Sunday, July 22, 2007

Leaving Home: A little drive up the coast

Leaving home can be scary. We've all got our local spot that we know inside and out and that's comforting. Sometimes, however, you take a chance and it pays off. I had checked down the street here in Imperial Beach and it looked pretty bad: morning sickness was on it. The south wind was there to make things look bleak and I had been in the water the day before- it was still a little chilly.

I made the instantaneous decision to drive north. I could've hit the Cliffs, or checked out Tourmaline but for some reason the idea of a run to La Jolla Shores popped into my head. For the record, I'm like a tick; my head's buried in my own three mile stretch of beach down here. I'm almost impossible to extract. I never go to the Shores but this morning I was feeling a little adventurous; what did I have to lose?

Pulling into the parking lot was a bit of a shock- there were a lot of people here for an early Saturday morning. Lots of big, beefy, equipment huffing divers rigging up on the lawns and smoking cigarettes on their tail gates (I know, funny). I grabbed a spot and ran across the lot to check out the conditions.

The surf was relatively clean. There were quite a few heads out there of various ability. It looked like your standard closeout beach break but longboarders were taking off and getting more tip time then I would've predicted from just looking at it. I jogged back to the truck, threw on the trunks and grabbed my paddle and board. Seeing those little, clean waves was enough to inspire me; I'm on it!

I always get the eebie-jeebies when I surf a new spot, especially when I'm the one most highly visible object in the water. I wondered, as I was walking across the lot, if there were any unwritten (or written) rules about paddle surfing the break here at Shores. I know that other beaches (San-O comes to mind) have designated spots for SUPers (watch out! we're dangerous). I didn't want to be "the guy" who paddles out to a spot forbidden to us and gets the lifeguard bull horn focused on him and other local stand up paddle surfers. I had my questions about the spot and I didn't want to screw up. Luckily there was another stand up guy heading north just as I was getting into the water, I hoped he'd have some answers for me.

The guy turned out be Mike Pollard of the International Waterman (, I was lucky to meet him, not only did he know the spot he also turned out to be an ambassador for the sport and a real fun person to surf with. Turns out, he was heading to Black's Beach, "Would I like to go"? Are you kidding me? We pointed the boards toward the Scripp's Pier and started paddling for Black's.

One of the great things about this sport is that you can chat as you paddle along. It turns out that Mike's got some interesting plans that go beyond his daily grind (the guy's a physicist who specializes in optics). Mike's working on publishing a magazine that focuses on all those activities that us amphibians love: surfing, fishing, stand up paddling, diving to name a few. I'm interested to see how the magazine project comes out for Mike and I'm sure we'll feature it when the first issue hits the stands.

As we pulled up to Black's the first thing that struck me was how clear the water was- you could easily make out the rivulets of sand on the sea floor below; stunning. It reminded me of a picture I'd seen of Robert August surfing a clear blue wave at Blacks in what had to be the mid '50's. The water in the shot was so transparent that the wave seemed to just blend into the rest of the sea. Secondly, the tide was rising and the surf was looking really fun; little wedges bumping up out of the submarine canyon to form neat little right and left peelers. We found a peak that nobody seemed to care about (a common theme with SUPs?) and went to work on it.

Looking out at the surf in Imperial Beach that morning I had resigned myself to a day of flatwater paddling. What a bonus it was to score such fun waves. All morning I had to shake my head in disbelief at the wave playground that developed as the tide filled in. It was a magic day.
The unanswered question left in my head: Is it always like this? Who knows and who cares, really; for that little moment in time and tide, we had scored. I drove home that day, knowing that I'd be back- that little piece of coastline will always be worth risking a run out of the neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

It was truly a pleasure to meet and paddle with John on Saturday. We had a great time paddling up the coast to Blacks and caught some great waves for being close to the smallest day of the year! John has a real go-for-it attitude, something I find common in most true watermen. I encourage all of you who read this blog and want to get involved in the sport to contact either of us and join us for a paddle.

Mahalos to John for starting a great site for all of Southern Cal SUP'ers to congregate and communicate.

See you all in the water soon!


Gregoire said...

Call me next time! i ll go along.

John Ashley said...

Hey Mike!

I know you got barreled on that little right hander! I corrected my blog, your site is at hope to hear about your magazine soon!

John Ashley said...

Can't wait to see the new Ron House! I will call you for sure- if the Calikites guys are in tommorrow 7-23 I'll get your number and we'll surf those planks!