The taillights of out of town minivans fade into the hills of eastbound Interstate 8, and southern California surfers grin. Blowing back from the Arizona-bound direction of that highway are offshore winds blowing up the faces of waves arriving from the northern and the southern waters of the Pacific. The short, chunky grovellers are shelved and the longer, leaner shortboards reserved for better waves on better days are waxed and leashed.
Fall is the season for southern California. It is trunks paired with the best waves we get all year. It is beaches without the summer crowds, who drag boogie boards across the OB parking lot in salty t-shirts; instead it is sands adorned by beautiful locals, sun-kissed and soaking in the indian summer heat. It is combo swells rearing their heads into fun, head high surf groomed by Santa Anas, without the effort of the chilling winter waters.
While other parts of the country revel in cooler autumn days and pumpkin spice everything, we’re hooting each other into a buffet of A-frame peaks. There are no colors in fall foliage that could entice me to make that trade. Summer reefs are still kicking from the late season southern hemi push, but the winter reefs are tickled to life by the first yawns of storms out of the northern Pacific. Point breaks reach out and grab them both, harnessing the energy into long walls which scream for rails to be buried at maximum speed.
You say you like the heavy, cold waves of the winter better? Then I say you are a fool. While the winter churns up icy waters (by our gentle standards), thinning the crowds down to the most serious among us, you have never heard anyone in the fall say, “I wish I could trade these head high peaks in trunks for slightly better waves in much colder water.” But by mid-February you will hear the chorus of souls for sale if only for smaller waves that demand less rubber. In the fall, everything looms ahead of us, two seasons of opportunity. All that waits beyond winter are the screaming onshores and windswell slop of springtime.
That late-summer, glass-off session with the mellow, cruisey longboard vibe? It is only made better by the same afternoon light pouring over the backs of constant shoulder high peaks lined up like corduroy.
You would be forgiven this year if the end of summer captured your attention, if Marie and Odile enchanted you with their wily, cyclonic charms but make no mistake: those beauties were a flash in the pan, and they will not be crawling back to see us again next year. You may have friend-zoned fall this year as you fell in love with the end of summer, but it is the nameless, consistent swells of the fall, year-in and year-out, that will be there to comfort you when those fickle hurricane bitches bypass our shores.
So put away that flat, thick piece of foam that has kept you afloat through the summer ankle biters, but don’t reach for that rounded pin just yet. Grab something with some rocker and a squash tail and write a love letter across the open face of autumn waves. Fall always writes back.