As predicted, this past weekend provided the Santa Barbara coastline with decent swell and the encouragement that local surfers needed as winter draws near. The swell that came through last Thursday allowed UCSB surfers to shift top priority – only momentarily of course – to the waves and away from studies that they are always so diligently pursuing. Unlike the half-foot Embarcadero Del Mar break the UCSB Surf Team was forced to hold tryouts on, this past weekend looked up for Santa Barbara – that is until it turned dangerous.
One of our very own Gauchos came near losing a leg at Rincon Point this past Saturday after a long day of head-high, clean waves. Chris O’Conner, Surfline dawn patrol and Rincon reporter, has spent almost everyday over the past year as the first to patrol the infamous Rincon break, capturing the essence of Santa Barbara’s heart and relaying that sentiment to the viewers of Surfline.
Did anyone notice how Rincon seemed to skip a year with swell last year? Rincon was supposed to have an open swell window that would have allowed for better surf than Goleta saw, but why was there no swell off the point? We could say O’Conner did an accurate job at portraying the lack of swell due to global warming by executing his timely duty at dawn each morning, revealing again and again another one-footer and blown-out session. Or, we could take a look back at the swell charts and notice a bit of incongruence between the data and O’Conner’s videography. As we compare the data, it’s interesting to notice the same shoulder standing in the way of the camera during the biggest swells of the year, according to the data. Wonder why the data states a 10-foot swell with excellent conditions and O’Conner’s report states two-foot swell and getting worse? Could O’Conner simply not know how to give a report, or was someone doing a bit of selfish surfing – the old “turn in the same video report on the days of swell so no one crowds my wave” trick?
Though guilty of misleading fellow surfers, O’Conner became the most well-known Rincon ripper of his time. While having the morning sets to himself on a daily basis, he mastered the practice, and knows the wave better than any other surfer at UCSB. Due to his love of the break and the geographical science that supports its beauty, O’Conner developed a passion for wave forecasting that he will follow into the career field, recently declaring geography as his major at UCSB. His talent and academic brilliance have met one another on the Rincon break, as he has found a balance between the love of knowledge and the sport that has helped him find it.
The past swell took O’Conner straight to his best friend and break, Rincon, this past Saturday. Unfortunately, Rincon was not the only thing to break. Catching right after right down the line all day became a tiring paddle for O’Conner after eight whole hours. At mid-tide, it was ripping hard on the inside with overhead sets connecting from the indicator to the bay. The last couple rides took O’Conner so far down the line that he had to run back to the point in order to save daylight and energy for another ride. On his last jog to the point, tired and overwhelmed from a long hard day of work with his best friend, O’Conner kept his eyes on the goal – the break at the point – but instead heard another break: that of his foot. Unbeknownst to him, he had planted his foot directly in between two rocks, and snapped his foot in a natural bear claw trap. Oblivious to all breaks but one, O’Conner attempted to paddle back to the point, realizing the break in his foot was just as literal as that of ocean. Once back on land, a mermaid-like moment struck O’Conner as he lay on the beach, helpless and too exhausted to open his eyes to see the red-headed girl who threw him in the car and took him to the hospital.
Awaiting surgery this Friday, the Rincon guru finds himself repeating the phrase “Not chill dude, so not chill,” as classes were a heavy enough load without the added weight of a cast. Some may say this is karma to a surfer who keeps the waves to himself; others may say it’s fate. An eye for an eye, a break for a break – all lies in the eye of the beholder. Let’s all hope O’Conner realizes that the paddle is often as rewarding as the ride.