Blame it on the internet. Blame it on the surf forecasters. Blame it on the improvements in wetsuits, leashes and cheap boards sold at department stores. Blame it on the signs that point the way to what were previously secret surf spots. Blame it on me if you like.
These are all valid reasons for the increasing crowds in surfing, and the sea of fiberglass blanketing North County from Oceanside to Del Mar.
The main reason for surfing’s enduring popularity, however, is not any of the above, but that it is fun, healthy, educational and about the best thing you can do with your free time.
Still, crowds can make it less fun and healthy and can leave you feeling like you’re battling rush-hour traffic on I-5 rather than floating on a cushion of liquid bliss. Crowds are responsible for chasing many lifetime surfers from the lineup and onto the golf course.
Combine greater numbers with the inevitability of aging, and the decision to stay clear of the waves seems inevitable at some point. Senior citizens simply don’t have the go power to compete with flocks of gremmies, many of whom are less than a third their age.
Solitude, one of the reasons many of us began surfing in the first place, is difficult to achieve in 2024. In fact, it’s impossible to find at any of the main breaks.
I have tried surfing on weekdays, at daybreak, and even at midnight, but I have been unable to locate a wave to myself at the main spots in town.
Now, even the secondary spots are overrun. I can’t blame anyone for that, and not willing to abandon surfing altogether, I find myself forced to look beyond our beautiful reef breaks to the shifting sands of beach breaks.
Once the New Year’s Day swell had dissipated a bit, I began hiking onto some of the lesser-known sandy beach breaks to find a few empty little peaks peeling on newly formed sandbars with nobody there to ride them.
Granted, you are not going to find any double overhead 100-yard barrels in these out-of-the-way stretches, but you will have the opportunity of getting them on your own.
If you stumble onto the right spot at the right time, you can enjoy the unique sensation of being completely surrounded by water without being wet.
My solution to finding solitude in the ocean is to carry a set of swim fins and some sort of wave-riding vehicle, usually a bodyboard, an Alia, or one of Finn’s flex planes in the trunk of my car.
This opens the option of jumping into the water for a few quick barrels or walking the beach with no particular agenda. If I spot an exceptional wave, I make mental note of it and bring my surfboard along the next time I’m in the area.
Learning not to be too particular about what waves I ride or what I ride them on has kept my relationship with the ocean fresh and open.
Once in a while, I might even drift into one of the more popular and crowded spots. If I manage to snag a wave or two, stoke will burn hot in me for months.
If not, I’ll be seeking it elsewhere. Happy hunting.