Monday, March 31, 2008

Surf Break Maps: Black’s Beach, La Jolla, San Diego, California

Black’s Beach is one of San Diego County’s most consistent, and heaviest, beach breaks…it is one of those swell-magnet breaks that works on almost any combination of swell. It is definitely one of the better surf spots in SoCal and like many other good surf spots it is somewhat a freak of nature.

Black’s is one of the few Southern California beach breaks that can legitimately hold a breaking wave anywhere from 2-feet to 15-feet+ on the face. It breaks year-round while most of South San Diego shuts down as the North Pacific Storm Track weakens over the summer. It has some protection from southerly winds while being able to pull in SW’erly swell (which is damn hard to do…). Like I said…a freak.

There are 3 major factors that drive the shape and the consistency of this wave…

1. Location – It sits in a good spot along the coast…with a fairly large swell window.

2. Orientation – The beach faces due west…opening it up to both SW and WNW swells.

3. Sea-Floor Bathymetry - The Scripps and La Jolla Submarine Canyons sit right offshore and act like giant amplifiers for incoming long-period swells (11…it is one more than 10!)

Going into a little more detail…
Black’s is located about 1km north of the Scripps Pier and just to the South of the Torrey Pines Glider Port (port or park I am not really sure…I just know they fly big kites there). Most of the Black’s beach stretch faces almost due west…which exposes the beach to both WNW and SW swells. The southern section of the beach has a slight hook-and-bend to it which swings the shoreline back towards the WNW…effectively adding that extra winter-oomph to the south peak.

It also helps that the geographical positioning of the beach means it is exposed to the SW-WSW swell directions, but more importantly, that it has a very large WNW window as well. With a first glance at a SoCal map you would almost think that a lot of NW swell would be blocked by the nearshore islands…but when you take a closer look you see a large gap just south of the Channel Islands that allows swell to pass through. And you also see that the swell would eventually hit the NW tips of San Clemente and Catalina Islands allowing a lot of the energy to pass around the islands rather than getting blocked.

The final factor is the Scripps Submarine Canyon, and to a lesser degree the La Jolla Submarine Canyon. The set of super deep trenches just off the coast allow long-period swells to refract differently than they would if they hit a more consistent coastline. On SW swells they wrap the energy that should have skipped past the area (or been mostly blocked by La Jolla Point) back into the beach keeping us in waves during the summer that should have been heading exclusively towards O-side and Trestles. On NW swells these canyons do about the same thing but, because the beach already has a more natural exposure to the WNW, it hooks excess energy back towards the beach causing it to double-up as it moves into the surf zone…effective peaking up a swell that should have been mostly closed out.

There are 3 main peaks at Black’s…they are appropriately named South Peak, Middle Peak, and North Peak (man who says surfers aren’t creative). South and Middle peak have a tendency to work better on WNW swells and strong swell combos of WNW/SW (along with some shorter period windswell). North peak works on the SW/WSW swells and again on the SW/NW swell combos.

WNW swells

SW swells

The Best Surf
While I have talked a lot about Black’s breaking year round (and it does)…the break really starts to shine when we get a clean long-period WNW swell (280-290). Black’s loves these types of swells…they hit the canyon just right and you get that nearly iconic hollow bowl forming the left at the South Peak. These are the types of swells where Black’s can maintain a makeable wave even when there is a hell of a lot of energy in the water…in fact it generally starts to break hollower, with a longer section, and is less tide sensitive, as the swell gets bigger.

Personally I like it when there is enough energy to set up some consistent head high surf with sets running to a couple of feet overhead on the face…(any bigger and I start to scream like a little girl when I try to drop in going backside…it is sad really). Unfortunately that is about the magic size for everyone…and the crowd starts crawling out of the woodwork.

Getting There is Half the Fun
About the only thing that semi-saves Black’s from being blitzed by an unbelievable crowd on a daily basis is that is located at the base of a pretty good sized cliff that is almost 200’ high in places. The length of the walk, and the brutal climb in elevation, keeps a lot of people from using blacks as a lunchtime or quick dawn patrol spot. Basically you need to have a good amount of time to make the round trip from your car to the surf and back again. Naturally Black’s is a great weekend spot…and the crowd can get ridiculous because everyone and their cousin have a couple of hours to kill surfing.

There are a couple of ways to get down to the beach…one is a series of semi-sketchy goat-trails up by the glider area…these are hazardous on the best days…and if there has been any rain, or even heavy dew, I wouldn’t even think about trying to get down that way.

The other, and more traditional route, is to park up off La Jolla Farms road and head down the gated and semi-paved trail. You need to watch where you park, the neighborhood is pretty freaking swanky and their panties can get in a serious bunch if you spoil their view by bare-assing your wetsuit change in front of their “estate”. Tickets and towing can be a definite issue so try and obey the local parking laws.

The Key
There is a near mythical key to the Black’s entry trail/road. Supposedly if you have a copy of the key you can unlock the gate and drive to the bottom of the road cutting out a ton of time that it takes to get into the water. There are very, very, very few of these keys and they owners of them guard them jealously. I remember reading a story recently (and if you know where this story is…send me the link) about these keys…and how one owner’s best friend basically ransacked his house looking for the key while he was out…it was pretty classic and yet messed up at the same time. The rumor is that the captain or coach of the UCSD Surf Team has a copy of the Key…I am sure there are a few others (other than lifeguards) but they aren’t as well known.

Black’s has a reputation for being a nude beach and while it isn’t technically legal it is tolerated in certain areas. Personally I could care less if people want to take off their clothes…if it is warm enough to go prancing about in your birthday suit whatever floats your boat…just try not to hassle anyone. The general nude area is north of the surf spot…just a bit past the glider port. So if you were thinking about catching a few meaty barrels and then heading straight to the beach to drop trou…think again…not everyone on the beach (or many of the surfers in the water) want to see your junk…try and keep it to the designated areas.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
SW-NW (205-290+) the longer the swell period the better)…good combo swells work well too.
Best Wind: NE-ESE, light to moderate wind speeds work the best.
Sea Floor: Sand and a near bottomless canyon where sea creatures will come and eat you.
Best Season: Year round…but really shines on Fall/Winter WNW swells.
Crowds: Yes it does get crowded…there is decent sized dawn patrol despite the cliff but you can find a few openings here and there until it gets a decent swell. Weekends when it is around the head high range can max it out. (it does get surprisingly empty as sets near the 15’+ range)

Tuesday’s Surf – Small with a touch of new SW swell

Tuesday is not going to be much of a surf day.

We will have mostly smaller swells in the water, there is a high tide that rolls through during the cleanest conditions in the morning, and the winds are expected to come onshore in the afternoon.

Swellwise we will have a mix of SW swells and some dropping local windswell. Our surf will be in the waist-high range for many areas while the standout combo spots, mostly in San Diego, will have some chest high+ sets as the tide drops.

There is a nearly 5’ high tide that hits right near 7am so expect the morning to be pretty swampy…probably even close to unsurfable at most spots. There may be a few waves breaking on the really good reefs and sandbars but expect those to be on the soft side too.

Winds will be light and variable onshore in the morning (but mostly below 5-8 knots). Afternoon winds build out of the west around 10+ knots.

I am going to be taking it easy in the morning…maybe walk the horse-dog or something…because it is going to be pretty bogged down by that high tide during the dawn patrol. For the rest of the day…I am going to keep my fingers crossed that our new SW swell builds in fast, the winds stay light, and the tide drop helps out the shape (I am not asking for much)…but if all those things pull together I think we might be able to grab a couple of fun ones a little before lunchtime.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monday’s Surf – Still a bit funky…but cleaner than the weekend

Man this weekend was pretty much a bust…at least for my local spots. The wind came on a bit stronger than the forecasts were anticipating and the eddy that could have held off the worst of the bump never really developed. So instead of slightly bumpy conditions it was really bumpy and nasty most of the time. There were a few surfable spots out there but not as many as there could have been.

Anyway enough of my bitching...on to Monday.

Monday should have cleaner conditions, lighter winds, and smaller swell.

It still won’t be super glassy but the onshore wind is supposed to slow down tomorrow morning and come in below 10-knots…maybe even lighter. It should be rideable for most spots but expect some crumble/bump to continue.

