Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hurricane Swell.

Took a road trip with my son to check out a light house.  We stopped to wave the surf on the way.

We I was a kid, growing up surfing the summers in southernMaine, there was one thing we always hoped for: cane swell.  Not only would that mean we would have actual waves to surf, but it was easy to name the swell.  Gabriella stands out as one of the all time best, as a Cat 5 storm retrograded into toward the Gulf of Maine for 48 hours, before jetting east across the Atlantic.  But there were many others.  Some excellent.  Some disappointing.  They all had a name.  And when ever the first signs of a tropical wave pushing off of Africa was mentioned on the Tropical Update at ten till the hour, we were paying attention.  Tropical swell does not quite get the same billing out here where we are blessed with consistent winter surf, and occasional long period summer swell.  Tropical swells are rare. And steep.  And kind of weird.  But this summer we had a few weeks run of fun surf, that finished off quite grandly.

Wide open faces begging to be carved.

The lineups were not empty, but the waves were plentiful.

As were cutbacks.

The short period swell even threw out a few cover ups.

It was nothing like Newport, and what much of southern California saw.  The fact that the Wedge went huge and Newport Point broke were less surprising than seeing the footage from Supertubes in Santa Barbara.  What is so interesting about the tropical swells we get is how with their steep angle, and shorter (than say long 17-22 second swell) periods they seem to get into places you would not suspect.  In fact, the waves sometimes would look less than perfect at the usual "anything breaks" spots, but the cove that has not broke in a decade suddenly would have a cavernous pit to stand in.  One of the breaks I surfed during the Lowell swell is typically a super fun small summer surf kind of spot, but the swell was consistent, closely packed and overhead making for too much water moving over the sand bars.  When I shifted a hundred yards north, to where the wave would typically be closing out, the wall reeled forever.  Yeah, so you have to pay attention when we get the tropical.

This wave typically ends at the rock with the long period souths.  

The cloud cover helped keeps the surface nice and glassy.

Classic fun hurricane swell.

A few miles up the coast, this mysto break went unridden for hours.  

One of the things I can recall from childhood was how the hurricane swells would stack up.  It was before I knew much about period, so early on, I paid no attention to that.  Just that if the waves were head high during the sets, they tended to be chest high during the lulls, and one after the other.  The peaks would shift up and down the beach, but always somewhere would be breaking.  One after the other.  If you were strong, and smart, you could pretty much surf, paddle back, surf, paddle back, surf, paddle back until you, and your shoulders, were done.  Okay, so sure, there were some actual lulls in the action, when you might wait, and rest.  But for the most part go, go, go.  Nothing like the waits during a typical summer time south.

Back in town, the was a little comp going on at the Lane.

Lining it up.

Looking to get covered up.

I think the right elbow is in the barrel.

This summer we had one of the best tropical seasons in California in recent history.  Karina was first in line sending us some small, southerly, short period swell early August.  For the most part, this was not too noticeable with a fair amount of small background southern hemi swell in the water at the same time.  The many small swells blended well, and with a bit of northwest wind swell in the water, the waves were quite nice.  But not distinctly tropical.  That did not happen until Lowell should up on the scene.  Hot on the tails of its predecessor, but pressing as much north as west, it drove swell well up into central California.  The result was four to five days of fun, consistent, chest high plus surf.  At its peak, waves were pushing well overhead at favorable locations.  And while more than a few people were out and about, plenty of surf was to be had.  It did not hurt that we were experiencing a south flow fog blanket keeping that surface glass. 

Speed racing.

Turns are the name of the game.


Throwing a bucket or two.

Then there was Marie.  She sent some bombs to the real steep facing breaks down south.  It would seem that a few breaks nearby that can pick up, and handle, a very steep angle also picked up a few of those bombs on the peaking morning.  As the hurricane swung wider, and weakened, we begin to pick up more of its swell, giving the reagin another round of chest high consistent surf.  Not bad for August.  Now, none of these storms really sent any kind of epic surf to Santa Cruz.  Just good fun stuff.  We would want to see the trajectory of Lowell with the power of Marie.  But then again, some times you have to allow Newport and Santa Barbara shine a little bit.  And it is not like it was not fun.

