Yes, I said "winter". This picture tells it all. I'm in a 4/3 with my hands staying warm in my armpits and my feet on the board to prevent them from turning into ice cubes. Notice how dark it is? The sun didn't come out until hours after this photo was taken. I was already out of the water and dressed by the time the sun made an appearance.
In case you think I was kidding about how cold it was, note this friend of a friend surfing in gloves and booties. No one was thinking he was a kook or laughing in his general direction. I think we all secretly wanted to jack him for his extra neoprene. I swear the water must have been in the high 50's.
Paul Tomson, of the South African surfing Tomson brothers, shredding on a friend's Zamora hull. This guy rips, shreds, tears up, smacks the lips of and annihilates waves.
When it came down to it, this was the best session I've ever had at San O despite the fact that it was colder than it should ever be during the summer and there was at least one great white reportedly in the vicinity.
For whatever reason, I was completely dialed in during this session. It probably didn't hurt that the crowd was sparse. I really never had to fight for waves. Peaks popped up all over the place. So while a crowd sat on one consistent peak, I was happy to sit off to the side and snag waves on the peaks that came to me. This was the first time I felt like I surfed San O to the best of my ability. I was able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. There was no worrying about being dropped in on or about running someone on the inside over. The place was, for San O, wide open. That's all I need to let my guard down and get my shred on. I also had no leash. I've spent 90% of this summer surfing leashless. And now I can honestly say that leashes are an irritation and a hindrance unless you're at a spot with board-killing rocks on the inside. (I only lost the board once when some dude decided not to get out of my way and I had to maneuver quickly not to send him to the hospital. Thank you, Valerie, for trying to retrieve the board for me.)
Anyway, I surfed freezing San O for about three hours. And I wasn't just sitting. I was surfing. I'd take a wave, start to paddle back out, see and inside wave come to me and take that one too. I went left. I went right. I got waves where I'd go right, decide the left was better and then go left. It was strange really. I've never been comfortable at San O. I'm not sure why. I've always been there when it was too crowded or too windy. Either that or I was too far into my own head, thinking thoughts that just made me more nervous about surfing this spot than I already was. Yesterday was the day I guess I finally told myself that I was going to make the best out of the session no matter what. I do believe, too, that surfing leashless helps. You can't go into a session thinking about chasing after your board. I don't think about that at all these days. I do have to chase the board at beach breaks. Closeouts aren't conducive to hanging on to a surfboard. But at a spot like San O when it's not pumping (and, yes, I've seen that place when it's pumping), there's no reason for the board to get away from you.
I still get stuck when I work my way toward the nose of my board. In this shot, I'm on the way to the nose and realizing I need to start backpeddling. Generally, I'll get stuck there for a split second as I process the fact that the nose is not where I need to be. Again, this is where going leashless helps me. I'm always thinking about how I don't want to swim after the board. That's forcing me to be more methodical when I walk the board, therefore I don't fall as much as I used to. Remember, I still don't do it—walking the board—well. I do it often, but not to my satisfaction. Still, all you can do is practice, practice, practice. So yesterday's session at San O, all three hours of it, was great for my confidence. I walked a lot and swam very little. I left it all out there in the water. By the time I finally got out, I was completely spent. I was quickly losing the ability to pop up. I was turning into the mat rider that I am . . . except I was on a surfboard. Still, it was obvious I could no longer hold it together. I needed to eat. I needed to get warm. There was no need to stick a fork in me. It was more than obvious that I was done.
But I'm happy to say I left everything I had out in the water. When I have to make a long drive to a spot, I'm going to surf it as hard as the spot will allow. If it's crowded or localized, the spot is not going to allow you to do your thing. That's just the way it is if you don't surf there often. If the waves don't cooperate, you will be hamstrung in your efforts to get a session at the spot. There was none of that with San O yesterday. I just felt unbound. Let's hope there's more of that in my future sessions at San O.