Friday, October 3, 2014

Swelltember at the Gate

Sometimes it all comes together and for 4 out of 5 days last week- it did.
A big ebb tide, the first big swell of the season + great wind. 
Its lucky to line up 2 of these things- but 3...A real treat!

It started Tuesday- Sept 23 with the swell starting to arrive early in the day.
I got a great session in at the south tower the late afternoon in 18-24k on a rare butter smooth ebb.
I had the mikes lab 70cm slalom board, 42cm Z fin & avanti m-2 7.7 rig with the clew in the outside grommet and clew tied shut for best control in overpowered conditions. 
Sailing under the golden gate bridge at the South tower on a big ebb is a real hoot.
The swell can move backwards as if standing on a rug being pulled out from beneath you. 
Big troughs form on the south side of the south tower- craving out a sweet spot to gybe down the face of the incoming swell. 
On the far side, near Ft. Point is really where you can move into the wave before it makes a big right turn into the no wind zone- aka the surfers line up.
The circuit- as its known is a short run between the south tower and fort point with gybes every 30-45 seconds to stay on the treadmill of moving ebb. 

Do this for a few minutes and you really get into the groove.
10-15 min and then you begin to recognize the sets coming in and their timing.
After about an hour of sailing, you're in the zone. Nothing even phases you.

Wednesday Sept. 24th
The swell was huge- coming in at close to 20' at times. Big sets all the way from the run nun buoy across the bar. All I could see were huge rollers coming in from the Pacific but hardly a breeze at all.

@waves_sf said it best:
"Big ass whitecaps, like a-frames, but made of awful"

With the wind only at 10-12k, it was an obvious choice for the big board & rig.
The ML 89cm board was built for these exact conditions- huge sleigh rides under the gate.
The smaller 59cm kashy fin really settles the board down for good control.
I had the avanti m-2 10.0 rigged with the clew in the middle position.

Just outside the gate was a minefield of huge rollers and mini mountains of pure delight, depending on your point of view. 
The ebb sucks you well out past the red nun and that's when you sheet in, aim the board downwind and hold on tight! 

I had some the biggest rides of the season thrusted down the face of massive swell before gybing out at fort point and doing it all over again and again and again. 
Tons of people enjoying Wednesday peak with David Wells getting some huge sets on his SUP on the outside set,  the usual array of foilers- making it work in any condition and the surfers on the inside.

Thursday- Sept 25th- skunked! Not only not enough wind for me on the last Thursday night race night of the season but not enough wind to even get up to the gate on the big windsurfing gear.

Friday- Sept 26th. Score- another huge day of big bombs under the gate!

This time- fully lit again on the ml slalom/7.7 in  epic 25-30k of breeze, big ebb and big swell.
It might as well been a party wave because everybody and his brother were there.
A bit more crowded in the line up but stoked to see so many people having fun from wave sailors, slalom sailors, kiters on surf boards,  kiters on foilers and surfers.
By the 3rd day- I was starting to get it dialed.
Id make a huge run in on starboard tack- riding downwind across the incoming swell and making a huge bottom turn on the first trough at the south tower, stalling mid way- but keeping going down the wave. Big sets were still coming through but it was more the huge mountains of butter ball A frames just outside the south tower that made it great riding. It was comparable to the best powder day I ever had in the mountains.

After 3 hours of hard sailing- I couldn't even feel my arms or legs but the smile across my face was ear to ear. I went to been crusty and happy.

Saturday- Sept 27th- Firing again!
For the 4th out of 5 days, I scored big, hedging my bets and getting another huge day of swell riding.
I rigged the 10.0 as it was starting to die when I arrived but of course, rig a big sail and the wind comes up. 
 I reriged and was completely wound on the ml slalom/7.7 in 15-25k working my way up to the gate in midfields of voodoo chop in n the outgoing river of ebb. As it settled back down to 15-20k, I let the outhaul loose on the 7.7 and gained huge amounts of power driving down some big left over swell.  There were still some heady nuggets of fun out there to catch!

The big sets, today, were under the center span running towards the north tower with the most south we've seen all week.
Unlike the Ft Point circuit, you can ride these giants for longer as they have time to open up and gain momentum under the gate. I carried a few all the way down to Yellow Bluff past Horseshoe Bay and Ft. Baker on the Marin side.
I pretty much melted into my bed that night, knowing for the past 4 out of 5 days, I scored some of the best sessions of the year in my own backyard.