Crowds everywhere! What the FUCK! These days California has been no bargain if your an avid surfer. I have to say 2013 will likely go down as one of the worst years for surfing on record for the entire state. Besides a moderate spring season, which would have not even been worth mentioning if winter was not so bad, its been one let down after another. Summer started with some fun, yet far from epic south swells, followed by an unprecedented six week flat spell. Then the lot of us thought that maybe fall would be our redemption. Fall came and went with no combo action and nothing more then a few weak NW swells. The last hope, our saving grace up here in the Santa Barbara/Ventura area was winter.
Unfortunately as we watched Hawaii get amazing swell after amazing swell (usually a very good indicator that we are about to score), that same swell got to the California coast and sucked. Glad the boys at Pipe are scoring. Now already in peak season everyone is super hungry for whatever little bump mother nature decides to grace us with. What does all this mean to me? Exuberant crowds at all of the well known surf spots, my beloved Rincon being one of them. If you follow the surf log you may remember a session I had at Rincon not to long ago where the party was steadily ruined by a crowd of about 250 people. If your not following the surf log you should because that is where the meat of this blog is these days.
All of the overflow spots where I will usually trade quality for crowd compliance have also been stupid packed. Even the bad days where few would even think about paddling have become out of hand. By this past swell I had it up to my head with people. Luckily I was off from work till the 4th of January and had the ability to do some searching. Sunday the 22nd of December saw the beginnings of a new long period WNW swell. Since it was a weekend and a holiday weekend to-boot I was not at all eager to go surf anywhere. My boy Pat had called me the night before and put the idea in my head to go up to Jalama.
I checked the buoys, and the conditions. Sure enough it had all the makings of a good Jalama day. My only concern was that if the swell moved in too fast it would be too big to surf. My boy Mike ended up crashing at my house after a night at the Wild Cat in Fancytown and was keen for a surf. As soon as I told him my idea he was up for it. I called Pat to see if he wanted in considering it was his idea. He bailed, leaving Mike and I on a mission. That was fine cause three has always seemed like a crowd to me.
We struck out later then I normally would have liked for a Jalama mission. These days I’m always later then I would like when it comes to surfing anyway. The winds looked good all day and the only alternative was to sit in an obnoxious crowd for very average waves down south. Worse case scenario we had a nice drive, surfed a few waves and hung out. Jalama is always a good idea in my book.
We got there and it was solid. Tarantella’s was way overhead and crowded. I could tell from the bluff it may have been a bit more then I had a board for. I figured I could try my luck with Cracks or maybe even venture further south into the ranch and try some of the reefs I had scoped out a few years ago with Kooky Kyle while he was living at the Palace. I knew of one reef in particular I was interested to surf.
When we got in front of Tarantella’s it was packed, at least thirty heads. The waves were solid double overhead and bigger on sets. I could have pushed the envelope on my meager 5’10 but it would have been a slaughter. When I looked south toward the reef I had in mind, I noticed there was a wave coming in. Mike was keen and we set off. Keep in mind this reef is around 500 yards or so from T’s so I was going on speculation at best. There is nothing better then to walk that far down the beach only to realize it was a flash in the pan and have to walk back. That is the risk one must take to score.
Tarantella’s doing its thing. Believe me it is a much bigger then it looks.
As we approached the reef I noticed a few guys out. I guess we were not the only ones hoping to score a few waves off the beaten path. The left itself was a nice little slab. It came out of deep water and slammed into this little finger reef about fifty yards or so in front of a rock outcrop. The wave had a barrel off the drop on the double ups opening up to a turn section or two on the inside before closing out on the beach break shore dump.
That inside was heavy. I thought I was going to break my board or neck more then once. It appeared that the crew that was out there were together and at the end of they’re session. We chilled on the beach and assessed the situation. The last thing I wanted to do was crowd four guys who had also went out of their way to avoid such. Plus I wanted get the lay of the land so to speak.
To tell you truth I was glad there were guys out. It gave me a chance to learn the wave. With in fifteen minutes of getting there one by one the line up cleared. Mike and I suited up and paddled. It was solid overhead on sets. I had no idea where to line up or how deep it was. I have this thing when I go to a new spot where I have to pop the cherry. I caught the first wave which jacked up way harder the I had expected. Luckily the reef was rather conform and about four feet deep the entire way.
