Thursday, May 21, 2009
I camped at Jalama last week in north Santa Barbara county. The campground abuts a vast wide-open beachfront just north of Point Conception. It's a beautiful spot that often fills up, except in the springtime when the northwest wind sweeps through the campground like the devil turned sirocco. Which is exactly why I was there.
Jalama beach is a classic California wavesailing spot. For twenty-plus years it has been on the radar of most central and southern California windsurfers. The spot is not for the meek. Not by any stretch of the imagination - the surf can be large, unrelenting and powerful, and the wind can range from fluky to extreme. (I was once told that Jalama means changing winds in some native language. I can't verify it though.) Last week the surf was fairly small, but the wind was fierce, gusting to nearly 50 mph in the late afternoon. Getting out on the water early was the best choice, by 4 p.m our whole group of windsurfers was mostly blown off the water.
The same sundowner winds which created havoc in the Santa Barbara fire of late hit Jalama with full intensity. For four consecutive days last week the wind came up in the early afternoon and just kept building. The northerly cant of the wind made for great side-off wave sailing, but the gusts were unrelenting. At 230 lbs there aren't too many days when I can't hold on to my smallest sail (a 4.2m) - but there I was, having the sail ripped out of my hands, then fin walking across the water and doing everything possible not to catapult out of the footstraps. Whew. What a rush. Before the total chaos there was also some fun sailing sessions - nicely powered and on waist to chest high surf. And the wind was warm!
The top photo was taken at 8 a.m. last Thursday. Already a couple of kiters are out riding small surf drained out by the super low tide. The next two photos are, obviously, from late in the day. I'm not sure if the middle photo captures just how windy it was. There was so much sand blowing that the lens on my digital camera repeatedly seized up...Can't wait to go back.