NorCal Lights Up

Lighting Up

NorCal and its lucky waveriders lit it up on the first swell of the season.

It started out on Friday night talking with my family about the plans for the weekend. We decided to take a spur of the moment weekend trip down the coast. Didn’t really have any plans but were excited for the forecasted warm weather and solid swell hitting on Saturday.

Woke up Saturday morning way too early and it was already shaping up to be a beautiful day. My son and I walked out to Ocean Beach to check the waves and it was a pretty good size…no one out and a lot of water moving. Not the best shape, but plenty of good swell. We packed up the car with boards, suits, and other toys and meandered our way south.

The waves at Pacifica weren’t all that encouraging as it looked to be only slightly overhead on the best portions, but you could see on the points and just south of OB that there was some good swell running. A bit windy, but had a lot of potential.

Driving past Montara and all the other nooks and crannies before Half Moon Bay I had to struggle to keep my eyes on the road. Montara was pretty large with no one out. Easily double overhead macker close outs that looked heavy and uninviting…despite the nice weather.

As we continued our drive we made a last minute decision to stop and get a first glimpse of the North Pacific swell hitting Mavericks. The parking lot was packed and there was a small squad of cameras up on the hill, so me and the boyz ventured out to check all the action.

Camera Squad

There were a bunch of pros out and several jet skis. Rumor has it that there was a crew that flew in from Hawaii to charge the 25ft. faces.

Speaking with Mark Sponsler from and others that were out there I was told that the faces weren’t massive but they were pretty thick and powerful. One look at the mountains of whitewater and the way they come careening into the boneyard will tell you that it was pretty serious.


The really good sets would come every ten minutes or so and it was quite a spectacle to see it all go down. Just paddling out there into the Arena is a feat in itself.

Step in to the Arena

We watched the brave souls out there for about an hour paddling into the massive walls as they fell down the faces and raced for the shoulder. Utmost respect to those guys.


The pack was all sitting close together and from my vantage point up on the cliffs you could see three wave sets building as they approached the takeoff zone….the pack would then sink into the trough and disappear until you saw them dropping vertically with total commitment. The rights were really impressive freight trains, but the lefts were something else. The power was pretty clear from about a half mile away.

Oh Mack

Check out the shadow that is cast by this heaving lip. Certainly not a good place to be. I remember hearing one of the pioneers of the place, Grant Washburn talk about how heavy the place is and that you have to ball up when you eat it. The sheer force of the wave was described as being able to rip your appendages right off.


Leaving Half Moon Bay we stopped to have lunch across from Peter Mel and a friend. Everyone was out and all a buzz with the contagious energy of the sea.

We drove past Waddell and Scott Creek watching sailboarders and kitesurfers launching sometimes 20ft in the air over the tops of the lips. There was some good wind and no shortage of swell to serve as launch ramps.

By this time it was late in the day and so arriving in town I went straight out to Pleasure Point on the eastside hoping to get some long rides to warm up on. Surfed for about two hours until just the moonlight shone on the faces of the waves. It was pretty tame, except for the sets that would come through every twenty minutes or so. A couple times I got caught inside between Sewers and First Peak and had to swim down deep to avoid the eight foot+ walls of whitewater bearing down on me. There was so much froth on the surface that it was like swimming in a creamy milkshake.

Waking up the next morning I went to check the surf on the Westside and was greeted with the Lane at its best. Large glassy walls that broke perfectly and a good sized crowd starting to form.


Everyone was stoked and so I sat up on the cliff shooting some photos of the morning action. Santa Cruz is truly a mecca for surfers and Sunday was about as good as it gets in offering a little something for everyone. Longboarders were jazzed picking up rides from way outside on the bombies all the way into Cowells.


Shortboarders were airing out with the little speed ramps that were lining up from out of the slot. Sometimes you would get a super fast left and right hander from the cliff and two guys racing towards each other both trying to find their ramp. It was a little like a game of chicken and certainly entertaining for everyone on the cliff.

Lil Boost

The inside waves had some nice juice and sometimes the waves after the sets were the best…all frothy and rippable.

Carving the Cream

Saw one guy pulling into some little cover ups that didn’t end so well. He was pissed when he came up to find that the only thing attached to his leash were his three skegs. The little board just got snapped on one of the little grinders.

Oh Snap

It felt like it was about 85 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and although the wind picked up a bit around noon, by the time I got out in the afternoon it was glassy as ever and stayed that way for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful weekend in one of the most unique places in the whole world. This place has it all, from rivers to mountains, redwood forests that have marched right up to the sea and more. I know that this won’t last as we quickly approach winter and the impending storm action that batters the coast, but until then the Golden State is the place to be.

Nice Left

3 thoughts on “NorCal Lights Up

  1. Surfed the Lane on that same Sunday, having just flown from Taiwan to SFO the night before. Brought back what I tasted on the last Typhoon down at Feng Kang where I surfed alone for 2 hours on Thur. morn. No surfing alone around Santa Cruz. In fact, I was reminded of it 2 days later before an epic Waddell Creek barrel fest; walking into the water I gazed closer at a fly covered sea lion washed up the night before. It’s head bitten clean off. Yep – you’re not alone out there. I’ve heard sharks even digest steel balls.


  2. Yeah, well not too bad…surfing Fengkang and then going straight to the Lane…What a contrast of surf experiences! It took me a bit of time to adjust to having to hustle to catch waves, I’d gotten so laid back in Taiwan just giving away waves left and right. You could, as they say in Taiwan ‘lose face’ for that and not get any waves. Kind of keeps your mind off the sharks a bit, staying busy and surfing with the crowds. North of town its hard not to think of them when you are out there. Especially this time of year. Just have to keep pulling in and you’ll be fine.


  3. Actually, this time of year, what keeps my attention is those mutant sets that show up un-announced. Been rolled just enough to test my limits. Looking at the N. Pac Jet Stream, lookin like I need to cook up a quick excuse to head back soon. It’s just amazing how our US customer complaints seem to converge on that Sep. to Jan. time-frame. Unlike Paul Simon, I’d be in real trouble if my customers were actually satisfied.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s