Thursday, June 26, 2014

What makes a great surf spot

When I think about what makes for a great surf spot so many variables come to mind. Certainly the wave itself is a large contributing factor. Whether it be the size of the wave, the length of ride, shape, consistency and power all come to mind and certainly have a great bearing on how good a surf locale is.
While this is obvious there are other factors that for me help to determine how much I like a given spot that may not be as obvious. Some of those factors are my history with the spot, the beauty of the area, the climate, crowds, the vibe in the water (localism vs. acceptance), who surfs there (my buds), what lurks in the waters, bottom conditions and not least of which the cleanliness/health of the waters.
Thinking of the last item health of the waters Huntington Beach comes to mind. I have surfed the spot a handful of times and found it to be a great place to surf and a fun wave to ride. Unfortunately, at times, especially after heavy rains it has been closed for a period of time often enough due to water quality issues to be a concern.
From the standpoint of beauty and history I have to say my session at Steamer Lane about fifteen years ago was most memorable for me. The wave itself is a beauty, the rides are long, the challenge great and the scenery is awesome. I also found it a bit intimidating with all of the kelp, sea creatures and the difficulty of trying to get out onto the rocky cliff after the session. The wave itself however made all of that irrelevant in the final analysis.
I have to admit that I have never really encountered any serious localism in my forty years plus of surfing. Maybe it is the way I have of getting along with people or just have been due to being at the right place at the right time. Who knows. I know localism exists but I do believe is one is respectful and kind that it is less likely to affect them.
Crowded spots by and of themselves can create that feel however. I have always loved surfing at the VA Beach jetty but on a crowded day with good surf it is a dog-eat-dog as it gets. I usually can hold my own in any lineup but I must admit I will generally prefer a less crowded surf spot even if the break is not so good than fight for less waves at an out of control crowded spot.
One year I finally got to surf in Hawaii on the Big Island. It was an absolute dream of a lifetime for me to do so. Even though I would have loved to surf the North Shore of Oahu it was still Hawaii to me. One day I got to surf at a break in Hilo and the waves were good. The only issue I had with it was getting used to the coral/rock/sea urchin bottom. Being largely used to sandy bottom beaches it really got into my head at first.
As far as consistent breaks go I have to put the Outer Banks of NC at the top of my list. There are countless quality spots there and if one is willing to drive a bit then a surfable spot can be found on almost any given day.
Having grown up and learning to surf on Long Island at Gilgo and other beaches I always enjoy getting back there to surf. The waves are a well kept secret but most of all it just holds so many memories for me.
I have fond memories of surfing at York Beach Maine while living in NH but I must admit it takes a special person to brave those frigid waters on a year round basis.
In the final analysis while surfing epic waves and hurricane swells is a huge rush especially when I have a great session, I suppose the best times had and my most fond memories are of getting to surf with friends. My main spot is 30th Ave S, Jax Beach. There is a great crew there and a good vibe. Several weeks ago we experienced a day of solid chest + waves that were super long and clean. I have an awesome session but most of all enjoyed sharing it with my friends. In the final analysis I guess that I would prefer sharing marginal waves with them than great waves by myself.
So I guess as they say, beauty and fun are in the eyes/mind of the beholder.
Thanks again for checking in and catch you next week. Thanks and Aloha, Paul

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