Swellwise we are going to have a mix of SW swells (one fading and another arriving) and some WNW windswell (big surprise there). Most spots will hold in the waist-chest high range while the standout combo breaks see some shoulder high sets. It will be a little inconsistent on the bigger sets but they will be lurking out there.

Your best bet for waves will be to check the more protected breaks. I think that a lot of spots will still look a bit funky as we see the last of the weekend lump try to siphon off. San Diego and OC will be the biggest but you may find more protected and cleaner spots in other regions…OC and SD are pretty open to the wind and that may keep the shape a bit on the sloppy side. I think I am going to shine it tomorrow…until at least midmorning. If the wind lays down enough it may be worth catching a few, but hey surfing anything is usually better than work.

Tom Servais Slideshow @ the Surfing Heritage Foundation – Recap

The Servais slideshow the other night at the Surfing Heritage Foundation to put it bluntly was pretty damn sweet.

They had the show in the SHF office and showroom which is filled with more historically important surfboards and gear than I have ever seen in one place. It was incredible to watch and listen to Tom, (and Pat O’Connell), tell the stories of some of the most famous surf photographs ever taken while surrounded by iconic boards built and ridden by guys like Tom Blake, Velzy, Harbor, Lopez, Brewer, and many many others.

The show itself was great…it wasn’t stuffy or boring (like watching a slideshow or the latest powerpoint at work). It was surprisingly interactive…Tom stood in the middle of the seats and would walk us through each photo (or have Pat tell a funny story about what was happening behind the scenes) and they would both field questions from the audience. Tom seems like a great guy and he had a good sense of humor and had us all laughing at his stories.

It lasted a little over an hour and I think we blasted through about 300 radical photos…I am sure with Tom’s body of work he could have kept us captivated even longer.

The Surfing Heritage guys put on a good party too…kind food, good beer and wine, definitely worth the price of admission.

Anyway I brought along a camera to take some shots of the event (this is kind of a funny…I tried not let Tom see me taking photos…I was totally sure he would cringe at my techniques. Hahahaha I am lame)

Here are a few shots

As you can see the Surfing Heritage Foundation has lots of boards

No I mean lots of boards


Here are a couple of my favorites

“Lance, I just want my board back. You know how hard it is to find a good board!”

Plastic Fantastic

One of Duke’s original boards

Finally the SHF has a custom surfboard studio…if you have a board that you want documented you can take it into their office and get some shots taken. What is really rad is that they have a suction system that lets you stand the board straight up and down without hurting the board at all.

Here is a shot of a Hobie board in the studio

They are having an Art Brewer show in April…I am sure I will be sending out some reminders later…but they are a very good time. If you are into photography, surf history, and surf culture I would recommend attending.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Weekend’s Surf – It looks fun…but watch the wind

We will have fun surf on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

The mornings will be the best in terms of winds and shape but the protected areas will stay surfable through the afternoons of both days.

We have a good sized S-SW swell in the water that will continue to hold strong as we move into the weekend. There will also be a good dose of WNW windswell mixing in with the stronger southern hemi swell. Most breaks will see some energy from one swell or the other and will be running in the chest-shoulder high+ range. The standout S facing breaks and great combo spots will have shoulder-overhead surf with some inconsistent bigger sets mixing in on Saturday. Sunday will be smaller as the mix of swells start to slowly drop off.

Winds will be the issue this weekend…strong winds in the outer waters have been keeping the winds along our beaches sort of unstable…they haven’t really blown anything out for the dawn patrol but it hasn’t be completely clean either. It is sort of like having morning sickness for most of the day.

Today’s Winds

Anyway the next couple of days will be similar to what we have been having…expect a mix of variable onshore winds in the morning (NW in Ventura and Santa Barbara, and S-SW winds in LA, OC, and San Diego). Afternoons will be a bit breezier with winds hitting up around the 10-15 knot range.

You are going to have a lot of options for surf…some will be cleaner than others…some will be bigger than others…it will sort of be a compromise game between the conditions and the size of the surf you want. You will definitely see the biggest surf in the San Diego and Orange County areas…with some cleaner, but smaller pockets, of surf showing through parts of Ventura and North LA County. Personally I think that you will get the best shape at a point or a reef…particularly if it has a little protection (like a high cliff, or lots of kelp outside the lineup, or is just pointed the right way). I will definitely be out hunting for a spot over the weekend…

P.S. for those of you on my email list...thanks for your guys get blasted when I post a new break map series.

Random Surf Update – Lots of SW swell out there

Hey gang!

The S-SW swell is showing pretty good here in OC…I just got out of the water after my lunch surf and there were some easy overhead sets.

There is a bit of wind on it but for the most part there is enough swell to keep it from getting too chewed up. I was surfing one of the local HB beach breaks and it was pretty fun…racy, hollow, with some decent shoulders for schwacking once you moved off the peak.

if you are close enough to get some it is definitely worth a quick check but try and pick a spot like a point, reef, or good sandbar…they seem to have the best shape right now.

Hopefully the wind will stay down for this afternoon…(I wouldn’t hold your breath though)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Surf Break Maps: Newport Beach, Orange County, California

Newport Beach is probably one of the most famous beach areas in Southern California ranking right up there with Malibu, Venice, and (thanks to that horrible faux-reality show) Laguna Beach. From a surf standpoint Newport is a veritable smorgasbord of spots packed into a small section of coastline. In Newport it is possible to surf waves that vary in quality, size, and power and are so close together that they can be reached by a short ride on the beach cruiser.

Newport Beach is located just to the south of Huntington Beach and to the north of Corona Del Mar. Most of Newport Beach is actually the northern peninsula of Newport Bay (often referred to as Newport Harbor) and protects one of the most expensive waterfront locations in Southern California.

The north end of the beach is anchored by the river mouth of the Santa Ana River, which is known as the Santa Ana River Jetties, or sometimes just the “rivermouth”. This part of the beach faces mostly to the SW and runs for about 2 miles before hitting Newport Pier. There are a series of short jetties that line up with the various Newport street names…like 56th street for example. At the end of this SW stretch of beach is a spot called Blackies which generally encompasses the area from the 28th street jetty to Newport Pier.

As you move past the pier the beach angles slightly more to the south…(S-SSW to be exact). The transition from the SW facing beach to the S facing stretch is generally referred to as Newport Point even though it is only loosely shaped like a proper “point”.

The S facing stretch of beach is a little under 3-miles long and runs from Newport Pier to the north jetty that protects the entrance to Newport Harbor. There are a number of surf/swim areas along this stretch of Newport but surf shape is generally better in the more northern areas. That being said this part of Newport Beach is home to its most famous wave “The Wedge”, which is snuggled right next to the north jetty of the harbor entrance.

The Surf

Like I said above the surf in Newport is amazingly varied…when you lump it all together it sort of breaks down like this: If there is a decent swell in the water you can pretty much find a wave that will suit your abilities, equipment, or just general ocean comfort level. Unfortunately these waves are not always the easiest to pin down because parts of Newport definitely work better than others as the combination of swell direction and swell periods change.

There are really three big factors that almost always need to be accounted for in the Newport surf landscape…

1. The swell (size, direction, and period)
2. The Sand (where it is and where it isn’t)
3. Newport Submarine Canyon

Okay the first two are kind of no brainers, particularly if you have read my Ocean Science 101: How our Surf is made posts, but the 3rd point is a little more obscure and often overlooked.

There is actually a pretty deep submarine canyon just offshore of Newport Beach…in fact the end of the canyon extends to a point just a few hundred feet to the southwest of Newport Pier… and this canyon does some pretty crazy things to the surf pushing into Newport. The Newport Submarine Canyon can act like part amplifier, part traffic cop, and part deflector. I guess you could think of it sort of like a really messed up freeway interchange for swells. The combination of deep water depths close to the coast along an unevenly mixed sea-floor allow swells to shoal rapidly and dramatically, wrapping around bends in the canyon’s edges and eventually being re-routed along new trajectories as they head to the beach.

“Exactly” how the canyon is going to affect the surf depends on what sort of energy is in the water…swell direction, size, and swell-period are all super important and will greatly affect the most important question of “where will it be best” as they are mixed in different proportions.

What is funny is that a lot of Newport surfers actually have a good idea of how the canyon is going to affect the surf…they just don’t know that the canyon is doing the work. If you are a local and you know that Blackies is good on a short-period W swell, or that the point works on a short-period S swell, or 56th street works best on a long-period S-SW swell then you already know “how” the canyon influences Newport’s waves. (I will have more specific info on how the canyon affects certain spots when you get to the descriptions of the individual breaks.)


