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The Pink House

I said I couldn't, but by the time I hung up I realized I could sublet my room in Allston, quit my job, "take a break", and accept a friends invitation to move out to Santa Cruz. The clincher was a house the hippies had painted pink. It's an old single-story Victorian on West Cliff Drive by the trestle bridge overlooking the Municipal Wharf, Boardwalk, skate park, and Monterey Bay. Every morning I'd look out the bay windows to appreciate the view, and see exactly what the wind was doing (even a ¼ mile out). If it was breaking at the wharf, it was big.

 

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz sculpture by Thomas Marsh with pedestal by Brian Curtis

 

West Cliff is one of the world's pumpin'est streets; spreads with sprawling views of the Pacific with rock reefs below. First on the left is Cowell's- an inside point for longboarding that peels endlessly to the beach. The outer point is Steamer Lane- consistent, crowded, world class on any day, best up to 7'. In the afternoon, the Lane might be the only place that wasn't blown out as the cliffs offer much needed protection from the frequent afternoon on-shores.

 

Steamer Lane
Steamer Lane

 

 

Steamer Lane
Steamer Lane

 

Moving on, Mitchell's Cove only turns on during the bigger NW winter swells. I was new in town the first time I paddled out at Mitchell's. I remember nuttn'up and going for a set wave. I had no business being out.

Stockton is the most localized, bro-ed out, perfect wave on the Central Coast. On the cliffs near Stockton Ave. dudes named Skindog, Barney, and Boulder tell tranny-maggots like me to keep driving.

Last up is Natural Bridges- it barrels, has multiple peaks, but is popular with spongers. 5 breaks in just 3 winding miles along Westside Santa Cruz.

I should mention that my room in the pink house was only $225 a month. Surfline has a map of town.

Tranny Heaven

I had a pretty decent routine: check the Lane, if it was too crowded- drive north. Aside from the abundance of right points and beach-break, Santa Cruz's greatest asset is that all the land (aside from state parks) north of town is zoned agricultural, and in California everyone is guaranteed access to the ocean meaninf the farmers allow us passage. It reminds me of the National Seashore on Cape Cod, except for the free parking, and abundance of waves at a variety of breaks. There's also a shitload of people who surf them. I was just another "tranny" to the locals I inevitably pissed off. Anyone who wasn't a "Valley" or didn't go to East or Westside High was a: "Tranny" short for transplant.

They have a serious problem in Santa Cruz with surfers moving up from Southern California. Apparently, being from the east coast wasn't as bad as being from the valley. Being a Tranny meant that any day it was small or blown-out, or just wind-swell was a good day for me. Back home it's flat and freezing. I was totally stoked just to be in the water. It took some time, but after a few confrontations I learned it was best to respect, and not hassle the locals. The ideal place to do that was 3-mile. While being the closest break to town (3 miles away) it was often the least crowded because; it was usually a burger of a wave, 4-mile was much better, there were fifteen breaks after that.

We also frequented an offshore break at Greyhound Rock. It was one of the few lefts in the area but the sharks did a good job with crowd control. The take off spot is in the deep water where the wave hits the submerged rock. How I loathed being the only one to miss a set wave at Greyhound.

 

At Greyhound Rock 3/02
At Greyhound Rock 3/02

 

We were walking through the lot once when a fisherman tells us he'd recently hooked a Great White just offshore and that we were nuts for surfing there.

Southern-Hemi

I'd managed to stay afloat working part-time so I could surf everyday. My friend dubbed me 'surf-monk' for my healthy-dedicated-minimalist existence. By April I'd got my cutback down the lips, and traded up the funboard for a custom 6'6. Spring and summer meant South swells. The overhead winter waves were awesome, but the gift of the left coast is for-sure the summer swells. These long-period pulses travel absurd distances, generated by powerful storms near Australia and Antarctica. The buoy reads 7' at 20 seconds. It's not as big or consistent as a good NW but the beauty of the south swell is- there's waves in summer; California has waves all summer long! Good waves! head-high for days at a time- frequently.

