Not So Smooth Sailing at Salt Creek

24 07 2017

And you thought you got too close to The Point at Salt Creek (one of our near neighbor surf spots).

salt creek sailboat aground

Source: Salt Creek live webcam

Checking the surf using Surfline webcams this morning, we happened across a marine safety response.  What looks to be a couple Dana Point Marina Harbor Patrol boats are assisting a grounded sailboat on The Point at low tide.  A couple hours prior, the tide bottomed out at about -1.38′.

From what I hear from various ocean lifeguards along the Orange County coast, grounding of boats isn’t all that uncommon.  And, it is seldom very clear as to exactly what happened, many times occurring at night.  One can only imagine what would have distracted a pilot from his/her navigational duties long enough to run into the rocks on a relatively clear night, with houses lit up on the beach and 60-foot coastal  bluffs behind them.

Or, maybe they lost their anchor or had a medical emergency that kept them from their duties.  Or, maybe the boat was full of illegal drugs making their way north.  Just very unfortunate all around.  Fortunately, there was little to no surf on this warm, tropical morning.  During the time we were watching, there was no sign of the pilot or anyone else from onboard.  Hopefully, everyone got out safely.

It’s a good thing we haven’t seen this happen at Uppers lately.  It can be a little dangerous for our already sometimes dangerous Crowd.

Smooth sailing!?




More Rain for San Mateo Creek, and Trestles

17 02 2017

At 3:00 pm today, the City of San Clemente surf report from the pier reported sustained winds of 45 from the southeast.  That’s enough to grow waves locally.  Below is a screenshot from’s T-Street webcam; and it is only beginning to build.

The weather reports were predicting rain that would be the heaviest in the last 10 to 20 years (kind of a typical weather forecaster’s vague speak).  At any rate, below is a screenshot from Weather Underground showing the radar imagery for what is headed this way.

Lots of rain headed toward the headwaters of San Mateo Creek, our favorite Southern California pristine watershed that flows out to the Pacific at Uppers.  The bottom has already changed this season, with more to come.  It should set up some great waves by the time the summer south swells show up later this year.

In the meantime, maybe California is finally limping out of its long drought.

The El Nino winter last year fizzled out with no real rain, even though all the experts predicted heavy precipitation.  It may be that if you look at the last several El Nino events, the heavy rain doesn’t actually show up until the first rainy season after the sea surface temperatures return to an ENSO-neutral condition.

Regardless, it’s great to see the San Mateo flowing with life again.  Rain, rain, don’t go away.

Trestles Surf Forecast — June Gloom

12 06 2015

It’s here.  June Gloom — the annual mid-June surf shutdown.

The next week of surf.  Source:

The next week of surf. Source:

As soon as school lets out and we get ready for summer, the surf goes flat; sometimes for several weeks.  Don’t be surprised if the water temp dips for a few days too.

Then, just as we drag out the longboards, dig up our 4/3 wetsuits, and bundle up in double sweatshirts to fend off the “coastal clouds,” the surf starts to boom again.  Hopefully, by mid-July, the south swells will start thundering in.

The question is “can we fight off the depression until the waves arrive?”

It’s a good time to catch up on that work project, prune the garden, and buy that new board, preparing for the (almost) inevitable chain of summer swells that will keep us happy until late November.  Hopefully!

Lowers at Its Worst

23 03 2015

Need I say more?

Take a close look.  Surfline has gone, at least temporarily, to a live HD camera for Lower Trestles.  Note the rolling time stamp below the video frame when you pull it up yourself.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad.  Will it mean more surfers see an uncrowded morning, load up their bikes and race down the trail to load up the “slot” on the point.  Or, will it result in a sort of “self-correcting” whereby surfers see it is already crowded and head to a different beach,  preventing an over-saturated “super crowd.”  Regardless, it feels like a bit of sanctity may be gone with a live feed.

At least we don’t yet have a live feed at our favorite Uppers — yet.

By the way, note in the photo that there is absolutely nobody in the water or on the beach at the moment of the screenshot–at 8:23 in the morning.  It proves my assumption wrong that Trestles always has people in the water even when there are no waves.

At least the honey dipper driver gets the beach to him/herself.  I guess that’s why they are No. 1 in the No. 2 business.

UPDATE:  The Lowers camera seems to be a permanent feature.  And, now Uppers has its own live feed.  To be honest, it can be of some help.  The other day,  I noticed Uppers was sheet glass through the noon hour.  I hopped on my bike and caught some clean, head high, buttery waves for a couple hours, with only about eight people out. Then, the wind picked up.  Not sure I would have caught it without the camera.

San Onofre’s Trestles — The Countdown to Closure?

12 06 2014

There may not be a crowd at Trestles after 2021.

Many times we forget that Trestles, even Uppers, is part of the larger San Onofre State Beach, which is mistakenly believed by many to be in Orange County (actually it is in San Diego County).

