Ode to El Niño

Warm Equatorial waters
Southerly jet stream
Conveyor belt of large storms,
Marching across the North Pacific
Barrier-breaking, big wave paddle sessions are the norm each week.

Busy Buoys: NOAA
Busy Buoys: NOAA

Week after week of weekend swells,
Building in through the day on Friday.
Pumping by Friday evening.
Peaking Saturday morning and still pumping on Sunday.
Overhead sets lingering on Monday.AR8A5568

It is difficult to finish this publication.
Sleep, swim, eat, swim, swim, eat, sleep.
Maybe some work, but mostly bodysurfing.
And thinking about waves.
And watching wave models.


And it’s world-wide:
Gold Coast, Aus point breaks.
Massive Europe.
East Coast USA: double overhead, 12ft and perfect.

Marathon sessions, full body exhaustion.
Lazy towards the end,
Not getting to the spot.
Going over the falls,
Not diving deep enough.
Beatings and poundings.AR8A6573

High pressure, sunny skies, 80°
Offshore or glassy in the morning
Minimal onshores through the afternoon.
Although, not enough rain.
We need more rain. 

But selfishly, we’re smiling.
Exhausted, sore, beat up…but smiling.
Spending hours underwater,
Taking exhilarating sets on the head.
Considerable amount of tube time.
Hope it never stops. 




Cold, Wet, Sandy Wetsuits at Dawn. 

Dawn patrol. 37 degrees at 5:30am. Wind chill a few degrees colder. Coffee. Numerous layers of clothing. Out the door with towel, fins and…damn it! Forgot to rinse and dry the wetsuit after last evening’s session.
The wetsuit is sandy and it’s wet and very cold :-/

Pull up to the spot, too dark to see, but can feel and hear a building swell.  Stand in the biting, offshore wind with the boys. Chugging coffee. Cracking jokes. Try to hide from the wind. Retain some body heat. 

Can't see it, but know its there.
Can’t see it, but know its there.

We’re out there, but first…the worst moment of the day. The wind has already entered the layers of clothing. But now it’s time to strip off those layers.  And enter a sandy, wet, cold wetsuit. Ugh. 

It is an important ritual. The hardship. The adversity. You want waves? Well suffer a bit first. Barefeet already becoming numb on the pavement. One leg in the wetsuit…righteous discomfort. Both legs in and try to focus on the impending waves. Revealing more skin to the wind as the top layers come off. Its cold and uncomfortable but it is Ocean time.

Lock up the truck, grab the fins and sprint down to the beach. Shivering and hooting. No time to waste, first light is approaching.  Zip up and splash……..Wooooo! “Is the water colder than last night?” “It feels colder than last night.”  Little pin pricks all over as water climbs inside the wetsuit. 

Swimming hard, rows of whitewater stack up. Under the first, under the second….
Ice cream headache.

Dive deep, feel the brain freeze!
Dive deep, feel the brain freeze!

Under the third, still zinging. Slightly disoriented but still swimming. During a lull, the brain thaws.

Wits regained, a solid waves approaches. Swim to find the spot and take off. The barrel is round and the glide is real. A sense of warmth washes over. The warmth of a fun ride and vigorous swimming. And possibly some urine.

Warming up.
Warming up.

After a couple hours: feet turn to immobilized stumps inside the fins. Slurred speech as the jaw and tongue freeze. Continuous chills and shivers shoot through the body.  Walking up the beach after the session without feeling numb feet. A chill in the body that can last throughout the day. 

Numb feet.
Numb feet.

But there is something special about putting on that wet wetsuit. It represents passion and dedication.  The hardship presents miniature Ernest Shackleton moments.  Certainly would’ve been easier and far more comfortable to stay in bed. But the fun of riding waves with friends and getting barreled and laughing at each other’s slurred words makes it all beyond worthwhile.

Ode to Autumn

Autumnal Equinox.
The season of the harvest.
Reap the benefits of multiple swell sources.
Harvest the tubes from the North and the South and the Tropics.

The South Pacific slows down, the North Pacific speeds up.
The Tropics still vibrate with energy.
Combo swells are some of the best swells.

Record breaking water temps.
Forgot what neoprene feels like.
Boardshorts worn ragged.
Light winds for most of the day.
High pressure, glassy conditions.
Moon sessions hooting with the boys.

Fire-free Santa Ana events. 
Kids back to school.
Parking and traffic loosen up.
Hot days, muggy nights.
But eventually the nights cool.
Because of the gray and gloom…
SoCal’s summer doesn’t start until fall.

The only real detriment to Autumn:
Darkness creeps earlier.
Sense it every night.
The light changes.

Winter is coming.
El Nino hype. El Nino anticipation.
Stomach full of butterflies.
Will it be 200ft+ all winter long?
Nah, but hopefully solid.
Don’t fret that yet…
Enjoy the autumn. SoCal Summer.


Closeout Comrades

Abandon all hope of glory

let it fall from your hand,

float through grit

and settle to the sand.

Swim on comrades

the Closeout is come.


Breathe in Earth’s aura,

the magnificent clear.

Where you go you’ll stay

held under your fear.

Swim on Comrades

the Closeout is come.


Kick with resolve

the most euphoric whim.

Hoots and shakas

Outlook is grim.

Swim on comrades

Closeout is come.


Bodysurfing a big Closeout


The best time of day. As long as the alarm conspires with your brain to allow you to experience it. Stumble out of bed in the dark. Don’t kick anything. Out the door, grab your fins-towel-wetsuit. Morning chill. Beautiful, crisp sky. Orion and Jupiter march toward the sea. The wind is offshore. The buoys jumped up overnight.IMG_3551

Pull up, meet the boys in the lot. Too dark to really see. But it sounds big. Long lines of whitewater glow through the salty haze. Strip down in the biting offshore wind and pull on a cold, wet, sandy wetsuit. Always exhilarating. Stare deep into the darkness, trying to catch a glimpse of a wave. Subconsciously time the sound of sets.IMG_0972

Grab your fins, jump up and down to warm the blood and jog down to the beach. Gulls and pelicans laze in the sand. No one else around. A faint glow begins to the southeast. Twilight. The surf is big. But perfect. Peaks stand up and explode far outside. Of course its even bigger than it looks. Anxious laughter. Trepidation. Excitement.


Obviously, a strong drift flows down the coast. Jog up the beach, eyes peeled to the horizon. Big sets march toward shore. Plop down in the sand, stretch a bit, couple deep breaths to open the lungs. Fins on. Happy for the velcro security of fin leashes. Hoots all around.

Run backward into the water. Jump under a powerful wall of white water. Swim. Swim hard. Too excited to notice the chill. Already pulled down the beach. Much bigger than it looks. Approach the lineup. Wear a big set on the head. Big breath. Swim to the bottom. Pulled off the bottom and recycled to the inside. Swim. Swim hard.


Finally make it outside. Sit and catch your breath. Line up a clean one. Offshore spray to the face. Swim hard. Glide into a big one. Woooo. Pull into a big tube, still mostly dark outside, even darker and beautiful inside. IMG_1896

As the sun rises, the offshore spray becomes rainbows. The sun’s warmth battles the chill. Even if its a closeout, go right sometime in the morning light. Mind-bending, psychedelic light spins inside a morning tube. Dawn: the best time of day. No better way to start. Spend the rest of the day crunching sand and giggling about beautiful light and fun rides.


-Cover Photo by Adrian Ramirez Lopez