Mike and I made the most of this fun wave just enjoying the beautiful surroundings and laughing how lucky we were to experience such a thing on one of the most crowded days of the year. We decided to call the wave (although I am sure it already has a name) Pats Remorse since he blew it and stayed home. It wasn’t the best wave I have ever surfed and certainly far from the perfection of Tarantella’s, but considering the fact we had it all to ourselves it was just what the doctor ordered.
I woke up feeling rather sore from the previous day’s mission. The new swell had filled in according to the buoys. All reports came back that it was too walled for the beaches and too small and inconsistent at most of the points to make it worth a paddle. I took my time and waited as all my contacts kept me informed on their hunt. Finally Pat called and said he was coming up my way, the plan being to go try and get some waves in Isla Vista. All the college kids were home for the Holiday making the place and line ups a ghost town. There was plenty of west in the swell that at the very least Devereux and Sands would have something.
Devereux was tiny and kooked out with long boards and SUP’s. Sands had waves, but it was about chest to head and pretty walled with the occasional corner. Not too frothy we decided to take a minute and watch two goats head butt the shit out of each other. At the moment we decided that may have been the highlight of our day. I must say it was rather entertaining. One goat was twice the size of the other and they just kept smashing skulls. Every time we thought the little one was throwing in the towel it would back off just enough to get a solid lunge at the other.
At that point we did not know what to do. It was a good thing we didn’t just suit and boot the Sands. As we got back to the lot a fucking UCSB campus police officer was ticketing cars. The dude was chill and let us bail with out a fine. There were a dozen or so other surfers’ cars that were not so lucky. Between that and the goat fight I figured we were already ahead of the game.
While driving off the deliberation began. Then Pat said what we were both thinking, “What do you think about making another trek to Jalama. At that point I figured we had nothing left to loose and off we went on a very late day excursion retard mission. We got there and Tarantella’s was fucking huge. I am talking easily triple over head to twenty feet. Guys were getting tubes you could drive a car through. With a pair of 5’10′s between us Pat and I wanted nothing to do with that.
Bombing Jalama beach break
Up on the bluff just before the entrance to the park there is a little pull off where you can check the surf to see if it is worth the $10 parking fee. From there I looked north onto Vandenberg AFB. Through my binoculars I saw a few reef breaks that showed possible potential and looked like a not so far walk. A little further, a distance I really could not gauge from that vantage, could have been fifty yards or a half mile I noticed a really good right or at least what appeared to be.
Necessity it the mother of invention or in this case exploration. Pat and I loaded up our gear and started the long march to the unknown. Seriously we had no idea how far we needed to walk or if what we saw was even ride-able. We went on blind faith in the hope that our commitment would pay off. About a half mile in we got to the reefs we had seen from the bluff. They were do-able, but more closed out on the sets and unpredictable then one would have liked. From there we could see the mysto right hander better. It still looked pretty good. Unfortunately its distance still near impossible to tell.
Our right reef in the distance.
I had learned from countless missions abroad that the best way to gauge how far a spot is that you are walking to is to consider how much more visible it gets as you keep walking toward it. If that spot never seems any closer odds are it’s way too far to walk. When I walked to the Kumara Patch in Taranaki, NZ for example I could barely make out the wave from the parking lot, which was around 2 miles away. The spot did not look any closer till I got with in 3/4 of a mile from it. This wave was definitely looking closer every step.
In the distance just before access to the wave was a cliff head land. From our position we had no idea if there was going to be a trail around it or not. We did not even know if there was a beach beyond. As far as I could tell we were either going to have to climb down a cliff into the surf traversing boulders when we hit the water or paddle from the foot of the cliff. Either option seemed to suck to me. We had already come so far. Also the closer we got we noticed a column of white water that seemed to make the second section possibly impassable.
We kept on with high spirits. When we got to the cliff area there was a small goat trail around. Although an awkward grade to walk with a surfboard and gear it was far better then other trails I have had to traverse in my day. Sure enough the path emptied onto a big open deserted beach. The whole scene was surreal. Just Pat and I in the middle of nowhere staring into a right we had not known existed until that day. The only discouragement was that it appeared to look much smaller then we thought from the beach.
