With January approaching and the Southern California swell finally beginning to pick up, frustrated Santa Barbara surfers are finally getting their fix. Flat spells hit every summer, when swells are blocked by the Channel Islands and parts of the Pacific turn into a lake. After such a long stretch of nothing but ripples, I can’t help but think back to the amazing El Niño winter in 2009 when I surfed 57 days in a row.
At the time, I was a freshman in college, recently relocated from the frigid waters just north of San Francisco and basking in my newfound proximity to what have become some of my all-time favorite breaks. To celebrate my good luck and the seemingly tropical temperatures - at least compared to what I was used to back at home - I made it a point to catch at least three waves every single day during UCSB’s winter quarter, and I almost made it.
(1) Save It For the Surf
When my streak began, I was still the new kid on the block in just about every way. I struggled to fit a stubby little arm around my 9’2” so I could make the short bike ride from my dorms down to Devereaux, the beautiful shelf-bottom break that peels right and away from Coal Oil Point. After nearly facing it off my bike a few times, I quickly learned my lesson and invested in a surfboard bike rack that made getting to and from heaven much easier.
(2) Patience, Patience, Patience
Somewhere around Day 30, I got cocky and started to line up deeper than anybody out there. I would wait outside for the killer sets to roll through and shake everybody up on the inside while I rode some monster all the way in. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t - I was getting the biggest waves and the longest rides, but I was missing out on most of the fun.
As I did this more and more, I realized two important things:
(1) Big waves aren’t always better waves.
(2) Good waves take patience.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t get some perfect rides on glassy monsters, but after a while, I spent more of my time getting more waves just a bit farther inside, laughing and joking with the crowd. Which brings me to…
(3) Enjoy the Ride - And the Crowds
Sure, surfing at its best is usually a one person per wave type of thing, but after spending so many foggy mornings alone in the water and watching more perfect Santa Barbara sunsets than I can remember by myself, it felt good to be around fellow ocean enthusiasts and appreciate the beauty together on crowded days. Don’t think of as stealing the waves. Think of it as sharing the love.