Monday, June 13, 2011

5.5 at Zeros


A bunch of years back while working at Disney, I got to know a guy, Jeff, who liked boogie boarding as much I did.  I grew up going to Santa Monica and Manhattan Beaches boogie-boarding with various high school friends of mine, who, by the time I was working at Disney had either moved out of the LA area, or had just moved on from the hobby.  So I was glad to have found a comrade who still enjoyed the sport at our age.

Jeff was a fun dude who did his job well at Disney and enjoyed the outdoors.  He had a friend named Peter, who I met as we started all surfing together.  They had known each other before I knew either of them, and so they tended to go to a spot on the coast called, Zeros.  Its real name is San Nicholas Canyon County Beach, and is one of three little coves about six miles north of Zuma. 

Jeff miraculously got me into a rhythm of leaving my Burbank home at 5:00am on Saturdays in the summertime, driving across the 101 and over Kanan Dune Road, and showing up at Zeros at 6:00am, just as the yellow sun’s rays were starting to beam over the Santa Monica Mountains.  As long as it wasn’t foggy, it was always a gorgeous way to meet the morning.

At the time, one would pay for parking by putting one’s car in a parking space, noting the space number painted on the ground, and the slipping a dollar-fifty into a slot with the same space number in a metal payment box.  You’d approach the cove via a steep service road, and then a dirt trail, which was later converted into simple steps made out of partial railroad ties.

Our gear included our boogie-boards, rubber booties (to protect our feet from the rocky shore), wet-suites and fins.  It was kind of the standard get-up for any serious boogie-boarder.

Zeros was an interesting spot to boogie-board in.  The hard board surfers were often locals and didn’t appreciate boogie-boarders getting in the way.  As long as you (the boogie-boarder) were adept enough at your sport, and you knew how to stay out of the way of surfers picking up rides, you’d be okay.  Only once do I remember an altercation involving someone in our group.  Peter and a surfer got into a dispute over someone being in the way of the other.  But nothing serious became of it.

These little coves make great surf spots.  The topography around these covers often makes the waves break in uneven ways, peeling off either to the left or right, pretty consistently.  I recall getting some really good rides at Zeros, where I felt like I was sliding down smooth glass for a good fifteen or twenty seconds, until I met up with a part of the wave that was closing out. 

There is one day in particular that I will never forget.  Jeff, Peter and I were all three kickin’ it a bit outside (beyond the wave breaks), waiting for that magical huge set to come in, when Peter said, “Hey, let’s paddle to that next cove over there.”  Peter was pointing south to a beach that was about a quarter of a mile away past a rock outcrop that we would need to paddle around on our boogie-boards.  I know there was a moment when Jeff and I contemplated the idea of sharks, but it was fleeting, and as I recall, Peter had done it once before and still had all of his limbs in tact.  The trick with this was that the venture had to be done during a high tide in order to get past most of the rocks between the two coves.  Today was indeed a high tide.

So we paddled and paddled.  It took longer than I had anticipated since we were also fighting the oncoming swells from our right.  I’ve noticed that the dimension of “here” to “there” always seems to elongate whenever you have to do something strenuous. 

We finally arrived at this cove and found that it had a sandy beach (unlike Zeros which had a lot of rocks and pebbles) and was populated by a few large, very expensive homes that owned the property down to the waterline. There were also a few large rocks coming out of the water on one side of the cove, but we were able to steer clear of this area.

The important aspect of this cove was that it had GREAT waves that day, and that no one else, but we three, were there. The fact that the exclusive homes prevented any access to this cove from the road worked to our favor.  We boogie-boarded there maybe three and a half hours or so, catching long clean lines to the right, one after another, with no interference from any other surfers.  I even recall us looking at the surfers sitting in the water off of Zeros, who were undoubtedly looking back at us wondering what gold we three had discovered.  It was the perfect boogie-boarding experience.

We finally wore out; each of us wishing we could go on surfing forever for that day.  We started our long, arduous paddle against the now wind-pushed swells back to Zeros, got out and felt surfing-satiated like we’d never felt before. 

I remember thinking to myself, “I’ve got to make a note of what the tide level was today for future reference.”  I drove back to the valley and went to Val Surf to look up the tide tables, and then marked it down on a little white piece of paper in my car; one that eventually turned yellow and was thrown out during a car wash.  But it’s stayed in my head all of these years just in case I decided to go back and do it again.  It was a 5.5 tide.