It was TJ's (Forrest's roommate) birthday and as he had chosen a car-less lifestyle, I had the opportunity of making his birthday for him by taking him up to Lowers. We parked at about 10:15 and walked pretty much along the old trail. I suited up at the car and barefooted it to see if I'm still the man I once was.
TJ swore it wouldn't be crowded. A few years ago in one of the surf mags, I remember Shane Beschen talking about surfing Lowers during the second shift: when the morning guys were bailing and the lunchtime guys hadn't yet arrived. He claimed it was the most uncrowded. But when we rounded the corner of the dirt path, my spirits sank, counting too many heads in the water. TJ had worn his civilian clothes for the walk and I asked him if it was cool if I didn't wait for him and just paddled out. He had no problem with it, so out I went.
The wade-to-paddle transition was oh so smooth. Compared to Punta Roca's 8/10 in sketchiness, this is a generous 2.5. During my paddle-out, I saw the one girl in the line-up catch a left and get snaked two seconds later. I thought for a second maybe Missed-It-Mike had taken the day off of work and sneaked up here without telling me, but no, the snaker in question was of a lighter complexion.
I decided to take the grom Wardo approach and sit inside of the beastly pack, two dozen strong. I paddled out and caught my first left after more than twenty minutes of sitting, paddling and pulling back countless times. It was probably the second strongest wave of the day, but it was so gutless. I did a weak slash and a weaker bonk and kicked out. The good news is I got my first wave of the day out of the way.
Lowers is an amazing wave. It's also located near highly populated areas with high concentrations of surfers. This leads to massive crowds for comparably few waves. Having photogs and videogs (I'm coining it!) on the beach further intensifies the madness, creating a frenzy that is perhaps only rivaled by Rincon near Santa Barbara along the length of the west coast of the country. This is why there are often four guys paddling for waves.
My choice to sit on the inside created perhaps a half-dozen close calls. On two or three of these, I braced for impact during my duckdive, but impact thankfully never came.
I had initially planned to surf the shorter and comparatively crappier left, but I scuttled that plan quickly due to the thick blanket of non-discriminating bodies. Since the Lowers right is so much longer, steeper and better, I thought I'd beat the system by focusing on the lefts. However, the unexpected goodwill I encountered there, with many surfers yelling out which direction they were going, led to many a split peak (note to self: create and copyright recipe for Split Peak Soup for upcoming surfer-themed restaurant).
After another twenty minutes or so, I caught a right that had somehow passed everyone by. I did a baby turn on it, but it too was gutless.
I sat with TJ for about fifteen minutes before deciding I'd had enough. I paddled into the pack and just sat there, hoping to get lucky. When a set comes, it does drain the foam off the rabid crowd, leading to opportunity if another wave sneaks up behind a set and many of the frothers are still kicking out. I caught a decent right and I really laid into my bottom turn, so much so that I managed to dig a rail and lose a lot of my speed as I headed up the face. I hit the wave and there was little to push back from. Since I had no speed, there wasn't much I could do to turn my snap into a carve and so I faded off the back.
I caught one other forgettable wave and called it quits after close to 2.5 hours of being out there.
I waited for TJ to come in and he showed me the Trestles shortcut, which shaves about eight or so minutes off the walk and gives you the impression of being somewhere other than the massive metropolis that is the vast majority of SoCal.