It always irritates when I hear transplants to San Diego complain about the lack of “seasons” here. As if anyone can’t tell the difference between the extreme southern swells produced by chubascos, lined up southern-hemis, the A-frame west well peaks of October-November, and the thumping northwest swells of December and January.
The arrival of fall and winter means the difference between the opaque glassy mornings of summer and stiff and brisk offshore mornings and stunning sunrises (something hard to see during the overcast summer mornings). The arrival of the Santa Anas is the California equivalent of the leaves turning color in Vermont.
Except it is a million times better.
We’ve had a good run of surf lately. It was nothing spectacular, but enough to make up for the long run of mid-summer doldrums.
What has been surprising was receiving a continual supply of southern hemisphere surf through October and into the first weekend of November. On Saturday Nov. 4, we received another overhead southern hemi swell and I caught a fun mid-morning session at K38 in Baja. On Sunday Nov. 5, after a very fun surf in Imperial Beach I came in and was rewarded with painful hit by a stingray (lets be clear about how unlucky I was – nobody gets hit by stingrays in November).
On Thursday Nov. 9, the first real winter swell of the season arrived and reminded everyone that there is a palatable difference between the power and juice of everyday slop in San Diego and the surf delivered by storms in the North Pacific. On that morning, I abstained from an early morning go-out in Imperial Beach and watched my sons attempt to surf 4-5′ closeouts on the north side of the pier with the Mar Vista High School surf P.E. class. Daniel, my youngest, never made it into the lineup and came in before getting washed into the pier pylons. Israel my oldest, scratched into a few closeout set waves. It was a morning the boys understood my insistence on their daily workouts with the local swim team – if your kids surf they need to be very good swimmers.
Later that day after giving a guest lecture at UCSD, I paddled out for a brief lunchtime session at La Jolla Shores (you can really tell the difference between the single 20-something brodude rippers in San Diego and the rest of us married with kids trying to stay in the game by the minimal time we have for off-peak hour weekday sessions), where the waves offered up some shoulders and fun drops.
On Saturday the 11th, the surf dropped substantially, but the following day the waves were up again and I dawn patrolled solid 4-6′ offshore peaks in Imperial Beach. I was rewarded with a memorable barrel as well as a humiliating late-takeoff pitch into oblivion that more than likely buckled my EPS-epoxy fish hybrid. One of the hard lessons to learn when you are 40-something and trying to stay in the game at a crunchy beachbreak with a crew of guys half your age who rip, is that you will inevitably humiliate yourself by blowing the drop on a hollow set wave when everyone is watching. You will then return to the lineup to the embarrassed silence of guys who are half pissed because you blew a good wave and who half feel sorry for you for turning into an aging kook.
During the Chargers game on the 12th, the boys and I bypassed the washed out Point Loma and La Jolla reefs and were rewarded with a minimal crowd, warm water and some fun head-high waves at La Jolla Shores. Any true San Diego local knows that the best time to surf here is during Chargers games and especially during the playoffs or Superbowl when the beaches pretty much empty out.
The surf went small but fun again last week with the water exceptionally warm (in the low to mid 60s). According to Sean Collins’s recent winter forecast more surf is on the way from what Surfline’s guru forecaster is calling a mild El Niño winter. So during this Holiday Season, turn off the football games and avoid the mall. Do go for a stroll along Sunset Cliffs or take a seat above Swami’s, and be thankful that we are lucky enough to enjoy what makes San Diego truly worthwhile – the Pacific Ocean at its very best.