Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smidge of swell for March 1st

Ok, I’m not going to do this for another four years.  Ready?  Are you paying attention?  HAPPY LEAP DAY!  Well, the surf has finally cleaned up and there were some nice shoulders out there with the fading steep NW swell.  Surf varied in size from N to S…with chest/shoulder high surf down south and knee/waist high surf.  We should see things picking up ever so slightly tomorrow with some NW new groundswell in the mix with lingering old wind swell.  Look for Thursday surf in the waist/chest range with shoulder high sets with a bit of variation form N to S again due to the steepness of the swell.  We’ll see a bit more surf Friday with surf bumping up into the chest/shoulder range as that NW groundswell peaks early early Friday morning.  Surf will taper off quickly through the day so we’ll be back down to waist/chest by the evening sessions.  Saturday is looking like more fading swell with clean waist/chest high surf to start the day and getting smaller for Sunday...hmmmmm, knee/waist at best.  Of course, Monday the surf will pick up with some small S swell with some new NW kicking in Tues and into Wed.  Surf will pick up but we’ll have to see how that storm pans out.  The Jet Stream is sending storms waaaaaaaaay north and not letting them stew in our swell window.  Time will tell!

Looks like we’re heading into a really nice weather window with some significant warming due to a high pressure system kicking some Santa Anas our way.  Yeehaw!  That being said we have to endure one more day of cloudy skies and potential showers tonight and early tomorrow morning.  West winds blowing tonight and into tomorrow morning so I’m not expecting great dawn patrol conditions.  Friday will see clear but cold skies in the low 60s but Saturday we’ll be looking at clear sunny skies, NE winds, and air temps in the high 60s along the coast.  Things get warmer for Sunday with beach weather in the mid/high-70s.  Temps cool a bit Monday and then plummet back into the low 60s Tuesday and the clouds come back.  No fear…looks like sunshine for next weekend too!  Water is still chilly and in the mid to high 50s.  Water quality is still potentially an issue too so be smart and…come on…everyone together now…DON’T SURF IN POO!  Tides are still fairly mellow through the day with little movement midday as the extremes are over night.  We’ll start to see more water movement through the weekend as we approach the full moon.

That’s it for this forecast.  Looks like some fun clean surf to end the week!

I’m out!

Ocean Notes:

1)       We’ll kick off March with a paired beer dinner by candlelight at one of the coolest, hippest, foodie joints in town, Sea Rocket Bistro.  They sell locally grown food and only serve sustainably fished seafood. Tomorrow, Thursday March 1st, they have this knock out dinner with archived beer from Stone Brew.  You just have to check it out the menu for yourself…made me drool!

2)      Then next week we have with a night out at the Belly Up to support the San Diego Coast Keeper.  Tickets are only $10…TEN BUCKS PEOPLE!  What else can you do for TEN BUCKS?  Shoot, you can barely go see a movie (not including popcorn and a drink) for $10!  This is a whole night of rockin’ music for a good cause!  Do you see junk on your beach?  No?  Well, you can partially thank Coast Keeper for that…go to the BUT on Wednesday the 7th and rock out!  Oh, and you might just win a sweet Gary Linden surfboard while you’re there!

3)      Now here’s a guy who’s been surfing longer than a lot of us and also manages a pretty slick day job.  He doesn’t have a cell phone (last time I heard anyway) and recycles his clothes at his store…yes, his store…Patagonia.  Some sage words from Mr. Chouinard himself.  And while you’re in the mood why not take the Patagonia pledge…reduce, reuse, repair and recycle your clothes.  They’ll help.

4)      And here’s a cool bit of technical surf porn…via GoPro and Rip Curl.  I think we’re going to see a lot more of this sort of technology in the next few years…cutting edge stuff YO!

5)      Ok, ending with some mega surf porn via Lance’s Right.  Who else is gonna book a ticket to some place tropical after watching this?

 Tides for La Jolla (Scripps Institution Wharf) starting with February 29, 2012.

Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
           /Low      Time    Feet    Sunset                    Visible
W   29     High   1:17 AM     4.0   6:17 AM     Set 12:13 AM      38
    29      Low   9:28 AM     1.3   5:46 PM    Rise 10:36 AM
Th   1     High   2:45 AM     4.0   6:16 AM     Set  1:05 AM      48
     1      Low  10:59 AM     0.9   5:47 PM    Rise 11:25 AM
     1     High   6:49 PM     2.8
     1      Low   9:37 PM     2.7
F    2     High   4:10 AM     4.2   6:15 AM     Set  1:55 AM      57
     2      Low  11:50 AM     0.5   5:47 PM    Rise 12:18 PM
     2     High   6:50 PM     3.1
     2      Low  11:00 PM     2.4
Sa   3     High   5:12 AM     4.6   6:14 AM     Set  2:41 AM      67
     3      Low  12:26 PM     0.0   5:48 PM    Rise  1:15 PM
     3     High   7:05 PM     3.4
     3      Low  11:53 PM     2.0
Su   4     High   6:01 AM     5.0   6:12 AM     Set  3:25 AM      76
    4      Low  12:57 PM    -0.4   5:49 PM    Rise  2:16 PM
     4     High   7:25 PM     3.8

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Surf Sunday before the wind and rain

Aloha campers!  Today we had some waist/chest sized surf out of the NW with the occasional SW swell thrown in there for a sneaker shifting set.  Looks like we’ll have a smidge of swell looking to move in for Sunday.   That steep waist/chest high NW swell will be your best bet for at least 24 hours as we will have a storm front move through and some pretty gusty west winds blowing around for Monday.   Look for winds to calm down Tuesday and surf to pick up with another steep NW short period swell...still some pretty lumpy conditions though.  Not sure how clean it will be after blowing all Monday night.  Surf in the chest high range for the first part of the day.  It will probably need a day at least to clean up but there should be some decent peaks here and there.  That swell will be a quickie so Wed, Leap Day, looks to be a smaller day with surf in the knee/waist high range.  Looks like another small weather system may make things a little messy for the latter part of Wed too…mostly with winds and a teeny chance of showers.  Kicking off March on Thursday will see NW groundswell but not a lot of juice in this storm.  We’re hoping to squeak out some chest high surf by the middle of the day.  That swell will linger into the weekend with surf in the waist/chest range for Fri and then waist high for the weekend.  We’ll have a bit of a lull in surf as it looks like Mother Nature might take a little break before sending us more surf later that week.

So the weather is the big factor in the next few days.  Calm winds slated for Sunday Services in the line up with light SW winds through the day.  That will lead to stronger S winds and a pretty good chance of showers as that storm front moves in late Sunday night.  This will be a pretty chilly storm with lows in the high 40s at night and highs in the mid-50s Monday.  Showers late Sun night and throughout the day Monday.  The big bummer will be the gusty west winds all day and night Monday.  Tuesday will most likely be pretty lumpy with the left over chop.  Another system moves in late Wed and into Thurs with some winds and a chance of showers.  The remainder of the week Thurs - Fri will only hit the high 50s with sunshine and high 60s along the coast for next weekend.  So it looks like Sun morning is really your best bet for small to medium sized clean surf for most of the week until Friday.  We’re definitely in between the big tides with a decent amount of water movement through the day but not anything crazy and extreme.  Water temps have…oh my…gotten a wee bit chilly!  My holey 4/3 and bootie-less feet are suffering!  Time to dig out the rubber!  Temps in the mid/high 50s. 

Get on it early Sunday and you’ll thank yourself!


Ocean Notes:

1)       The Quicksilver Pro started today and boy, it ceases to amaze me what really good surfers can do with windy choppy surf…slash slash…pull in…slash…slash!!

2)      And darn that Kelly Slater fellow…free falling into a barrel getting slotted and killing the wave…to kick off his first heat.

3)      If you’re an educator or are interested in ocean education you should check out this site from the National Museum of Natural History…great education blog and some fun stuff on there for students and kids.

4)      Ever wonder (like Me) exactly HOW green your “green” household cleaners are?  Well, read this article from the TLC Channel and find out some interesting things about those eco-friendly bottles filling up your cabinets.

