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Monday, February 5, 2007

Seventeenth Street Sunday

It's around 10:30 at this point and I'm back at my apartment after spending the second half of my Superbowl Sunday at a friend's house in Costa Mesa. It was easier than I thought to sit through an entire football game without having a beer, especially since there was a keg in the garage. A free keg, bottles of vodka, rum and whiskey were all at my disposal and I drank Gatorade and water, and thought nothing of it until I was alone in my car driving home. The ride was less than 20 mins but still I grinded my teeth and yearned to knock back a few drinks. I think it's night time and solitude that drives me to feel this way. What keeps me from doing so is what I did with the first half of the day: backside cutbacks off the lips of a chest high waves with the dual tips of my fish poking out of the wave but hidden by my spray.

I broke my Newport streak today by surfing 17th street in Huntington Beach, the spot which I wrote about yesterday. The swell was coming in harder and the tide was weening off high so the conditions were much more favorable and from the small cliff I could see lefts and rights in two or three of the six or seven wave sets. I enjoy surfing in this area, from Dog Beach south down to 14th street, for several reasons. First, it is an expansive area with many different sand bars so over crowding is rarely a problem, a few guys on each peak on a crowded day. And the peaks, they shift 15 yards one way and then back the other on what seems to be every other set, so you can find yourself surfing a backside wave one set and then a frontside wave the next set and never really have to anything more than paddle straight back out from where your last ride dumped you off. And finally and maybe most importantly, is the vibe. It's a vibe of innovation. The wave here is big and slow and unless you're surfing a bit more to the north at Cliffs, your 6'3" square tail just ain't gonna be enough foam for you to catch these waves, so what you have instead is an assortment of fish, thrusters, hybrids, eggs and longboards. Many days I have surfed here and watched surfers flip their boards over to show each other their new fin set ups, to compare the depth of insets between swallow tails or to show how they trimmed the rocker off their latest project design. In these sets lies creation and innovation and some damn good surfing without the attitude of the Pier or the lower jetties in Newport.

To me it's always pleasing to surf here and today was no exception. I traded front and back sides for a while and then mainly went backside looking to pull into a fast line but kept finding myself careening off the top and pointing my stub nose back down in what is one of my favorite things in surfing, the backside re-entry. I think I draw such favor from this because for the first part of the ride, you have your back to the wave, you see what is ahead of you but, and at least to me, it's like you kind of don't know what's right next to you. That is until you hit the lip and point that girl shore side. For that second that feels like an entire weekend you're poised at the top of the world and you're set for a drop-in completely unlike the one you executed to catch the wave in the first place. Though in your mind that moment is frozen, the reality is that there's a wall of white water rushing toward you and a now crumbling lip behind you and it's decision time: re-enter at an angled pitch and continue pumping down the line or drop straight down, gain as much speed as possible and see if you can't flick that piece of foam and fiberglass back up there to do it again. I'll let you decide...

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