On Tuesday night anticipation of a swell event that would eventually become Big Wednesday was in full effect. Big boards were waxed. Longer leashes attached. Mental psyche-up jobs performed. Danger lingered into the equation: rocks, lobster traps–drowning. It happens, and unfortunately the following day, Thursday December 22, it did happen.
A Carlsbad man died from apparent drowning on Thursday while surfing near Tamarack in Carlsbad. According to reports, three surfers saw another surfer face down in the water with his board still attached to him by his leash. They paddled over to him, pulled him from the water and lifeguards and rescue personnel attempted to revive the unconscious man via CPR. The efforts failed and the man was pronounced dead. As of this writing the man's name is being held.
Other, less tragic, events occurred on Wednesday. By 8am, only an hour and a half into the day, the rumor mill was churning out great fodder. "Only three guys made it out at Rincon this morning," reported an onlooker at Swami's. "Guys are towing-in at The Ranch," whispered another in a disgusted manner.
It was Wednesday. It was big. It was on.
Other reports floated through cell phones to the onlookers: Cortes Bank had a crew of guys on it (later reports that Cortes was 70-foot, but fog bank rolled in and ruined it), Todos Santos was all-time, with Greg Long dominating the tow-in escapades. Matt Moore was waxing up a 10-foot gun and saying Rincon looked like Sunset Beach. Apparently he was one of the three that made it out.
At Swami's, around mid-morning, a four –wave, 18-foot set cleaned up the entire crew, with one wave breaking 6 boards, and cleansing the overly-packed lineup–for 10-minutes. Swami's was a focal point for San Diego county, with looky-loos, traffic congestion, lifeguards, paramedics, pseudo-pros, locals, news crews, even Santa Claus made an appearance. Apparently Santa surfs.
In a rare miss-step, I paddled out on a 6'2". This error in judgment (it didn't look that big at dawn) left me watching the likes of Mark Brolaski and Jeff Timpson get incredible rides. These guys are capable, experienced, known local chargers.
And then there are the masses.
Guys were paddling in. You know, leaving in fear. It's an interesting phenomenon to see guys paddling in. Their eyes are bugged. Their stroke is assured. They don't look back. The lifeguards were kept busy. I watched one wave at Dabbers (just south of Swami's) dump the lifeguard manning the PWC. He quickly swam back to the idling rescue vehicle, and continued making contact with the less-capable. All lifeguards who patrolled the beaches of California should be commended. They did a great job.
In the afternoon, as the swell peaked, big sets at Swami's kept the timid on the cliffs; a usually easy paddle out, turned back many. "It was as big as I've ever seen it," explained long time local Donnie McQuistin, one of the many who required two attempts to get outside. "I remember '83, and '98. This swell is different. More power."
For the record, let it be known that I had my ass handed to me at Swami's on Wednesday morning. The whole 6'2" idea was a bad one. Equivalent to say… going to Haiti on a sex tour—something you shouldn't consider. Bad idea. I paid dearly.
My plan was to nibble crumbs on the inside bowl. The tide was relatively low, and I figured I'd score some tube time. Bad idea. It was too big for the inside. Guys were connecting all the way through. This left me with one option: sit underneath the guys riding their 8-foot guns. Bad idea. I got pummeled. I actually had a chance on one wave. Instead I was launched from the top of the lip to the churning brown concrete-like flats. It was humbling… I mean humiliating. When I surfaced guys were cheering or jeering me, I'm not sure which. I paddled back out. Bad idea.
Even further north, Lunada Bay was doing its thing. Topanga and Malibu welcomed the westerly direction of the swell. The entire coast lit up. Wayne Kelly sent out some images of Ghost Tree looking rather lumpy and mean, with Russell Smith nabbing some hairy drops.
George Downing, The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau event director, issued a statement explaining his decision to wait for January. “What we are seeing is the ‘old’ pattern of waves – I’m talking 15, 20 years ago,” said Downing. “We see several large wave episodes in December that don’t have the best trailing wind conditions. But come the first week of January, to mid-January, those swells should experience much better wind conditions."
The swell train is roaring. "The Christmas weekend should provide another round of large swell, with even bigger swell on tap for mid-week (12-28/29)," explained Wave Watch forecaster Vic DeJesus.
Stand by, a swell event first titled ‘Big Wednesday’ has tragically turned into ‘Dangerous December’ and more is on the way.