Steve Pezman feels really old.
"I'm 64 years old. I'm like an old wolf," he complains. Pezman, a longtime San Clemente resident, publishes The Surfer's Journal, surfing's glossiest, deepest-thinking magazine. So it would kind of help if Pezman could still surf but, he says, getting old is hell for paddling out and getting up on your board.
"What happens," he says, "is you lose your legs, and you can't pop up anymore. It makes the timing of the ride completely different. You lurch up. You have to take off on the shoulder. Which means you're getting in, in front of everybody else—but you don't like to get in people's way and have people swear at you. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's still worth doing."
Summer in Orange County can be a curious time for surfers since our best weather arrives along with our worst surf. Which is where Pezman comes in: he may not always be able to catch them, but he knows where to find the best rides. Stay away from Huntington, he says, unless you're competing.
"The main event for Orange County in the summer is the Huntington Beach Pier," he says. "When I started surfing in the '50s, the population of Huntington Beach was 3,000, and 10 percent of the kids surfed. Now it's 300,000 and 10 percent of kids surf. There's major, big south swells and a river-like current that drags you through the pier whether you want to or not. Then in the fall, long tapered A-frame peaks."
So, may he suggest Doheny State Beach? It's a drive, but the surf and the convenience justify it.
"You go to Doheny on swells 'cause you can drive right up and paddle right out. Then you shower well, go home and disinfect. Pour some bleach in your ears."
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Be sure and get the kind that doesn't splash, or go ye to Ray Bay in Seal Beach, which only sounds less polluted, and do the Ray Bay Shuffle.
"Ray Bay is a microcosm of the Long Beach flood control. You learn to shuffle your feet when you walk out there, or you pay the price. They used to net 1,500 stingrays a day," Pezman says. "It has a sandbar off the crab jetty. Swells come in and jack on the depth decrease—and they peel off in a square tube with a perfect right shape," which means in English that waves bounce off the sandbar, and form a square tube (got that part) that breaks right. It's the perfect crime: "Orange County doesn't drive to Seal Beach to go surfing. Long Beach drives to Seal Beach to go surfing."
That's partly because Orange County has a few more good summer spots of its own. Pezman rattles off the old standards: there's Trestles. "It's big on south swells but it's not an A-wave. It's maybe a C." There's the Wedge—"a bodysurfing wave. But it lights up in the summer." There's Brook Street in Laguna Beach: "Another south swell, a ledge boil event that gets good several times a year—a famous left [breaking wave] in Laguna. It was a destination wave in the '60s." And there's Cotton's Point in Pezman's own San Clemente—a left-breaking wave which should sweep you back about 30 years.
"It's in front of the Western White House," he says about former President Nixon's Orange County digs, since remodeled, though the break is still a time warp. "You can't see it from the highway," Pezman says. "You park at the Carl's Jr. It's really great."