Waaaay back in 1966 Orange County lifeguards started flying the “Black Ball” flag in an effort to protect swimmers in the surf zone from dangerous (and usually unleashed) surfboards. I do believe that Newport Beach was one of the first beaches in California to use the blackball flag (but my grasp of history can be spotty sometimes).

Newport still has the infamous blackball rules. So if you see the yellow flag with the black ball in the center then it means that no hard surfboards are allowed in the water…even if you are outside of the swim zone. This is for public safety and usually the Newport Lifeguards don’t abuse their authority…in fact Newport gives their guards a bit more latitude than other beaches and the guys in the towers can keep a beach open to hard surfboards longer (as long as there isn’t a danger to swimmers).

There are a couple of areas that have full time blackball rules…or very stringent time periods when they enforce it. The first is around 40th street in the jetties, they have a full-time blackball all year that allows swimmers and bodyboarders in the water, no hard surfboards.

The other area is the Wedge. They enforce a “no floatation device” black ball (no bodyboards, skimboards, or anything…just you and your flippers) from 10am through 5pm. This is only enforced from May 1st through October 1st, which just happens to be prime south swell season.

Parking and Crowds

Parking in Newport can be a bitch most of the time…even for people that live on the peninsula. In the summer it gets even worse…it can take you forever to drive down to the end of the peninsula and back out again. The city also likes to torment visitors by cleaning streets on certain days and at certain times…so if it is suddenly easy to find a parking spot make sure to check the signs…you may be in street sweeping area. To make matters worse the Newport Parking Enforcement (aka the Newport Beach Revenue Service) are pretty on the ball…you spend even a few minutes in a no-parking zone and you will probably get nailed.

4th of July

The 4th of July in Newport is pretty sweet…though over the years it has gotten out of hand a few times so the city likes to keep a pretty tight leash on it. Usually part of Balboa Ave is blocked off to car traffic and everyone rides their beach cruisers, skateboards, roller skates, lawn chairs with wheels, dirtboards, and any other sort of people powered craft, from party to party. It is part parade, part singles scene, and at times can be total chaos. It is usually semi-kid friendly in the morning but as more and more drinking goes on through the day it starts to get a bit rowdy…personally I am surprised that it doesn’t get tear-gassed more often than it does.

On to the surf spots!

The surf in Newport is generally broken into 7 areas…but I have included a couple of others, Harbor Entrance and Baby Beach, which are part of the landscape but are sort of gadget waves.

Here are the areas:

Santa Ana River Jetties
56th Street

Lower Newport Jetties
Newport Point
Lower Newport Streets: (Schoolyards, Balboa Pier, and the lettered streets)
The Wedge
Harbor Entrance
Corona Del Mar: Baby Beach

Surf Break Maps: Santa Ana River Jetties, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The Santa Ana River Jetties is actually one large area…but it has several distinct sub-areas. Most people consider the zone that starts directly south of the Brookhurst Outflow and runs to a couple hundred feet south of the Santa Ana River Mouth to be the actual River Jetties surf spot. Personally, because the influence of the river mouth is so great, I feel that you should include all of the coast down to about Prospect St. (which is a couple of hundred yards north of the 56th street jetty).

The northern part of the SNA River Jetties is one of the most visible surf spots in Newport. You can see it as you drive over the PCH bridges that separate Huntington Beach from Newport. It is also sort of a weird no-mans land between the two cities. It is actually managed by the county and partially by the state beach. It has a separate lifeguard agency, from either Newport Guards or HB State Beach, and even the single tower doesn’t have a number on it…just the letter “R”, which I like to think stands for River Tower. What is really nice about this set-up is that they don’t blackball this area…it stays surfable all day even when the other beaches have banned hard surfboards.

The River Jetties has three rock jetties that were put in place by the Army Corp of Engineers to stabilize the sand flow at the mouth of the Santa Ana River. Two of the jetties sit on the north side of the river and the other, which is a little shorter, rests on the south side. It is the combination of the river, these jetties, and the various sand transport currents that helps to build a part of the most consistent sand bar in North Orange County. The bar generally starts up around the Brookhurst jetties and then ends down past the river proper.

While most of the sand stays around the river it does occasionally make its way down the beach…and after good rains or big swells you can have some excellent sand bars down in “official” Newport territory.

Overall the waves in this area are pretty good most of the time and can be excellent on the right swell mix. The sandbar helps keep it breaking through all but the most extreme high tides. The waves are steep, hollow, and can get pretty closed out on bigger S and WNW swells. Combo swells work best at this spot, like most of the breaks in the region, so expect it to get good when you have the magic swell combo mix of S and WNW energy and offshore winds.

This spot actually does pretty well on windswell too. The shallower sandbar helps the shorter-period swell set up further off the beach, and in a more energetic fashion that a deeper bar would.

One big drawback about the River Jetties, and Brookhurst, is the water quality. The combination of pollutants from the storm drains and the junk that comes down the Santa Ana river keeps water-quality on the marginal side most of the year. If there is any sort of rainfall it knocks the water quality right into the hazardous range.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
SE-SW (160-210+) and W-NW (260-290)
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand…really shallow sand, and few rocks near the jetties
Best Season: Summer, Fall, and Winter can all be equally great. Fall is the most consistent.
Crowds: Most of the time not too bad. But it can get super crowded. You see heavy crowds when it is the only sandbar working or on weekends, particularly in the summer.

Surf Break Maps: 56th Street, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The jetty at 56th street is the most popular and famous surf spots in the Newport Jetties area. It is sometimes called the “100-hottest yards” (and other similar sorts of nonsense by the marketers in the surf industry)…and the name stems more from the type of surf talent that surfs there than the actual surf itself, which is probably a bad indicator as to the perceived mental health of our sport. In general the wave is basically on par with what you find at the Rivermouth but, due to the presence of the jetty, the line-up and the wave’s sections are a lot more stable.

That being said it is still a great magnet for surfing ability for both pros and amateurs. It has a lot of things going for it…it is a good wave, it is close to shore, easy to photograph, and when you get the right swell mix it gets really hollow.

The jetty does most of the work setting up the surf at 56th. It stops and shapes the sand on both the north and south side and can even form small paddle channels as the swell gets bigger. The semi-permanent sandbar around the jetty actually shifts from season to season…setting up a better left in the summer and a better right-hander on the south side in the winter.
It breaks year round and can actually stay a little more surfable than the more open beaches to the north when adverse winds and conditions move through the area. It breaks best on longer-period S-SW swells, short-period S swells (like the ones from Hurricanes or tropical storms), medium/short period W swells, and it can get really good on combo swells that have both W and S in the mix

56th sees some influence from the Newport Submarine Canyon…in particular it sees a cool boost in wave size when we start getting a shorter-period S swell. What is funny is that most Newport surfers automatically think “THE POINT” when a hurricane starts moving through when 56th can get just as good with a fraction of the crowd. What happens is that while some of the energy that is refracted by the canyon heads back towards Newport Point the other portion of that energy is bent towards 56th and will help to shape that wedge of a left that starts to break north of the jetty. It also helps that the sand is usually shaped pretty good by hurricane season and that the shorter period swell is a bit more makeable due to its speed…add those things together and you can pick off a few silly barrels.

Spot details:
Best swell direction: SE-SW (160-210+) and W-NW (260-290)
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand…really shallow sand, and few rocks near the jetties
Best Season: Summer, Fall, and Winter can all be equally great. Fall is the most consistent.
Crowds: Yes it gets crowded…and the crowd can get ugly sometimes. There are a lot of guys that rip in the line-up and plenty of people shooting photos/video from the beach when there is a good swell.

Surf Break Maps: Lower Newport Jetties, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The lower Newport Jetties are sort of like 56th street but without all of the bells and whistles. The jetties are a little shorter, the sand doesn’t groom out quite as well, and it doesn’t really get that great until you get a good combo swell.

In fact the lower jetties are actually notoriously known for being the place to avoid a large swell…it acts as a good training area for beginners, a few mellower waves for longboarders who don’t want to battle the scene at Blackies, and it even has a bodyboard-only area around 40th street, (which is actually just a fulltime blackball area but it is always filled with bodyboarders).

