In This Crowded World…

posted by / News / January 19, 2009

Since you’ve been lied to all week, we’ll be the first to tell the truth: California did not “go off” this weekend. It did not “pump.” And it most certainly was not “XXL.” Was it pretty? Sure. Was it fun? Depending on where you were. And was it packed? Absolutely. Probably the worst in the history of the state. And this was the case just about everywhere.

Saturday was the biggest record-breaker. As you probably know, everyone with foam in his garage made plans for this swell. Dudes talked of charging out to the islands. Bombing up north. Striking the Central Coast. And pulling their boats down to {{{Baja}}}, surfing everything from all-time Todos to mythical right pointbreaks. But when The Swell TM was late for the party in San Francisco on Friday (clocking in at around 5 feet at 20 seconds by dusk), practically everyone set themselves up for some sort of a skunk the next morning. Barely-breaking Maverick’s had 35 guys on it by 8 a.m. Chest-high Oxnard hosted 97 surfers mid-day, prompting some locals to wax their frustrations on distinctly out-of-town cars. Black’s crowd hit the triple digits in the afternoon, showcasing clean, shoulder-high peaks pockmarked with black neoprene. And it wasn’t just the high-profile spots. All the nooks, all the crannies, all the places where you usually can go and be alone with your thoughts had a bunch of other people thinking the same thing.

But this is all understandable. We (meaning the surf media) hyped this one up worse than the next Spiderman sequel, and we deserve to get our wrists slapped by the ocean. As Hans Hagen said as he contemplated his plans on Wednesday, “These poor swells, man. They just don’t slip by unscathed anywhere these days.”

In this case, it seemed like the swell could sense the froth factor and simply got scared away. But still, after we endured six weeks of flatness, the ocean provided plenty. Any normal, non-hype winter, we would have called this a fun, medium-small swell. Long period. Light offshore. High clouds painting the sky red. Beautiful.

So instead of getting all disappointed and complaining that the waves were way too weak for your brand-new 8’0”, just enjoy what’s in front of you. Hopefully, it will help us all settle back to normal and not get ahead of ourselves so much. Turn that froth factor back down to 4 instead of 12.

Or better yet, take a page from a surfer Nate Lawrence photographed in Santa Cruz on Saturday. Here’s SURFING staffer Nate’s take on the image:

“So this swell made me think, well actually it was like a month ago when I saw this guy at Costco. I said it’s been a pretty bad year so far (and this was before the horrible December). No Harbor. No beachbreak barrels. No pointbreak lineups. No 60-foot waves. {{{Ghost}}} Tree is only a ghost. Mouse Rock is hiding in a hole. Geez….. He quickly responds that he’s had a fantastic fall and winter looks to be shaping up good. He’s had some good days up North. A couple solo sessions early morning at Moss. And this little wedge has been fun that he and his son had been surfing.

The claims. The contests. The swell maps. The interviews before the swell. The confusion of where to go. Panic. Panic. Panic… Today the swell hit and I drove around for hours, calling everyone I could for reports. Mav’s is 10-12 foot with 30 guys out. Ghost Tree is barely capping. Mouse Rock is flat. Rincon isn’t showing yet. As I’m driving {{{80}}} mph down highway 1, one beach is 15 foot plus and 10 minutes down the road is 3 feet.

My frustration leads me back to town. Dreaded town. I hate town. I like leaving town. Scoring waves that the world wants to see. Taking photos of crazy men falling out of the sky. But then I’m in the water. The sun is drawing closer and closer to the horizon without a cloud in the sky. The air is warm but the water is brisk. And then I snap this photo and realize something. This guy didn’t stress out all week wondering where he was going to surf. He surfs his spots that he normally surfs whether they are firing or not. And although Mav’s wasn’t all time. Ghost Tree didn’t create any XXL contenders. Chad Jackson wasn’t heaving himself into monster pits at Mouse Rock. And I didn’t score any photos of top pro surfers who have been tracking this swell for weeks. But now I realize a lot of surfers — most surfers — had a really fun weekend of waves. And most likely will have a good winter of waves. Even if we don’t say it was.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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