sand beach in between.  Right at the bottom of the steps is a great spot for charging the shore pound.  As you head south it becomes mellower, but the real good stuff is the series of tide pools that develop when the water pulls way out.

The long boards do have a little bit of an advantage, especially on the small days.  This was the wave of the morning.

A fun looking section speeds off down the line.

Lining one up.

This guy came down the stairs, paddle outside, and caught one of the better waves of the morning all in about 3 minutes.

Right in the middle of rush hour.  

But there were still a few of these sneaking through the pack.

The surf does not suck either.  If you like that kind of thing.  My guy mostly ignores the action, but occasionally will watch a set or two.  He is more likely to check out your stick and hello as you enter or leave.  And he will have a way better session than you when it comes to measuring with a stoke meter. He owns the beach and rules the shore pound.  Sure, it is more like shore wash down at the Hook, but that just allows me to chill and eat a breakfast burrito.  Up at 4 Mile the pound is pounding and requires a much shorter leash and much more attendant father.  Anyway, this is not a blog about how cool my son is, it is about the surf, and the Hook really does offer up some fun looking surf.  Its been a long time since I surfed the spot.  Crowds are not really my thing, but the wave does have a lot going for it.

The wave break just off the beach making for a very short paddle out.  And a few lefts come through as well.

The Hook forms a nice little pocket that will sooner or later rifle off down the line.  In other words, it is pretty fun.

What crowd?  Father and son heading out for a nice quite session.

This guy is just trying to spray that bird up there.

When a solid south swell hits, the Hook can get super fun.  And super crowded.

But when you stand about 4'6" you tend to not have folks caving in your waves.  Who wants to be that guy who drops in on grooms?

For one thing, the paddle out takes about ten steps and seven strokes.  For some that is a huge plus.  You will not get tired surfing this spot expect on the biggest of winter days.  In the summer you pretty much chill out for ten minutes as you wait for the sets to arrive.  Little to no current to battle.  No crazy sets having you paddle hard for the horizon.  You are not really going to get held down.  Just some fun sized, mellow, easy surf to rip up.  The real challenge is the crowd.  It is not just the size of the crowd (recently when a decent sized south swell arrived on a Sunday there were 45 guys out), but the mix.

I think he is a pre teen.  Not too shabby.  Better watch out for this guy.

Lots of eyes on you when you surf here.  Better rip that thing apart.

While not the juiciest wave around, the Hook does often have quality shape.

Plenty of opportunities to move some water around.

Or you can opt to lift off the lip.

And while not the best south swell spot in town, it does focus some water.

Shortboards and longboards.  A few spongers and an occasional SUP.  Newbs, kooks, groms, gapers, rippers, dweebs, pros, and old dudes make for a variety of skill and style.  So you need to pay attention and paddle for the right one.  If you are on it, you generally score quite a few fun waves.  But other days are mellow.  This morning for instance had a good 15 people on it with little to no surf.  As things got closer to noon, the tide filled in a touch, the swell started showing at waist high and only four surfers were out in the line up.  Timing is everything.

Some of the locals patiently wait for high tide.

Traffic can often suck.

Mind surfing the empty waves.

The best part of a wave like this tends to be the top three inches.  This guy has got that figured out.

Keeping it tight in the pocket is key.

So many copy cats out in the water these days.

If you are not a fan of siting shoulder to shoulder with 40 of your closest friends, there are other options around.  Shark's Cove is one of my all time favorites.  Not really a short board break when smaller than head high but a very nice wave none the less.  Shark's pretty much starts where the Hook ends in a closeout.  It bowls up nicely and then wraps into a cove sometimes offering up a very long ride.  I hit it about a month ago.  I was planning of taking my log out to 2nd Peak but a contest had the Point closed down.  I was about to turn around and head home but decided to give a look see.  Sure it was small.  Ankle biters.  But ankle biters that bowled, barreled and then wrapped for rides that required a good 100 yard paddle back.  Hell, I was looking for exercise and it was just about perfect.

