Sea Notes

Surfing in rain: more fun than you’d think

When asked why we were surfing in the rain, the most common answer was that we were already wet. Some of my fondest memories are of surfing during a rainstorm —there was a small day at Pipeline in Hawaii where a double rainbow flooded the sky as the warm water poured down all around us. There was a day on Australia’s South Coast, where the waves were 6 to 8 foot, peeling over a new sandbar, and the wind had turned from hard onshore to a blasting offshore, pelting us like nails as we struggled to drop in. I have surfed rainy days in New Zealand, Fiji, Guam and Victoria Island. I remember a day at Rincon, where the tide was high, the swell small and the wind onshore. We were about to drive home when a set peeled off around the outside point, unridden. By the time we hit the water the sun was out, the tide had dropped and my friend David and I had perfect 4-foot point surf all to ourselves. Of course, any time you get north of Point Conception, the chances of rain increases and waves in rainy conditions is a near certainty.
I have many memories of rainy days in Cardiff, one at the Reef, paddling out after Charlie Walker who had taken my new and previously unwaxed board for a spin without my permission. There was a magic day at Beacons, and a day at George’s where Ken Eichenburg and I were the only ones on hand when the wind turned, finding deep barrels to ourselves.
Suddenly we began hearing that surfing during, or even after a rain, was unhealthy, that all of our land-based poisons were waiting to flow into the ocean where they would attack us and cause no little harm. I didn’t believe it until I suffered repeated flu symptoms during rainy days, along with ear problems that didn’t go away for weeks.
Today I sat in my car and watched a brown and toxic river flow from the San Elijo Lagoon, onto the reef. The waves were tiny, but steep and crisp, lined up like a ruler, peeling a 100 yards north and south. Temptation to paddle out loomed, but tales of those who had suffered near fatal or fatal diseases, like Malibu’s Eric Villanueva who died after contracting the Coxsackie’s B-4 virus, which is achieved through contact with human waste. Seems that some of America’s wealthiest citizens were unable to get their collective acts together and keep their septic tanks from flooding into the estuary and, subsequently, the waves at the point.
Non-source point pollution in the ocean is a human problem that humans can solve. More than government grants or storms drain filters, this problem can be solved through a concerted effort by each of us. We have been warned of the dangers time and again, but we each must do our part to keep pesticides and chemical fertilizers off our lawns and out of gutters. We need to repair oil leaks in our cars, sweep, rather than hose down our sidewalks, avoid leaf blowers, and clean up pet waste before winter rains flush water that no self-respecting test animal would be caught alive in, into our favorite playground. I miss surfing in the rain. Maybe it will be safe again in the near future. That depends on you and me.
Glassy Christmas to all and to all a good session.

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