Jon Cohen,

Jon Cohen,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 5 1997 3:30 AM

Jon Cohen,

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       As B.B. King sang, the swell is gone. Well, it's not gone gone, but my dawn session had more to do with gabbing than with standing on a board. When the waves drop, priorities change.
       My surf day began at my computer, where I checked my e-mail and found the note from Surf's Up that I've asked them to send me any day the local buoys show a 3-foot or larger swell. Today, the Mission Bay buoy read 3.54 feet at 5:34 a.m. Yesterday, at the same time, it read 5.64 feet. I next, uh, surfed the Net, checking out the weather section of the awesome La Jolla surfing page. Links revealed that several Southern California buoys had dropped considerably, the tide was low moving to high, and another swell was on the way. Definitely a longboard morning--and maybe a quick shop for a big-wave board in the afternoon.
       I pulled into Swami's and jawed for a few minutes with the parking lot crowd. Word was that Diane, whose back spasms had lots of people worried yesterday, was doing well. The waves looked inconsistent and, at best, chest-high, but the morning colors and the offshore wind seduced me.
       Arty was already out in the lineup and told me that Diane's X-rays checked out fine and that she'll only be surfless for a few weeks. He said the guy who cut her off yesterday only pushed her because he lost his balance. I said I called him a goon in my diary entry. Others who saw the mishap suggested it would have been more precise to have called him a "Barney." Sorry, Barney. We regret the error. (Slate also should 'fess up that these diaries are a day off, which matters greatly to surfers: Today is Wednesday.)
       In the afternoon, after I filed a rewrite of a story--I do work--I decided to check the waves, another way surfers waste much of their lives away. First stop, Cardiff Reef, a k a Crowdiff ... but only three guys were vying for these ankle slappers. On to Seaside Reef and adjacent Tabletops. I found the rocks strewn all over the parking lot more interesting than the waves. Like many beaches in North County San Diego, these once had sand. Now, owing to a harbor 20 miles north, sand no longer travels down the coast, which explains the invasion of the rocks. Next, Swami's. Pukey.
       I visited Encinitas Surfboards, which features a salmagundi of goods that only a surfer could love. They had some sweet-looking used boards, but none was the gun of my dreams. Down the block at Longboard Grotto, a retro shop that celebrates the Jan and Dean days of surfing, I coveted lots of pretty noseriders, but that's it. I checked out Agua, which only sells custom boards. Surfboards still are hand-shaped, hand-airbrushed, and hand-fiberglassed, all of which is done at Agua. I watched Weasel glass a board for a while. As I left, I spied the sign painted on one of their shaping shacks that listed their hours. It says, "6 a.m. to 3 p.m., unless there is surf." Now do these guys have their priorities straight, or what?

Jon Cohen is a journalist for Science magazine. He's also a surfer.