A long flat spell here is usually two weeks, and during that time there is probably wind swell and even random set waves to be had. The Eastern Atlantic has got to be one of the worst places on earth to be a surfer, great breaks but no waves - albeit what, 25 days a year! It's the plague.

Highway 1

Fall is the best season for waves on the Central Coast; the weather is perfect, the water is as warm as it gets, and the big NW swells begin to show their faces. In September the last 2 from our Cape crew moved out bringing the tranny posse to 5 strong. In October we made our first trip South in search of the un-crowded, overhead perfection of Big Sur.


 

Andrew Molera
Andrew Molera, Big Sur

 

100 winding miles down the 1 is a multi-peaked spot called Willow Creek.


 

Clem Smith - Goofy Foot at Willow Creek 10/00
Clem Smith - Goofy Foot at Willow Creek 10/00

 

My friend's roommate was dating a local who inadvertently tipped us off to this diamond amongst the rocks. We doubted he'd tell us, so Clem asked her where Jake was surfing. Apparently, the elements don't come together too often (on-shores) but when they do, driving down to Big Sur feels like being able to drive to Chile for perfect, intimidating, empty waves. The first time we caught Willow Creek it was 8to10 and barreling at the take off with the low tide.

 

Willow Creek
Willow Creek

 

A courteous fellow told us the whereabouts of a nearby camping spot in a grove of Redwoods. That night we drank beer to blast the bottles and cans with a .22. It was 3' bigger the next time we drove down, and got skunked on our third trip because it was closing out at 20'. We went back to Santa Cruz and surfed 3-mile. Last spring we returned during an endless bout of onshores, so we checked a spot Surfline let me in on. The Big Sur river mouth wraps around in such a way that NW winds blow offshore. The 3 of us east coasters scored river mouth peelers during a head high SW swell with offshore NW winds at low tide. The good times and overhead surf on these trips, led us to look further South, of the border.


 

Scott's Creek Big Sur
Scott's Creek, North of Santa Cruz

 

Green Rooms


Josh the Genius had been keeping the rent down in the pink house for 8 years. When he finished his PHD and left town, the rest of us had to go. I reluctantly returned to Boston to complete my BA. Graduating at 30 warranted a trip so when I finished I drove to Cali and 4x4ed down to Baja. Much of the 1000-mile peninsula works on N and S swells, it's affordable, un-crowded, epic points- and best of all; you drive there. From Northern California it's just a day away to an authentic third-world surf adventure, but you've got a ride.
After a marathon drive from LA in relentless Santa Ana winds, Pete and I awoke our first morning in a picturesque high desert area, about 400 miles south of the border. A short drive from the '1' to the ocean brought us to our first spot- "the Notch;" a perfectly shaped right-point peeler that never really gets much overhead. When this wave is working, there are few better. On this day it was rather small and freight-training so after a forgettable morning session in which I managed to pull a pectoral muscle while paddling out, we checked a nearby point that we surmised might be good with a lower tide. Sure enough, the bigger set waves hit that ancient lava-flow and barreled across the sand covered reef. We christened this epic, nameless spot "al pastor point" after the tacos we'd eaten the night before. Tacos are the life-blood of Baja. Tacos were our life-blood down in Baja.


 

Playa Todos Santos
Playa Los Ceritos - Near Todos Santos

 


 

Fish Taco Stand in Villa Todos Santos, Baja 2/02
Fish Taco Stand in Villa Todos Santos, Baja 2/02

 

The next morning was flat so we packed up and headed to "the Wall" which we could see breaking in the distance. The surf was up when we arrived, it got a lot bigger. I didn't know how just 3 miles out it could be double overhead while being flat inside, I just appreciated; huge (rail-grabbing) cutbacks, big-fast drops, dueling the face with my best bud, a fast inside section free of close-outs, and the mellow crowd- all on a huge- but forgiving wave. Some of the fellows spend their entire winter here surfing overhead waves while most of Baja is waist-high. I figure the point sticks out so far into the ocean that it picks up every little ripple, and the drastic difference between high and low tide means that the wave must abruptly hit the boulder strewn reef and jack-up. The incoming tidal push is probably surf-able in summer. We spent a week here, I didn't want to leave but there was better weather and warmer water to the south. We had some good days and some great days, some beach-break slop, and a sweet day of overhead lefts down at Punta Canejo, but the "Wall" was definitely the highlight of our trip. I'd tell you right where it's at but I promised Ted I wouldn't.

