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Friday, July 18, 2014

SUPER SESSION July 18, 1999, La Bocana, El Salvador: My Best Barrel EVER

It was fifteen years ago exactly today that I got the best barrel of my life.

Summer of 1999 was a special one for me.  I'd gotten a job the preceding Christmas delivering pizzas, which was a huge and very welcome change from the dread and monotony of busing tables.  I enjoyed going to work.  I would get in the early 90's Nissan pizza truck and, thanks to my portable tape player (which I hid under the seat so I wouldn't get in trouble), I would rock out on my way to Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and throughout Carmel Valley.  It barely felt like work, and I was making and saving wads of cash.

When MiraCosta let out I had made arrangements to get all of my shifts temporarily covered (this way I wouldn't have to earn them back upon returning) and hightailed it to El Salvador.  I had booked a plane ticket leaving May 20th and returning August 12th, about twelve weeks. I brought with me a cool Sunset five-fin yellow board with red rails.  I had been surfing for less than two years at this point, and I could barely go backside.

Before I'd left, I reached out to the best-ranked El Salvador surfing site online.  I emailed the site's admin and said we should surf.  I met him and he seemed nice enough.  He had graduated from Liceo Frances (the French school) while I had gone to Escuela Americana.  What put me off about Condorito almost immediately was his extremely perverted way of speaking, the way he viewed women and treated them like they were there to serve him.  This is unfortunately a common attitude amongst middle-/upper-class people down there.

His unearned cockiness with the opposite sex was offset by something that floored me.  On the way back to the city the first time, a Sunday night, I sat quietly in the car while he drank in the weekly sermon.

When he met Pando they became fast friends and I was immediately ignored by Condorito and to a lesser extent, Pando.

I was not a victim in this "friendship".  On Sundays when Jaime, my former stepfather was at the beach house where Pando and co worked, he and I would take off and surf elsewhere.  I first surfed Kilometro 59 with him and caught my first real (VERY real) right there.

In the early afternoon of July 18, we drove to La Bocana.  I remember there were maybe eight heads out and a Gringo was surfing well.  In what is still my closest call, I duckdived my board, a 6'2" and a little thick (keep in mind I weighed MAYBE 130 at the time) as deep as I could as he started pumping on a wave.  As my foot began to descend into the duckdive, I felt the tiniest of nicks as his fin j u s t tapped the skin between the pad of my big toe and my left foot.  PHEW!

Later in the session, I saw a left coming and I went for it.  It wasn't huge, maybe head-high.  I paddled and struggled to get into it.  As I was crouching down on my front foot I was enveloped in the barrel, completely by accident.  The contrast between full tropical sun and sudden shade was wild. I saw Condorito paddle over the wave, shaking his head in disbelief and smirking.  I was really high in it and decided I needed to take a lower line.  I put some pressure on my heels and the extra speed brought me closer to the lipline and exultation.

As I exited the barrel, the lip hit me forcefully, but at such an angle that it wasn't catastrophic.  I watched as the wave joined with the right and began to closeout and I kicked my board out in front of me.  When I surfaced I let out a primal scream of sheer ecstacy, one that I have yet to apex.

We drove back to Jaime's house and on that particular night, I wasn't bothered by the hypocrisy of Condorito's personality juxtaposed against the raving evangelist crackling though the tinny speakers of his microbus.

7.18.14 Midday Beat the Heat Mini Sesh at NSide Oside Pier

My wife, mother-in-law, and daughter were in Encinitas for Story Time and errand running so I took the opportunity to do a session.  I was initially going to do my usual one mile jog.  I thought about going skimming instead, but the tide was still not high enough.  I decided to take the board down on my bike, and if it was unsurfable I could drop off the board and go for my jog.

The south side was bigger, but good luck finding a corner.  Every wave I saw detonated into a no-hope closeout.  I thought that as the tide continue to rise, perhaps my fortunes would shift, but I pedaled on.

I saw a glimmer of hope as a guy pumped away on a left, blasting into a no-chance fins-free turn.  Eventually I reached the end of The Strand (Oceanside's impression of a boardwalk) and circled around.  I saw another ok left, made a note as to what landmark it was in front of, then locked up the bike at NSide Pier.

As I was paddling out I saw quite possibly the most board control I've seen in the water.  A guy went right, towards the pier and did a CLEAN backside 360 air.  He rode away perfectly.  On another wave a minute or so later, he did a smooth 360 followed by a chop hop, while retaining speed.

The right was rife with rippers, so I let the current take me down to the left I'd spied.

My first wave was barely a wave, but I did get a little speed going before it closed out.

Another wave came, but this one had very little juice.

