El Capitan Point spurs memories of endless tubes

 

Waves

by Tim Ryan

The sun is beaming along the Gaviota coastline, north of Santa Barbara. We’re close to the Hollister and Bixby ranches, a nirvana for quality waves and isolation.

Steve has just finished cooking breakfast at a Highway 101 Rest Stop. Steve, my surfing partner on this trip, has cooked some concoction of French toast as well as steaming coffee, well, instant.

I’ll wash the dishes then we’ll head south. This coastline is pretty wave starved this time of year. (After his second cup of “Joe” Steve comes up with the idea of driving up to the Hollister Ranch gate to talk story with the surfer guard and just maybe convincing him to let us enter and surf.)

Sounds at least like an anecdote. What are they going to do put him in Ranch jail for asking?

(You may remember all this from an earlier blog post. His idea is rejected.)

Just down the road from the Hollister Ranch gate is Refugio State Beach with its truly lovely setting of palm trees and sandy beach, protected by a small headland. What surfers are interested in here is the easy right breaking wave on west or southwest swells, and consistent offshore winds. It’s hard to see the point any more with the large number of mega RVs parking along the beach. It’s flat anyway.

Refugio Beach overview
Refugio Beach overview
Refugio State Beach pretty much at its best
Refugio State Beach pretty much at its best

Perhaps the finest wave on this stretch of coastline is El Capitan, one of California’s most hollow point breaks and most inconsistent.

El Capitan Point

Steve and I have had many classic sessions here so we have to stop at the Highway 100 overlook to reflect. The point is flat as we expected. It would have been great if there had been some waves but our memories of El Cap sessions fill a void.

The rocky, stream-fed point faces south so it requires a massive west or northwest swell and always a low tide to be able to wrap around and produce any rideable waves.

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The waves are thick and difficult to paddle into early, but you’re guaranteed a tube if you make the drop. The good news is the inside’s bottom is primarily sand but barely two-feet deep. There’s a lot of pearling here followed by hitting the silty bottom then being swept down the point by strong, shoreline currents.

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Once an isolated surf break rarely visited because of its iffy-ness of waves, El Capitan’s reputation for tubes now draw surfers from hundred of miles away

California morning glass at El Capitan
California morning glass at El Capitan

Steve remembers one day in the late 1960s when a big west swell was running. Low tide was at 10 a.m. We left L.A.  at 4 a.m. arriving at the point at 8. We sat watching shoulder high, medium tide waves fumbling and muffling with little shape. But an hour later more rocks and sand became exposed and El Cap started to work its magic. No other surfers were in sight.

We both rode Yaters then. The paddle out between sets was easy.

Steve snagged a thick stubborn wave barely making the drop with the wave’s lip immediately pitching over his right shoulder. He tried to make it to the nose – his style those days – but stopped to  disappear in an insistent tube. I could see him through the back of the wave when I paddled over.

The next wave of the set I made the mistake of fading into the curl, like I would do at Malibu. The wave sucked out and when I tried a desperate savior turn I promptly pearled into the sand, hit the bottom, then got rolled.

Lesson learned.

“I can’t believe there’s no one out,” Steve said when I got back outside.

“I can’t believe you can get barreled on a two-foot waves” I said.

This morning was like a surf film, perfect blue-green tubes, sunny,   glassy conditions, and just two buddies. Music floated through my head – Herb Alpert comes to mind. Sorry, but it was the period when his music accompanied many surfing films.  I tried to ride every wave to the music’s rhythm.

Cut backs had to be  quick and surgical or the wave would steamroll pass you. Nose riding was easy but when the wave got too hollow spin outs were inevitable and unforgiving . Stiff single fins were the design of the period.

By session’s end as the tide rose, we were able to control spin slides and  reconnect with the wave face. Two feet to five feet the wave’s shape remained the same. It never got boring because over confidence always led to a wipeout.

The El Cap learning curve that morning made later sessions here successful.

On the three-hour drive back to L.A., we replayed our best and worse waves, foolishly comparing moves to those of classical stylists Dora, Yater, Cooper, Carson, and Phil Edwards.