5)      For all of you who fancy seafood and sustainable foodie practices you might want to check out the SD Coast Keeper talk this upcoming Monday night down in Liberty Station.  Fishermen, chefs and scientists weigh in on local sustainable seafood dining practices.   Good stuff!

6)      And to close we have a healthy dose of big ol’ waves!  I can’t remember if I’ve posted this in a report but I don’t think I have.  These are some INSANE photos of Shipsterns in Tazzie!  And someone actually looked at these waves and said, “Yeh, that looks like a great wave to surf?”  HOLY C@#%#^$P!!!!!

Tides for La Jolla (Scripps Institution Wharf) starting with February 26, 2012

Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
           /Low      Time    Feet    Sunset                    Visible
Su  26      Low   5:32 AM     1.0   6:21 AM    Rise  8:37 AM      14
    26     High  11:28 AM     3.3   5:43 PM     Set 10:25 PM
    26      Low   5:02 PM     1.4
    26     High  11:39 PM     4.4
M   27      Low   6:25 AM     1.2   6:20 AM    Rise  9:13 AM      21
    27     High  12:19 PM     2.8   5:44 PM     Set 11:19 PM
    27      Low   5:18 PM     1.8
Tu  28     High  12:18 AM     4.2   6:18 AM    Rise  9:53 AM      29
    28      Low   7:41 AM     1.4   5:45 PM
    28     High   1:51 PM     2.4
    28      Low   5:21 PM     2.2
W   29     High   1:17 AM     4.0   6:17 AM     Set 12:13 AM      38
    29      Low   9:28 AM     1.3   5:46 PM    Rise 10:36 AM
Th   1     High   2:45 AM     4.0   6:16 AM     Set  1:05 AM      48
     1      Low  10:59 AM     0.9   5:47 PM    Rise 11:25 AM
     1     High   6:49 PM     2.8
     1      Low   9:37 PM     2.7

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wave Faves

A small new swell but sunshine and light east winds

Yo ho SoCal!  Another beautiful day in Southern California!  Today we had some pretty small surf but that’s changing a bit as a new NW swell is filling in for Thursday. We’re not going to see a HUGE change but wave height should bump up a little into the waist/chest range.  This swell is a bit steeper so size will definitely vary depending on where you are along the coast…slightly larger further south…slightly smaller further north.  The swell will peak Friday late morning with some fun surf in the chest high range and then slowly fade out and will be joined by another small NW to help keep surf in the waist/chest range for Saturday morning before a decent sized shorter period swell moves in Sunday.  Surf picks up into the shoulder/HH range so surf should be more consistent but still pretty fun with nice conditions.  Monday will see lingering short-period swell early with fading size as the swell back off through the day.  Tuesday night and into Wed it looks like we should have a nice NW groundswell.  The Jet Stream isn’t letting the storms sit and spin as long as we’d like but the size of the storm looks like it should deliver some slightly more juicy waves.  I’ll keep my eye on it and let you know.

Weather is cooperating nicely again with a big high pressure system pushing anything ugly up and over us.  A little low pressure system in Baja is also helping drag some NE winds our way…and that can only mean one thing…SUNSHINE!  For the next few days we’re looking at warm sunny skies.  Today (Wednesday) was actually the warmest day but we’re still expecting low 70s until the weekend. Then we’ll see a few more clouds, maybe a little marine layer and air temps in the high 60s.   Light winds out of the east tonight and early morning turning light out of the SW for the afternoon.  Look for pretty calm winds through the weekend picking up ever so slightly out of the NW for the first part of next week.  Tides are pretty extreme right now with the new moon yesterday.  The full morning tide is definitely making a lot of spots a little swampy and the negative afternoon/evening low is great for tidepooling but not to hot at the surf breaks especially with very little swell.  Water temps are STILL in the high 50s…not going anywhere except UP unless we have a big offshore Santa Ana kick in.

That’s all she wrote folks!  Some fun, not huge surf but great sunny conditions!  Gotta love it!