 

Pete Hopple at The Wall Baja (near Rosalia)  2/02
Pete Hopple at The Wall Baja (near Rosalia) 2/02

 

If you have the time and 2 grand, I highly recommend making the 4-day trip to Baja someday. Eat tacos, sleep on the beach, successfully navigate armed military checkpoints (by donating your old Playboys), enjoy 90* winters, smuggle drugs (don't), survive on PB&J. Find empty barrels peeling inside and the overhead bombs rolling through the outer points. Next winter: you could spend all your money on plane tickets, or you could just split the cost of gas to Mexico. Clem's in Colorado but has made a career of finding time to surf Baja, Rook's down there right now, Justin's in Indo, Pete's in RI and I'm living vicariously in New York City. Not for long…

Extra Big Sur Pictures

East Side Big Sur
East Side, Santa Cruz

 

Andrew Molera
Andrew Molera, Big Sur

 

Sandollar Beach in Big Sur,CA 10/00
Sandollar Beach, Big Sur 10/00

Article by James Audiffred 2003. All photos by James H. Audiffred. All Rights Reserved. Printed with Permission.

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I had read the article on your website about the young lady in trouble and that prompted me to write about my experience in September. I felt that her inability to get assistance when in need was definitely something that needed to be addressed. Below is my story.

I have surfed for over 35 years and the last 22 in New England. During the Fabian swell on Saturday 6th of September 2003 I arrived at my favorite east coast "big wave" surf spot to find waves in the range of 15 to 18 foot faces. It was early morning and the waves were on the rise. I took a few photos suited up in a relaxed manner, no need to hurry since the waves were not going anywhere, and headed out to catch some bombs. After an hour and a half of catching increasing bigger sets I dropped into an easily 20'+ set wave made a sweeping bottom turn and headed down the line.

This is where the fun ended and the real story began. I have surfed hurricane swells for over twenty years in town and never really had any injuries. As I rode down that wave and attempted to pull into a large barrel, the lip hit my right arm and knocked me off my board. Stretch-stretch POP. I came up from the wipe out and there was my arm floating in front of me. I'm unable to move it, broken or dislocated, were my first thoughts as I dove under set wave after set wave and finally make it to the channel. After about an hour and half of repeated attempts to make it to shore through 15' breakers in the channel, and a near helicopter rescue out of Otis Air Force Base, I placed my feet on day land.

The thankful part about this story were the valiant efforts, of initially, one young man from the cape, who paddled and swam through 4 cycles of attempting to catch a wave in only to wipeout with me and wash out about 200-300 yards offshore with the sunset like rip. Finally 3 other experienced watermen and the gentlemen mentioned earlier were able to paddle us into the impact zone and catch a wave, stabilize me and make it to shore.

The sad part is that a number of "surfers" paddled by, offered no assistance, even when asked, and proceeded to make their way out into the line up. Maybe those individuals felt out of there element, just didn't care or have the skills to assist. But I hope they never find themselves in a similar situation with a broken, dislocated shoulder, shock and hypothermia and worrying about their chances of making it to shore. We all need to remember that surfing can be dangerous and we need to look out for and assist each other in times of need because it can be a life threatening situation. If we can't do that with each other in our own neighborhood, how can we expect to have peace and caring in the world.

I have since had surgery to repair a broken greater tuberosity, this is where all the muscles of the rotator cuff attach and the dislocated shoulder was set the day of the accident. I look forward to a complete recovery and being back in the lineup in the spring and riding the waves of southern New England during hurricane season next year and wanted to send a heartfelt thanks to the "men" who assisted me on that day.

NESurf.com comment: There has been talk about setting up a surfer-based rescue team in RI. If you'd like to read more and maybe chime in please follow this link.

Copyright © 2003 NESurf.com and Anonymous.
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