Then we would yell “Yeah right” and laugh at our fantasies.

After our memory moments at El Cap and later a playful session at Rincon (see previous blog), we cruise by where Stanley’s Diner used to be. The surf here was one of the most fun, consistent and glassy surf breaks on this coast.

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The diner was founded in the mid 1940’s by the Barber brothers Mervil and Stanley. “Stanley” was the bartender while his brother cooked the Steaks. Mervil was surfer friendly often letting surf contest organizers use electricity for PA systems.

Then in 1971, the state expanded Highway 101 literally into the sea, constructing the roadway on the reef completely destroying this magic little wave. A bulldozer demolished the modest wood frame diner.

Stanley’s was situated between two creeks that emptied sediment onto a system of cobble stones and oil pier remnants. The resulting sand bars produced excellent summer time surf. Protected by an extensive offshore kelp bed, afternoon wind swells coming down the Santa Barbara Channel were groomed into perfect peaks that spun into walls of glass. On any summer afternoon you could find yourself having fun alongside many of the great surfers of the era.

Malibu's Jamie Budge surfing Stanley's morning glass
Malibu’s Jamie Budge surfing Stanley’s morning glass

Ironically, there was plenty of room to build the new freeway but unfortunately oilfields caused Caltrans’ engineers to swing the freeway over the beach. So Stanley’s was demolished making way for the Seacliff 101 freeway off ramp. (An artificial replacement is now being proposed by Stanley’s Reef Foundation.)

Surfing innovator, shaper, stylist Tom Morey trims at Stanley's
Surfing innovator, shaper, stylist Tom Morey trims at Stanley’s

“How did we let them get away with that?” I say to Steve. “Why didn’t we or anyone protest?”

“I don’t think we thought they would actually build over it,” he said. “It seemed just stupid.”

A typically sweet Stanley's tube
A typically sweet Stanley’s tube

“Big oil wins over a surf break because the thinking was that a surf break has no monetary value,” I said. “It still makes me sad even after some 40 years.”

Surfers were allowed to park their vehicles in the dirt lot next to Stanley’s Diner to sleep and surf later. Hassle free.

stanleys02-sm

stanleys_posters

Sigh…

We would get that same “Why didn’t we do anything” feeling a few days later when we visit Dana Point Harbor that was constructed over the famous Killer Dana right-hand surf break. (See below)

Before the harbor
Before the harbor (above)

 

Lovely isn't it
Lovely isn’t it

 

 

REVIEW: Thermalution Heated Wetsuit Perfect Addition to Anti-Cold Arsenal

 

Heated Wetsuits

By Tim Ryan

My pre pre review of the Thermalution Heated Wetsuit was done about three weeks ago in the tropical waters of Hawaii. The wetsuit top is not necessary in 76-degree water. But this was mainly a test of how the vest fits, works, and how easy it was to make adjustments while in the water.

Heated Wetsuits

 

I gave it an “A” rating and was looking forward to a real test  in the frigid waters of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, Big Sur River mouth  and destinations further south.

My “A” rating hasn’t changed and remains solid.

Ocean Beach is a rugged stretch of usually gnarly waves, strong ocean currents, 51-degree water – or lower in the dead of winter – and bone chilling wind.

It’s isn’t a point break where you can paddle around the surf and not get wet from incoming waves. Not even close. At Ocean Beach you must paddle through the surf. That means you’ll definitely be drenched continuously until you make it outside. If you can.

As Matt Patton, president of Heated Wetsuits  in North Carolina told me early on, the heated top is ideally suited to be worn under a full suit – like my Patagonia full suit – as an additional aid to warmth. And he’s right.

The top is a lightweight polypro and nylon blend material. Strands of insulated wire lace over the back from hips to shoulders. Two 7.4-volt lithium ion batteries fit in sealable pockets on each side of the top. They connect with more heavily insulated wire to the controller that has a temperature range from about 120 degrees to 141 degrees. And it heats up smoothy and quickly.

