By Tom Modugno of Goleta Surfing
As a series of storms marched through early January, Goleta became the land of green grass and rainbows.
The second week of January was predicted to be when we get washed away by the Mother of All Storms. Or so you would think, judging by the media reports. Evacuation orders were given, a state of emergency was declared, people were told to stay home, newscasters predicted 10 inches, and just to really scare you, multiple emergency alerts were sent to everyone’s cellphone.
Despite all the panic, everyone survived. By the evening of January 9th, we had over 5 inches in our rain gauge! That in itself is amazing, but it was delivered to us fairly gently, with little breaks between storms that allowed the runoff to soak in a little bit.
Still, every little gulch and gully came to life, rushing the muddy rainwater out to sea. Creeks that usually run for just a few months of the year became powerful and loud rivers, rearranging creek beds and damaging some roads.
Once again, the elusive Goleta waterfall appeared above Glenn Annie, sparking the usual debate about its name.
We believe this waterfall was named Widow’s Tears generations ago.
The slough was maxed out, luckily it flowed smoothly without interruption.
Even without any blockage, the Hollister Avenue bridge near Fairview was dangerously close to flooding.
The Santa Barbara Airport was completely shut down for the day, as all the Goleta creeks naturally flowed into the slough. Guess they should have thought of that when they built an airport in a slough…
Goleta streets all did very well, but Santa Barbara had a lot of flooded street closures. Social media was “flooded” with videos of streets that were deep in mud and water. Thankfully, no serious injuries or deaths were reported.
January 10th, Highways 101 and 154 were closed in both directions for several hours. Making Santa Barbara and Goleta an isolated island and reminding us how delicate our infrastructure really is.
The northbound 101 was closed at Winchester Avenue, which gave the Gaviota Coast a few hours of absolute solitude. Even after the freeway was reopened, all the state parks remained closed due to extensive damage.
Friday the 13th. The swell forecast was off the charts. Expectations were high. We went in the morning to see firsthand.
And there were waves, but between sets the surf wasn’t huge. But still, great for Goleta!
Despite all the creek runoff, the water was fairly green here. Some clean lines were coming in with just a handful of surfers waiting to receive them.
The drops at the top were steep, and few were willing to take the gamble.
And some were rewarded.
Around this time Bromi Krock showed up to survey the situation.
Bromi has surfed here for most his life, but every storm is a little different, and there’s never a rush to make a smart entry.
The set size continued to increase, but the wave wasn’t lining up all the way through, making for several different take off spots.
Good sized, fast waves and fairly empty!
A nice little offshore breeze came up, giving the waves a lovely feathered texture.
Days like these, there are waves everywhere. We decided to check some other spots…
One of the great things about all the creeks dumping muddy water into the sea is, it brings more sand. The sand bars up and down the coast were all being rearranged, making familiar waves strange and new on an almost daily basis.
Throughout the day, wind conditions changed from stormy to calm and back again. Rain squalls and sunshine came and went.
But the surf just kept getting bigger and more consistent.
What amazes me about these guys is that for maybe 10 or even 11 months of the year we get little or no surf. But when a big day comes, they’re on it, like they’ve been doing all year. Pretty remarkable.
Big meaty barrels by the dozen.
All this was a little hard to fathom at spots that have been literally flat for months. Feast or famine.
The spots closer to creeks had more fresh runoff in them, giving the water a nice mocha brown tint.
But mud wasn’t the only thing the creeks were spewing into the ocean.
Some remote spots featured dead trees on the beach. A temporary attraction, but fun to shoot through while it lasts.
Obviously, everyone was in a great mood. Lots of locals were savoring the feast and hanging on the beach to reunite with old friends and revel in the wonder of it all. Winter in Goleta can be a short season sometimes, so we try to make the most of it.
Regulars like Aaron Howard went out for multiple sessions, not taking anything for granted.
Aaron spent time in between paddle outs visiting with friends and picking up trash the storm had deposited on the shore.
Looks like he might be having a little fun….
Jack Motter is here year round, enjoying whatever Neptune is serving up.
No matter the size, Jack is always grateful for surf and he always makes it look so easy.
There were plenty of out of towners in the line up as well, since a lot of spots north and south were too big and nasty to deal with.
But the surf was so consistent and non stop, there were plenty of waves for everyone!
Eventually, the sun faded into the horizon, and while the surfers showed no sign of calling it a day, my lens was struggling to capture the high speed action, so we had to make our way home.
This Friday the 13th will long be remembered around these parts.