Summertime Score

If you walk, you shall find.

If you walk, you shall find.

By Garrett Wheeler

Surfing can be a lot like roulette: invest a few dollars, spin the wheel and hope for the best. Usually things don’t work out, a result of the odds that are constantly stacked against you. Wind, tide, swell, sandbars, even other surfers are all variables that stand in the way of a surfer and his unyielding attempt to score good, un-crowded surf. But every once in a while, the elements come together to create a wave-induced anomaly- and the result is pure, unadulterated bliss.

And so it was, during the recent succession of southern-hemi swells that I scored really, really good waves.

As May gave way to June, a string of fun-sized south swells made their way to California, no doubt lighting up the coast from Mexico to Oregon, sending surf-starved guys like me scurrying to various south-facing breaks in hopes of finding some good nuggets to call their own. But as is characteristic of off-season south swells, the hordes were on it, and the surf itself was painfully inconsistent. After quickly checking the go-to spot in Half Moon Bay, it was clear that crowds were going to be a factor. I watched as twenty-five guys attempted to share a peak that only produced about six good waves every twenty minutes. Not satisfied, I headed south.

The wind stayed calm until I passed Pigeon Point, where a light onshore flow had made its ugly presence known, turning the beach breaks into crumbly slop. The tide was too high for another popular south-facing wedge, and I knew Santa Cruz proper would be packed to the brim. North of town, I pulled off Highway 1 and watched a dozen guys surfing a couple mushy peaks. I knew I could do better.

On a whim, I skirted back up north and pulled off the road to a trailhead that winds its way over a half mile of sand dunes before emptying onto an isolated stretch of beach. I had checked this spot a few times, never surfed it, but heard that it liked south swells. I knew it would be clean, and I new there’d be waves, but I didn’t know if anyone else would be out. Surfing alone on this part of the coast can be a nerve-racking experience, given the proximity to Ańo Nuevo and its well-publicized white shark seal buffet. But as I threw my wetsuit and towel over my surfboard, another truck parked behind me and two surfers got out. Apparently we had the same idea.

As I walked ahead of my new companions in the afternoon sun, the excitement began to set in. I couldn’t see the beach yet, but I had a good feeling about what it would look like. Halfway through the hike, I couldn’t take it any more- the anticipation sent me running over the dunes like a giddy schoolboy. Finally I reached the last dune, made it to the crest and…my heart started pumping. Pushing into the cove was a sick little A-frame, maybe head high, peeling to either side all the way to the beach. Nobody out. I couldn’t get changed fast enough, scrambling into my suit, mind racing in excitement.

Just hope you find something that looks like this. Photos by Chris Burkard.

Just hope you find something that looks like this. Photos by Chris Burkard.

I scored. Surfed till my arms turned to noodles. Short, punchy rights. Walled-up lefts. Just me and two new friends, reaping the rewards of a gamble that paid off.

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