Last weekend, the beaches were beautiful, warm and packed; the surf nearly flat.
That’s no surprise for North County in the summertime, but it did spark some good conversations on the beach.
Steve Clark was hanging out with his family, including his grandson who is just starting to ride Swami’s recently.
Steve has been surfing and shaping as long as anyone in the area, clocking in nearly half a century as one of the Point’s best surfers.
On the beach our conversation drifts from surfboard design to swells and surfers and finally to the pleasant surprise of this year’s warm water.
I mention that an old dive buddy, Harley Stoner, once told me that our beaches were visited with tiger sharks once during a warm water spell many years ago.
Steve then recalls a day many decades ago when he and a friend were out surfing Swami’s and a large tiger shark swam a few feet beneath their boards, sending them to the beach. Don’t tell the kids.
Later that evening, I ran into Moonlight Glassing’s own Peter “Pinline” St Pierre.
St Pierre’s fine artwork has decorated some of the best surfboards ever produced in North County.
Perhaps his most famous board is his “Jimi Hendrix” design.
That board was ridden by North County’s Rob Machado and recorded for a Surfer Magazine cover a few years back.
Peter was not riding one of his classic GH Bonzers the day I spoke with him, but an inflatable surf mat, which he loves for those small high tide evenings.
Ken McKnight now rides mats exclusively. Even then, you rarely see him since he’s usually in the barrel.
The next morning I had a visit from Michael Willis. Willis and I go back to the mid 1970s when he was the youngest shaper ever at Sunset Surfboards.
Not one to look back for long, Willis had some tips for the present and the future. One of them concerns a state beach sign that may need correction.
The sign he refers to features an illustration of a rip current and words suggesting that swimmers caught in rip currents swim parallel to the beach, out of the rip.
Willis, who by his own account was once caught two miles from shore in 80-foot waves, said that advice is incorrect.
“If you swim parallel to the beach, you’re probably swimming toward deeper water where the currents will pull you further out to sea,” he said.
His words caused me to recall my first time on the North Shore where an older gentleman was instructing a young apprentice to “stay in the whitewater after wiping out.”
This makes sense to me, since the waves are pushing toward shore and the deeper water surrounding them is moving away from it.
Another bit of advice from Willis is not do dive headfirst when you fall on a big wave, but to jump in feet first and use your hands to drive you deeper.
“That way, if you hit the bottom, it’s with your feet, not your head. Also, you’re a lot closer to the surface,” Willis credits legendary waterman Eddie Aikau for this sage advice.
While it’s doubtful we’ll need to employ any survival techniques for the next few months in North County, there is one danger we all tend to forget about in summer: stingrays.
While walking the shallows last week, I noticed at least a half dozen rays in the shore break.
I also noticed that most people were walking, not shuffling their feet through the shallows.
Twice stingrays have tagged me and I hope it never happens again since it’s some of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had.
If you shuffle your feet, rays will scatter before they can sting you.
If you do get stung, however, remember the old treatment of water as hot as you can stand poured over the affected area.
This is the best thing I know of to reduce the pain.
Otherwise, summer is about fun. Dive in, feet first of course, and enjoy every minute of it.
Filed Under: Sea Notes