The Swell Chasers

From my IB Patch Southwest Surf column May 26, 2011:

Last Thursday, when the first real south swell of the season hit, the beach was closed in Imperial Beach. No roping lefts off the pier, or grinding tubes at the south end of the beach.

Shane Landry scores a left.

Luckily Zach Plopper and I happened to have a meeting at the WiLDCOAST office in Ensenada. We decided to try our surfing luck on the way home.

We headed north to check out San Miguel. The surf was washed out. So we turned around to check out a nearby reef.

The surf was firing and the lineup was empty. The reef offered up a fun selection of 4-5 foot, semi-lined up and punchy lefts.

Again on Friday, serendipity played a role in finding great waves.

On Thursday evening, an old friend, Greg Tate, arrived for a visit. Greg’s a backyard shaper and goofy foot from Florida.

Israel, Greg and Daniel.

Israel, Greg, and Daniel at Scripps Pier with boards Greg shaped.

Twelve hours after his plane touched down at San Diego International Airport, we found ourselves traipsing down the trail to Trestles, and the surf exceeded our expectations.

The wind was offshore, the waves were hollow and the non-stop sets were way overhead.

Greg paddled out at Cotton’s. I needled my way through the lineup at Uppers.

While surfing I caught up with Mark Rauscher of the Surfrider Foundation. He  updated me on the still ongoing effort to prevent the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) from building a toll-road through San Onofre Beach State Park, the home of Trestles.

“The TCA is still trying to get that toll road through. But we are monitoring them,” Mark said before catching a great set wave.

Nothing like talking about saving a surf spot while surfing epic waves at that very  break.

A few hours later Greg and I regrouped. Like everyone that morning we were both hammered by sets that swung wide and outside.

On the way home we stopped at Beacon’s in Leucadia for a surf check (the wind had come up so we didn’t paddle out) and ran into legendary IB surfer Shawn Holder, who now lives in North County, where he owns a Pannikin Coffee and Tea in Encinitas.

“I’ve been surfing and stand-up paddling northern Baja most of the winter. Most of the time I surf alone,” Shawn said, a former IB lifeguard captain who is still as stoked on the surf as ever.

On Saturday we returned to Trestles for an IB gromathon.

Surf dads Dave Lopez and Jason Stutz joined me in the lineup at Lowers along with grom squad members Daniel Dedina. Loukas Lopez, Vinnie Claunch, Noah Bender, Jake Stutz and Shane Landry. As usual the groms scored wave after wave on the inside.

After our session we picked up my son Israel at the CIF swim finals at Del Norte High School in Poway and drove to La Jolla. At the Scripps parking lot we ran into two hardcore members of the IB underground who raved out scoring perfect waves at a local reef the day before.

“Dude,” one of the surfers said, “We never even check IB when it is polluted. We don’t want to get sick.”

Scripps wasn’t working so we headed south to the La Jolla reefs. The boys found some fun lefts at an empty slab while Greg and I sat on a bench and watched the show.

On Sunday morning a southwest wind was blowing so we headed to La Jolla to see if we could snag some sideshore peaks. The ocean cooperated with A-frames up and down the beach, which brought out a moderate crowd and fun waves to play around in.

On the beach I found Craig Engelmann who I grew up with in IB. Now living in Coronado, Craig was carefully watching his son Casey surf with Israel and Daniel.

All in all it was a great weekend. Our sessions proved that despite the throngs of surfers that populate the beaches of Southern California, we can always find plenty of surfing opportunities at beaches south and north of Imperial Beach and Coronado.

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