November 3, 2011
There is surf spot on the Northern California Coast only accessible by bush plane, Zodiak boat or an eight mile, tide dependent, hike in along the coast. Since traveling through the area a month ago, I started picking up tidbits about a remote point break nestled in the largest undeveloped section of the west coast. These tidbits led to research and an eventual plan to backpack in and surf this remote break.
According to lore, locals bury boards in the woods so that they don’t have to schlep them on their back. In the early 00’s, a few hikers died when they were caught against cliffs by high tides. In addition, the (frigid) waters are infested with great white sharks and the shores team with black bears. Nestled on a point, the break is exposed to swell from the both the north and the south, meaning that rogue waves three times larger than normal can catch surfers. “Get hurt out there, and you’re looking at a life flight out courtesy of the US Coast Guard,” a local explained through the window of a Toyota pick up.
These “obstacles” contribute to a deserted point break surfed by few, but known in the Norcal surf community as one of the best in North America.
“If not now, then when? I just don’t think we will have another opportunity,” Dan said from his apartment in Arcata. “The swell is building and it’s from the right direction. The weather will be in the 70’s too, in late October. We can’t pass this up.”
“I’m down,” I answered into my phone from the side of Route 1 in Big Sur. “I’ll be up there by Wednesday. The waves will be better by the end of the week, huh?”
“Yahh, that should be perfect.”
We arrived at the trail head late the night before, greeted by the site of another Syncro with a few surfboards on top and an early 80’s Westy. Waking before dawn, we packed our things, hid our valuables and started down the beach. Racing along as an eight foot high tide chipped away at the narrow beach, we covered four miles along the beach then scrambled up a hillside. As the tide recessed, we sprinted around small rock points between waves. Cove by cove, we marched ever closer to the distant point.
We dinged our boards and cursed our packs.
After eight hours of watermelon sized rocks, exposed beaches and jagged points, we finally made it to the bluffs over looking the break. To our surprise we saw not one break but a handful of pealing, uninhabited waves. A far-cry from Southern California: just a single team of two surfers taking turns riding a wave and driving a jet ski. With the eagerness of a group of nine year olds on Halloween, we shed our backpacks, changed into our suits and charged into the waves, intent on reaping the benefit of our day’s effort.
For the next three days, we surfed the handful of breaks along the abandoned coast when the tides were right. When the water was flat, we explored the beach, scavenging for driftwood, and other odds and ends to improve our makeshift home.
Tired from the day’s sessions, we packed it in early each night. Waking at dawn, we checked the surf.
Using salvaged marine rope, we lashed two trees together, creating crows nest. From this vantage point, we could see breaks a mile down the beach in either direction.
In the mornings, we spotted bear and deer tracks on the trails along the bluffs.
Our shelter, my LL Bean tent.
Next time, I will probably come in on one of these.
An Aran Sweater for the cold nights.
After three days of playing lost boys, our food ran short and more importantly, the swell died down. Much to our chagrin, we broke camp, took one last look at the swell from our crows nest, and hiked back a long the coast. Motivated by the promise of a convenience store at the end of the beach, we walked in relative silence. Some things you will never forget.
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