I paddled out at Sunset Point the other day, excited about what kind of stoke I was about to get. As I got ready, I packed my 7’6 wavegrabber with the thruster fin taken out, a fresh coat of wax, a look at the calendar—it was a Monday morning, to avoid the crowds—I felt like I was prepared. “Today was a good day,” I was for sure going to say to myself.

Now, I’m of the party that every day you surf is a good day. But as you improve as a surfer, you realize looking back that the great days truly separate themselves in your memory, and those days tend to have better conditions. One of those conditions, one of the most important factors, is tide. And that’s the one thing I didn’t factor in going into my surf session that Monday morning.

Every break is affected by the tide differently. Some breaks only break the right way at low tide, others higher. Some need an incoming tide, others only factor tide height, not direction. Sunset Point is one of those breaks that require the right height, somewhere no higher than three feet in my experience. Sunset Point is a point break. The waves there are caused by the swell or current the ocean running into a large chunk of continent, causing waves to break away from the continent in a single direction, in Sunset’s case, right. It’s a rocky break so low tide isn’t a safe bet, and at tide high the waves don’t break at all.

That morning, I must have gone with the tide at about five feet — a reallllll high tide height for about any break in Southern California. When I got out of my car to check out the water, I saw the energy coming in, but nothing. That preparation energy gave me hope, nonetheless. I figured “sure, I don’t see anything now but give it time! Waves come in sets, right? There’s just a lot of time in between the ones today, probably. Right? Probably.”

I stepped down the cliffs and hopped on my board, paddled right out with no interference (it was flat, remember? You PROBABLY do). I don’t think I caught a single wave that day. And if I waited a long time for one, it wasn’t memorable anyway.

I left the break frustrated. Afternoons are generally windier, so because I went in the morning, I knew I would avoid the wind, too! All my prep was almost there. My attitude going into that day was there most definitely. But that’s surfing. Conditions can make or break your session. I wanted my waves to break. Always do! Unforch for me this morning, neither my conditions or my waves did.

One of the most important aspects in learning to surf is reading the water, and knowing how conditions will affect your surf. The knowledge of what the water WILL look like that day will save you many wasted trips. Not to say that a surf trip at all is a wasted trip, but the countless thoughts of “man I should have went to [insert different break here] today” sure makes some trips feel a bit like that. Use my story as an example. Learn about your beach, and you’ll know where to go, and when to go, before you get there. And you can even actually surf after you paddle out. #learntosurf #dontwastegas

Written by Learn To Surf instructor, Jake McNulty.
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