One thing I need to work on is my focus.  Maybe a wider range of focus is what I need.

This guy did not care.  He boosted anyway.

Dragging fins.

Looking east toward Capitola Wharf.

When it is this glassy, even the small days can be loads of fun.

I just enjoy this shot and had some many opportunities to snag it.  I thing this is the best one from this roll.

And if you are not yet enticed, there are the other breaks on your way to Capitola.  Privatess, Trees, Piles are just a few of them.  You'd be surprised what makes its way in there.  Of course you will want a fair amount of foam along this stretch of coastline as the surf tends to roll much more than throw.  But you also tend to have a little more space for yourself.  And it is certainly mellower than fighting for waves at First Peak.  The really cool thing is when the tide is pulled way out, you can walk all the way from the Hook to Capitola.  Grab a quick bite if you plan to beat the tide back.  A few of the points get a little tricky once the water starts to fill in.

The booze cruise takes in the sights.

Typical day at the office.

Here we go.

Making the most of a smaller one is always a lot of fun.

And still, every once in a while one would come through and make it look like an empty line up.

This set caught my little guy's attention.

Some times you just need to sit tight and let the wave do its thing.

But this story is really about the wave at the bottom of the stairs.  It really is a pretty decent wave.  It picks up swell from pretty much every direction.  I've only been there on the lower tides recently, but it seems to break on the negative tide, and gets great form before one foot, and was still breaking nicely over 3.5 feet.  So it pretty much works through all the lower tides.  It also seems to work pretty nicely on even the smaller days.  While under three foot it tends to be better suited for the long board, the better waves that line up offer an opportunity for those of you who know how to generate speed on your small boards.  But you will need to wait a while if it is anything like this morning.

Staying in the pocket is what you will want to do on this waves.

The Hook is tucked pretty much in the upper reaches of Monterey Bay.  

Tuck just a bit further in is Shark's Cove.  

Getting ready to walk up toward the nose.

As the south fills in, the wave really pulls some water out of the bay.

The wave is pretty much ruled by the long boards, but that does not mean you can't get out there on something smaller.

A classic California roller.

A little further down the way a group hangs out at Privates.  

Now, I can really only attest to what I have seen this spring and summer, but the wave really wakes up with some size.  It does not need the super long period stuff, but that does not seem to hurt it either.  But get some chest high stuff in the 11-14 second range and things really start to perk up.  If you are smart, you will sit on the bowl, wait your turn, be diligent about getting it, and pick the good one.  At head high plus, things really start cook.  You better be ready to build and handle some speed.  There will be a guy on the beach with his kid trying to snap pictures of you throwing water around.  Hell, if all you do it point it and cruise it, I'll probably still snap away anyway.

The big souths wrap and peel all the way to the Capitola Wharf and beyond.  

Shark's Cove is a classic California point break.  

Tucked up in the top of the bay.

Are you just a little bit jealous.

Back up at the Hook the short board crowd is ruling the line up.

Yes, please.

A nice solid head high wave.

The SUP dude was back out once the swell hit and had no problems finding a few gems.

But then again, this is not really about the wave either.  I guess it is about the beach and how much fun it is to spend the morning there with my two year old.  And if you are thinking you should head on down there with your little lad or gal, do it.  Choose a day when the sun is out and the tide is low.  Mid day is best, before any strong winds develop.  We hit up mornings and stay until nap time.  The past two have been warm and sunny.  Tomorrow should be in the 80s downtown.  No better place to be than sitting at the Hook chilling with my family.

With water just over the reef, it is time to head out and get a few.

Head out, headed in and getting some.  

From up on the cliff it is pretty easy to see all the action.

One more empty one.

Tide pulled out negative with a pack sitting on pretty much every workable wave.

This was a Monday, mid morning with 2nd Peak way up in the distance.  Doesn't anyone have a real job?

Don't stare into the water for too long.  

Gonna finish it off with a nice tapered one.