The lower jetties is made up from a series of jetties (I know that I am a dumbass) that help to brace the area from 56th street down through Blackies. Each of these jetties is affectionately known by its corresponding street. There are jetties at 52nd, 48th, 44th, 40th, 36th, 32nd, and 28th streets…(sensing a pattern yet?). The combo of jetties and number street names make it very easy to tell your friends where you are surfing, or to direct hordes of mindless surf monsters to your semi-secret sandbar by cell phone.

The jetties were actually put in place to help stop the erosion of the beach by the consistent, longshore bar current, which is the north-to-south sand transport current that runs along the California coast. (There will be a test on that later). The jetties are mostly successful but the City of Newport Beach does have to replenish the beach with new sand from time to time…this is sometimes accomplished by dredging sand out of the Santa Ana river…or parts of Newport Harbor, both of which I am sure are very clean and sanitary (hmmm bird flu anyone?).

Anyway…the best swell for the area is actually a short-period W swell…or a good short-period W with some S swell to break it up. The W swells actually get broken up and refracted out by the Newport Submarine Canyon so you can get some semi-peaky shape without a cross-up swell…but the extra energy definitely helps to groom the corners.

When a short-period W swell, (really you want almost a windswell but with just slightly longer periods…basically what I would usually associate with a storm swell), hits you will see the biggest surf around the Blackies area but the jetties just to the north will be almost the same size…you actually see the size drop off as you head further north until you move out of the 40-48th street deadzone…and then size starts to pick up again as get closer to 56th. When you add in the S swell it can actually help to shape up the middle area a little better…expanding the surf zone.

Spot details:
Best swell direction: Short-medium period W swell (260-280) and a touch of S swell.
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand and few rocks near the jetties
Best Season: Fall and Winter. It is usually more consistent in the winter but cleaner in the fall.
Crowds: The crowds are not too bad…but the surf areas can get a little claustrophobic near the jetties. Weekends, large swells, and good surf in the jetties will help to pack ‘em in at times.

Surf Break Maps: Blackies, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

Blackies is a stretch of beach located between the 28th street jetty and the Newport Pier. It has a style and presence that is unique to the Newport surf scene and can only be found in a few other areas in Orange County (Doheney’s Boneyard, Old Mans in San Onofre, and sometimes Bolsa Chica all have a similar feel but don’t quite have the same mix).

Blackies is part longboard spot, part surf/social club, part beach-scene. There is a public (but metered) parking lot that butts right up to a small sea-wall along the beach. If you manage to pull the rock-star parking along the front you can sit in your heated car, sipping coffee, while you watch the sets slip through. It is hard to define Blackies from the “surf spot” perspective, or at least if you only looked at the quality of the surf you would miss out a lot of what the break has to offer.

It is generally a longboard wave, but not necessarily a beginner break, even though you find a lot of beginners in the water there. You have the full spectrum of surfers in the water, from little kids, old dudes on vintage deathlogs, Juinor College guys that are trying to be 70’s throwbacks, weekend warriors, and the eternal dawn patrollers…all of them in the water…at the same time. Weekends when there is a decent swell running it sort of reminds me of this riot I saw at the circus one time…total colorful chaos.

The wave itself is decent, but sort of soft most of the time. Takeoffs are easy and the wave sort of rolls a little bit before it starts to break. Sometimes on the lower tides you will get a little faster drop and quicker sections along the inside but they aren’t as critical as other Newport Breaks.

The main peak at Blackies is right in the middle of the beach between the jetty and the pier…most people consider that area to be Blackies “proper”…but really most of the beach up to the 28th St. jetty breaks about the same.

Blackies really starts to shine on larger short/medium-period W swells…which are really only generated by nearby storms and sometimes heavy winds in the local waters. The shorter period westerly direction passes over the deeper parts of the Sub Marine canyon and refract as it gets closer to shore. As the refraction occurs it bends some of the swell back on itself and has a tendency to cross up right at the Blackies peak and up through the lower jetties. This cross up action speeds the wave up, sets up some workable shoulders, and generally improves shape a ton compared to a normal Blackies wave.

Unfortunately these swells are on the rare side, are rather short lived, and usually bring along a ton of junky weather and onshore winds. Your best bet is to try and catch Blackies either right before or right after a storm hits…sometimes the winds will lay down, or shift semi-offshore and you can score a few really fun waves before conditions fall apart again.

Personally I don’t think summer is as fun at Blackies as it is in other parts of Newport. There isn’t a ton of swell that makes it into the break and after the dawn patrol starts to break up the beach gets super crowded, parking is a joke, and they have a tendency to blackball pretty quickly…even on the weekdays.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
Short-medium period W swell (260-280) and a touch of S swell.
Best Wind: N-NE-E, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand
Best Season: Fall, Winter and early Spring. It is usually more consistent in the winter but cleaner in the fall.
Crowds: Yeah most of the time there is a crowd. You can still get a few waves if you are patient but expect to paddle battle for most of them.

Surf Break Maps: Newport Point, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

Newport Point is located right on the bend of the Newport Peninsula where it goes from facing SW to facing due S. The wave is just south of the Newport Pier and is sort of lined up with 18th street.

For all intents and purposes I consider Newport Point to be a “gadget wave”…in the sense that it doesn’t really break (that well) all that often. Granted when it gets the perfect mix of swell it can look and sort of act like Pipeline letting you get shacked right out of your gourd. Really though, 9 times out of 10, even when the swell looks right, it just doesn’t live up to your expectations (or you are like me and realize that you don’t really want to surf Pipeline because it scares the poop right out of you and even smaller less deadly versions make you want to surf Trestles that much more).

I think that part of the lure of Newport Point is that it requires a short-period S swell (around 10-12 second periods) to make the wave start to work…and you can only get a S swell with periods that short (and wave heights big enough) from a tropical storm of some sort…usually a hurricane. For people on the west coast, hurricanes are surf bringers. They have us waxing up new boards, thinking about warm water waves from Santa Barbara down through Cabo…it is only natural that we start to romanticize surf spots that only work when there is a huge well positioned tropical storm in their swell windows.

To actually surf Newport Point when it is working you need to have the short-period S-SE swell. A portion of the swell bounces out of the Newport Submarine Canyon and bends back towards the Point right as another set moves in directly from the S. These two waves will combo up right at the point setting up some fast, hollow sections…both rights and lefts…but mostly lefts. The bigger and more stacked up the incoming swell is the better the Point seems to work.

Back in the day when there weren’t surf forecasters, weather satellites, and wave models, Newport Point was sort of a secret spot…it wasn’t consistent enough to be on the surf radar for anyone but the handful of Newport surfers. Now that all the modern world has caught up it is pretty easy to spot the minimum conditions that let the spot work…unfortunately that means that you won’t ever be out alone once the Point really starts to get magical.

Spot details:
Best swell direction: Short-medium period SE-S swell (160-180 degrees and 10-12 second swell periods).
Best Wind: N-NE, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand
Best Season: Summer and Early Fall…hurricane season
Crowds: Most of the time it is empty...but expect to wade through some fiberglass if a hurricane is in the swell window.

Surf Break Maps: Lower Newport Streets: (Schoolyards, Balboa Pier, and the lettered streets), Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The lower streets in Newport…which is basically the area from Newport Point through Balboa Pier and down into the lettered streets of the Balboa Peninsula isn’t really the greatest surf zone. In fact most of it is mix of shore break with a few sandbars setting up a marginally more rideable section.

Most of the time it is on the small dumpy side, unless there is a big S swell in the water then it gets big dumpy and walled up. Occasionally you can get a mix of S swell and bit of W-WSW windswell to cross it up and set up a rideable peak…but honestly I think I can count the number of times I actually saw someone riding a decent wave in these areas on two hands (and this is mostly still in the number streets closer to Newport Point it gets even more shorebreaky as you get closer to Balboa Pier and the lettered streets).

Now while it isn’t great for surfing you can still have a good time bodysurfing and bodyboarding the dumpy closeouts when the swell gets bigger…and the smaller days are actually semi-decent for taking some of the smaller kids out to splash around.

There really isn’t a “magic” swell for this area…just a better than average mix…and if it ever looks really good along this stretch you can rest assured that it will be absolutely firing everywhere else in Orange County. The best mix, like I mentioned above, is actually a moderate sized S-SW swell and bit of short-medium period W-WSW swell to cross it up.

