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Ocean Beach, Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, Big Surf, Waves, Surfers

January 6th 2012

About the only thing that draws a crowd to the beach early on a Friday morning is a summer holiday but today was an exception owing to the big swell that produced 10’ to 20’ waves at favored breaks throughout San Diego County.

Hundreds of people came out to watch and so did we. In California some things are more important than work: like an 80 degree summer day in San Francisco; 11 minutes drive-time from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica on the 10 freeway; and an epic swell anywhere along California's 840 mile coastline.

Why? Simple: it just doesn't happen very often and when it does nature presents a glimpse of raw power and beauty that puts you into a meditative state. You can’t believe what you're seeing—your attention transfixed by the sublime beauty of emerald-colored water dynamically sculpted into the most mystifying shapes and forms you’ve even seen.  It's like Van Gogh painting furiously right before your eyes—breathtaking and instant.

Big surf days are hard to walk away from and impossible to miss if you know they're happening. I don't smoke, drink, do drugs or indulge in much of anything but I gotta “thing” for waves.  I like to watch them break over and over, each one a unique masterpiece of the universal-swell-god who creates them for us. Tiny humans watch from the shore and a few brave ones paddle out—to meet god's power head-on and try for a moment to master the hydraulic energy.

But it's a farce—believing you can master the waves that is. Because every ride is a tectonic-dance on a moving wall of aqua-fresh molecules of pure kinetic energy that yield for no man—only allowing the rider to think he or she is in control. And just when a wave-rider believes he has subdued this primitive force--the god of the ocean, Neptune, takes notice and sends a burst of energy from his Trident to bring the rider into his realm. He then scolds the rider and lets him out only after being satisfied he'll get the proper respect the next time his authority is challenged.

In the Bear Republic we like things that are real—except people from Hollywood—the sovereign city-state which is governed by a constitution that mandates things like phony boobs. But the rest of us crave an experience and a show of nature’s omnificence.  Even if it’s a fire raging through a steep canyon or an earthquake totaling a super-structure—we like being subdued and feeling a slight loss of control. It makes us feel special, like we're better than everyone else because we live amongst such things. We hope our friends and relatives on the East Coast are tuning in and noting our bravery during California's latest natural event or crisis.

But today was no crisis, just a good show to sit through like the fourth installment of your favorite movie franchise. Even though you know what's coming, it's new and special and you can't wait for the curtain to rise.  

Article by John Rogers
Photography by Francha Cavitt

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