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Surfing San Clemente Island

Winter surfing in So CA is my second close favorite to Fall. Sure, warm barrels at Uppers is fantastic but there is something about the Alaskan juice that throws into the west coast that I have the most chiseled memories of. Swami’s, Blacks, Rincon, Lunada, Redondo Beach Breakwall, Silverstrands, too many great days to remember…… which leads to only one conclusion, make more memories, make new ones and try not to repeat the old ones running the risk of foreshadow.

Sometimes, the wind/swell/weather window opens quickly and slams shut as to give you only a glimpse. A small preview of what happens all the time when no one is there. I have often thought about all the great waves that have marched all the way down the latitudes to their final resting place like San Clemente Island. Only to die lonely during their final blaze of glory. No one around…….

All the conditions seemed to be right for a run to SCI on Saturday.  The models said, 12 feet at 16-18 seconds, with warming weather pattern on Superbowl weekend. Superbowl offers football fans the pinnacle day for the season, a busy day. Superbowl also offers the passive football fan a day to go almost anywhere with light crowds. Being the latter, we set our compass at 226 and bolted.

This was a family trip with my wife and kids just to get off the dirt, away from the norm, and in search of a show. Got to SCI in no time. Could have topped off a martini glass, propped it on the helm, and not spilled a drop in the crossing, just perfect. (especially for my little girl who is still working on a little sea sickness growing pains) I love being out there.

First spot check was Birdshits. The swell had not yet reared its head, but you could see that it was coming. The forerunners were arriving like recon soldiers looking for the right beach to storm, they were coming. Our ever diligent Navy must have watched our arrival and immediately gave notice of our position in a hot zone. No thanks. Waves weren’t worth a Patriot over the bow.

Around the corner, Terminals was showing life but not ready. Down the beach to A Frames, I saw a reason to get in the water. I grabbed the SUP to give it a good look. Truth be told, I was spooked. The seals there just act different to what I am used to. They are sketched out. They are alert. They are curious, like a human seeing an alien for the first time. To me that means their behavior is “prey-cautionary”. So standing tall on the 11’6” sounded better than a deep scratchy crawl on the 6’ 4”. Got a few medium sized rights, hit a rock and called it. The water is so damn clean and refreshing.

Set up for the night at West Cove with the hopes of a morning wake up call from some Alaskan imports. After a long, windy and bumpy night on the hook, I got a good glimpse during the grey light of what was to come.

Solid 10-12 foot rights, heaving on the shelf and doing its thing. There was a slight morning sickness on it, but it was ledging, chucking and making more noise than the Navy Seals cracking off 1000s of rounds on the opposite side of the island.

I paddled out, or in I should say, on my trusty step up 6’10” and was bobbing around like a toothpick in the middle of the Pacific. I scratched into a few, but for the most part, a lack of training over the holidays has left me without the proper oars for the conditions.

Since the wind seemed as if it was getting ready to blow we headed back to Newport and made it back to watch the Ravens beat the 9r’s over some brews and fresh Calico tacos. My kind of Superbowl party.

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