Heavy drops were had.

Rocks were skimmed.


The Slot.

So, if it was not epic, then why is it memorable?  Maybe it is nostalgia for my summer time youth.  Perhaps it is just that we rarely get any tropical swell at all.  Or that it lasted for not just a few days, but spread out over two weeks.  Likely, the fact that it was that consistent tropical style shorter period swell helped.  And of course, the clean conditions allowing miles and miles of surf and breaks to choose from had its impact.  Only thing that would have made the run better would have been a totally open schedule to pick and choose the best times to maximize the fun.  Or not having the surf run end over a holiday weekend.  I imagine more than a few were chasing the swell by then.

Meanwhile, up the coast a ways, surfers surf.

Point Break.

Waves ranged from waist to overhead.  

And could be ridden all the way to the inside.

While Marie was throwing out its best impression of a real waves along some of the most expensive strips of coast line (did you see the Malibu footy), Cristobal was making his way up the east coast.  Reports coming back from friends in New England were pretty positive.  Nice to know I was enjoying some tropical swell at the same time as my childhood buddy.  Just on separate coasts.  Everybody was getting some.  Or so it seemed.  

Nice, long, fun, easy, lined up waves.

Doesn't that look fun.

All the way to the beach.


It also turned out to be a pretty good run for shooting pics.  The weather was nice enough for my son and I to plan a few coastal and beach outings.  The light was decent enough most days.  It did help to get out of the car and get a little closer to the action, but sometimes a road side stop was all we could muster.  But when we did set up on the beach, the regular waves and sets, made it easy to wrangle a three year old, and still get off a few clicks of the shutter.  I imagine the pros did pretty well around here, especially if they ever left the Lane to search out some of the gems that were breaking.


This place had a fairly large crowd and the issues that go with that.

Turns were had.

Sections line up.

Anyway, it has been a while since Marie settled out.  Still plenty of fun out there, and with the north Pacific wakening up, and the south sending up some of that late season juice, it is hard to have much interest to what is happening in the tropics.  Turns out, as I am writing this, another storm is brewing up, and the National Hurricane Center is projecting a favorable path for Polo.  Well, they did last night.  Maybe we will get some, maybe we won't.  It does not really seem to matter, as long as the waves keep coming.

Off the top.

Threading the needle.

Inside rebound.

The east coast has had another dose of hurricane swell since we enjoyed our run.  And good for them.  It is pretty much all they get this time of year.  Sure, summers can have some fun, small, quick, short period action, but if you are looking for a little juice, you pretty much need the tropics active come summer.  In fact, they are right now in prime season.  The funny thing is is that they are only on their fifth named storm of the season, and we are up to "P'.  But in another month or two, they too will be looking at a more local source.





Yesterday I was out at a beach break up the coast.  It typically likes a nice long period southern Pacific swell, and as is typical of those swells, you usually need to wait a bit for the sets to show up.  Yesterday felt more like those days of tropical swell.  A small early season storm generated some small, mid period northwest swell, and as it dove south to give us a taste of rain, is also generated some local WSW wind swell.  With all that swell in the water, things were comboing up in an interesting way, making the break much more shifty than usual, and much more punchy, and way more consistent.  Kind of like a tropical swell.  So maybe we don't really need the hurricane after all.

The ship mast rock.

The cutback.

The crowds.

The moment in surfing that I really enjoy.  Nice grip, accelerating and eyeing the lip.

I mean, there is the down side of hurricanes, and that is that they can be quite destructive.  I don't really mind them interrupting the shipping lanes so much, but when they do come ashore, they can wreck havoc.  Odole recently did.  And Andrew and Katrina are quite memorable.  Irene was less of a wind event than a flash flood event.  And even that was far from the coast.  And of course there was Sandy.  And I can recall surfing waves generated by Hugo, just days after it sent a wave of water miles inland in South Carolina.  I guess I've always taken the good with the bad.  I can't change the weather, so I mind as well enjoy the surf.  It is glassy out there right now.

The inside had plenty of small gems, and were a great way to end the session.