Ocean Notes:
1)       And we all know the debris from the Japanese tsunami is headed our way but how close is it?  Some researchers from Hawaii have modeled how far it’s traveled and which direction it’s going.  Should be here in another year or so…beach clean ups here we come!
2)      Have you ever sat on Google Earth and zoomed around the planet looking at crazy remote surf spots?  (Well I have!) Now Surfing Mag is having a contest to find those spots and if you win Surfing Mag will TAKE YOU THERE!  I’m signing up!

3)      And of course we have to throw in a little tidbit on green living.  Here’s are 5 easy ways to help green your bathroom…no, don’t reuse the toilet paper!

4)      Oh, for you camping folks Columbia Sportswear has just come out with an awesome new sleeping back with their famed “Omni-heat” lining. You want to stay warm without having to wear 20 pairs of socks and 15 shirts to bed?  This stuff is THE BOMB.  I have some jackets with this stuff in it and they are toasty!  Check ‘em out…

5)      And here’s a story to learn from…Junk is BUNK…do meth and you’re gonna pay.  Just as Anthony Ruffo…famed Maverick’s surfer.  He hit the bottom and is heading to jail.  Hopefully, this is just part of his turn around.  Good story…I hope it ends happily.

6)      And we’ll end the day with this great video of some winter swell in Hawaii from Daily Surf Video. If you haven’t already seen this website you’ll be hooked…I promise.

Tides for La Jolla (Scripps Institution Wharf) starting with February 23, 2012.
Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
           /Low      Time    Feet    Sunset                    Visible
Th  23      Low   3:34 AM     0.6   6:24 AM    Rise  7:02 AM      0
    23     High   9:40 AM     5.0   5:41 PM     Set  7:40 PM
    23      Low   3:54 PM    -0.1
    23     High  10:12 PM     4.8
F   24      Low   4:10 AM     0.6   6:23 AM    Rise  7:33 AM      3
    24     High  10:14 AM     4.4   5:42 PM     Set  8:36 PM
    24      Low   4:19 PM     0.4
    24     High  10:39 PM     4.7
Sa  25      Low   4:49 AM     0.8   6:22 AM    Rise  8:04 AM      8
    25     High  10:49 AM     4.0   5:43 PM     Set  9:30 PM
    25      Low   4:42 PM     0.9
    25     High  11:08 PM     4.6
Su  26      Low   5:32 AM     1.0   6:21 AM    Rise  8:37 AM      14
    26     High  11:28 AM     3.3   5:43 PM     Set 10:25 PM
    26      Low   5:02 PM     1.4
    26     High  11:39 PM     4.4
M   27      Low   6:25 AM     1.2   6:20 AM    Rise  9:13 AM      21
    27     High  12:19 PM     2.8   5:44 PM     Set 11:19 PM
    27      Low   5:18 PM     1.8

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fun clean waves this week...with nice weather too!

Greeting So Cal!  We’re looking at some fun shoulder/HH surf around the county today. Size will definitely vary based on your location though. Spots further south will see surf in the OH range while the northern part of N. County will see surf in more of the chest high range.  Most of this variation is due to blockage from the Islands otherwise there’s a fair bit of West in the swell direction.  There’s a dash of wind swell on it giving it a little bump and not the perfect clean waves we’d all like but I don’t think we can complain too much. Swell will continue through the day Monday and late into the afternoon.  Tuesday we’re looking at still some shoulder/HH surf and tapering off significantly through the day with some waist/chest surf by sunset.  Wed looks like a small day of surf with waves in the thigh/waist high range with a new but small NW building on Thursday.  We’ll see surf pick up later in the day to about chest/shoulder with this swell peaking in the middle of the night and slowly tapering off through the day.  We should still have fun surf all day but just nothing to write home (or on a blog) about.  There’s a storm out there that looks to be potentially a good storm maker. It’ll depend on if the Jet Stream cooperates and lets it sit and spin in our window for awhile.  We’ll just have to wait and see!