The 2,900-plus-acre State Beach was created in 1971 through a 50-year lease from Camp Pendleton to the State of California. Verbal history says that President Nixon, who spent his holidays at the Cotton mansion at Cotton’s Point (referred to as the Western White House), actually lobbied the Department of the Navy to allow the arrangement. More can be found at this link.

Prior to 1971, surfers traveled beyond the barbed wire at Cotton’s (now called “Barbed Wires”) at their own risk. There are the stories of Marines firing in the air to convince trespassing surfers to come to the beach to turn themselves in. Others will tell you of the times they lost their boards (pre-leash days) only to have them picked up by the MP’s as they washed up on shore. When you went in to claim your board, you were automatically arrested, driven to the Provost’s office at Church, and fined. If you were under 18, your parents got a call. It depended on the officer as to whether you would be taking your board home with you.

In 1970, as an experiment, the Marines allowed the State to open the long bluffs portion of the beach (commonly referred to as “Trails”) to the public, but just for a few weeks in the summer. Fortunately, everyone behaved and the arrangement was made permanent. Interesting side story, during that short temporary opening, fishermen on the beach pulled a lot of great fish from the shallow reef, because the area had not been fished in decades. The following year, the lease was approved and the gates were opened to the public.

Today, we mostly don’t think Trestles could ever be closed to surfers again. But, the lease is up in 2021. It should be interesting to watch the Navy’s maneuvers over the next few years. Will the Crowd thin?

Okay, Back to the Crackling Sound

8 09 2011

Last week, during our little high-energy swell that drove just about everyone to the bottom at least 10 times per session, there was this bizarre underwater crackling sound that would crescendo for about 4 or 5 seconds with each passing set wave.  Very unusual, at least to me.

After doing some searching, often getting my own notations in my search results, I have picked and chosen some pieces that just might explain it.  I’m open to constructive criticism and correction on this.

Some sites talk about flora and fauna in the tropics, and even Garibaldi in California, that make “crackling” or maybe “cracking” or popping sounds for various dietary or sexual reasons.  Nope–not likely.  Unless, somehow large waves stimulate diet or sexual cravings in small crustaceans or bright orange fish.

So, here’s another theory that takes me back to my graduate hydraulic theory courses.  It sounds like “cavitation.”  You know that popping or “crackling” sound you hear when water is going through a slightly opened valve at way too high of a velocity.  Okay, maybe it’s just something us water nerds have experienced.  But, it also happens when boat props are moving at high speeds.

Without trying to explain Bernoulli’s Equation in a surf blog post, it goes something like this.  The water is moving so fast that the internal pressure of the water momentarily drops below atmospheric pressure, otherwise known as drawing a vacuum.  When that happens, any gas molecules dissolved in the water come out of suspension and form bubbles.  But that state is short lived.  As soon as the water moves away from the area where it was moving fast and the internal pressure of the water reaches atmospheric pressure again, the bubbles “implode” and disappear.  That is what makes that crackling sound when water is cavitating in a pipe or valve:  all those bubbles continuously imploding.  So, here is my theory–not exactly cavitation, but similar concept.

One of our favorite Crowdmembers, Tim Elsner, kept remarking about how “top to bottom” the set waves were breaking.  Got it, a lot of vertical movement in the water.  So, somehow on the set waves the lips were driving the air in the whitewater down further below the surface than normal.  Rather than coalescing like bubbles underwater usually do as they move up toward the surface (you know, like all those diving videos show from the deepwater divers), the bubbles were imploding, making the crackling sound.  Maybe the bubbles were being held down by the whitewater, similar to us humans.  Rather than coalesce, the pressure got to them and they imploded.

Sounds like a research topic, but not sure who would fund it.


Tsunami Damage in Newport Beach?

11 03 2011

Got your attention!  No damage to report here.

It seems like every year we all learn a little more about tsunami’s and what they can do to low lying beach areas.

Inspiration Point, Corona del Mar, 8:45 am, 3/11/11

So, always in the pursuit of learning, I thought I’d stop by my local tsunami-watching area after the 8.9 earthquake in Japan today — Inspiration Point in Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, California).  I was there when the first surge hit the beach (or so it seemed).  I obviously wasn’t the only one there.   There had to be at least 100 fellow gawkers.  We had the all-girl (30 somethings) running club, the homeless guy with the guitar, all sorts of tourists, dogs, and construction workers.

So, what happened?

If you read my posting on tsunami physics, you know the answer.

Over a few minutes, you could see the water advance up the beach a foot or so (vertically).  The tide was supposed to be at its lowest point, so the rise would not be expected.  The second photo shows the high tide markings from overnight.  The water advanced to about 8 to 10 feet (horizontally) from that high mark.  So, yes we all got to see a tsunami, but none of the rest of the crowd seemed to notice.  I guess they all need to check out next time an earthquake happens.

