I've been waiting my entire life for this winter.
Well, maybe not my entire life. I was six during the last big El Niño — but what's a six year old in Los Angeles going to do with a 12ft at 20-second groundswell? (The inside at 16th St. Manhattan is what.) Now of age, the hype of El Niño all sounded so sweet as I prepared to bask in the phenomenon that's eluded me for the last eighteen years. Swells began stacking up, waves were ridden, but then December came and an embarrassingly sized wave at Backdoor strummed the ligaments of my ankle into what's been a two-month hiatus – that was that.
Now, almost fully recovered, I've got a lot of catching up to do. But I got to thinking, how will I tell my kids about this El Niño Winter? How will I tell the young men at the bar when my face is old and reddened? I want my own fishing tale — my own fable — to pass through generations. All that I've heard from fathers and parking lot heroes are grand stories of decades past and how they were among some of the best waves to ever grace the West Coast.
So I began taking notes, breaking down the elements of these many anecdotes, and here's what I've gathered as tips for telling a proper El Niño tale:
Never Refer To The Year In Full. The Fall of 88', Winter of 97'. The clipping of the first two digits adds just the salty, retrospective edge you need.
Make Shit Up. Crucial. People appreciate a good story more than they appreciate honesty. White lies are the prefect garnish to a good tale. Who cares if there weren't four girls with their tits out on the beach while you and your friend traded waves at some remote sandbar? Let 'em dream!
Tell Over A Stiff Drink. Scotch on the rocks = instant credibility. Swish glass, sip, exhale, "Those were the days."
Have One Vaguely Tattered Photo. Your story holds no weight if there's an extensive gallery to prove it. Obtain a physical print, preferably slightly out of focus and coffee-stained, and explain how this is the only photo from that day. Hang said photo on the wall of your local post-surf breakfast café, because that seems to be where all historic El Niño photos live. Don’t ask for permission when hanging.
Use Ridiculous References. Remember the curly haired guy with the lazy eye who worked at the 7-11 on the hill above the high school? He and I watched whitewater breach the harbor jetty one afternoon over a Slurpee. Just ask him. Heard he lives in Temecula now.
Or Use No References Whatsoever. If a tree falls in the forest and you were the only one there to hear it, you make that tree sound like whatever the fuck you want.
Recount Run-In With Mildly Famous Pro Surfer, Eventually Build Up To Much More Famous Surfer. This comes with time. What was once a head dip you saw Brad Gerlach get at Rincon can morph into a stand-up tube you saw Slater get spit out of at a "secret Central Coast wave".
Birth A Daughter, Assure All Future Boyfriends That It Was The Best It's Ever Been. Because let's be honest, the cochlear ducts of sixteen-year-old swooners are where all El Niño stories end up eventually. Plus, it’ll make that pre-prom living room conversation far less awkward. For you. –Dayton Silva