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My Christmas Surf Odyssey 

Some time during October or November, my longtime surf broheme, SA informed me that he and his family would be vacationing in San Diego
for a good 10 day stretch starting the day after Christmas. For years and years, he'd told me about one Christmas he'd spent there and the insane 
waves he'd scored. Well, this year he was actually pulling the return trip (ten years on) and invited me to join him (unbeknownst to his wife and two small
children.) Well, as things were unravelling badly on the home front for me (again), I decided in November to make this trip happen. Hell, I wouldn't
have a whole lot of family obligations (or any obligations for that matter,  with a week off from work) so what better way to spend my time than to
surf my way down to San Diego from Santa Cruz? And as luck would have it, when I noticed that my favorite rock band the Mother Hips would be playing
a rare New Year's Eve event in SD, the wheels were set in motion.  During surf sessions in the weeks leading up to this trip I would plot all my stops (Carmel
Big Sur, Santa Barbara, San Diego and hopefully K-38) and play out this epic trip in my mind's eye. During these manic moments, I put together what would come
to by known as My Blue Christmas -- Carmel to Calfia. (Ed note: we changed the destination to Calafia - the southernmost spot surfed on the trip.)

December 18

Alternating between holiday binge paratying and extreme fitness training, I used this day for the latter. Knowing I'd be surfing a lot in late
December I've ramped up my training -- swimming more when it's rainy, and working out to a radical new surf fitness program.
Despite the holiday drinking and carrying on, I've managed to stay in decent shape at about 192 lbs. Anyways, this day I swam 3400 meters
at my local pool. Not an incredible distance, but when you are pushing yourself, going against former Olympians, you get a pretty
good little workout in about 45 minutes. During the afternoon rain, I went out to the garage and started staging stuff for my trip. I got a call
from TB and told him about my imminent trip. He was jazzed and said he'd like to join it for the 2 days scheduled for Baja and then
SD NYE. I told him I'd be stoked to have the company.
 

December 21


Photo: TH
Winter Solstice. The swell of the decade slammed the CA coastline this day. Trapped at work, and stormy conditions in SC making it unrideable, all
I could do was be stoked for my So-Cal friends, and amp up a little higher for my trip. Leggitt called reporting all time Hammonds,
Schell, Danny and Brenton all sent pictures confirming the reports. All time indeed.
 

December 23

Met with killer Graham Nash and scored some insane video footage for a new surf DVD project I am working on. Afterwards
checked all the breaks in Santa Cruz. The hook looked the best, but still not that enticing, and with 100 guys out, I took a pass. 

December 24

Hungover from a family get together. Damnit, I didn't need those two last Sierra Nevadas. When will I learn? Dorked around the house, packed a few things...
Enjoyed Christmas tree lights. Trying to motivate for a workout. 
Update: Motivated for a quick bike ride when SA called me (on my cellie) and convinced me to go surfing. We railed to his fav spot
north of town and did a quick afternoon sesh. Beautiful Christmas eve with golden light, faint wind and head high plus waves. I saw
a few epic waves pour through. Unfortunately, I could never line myself up in a good takeoff zone and got only a few marginal
rides. SA on the other hand scored some of the inside racey stuff. Besides the beautiful setting and vibe, I'd just as soon forget all about this sesh.
Oh well, you win some you lose some.  
 

December 25

After a nice foggy morning at home, packing the truck, battoning down the hatches, and working on The Project w/ PMad, I finally hit the road around 1:00 PM.
Driving through the Redwoods and the rain, I felt a little forlorn as I railed south to Mom's. Ray Barbee's music brightened my mood somewhat as I navigated
some light traffic and rain and realized I was finally on the road!

The waves in Pac Grove indicated the new swell was hitting. I passed on the rocky spots I'd surfed before (tide being a little too high) and opted to hit a spot that my
Mom's neighbor, Dave, took me to last Christmas. With some south wind it would be off-shore at this spot. Pulling up at the empty roadside parking area, it was indeed
off-shore and large! I watched a couple roping rights come in and quickly threw on my suit. There were only about 7 guys across the whole bay. I paddled out my 7'2" feeling
pretty confident. I only had one hour of daylight. For thirty or so minutes I snagged only a few mediocre waves -- good solid drops but then not much more.
As the sun set, I paddled hard to the south, trying to get past my truck to go for some of the pitching lefts I'd seen. Soon, the my truck was the only car on the road,
and I was the only one out.
 