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I wore it under a Patagonia temperature-rated R4 wetsuit – the warmest suit Patagonia makes – stringing the controller inside the wetsuit’s left arm to my wrist. If I needed to adjust the temp I could simply pull the controller out from inside the sleeve and adjust it down or up.

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Before heading out at Ocean Beach, I set my heated top to the maximum, 141 degrees. I figured I was going to be very cold. My surfing companion Steve, set his on low, 120 degrees.

I was certain that despite the Patagonia suit and the heated top, hoodie, booties and gloves I was wearing, I would still be cold. I’m a pessimist. Steve and I both got slammed by smallish waves paddling out. But even before I touched the water I could feel the heated top quickly warming me.

My exposed face chilled but no water entered the wetsuit so I pretty much stayed dry by the time I made it outside.

Beyond the break I felt more than comfortably warm from the heated top. It was like standing with my back to a heater where the warmth permeates your skin spreading in tiny waves but not burning.

I’ve never felt more comfortable surfing cold water. Ever.

The onshore wind could have been hypothermic to me if I had not been wearing what this gear. After catching a few waves, I was warm enough to adjust the heated top down to 130 degrees then to 120 degrees. I was beyond comfortable.

In all fairness I confess to being a devoted Patagonia customer. That being said,  I’m pretty sure other surfer wetsuit manufacturers also make equally water tight gear. But on a scale of one to ten, my Patagonia R4 was a 9.5 in keeping water out and me dry.

I’m telling you this because unlike a scuba diver who is submerged in water for long periods, I didn’t have to worry about needing heat. That’s why a lower temp was pretty much all I needed. And since my core was mostly dry, my own body heat also contributed to my comfort.

A few bigger Ocean Beach sets nailed me that did allow  some water to creep through the Patagonia’s front zipper. O.K., that did feel cold, but momentarily. The water slowly seeped around to my back but immediately the heated top warmed it, actually providing even more comfort as the warmed interior water slid down my legs.

It was disconcerting. Warm and comfortable in Ocean Beach ? Who’d believe that!

The temperature variances from high to low or low to high are subtle. The controller never got in the way of paddling or standing up.

After two hours in the surf, I took a wave in, walked to our camper van, rolled down the top of the Patagonia suit, then stood in the wind letting only the heated top warm me. Nice!

Half a dozen curious surfers – men and women – asked me “What is that?” I explained in detail, emphasizing that the the heated top adds very little weight and doesn’t get in the way of paddling, or riding waves.

I gave them my reoccuring mantra: “What price warmth?”

“Do you just want to survive the cold or be as little affected by it as possible?” Isn’t the answer is obvious? I chose Heated Wetsuits because of all the reviews of competitors I read,this one was the highest rated.

A few days after SF, my surfing buddy Steve, also wearing a heated top, and I headed to Santa Cruz where a west swell had already hit.  Pleasure Point was a solid 3-4 feet with an occasional higher set.

We suited up and paddled out. Steve didn’t wear his heated top. I did and I joined a group of similarly full-suited men and women in the lineup. Two women had their arms wrapped around their chests trying to keep warm.

One, Angie, quickly me asked me about my Patagonia suit. I explained, adding that I was also wearing a heated top. I gave her the full spiel.

“Aren’t you even a bit cold?”  she said.

“Nope. I’m toasty actually.”

“How much water gets inside?” she continued.

“Almost none. And what does is heated within a minute or two by the heated top.”

I taunted her by pulling out the collar of my wetsuit and cupping a handful of water into it.

“It’ll be warmed in a minute,” I said.

“I so need that,” she said. Later, I provided her and her friend the Heated Wetsuit information.

When I exited the water two hours later, I wasn’t rushing to get out of the gear. I took my time because I wasn’t even chilled.

But I did made one mistake.

The Heated Wetsuit’s instructions specifically emphasized to run fresh water over the suit after use, especially the control button and battery connections. I didn’t.

During my go out the next day, the toggle on the tiny control panel was sticking. An email to Matt at Heated Wetsuits brought a quick response.

