Yesterday, end of day. I had nothing else to do, so I simply decided to pack up my stuff and go to Scripps for a late session. I could see that Pacific Beach was crowded, as usual, and I didn’t have the patience for Black’s. I knew I would be able to spot a spot at the pier, so I just went for it.
I wasn’t expecting much. There was the checkered flag out, which removes most of the best surfing area near the pier, so everybody was forced to huddle as close to the marker as possible to get a whiff of the waves. Plus, there was no spectacular surf in the forecast, and the cams were chatting of slow-rolling, smooth and flattish waves.
I got there and parked near Naga Way in the only spot in a mile I could see, after a double take that took me all around the Northern portion of the Shores area. Got out of the car and suited up, then zipped down the hill.
At the Shores, there were good news and bad news. The good news was that the checkered flag had been lowered, as I forgot is done every afternoon. Surfing in the pier area was allowed again. The bad news was that UCSD had a surf meet at the pier, which made the area particularly hazardous.
I looked at the water and decided in favor of South of the pier. The waves were better and not much more crowded than North, and I could see that North meant dealing with a lot of foamies and wannabes trying to impress the bikini-clad babes.
I walked in slowly, not fearful of stingrays, yet. (It’s that time of the year, though, and they’ll show up soon.) The waves were nice, just as the cam showed, and there was plenty time to paddle out. I checked out those around me, and it was clear there were plenty newcomers trying out surfing for the first few times.
I started getting used to the waves, which were tricky where I was. They are always tricky where I am, because I try to get to the least crowded spot, which usually means getting the worst waves. But I was getting into it. Then a guy showed up, middle aged (although he would probably describe himself as young), in a red-accented shorty. He immediately proceeded to snake my wave.
I realized the majority of the guys chose to sit on the far outside, way out of range of most waves that were coming in. I suppose that’s the typical thing that happens when newbies and experienced surfers have to coexist in a non-crowded field: the experienced surfers tend to move out, so they catch the biggest waves with ease, and the inexperienced ones follow their clues and move out with them.
I was on the inside, making sure not to be in anyone’s way, and also running out of anyone’s way. Here I am, was the signal, in your way, but I won’t compete for waves you are trying to catch. I will gladly move out of your way.
While that’s a nice thing to do, it also means I was missing out on a ton of waves that the noobs were going for, but were ultimately unable to do anything about. But there was still plenty to catch in the leftovers, especially as I started to notice the North drift and compensated by favoring rights, my usual trick.
I had a particularly forgiving wave that allowed me to do some tracing. I think I managed three or four swings before it was over, and I felt like the king of the universe. A lot of the waves would rebreak at the end, giving me a last second jolt that was fun to get into. So there was a lot of paddling out of the end break.
As the day darkened, there were fewer and fewer people. Redline (as I’ll call the surfer that snaked me) was really good and fun to watch on the paddle-out. A young surfer snaked me badly, and I yelled at him, and he was very apologetic. I smiled and told him it was OK. I started realizing I am not half as bad as I always think I am.
Next, another young surfer (the scruff, unshaven variety) snaked redline’s perfect wave. Redline (probably aware of doing that to others all the time) remained silent and skulked back to his spot. But I took the occasion on the paddle out to tell the guy, who gave me the usual, “I didn’t see him” spiel.
I should have told him what I am going to tell everybody that says that from now on: if you can’t be bothered to look at what the guy next to you is doing, then you shouldn’t be surfing at all. You are a risk to yourself and others.
Which is when I saw a particularly juicy wave: a long closeout that tapered just in time for me to catch on a left. I checked everywhere, and there was nobody competing for it – actually, the foamies everywhere were on a mad scramble to get away from its lip. So I turned and went.
I paddled as hard as I could, and the curl of the wave was favoring me. It lifted me up, and I had just the right downward slope to catch the face head on, flying down, catching myself at the bottom, and turning up towards mid-face. There, I shot forward and slowed down, realizing the wave was not going to let me ride out far.
Something about all of this caught the attention of a dozen onlookers, and suddenly I saw flashes of light coming from the shore. It turns out there was a wedding at Caroline’s (the seaside cafe that UCSD set up in the Scripps Institute), and the guests thought that my maneuver was so much better than anyone else’s, they had to catch it on film.
I felt like I was Chasing Maverick’s!