 

I marvelled at how Hawaii'esque this spot is: Incredible blue tones in the water, off-shore winds and grey heavy clouds all remind me so much of the
islands. Not sure if it was the paddling, the newish wetsuit or what, but I noticed I was toasty warm the whole session. I saw a few incredible waves
break just outside of me and I paddled a little further out and waited. The first one I scratched in to heaved and I couldn't stick it and leapt to the side and went down
the face. Not too bad of a wipeout. Now 15 minutes past sunset. A biggie rolled in and I ditched my board.  I wasn't too rattled even though
I was surfing alone into the darkness in this fairly sharky area. I remained focused on the great waves and the fact that nobody was out. 
Another set came in and I spun around and solidly dropped in to an 9 foot face. I felt sure footed and confident and banked a few sweet turns and milked it to the
inside. The off-shores and mellow inside section kept me from gaining a lot of speed. Coming in I belly boarded some shore pound, got tossed and came up in a mess of kelp.
 
Changing out of my suit in the dark and rain, I felt alive and looked forward to getting to Mom's. 

December 26

12:30 - 7:30. Carmel to Santa Barbara via Big Sur.
Many hours of big, maxing surf throughout Big Sur. After awhile I got tired of even looking for surf as it was all the same -- big, nobody out, unruly, gnarley.
Sand Dollar was a good 15' and all kinds of other mysto reefs were breaking, no telling how big.  I found a spot in San Simeon, and while suiting up watched
two monster cleanup sets. I balked, got back in my truck and drove w/ my wetter like a kook for 40 mins to my favorite friend on the Central Coast... a little 
not so secret reef break south of Avila.  Took one quick peak and grabbed my board and charged out at 4:30 P.M. Nabbed a few fun ones before the sun set. My
7'2" was definitely too much board, but worked just fine really. Dialed in to a couple great lefts in the darkness and took it in.
Getting out of the water and scrambling up and over a little rock reef on the beach at 5:38 I was stoked. I went to a little restaurant market, tanked a Saporro
grabbed a snack and railed to SB.
 
Around 7:30 I let myself into Jason's and kicked it. He arrived shortly after and we cracked a bottle of Kettle One and caught up over a handful of cocktails, a bunch
of acoustic guitar songs and finally wrapped it up at midnight, spent.
 

December 27

Double go-out today at not-so-secret SB reef. Pretty damn quality waves but crowded and my surfing was not on. Bummer. Road my 6'6" single fin
and scrapped in to some decent ones alongside the masses and former world champ, one, Shaun Thomson. Jas and I paddled north and enjoyed
some sizey fast rights where nobody was really surfing.
Cut my hand and foot on the inside on the way in. Doh.
 

Mild carnage, SB Rocks
 
 
Big afternoon nap.
 
Good 70 mins afternoon/evening go-out. Still not surfing well, though did get a couple that offered mild redemption for the A.M. sesh.
 

December 28

 
 South of SB Go-Out. Guest entry: SEC 
  
The clean up session. Conditions were a little rough on the paddle out with a slight onshore wind and a pretty high tide. But like I said this was the clean up session and things did clean up.
Surf got to be around 2-3 ft (Hawaiian) with some speedy sections north of C street and no one else in the water. A two hour session ended with many fun ones, a couple of snake-o, drop-ins (on my part) and a nice break through of sunshine to warm us as we got out. Nice. A quick trip back to town brought us to El Sitio for some Taco's a la pasilla and a cold beer entonces back to la casa for a quick siesta before the evenings activities. Pretty much another good day of checkin out nature, finding some waves and leaving no footprint of our adventure. For more information on what you can do google Howard Zinn and start reading. As in the words of KRS-1, "take the pillow from your head and put a book in it." Namaste.
 

SC goin' down the line...
 

Room with a view, post sesh.
 
 
 
The road less travelled.
(All photos 12/28/05 courtesy of J. Leggitt aka Flying Fish) 
 
 

December 29

 
Santa Monica to Cardiff
  

I would wake up this day, at old friend, college buddy, Gregory Schell's apartment in Santa Monica. We enjoyed some yerba mate, and wheat toast w/ almond butter and honey, before heading south on the 405. Hurtling down the 405 at 75MPH random, uplifting songs blared out of my iTunes and I found myself stoked despite the rough night's sleep.

Pulling off at Via De La Valle in Del Mar we were stoked to be arriving in San Diego County and S&T's place.
 