“There are a few things you can do to help with a sticky controller. First off, if you are on a dive or surf session and find the controller starts to stick, you can simply manually push the button back down, vs. relying on the spring to push it back down for you. The controller turns the suit on or off if it is held for more than 1.5 seconds. So, if you wished to change to medium, but your controller button was sticking in the up position, you would need to manually slide the button up, and then immediately slide it back down with your thumb to change to medium or high. To clean up the button a little bit and free up whatever salt or sand found its way into your controller add a drop of WD40 to the controller button. That will usually help to free up most any buildup or sand that might be caught in the controller…Any plastic-friendly lubricant will do the trick.

Just add a drop and then manually move the button up and down 10-20 times. Follow this with a rinse of fresh water on the controller. You want to make sure that you move your controller button up and down when you are rinsing it out after each session or dive. Salt can build up in the controller switch if it is not moved around during the rinse process.”

His solution was right on and I got it working. My bad.

For the rest of this nostalgia surf trip neither Steve nor I had to use the heated top because our wetsuits and booties were just enough for Southern California. But remember, our trip was in April -springtime – when the California sun is usually out.

From November through February –  maybe even March – the Pacific Ocean off California ranges from the mid 40s to mid 50s. That’s cold, hombre, especially when the north or northwest winds are howling.

I may be moving back to California or the far more chilly Northwest in the coming months. I want to surf all year round and stay warm. Is that realistic?

I think so because the Heated Wetsuit will always be part of my thermal arsenal. It should be part of yours as well.

Other details:

– Heats up in under a Minute

– Battery Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours (depends on temperature setting)

– Product Includes: Undershirt, Two Batteries, Charger and Controller

For more information, visit www.heatedwetsuits.com for more information pricing and dealers in your area. The owners are a group of surfers, kiteboarders, and divers out of Wilmington, NC.

Aloha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA: SURFERS’ GOLD WITH SHAPERS TO MATCH

A myriad of shapes and evolutionary designs
A myriad of shapes and evolutionary designs by shaper/innovator Donny Brink

By Steve Casar

PULLING INTO ORANGE COUNTY AND OH-SO-ROAD WEARY FROM THE MASS OF TRAFFIC THROUGH THE L.A. AREA. BUT AFTER A GOOD NIGHT’S REST, WE CONTINUE SOUTH TO SAN CLEMENTE STOPPING TO CHAT WITH DONNY BRINK OF BRINK SURFBOARDS.

BRINK SIGN

WOW ! WHAT A GREAT ASSET DONNY IS TO SURFING.

Donnie Brink and Steve talk design and future shoes
Donny Brink and Steve (above and below) talk design and future shapes

Steve and Donny talk surfboard design and the future

 

Donnie has shaped a concept board that goes right on one side then turn it over and go left on the other side
Donny has shaped a concept board that goes right on one side then turn it over and go left on the other side

HIS MIND IS SO IN TUNE WITH WAVE RIDING AND SURF CRAFT. IT’S LIKE A GREAT SURF SESSION JUST CONVERSING WITH HIM.

AFTER SOME TWO HOURS I LEAVE WITH SO MUCH MORE TO THINK ABOUT IN TERMS OF BOARD DESIGN  AND WAVE RIDING. WHAT I HAVE JUST LEARNED FROM THIS SOUTH AFRICAN I CAN’T WAIT TO JUMP IN THE WATER AGAIN.

One of Donny's unique designs
One of Donny’s unique designs

I HAVE A COUPLE OF SUPER FUN BOARDS FROM DONNY AND WANTED TO SEE WHAT HE HAS GOING ON NOW. HOOOO…. TOYS WITH FUNCTION AND FUN IN MIND.

