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Hunting Sandbars & Sunsets

The boys found a shallow little sand bar the other night that was just the right depth and shape for the tiny wind swell we had on offer.

That’s the thing about surfing beach breaks. You may know the perfect little sandbar, or have a sweet little swell filling in, but if those two variables (along with a few others) don’t get along, it doesn’t work.

And so surfing isn’t just about riding waves, but finding where they’re breaking best in the first place.

Coach Chris setting up a knee high runner.
photo: Erik Schwab

On this evening, the sunset was all time and Erik Schwab (@saltyvisionz) grabbed his camera after his own session to snap a few shots.

Nothing special in the surfing department, but the colors were pretty and it was just a few of us with the ocean to ourselves.

Surprisingly, it was super difficult to hold position. There were a bunch of good waves we saw from the beach. Lining it up, and finding our spot we paddled out, but I couldn’t believe how much water was moving.

Coach Chris dropping in late.
photo: Erik Schwab

It’s not unusual when there is a lot of energy in the ocean. But when it’s knee to waist high, clean, and organized, holding position is the last thing you’d expect to be so difficult.

Yet it was.

I was constantly fighting to hold my line up. As soon as I got to position, I’d sit up and stop paddling not even thinking I’d be drifting as fast as I was. But when I looked back towards the beach only just 30 seconds after reaching position I noticed I was way off my mark!

What the hell?

Eventually I figured it out. Whether I understood why or not didn’t really matter. The fact of the matter was that there was a strong rip, and current running parallel to the beach both left and right depending on which side of the sand bar you were on.

Coach Chris running it along the shallow sandbar.
photo: Erik Schwab

Which brings me to my conclusion about why so much water was moving on such a small, weak swell.

Most of the line up was pretty deep water, except for where a few sand banks had built up (which is where you’re trying to hold position to catch a good wave). In the spots where the sand was, it was actually so shallow in contrast to where there wasn’t a sand bar, that when a wave broke and poured water over the bar, that water quickly ran off each side of the bar creating currents of water.

If the bar is only a little bit shallower than the rest of the line up, the water movement wouldn’t have been so extreme. But since it was for this session, even a tiny little knee high wave put enough water over the bank causing it to quickly roll over both sides and create currents.

Paddling over a pretty little wave.
photo: Erik Schwab

All that current running off the bar made it extremely difficult to stay over the sand bar, which is exactly where you need to be to catch one of the good waves that broke in shallow water.

These situations always remind me of my students who look at me and falsely believe that everything in surfing is always easy for me. Of course, here was another prime example of how I struggled to catch the waves I wanted.

Although the photos make it look like I caught a bunch of good ones, I can assure you, I missed many, MANY epic waves.

Coach Chris cutting back at sunset.
photo: Erik Schwab

And it was incredibly frustrating. Especially since the waves were so small. Nonetheless, I got my few waves, watched an epic sunset from the ocean, and walked away with another lesson under the belt.

Surfing mostly sucks.

Beautiful empty wave shot by Erik Schwab.
photo: Erik Schwab

It’s always nice to have a few shots of a session like that regardless of how well you take advantage of the waves.

Be sure you check out www.saltyvisonz.com for more from the man behind these photos, Erik Schwab.

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