We have visitors from Norway in our condo complex in Pacific Beach. The first thing they asked was where they could find a beginner’s beach for surfing. They picked the right place to live, as across the street was considered the best beach in San Diego for learning.
There are ways to spot beginners. In the water, they are always too far back on their surfboards. Or they are sitting in the middle of the impact zone, right in the path of other surfers. My favorite thing is when they have on a full suit, booties, and gloves. This is when the water temperature is 70 degrees.
Outside of the water, you can tell a beginner by the way he carries his board. Most common is when a guy surfer is holding a surfboard like a girl might hold it, on his hip like a baby. The soft top is a giveaway. But it is the nervous worried look in the eye that I check for first.
Surfers know that the way to ride a wave is at an angle, going in the direction the wave is breaking. Beginners go straight down the wave, directly toward the shore. One beginner can ruin the wave for everyone. Locals know that there are a lot of beginners and don’t yell. Someone will paddle over and explain. This is one reason Tourmo is known as a friendly beach.
Grommets (or “groms”) are young, not to be confused with adult beginner surfers. Kids around 8, 9, or 10 can learn to surf in a couple of days.
Beginners should practice in the shallow white water just south of the Pump House at Tourmaline. There is sand on the beach year round. As you move north, the sand is replaced by rocks. The prevalent current drags the newbies northward.
Just because they are beginners does not mean they do not have heart. I took one of my protégés to Windansea Surf Shop for a wetsuit. It took him 15 minutes to put it on. When he came out, he had it on backwards, which had to be difficult and painful.
I ask some locals this question. “How do you feel about your home surfing break (Tourmaline Surfing Park) being known as a beginner’s surfing beach?”
Sunny: “It doesn’t really bother me, but when people ask me where I surf, I usually say Pacific Beach. If I say Tourmaline, then they always tell me that it is a beginner’s beach, and think I’m a beginner, too.”
Adrian: “All levels can surf here, but depending on the swell, it can be variable. A big northwest swell makes this an advanced break, way too big for beginners.”
Craig Ross: “I like the bubble-butts. That is when the water is warm enough for surfer girls to surf around in their bikinis.”
Cliff: “It is what it is. Slow-motion waves for old people, beginners, and crippled people. People who are good surfers wouldn’t surf here.”