Try and stick to the number streets, and the area with the playground on the sand, (sometimes called Schoolyards)…the further down the peninsula you go the worse the shape will get.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
a mix of S swell (170-190) and W-WSW swell (240-270)
Best Wind: N-NE, light-moderate Santa Ana winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand
Best Season: Summer
Crowds: Most of the time it is almost completely empty of surfers…can get a few people in the surf zone on the hot summer weekends.

Surf Break Maps: Wedge, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The Wedge is probably the most famous wave in Newport Beach…it is definitely the most dynamic and dangerous wave. It is located at the very end of the Balboa Peninsula snuggled right up next to the beach side of the northern jetty of the Newport Harbor entrance.

The wave itself is a freak of human engineering…the Army Corp of Engineer designed and built the harbor jetty, which makes the wave what it is…defining everything from its shape to its power.

Way back in antiquity…there was supposedly an outstanding surfable wave along the entrance to Newport Bay, with rideable sections on both on the Newport and Corona Del Mar sides. Unfortunately WWII changed the needs of the West Coast’s harbors and bays and they had to put in the entrance jetties to prevent silting of the entrance…likely destroying what was a good Newport wave. In its place we got a mutant of wave that can put on such a show that hundreds of people will jam the beach just to watch it crush people. Personally I am not sure if it was that great of a trade-off but there are plenty of near-rabid bodysurfers, skimboarders, and bodyboarders that would disagree with me.

Here is some footage of the wedge

There are actually two waves in the Wedge is the Wedge proper right next to the jetty and the second wave is called another nasty shorebreak of a wave called Cylinders, which is up the beach a short ways.

The Wedge
The Wedge is a product of the jetty and the steep drop-off of the sea-floor as you move away from the beach. The Wedge works almost exclusively on S swells, and the longer the period and the larger the swell the better the wave starts to work. What happens it the S swell travels almost directly down the length of the jetty…the part of the wave that intersects the jetty rocks starts to pile up on top of itself and will even spill over the top of the jetty into the harbor entrance on bigger swells. This mix of the normal wave and the bulge will eventually reach the beach and the energy that has piled up on the rocks finds itself shoaling and reflecting back away from the jetty at the same time…this folds the energy back into the more normal wave and suddenly you get the massive wedge peak forming with all of this doubled-up energy that is forced to break in a very shallow water depth…sometimes even on completely dry sand.

One of the byproducts of the double-up and the shallow water is that it throws some incredibly hollow sections and you can get super deep in the barrel before the wave tries to sand off your face. You can get seriously messed up at this place…on big swells it is common to see guys carted away with broken collarbones and sometimes broken vertebrae from hitting the sand at full speed.

There is also weird subwave that a lot of the wedge riders try to capitalize on…you get this bounceback from the jetty that is moving almost completely perpendicular to the bigger wedge peak…they call this the “side wave”. You can actually use the side wave to boost your speed into the approaching wedge, helping you backdoor the section. I would say even if you have a lot of practice with the side wave you still have about a 40% chance of this leading to disaster…but it is a lot of fun to watch so keep trying.

The wedge can be a legitimate big-wave…on the right swell it can break the 18-20’ range…maybe even bigger. As the wave gets bigger it starts to break further off the beach…it is still a heavy section but it starts to get slightly more surfable. On every big swell there will be at least a few guys that paddle out on surfboards once the blackball drops. There isn’t really a good way to exit the wave once you have caught it so these surfers sort of go for style points pulling in deep and hoping that they don’t get wrapped up with the board when the wedge finally punches their ticket.

There used to be a series of power poles running along the jetty so occasionally you may hear one of the older wedge guys talking about a swell in terms of “power poles”. This is actually referring to the number of poles away from the beach the wave was breaking even with. The bigger the swell the higher the number of poles…a 6 or 7 power pole swell would have most people pooping kittens.

In short the wedge at any size is a pretty formidable wave…and you should be very comfortable swimming, bodysurfing, and getting pounded by the surf before heading out even on moderate S swells…as it gets bigger it is better left to the experts and the crazies. (Which really are one and the same.)

Cylinders is also a by-product of the jetty but it isn’t quite as dramatic as the wedge…it definitely doesn’t get as big…but it can be just as heavy. The wave at Cylinders is formed by reflection from the jetty…some of the energy that piles up along the jetty as the swell heads toward the wedge sets to bounce off before it actually lands in the pocket. This excess energy skips over the wedge area and hits at Cylinders…as the swells get a little more S-SW Cylinders will start to get more defined as a hollow right section that breaks back toward the Wedge’s left. Again this isn’t a “surfable” wave but it can be a decent bodyboard, skim, bodysurf spot.

Cylinders seems to break almost exclusively on the beach…it never really sets up further off in deeper water…which is why it can beat you up just as fast as the wedge and sometimes faster on the medium sized swells.

The Wedge has a very unique blackball rule that was helped into place by the longstanding crew of bodysurfers that have called the wedge home for nearly ever. From 10am through 5pm during the months of May through October there are no floatation devices allowed in the water. Period. No bodyboards, no skimboards, no floaty inflatable circles with sea-horses on them, nothing. From 10 to 5 it is body surfing only.

Why can’t we all just get along
It is easy to see why the wedge crew wanted a little alone time in the lineup…outside of the backball hours during a decent swell it can be a mad house of skimboards, bodyboards, and bodysurfers flying everywhere, calling each other off, and occasionally fighting it out on the sand. The problem arises mostly because the three different disciplines require different take-off spots but all eventually overlap once the wave starts breaking…this means that it is hard to know whose turn it is. So what happens is that everyone goes at once, get into each others way, get mad and start punching people much like myself after a bottle or two (too much) of whiskey. There isn’t really a solution to the issue short of taking numbers…so the best we can do is be down there with our video cameras to make sure the fisticuffs get posted on YouTube.

To Sum Up
I spent a lot of freaking time on the wedge in this map series…so I will hurry here to get to the point. S swell, the longer the swell period the better, makes the wedge work. The bigger the swell the better the shape. Oh yeah expect an ass kicking from something…either human or mother nature…and if you don’t get one from either then you will be pleasantly surprised. (it isn’t really that bad…but I like to expect the worst).

Spot details:
Best swell direction: S swell, big freaking S swells with looooong periods
Best Wind: Offshore (duh...) actually light winds are fine and it can handle some onshore bump as it gets bigger.
Sea Floor: Coarse Sand, shells, and pieces of teeth from the guy that just took off before you.
Best Season: Spring, Summer and Early fall.
Crowds: Lots of crowds…a crew of guys on it every time it breaks. The crowd gets bigger as the swell gets bigger. It pays off to pay attention to the blackball rules.

Surf Break Maps: Harbor Entrance, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

The Harbor Entrance wave is definitely a gadget wave. It takes a hell of a lot of swell to start a wave breaking in the deep water of the harbor entrance.

When we have an extra-large S swell there will be left section that forms on the South Jetty of the Harbor entrance, out past the bait tank. The wave never really moves away from the jetty rocks to you sort of surf the same distance away from the jetty as the wave moves down the length of the entrance…it is sort of hard to explain but makes perfect sense when you see it.

Unfortunately it is very illegal to surf in the Harbor Entrance…no matter what the swell is doing. If you do paddle out expect to get a fine somewhere in the “hundreds of dollars” range.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
A massive S swell.
Best Wind: Light Santa Ana (N-NE winds).
Sea Floor: Jetty rocks and sand waaaay deep down.
Best Season: Spring, Summer and Early fall.
Crowds: Just pissed off harbor patrol guys.

Surf Break Maps: Corona Del Mar: Baby Beach, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

Baby Beach on the Corona Del Mar side of the harbor entrance is another gadget wave. Most of the time Baby Beach is basically flat…the waves are mellow shorebreak and can barely be ridden by the small kids that flock to this place…in short it is a great place to take your baby.

It does get surfable every once in a blue moon…but you need a massive S-SE swell…basically the same type of swell that would make the Harbor Entrance start to work.

The wave is a right-hander that breaks along the jetty (the south harbor jetty) that faces toward baby beach…the water is pretty deep so the rideable section stays close to the rocks until it reaches shore…then it closes out.

Basically it isn’t a great wave but it can be fun to pick off a few when the other spots are getting too big…and it is always a trip to tell someone that you surfed baby beach on the last big swell.