That chance of showers never really panned out today…a few sprinkles here and there but otherwise a gorgeous day!  We should see calm winds for most of President’s Day becoming a little out of the SW.  Easterly breeze for Mon night and calm for a fun session Tues morning before the N wind picks up by midday.  Fairly light winds and sunny skies as we warm up over the course of the week.  Air temps in the low 60s Mon and Tues but picking up to the high 60s for the second half of the week and even a low 70 here and there. Wed will be the nicest day with things starting to cool off again Sun and into next week.  Water temps still in the high 50s.  Big old tide swings with Tuesday’s New Moon fast approaching.  Big morning high tides will definitely slow things down so fish or log it…the drained out late afternoon tide will probably be best for a racy short board or some good shorepound body whompin’! 

Either way it looks like this week will have some fun waves…nothing spectacular but fun if you can catch the right window with the extreme tides this week.

Daz it!

No time for ocean notes this time around…ok, just one…probably the biggest freakin’ close out I’ve EVER seen!

Tides for La Jolla (Scripps Institution Wharf) starting with February 19, 2012.

Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
           /Low      Time    Feet    Sunset                    Visible
Su  19      Low   1:01 AM     1.4   6:28 AM    Rise  4:48 AM      10
    19     High   7:13 AM     5.8   5:37 PM     Set  3:48 PM
    19      Low   1:59 PM    -1.1
    19     High   8:22 PM     4.3
M   20      Low   1:43 AM     1.1   6:27 AM    Rise  5:25 AM      4
    20     High   7:54 AM     5.8   5:38 PM     Set  4:48 PM
    20      Low   2:31 PM    -1.0
    20     High   8:50 PM     4.5
Tu  21      Low   2:22 AM     0.8   6:26 AM    Rise  6:00 AM      1
    21     High   8:31 AM     5.6   5:39 PM     Set  5:47 PM
    21      Low   3:00 PM    -0.8
    21     High   9:18 PM     4.7

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wave Faves

Here are a few that I shot oh so many years ago in Indo using...yes, film!  So many little film.  If I only had a digital camera back then...



Cleaner, a little smaller but COLD!

Happy Winter SoCal!  It’s UGG weather today (Thursday)!  I saw snow capped mountains heading to my office this morning. I also happen to see some pretty fun waves this morning with much improved conditions and some waist/chest high waves in North County.  Further south of La Jolla there will be some bigger sets in the shoulder high range but the swell is on the fade so expect wave height to stay about the same and decrease a bit for FridaySaturday we’re looking at a waist high waves to start the day and then a new WNW swell will start to fill in with some chest high waves by sun down. Sunday a new WNW will give the first one a little boost with more surf and bigger shoulder to HH waves by midday and into Monday (President’s Day). A small storm system will hit the area Sun and into Mon so conditions might be hampered by wind swell and S winds later in the day.  The swell peaks Monday late morning and fades quickly over the course of the day.  Tuesday we’re looking at a small and quick swell with more of an angle on it with surf in the chest high range. Smaller knee/waist high surf for Wednesday and Thurs but another storm is rolling off the conveyor belt and hopefully it’ll stay in our swell window. For the end of next week and into the weekend.

Weather has been the biggest issue lately.  We’re looking at the cleanest conditions all week today and tomorrow with sunshine and afternoon west winds but calm clean mornings and clear skies.  Water quality will certainly be compromised so be wary of where you surf.  The weekend will see more patchy fog starting Fri and thru Sat night.  Changes of drizzle Sat night and into Sun.  S winds will pick up Friday afternoon. Air temps will warm up for Friday (high 60s along the coast) and then dip back into the low 60s for the weekend.  The nighttime temps will be mighty chilly so bundle up if you head out and snuggle up when you crawl into bed!  Looks like sunny but cool conditions for President’s Day  and then a nice warming trend for next week with air temps back into the high 60s.  YEAH! We’ve got a New Moon next Tuesday so we’re moving into the more extreme tides this weekend.  Pretty high dawn patrol tides will slow things down and the drained out afternoon low will certainly make those beach breaks a bit racy if not kind of closed out.  Hope you find some good sand bars!

That’s it for now!  Stay healthy and catch some fun waves!