SA & Hank Ten, North SD County and loving it
 
That afternoon Greg, SA and I paddled out at an uncrowded little spot just south of Swamis.  Greg would tell us this was the training ground for a young Rob Machado. The surf was playful and it was a beautiful day. I surfed my 6'6" single fin and dialed in to a few zippy lefts that felt great. The wave of the day however, would be a long well formed right hander that afforded 3 or 4 off the tops. Greg disappeared and SA and I went on to surf the afternoon away. Late in the sesh a white haired / white bearded fellow would paddle by from out of nowhere - clad only in board shorts and an outstanding sun tan, and as he paddled by, we exchanged pleasantries and he stated, "It is balmy...Like a perfect summer day!" Had SA not witnessed this spectacle, I think I would've imagined it all. SA and I would muse that we just might be imagining this stoney, Christ-like surfer. "Perhaps you were witnessing your future and seeing  yourself, TW" , Greg would later offer.
 
Hank Ten in Cardiff
Sierra Nevada, single fin and fish grilling on the BBQ = 1 epic night in SD County. 
 

That evening, we purchased and cooked some fine fresh fish from Seaside Market and enjoyed a couple Sierra Nevada Celebration Ales, before retiring to the surf DVD, Glass Love.

December 30

 
1 mile down the trail and hundreds of waves await... 
 
 
The early morning surf check from our styley accomodations revealed the swell was still pumping! SA was slated for some family time,
so Greg and I loaded his truck and two boards and headed for the world class beach break to our south.
 
Checking the waves from atop the cliff, we were elated with what we saw -- glassy, peaky, bombs detonating in the 8-10' range. We grabbed our gear
and began the vertical descent down the sandstone cliffs.
 
 
Greg hoping his 6'3" is enough...
 
I paddled out on my 7'2" feeling pretty confident, but was dismayed to find a packed lineup with all the "regulars" nabbing the biggest and cleanest
waves. Nonetheless, I was mightily impressed with some of the waves that were blowing through. I watched in awe, as a 10' barrelling, hollow left
came through. The rider dropped, dug a rail and went down hard. He was unfazed however and would score the next couple biggies.
After awhile I paddled back north and caught a few uncontested waves and started getting in the groove. My 7'2" was a bit much board at times but it proved
flawless in the late, steep drops of some of the bigger waves I got. At 12:30, I went to catch my final wave and went over the falls hard  and got tossed. It was time
to go in. I came up the beach totally spent and met Greg at our spot. Just then Jimmy came up the beach and prepared for a paddle out. Greg and I made
our way back up the cliff in the 70 degree air and headed for veggie burritos.
 
After an afternoon nap back at S&T's, I contemplated breaking my 6 day "outdoor shower only" self-imposed mandate, but thought better of it.
 
biggie, sd country
Pumping
 
The calm repose of these surfers belie the heaviness just offshore...
 

December 31

Mexico and the Mother Hips

The year was coming to a close and Greg and I found ourselves waffling hard over going in to Baja in the waning hours of '05 or not.  We were enjoying
North County immensely, but the pull of the border was too strong... we decided that making a run for the border for surf and fish tacos would be great way to finish out '05. That night, we needed to be in San Diego for the Mother Hips NYE show, so a day trip was the call. We cruised south on the I-5 and made it across the border in no time. Driving through TJ and out to the coast the excitement in the cab grew as big blue-grey lines marched ashore. The swell was still happening! We made our way down to K-38 and found about a dozen cars in the lot and mediocre waves. It was definitely rideable, perhaps even fun, but a bit crowdd for the conditions. So we decided to head back up north a mile or so to Calafia, where we'd seen big walls coming in off the point there. Sure enough there were waves, and we found only one other guy out.
 
rocky waves 
 
We slid into our soggy wetsuits and made our way down the steps in the cliff to the rocky shoreline. Greg made his way out first
sliding between a few exposed boulders as he paddled swiftly for the outside. We both caught waves in the first ten minutes or so and I thought we were
in for an all-time session. My first wave was a big 5-6' (Hawaiian) roller that allowed for several turns before pulling out in front of the rocks. I then caught another, smaller, faster  wave on the inside. Paddling back out, I watched Greg scratch in to a similar wave. He made a perfect drop backside and angled his way up the smooth green-grey surface to shoot down the line behind me. The water reminded me of Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz and it felt great. The horizon held big dark clouds and we knew rain was on the way. But we were loving it - surfing out the final hours down in Baja, talking story, amped up.
After an inital, fun 45 minutes, Calafia all but shut down and we made our way in around a cove to surf  "the inside". Turns out, that wasn't too happening either and we  plotted our exit, which looked dicey at best. From where we would paddle in, we'd have either a long walk along the boulder strewn, tide pool expanse of beach, or a sketchy hike up a cliff to the highway (possibly trespassing) and a long dusty walk back along the highway. We chose the former. With this route we could at least check out the tide pools, and not have to trespass. Back at my truck we rinsed off with some water we'd brought and headed in to the historic restaurant for lunch.  
 
