“I Thought It Was Flat!”
I’m a Southern Orange County surfer, so pardon the local reference… but it’s such a great feeling to turn on the blinker, exit the freeway, top the hill at Basilone Rd. and see that off to the right my faith has been rewarded. Trestles breaking at six foot, glassy, with barely anyone out. What a sight. Why are so few out? Probably because they missed the angles of the swell direction. So many times I talk to people later and hear, “I checked the cams – I thought it was flat!”
Tools like Surfline and others have made it simple to catch almost any angle nowadays when it’s breaking, but as they’ll report they’re only reporting the top spots. If the top spots aren’t hitting and the cams look flat, it can be hard to trust a colored map and mathematics when sometimes the drive and commitment can take you more than an hour even if you don’t get wet. That’s why we came up with cameras in the 90s when we started surfcheck.com, but those cams didn’t replace a good surf forecasters like Adam Wright – Surf Forecaster, or the need for his forecasterish knowledge if you’re looking to score when/where others fail.
Catching a Wave vs. Being a Surfer
It’s much more rewarding as I get older to say that I truly understand the beaches and wave I’m surfing. We started putting up cameras pretty soon after I started surfing, and to be honest while I used to rally against language of how online tools were a crutch, I now see things differently. If I had checked the camera this morning and was purely going by what it showed me at Doheny or T-Street, I may not have driven to the break I am arriving at now*. Knowing the buoys, the swell angle, winds and tides, and how those metrics apply – I have arrived in the heart of Southern California at a break that will almost guaranteed have no one surfing it.
After many years studying beaches with scientific and recreational bodies around the world, I look forward to helping anyone I meet understand how waves work and how angles apply on any coastline in the world. Knowledge of the local water and how surf works on your local beaches – that’s the difference between catching a few waves and being a surfer.
* I dictated this post as I arrived at [spot] about a week or so ago… the photo is from a massive swell event last year. Doheny is a great indicator at any size, as it shows you how West and North West swells miss, and South swells like the phone shown can really “hit”.