When we were young kooks growing up in what used to be known as California, surf sessions could span an entire morning, during which, you simply drove up and down the entire length of the Orange County coast, without actually surfing, until you threw up your arms and paddled out anywhere, because the wind was picking up.
This ritual was repeated by countless tribes of surfers, forever in search of something better than the cold gray dumpers that would await, when you pulled up to check Goldenwest St. or 17th St.
It was always assumed that some other spot would be better than the one you were actually looking at, when you paused to get out and check the waves.
Back then, we didn’t have WaveCams, or Surfline to tell us what spot was going off. The best we had was a call to the HB Lifeguard surf and weather line. The phone number is forever etched in my memory. 714-536-9303.
Knowledge accumulated over time, would give you the clues to decode where the waves might be the best. Swell direction and period, tide conditions, wind conditions, crowds and bottom contours were the equivalent of a sextant and astrolabe that caused you to continue onward, further South ( It was always South…) in your search for better surf.
Grab a cup of coffee…
Indulge me and click on the Sandals video below and let it play as we take a trip down the coast in search of better waves…
A typical wasted morning would often go something like this, North to South:
First Stop, Seal Beach
On the North Side of the Seal Beach Pier, San Gabriel River Jetty / Crabs will work on a big Southwest swell, and if you stay within the confines of the river mouth, wetsuits are optional, as the warm water released from Haynes Steam Plant warms up the water to 75 degrees, even in the winter time.
The North side of Seal Beach Pier is finicky and will show good on occasion… Right Place, Right Time.
On the South side of Seal Beach Pier, thick tubes result, when a big West swell moves in.
A large mushy A-Frame peak, that ends in a death match with the punishing shore break, will pop up next to the Anaheim Bay Jetty, ending in a bone crushing macker that will pile-drive you into the bottom and leave your wetsuit filled with sand, and your friends pointing and laughing as you are washed up on the beach, like a dying fish.
Next up, Surfside.
Surfside is an unpredictable wave, wholly dependent on the amount of sand deposited during the winter, either through natural wave action, or dredging of Anaheim Bay, by the Navy.
Because it was gated, we often drove right past, unless something good was showing, as we topped the bridge over the Bay and looked out.
The rest of Surfside tends to suffer the same sand starvation as Sunset Beach, further South and unless you live there, you miss out on the days when the right combination of tide, swell and sand fill results in fun uncrowded beach break.
In between the Surfside Jetty and Anderson Street, is a unpredictable low tide spot known as ‘The Hole”, which is really only something for the local boys to enjoy, since it is such a rare occurrence.
The dividing line between Surfside and Sunset Beach is located at Anderson street, which for some reason, is a collection point for sand, resulting in some peaky waves that are always a bit better than the surrounding area. Always hit or miss.
Sunset Beach works on a combination of a large Winter swell, and low tide. When the sand fills in the outer sandbars, Sunset will go off, uncrowded and perfect.
The rest of the time, sand starvation and swell blockage from Catalina lead to crappy dumpers that only appeal to anyone who absolutely has to escape from the HB Crowds and is willing to suffer long waits for anything worth catching, if anything at all.
Catch Sunset on a good day? Don’t tell your friends about it.
The sand begins to gradually fill in about a half mile South of Sunset Beach, resulting in the still unpredictable, but often good surf of Bolsa Chica.
Running the 3 miles from Warner to Seapoint Ave, Bolsa Chica works well on just about anything but rarely holds shape at size due to the intermittent sand replenishment. Outer sandbars will go off on the largest of swells, but will close out at a moments notice and offer you a solid beatdown.
Huntington Beach Cliffs.
Before the demise of street-side parking on PCH, this is where the North HB Crew called home.
The HB Cliffs work on anything. In the winter, the power can be deceiving.
Always a good time at HB Cliffs. Now, just walk in from the Dog Beach parking lot, if you can get a spot.
Goldenwest Street / 17th Street.
Goldenwest Street was always the easy choice for the North HB Crew as it was a straight shot right down the road. Before the surge in psychotic mass murderers, one could even hitchhike to the beach and back, with only an occasional advance by a perv…or walk to GW street and wait for your friends to pick you up for the short ride to the beach.
The nice thing about Goldenwest St. was that, if nothing else, you would see the rest of your extended crew there, and if the waves were shit, then you could just hang out and talk shit. Like the Cliffs and most places in HB for that matter, GW street works on just about anything. 17th street was usually identical to GW so I will just combine the two for this entry.
On really good days, the outer sandbars produced some epic clean bombs that were suddenly uncrowded, due to he sheer determination required to make it outside on a big day and the fact that if you got a really good wave… you would have top do it all over, taking a bunch of thick cold dumpers on the head until you were back in the proper spot.
When combined with a day of hard Santa Ana winds, it is hard to find a spot more fun to surf, so close to home…