If you're down on the Southern California coast you know that the last two weeks of surf have been dominated by a strong westerly wind swell. That wind swell has been messing things up here at our beach. We've seen surf in the water- but it's been ugly.
If you aren't familiar with wind swells, let me fill you in: Wind swells are fairly disorganized trains of waves. They are usually produced close to the coast by strong, local wind events. Since they're so close to the beaches, the swells don't have the time and distance needed to gather themselves together into nice clean lines. Instead, the swells are broken up into bits and pieces.
These swell fragments, under the right conditions of wind, tide and bathymetry (that's bottom contours like reefs and sandbars) can produce fun wedges up and down a beach- or they can generate ugly, washing machine conditions with one wave canceling another and big lumpy pop-up close outs. We've been looking at the later for about fourteen days- and it's been gray and windy in the morning too. Nasty stuff.
Wind swells are also tough to stand up paddle. Since the peaks are disorganized, they can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. It's hard to be in the right spot, you miss a lot of waves and you've got to be able to whip your board around in an instant to catch a wave. If you want to become a better surfer, you force yourself to go out in those conditions. Big Chad and I suck it up and push ourselves out when it's like that. We call it "sharpening the saw" after some cheesy self-help slogan we learned in a seminar we were forced to attend (something about anger management).
Five days ago, that obnoxious wind swell expired revealing the underlying clean south swell. That south swell finally got a chance to assert itself center stage. It's been super fun. The beach has been firing the last five evenings in a row with southerly peaks gathering themselves up and reeling down the beach. There's smiles all around, the water's jumped to the mid-60s (trunks and jackets) and even the May gray has lifted; life is grand down here at our little corner of the coast.
Funny, how a little change in the weather, a little shift in direction or a change in swell type can help a spot metamorphose from trashy beach break to wide-open fun zone. Also interesting how these little changes can refresh an otherwise grumpy, frustrated stand up paddler into a surf-stoked grom, scrambling into his trunks and surfing 'til it's dark. What a fickle sub-species we are!
Enough talk- go surf!