Feast or Famine: Part 1

By Tom Modugno of Goleta Surfing

If you’ve lived here a while, you know. Surf is not a constant.

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Most of the year, we have to make do with what we got. A lot of the year, that ain’t much.

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Most of Goleta’s best are very adept at small wave riding, like Style Master John Shields.

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And another local master, Jack Motter.

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In fact, you could say solid surf is almost as rare as rain around here. Well, the new year 2023 was about to change all that…

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Early morning January 5th, 2023. The weather and the surf forecasters were chomping at the bit. Stuff was about to get real. How real is always a guess, even for the “experts”.

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New Years Day brought us a mellow storm with a couple inches, but now a stormy swell was coming in, and some fairly high tides were helping the waves make a mess of the usual spots.

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Poor old G Beach always takes a beating.

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The usual crew had to find a new venue for their 24 ounce meditations.

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As has been the case these last  few years, the old Beachside Cafe took a few on the chin. The real bummer is that new owners were almost ready to open it back up. This will set them back again…

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Down at the west end, the smell of raw sewage filled the air. We could see a group of workers assembling to address the problem.

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In a few days, the dump trucks would return with Montecito rocks and mud.

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The swollen slough rushed out to the sea and Mother Nature was pleased.

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By lunchtime, the predicted massive surf was beginning to show up. Stearns Wharf was at max capacity looky-loos. Later that day it would be closed.

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And the Breakwater was about at max capacity as well. Eager young surfers lined up like lemmings, waiting to get their nerve up to jump off the cliff.

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But the prize awaiting all these eager contestants really didn’t look all that appealing…

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Sloppy, confused and definitely dirty waves broke mostly outside with a rare momentary barrel appearing.

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The lemmings paddled desperately to find a sweet spot in the jumbled blender of a lineup.

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For some reason the whole scene reminded me of Dante’s Inferno.

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This was the best ride we saw at lunch.

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Later in the day, big, cumbersome waves could be seen from the 217.jan5 5

Large long period lines marched ominously into the bay, paying no heed to the contour of the coastline. A lot of water moving quickly.

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It was fun to watch guys paddle out and quickly be far below their original destination. These are the days you do not want to get your leash wrapped around a rock…

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The point was a great place for a show, but nobody was surfing up top.

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Good ole Poles was the place to be, but it was breaking waaay out past any memory of a pole.

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Big, slow, long rides that didn’t take you where you wanted to go. If you managed to stay on one long enough, you might end up at the pier.

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Which someone must have done, judging by the circling chopper and the fire truck in the parking lot.

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January 5th was the dirty, sloppy beginning of a long run of surf.

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The next morning, it was on. All walks of life from all points, north and south, descended upon our coastline.

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It was still big and dirty.

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But maybe a little more organized.

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A steady flow of thick brown waves relentlessly pounding the coast.

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Considering the size and the quantity of surfers, close calls were relatively few.

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The one clear standout in the crowd was this guy, Simon Murdoch.

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He didn’t just stand out because he was catching more waves than everyone else, it was what he did with them after he caught them.

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Murdoch seemed to have chosen the right board for the day, that allowed him to make some great drops.

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But he was still able to make some radical turns, laying back impossibly far and usually maintaining control.

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Wave count, style points and most importantly….

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…he appeared to be the surfer having the most fun!

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This was just the beginning of a string of swells and storms that were coming our way. To be continued….

GoletaSurfing.com

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Written by tMo

Tom Modugno is a local business owner, writer, and community activist. He also runs GoletaHistory.com and GoletaSurfing.com

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