My last wave of the session was by far my best.  After initially almost stalling out up top, I descended, pumped twice, and did a solid smack with a good angle, riding away cleanly.

I had a work appointment to attend, so I bailed to give myself plenty of time.

7.17.14 More Pain than Pleasure at Pinnies

I hadn't surfed in a few days, and while I knew the tide would be at the absolute lowest for my session, news of the fortified swell made me pedal my bike down to the beach.

The first snafu came when I duckdived and immediately hit sand. My hands felt the sharp sting of an unsanded epoxy repair job.  A quick examination revealed red lines which I thought were cuts, but apparently I'd only cut through the first layer of the skin.

I took a closeout on the head shortly thereafter and was amazed at the power in these 4-footers.

All waves were closeouts.  I managed a half-pump on one which heaved over into an unmakeable barrel and sent me tumbling.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7.13.14 An Accidental Session of sorts at North Pinnies

My wife was out of town and took the baby with her (no, I didn't piss her off).  In my lost and confused state, I fell asleep on her pillow and my neck was a mess for several days.  I had planned on paddling around Oceanside Pier and possibly getting some interesting angles of it with the GoPro, but with my neck (and deltoid) in pain I wasn't about to do a kilometer+-long paddle.

I thought I'd just go paddle out and enjoy the warm water.  I wanted to prepare my ribcage and adjacent skin for our upcoming surf trip (read all about it HERE!), as coming in unprepared can lead to a nasty reaction/rash.  I always thought it was tender skin that led to a rash, but when I told Aaron about it in El Salvador he brought up that it could be the hair follicles in the area getting plucked and then irritated, which makes some sense.  Whatever it is, it SUCKS and can cost you a day or two of sessions if it gets bad.

I paddled out to the tiny conditions on my 5'10" Merrick.  I got barreled going both ways on the sets, both crabgrabs with no way out, but the absolute highlight of the session was as follows.

I had read about the anchovy excess off La Jolla a couple of days prior and that was my hypothesis for the literally thousands of birds that were out.  A few flew above me, nothing out of the ordinary.  Then white movement caught my eye and I looked down and saw liquidy guano mixing into the water less than two feet from me, an almost direct hit!  I was south of the frantic flock, but I ended up drifting/paddling into it.  Suddenly, the birds started divebombing and flying over me, at times.  I was in a bird hurricane and the high-pitched roar was wild.  I looked up and behind me as I paddled and remember thinking that if I squinted, they resembled bats flying out of a cave.

A couple of decent sets came in, bringing nothing but closeouts.  I saw a couple of birds get enveloped by the lip and tossed into water, something I'd longed to see my entire career but had evaded me until today.  These were not seagulls or pelicans or other normal seafaring birds so lack of experience may have been an issue.

I eventually took a shoulder-high closeout in.

7.10.14 Mourning the Passing of the Swell at Miniscule Tyson

I expected the waves to be small, but what lay before me as I made it around the corner to The Strand was ridiculous.  The high tide further muddled any energy that was in the water.

I almost didn't surf, but a set that was maybe waist-high gave me hope.  I paddled out and proceeded to paddle for, and struggle to stand up and stay on, five or so waves.  About a half hour into the session I caught a right on which I did a very lateral snap, careful not to overextend into the flats and lose all hope of making the inside connection to some juice.

Natch, it didn't happen.  I paddled out and "caught" a couple more waves and went in after I'd dismissed the session as a total loss.

7.8.14 Closeouts Galore Lead to Just One Golden Opportunity

Oside was doing its usual one-way water shuttle routine and I was game for a ride.  The waves were dropping in size, but the consistency was still pretty good.

I took off on several waves but there was nothing great.  I got an ok pump in on one but no payoff due to the close-out.

I saw what appeared to be yet another close-out and held out a sliver of hope that the corner that appeared to have formed would hold, leading me to make it around the section and finding some greenwater.  It did and I did.  I was able to decisively smack the section and descend.  In my hubris, I immediately rose up to do it again as the closeout section hit me and I lost control and tumbled down with the lip.

I went in for daddy duty not long thereafter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

7.6.14 Swell Continues its Assault

I didn't put a spot name in the title of this post because I paddled out south of Wisconsin Street and went in, after about an hour, at the pier.  It's not the fastest I've traveled on what I call the longshore express, but it was getting close.

As a first, I was accompanied by Raquel, Lucia, and Chucho on my walk down to the water and they watched me paddle out.  I walked south to counteract the effect of the current. By the time I perched, they were distant figures set against the morning sun's glare.