Spot details:
Best swell direction: A massive S swell.
Best Wind: Light Santa Ana (N-NE winds).
Sea Floor: Jetty rocks and sand.
Best Season: Spring, Summer and Early fall.
Crowds: Lots of little kids on the inside…and near panicked lifeguards when the swell is big enough to make baby beach break.

Friday’s Surf – The peak of the new SW’er

Friday will be a fun surf day…particularly at points/reefs exposed to the SW swell and are a little protected from local winds.

Our SW’er (185-210) will be peaking through the day. Most spots will see a mix of the SW swell and some still solid WNW windswell. Average breaks will be in the waist-head high range while the standout SW facing spots and great combo breaks see some overhead+ sets…a few of the better OC and SD surf breaks will have sets going a couple of feet overhead at times.

Here is the current CDIP modeling...(you may want to go where the colors get closer to yellow...I mean really it is just a theory I have)

Winds will be a little funky…sort of similar to Thursday. Santa Barbara and Ventura will have mostly NW winds…while LA, OC, and SD will have a mix of W-SW flow. It should be light in the morning, staying below 10 knots but it will build onshore through the afternoon to about 10-15 knots.

Your best bet for big waves will definitely be the more exposed San Diego and Orange County surf spots. The other regions will have exposed areas but they will still be a bit more shadowed and blocked off (from one swell direction or the other) so they will be smaller and less consistent.
I think that points and reefs will have the best shape and will be able to give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to the S-SW swell in particular. Beach breaks will be ok but may get more walled up as the wave heights get bigger.

One last thing…here is a shot I took at the wedge this evening. It wasn’t super huge yet but it was starting to throw some meaty ones. Here is a sponger about to get put into traction.

Random Morning Update - Thursday (with a little extra wind)

Gang...I was just doing the dawn patrol this morning and it doesn't look like we are going to get much of an eddy today (maybe tonight) so the onshore winds are going to get a straight shot at us in the next couple of hours.

That being said it is surfable...we have more windswell in the water to go along with the building S-SW swell and wave heights are already starting to hit around head high at the better combo breaks (and bigger in OC and San Diego).

Right now the winds are not that bad...Ventura and LA are seeing some side/offshore texture and more of a stacked up cleans up a lot around Malibu and Venice.

OC and SD are doing OK as can tell that the wind has been blowing in the outer waters all night and some of that bump has made it to shore. The Current winds are mostly light and variable and a few spots are even semi-offshore but there is a funk to it. There are also a few overhead sets starting to mix in at the good spots.

I would try and get on it as early as you can...the winds will be picking up as we head into the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thursday’s Surf – Bigger SW swell starts to arrive...yeah for swell.

Thursday will be another good surf day…particularly for the S-SW facing spots and good combo breaks.

New S-SW swell (185-210) will start to arrive with long-period energy (20+ seconds) early Thursday morning and will blend in with the already existing mix of SW and WNW energy. Exposed areas can expect consistent chest-shoulder high+ surf through the morning while the standouts start seeing some head high+ sets as we move past the morning low tide.

Definitely expect bigger and more consistent surf to arrive as we head into the afternoon…and remember that the peak of the swell will actually be arriving on Friday.

About the only thing that I am a little concerned about is that there could be some wind issues on Thursday. Winds are getting strong in the outer waters and there is a chance that they will edge over SoCal tweaking our conditions.

Likely what will happen is that these winds will set up a bit of an eddy that will keep the stronger NW flow from tearing us up…but it does mean that we may have some mild-moderate southerly flow coming through in the morning…particularly for San Diego and Orange County. (LA, Ventura, and Santa Barbara will be more under the influence of the NW flow).

This image is actually the current wind pattern that we are seeing this afternoon (Wednesday around 3pm) but it may stay consistent overnight and into tomorrow morning.

There will still be some decent size differences between regions so I will break them out again so you can plan your session better…

Santa Barbara will continue to be shadowed from this swell mix. Expect more knee-waist high+ surf for the better breaks…and maybe a few chest high+ sets at the absolute best summer breaks.

Ventura pulls in more of the swell but is still on the shadowed side. South County breaks are way more exposed and will pick up more of the WNW energy as well. Most breaks will be around waist-chest high+ but the South County standouts will have shoulder-head high sets as the SW’er gets more established in the afternoon.

LA County
will have a lot of fun surf at the exposed areas…northern LA and the north half of the South Bay will be the biggest with chest-shoulder high surf for the average spots and some head high+ sets hitting the standout combo breaks.

Orange County and San Diego County will continue to see the biggest surf. Expect most S facing breaks to be in the shoulder-head high range with sets starting to go overhead on the tide push in the morning and getting more consistently overhead by the evening. I am not sure there will be enough WNW swell to break up the bigger S swell (cross your fingers that the windswell picks up a couple of notches)…so point and reefs may be your best call for shape…remember too that we may have S winds in the morning so look for spots with a little more protection from the wind.

Personally I am locked into surfing North OC tomorrow…so I am hoping extra hard for a little more windswell and a lot less eddy winds in the morning so that the surf will be a bit more peaky at the beach breaks. At this point I am not holding my breath that it will happen…but I am going to do a little wind dance later this evening to see if I can help stack the deck a little bit.

The Happening – Coming to Tokyo April 11, 2008

My world-roaming friend Will, (from the Surf Gallery down in Laguna), has been at it again.

Besides the art gallery he puts on these really groovy art/music/film festivals that are called “The Happening”. They just finished up one show down in Australia, at Bondi, (near Sydney)…and it looked like it was a very good time.

Will even sent me some video of the event that he had posted on YouTube. Check it out when you get a chance…they have a hot girl (Kassia Meador) MC’ing the video, which makes it even easier to watch.

Anyway Will says that they are off to Japan for the next stop on The Happening Tour

If you happen to be going to Japan, or are in Japan and looking at Southern California Surf Forecasts for some reason…maybe you will be able to make it to the show.

Here are the artists involved

Wolfgang Bloch, Jenny Bowers, Thomas Campbell, Jeff Canham, Joe Curren, Harry Daily, Andy Davis, Ned Evans, Herbie Fletcher, Julie Goldstein, Yusuke Hanai, Ryan Heywood, Andrew Holder, Robin Kegel, Andrew Kidman, Alex Knost, Alex Kopps, Greg LaMarche, David Lloyd, Emmett Malloy, John McCambridge, Jason Murray, Randy Noborikwa, Scott Richards, Scott Soens, Mark Sutherland, Kate Sutton, Koji Toyoda, Patrick Trefz, Tyler Warren, Peter Webb, Alex Weinstein and more.

Matt Costa
Mason Jennings

Sliding Liberia, by Britton Caillouette & Nicholai Lidow
The Present, a preview by Thomas Campbell
One Track Mind, a preview by the Malloys
Displacement, a preview by Alex Kopps

Here are some of the details on the show itself…which you can also find at

April 11, 2008 5 p.m.
Laforet Museum Harajuku: 1-11-6 Jingumae
Tokyo, Japan
and apparently you can Buy tickets here

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wednesday’s Surf – More swell and more wind

Wednesday will be a good surf day. Winds may be an issue in the afternoon but we will have plenty of S-SW swell showing at the exposed areas.

Check it out…the initial S-SW swell has already started filling in today. (This will strengthen into Wednesday. Then a second, stronger S-SW’er will fill in late Wednesday and peak Thursday and Friday…yeah S swell for everyone!)

This is a shot from one of the best buoy websites out there (both out of free and paid websites). It is run out of the Scripps group down in San Diego...and you can access the data from this link here or from the link list on the right hand side of the blog.

On Wednesday we will have a mix of S-SW swell (190-210) and blend of WNW energy. A few spots will get left out of the swell mix so I will break it down by region to be a little clearer.

Santa Barbara’s surf will be pretty shadowed from both of these swells (damn Channel Islands!). Expect most spots to hold in the knee-waist high range while a few of the more exposed areas, near the southern county border, will have some chest high sets.

Ventura is more exposed to the swell mix…expect north county spots, particularly the points, to be smaller mostly knee-chest high. South County breaks will have shoulder high+ sets at the better beach breaks.

LA County will be pretty fun…northern LA and the north half of the South Bay will be in the waist-chest+shoulder high range while a few of the standout breaks see some inconsistent head high sets mixing in…particularly by the afternoon. The South Bay breaks may be a little more consistent and crossed up as it pulls in more of the WNW swell.