The feel of the hotel and restaurant is fantastic. It almost feels like you are a tourist in the year 1968 - warm Mexican hospitality, great buildings and architecture and fabulous views. And as it turns out Calafia has bit of hisotry (from www.hotel-calafia.com): 
Calafia, according to an old legend, was the Queen of a mythical island named California. 
In 1773, Friar Francisco Palou established the first division of the New












and the Old California. Fra. Palou divided the territories of the











Franciscan and the Dominican Missions by putting the border exactly on











the hill in front of Calafia, making this site a very important











landmark in the history of both Californias.











Greg and I enjoyed a great lunch  and ice cold beer, while overlooking the point and big sluggish waves rolling in, and then decided to make the return trip.
 

Hip Hank Ten at the Calafia Hotel.
 
Driving north in the waning daylight of '05 I insisted that we stop in to surf Baja Malibus. We checked it and it was going off with nobody out. Greg would have nothing of it - content to kick
it in his warm jacket, in the mist and light rain. I threw on my wet wetsuit and jammed down to the beach for the final go-out of the year. As I got to the water's edge I realized it was much bigger
and thicker than it looked from the car! The fog was filling in as I jogged across the wet sand and shallow water into the ocean. The paddle out was OK, but once out there I found myself
constantly paddling my ass off to evade big nasty sneaker waves that were coming in. I dialed in to a short left, then a short right and was feeling good. Then a big set came and I found
myself bailing my board and taking a bit of a beating! I was a bit rattled by this, but was determined to keep surfing in hopes of snagging an elusive tube ride. The fog was
getting heavy and the lights of the condos were flickering, and to add to the excitement, some amigos were shooting loud fireworks off the cliff. I took a late drop on a good sized left
got in the pocket then dug my front rail and went down. Popping up there was a big bang! from the fireworks, and freaked out, I grabbed my board and spun back around and paddled out.
As it got to sunset I decided "enough is enough" and caught a decent right all the way in. The 5-6 short intense rides I did get  were enough to stoke me out.
 
We cruised to the border in no time and were stoked to find only one car in front of us at the checkpoint. Easiest border crossing ever.
 
On the recommendation of the Hips, Greg and I took in some Italian dinner at Felipo's Pizza Grotto in the recently re-done Little Italy section of San Diego. The food was super,
the Sierras went down all too well and the place was jumping in all of its Italian family dining charm. Afterwards we hooked up with the ever-gracious JeffinDC at his hotel room so we could clean up a little for the show. Greg got decked out - looking every bit the Santa Monica surfer, and I threw a quick shave and a couple more beers and we were headed for the club.
 
We walked in to Billy Midnight's set and I was instantly impressed with the sounds and the vibes from the stage. Those boys know how to play, and how to entertain.  The San Diego
feel was in full swing:  Friendly, cool neo-hippy surfers everywhere, lots of smiles, lots of grooving.
 
But of course the main event was the Mother Hips. I took a shot of Tequila with Tim before their set and then sat back and watched the magic go down. They opened with
Back To The Grotto, a familiar enough tune, that threw me for a loop. Instantly recognizable, but played in a very rare place in the set list. From there they went in to a
raucus Poison Oak and things didn't let up until the mid-tempo Whiskey on a Southbound  some 14 songs later!
 
TB Rock - Tim putting it all out there, NYE 
 
In total, it was a wonderful night of rock music, amongst some really great people.  After the late night camp fire set at the Super8 with DelRay and the gang, Greg kindly
drove Liberty back up the 5 to Solana where we crashed out.
  