The waves were coming in at a pretty extreme S angle.  Five or so degrees more to the south and it would've bypassed SD County completely (may still have hit Point Loma though).  I caught a quick left and I kicked out immediately, as what little corner I thought I had failed to open up.  The waves were coming in fast and strong, and with this angle that leads to a very sectiony, almost always unmakeable experience.

The highlight of the session by far was a wave I caught late.  I pumped, made it around the section and found a great spot and SMASHED it.  As I came up a grom made eye contact with me and smiled.

Once I got too close to the pier I was over it.  The option to paddle through the pier isn't a good one with this much water moving around. Add in all of the Sunday morning fishermen's lines out, it's extra treacherous. I thought about going in and paddling out farther south but I just didn't have the time to do so.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

7.5.14 PM Session at Big and Burly S. Pier

I didn't get to surf this morning, and I checked the swell report and it claimed we were at 4-6'.  I found a window during which my wife would be ok being alone with the baby.

It was so hot, that there was no  question I'd be trunking it.  I walked down barefoot and paddled out JUST north of the blackball flag and watched as a sea of swimmers were being  herded towards the blackball and away from the red flag, where they're not allowed.

The waves were almost empty, an amazing feat considering it's a holiday weekend with really warm beach weather.  Considering the sheer number of bodies in the sand it was even more unbelievable.

I caught a couple of waves, one of which teased me by opening up slightly before slamming shut.

The two lefts sped me along the longshore express towards the pier.  When I got there I stayed there for the rest of the session.

The waves began to get bigger and I was excited, but it was difficult to enjoy the occasion as there was so much water moving around.  I had to paddle quite a bit to keep from being wrapped up in people's translucent fishing lines, then watch for a bomb set to come through while hoping I don't get too close to the pier while fighting the underwater turbulence.

The highlight of my session is the nastiest pearl I've undertaken (*SNORT*) since Lord knows when...

I paddled for a wave that turned out to be neither a right nor a left.  I was late on it.  I decided to go because I was sick of the monotony of paddling.  I got hung up on the lip, but I stepped on the gas by slamming my weight onto my front foot.  I airdropped and fell so fast and so hard that I didn't realize what had happened until I was underwater.  I literally fell faster than the speed of thought.  I was lucky that my board didn't slam into me.  I hit the bottom, but nothing too bad.  I came up after about eight seconds, gathered my board and paddled back out.

My last wave was a smaller, slightly more defined version of the previous wave.  It was a big right.  I took it and was content to go in and avoid the gauntlet.

When I got home I found out Raquel had been cooking dinner and doing laundry while watching the baby.  It's almost as if she knew I would mention it in the blog...

7.4.14 Not Quite as Good as it Looked at NorWisc

The waves were small, about waist- to chest-high, but they were CLEAN!  I was salivating at the session that lay before me.

For a major holiday, it was a ghost town.  I perched and caught the first few waves without anyone near me.  That soon changed, and by the time I left the water the waves had exceeded critical mass.

I caught my usual couple of no-way-out closeouts, but I got a good luck at a left with a corner.  I pumped a couple of times and as I was towards the waning stages of my bottom turn the lip surprised me by arriving early.  I was able to get on top of it but could not convert.

Since the tide was so low, a lot of the inside waves were closing out, but not before providing an oasis for the eyes.  If you squinted, cocked your head just right, and suspended disbelief, you could talk yourself into thinking you could get tubed and doggy-door out of it.

I caught a left and switch crab-grabbed.  A rush of water smacked me in the face, but I was still in, I was about to open my eyes when another rush of water followed, and that was the end of it.  It felt like I had some room in there but there was no way for me to tell if the lip had long ago left me behind.

The highlight of the session was the lone right I caught, which is interesting giving the severity of the angle of the S swell and its penchant to crank out higher quality lefts than rights.  I dropped in and my footing was a bit off, I was too far starboard.  I bottom turned and hit a section late, so late that it was capping off in front of me.  I banked off the lip and section that was just breaking and threw a nice flume of spray.  I descended again but in my enthusiasm to do it again, I came up too quickly and my off-balance footing couldn't take it.

I went in shortly thereafter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

7.2.14 Crappy Windblown Mavs

I almost didn't surf today.  It looked pretty bad and just as I was turning the bike around to head home, a set came.  Compared to its underachieving predecessors, it looked marvelous.

I paddled out right where I saw the set.  I was all alone.

The tide was low and the wind was picking up, a bad combination for a beachbreak.

I caught two waves of note.  The first was a left on which I got some speed but not enough to make it around light-years ahead of me section.  The second was a successful connection, but just as I was going for one last superpump before attacking the closeout section the bottom fell out from under the wave and I pearled.  I hit the bottom pretty softly, but it was jarring to feel it, as I had not expected it.