Summer 2015 Is Here — Or At The Wedge, That Is

4 05 2015

Ok, all you Wedgees out there. Yes, summer has hit early this year.   And, it’s only May 4th!

You can see by this screenshot from Surfline that the Wedge in Newport Beach has some real waves. Maybe not Puerto Escondido’s 25 to 35 feet, but real all the same.

Clear the beach. Set at the Wedge!

Clear the beach. Set at the Wedge!

Everyone under the age of 30 should surf it big on a short board once in his/her life just to remind you that you are alive, at least til you hit the bottom. The cross wave that sweeps across the screen (not shown) from left to right, has a habit of sucking the bottom right out of the wave and wedging the top into the sky an extra 30%. Thus, the name the wedge. Making it down the face on your feet is glorious!  Not making it, not so much. Usually it involves some sort of back breaking arch or pile driving header.  There is nothing like peeking over the lip, thinking you’re in, then realizing you needed much more board speed.  It’s not just normal rolling wave action.  The surging wedge action actually increases the water surface speed up the wave’s face under your board faster than you can accelerate, leaving you behind.

Makes the 6′ to 10′ waves at our favorite Uppers look like child’s play. But, at least we don’t put the local lifeguards in danger.

Spencer Purdy and all your friends at the Wedge–you show us what real surfing spills and thrills are all about. Rock on!

[Written from Tokyo–first Uppers action I’ve missed in person in a long time–so, take a couple for me.  Enjoy!]

Tribute To A Hero

13 07 2014

On July 6, 2014, Southern California lost Ben Carlson, one of its heroes to the churning waters off 16th Street in Newport Beach.

Today, the community thanked Ben with what has to be one of the largest “paddle outs” ever.

Paddle Out for Ben Carlson -- 7/13/14

Waiting in Line for the Paddle Out for Ben Carlson — 7/13/14 — note the Crowd on the pier

Most people involved probably never met Ben, but they respect, admire and deeply appreciate his dedication that drew him into the “washing machine” that day to save a body surfer’s life.

Without going on, trying to act like I know more than I do about Ben or the situation, I just want to say thank you to Ben, his family, and all the lifeguards that serve day in and day out with little thanks.  Thank you!

Surfers and lifeguards (many of whom are surfers) have always had an interesting relationship, swimming side by side in heavy surf at times.  We as surfers need to say thank you to lifeguards each time we see them.  We never know when they will be dragging us to shore to give us another chance at life.

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?

Tsunami Physics and Trestles

28 02 2010

Waves On The Way To Trestles

With the tragic 8.8 earthquake in Chile generating a tsunami that traveled across the Pacific, the question arises again — “Just what is a tsunami (Japanese for ‘harbor wave’)?”  We add “How will it affect Trestles?”

The news cams and looky-loo’s run down to the beach looking for a Mav size set to wash away all the local fish taco stands, but are sorely disappointed when they find out the tsunami passed by without even a splash.  That’s because while tsunamis are waves from a physics standpoint, they don’t behave like the waves most people are used to seeing in news photos and movies like Big Wednesday.

Ocean waves range in velocity, wavelength and frequency from wind chop to twice-a-day tides.  Tsunamis fit in the ocean wave spectrum somewhere between surf beat and tides.   So, they behave more like a big surge.

Ordinary wind-driven waves, like the ones breaking yesterday at Snapper Rocks, range from about 5 to 15 seconds in period between waves.  Surf beat varies greatly, but it is the more correct term for what surfers call “sets.”  When I was a kid, the old pro’s on the beach would say that every 9th wave was a big one.  That was a wild guess.  Surf beat frequency and period actually depend on a lot of variables, like wave height, velocity, and frequency, not to mention the shape of the ocean bottom (bathymetry) across which they travel.   With that said, surf beat is a multiple of wave periods.  For example, every ninth 10-second wave would mean the surf beat is 90 seconds.  Tides average about 12 hours between peaks.   Tsunamis are somewhere in between.

Tsunami Wave Geometry

This diagram, borrowed from, shows the difference in wavelength and velocity between deep water travel and shallow water travel for tsunamis.  It is obvious that tsunamis are greatly affected by bathymetry and ocean depth.

For more on tsunami physics, here is a great link.  I especially like the video on one of the pages on this site that shows how the 1960 Chile earthquake tsunami traveled across the Pacific.  It shows graphically why tsunami effects are so difficult to predict.  That’s why it is better to be safe than sorry when responding to tsunami alerts.

In Southern California, nobody was really able to absolutely detect the tsunami as it passed, because it was mid-tide when it was predicted to occur.   But, if it had shown up a few hours earlier, at spring (seasonal high) tide, the story may have been a little more tragic for some low lying areas like Capistrano Beach or even Newport Beach.

As for Trestles, it was a Victory at Sea day, so a little more tsunami confusion would have just blended into the background.  The train tracks are still there.

Newport, Old Memories

28 10 2009

Every time I go back to Newport to surf, it brings back those memories.

Next to Trestles, 54th Street (formerly called 56th Street; or “The Bay” for those of us who were there in the 70’s) is my favorite place to surf.  I’ve been planting my fin in the sand there since about 1970.   I think that is just about the time they dismantled the temporary pier at River Jetty (correct name–not River Jetties, not RJ’s).  Enough old guy “I remember when” crap.

Anyway, I think anybody who has been surfing 54th for any time has seen the cycles.  The cycles of guys that dominate the place for a few years, then move on.  

Probably every 8 to 10 years, you see a new crop of guys discover the cylindrical perfection of that right that starts at 53rd and smokes past the 52nd Street jetty, or the left that winds off the end of the wall that stretches from 48th to 52nd.  They graduate from high school, hone their skills between college classes, get married, have their first kids, then disappear.  The cycle repeats and repeats.

Each cycle is like a subculture.  There are leaders, good guys, bad guys, surf stars, drug addicts, and entrepreneurs.   They form a tight-knit network of “locals.”  Those years are some of their best years, though they don’t know it until they are gone.

I used to get offended when I would show up in the 80’s and 90’s and have the new guys look at me like some kind of alien intruder.  Now that I’ve seen some more cycles come and go, it doesn’t bother me.  I know our crew was the same way and I’m glad to see they have the chance to experience that same camaraderie we had.

I salute the new 54th Street locals and I send my heartfelt regards to our old crew:  Nick, Jim, Briggs, Bob, Cliff, Charlie, Lance, Brian, John, Andre, Billy, Mike, and all the other guys who were my brothers during some of the best years of my life.  Thanks for sharing all those days watching waves and dreaming of what was to come.

Norris–the Mayor