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Corky: Stoked for a first safari discovering Orange County’s surf spots

I got a lot of positive response from a couple of columns I recently did about surf adventures (“surf safaris” in surf lingo) that I took back in the formative years of my ever blossoming surf life.

So this week I thought I would continue in a little series on memorable surf treks I have made through the years.  The best place to start is with the first one.  This took place way back in the year 1958, when I was a 10-year-old gremmie just learning to surf in front of our home in Surfside, a tiny beach colony on the north end of Orange County.

On our beach, there were about 10 surfers in the late 1950s.  Among them were the DeChevroux brothers, Mike, Marc and Morgan. Both Mike and Marc were close to me in age and got boards at the same time I did – Morgan was much younger and wasn’t surfing yet.

We spent a lot of time surfing together before and after school, on weekends and all summer.  Their mother, Ruth, had a big ol’ Buick station wagon.

The first surf movie I ever saw was when Ruth loaded up all of us surf kids and took us to a little art theater in Hollywood to see “Surf Safari,” a surfing film by John Severson.  Not long after that she got the idea to take us on our own surf safari.

She loaded up Marc, Mike and me in her old Buick wagon and we set off to surf the historic spots in southern Orange County.  In those days this was a trip down Highway 101.  We were stoked to the max.

Our first spot was Dana Point, the legendary “Killer Dana.”  There was a big south swell running that day and it was going off.

The rocky point and beach made Ruth nervous, we were all pretty young.  So we left there and went to the Hobie surf shop to get advice on where we should surf.  The guy there, I am thinking it was Jim Gilloon, said: “Windansea for experts, San Onofre for intermediates and Doheny for beginners.”

So, Doheny it was.

The waves were really good.  And it was my first experience at surfing over a rocky bottom.  Scared me at first, too.

We had a great session; the highlight memory was seeing the great Lorin Harrison ride a big set wave in an outrigger canoe.  After we were done, we loaded up to head home.  But Ruth surprised us and said we should go check out San Onofre, it was not that much farther away and we should know what it looked like for future safaris.

Pulling up to the guard gate at Camp Pendleton we were told the San Onofre Surf Club members were the only ones allowed on the base to surf.  The beach was on Marine property.

This is when I found a whole new world of respect for Ruth DeChevroux.  As we were leaving, she saw a little spot where there was a hole in the fence and a dirt road on the other side.  Shockingly, she said, “Well, that might lead to the surf.  Let’s give it a shot.”

So she drives El Buicko through the hole in the fence and sets out down the dirt road to see if we can find our way to the San Onofre Surf Club.

And we did.

But there was a gate with a chain and a lock.  Not being one to give up easily, she got out and checked the lock.  Voila!  It had been left open.  We were in.

To our total glee she pulled up and parked right in the middle of all the camper trucks and surf mobiles parked at the main break, like we were supposed to be there or something.  Nobody seemed to notice.

The surf was big and breaking really far out.  At first we were just gonna watch for a while, but then I got the urge and decided to paddle out.  Guys on giant boards where taking off on what seemed like the horizon.  I got a couple of really long and exciting rides.

I was riding my first board, the 8-foot-7 balsa wood pintail made for me by Dick Barrymore, and it was suited to these waves perfectly.  But then I fell off, and it was a very long swim to the beach.

After that I was done, satisfied for sure, but done.

We headed home a crew of worn out and extremely stoked surf kids.  Our first surf safari had been an over-the-top success.


Question:  I am a low-intermediate surfer, 47-year-old female and in reasonably good condition. I have always had a problem with catching waves and recently purchased a board that was bigger in order to make it easier. This board also has a lot of kick in the nose to keep it from pearling when I catch the wave late. Yet it seems even harder to catch waves with, and it is slower than my shorter one with less kick in the nose.  I have no idea as to how to remedy this situation, do you have any clues for me?

– Valentina Gomez, Capistrano Beach

Answer: This is a common problem.  Catching waves in the correct spot is probably the hardest part about learning to surf.

Going to a bigger board was a good idea, and normally would reward you with better results, but the problem is the amount of kick in the nose.  People think that boards with nose kick and/or a ton of rocker will keep the nose from going under on later take-offs.


What happens is the kick and rocker make the board push water and therefore make it harder to catch waves.  This puts you later on the take-offs and actually makes it much easier to stick the nose under.

Boards with less nose kick, and, most importantly, less rocker in the front half, paddle faster and catch waves easier.  A little kick in the tail makes them turn easier.

Fear of “pearling” ( burying the nose ) is common.  But excessive nose kick and rocker is not the answer.

Also, a good idea would be to take a few private lessons from a respected surf coach, which could pay big dividends on this front.

Good luck.

Source: Orange County Register

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