Sunday, September 03, 2006

Four Mile

Our first surf in Santa Cruz was at Pleasure Point, where we dragged some borrowed longboards to the cliffs, descended the wooden stairs (with dents worn into them from generations of bare feet heading down to the water), and made our way through the kelp to the lineup. There were at least forty other log riders sitting on the second peak, which made catching any of the decent waist-high waves a challenge. But OS, Gee, and I were happy to at least get wet and grab a couple waves that swung wide around the crowded takeoff spot or broke a little closer in than the locals were ready for. After all, our friend who lived on the point (who lent us his yellowed boards) told us that there hadn't been any swell for two weeks and that this accounted for the hungry crowd.

We escaped the local hordes by driving only four miles outside of town. I spent my last two nights at a bohemian compound in the hills above Bonny Dune, so proximity to the break (two miles north of it) was another reason we chose this spot. To tackle the new break, we rented two boards from Freeline, a six-foot epoxy performance board and a six-foot quad. Not travelling with your own boards always offers an opportunity to test different equipment.

The dirt parking area along Hwy 101 told us something. There was one old truck with surf racks on it parked on the north side of the turnout. Another car bottomed out in the rocky ruts as it edged back to the roadway. Spaced at car-length intervals in the lot were piles of broken glass, sparkling like uncut diamonds on the earth. Were these broken windows simply left over from petty thefts of car stereos, or was this an indication that the locals north of town didn't appreciate rental cars with surf racks. To be safe we pulled ours off the roof and stashed them in the trunk.

The walk down the trail immediately reminded me of the first surf novel I read, almost two years ago. Daniel Duane's "Caught Inside" described a very similar hike to this one, through a Steinbeck-like setting: There were the railroad tracks, the farms with their patchwork crops blowing in the afternoon breeze, the worn path through the field that dipped toward a marshy estuary. To the north was a deteriorating rocky cliff that protected the little bay containing the break. Along the beach were scores of seagulls, going and coming, but always blanketing the sand between the brackish water and the sea.

And there were only two surfers out.

The setup had two right-breaking peaks: one was smaller, steeper, closer to the inside, the other was bigger, mushier and originated against the outside edge of the rock. Though there were whitecaps beyond the wind shadow of the wall, inside the surface of the water was relatively calm. The swell was only waist to shoulder high, but you could see how this place would go off on a fat fall swell.

Gee and I paddled out from the beach, through the kelp, where we took our place respectfully inside the other two surfers. When they would grab the first wave of a set, we would grab the second or third. I was on the blue potato chip board and I bogged down on my first few backhand drops. Adding to the challenge of making waves was the kelp, which would grab your board as you paddled, then during your ride as you planed into the trough, where it would send you flying headfirst like a skateboarder hitting a rock on the pavement.

The setting was as beautiful as the scenes we had grown accustomed to in Oregon. Wildlife was everywhere. During the next two days I surfed Four Mile, I saw otters cracking shells on their stomachs, baby seals, pelicans, sea lions, and a dorsal fin that had me in a panic, until a friendly local assured me that it was a dolphin. He explained that sharks couldn't get in through the summer kelp beds. From that point on, I stopped cursing the sea vegetation.

When I returned home from the "red triangle," where I had been revisiting the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" during my time in the water, I found out that Oregon had its second shark attack. Would that be considered irony or coincidence?

The Cure "Killing an Arab"

(We bought the Cure's greatest hits for our rental car and it served as the soundtrack to the weekend.)


Slim said...

Fun spot. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm hoping to be there for a week next month.

gee we're flying said...

California dreamin'. Nice to be reminded about our adventures in SC. And to think the whole time we were feeling sharky the real action was up north in Oregon. Still, I wouldn't of been surprised if one of those otters tried to put us over his belly and crack our nuts.

PS - Santa Cruz is for haters.

Diane said...

You do lead a charmed life! I am so happy for you.