Jalama Beach, CA
Jalama Beach is about an hour from Santa Barbara. A long winding road through stunning rolling hill scenery leads a person to a gorgeous strech of california coast, with a nice little campground nestled into a cove amoung big hills and picturesque cliffs. Sounds Serene, huh?
Jalama is known amoung kayak surfers for two things. First it’s the scene of the Surf Dog’s annual Expression Session. the Expression Session is basically just a gathering, a party, in the term from the 60’s, a “happening”. Secondly. it’s known for punishing, bone crunching, tough to ride, closed out surf.
So with that in mind, I stumble over to Dennis’s house at 5 in the morning, and we load our boats onto his truck. Heater Blasting, donuts in hand, we drive north. Dennis has just gotten his boat back from a very expensive refinishing and repainting, and it sits on his roof carefully bundled ina boat bag, ready for it’s first trip out since it’s rebirth. this would prove to be ironic care.
We arrive at the campground to see a few familar faces, and lots and lots of boats on cars (50?60?) I find my friends, and convince Chris and Dennis it was time to hop on the water. We slide into our boats, and fight to make it outside the break. Pounding surf repeatedly pushes into the beach, and we fight to get back out…after a long fight, we make it outside. Shoulders are absent, all we find are big, crashing, pounding, pummeling waves. Chris heads north, while Dennis and I head south to Tarantulas, the ominously named break a mile or so down the beach. The Surf is big and scary on the way down. Huge walls of water bearing doen on you. Certainly Attention getting. All told, I think about 8-10 or so people who showed up (out of maybe 60?) ever paddled out and surfed. It was that big.
We make it down to the point, and there are a few other paddlers out there. Well known guys all of them. Good, competitive kayak surfers. the guys you see in paddling movies and winning contests. I feel like I’ve gone to the company softball picnic and saw Nolan Ryan on the pitchers mound. I’m not afraid to say I was nervous. The was big surf, and it was coming in with alarming regularity. Afterwatching several waves go by, I summoned the courage and paddled for a wave. As it picked me up and I dropped in I felt as if I was falling off a building. The power and speed of the wave was at once exhilerating anf terrifying. I made a move or two, then turned and raced for the beach as an enormous wall of whitewater crashed around me. As I was rocketed to the beach, I saw the piles of rock protruding in the water and my heart skipped a beat or two!
Pretty much that’s how my day went, for the next couple of hours, I got some fun rides. I was caught inside a few times, which was a pummeling. Doing scary ferrys through the rocks to get to a spot where you could paddle back out. Etc. Etc. I escaped a few hours later, unscathed, excited, and exhausted.
Dennis did well too, and got some great rides, although his newly refinished boat took a severe pounding when one of his rides ended on the rocks. Sad. Several cracks were found, and the new paint had some big chunks missing.
The afternoon was spent recuperating in chris’s RV trailer. lunch was made, beer was drunk, and kayak videos were watched. Chris and I both drooled over the whitewater rivers we really want to run. the evening continued the festivities, a huge bar-b-q was served, and a big screen projector was brought out. Vince Shay showed video he’d shot that day. Dennis and I had the dubious distinction of getting the biggest “Doh’s!” from the crowd following footage of some gruesome wipeouts, although Dennis’s was, by far, the worst. He got pummeled, flipped, tossed and worked, but came out of it rightside up. Right into the rocks.
Sunday was more of the same. Chris joined Dennis and I at the point,a nd we all got some good rides and some punishment. Much fun was had by all. I got to see some old freinds, make some new ones, and make some plans for some more great paddling. Watch out for Jalama 2003.