May the wave rise up to meet you
“The paddle-out from the island rocks (Los Morros) has achieved legendary status for sketchiness - dashing across the slippery shelf from a hiding place in the rocks when there is a lull has caught many out. Experts only when it gets above double-overhead.” This best described the next break I would camp out for a week and a half. Further confirmed by talking to locals and witnessing it firsthand.
I found it hard to believe at first, but the entry was the sketchiest part of surfing here. Sometimes I had to wait 15 minutes for a lull between sets to paddle out, but I was fortunate to not have any close calls. Once in the water, you weren’t totally out of the woods. When the SW swell hits the morro, the waves refract around the point to break inside the pocket, right in front of a rock outpost by the Mirador. If you haven’t seen surf refact it’s pretty neat to watch, especially for a surf nerd like me. In this case, watching the waves deposit surfers 5 feet in front of the rocks was unnerving. As I got to know the break better, I could see that the more forcefull sets, or those with a little Westerly push in them would breeze you right past those rocks as long as the wave didn’t close out. One of my sketchiest moments was riding a 7 ft wave pointing me towards the rocks, knowing that I had to make the section to get past the danger zone. Pure commitment, not unlike choice moments in skiing or mountain biking.
Everyday the break would change. Tide, swell direction, wave height + frequency, wind…The lineups shifted constantly. I certainly had some bad sessions, where the locals knew where to sit and how to navigate the rocks, and I didn’t have the right board or had to stick to short shoulder sections. I learned a few lessons, the most important is that I shouldn’t try to tough it out a wetsuit illequiped for the frigid water temps in the low 50’s. You can last about an hour in a 3/2 in 52 degree water before the chill becomes a distraction. Things started to come together when I paddled out first thing in the morning on my rental mini-gun 4 days in. Today was big, 12 ft bombers coming in. My early entry into the water meant I was solo and after 20 minutes of not seeing another soul, I started to wonder: should I be out here? Does everybody know something I don’t? I had to sit way outside on the shoulder, and study the best place to position for the big sets that were spaced almost 20 minutes apart. Dropping into waves over 8 ft is absolutely exhilarating. There’s something about dropping into a wave that’s different than skiing or mountain biking. All 3 require a sense of pure committment, but with surfing, it’s so dynamic. When you drop in, you match the semi-consistent intensity of this singular wave. It’s purely addicting. I rode my biggest wave ever that day, backside.
Later that same day, I got my board back from the shop. Many businesses here are on their own time table and my board was almost a week late. The next day I got stuck in a horrible rip current. For 30 minutes I watched as I paddled forward, but my progress moved backward. I was exhausted, so I just went in and took a day off. The next day of surfing was resplendent. The powerful swell the 2 days prior moved the sand bar out, which meant you could now connect long rides from the north of the Mirador almost to the beach. Large walls lined up way outside, locals would take off on the inside and get closed out, and I could take the next section on FOREVER long rides. For almost an hour, I was either paddling back to the line up or surfing. After studying this temperamental break for over a week, I knew exactly what to do. Sit on the inside, seemingly drop in those on the outside that would meet quick closeouts, and I was awarded multiple rides the length of a football field. One wave stands out as I rode an 8ft glassy wall through a sea of guys sitting further on the inside. Cutting back to scrub speed, and pumping up the lip to stay ahead of fast sections. Astounded as the wave continued to jack up further and further down the line. This ride was transcendent. To think guys live here and it’s consistently this good.