Corky Carroll

Oops! I left out Seal Beach's surf hot spots

Last week I began a little series on how tides affect surfing conditions at Orange County beaches. I, or so I thought, started at the north end of the county at Bolsa Chica State Beach and worked my way south as far as the "Wedge," at the south end of the Balboa Peninsula.

Yesterday I got an email asking why I left out Seal Beach. O.K, I have been called an airhead more than one or two times in my life and fully accept the fact that there are a lot of things in this world that I could remotely be misinformed about. Yes, I know it seems unlikely but, alas, it's true.

But I swear I thought I knew where the end of the county was. After all I grew up right there, in Surfside Colony. And I went to elementary school in Seal Beach. To this day I always thought that Seal Beach was in Los Angeles County. This dude who emailed me didn't call me many rude names or anything but he did set me straight on the fact that the county line was at the river on the north side of Seal Beach.

Humph! Who knew?

Anyway, sorry all you Seal Beach river rats. So today I will regress and cover the spots I missed by my misconception over the country boundary. What a geek I am.

At the far north end of Seal Beach is a spot that is normally called "Ray Bay." It's named that for the gazillions of stingrays that live there. This place is the stingray capitol of the world. Sting rays go there for vacations and conventions.

The water is warmed up by a power plant up the river and they love it there. Surfers like it there too for the same reason. Occasionally on a south swell the waves can get good too. On a large swell a higher tide works best and it holds the shape. On a medium to small swell lower tides work better as it is shallower and allows the waves to break, were at high tide it just mushes out. This place has become very popular with wind surfers in the afternoons when the westerly winds tend to howl.

There are two jetties by the river. The one on the south side is shorter and can have a nice little right hand wave peel off it at times. They call this place "Crabs." That is because there are tons of crabs living in the rocks on the jetty. Crabs love it there. They come for vacations and crab conventions.

Years ago before my pal, the "Iguana," became known as the Iguana he used to surf there and he was known as the "Crab." The dude is one of the original "shape shifters." Crabs is a high tide spot. It will wall off when the tide gets too low.

Seal Beach Pier has a seawall on the north side of it that can reflect the swell and form a great wedge kinda left hander coming off the wall. It's another spot that I always liked better at a higher tide as it would hold the shape better, especially on a large swell. Although when it's little it works better on a medium tide.

From the south side of the pier to the south jetty there can be incredible wedge-shaped peaks on a huge winter swell that break in extremely shallow water very, very close to the beach. The lower the tide the better as the waves need to move as far away from the sand as possible to be rideable.

This area is referred to as 13th Street. A million years ago, before they dredged the beach in the 1950's, there was a sandbar at the end of 13th Street that was a legit surf spot. Also that was where Robert August lived. These days the peaks sort of move up and down the beach and could be at any of the streets, but those in the know still call it 13th Street. Richard Harbour, legendary surfboard shaper and manufacturer, grew up right there too.

On an extremely enormous swell there are outside sand bars near the end of the jetty and past the end of the Seal Beach Pier that will go off. Again, the lower the tide the better. On the rare occasion a peak will form off of the oil platform about a mile or so offshore and is rideable. I rode it one time in a boat with my pal Zach Lindborg.