Perhaps winter arrived a couple of weeks ago, but this week seems to have marked the true beginning of the season for surfers and snowboarders of California's South Coast. The usual big swell of early December showed up like clockwork, albeit in diminished proportions since its visit to Hawaii earlier in the week. After the storms cleared earlier this week, Southern Californians woke up to see the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains glistening white with the first really hefty snow of this winter, visible in high definition through the cold, crisp air.
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Bear Mountain and Snow Summit reported a dump of 14 inches of cold-weather powder on Monday, enabling staff to open the rest of the Mountain and refine the lips, pipes and tables of the park to their desired proportions. Man-made snow is sticking better, too, and they're making it in full force. Lower elevation stragglers like Mt. Baldy and Mountain High, too, have been opening up and looking better. All week, surfers in Orange County have been excitedly murmuring about the swell that brought The Eddie back to Waimea and was rumored to be bigger than any swell in the past forty years, equaling or surpassing the Makaha swell of 1969 that called for the evacuation of North Shore residents. Groups of tech-dependent surfers huddled around their computers, balking at the huge swath of purple that covered Surfline's LOLA swell models, waiting for the long-period NW lines to travel the rest of the Pacific and hit our beaches.
Late yesterday and this morning, thee swell arrived. Although not as big as the El Niño swells of early December in 2005 and 2007, waves at a few North Orange County spots reached double overhead on the bigger sets this morning, pumping clean, glassy peaks into a light offshore wind. If you picked the right spot, it was, to say the least, a classic early December morning for surfing in Orange County. For more info about early winter swells, check out this awesome article and photo essay by Sean Collins at Surfline.com.