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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
West for the winter

By Jake Howard

Nat Young
Tuning up for his rookie year on the world tour, Nat Young blows the fins out in Santa Cruz. The town is rallying around the kid, their hopes are on his squared off shoulders.

Surf in California seems to come in fits and starts, feast or famine, agony or ecstasy. It's flat for three weeks then one day, after you've given up on the surf forecasts, perhaps even stopped driving around with your board and wetsuit in your car, unexpectedly the conditions turn. The wind clocks around, the air gets that extra bite in it, and the ocean goes crispy. Mid-period, west-swell girth stumbles in unannounced, below the ever-watching social media lens. Tides wreak havoc on those who don't plan ahead.

Dino Andino stands at the top of a hill in San Clemente watching a beachbreak peak push up the beach and out to sea. He notes that it was "crap" an hour ago, but it's hitting "that window" right now. Rusty Long rolls up on his beach cruiser to check it. Kolohe Andino then pulls up and ambles over to his old man. Dino looks at his watch. "You could surf the pier from 4:30 to 5:15 and I bet it would be pretty good," he announces.

It's not great, but it's fun, and that's enough. I can't surf. No time. I have to go pick up the kid at school. As I'm leaving I mumble to Dino, "Why do I do this to myself?"

"Because you love it," he says, smiling, knowing that surfing keeps a chaotic clock.

That's enough for me. Here's some of the best images from the last few weeks on the California coast.