Corky Carroll

Some like it cold

There is not a shred of doubt that the chills of winter are setting in deeper each day here in our beautiful and Nirvana like Orange County. I just answered a question about how cold the water has to get before it gives you the dreaded “ice cream headache” in my Ask the Expert column. Ice cream headache, for those of you who don’t know, is much like the infamous “margarita headache” you get when you drink frozen drinks. Surfers get the same kinda thing when they have to put their heads underwater while surfing in the colder waters of wintertime. It happens when the water gets around 57 degrees or colder.

It’s getting that time of year. Of course there are all these new super stretchy ultra toasty kinda wetsuits on the market now. The problem with those is that you need to be a contortionist to get in and out of them. Or at least not a geezer with the early stages of rigormortous setting in. The last time I tried one on I got stuck half in- half out of the thing and had to call for help from the dressing room of Huntington Surf n Sport.  I guess I had it backwards or upside down and inside out or something.

But we are lucky here in our little as good a climate as it gets part of the world. It gets cold in the winter, yes. But not that cold. And it gets hot in the summer too, yes again. But not that hot either. We have a very mellow climate. Not extreme in either direction. We are the lucky ones.

The reason I am bringing this up, other than the fact that it really is getting colder by the nano second, is that a pal of mine who lives in Wisconsin, Great Lake Blake, was visiting not long ago and brought a video made totally of surfing on the Great Lakes. It’s cold there. REALLY cold. I would go as far as to call it extreme and that is an understatement. The movie built up to the big highlight sequence at the end when the surf was what they called “really good.” I guess the best waves come through in the coldest part of the year when they get storms. When the “epic” day arrived all these guys loaded in their car and drove twelve hours through the night and through a full on blizzard to get to the spot. I am talking mega feet of snow and ice and zero visibility on the roads. They were following snow plows and stuff. Then when they got there they had to wade through snow drifts up to their chests with their boards over their heads to get to the water. Then when they got to the water they had to climb out on these huge chunks of ice that were floating in the shorebreak like little icebergs. Then jump off those and paddle out. The water was in the low 30’s and with the wind chill factor the air was sub zero. They had full wetsuits about a foot thick with hoods and gloves and Vaseline all over their faces to keep from getting frost bite.  I will admit the waves were decent. Nice little head high peaks with hard offshore wind. Looked like a pretty good winter day at Newport Beach only it was so cold that everything was the color blue. And these dudes where stoked to the max. Then after the session they had to drive back and be at work the next day.

After the video was over Great Lake Blake was smiling and gloating and saying, “see, there is good surf on the Great Lakes.” All I could do was smile and pat him on the back. I really admire that kind of surf stoke and I didn’t want to burst his balloon and say what I was really thinking. Which was, “you guys are insane.”

See what living in a place like Orange County does to you. It is so nice here that we get jaded. When the water gets under 65 we all shiver and whine like babies. My favorite is when we get a milla-inch of rain the televisions starts blaring “storm watch 2010!” Try living in the tropics where it rains a foot an hour for weeks at a time. We are a breed of super-wusses. And I am the biggest of them all. My low water temp limit has risen to mild hot tub. Jumping off icebergs? Not. Yet I still consider myself a hard core surfer. Hard, yet not “extremely” hard, core. It’s kinda like “soft rock.” But, in self defense, at my age you don’t need to be made any stiffer than you already are.

My point is that we should all appreciate our wonderful climate and realize that we are the ones who have it good. At this very moment one of our surfing brothers is scraping ice off his car window with his fin and heading out with the penguins.