Surf resources and surfcams for Pacific Palisades, California
What Makes Sunset Special?
Hmmmn. That is a very interesting question, particularly since the dominant view is that Sunset is anything but special. Most serious surfers consider it to be a laughable break with weak waves and kooks galore. Beachgoers dislike the lack of sand and the proximity to the noisy PCH. Commuters despise the dangerous traffic it creates from lookyloos and u-turning maniacs. Many would say that the only reason to ever go to Sunset is that the parking is free.
But perhaps, if you are willing to take a leap of faith and you have a weakness for underdogs like I do, you will come to see that Sunset's poor reputation is truly a blessing. Understand from the start, an appreciation for Sunset does not come easily. It takes patience, devotion, faith and persistence. As I have emphasized repeatedly, Sunset has a very narrow window during which it truly blossoms. You will have to pay your dues if you want to pass on through to the other side and enter the magic kingdom of bliss.
Some might say it isn't worth the wait. Grandted, Sunset is the first point break north of Palos Verdes, but why mess with such a narrow opportunity when there are waves beckoning at El Porto, Topanga, Malibu, or County Line? All those breaks work on a much wider range of tide levels. And they often have bigger, faster waves with better shape. So the easy thing to do is just cruise on by Sunset, chuckling to yourself that this place NEVER seems to go off! The tide is practically always WRONG at Sunset!
Well, laugh if you will, but that is exactly what I love about Sunset. That is exactly what makes it special. If Sunset didn't have a narrow window, it would be far more crowded and overrun. You might be thinking, but it already is crowded! That is sort of true and sort of not. Yes, when there is a high-surf advisory, Sunset is almost always crowded. But here's a little secret for you: There are about 20-40 days a year when the surf reports are only modest and everyone is busy working in the middle of a humdrum weekday. Suddenly, the magic window at Sunset opens up and two or three surfers (or less) get to enjoy perfect head-high sets peeling off the point... one after another after another. You are surfing, paddling, surfing... each wave a shimmering face of glassy perfection all the way down the line.
The waves seem to be endlessly forgiving, not all sectiony and mushy like they usually are. They have so much juice, so much face, you can do anything you want on them. And the water quality is pristine. When you stand up on a wave, you can see straight through the face right down to the bottom. It almost seems like the water is alive, dancing... and you are dancing with it, dancing on a jewel-like blue-green wave of perfection. The experience is so unexpected, so beautiful, you don't know where you are anymore. A tropical, remote, paradisiacal island?
And a pod of dolphins is out there too, playing and frolicking. You see them leap in the air, then they glance back at you. After several times of doing this, you come to understand. They are using their sonar, lifting up their fins as indicators, letting you know right where a perfect peak is about to arrive. No, it is not an illusion... they comprehend what you are doing out there. You make eye contact with them, quickly paddle to their suggested take off spot. A beautiful, heart-thumping swell mounds up in front of you. Two strokes and you are into it. From the moment you stand up, you know it is the best wave of your life. You ride and ride and ride, executing each turn with amazing grace, exquisite balance, perfect control. When you kick out, your eyes are tearing. Could this be for real? Is this a dream?
Yep, it is real. It is Sunset. You are a stone's throw from the clatter and chaos of the PCH. Thousands of cars are whisking by you, and their occupants are entirely oblivious to what is happening. Ten million people are directly behind you, sitting in their office cubicles, typing on their keyboards, deleting their useless emails, waiting for the day when they too might have a chance to taste freedom. But you have escaped the madness. You have entered through the magic window. Welcome to Sunset.
Santa Monica Bay Keeper
Ocean Conservation Society
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