Orange and San Diego counties
will be the biggest. Expect most S facing breaks to be in the chest-shoulder high range with head high sets. The standout S swell spots and really good combo breaks will be more consistently in the head high range and we can expect a few bigger waves sneaking through as we hit the afternoon.

Winds and weather look OK in the morning. Mostly light and variable to light onshore out of the S as a slight eddy starts to form…it should be surfable most spots but maybe a little lumpy at the most unprotected beaches. The afternoon should be a drag…NW winds 10-20 knots build in quickly through the second half of the day.

Your best bet is going to be to get on it early before the wind starts to tear it up. Head to SD and OC is you are looking for bigger waves…but any S facing spot (that isn’t heavily shadowed) should be pretty fun. Remember not to burn yourself out…there will be more S swell on tap through the rest of the week and the weekend.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuesday’s Surf – Slowly building

Tuesday will be a surf day...and if you can get out in the morning is should be pretty fun.

We will have a mix of steady local windswell, and a new building S-SW swell that will fill in as we move throughout the day.

Most spots…the average breaks throughout SoCal…will be in the knee-waist high+ range. Standout spots, mostly in Orange County and San Diego, will have chest-shoulder high sets in the morning with a few bigger waves mixing in around sundown.

We will still have the high tides rolling through most of the day so expect it to be pretty boggy once they have gotten a foothold around lunchtime.

Weather should be ok as well…mostly light and variable winds in the morning with some onshore NW winds pushing through in the afternoon.

The dawn patrol is going to be your best bet on Tuesday…I wish there was going to be more SW swell showing early but since the tide is going to swamp it out we are going to need to get what we can, while we can. Beach breaks will have the best shape and a little more pop to the sets. The points and reefs will be working as well but may not connect as well as usual. Personally I am going to be checking the local beach breaks in the morning and see if I can pick off a few before they re-chain me to this computer.

Tom Servais event at the Surfing Heritage Foundation

Hey gang, here is a cool event that is going on at the Surfing Heritage Foundation.

It is officially called “An Evening with Tom Servais” (which sort of sounds like an awkward man-date, but in reality sounds like it will be really fun.)

I just got off the phone with Casey over at the Heritage Foundation and he laid it out a little clearer for me.

Basically it will be a slide show of Tom Servais’ best work that he published in his chapter of the book series Through a Liquid Lens: Masters of Surf Photography.

Tom will be giving a play-by-play of each photograph while Pat O’Connell and Donovan Frankenreiter haze him from the peanut gallery. There will be food, music, and a no-host bar.

Personally I am going to try to attend…so if you see a large shaved head guy standing near, examining, and possibly drooling on some of the vintage boards come over and say hi.

Here is the flyer…

And here are the details…

What: An Evening with Tom Servais (a slideshow book signing…not an awkward man-date)

When: 8PM March 28th, 2008

Where: The Surfing Heritage Foundation, 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, (949) 388-0313

How Much: $35 ticket or $100 which gets you a ticket and a signed copy of the book.

Casey says feel free to email him at for more details if you need them.

SW Swell Alert – UPDATE 2! (Update Dos!)

I was just giving the forecast maps a quick once over this afternoon and thought I would give a shout out on this SW’er that we have coming in this week.

Things are still looking solid. As I said in previous posts Mainland Mex and Northern Central America will be the biggest but most of Central America, Baja, and California will have some consistently overhead (and overhead+) surf from this one too.

For the most part California is looking good…but we may have some wind problems starting to develop as the swell starts to hit…particularly in the afternoons (what a shocker!). It is not enough to worry about at this point but something to keep in mind as you plan your surf sessions for later in the week.

SoCal (and most of the other areas as well) are actually going to get back to back swells this week. The first one is already starting to arrive for many of the Central America regions. Mexico, Baja, and SoCal will have it fill in more on Tuesday/Wednesday. This one should be playful but will definitely lack in size compared to the swell later in the week. I will have more “specific” details for SoCal in normal update in a couple of hours.

Finally one last look at the ultra long-range and it looks like we could actually see another good-sized SW swell heading our way for the first week of April…man I hope that we aren’t using up all of our S-SW swells early in the season…it would be nice to have a few of these roll through when the water is warm enough to trunk it.

If you need wave heights and arrival times make sure to read my previous posts

Post #1 - SW Swell Alert: More SW swell heading to California, Baja, Mainland Mexico, and Central America

Post #2 - SW Swell Alert: UPDATE – Still looking good...lots of SW swell on the way

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday’s Surf – Happy Easter!

Hey Gang Happy Easter!

(You should be reading this on Sunday...if not then you are probably abusing your company's internet policy)

I hope you all got to enjoy an incredible day out at the beach today…(there were even a few waves before the tide got to high.) Surfing when it is 80-degrees along the beach, even when the waves are small, is still a pretty good time.

Anyway enough about Sunday on to Monday…

Monday will be a similar day to Sunday (heh yeah I am retarded sometimes), it will be a surf day in the morning but the building tide and generally smaller swell will start to shut it down through the early afternoon.

We will have a mix of leftover WNW energy and some decent but inconsistent SW swell. Most spots will be around knee-waist high+. The standout combo breaks…mostly through Orange County and San Diego…will have a few chest high sets.

Winds and weather will be similar to Sunday as well. Mostly light and variable to light offshore winds in the morning…and light onshore winds in the afternoon. It should be sunny and warm most of the day too…but watch for some patchy fog in the morning for some areas.

Really with these types of swells, and weather, there is not much point in driving to far to find surf…your best bet is to check your local breaks and if it isn’t totally flat, paddle out, grab a few and then sit on the sand and get some sun...that’s what I will be doing tomorrow.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Waves for the Weekend – A few fun ones…good to wash the dust off at least.

There will be some surf this weekend…nothing to get super jazzed about but still fun enough to schedule a morning session or two.

In the water on both Saturday and Sunday we will have a mix of small, sort of inconsistent, S-SW swell and a blend of WNW energy.

Most spots will hold around waist-chest high. Standout breaks in Orange County, San Diego, the South Bay, and a few spots in Ventura, will have some chest-shoulder high sets in the mornings.

There is a high tide that peaks around 10-11am on both days so expect the surf to bog out really fast as we move past the dawn patrol.

Conditions look decent too…mostly light and variable winds in the morning with some onshore NW texture around 12-knots in the afternoons.

Your best for finding decent surf is to get up early. We don’t really have enough energy to break through the high tide so if you don’t grab a few before the water gets too high you might not be able to find anything that isn’t really swamped out. Beach breaks, particularly well exposed combo beach breaks, will have the best shape. If you are a bigger guy, like me, bring your small wave gear, there won’t be a ton of push to the surf and you are going to need all the help you can get.

SW Swell Alert: UPDATE – Still looking good...lots of SW swell on the way

I was just going over all of the forecast data and satellite information (so you don’t have too…you slackers!).

Anyway it is still looking good…no real adjustments to make to the forecast at this point. It is still looking very sizeable for Mainland Mexico and Northern Central America…and Baja and SoCal will be going overhead as it peaks in those regions as well.

Check out the first Swell Alert for details on swell arrival times and sizes for each region.

Post #1 - SW Swell Alert: More SW swell heading to California, Baja, Mainland Mexico, and Central America

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Friday – Not looking like much…maybe some longboarding before the weekend.

Friday will have surf but it will be small and mostly gutless as we push through the tide swings.

We will have a mix of small SW swell and a touch of local windswell/leftover WNW energy. Most breaks will be around knee high with some waist high sets. Standout combo breaks, mostly in OC and San Diego, will have some chest high sets on the lower tides.

Winds will be light in the morning, even light offshore some areas. Expect more onshore breeze in the afternoon.

Don’t be in a hurry to try and surf on Friday…take it easy, wax up the longboard, maybe put your small wave fins in the fish…basically wait for the tide to drop and hope that the winds don’t come up too fast.

My Next Project – (aka Watch me cut my finger off)

Here is a little random fact about me…I am a closet woodworker and carpenter.

I am not sure why…something about being able to see a finished project (and not just shoot it off into cyberspace somewhere) is sort of fulfilling…though it probably helps that there are a lot of carpenters in my family.

Anyway I just came across something that looks pretty awesome…basically a way to combine two passions at once…surfing and woodworking.