Tight space for cutting edge designs
Tight space for cutting edge designs

KEEP THE STOKE GOING DONNY, IT’S CONTAGIOUS IN A WONDERFUL WAY. CHECK HIM OUT AT http://donaldbrink.com

A very lightweight hydro craft
A very lightweight hydro craft
Fins waiting
Fins waiting

IT’S WATER TIME AGAIN! FUN SWELL RUNNING ALL ALONG CARLSBAD, ENCINITAS AND CARDIFF BEACHES. SMOOTH CONDITIONS WITH NICE LINED UP WAVES.

TOWNS BUILT UP MORE ALL AROUND AND NO CHANCE OF PARKING ON A STREET OVER NIGHT AND SLEEPING LIKE WE USE TO. BUT HEY, WE’RE OLDER AND CAN USE A LITTLE EXTRA COMFORT. A MOTEL EVERY SO OFTEN FEELS GOOD. GOD BLESS MOTEL 6!

DRIVING THROUGH LA JOLLA, PACIFIC BEACH, MISSION BEACH AND SUNSET CLIFFS. TAKING IN THE SIGHTS AND REMEMBERING OUR SO MANY SOUTH-BOUND SURF TRIPS. STAYED IN A HUGH RV PARL – CAMPLAND – ON MISSION BAY THIS NIGHT. EARLY TOMORROW WE’LL HEAD NORTH UP THE COAST AS SURF CONDITIONS ARE SHOWING BETTER THERE.

MORE SMOOTH BEACH BREAK WAVES AND FUN. DID SOME MAT RIDING AND SPARKED THE ATTENTION OF A BIG (HARBOR) SEAL. HMM, MAYBE THAT’S WHY NO ONE ELSE IS UP THE BEACH HERE SURFING THIS PEAK.

THE SEAL IS MORE LOOKING DOWN AT ME THEN UP AS IT LIFTS IT’S HUGE BODY OUT OF THE WATER FOR A CHECK OUT ON MY SOFT PILLOW. I SAID SOMETHING LIKE “HI BIG GUY” THEN QUICKLY CATCH THE NEXT WAVE IN TO GRAB MY BOARD.

NOW I HEAD DOWN THE BEACH WHERE A FEW PEOPLE ARE OUT ENJOYING A SUNNY DAY OF SURFING. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL CALIFORNIA SURFING DAY.

THE NEXT DAY NEAR HUNTINGTON BEACH THE WEATHER STARTS TO CHANGE AS A STRONG NORTHWEST WIND BRINGS IN RAIN AND GENERALLY STORMY CONDITIONS WITH JUST TWO DAYS LEFT ON THIS ROAD TRIP.

WE DECIDE ITS A GOOD TIME TO START PACKING UP AND REFLECT ON THE GOOD LUCK WE’VE HAD WITH THE WEATHER AND WAVES. IT WAS A QUICK TRIP DOWN THE COAST AND. OF COURSE, WOULD HAVE BEEN GREAT IF WE HAD MORE TIME. THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT TIME, RIGHT?

IT’S LESS THEN 600 MILES FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO SAN DIEGO BUT WE PUT ABOUT 1,350 MILES ON THE VAN, OUT HOME BASE.

GUESS WE REALLY DID OUR SHARE OF SURF CHECKING ON THIS WONDERFUL TRIP.

Shaper's alley San Clemente
Shaper’s alley San Clemente

The Queen of the Coast and her minions

 

April  2014 surf at Rincon
April 2014 surf at Rincon

By Tim Ryan

There are a few surfing spots in the world where if your roots, spirit, and stoke are simple and pure for this avocation that some call a sport, you’re a bit overwhelmed just by being at the place.

In California these spots may be The Ranch, Malibu, El Capitan, Steamer Lane, Lower Trestles, and WindanSea.

Very early Rincon
Very early Rincon (top and below)

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Regardless if there are waves, it’s the set up, the surrounding ocean, the sounds be it ankle biters or thick wrapping perfection. Even with eyes closed your senses follow that cracking from outside to shore break. And you probably mind surf each wave.

Rincon is THE symbol of Morning  Glass
Rincon is THE symbol of Morning Glass

This day, a week into our surf journey, we’ll return to the legendary right point break where Santa Barbara County meets the Ventura County line.