Tide/tsunami levels at Corona del Mar

So, the real show wasn’t the tsunami.  It was the tsunami watchers.  We had the typical silicone-enhanced coffee-sippers, the retired engineers waiting for their next cruise ship, the construction workers stopping by on the way to Home Depot, the spoiled 2-year-olds tugging on their mother’s sweaters while the mothers gab away on their iPhones, and the rest of us faceless people watchers.

I left after the first surge, having seen what I came for.  The rest will probably be waiting out there through lunch waiting for the Hawaii Five-O grinder to take out the houses on the cliff.

Can’t wait til the next earthquake.  Fascinating stuff, huh?

Andy Irons — What is Dengue?

7 11 2010

Source: ASP Covered Image

We were all deeply saddened to find out that one of our greatest surf brothers passed away this week.

There have been rumors and confusing reports as to what really happened that would leave him at room temperature in a Dallas hotel room, where he was waiting to catch a connecting flight home. The initial, most dependable reports referred to a bout with Dengue fever that made him drop out of the Rip Curl Pro Search 2010 in Puerto Rico in the early rounds. We are not going to spread misinformation here.

So, the question is — Just what is Dengue?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dengue infects up to 100 million people worldwide each year.  It hangs out in the tropics and subtropics with the likes of other blood-borne diseases transmitted by mosquitoes like Yellow Fever and Malaria.  Dengue severity ranges from simple fever all the way to death. You don’t hear about a lot of people dying of Dengue, but it can happen.  And, as a minimum, it could leave your body too weak to handle other “issues.”

The best way to prevent Dengue is to prevent mosquito bites.  And, as I always tell my wetland management friends,  the best way to prevent mosquito bites is to prevent mosquitoes. In the case of Dengue, the mosquito to look for is the Aedes_aegypti, which started in Africa, but can now be found anywhere in the tropics and subtropics.

That sounds easy, but in the tropics that would mean stopping the rain that fills every nook and cranny.  So, the next best method is to wear DEET and avoid the outdoors in early morning and late afternoons.  Here is a link to other prevention measures.

Still sound tough when you’re trying to catch dawn patrol or evening glass?  Then, just keep an eye out for the symptoms and get medical help as early as possible if they show up.

Andy — rest in peace.  We don’t care if it was Dengue or something else.  Whatever it was, it took you away far too early.  You will be missed.

Yes, Summer 2010 Is Over

16 08 2010

The post from the other day talked about water temperatures “way out there” in the ocean and how La Nina had really kicked in.  But, I didn’t realize just how prophetic that post was until the water temperatures plummeted right on the beach.

On Saturday morning, it felt like a bad dream.  There we were at Uppers all commiserating.  Seemingly overnight, the ocean temperature went arctic on us.  It was probably only 58 degrees, but it may as well have been 50.  Nobody had booties, gloves or hoods at hand.  So, we all just complained to each other.

It was just like sitting in the lineup in February.  Low quality wind waves and cold water.  And, yes the calendar still says the middle of August in the northern hemisphere.

Hopefully Winter 2011 goes away as quickly as Summer 2010 came and went!

Surf Wax Where It Doesn’t Belong

14 08 2010

Surf wax is an amazing product.  Without it, surfing just wouldn’t be the same.  Even today’s traction tops just don’t work the same.  But, the miracle product sometimes ends up in places other than on our boards.

Seems like no matter how hard we try to avoid it, surf wax ends up where it doesn’t belong.

The other day, I got a strong sign that I took off on the wrong wave.  After a late takeoff and during the drubbing brought on by the closeout, I realized my toes had curled so hard trying to pull under the lip, that my toenails had loaded up with wax.   Wax where it doesn’t belong.

How about those warm summer days when we don our spring suits, but forget to change out our “cool” wax?  The wax balls up and sticks to the hairs on our legs.  At least that’s true for guys and bohemian wahines.  Brings a new meaning to waxing for hair removal.  Wax where it doesn’t belong.

If you use a backpack to carry your wetsuit and gear, you likely keep your wax in a separate compartment.  Otherwise it ends up on your Iphone or clothes.  Wax where it doesn’t belong.

It also sometimes intentionally ends up where it doesn’t belong.  Most of the Trestleglyphs (see previous post) are wax.  Intentional writings of surfers.   Great communication, but does it really belong on the trail?

Then, there’s the age old tactic used by over-zealous locals — wax on the windshield of some poor tourist.  Definitely wax where it doesn’t belong.

And, of course,  given enough time, wax somehow manages to migrate onto the bottom of our boards.  It slips while we’re waxing up,  when we lay our boards on the trash can while we’re toweling off, when we stack our boards on the roof rack, or when we land an air on the board of the poor soul behind us.

Where have you found wax where it didn’t belong.  But, don’t wax bizarre and remember this is a family site, so don’t rub anyone the wrong way.

By the way, if you want more info on the leading developer of surf wax, go to Wax