Check this out…this company up in Maine makes hollow wood surfboards…and you can buy kits! (sorry if this is coming off like a product plug but I really am excited about this and not a single dollar is coming my way.)

Here is one that I would probably like to try and make…it is a classic 9’0” called “the Root”. It is made by a company called Grain Surfboards

and this is what it takes to build it...I can feel my sanity slipping away already.

Here is the link to the site to check them out (they have an incredible surf gallery on their site it makes me want to go longboard soul style.)

Hey if anyone out there has made one of their boards…or knows of another similar surfboard kit…let me know. I would be stoked to check it out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Surf for Thursday – Fading but rideable

Expect mostly small surf on Thursday, while a few of the standouts in San Diego and Ventura are slightly less small.

We will have fading WNW swell (290+) and some background SW swell with a touch of local windswell. Most spots will be in the knee-waist high range. Standouts in the SD and VEN areas will have some chest high+ sets now and then.

We will be muscling through more morning high tides…they aren’t horrible but the lack of swell and the higher water will definitely slow things down in the morning.

Winds and weather look good again…mostly light and variable through the morning with moderate onshore flow through the afternoon…sort of your typical SoCal wind pattern.

Expect mellow surf and shape if you actually paddle out on Thursday. Aiming for a lower tide would be your best call, that (and heading to SD if you felt like driving for waist high+ surf…). Personally I am going to shine it on Thursday…maybe give it a quick check around lunch but I am not going to be holding my breath for anything spectacular. The rest of the day I am going to just sit and dream of the new SW swell hitting warm tropical beaches.

SW Swell Alert: More SW swell heading to California, Baja, Mainland Mexico, and Central America

The straight dope
There is another large S-SW swell pushing out of the South Pacific and it will be arriving along Californian, Mexican, and Central American surf spots next week.

We have about 7-8 days before the swell hits so you still have time to schedule vacation, by a plane ticket, kiss the wife/kids/dog goodbye, and go and score some surf in warm water.

If you are locked into work, family, or lack of funds, don’t sweat it too much…there will be plenty of swell moving into Southern California. In fact it will be very similar to that run of S swell that we had hit at the end of February and hold into March…so there is a good chance that you will be able to score at home too.

The Nitty Gritty Details
Maybe it is global warming, maybe it is just a good weather cycle for the south pacific, or maybe we have just hit some sort of cosmic jackpot for storm production…whatever the cause we have gotten a couple of heavy storms pushing through the SPAC already this late-winter/early-spring season, and this latest storm is looking pretty good too.

Anyway this storm is already cranking with 50-60 knots of wind and it has a very good movement track. Basically it is heading right towards Mainland Mexico, with areas of decent fetch spilling over to send surf towards Baja, Central America, and California.

Below are some of the numbers that have already been recorded...

And here is the forecasted wave heights from NOAA’s wavewatchIII. It is hard to tell, because NOAA for some reason has all their colors in relaxing tones, but there is nearly 33-35’ waves in the core of the storm. (You have got to love the government nothing like trying make people feel comfortable and mellow about life threatening conditions...way to go guys!)

Wave heights and Arrival Times
The swell is well positioned to send waves to a lot of areas and it mostly arrives around the same time…but there are a few differences in size and arrival times as you move from region to region. So here they are broken out by area….

Central America: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama
The SW’er (210-225) moves into the region late on the 25th, builds in more on the 26th and peaks the 26th-27th. At the well exposed breaks look for surf consistently going overhead to several feet overhead. Expect bigger sets at the more northern countries (closer to Mexico)…and expect a little big smaller and less consistent surf along southern Costa Rica, and Panama thanks to shadowing by the Galapagos islands and other factors.

Mainland Mexico
The SW swell (205-220) starts hitting on the 26th and peaks on the 27th. The swell is aimed almost directly at this region so expect some pretty large surf for the more exposed areas. Most spots will see surf in the well-overhead range while standouts will hit the double-overhead+ mark. Deepwater breaks like Puerto Escondido and other areas that can focus this type of swell will have sets topping out close to triple overhead (15’ faces).

Southern Baja, (Baja Sur Mexico)
The SW’er looks very strong in this area as well. Expect the SW swell (200-215) to hit on March 26th and then peak on the 27-28th. Waves at exposed breaks will hold around shoulder-high to overhead most of the time while the standout spots see sets going several feet overhead. This looks good for both Pacific side and Tip of Baja spots…so you get to take your pick. The more protected points along the Pacific side will be a little smaller than the more exposed reefs and beach breaks but still expect plenty of fun surf.

Southern California and Northern Baja
The SW swell (185-210+) arrives late on the 26th (as really loooong period energy) and then builds through the 27th, eventually peaking overnight into the 28th. We can expect surf in the shoulder-head high range for most S-facing spots while the standouts, mostly in Orange County and parts of San Diego, see sets going overhead to a couple of feet overhead as the swell peaks. Cross your fingers and maybe we will get some WNW cross up swell too! (Note: Many of the more southern areas of northern Baja will see more of this swell on the 27th).

Northern and Central California
The S-SW swell finally pushes into NorCal on the 27th before it peaks well into the 28th and overnight into the 29th. This swell will still have plenty of energy as it moves into the region so we can expect surf in the chest-shoulder high range at the summer spots while a few of the Santa Cruz and Central Coast standouts see some head high sets.

Good Luck…I hope I gave you enough time to score some waves (particularly with warm water). Send me some pictures…I love to see people ripping (or just really rad waves).

Make sure to check back I will have more updates as we get closer to the swell arriving.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Surf on Wednesday – New WNW swell…but make sure to read the small print

Wednesday will be a surf day…(wait for it)…for select areas.

In the water we will have a new WNW swell (290-300) and some small SW energy. The WNW swell will be a little too steep to make it into most breaks…a lot of the energy is actually about the 295 range so it will skip over a lot of Southern California.

The average spots, that have little exposure to the WNW’er will be around knee-waist high off the mix of small SW swell and leftover windswell.

The better NW facing spots in Ventura, the LA South Bay, and most of San Diego will be bigger with waves more consistently in the waist-shoulder high range. Standout spots, in southern Ventura, and South San Diego (and northern Baja) will have some head high almost overhead sets mixing in on the better tides.

Weather and winds will be nice…mostly light and variable to light offshore for most of SoCal in the morning. Onshore winds out of the NW build in around 10-12 knots through the afternoon.

Check out this CDIP swell map…(psst I made some really subtle notes on it…you will have to look close)

Listen if you are looking for bigger, (shoulder-head high+), surf your best bet is to head down to San Diego, particularly spots from La Jolla southward. Northern Baja would be a good bet as well.

Unfortunately most of us can’t take the day off and just drive around like some sort of nomadic surf herder…so if you have to stay close, and don’t live in SD, then expect the surf to be smaller and a bit softer…probably even better for a fish, (or a longboard at a purely summer spot). Personally, because I have been chained to this computer (I ordered a hacksaw on craigslist!), I will probably just keep an eye on the local beach breaks…if they start looking fun on the surf-cams I will probably motivate and go catch a few.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tuesday’s Surf – A few leftovers and maybe an ice cream headache or two...

Tuesday will be a surf day but overall it will be on the small side…and it will be cold, both in the air and the water, particularly in the morning.

We will have a mix of fading WNW windswell and some minor SW energy. Most spots will drop into the knee-waist high range while a few of the best standouts in San Diego see some chest high sets.

There will be a new WNW swell (290-300) that starts moving into Santa Barbara and Ventura late in the afternoon but don’t expect much to show before sundown. This swell will actually be better on Wednesday…topping out around head high at spots exposed to the steeper swell angle.

Winds will be OK as well…mostly light and variable in the morning with SW-W winds around 10+ knots in the afternoon.

I think Tuesday will be a fun day if you have the right mindset and plan on surfing around mid-morning when the air finally gets a chance to warm up. Personally I think it will be better for a longboard or a fish (your best small wave gear). The best waves will likely be at the beach breaks that will be able to pick out the most of the swell mix.

Really though I am not very excited about the surf tomorrow…there isn’t a lot of energy in the water, water temps have dropped due to the strong winds we had over the weekend, and to be honest I am a little jaded after getting so many good days over the last few weeks. (I know…poor me).

Anyway if you don’t mind Longboarding or are just learning Tuesday should be fun…try and get a few before the winds come up in the afternoon.