This October, during the Southern California wildfires, surfers evacuated their homes to everyone’s favorite evacuation zone: the beach. Surfers couldn’t hit their local beaches fast enough, taking with them their most prized possession. Santa Ana winds are every surfer’s guilty pleasure during the driest season in Southern California. This is because their warm offshore flows go to the local beaches and cause normally mundane surf to stand up and throw heaving barrels for those that aren’t at home trying to put their house out with a garden hose. Obviously these fires threatened many people’s homes and should not be taken too lightly, but let’s just say that surfers were coping with the threat of their homes becoming a piece of charcoal a little better than everyone else.
From the sky on the worst days, surfers said it looked like the apocalypse, and trust me, at the end of days you will find every surfer scratching for that last barrel. The world didn’t end for Southern Californians, thankfully, but the devastation was severe. Hundreds of thousands of acres were left smoldering in San Diego County, but when I called San Diego surfer Adam Perez, he had other things to discuss.
“I got some of the best barrels that I can even remember on those days,” said the Big Rock local. “The sky was so full of smoke that you could barely see the sun. It was insane.”
On the best days at San Diego’s premier left slab, there were hordes of surfers frothing at the mouth and a lineup littered with photographers. A similar situation occurred a few years ago during the Cedar Fire in San Diego County. That fire coincided with a strong south swell and made for epic waves from Trestles to Imperial Beach. Another effect of that fire was the cancellation of school for grommets everywhere. One can barely comprehend the madness when trying to picture the perfect reeling rights under a red sky, with a million grommets shredding freely without the shackles of their daily spelling bees.
Those days are more fresh in my head than this very morning, in which I dragged myself out of bed for mediocre C Street rights that were occupied by old guys on fun boards, who looked like they were about ready to move out of the lineup and onto a bedpan. Mornings like this one make me reminisce on those days where the surf was firing, and so were the hills. Every surfer in Southern California knows the feeling. It’s the bittersweet sensation that lingers in your pallet for years after, if not longer. However, this is where the line needs to be drawn, and we all have to get some much-needed perspective.
The truth about these Southern California wildfires that Santa Ana winds bring is that they are incredibly dangerous. Many people lost their homes, and some people lost their lives. While they scrambled to gather pictures of loved ones and items of irreplaceable sentimental value, we all scrambled to get our boards loaded in the car so we could get Blacks’ lefts before the crowd got on it. So next time you are sitting out at your local break next to old man river and his 12-foot soft top, in 3-foot closeouts, it’s okay to think to yourself that some Santa Ana’s would be great right now, but you might want to keep that to yourself.