Brian Watson, a longtime windsurfer from the Los Angeles area, will contribute periodically as a guest blogger. Here he writes about missing out on a recent storm-clearing wind while Santa Barbara pro Kevin McGillivray's determined search placed him in epic conditions off a Central California beach:
After having a summer of good waves, but only a few of them “supplied” with wind, we SoCal windsurfers were looking forward to an early clearing wind. That early storm front that passed through the area last week was forecast to bring strong winds to the inner waters around L.A. and Ventura as it swept inland.
I had been feeling under the weather but would force myself out on the water if the forecasts proved to be accurate. So, I was at the computer, checking my weather sources for much of the morning, as clearing winds often blow themselves out early, and start to shift direction from W/NW to NE. The northeasterly winds, a.k.a. Santa Anas, are not safe, so windsurfers have to be on it early as a rule.
As I was sitting at home, checking my sources every 15 minutes or so, other windsurfers, much younger, braver, and far better sailors, than I, were at the coast, waiting for nature to give them the “green light.” That generally happens when the wind builds to a range of around 18-25 mph.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara pro windsurfer, Kevin McGillivray, was up the coast, (down for him) near the Ventura County fairgrounds, waiting for the wind to deliver. Kevin knew from experience that the wind can be very fickle this time of year, and that if you aren't on it early, you miss out. He ended up rigging his sail and going out when the wind looked like it was picking up. Unfortunately it turned out to be a false alarm, so after a big effort, Kevin schlogged back to the beach and pondered situation.
Ventura didn’t seem to be doing it, however the outer channel buoys were showing good wind up around Vandenburg Air Force Base. The fact that a young bodyboarder had just been killed by a great white shark at a beach very close to Jalama didn’t dissuade Kevin. That said, there was very little chance of a crowd being in the water that day.
In reality, the kind of gnarly conditions that Jalama Beach throws at you rarely invites a crowd, especially this late in the year. Kevin de-rigged his sail, and left Ventura, northbound for Jalama.
When Kevin rounded the corner, up where he could see the water for the first time in 40 minutes, his eyes must’ve lit up. It was blowing like stink, already over 30 mph on the gusts. The waves looked nearly “mast high” (14-foot faces or so), and were grinding the way beach-breaks do, and Jalama can be one of the meanest.
Now, in Kevin "KMac’s" own words:
“That was one of the best days I've caught at Jalama in a very long time. Nice and side-off (wind direction) most of the time. I felt perfect on the 4.7 (Sail size in square meters of area, which is on the small side. Windsurfers must reduce sail size to manage the power of increasing winds.) -- right on the edge of being OP'd (Overpowered)... which was comforting knowing I'd have a gas pedal if I needed it to get out through the mast high mackers (self-explanatory).
"But most of the time, you could just wait for the lulls..... until the low tide. Once it hit low tide, it was relentless and mean!
It was great standing in the shallows watching the huge sets roll in and the other guys sailing, Mike, Rob and Bennett. They'd drop in on a wave and all of a sudden, you could just see the tip of their mast and the wave was taller. The mast would disappear behind the wave in front of it and then TA-DA! The sailor would re-appear at the top of the wave! Kiters were putting on a show, too. The best part is ... all my gear is still intact!”
Well done, KMac!
-- Brian Watson
Photos of Kevin McGillivray courtesy of Paul Dieckman