Ocean Notes:

1)      With all of this cold weather and precipitation we’ve had snow in the local and “not-so-local” mountains.  It’s a good time to get out on the slopes if you haven’t already.  There are some good deals out there.  Big Bear has half day and Leap Day specials ( ) and of Mammoth is now 100% open with last night’s 2’ of fresh pow pow and is offering free flights up there if you get in on their lodging and lift ticket package…WINNER!  

2)     If you’re into all things vintage surfing and surf history you have got to either visit the Surfing Heritage Museum in San Clemente or even just go online to check out the great stories and articles they have online. They’ve got a new surf story contest going on right now…click and read on!

3)     And since we’re thinking about snow check out this cool vid of an LED lit up snowboarder.  Pretty cool stuff!  And check out the rest of the blog as well…some really neat and innovative artists are featured on here.  Amazing work!

4)     With this week’s storms there’s bound to be plenty of junk landing on our beaches.  Feel free to pick up a few pieces on your way out of the lineup.  Of you can head to Moonlight Beach for the CoastKeeper/Surfrider Beach Cleanup this Saturday. Click here for the calendar of clean ups.

5)     And now for something completely groms!  They hit Trestles last weekend and were stoked with HH waves and some little ripper shredding the waves fantastic!

Tides for La Jolla (Scripps Institution Wharf) starting with February 16, 2012.
Day        High      Tide  Height   Sunrise    Moon  Time      % Moon
           /Low      Time    Feet    Sunset                    Visible

Th  16     High   4:23 AM     5.1   6:32 AM    Rise  2:21 AM      37
    16      Low  11:54 AM    -0.3   5:35 PM     Set 12:42 PM
    16     High   6:40 PM     3.3
    16      Low  11:07 PM     2.1

F   17     High   5:31 AM     5.3   6:31 AM    Rise  3:16 AM      26
    17      Low  12:43 PM    -0.8   5:36 PM     Set  1:43 PM
    17     High   7:20 PM     3.7

Sa  18      Low  12:11 AM     1.7   6:30 AM    Rise  4:05 AM      17
    18     High   6:26 AM     5.6   5:37 PM     Set  2:46 PM
    18      Low   1:24 PM    -1.0
    18     High   7:53 PM     4.0

Su  19      Low   1:01 AM     1.4   6:28 AM    Rise  4:48 AM      10
    19     High   7:13 AM     5.8   5:37 PM     Set  3:48 PM
    19      Low   1:59 PM    -1.1
    19     High   8:22 PM     4.3

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To surf or not to surf...surfing after a storm.

Here's a little talk I put together some years ago for a San Diego Surfrider chapter meeting and sent out to friends.  Thought it would be a good time to share this with smart...don't surf in poo!

With the winter rainy season upon us the question arises as to whether or not one should surf during and after a rain event.  Local authorities suggest waiting at least 48-72 hours after the rain stops before hopping into your favorite surf break to avoid contact with unhealthy levels of bacteria and other gunk that has washed into the ocean.  The question also arises as to WHY they recommend that and does that apply to each surf break in the same way?  Here is some information to help you make an educated decision the next time you’re thinking about paddling out into a post-rain surf session.  The information has been simplified so as not to bore you with scientific jargon but will give you enough information to make an informed decision.

First a little background
Most states test storm water for the presence of fecal-indicating bacteria if the water runs into a body of water where human contact will be an issue.  Different states have different requirements for levels of bacteria.  You can check with your state’s health department for specific criteria.  They may also test for other chemicals such as metals, oils and grease, nutrients, and sediment.  At increased concentrations these are detrimental to water quality and human health.

What are “fecal indicating bacteria” and why are they important to me?
Fecal indicating bacteria are bacteria that come from the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals.  Outside of the intestines they can cause illness or act as an indicator of other harmful pathogens that cause illnesses.  There are three categories of fecal indicating bacteria: total coliform, fecal coliform and enterococcus.  “Total coliform” is the general category for bacteria.  Alone these don’t tell us much but when measured with “fecal coliforms”, harmful bacteria that indicate human or animal waste, scientists can tell if the levels of bacteria are of the harmful variety.  Enterococci live in the human intestine and are a direct indicator of human waste contamination, not just general animal waste.

