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Why You Should Or Shouldn’t Surf Lowers On The Weekend During A South Swell

Especially if it’s Sunday in the dead heat of summer.

style // Jul 11, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Yesterday, I made a mistake I’ve made before.

For the first time, maybe ever, I picked up a couple fresh boards and the surf was exceeding knee-high. Actually, in fact, a very-hyped south swell was peaking in Southern California. I happened to be in Orange County and the thermostat was pushing 80 drips. So I packed a cooler with two waters and nine beers, grabbed an umbrella, beach chairs, made two sandwiches for my lady friend and I and dragged her down to the cobblestone. Yup, Lowers on Sunday, at 11 during a long-period south that the premier online forecaster told me was good. Orange, to be exact.

I set up and walked past the groms changing their fins out of the stickered up quiver they, with the help of their mom brought down to the beach. I danced over the rocks, cut my foot–as is tradition–and paddled into 200 or 2000 bobbing heads. The water was trunkable and waves were rolling through with decent consistency. Professional surfers, aspiring professional surfers, guys in hats, two or three Wavestorms, someone in a short arm steamer and booties, a dude in a hood, and teenage girls who surf better or at least as good as me all bobbed in the desperate cesspool. I made my way to the outskirts of the herd, looking to steal waves off whoever happened to fall. There I sat, a vulture with a slight smile and pending sunburn.

I looked around. There were very few smiles. Mine felt out of place. The lineup was nearly silent. Then it got loud. One voice loud. Shouting. It was Chris Ward. “Fucking Kooks!” he yelled after showing his fist to someone of South-maybe-Central American descent for dropping in on him. Who said localism is dead? No one. The groms on the inside asked, “What’s Wardo saying?” He paddled back through the bobbing heads. “Nobody, go for my wave! Don’t look at my wave! Next time it’ll be fins to the head!” he shouted towards about 1985 non-“local” heads. On his next wave, a longboarder dropped in on him. Mr Ward kicked his board out. Not a fin hit a head. The snake orgy ensued. Surfing serpents entangled. Hoots, howls, fucks and moans and fucks rippled through the lineup. Oh, the passion! 

After stealing a wave off someone who fell, I paddled back out. Ten people paddled for one wave as I rolled over its shoulder. A big, tan, tattooed “local” San Clemente surfer was paddling from behind. He was a locomotive. He was yelling nothing in particular, just “AHHHH”. I smiled. He continued to yell until finally blocked. Six people stood up; two went right, two left, two straight. He paddled out, screaming, “bunch of fucking kooks get out of the water!” He repeated this sentiment three more times before becoming another bobbing head anticipating their next go at the orgy.

In less than two hours I scavenged two set waves and a few scraps. A beer sounded good. Great, actually. I found a left and connected enough backhand snaps to get a six-point ride on the women’s QS.

Back under the umbrella, I sat with a cold beer in hand and a sandwich in the other. I explained to my lady friend why I don’t come down here, on a Sunday, during an over-hyped south swell. I explained my lack of stickers, talent, having to prey on the shoulder with the groms and the general fear of someone’s, but not Chris Ward’s, fins piercing my skull when I paddle back out.

But then, my tiresome bitching was stifled by an amazing sight! There was a man on a black electric bike rolling down the beach. He was wearing a black dad’s hat. He was bronze with two surfboards in the bike’s rack and a small black dog under his left arm. “He knows exactly what he’s doing,” I thought. Then, his face came into focus. It was Kelly Slater. He pulled up. Let the dog loose and said hi to a few children and folk excited by his presence. I hoped he’d pick up and kiss the nearest baby. He didn’t.

I sat back. He grabbed his board, caught six or so waves by the time I’d finished my fourth beer and glided back in.

The wind laid low and into the afternoon the waves looked fun. Another session fun. I packed up, had another beer, paddled out at Uppers and thought of all the reasons to not surf Lowers, on a Sunday, in the summer, during an over-hyped south swell–at least until next time.

What’s the definition of insanity?

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