The Coast News Group
Sea Notes

Small surf not necessarily something to look down on

I still remember wetting my pants (not literally) to see “The Endless Summer” at the Santa Monica Civic in the mid-1960s. Like every other surfer and even nonsurfers as far away as Omaha, Neb., where the film sold out in the middle of winter in 1966, I loved that film. It did something more than entertain, however, it freed me, not just to travel to distant shores, but to enjoy small surf.
I don’t know the exact line here, but upon discovery of the 2-foot right point break known as Cape Saint Francis, Bruce Brown said, and I quote imperfectly, “If you found an unridden big wave, you would never paddle out. It would be too dangerous.” He then took us over the sand dune to reveal African nirvana as the film’s stars, Robert August and Mike Hyson, glided through Malibuesq perfection, without us realizing that he had spliced the rides together to make them seem longer than they actually were.
Nonetheless, the magic worked as we bought tickets for destinations unknown, scouring the world for perfection. While many sought massive liquid bombs of energy on which to test their skill and courage, I was content to find waves no larger than double overhead, with nobody out.
Like many of you, I secretly like small waves, something this year has offered plenty of. In this, the coldest, smallest fall on record, you must learn to be content with such scraps, or starve. You can adapt or go snowboarding.
On waves 2 feet and smaller the best idea, as most of you know, is to get a board that won’t lose speed in the smaller, therefore slower surf. This usually means a longboard, or (dare I say it) an SUP. Just last Tuesday, I was out on such a day — knee high perfection at one of my favorite reefs — when my friend Michael stroked over on his stand-up board and began to talk. Michael is an excellent surfer on boards of all types, and I am glad to say, he does not use the extra paddle power of an SUP to his advantage, instead sharing waves with people like me, who struggle to catch a few.
But reefs are probably not the best places to score good, small surf. When the waves drop below shoulder high, I generally find myself heading to the beach breaks, which don’t tend to slow down the little dribblers that are already having a difficult time breaking. There are some excellent sandbars in the area this year and I am glad to report that those invasive surf cams are not often focused on them. What this means is that you can find your own little spot and enjoy hours of carefree fun. One warning: beach breaks tend to shift around a lot and the little wave you score today could be nonexistent by this time next week. So, the surf is tiny again today and I for one am stoked on that. I have my little spot staked out and there’s nobody on it. So, if I am complaining in my next column, please write and tell me to shut up and deal with it. Surf’s down and I’m all over it.