Knowing the type of contamination helps authorities determine the origin of the contamination.  If total and fecal coliform levels are high but enterococci are low then chances are the contamination is coming from a non-human source (pet waste, agricultural run off waste, or other warm blooded animals such as seals or birds).  More in-depth (but expensive) studies can be run using genetics to determine exactly what kind of organism is creating the waste.

But…you want to know…where and when do I surf!
The sources of contamination are numerous.  Lagoons can harbor bacteria from agricultural waste, rotting vegetation, wild animals that live around the lagoon and storm water runoff.  If a lagoon mouth is open and water is flowing onto the beach and into the ocean then contaminated water may be flowing right into the lineup.  Many storm drains flow directly into the ocean so anything laying on the streets and sidewalks may be washed out onto the beach and into the water without any filtering.  This not only includes bacteria from animal waste but also oil dripping from vehicles, anti-freeze, copper discharged every time you hit your brakes, rust, particulate matter washed off of homes and cars by the rain, and trash. Some cities connect their storm drains to sewage plants but this is very costly and not the norm. 

To determine if you should paddle out after a rain event think about several things before plunging in head first.

1)  How much did it rain?  If there was water running down the street and along the gutters during the storm then there was probably enough rain to wash all that waste I mentioned earlier into the storm drains and lagoons.  If rainwater’s still running into the drains when you plan on paddling out then there’s still waste being added to the ocean water.  YUCK!  And if there’s been enough rain to see a slick of discolored water at your surf break, think TWICE before paddling out.

2)  Is there a storm drain or lagoon mouth running directly into my surf break?   Again, these are direct sources of storm water runoff and possibly contaminated water.  The further you can get from these direct sources the better.  Keep in mind that we usually have north swells in the winter during rainy season so that contamination is likely heading south of where it meets the water.

I took the photo below from a plane around Santa Barbara in February a few years back.  You can clearly see that there is a NW swell (see the lines?), the current is moving south (right to left), and a huge plume of water, sediment and who knows what is pouring from the river that is cutting through the middle of the photo.  If you're going to surf  in this situation you would at least want to surf upstream (to the right) of the river mouth if at all.

One of the local hot spots in the winter...Scripps.  The runoff that comes from the University and Aquarium  is pretty clean but then you add the City storm drains...YUCKO!

  Hello line up!

 3)  Is there a lot of surf?   With bigger waves and more swell comes more mixing.  The more mixing that goes on the faster the storm water runoff will dissipate and become diluted with the cleaner ocean water.  If there isn’t much swell the runoff water will stick around longer.

4)  When did it rain last?  The first big rain after a period without rain is called “The First Flush”.  More waste accumulates on land with longer periods without rain.  The “first flush” washes the accumulated waste in one BIG FLUSH out into the ocean.  The period after the first flush is usually the most contaminated so you should give the ocean an extra day or two before paddling out.  

5)  Is this beach prone to poor water quality?  Some beaches are known for their poor water quality particularly after rain events.  These beaches may have large influxes of storm water runoff from large or numerous storm drains.  Also, keep an eye out for posted signage warning beachgoers of contaminated water.  If you’re unfamiliar with a beach check out some of the water quality sites online.  This site, from San Diego Coast Keeper covers beaches is San Diego County.

6)   Use your nose!  If the water has an unusually strong and unpleasant odor it’s probably due to some contamination that you don’t want to be surfing in. 

Bottom line
Unfortunately, there are no black and white answers to when and where to surf after a rain event.  The trick is to make educated decisions based on all the information located right under your nose.  When you are traveling to foreign countries it’s very important to keep these things in mind because you don’t want to spend your surf trip with the stomach flu just because you paddled out in the wrong spot and at the wrong time.  It’s worth waiting a day if it’ll keep you healthy for the rest of your trip!  And don’t forget, it doesn’t hurt to take an extra long how shower afterwards either! 

(me hard at work...testing out my new post-storm wetsuit)