Can a spot get any smoother?
Can a spot get any smoother?

Whether you surf this special spot once or consistently, there’s no forgetting favorite days and waves, even sections of waves, and hurried paddle outs because nearly all sessions here become lasting impressions.

In January 1964, my now deceased best friend, Dennis – the brother of Steve my surfing companion on this nostalgia trip – and I made our first foray away from L.A. County surf – some 80 miles north to Rincon.

(The word rincón can be translated to ‘spot’, ‘place’ or ‘corner’ (like a corner in a room). It can also mean ‘remote corner’ or ‘outpost’, but it depends on the context.)

We knew what we wanted to see, but there were no guarantees of a swell running just simple surfer hope. These were the days of no wave reports, no leases, only thin Short John O’Neil wetsuits to ward off mid 50-degree water, knee paddling to stay dry, and thick paraffin wax for our decks. We drove to Rincon on faith but also the thrill of just being there. If there were no waves at least we could say we had been there, right?

It was a cold, foggy day when we parked along the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway directly in front of the break. (You can no longer park there.) Only one other car was there and the sun was just starting to win its battle against the thick mist.

Sitting on the seawall that protects Highyway 101, Dennis and I heard a roar then some crashes around first point. We squinted to catch a glimpse.

“Well, it sounds like it’s breaking,” Dennis said.

The tide was low; exposed rocks stretched from the cove westward into the fog. The best point break we had surfed up to this time was Malibu, perhaps a minor league wave compared to Rincon.  Where would we paddle out and not get caught inside? We waited.

Then the fog lifted like a theater curtain. We saw an empty six-foot wave wrapping and bending around first point then into the cove never sectioning almost cartoon like in its perfection.

Rincon: head high, glassy, wrapping northwest swell and 100 of your closest friends
Rincon: head high, glassy, wrapping northwest swell and 100 of your closest friends

“Jeeeesus,” Dennis said.

“All it does is peel. God, it’s a freight train,” I said.

I remember this  lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach watching the green, glassy wave spiral for a few hundred yards before its last bit of energy expired on the seawall.

“So it’s real,” Dennis said. “This wave is real.”

For a brief moment we were silent. Then without saying a word we  hurried into the blue VW van sliding long boards out, hurried to suit up, then climbed down the seawall to a dusty trail, gingerly stepping into the frigid ocean.

Bone chilling. Shrinkage.

After taking a couple of small shorebreak waves on our legs, we hopped on our knees paddling furiously to beat the next set. Dennis was paddling ahead of me then looked back smiling. He was happy; so was I.

The fog still hovered when we heard another clap around the point. A second head-high, mossy wave became visible, but this time with a surfer wearing only blue palaka pattern canvas trunks riding morning glass in full trim and crouching. The curling wave stretched out in front of him for a hundred yards.

The surfer was also smiling.

I’ve never forgotten Dennis’ yell: “He’ll never make it!”

“Hell, we’ll never make it over that wave!” I responded.

But this lanky solitary surfer knew Rincon. He stood, dropped under sections, stepped forward into full trims, gentle, functional cut backs, smooth as silk bottom turns, then a stall for the tube. His silhouette clearly visible inside this cool wave of color.

A moment after the surfer jetted by us the wave’s lip blasted Dennis and me off our boards, which we clung to like life preservers.

We didn’t waste time talking but frantically climbed back on, then  paddled beyond the impact zone where we sat silent contemplating for a brief moment the most perfect wave we had ever seen in this first year of our becoming surfers. My teeth chattered; we both shivered.

We sat at the point with only three of us out. Cars stacked with boards began arriving on Highway 101.

Another head high set lumped on the horizon near second point. We didn’t know the takeoff spot so we sat still.

Dennis was a bit too far over so I snagged the first wave, cheating on the takeoff.  I nearly spun out but my fin reset. After a cautious turn, I  trimmed and let the wave have its way with me. The lip pitched and bowled. I squatted. I still vividly remember this shimmering wave allowing me inside again and again. Really, my first tube.