See any signs of human life?
We cautiously waded out into the water. Remember we had no way of telling how deep the reef was, or how sharp or what creatures may dwell beneath. It was all a mystery. Upon paddling closer to the wave we could tell right away it was much bigger then it looked from the beach. Almost to the take off zone, which was about forty yards in front of this rock out crop I decided to swing around on one of the insiders. Like I said I love to be the first to test the waters. What I thought was a smaller one ended up sucking up to head high and reeled down the reef. It had a nice bowly wall the entire way in.
The reef was rather conform, about five to three feet deep all the way to the inside shallows where it eventually went dry. On the way back out a set came and cleaned us both up. It was solid ten foot and bigger. The sets were make-able if you were in the right spot. I seemed to always get into them a little too late and got owned by the next section. The real gems were the in between ones that just hugged the reef all the way to the inside. There was a little wind on it, but we could tell that if it were glassy or offshore the place would barrel if not just at the first slab section, but the inside slab too. The place had real potential.
For over two hours Pat and I traded off right for right, pushing the limits of the spot each time. As the tide got lower a few rocks began to pop up in the take off zone that were a bit problematic. The wind picked up a bit out of the NW as well adding a debilitating chop to the face. Considering these new extraneous factors both of us decided to call it a day before any inopportune instances occurred. Over a mile from the parking lot and over 20 miles from decent medical help and no cell phone reception, an injury would be very inconvenient.
Pat said if he got attacked by a shark to just drag him into the beach, hand him his pack of cigarettes and let him smoke away till he bled out. There was this big sand drift at the head of the beach so I figured once he died I would just drag him over to the foot of that and push the sand down over him and call it a day. I could think of a lot worse ways to go and places to be left to rest. Considering the distance for help that seemed to be the most logical plan for any serious injury. I decided to tentatively call this right hand reef, Pat’s Redemption. T’was another good yet very unexpected day of surfing!
The day after Christmas Heather and I got a late start. It was nice to spend the morning together with out any obligations or a care in the world. Word was things down south were far from good and rather crowded. Heather had never been up to Jalama and conditions looked right. Figuring I could find a wave some where up there we set off. Like I said Jalama is never a bad idea.
We got up there around 2 pm way later then I ever make such a trip. As soon as I got out of the car I could tell it was bombing just by sound of the waves breaking. When I came over the dunes it was macking. I guess the new swell had already begun to fill in. Thinking things were a bit too big for Cracks and Tarantella’s considering all I had was my 5’10 again (you think by now I would start bringing my bigger board), the call was to go north. It was still smaller then when Pat and I came a few days prior. I knew of at least one left hand reef slab I wanted to check out.
We made the walk and sure enough the spot I was thinking of looked really fun. It was a short little left that offered a quick tube off the drop followed by a hit section, ending with a boostable close out. Basically it was a goofy foot playground. There was even a crazy right too, although its pace and steepness made it pretty tough to make. I did manage one sick one on the right.
Heather tried her luck with my DSLR and managed to score some pretty decent photos. Its been a long time since I got a few shots of me surfing. She was pumped on the whole experience. Most people are when they make it up there. Here we were basically with an entire beach to ourselves. I must say the only down side was I felt a bit like fish food out there all by myself. There is some solace to be found in the buddy system.
Besides the solitary factor that at times I actually do find most refreshing I have to say it was one of the best surfs I have had in weeks. As far as the day went I could not ask for a better one. The weather was great. I was at one of my favorite places in the whole world and I got to share it with the woman I love. Who could ask for anything more. Its the simple things in life that matter the most.
After a year of frustrating surfs, obnoxious crowds and all the other day in and day out bull shit one has to deal with its amazing to know all it takes is an open mind and thirst for adventure to take back your soul. Some people travel all over the world to find new spots. I found three in less then a week in my own backyard.
***This blog was suppose to post on 12-23, I wrote it on my cell phone and messed up posting it and somehow lost the whole blog. Thus it had to be rewritten. With the holiday it has been sometime since that initial lost posting that was regrettably promoted. I think this is a way better version any way. Sorry for the confusion.***