Know Before You Go

Know before you go

Surfing and the associated life style are very seductive and will change you as a person once you’re hooked. It’s easy to say this about a lot of our passions in life but once you experience something that allows you to make connections both spiritually, mentally, and physically it starts to become a part of you. I have taken the reflective time to notice how this practice can be seen within my personal character a little bit everyday. The goal of an hour a week to spend with this sport was clearly going to be matched due to the fact that most surfers including myself would spend all day in the water if possible. But, because we can’t surf all day everyday, we can at least be in tune with the conditions so when we have time available we know where and when to paddle out.

Surfing is different than most sports due to the fact that the conditions truly determine 100% of your session. With this being said knowing the weather, tidal conditions, swell, and wind forecasts are apart of my everyday routine. As I began thinking of ways I would reflect on surfing for this assignment I set up a routine to allow my self to accurately predict the conditions for the following day/week along with where I predicted it to be best (within Ocean Beach through Del Mar) and would actively check these spots and my predictions even if the day did not permit me to get in the water. The way I planned to do this was to use a swell forecast website every surfer is/should be very familiar with which is Surfline. Surfline is a service that accurately specializes in providing live and predicted ocean weather information, editorial content, and consulting services to consumers. I used Surfline to calculate theses conditions and check the following morning. Being relatively new to San Diego this was a great way to try new spots. I for the most part was successful with my predictions other than the occasional fluctuation in wind. I check Scripps Pier and Blacks Beach at least once a day and you can usually find me surfing there in the mornings if the waves are good enough. So I started venturing into new waters to broaden my scope of San Diego waves and see if my predictions were accurate. While doing this, I stumbled upon some questions that lead to some extended research on swell direction and wave refraction in San Diego.

As I started surfing further north and south I noticed a difference in wave heights and force. I found this due to what is called swell windows. These swell windows play major rolls in surfing in Southern California. Most of our predominant swells in CA come from the NW, which means swell travels down the coast and connects with the most Northerly exposed breaks. San Diego is not with this category of exposed North territory. Rather San Diego is more situated to pick up WNW swells and S swells. The swell period and direction also play key roles in this calculation but mostly is due to the topography of California’s coast. Point Conception, a curvature in California’s coast, blocks most of the direct NW swells here in south San Diego along with the hindering fact of the offshore Catalina Islands. Upon learning all of this I found it very useful in predicting where to surf given the angle of the oncoming swell. I was able to truly apply my work when we received some decently sized WNW swell a couple weeks ago. The angle of the swell I investigated to be below 300 degrees, which I had predicted to be sufficient for south San Diego swell windows. My predictions were correct and accurate as the swell filed in beautifully in many spots. All of my observations that I have found have helped me gain a better understanding for conditions and surfing here in San Diego. All of this research has also given me great insight, reflective, and inquisitive research on a sport I love so much, which allows me to enjoy longer sessions in better conditions, which directly affected my knowledge of the sport.

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One Response to Know Before You Go

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    I’m fascinated by this scientific side of surfing. You (and other surfers I assume) have intimate knowledge of what is for others a sort of arcane or abstracted knowledge of winds, currents, swells, cartographies, etc. I enjoy how you clearly lay out your own learning process to familiarize yourself with the conditions of the San Diego surf scene. I paused before writing “conditions” because I find I cannot quite grasp the right word to describe what sort of knowledge you are building. It is clearly related to weather, ocean currents, land masses, etc. but it is directed toward understanding a very specific phenomenon and partaking in a very specific activity. What also strikes me is that this knowledge is a sort of intimacy with natural conditions of the ocean and land. This type of intimacy almost seems more important than intimacies with other surfers. What do you think about this? Are the intimacies with non-humans more primary than those with other surfers?

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