Only a surfer knows that feeling.

We were astounded not only by Rincon’s consistent shape, but how this gift of nature – at least this morning – improved our fledgling performances. Our usual brief nose rides were longer here. We had gotten tubed before, but this time we actually made it out.  Cut backs were more fluid with  the energy of the waves getting a major assist for that.

Some four hours later Dennis and I met on the beach, both having wiped out from exhaustion, losing our boards to the cove, then doing the rock dance over small, jagged stones. Certainly a slow dance though any pain was subdued since our feet were in a state of hyperthermia.

The ride back to Hollywood was uncharacteristically quite for us. We were exhausted, cold, hungry, elated and satiated. It was the first of hundreds of surf adventures to Rincon.

Surfer/shaper Reynolds Yater in his classic style at Rincon
Surfer/shaper Reynolds Yater in his classic style at Rincon during the 1960s

We would eventually share waves with Renny Yater and George Greenough and Lance Carson and Mickey Dora and Bob Cooper and Bob “Pork Chop” Baron, all legends at the time. Their styles influenced us though we knew we were poor copycats.

I recall that day to Steve as we head toward Santa Barbara. We’d been stumped by sloppy waves and brisk west winds along the Big Sur coast. We’re hoping for any semi-smooth point break waves anywhere.

The coastline between Gaviota and Ventura hasn’t changed much but just inland there’s large scale residential and commercial growth. In some spots the crops have become red tile roofs of Spanish-style homes. It was inevitable.

Surfers surf; developers develop.

We stopped at Santa Barbara’s Beach House on State Street to talk story with friend Roger Nance. A Beach House salesman with wet hair whispers to Nance that Rincon “has waves, not many people out.” No discussion about size. It’s late April so any size now is a spring gift. We bid a quick aloha to Nance and head to Rincon.

The parking lot is nearly full, but we find a spot. Surfers of all ages are either coming out of the water or going in. They’re all smiling and friendly.

The surf is a consistent three to four feet with an occasional head high. Medium outgoing tide.  Rocks exposed. Mostly makeable gentle tubes. Walking over the rocks and looking seaward we see  two keiki surfers – maybe 11 years old – get barreled on separate waves.

A good sign.

A slight southeast wind causes the waves to crumble a bit soon, but still the rides are at least 75 yards. Sand has settled inside so tubes are an equal part green and brown. Most of the 20-plus surfers in the water are polite and willing to share. Or is it because we’re old?

Steve says he’s going to sit inside the cove. I agree, but as usual Steve decides to paddle beyond first point. His first wave is shoulder high. He turns fast, steps into full trim, then moves to the nose hanging five. Several surfers watch the the old master do his thing.

As the lower tide begins to close out that wave, Steve back peddles and straightens out. The expression on his face tells me he’s stoked.

I cheat on the take off on a frothy wave. The guy paddling in front of me looks towards me and yells “Go for it!” Is this for real?

I bottom turn into a speeding section, trimming, extending my right hand to simply touch the wave’s lip. I love doing that!

For a moment it’s like my eyes are a fisheye lens. Looking ahead, I see the number of houses lining the point on my left, the seawall dead ahead, the steep hillside across the highway, La Conchita Pier a mile away to my right, the wave’s bottom sucking out below me, sand and rocks, froth and eel glass. I close my eyes oh so briefly then open them and pull out. I’m very happy.

I do so love this place.

Rincon on this day playful and forgiving
Rincon on this day playful and forgiving

Rincon over the decades helped refine Steve and my styles. On small to medium size days the wave bloated our egos. On bigger days like in the double overhead swell of January 1969, it was humbling but the Queen allowed me to survive.

Reynolds Yater again at Rincon riding the fabled January 1969 swell
Reynolds Yater again at Rincon riding the fabled January 1969 swell
Rincon. Unknown rider January 1969 swell
Rincon. Unknown rider January 1969 swell

During that same swell a few days later when the size mercifully had dropped,  I paddled out under dark, gray skies.  How could I not surf this swell until it ends. I rode for hours even when a high ride filled in and the backwash off the seawall sent surfers riding too far down the line flying.

