We left for a quick trip to Seattle not long after my last session, and got back not long before this one. I was missing this swell, but the time away made me remember a realization of mine.
In SoCal, when the waves get above a certain size, there are only a handful of breaks that can handle them well. This is important to note because breaks that can sort of handle them are not that fun to surf when it's bigger. You're left scrambling over and under waves, then paddling back to try to get a wave. You miss that and a clean-up set hits and you're toasted, at least for several minutes of paddling and duckdiving.
If you want to go to the spots with the best chance of focusing the energy into some good waves, you will have to brave the massive crowds. Have you seen the overflow from the Swami's parking lot? It's enough to turn the taking of your breath from seeing the waves into a sob-riddled sigh.
I gravitate away from the prime winter spots at all times because the majority of the time you will either not catch a set wave, and if you do, you'll get snaked. It's worth neither the hassle nor the heartache.
With this in mind, I went to 20th St in Del Mar after checking a few spots. The tide was dropping off its high from an hour and a half before and the waves were jacking up more and more as the water receded. I saw a few closeouts which was not a surprise. I was going to go back up to Pillbox when I saw "The Wave".
It was a perfectly peeling left which turned hollow about three seconds after initial breaking, perfect for setting a barrel line. It then kept barreling for another three or so seconds and spit. About five seconds later, it started barreling again and spit AGAIN! I couldn't remember the last time I saw a wave spit twice, and I'm not just limiting this to California.
As I watched later waves break decently, I pumped myself up to get out there. To get your barrel of the year, you need opportunity, and it looked like the waves would give me a shot. If I got one half as good as The Wave, I would be thrilled at the chance to make it out of a spinning cylinder.
I texted Missed-It Mike and the conversation went as follows:
E: 20th STAT!
M: Be out the door in 5!
E: OK. Hurry. I'm paddling out now. Look for the guy crab grabbing to glory
M: Is it good?
E: Bigger sets either close out or spit twice. I'll be just south of 20th, tho current may shift me. Completely empty now.
I thought, "Cool! M-IM is paddling out. I haven't surfed with him in a while...!"
I paddled out and took a lump or two. I then spent the next twenty minutes paddling back and forth, a pattern from my last three sessions I would desperately like to break. I eventually caught an extremely racy left, and in my thirst, nay, lust to drop down and do something, I put too much weight on my front foot and pearled.
I spent another twenty minutes exercising and sneaking peeks at the shore so I could wave to Mike. I never saw him. He didn't show. I got caught in a rip and the set waves turn three shades of ugly thanks to the choppiness afforded to them by the rip. I paddled my ass off for a good five minutes and got out of it, then took a closeout in.