NYD 2006

Still happening; running on surf stoke

Guest entry: SA 
Awoke NYD to yet ANOTHER day of swell. Will this one ever stop? Just amazing. I checked it from the landingat the condo and sure enough another head high plus day.
This would be day 7 since I drove down.  I really doubted Hank Ten would rally today. I mean, I think he came home right at 4:20 a.m.-- after raging hard at the Mother Hips show.
I was pleasantly surprisedwhen he came down the stairs around 10:30.  I joked that he should grab a cup of fresh brewed coffee an join me for some waves.
Without hesitation he said "Let's go."
 
This is a shot taken after our sesh! Still goin'. 
 
We hit Seaside reef for about 2 hours that late morning and then finished up with some glass love  inspired beach break just North of the reef. (Ed note: Hank would drop in on a
perfect head high left - perhaps the best wave of the trip - and upon making a flawless bottom turn, SA's 6'8" stopped in its track as a large piece of glass on the already compromised
bottom broke off! The remainder of the sesh would be surfed on the single fin.) Super fun 3 hour seshie ("Pull the Neal... awhoooo!"). I remember now that whenever I surf warmer water,
I have incredible endurance. The chilly  waters of Norcal definately wear you out quicker.  I  could have paddled and surfed another 2 hours if it was firing. Although the wind
was off shore (still!)  the tide was really low and making everything close out. Nontheless I grabbed one more little barrell before calling it a day. Great way to start the New Year. 
I love North County.
 
Cardiff SA takin it all in. 
 

01/02/06

All good things come to an end

I love San Diego. I had been dreading leaving North County the last two days. But, all good things end, and on Jan 2, Scott and I found blown, sloppy, un-surfable surf. We cruised and checked a few spots but it was for naught. I'd already worn out my welcome by a couple night's at S&T's, so shoving off was a good idea. I drove north on I-5 and was digging some real old school Reggae, courtesy of my new Mother Hips friend, Jeff in DC (Thanks, Jeff!).

I made a final quick stop in the southland -- a couple burritos and a fish taco at Pedros in San Clemente, and then gunned it north.
The massive rain storm predicted was a farce, and I sailed through Los Angeles at 70+. Getting off at 101 Ventura Freeway I had a sense of calm, happiness and stoke to be headed into the "South Coast", having ripped through L.A.

Given the ripped and torn conditions of the surf along the 101, I'd all but given up on my streak of consecutive surf days. Talking to my Mom on the cellie, I'd told her of my outdoor only shower policy and nine day surf streak. She laughed at the absurdity of the outdoor policy - "Why do you feel you must rough it?" she inquired. I told her "One gallon a day for showering. That's it!"

I cruised in to Santa Barbara no worries. I figured I'd pick up some beers and some chips y salsa, and head up to Jason's, but cruising through town, I noticed the wind was off-shore. After a quick stop at Channel Islands surf shop just to check out the absurd price of surfboards, I drove by  a little point/beach break where I used to lifeguard for the City of SB. Low and behold, I saw A-frame beach break peaks and about ten guys in the water. I flipped my truck around and pulled into the lot and quickly suited up. I paddled out into the chocolate brown water and grabbed a few short, fun waves. Then a I paddled into a right and pulled a Neil Purchase Jr. -- pig dogging a zippy right. The feel of the single fin locking in and in perfect trim is a spectacular feeling. I shot off the back of the wave
in the twilight with an ear-to-ear grin.
 


Looking over the Mesa at a sliver of blue sky, between some palms, and clouds all around, I had a realization about my relationship back home... I paddled in darkness, looking for a peak. At this moment, I had an epiphany: I hadn't even really wanted, or needed to surf this evening -- but I needed an outlet, a crutch for the pain I was feeling. Perhaps if I could find some magic in the surf, in the ride, it would dull the pain or give me some relieve. My session didn't end with an epic ride. Instead, unable to really catch a decent wave in, I simply paddled in in the darkness with peaky chocolate waves detonating up on the shore.

I ran back to my truck in the near darkness. Changing at my truck  I heard a jogger yell my name. I looked up and say a figure at the picnic tables doing pushups. As the figure approached, I realized it was Jason.
 
Back at Jason's we enjoyed his hot tub before throwing back a few cocktails before dinner. We walked down to his favorite Sushi place and dug in to a great dinner. We continued in to the gone Santa Barbara night afterwards and wound up back at his place
sometime after midnight. We watched a surf flick and listened to some Stones before calling it a night.
 


"I know I dreamed you, a sin and a lie, I got my freedom, but I don't
have much time...Faith has been broken, and tears must be cried,
let's do some living after love dies."
 

01/03/06

End of the surf streak, outdoor shower streak, and the trip...