This is the N Judah, as it heads overground at Cole Valley
. On Sunday, we were en famille at the Cole Valley Fair, one of the many neighborhood fairs that happen in September. Shane is fascinated with the trams and trains, and even more fascinated when they go underground. He insisted we go to the mouth of the tunnel and wait for the tram to go through.
As I have mentioned before, many weekend nights can find me on the N, heading to some of my favorite hostileries. One of my favorite things is sitting on the N, listening to music while observing everyone observing everyone. It being San Francisco,
there is always the requisite freak on the train. On Saturday it was an overweight black guy, rapping along at volume to whatever was on his iPod. He was so excited by the music he insisted on removing his shirt. However, my favorite is the Wet Swimsuit Guy. He is youngish, extremely tanned, always dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a dirty denim shirt unbuttoned to the navel, with lank shoulder length, sun-bleached hair. He is always swinging a swimsuit in circles over his head, and depending on whether the tram is leaving Ocean Beach
or heading towards it, the swimsuit is either wet or dry. I can only conclude that he regularly swims at Ocean Beach
. I surf at Ocean Beach
, (or at least I did until my kids arrived), so the mind boggles. Here's Surflines
description of OB
, (as it is known locally).
On a lot of days at Ocean Beach, just getting out can be a major accomplishment. Depending on swell and tide and sandbar, on many days there is a 200-yard "zone of death" in between the beach and the lineup. It can be as hard to get off the beach and out to sea for a surfer as it was for a marine to get from sea to shore on the beaches of Normandy. It takes knowledge, skill, strength and courage, but the deciding factor on a lot of days is still dumb luck.
A University Of California Berkeley study stated:
"Ocean Beach is the most hazardous and dangerous piece of shoreline associated with an urban environment in the whole United States."
Apparently over 10 people a year had drowed at OB before the Beach Patrol started. I can see why, and as such, I have a healthy respect for OB. If I haven’t surfed there for a while, I spend a few days at surfing other beaches until my skills are sharpened. Being caught on the wrong side of a large wave on OB was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. To get out to the swell, you paddle out to just beyond the point where waves are breaking; this is often incredibly physically challenging, sometimes more than surfing the damn wave. When you get out, you need to keep an eye on the horizon, mostly to make sure you are in the right position to catch some sweet surf, but also to save yourself a turn through the washing machine. Every so often, a wave can break further out from the shore, and if you are between it and the shore when it breaks, it can pick you up and toss you around like driftwood. In smaller surf this is disconcerting; in big surf it can be dangerous, especially if you get thrashed by a string of large waves. It happens to every surfer occasionally, and it is always terrifying. The waves are a lot more dangerous than the sharks...
Wet Swimsuit Guy is obviously a little touched, he mutters to himself as he swings his wet swimsuit around on the tram. This might explain why he chooses to brave the icy waters at OB.
Labels: Canon 30D, Cole Valley, N Judah, Photography, San Francisco, surfing