I climbed and dropped on shimmering wave faces gliding longer that I had ever ridden anywhere before. I was confident and cocky; a bad combination. I paid the price.

The backwash refracted from the seawall as I was making another bottom turn. It struck the wave face at the same time I turned sending me falling into the trough. A desperate reach for my board failed.

My beloved three-stringer, $175, 10-foot Phil Edwards Model washed toward the seawall. The wave lifted the board up its face, clutched it in its lip, demonically held it high, then slammed it into the seawall, snapping it cleanly in half. All three stringers severed.

Rincon holds a special place for me but not just because of its waves. I would retreat here in dark times to diminish emotional pain. When I went through a divorce in the early 1970s, my dog Tasha and I slept in my van  for days on the highway fronting Rincon where I would often cry myself to sleep then surf to exhaustion the next day. That could mean three sessions.

I needed Rincon. Can you understand? I needed to be physically exhausted; I needed to feel accomplished and believe that I could do something right. I needed to surf well and powerful and stylish. Whether or not I did that I don’t know, but The Queen granted me that privilege and helped me believe I had.

Aloha for listening.

Next Go Out: El Capitan memories then fun waves at California Street

 

 

 

MORE FROM ME

Steve Casar portrait

By Steve Casar

OPEN ROAD AND BIG OCEAN VIEWS. BIG SUR, LOOKS THE SAME AS I REMEMBER.

PAYING ATTENTION ON THE SHARP, UNEVEN TURNS SO NOT TO GO OVER THE SIDE. LONG WAY DOWN AND NOT THE WAY I WANT TO GET IN THE WATER.

WAVES ARE FUNKY TODAY BUT RIDING THE HIGHWAY WITH THE VIEWS MORE THEN MAKES UP FOR IT. THERE WILL BE MORE WAVES TO RIDE………..

AH YES, WAVE RIDING AGAIN. RINCON, STABLES AND CALIFORNIA STREET. THIS IS WHERE I GOT TO PLAY AS A KID AND NOW AGAIN AS A MUCH OLDER KID.

SUPER GREAT TIME VISITING WITH ROGER NANCE AT THE BEACH HOUSE AND JIM O’MAHONEY AT HIS SURF MUSEUM IN SANTA BARBARA.

Roger Nance (l), and Steve
Roger Nance (l), and Steve

ROGER HAS ALWAYS HAD TIME TO LISTEN TO MY STORIES AND TELL A FEW OF HIS OWN. HIS KNOWLEDGE OF SURF CRAFT HAS BEEN A GREAT GO BETWEEN FOR ME AND MY RENNY YATER SURFBOARDS.

HEY, DON’T FORGET TO LOOK UP AS YOU WALK AROUND THE SHOP. THERE IS A GREAT COLLECTION OF SURFBOARDS HANGING. HIS SURF SHOP IS A MUST TO VISIT.

STEP OUT THE BACK DOOR AND ACROSS THE STREET AND YOU’LL GO BACK IN SURF HISTORY.

Jim Mahoney (l) with Steve Casar at the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum
Jim Mahoney (l) with Steve Casar at the Santa Barbara Surfing Museum
Jim & Steve
Jim & Steve

JIM’S SANTA BARBARA SURFING MUSEUM HAS AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF SURFING HISTORY TO BEHOLD AND ALWAYS A GOOD STORY TO HEAR FROM THE MAN HIMSELF. THANKS FOR THE TIME GUYS. ALWAYS A PLUS ON A ROAD TRIP.

VISIT HERE ……. www.surfnwear.com   and  www.sbsurfingmuseum.com

FROM HERE WE GO FURTHER SOUTH  INTO MORE ASPHALT AND CONCRETE JUNGLE . MAYBE WE’LL BLOW BY THE WHOLE LA COUNTY AREA IN HOPES OF A BIT MORE SPACE  AND WAVES  SOUTH OF THE OLD ORANGE COUNTY GROVES………..