Forecast: Mega ‘Breakers’ Expected to Hit the Beaches

<i> Rockin' Fig is Rick Fignetti, a Huntington Beach surfer/shop owner. Times staff writer David Reyes has reported on U.S. surf teams competing in Bali and Brazil. </i>

Did you notice it?

It’s spring! That means the grommets are out of school and about to invade the water and could be coming to a beach near you.

Huntington Beach lifeguard Capt. Bill Richardson said in anticipation of spring break, lifeguards at the city beach are being increased from 12 to 75.

This year, Richardson said, scheduling is a problem because community colleges are out this week, followed by high schools next week.


So it’s going to be wall to wall surfboards before the Big Bunny comes to town.

Fig, do you have any hints on dealing with heavy crowds?

Sure. Get down there early, because the early bird always gets the worm. Since there’s lots of people, you might want to get in before everyone else does, probably right around the 6 to 7 o’clock time slot.

Geez, isn’t that a bit early?


Not if you want to get some quality surf time. Remember, there’s gonna be a lot of egos out there, so position is the most important thing going. Don’t shoulder-hop anyone, and try to show a little respect out there for other surfers.

Let’s call it Wave Ethics 101.

OK. You’ve bought the $350 board. It’s got da kine surf graphics and decals that spell out “MOM.” You’ve shelled out another $250 on the wet suit alone. Now it’s time to surf, and you want to do it up at your home break, but it’s crowded. All those people, and on weekends it’s worse. It boils down to making a decision: Do you want to be The Terminator and mow down anyone who gets in your way? Or Joe Cool, Mr. Soul Archer, a surfer whose attitude is, “The ocean is our Mother; we should all share in her glories?”

Perhaps there’s a happy medium.

Does Rockin’ Fig surf differently in crowds?

Yeah, I do. You gotta change or you don’t get any waves. Like the other day, this guy and I were both dropping in; he went straight down, and I had just gotten up and banked a bottom turn. Now, in my book I had priority, not only because I was farther back in the tube, but I had turned. Well, he doesn’t give me priority and he’s dropping RIIIIGHT in front of me. It’s collision time. But I hit a hard turn, goosed it and went right around him. Whoooooa! I cranked the turn around him and came out in the barrel, high and dry.

Did you let him know he got in your way?

When I paddled back to the lineup, he wasn’t there. I told his friend that his buddy is gonna get hurt if he keeps getting in people’s way like that.


Hurt? Like you were gonna punch the dude out?

Naw, he was a hazard. I might have speared the guy with my board. We were on a collision course.

Fig said he recently surfed at Trestles and noticed that a berm holding back the lagoon had been breached.

It was probably caused with all the new rain runoff we’ve been having. It’s changed the place a bit and the way it breaks.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, not only can heavy runoff change the beach contour, it can also cause the bacteria count in the water to soar. After a heavy rain, it’s recommended that surfers stay out of the water for several days, a foundation spokesman said.

Orange County didn’t have any major winter storms, lifeguards said. It’s the powerful storms that scour the coastline and can change beach contour that can cause dangerous rip currents, he said.

“Our coast is pretty normal-looking right now,” San Clemente lifeguard supervisor Richard Chew said.

San Clemente lifeguards will be patrolling in Jeeps and monitoring the beach in towers during spring break. They also have about five lifeguards who live nearby on call, “just in case the weather warms up considerably,” Chew said.


Fig offered some advice for those surfers who are just getting back into shape and hoping to catch some waves during spring break.

Check out the situation. Look for the drift and see if there’s any obstacles. If you’re surfing next to a pier, you definitely don’t want to paddle out on the side where the swell is pushing, because you’re going to get racked up.

If you don’t know which direction the swell is coming from, don’t be embarrassed. Ask the lifeguards, Richardson and Chew said.

“Lifeguards are friendly,” Richardson said. “And they don’t mind it at all when people come up and ask them questions.”