Sunday, May 3, 2009

Surfing at Fort Point

I'm in San Francisco right now, and late yesterday afternoon CG and I headed down to the Warming Hut at Crissy Field for a walk.  The weather was quite cold and grey, but I've always liked being near the ocean on afternoons like that because the pleasure of returning to a warm house--or hut--is so much greater. Fewer tourists were out and about as well, and our company largely consisted of runners, cyclists, and some intrepid fishermen on the Crissy Field pier. We headed west towards the Bridge and spotted a small crowd of people watching some surfers off the break at Fort Point, but CG decided to hang back near the Warming Hut, where the likelihood of getting sprayed was much less.
Fort Point was built during the Civil War in preparation for potential Confederate attacks, and while it's difficult to imagine the historical likelihood of such an offense, the juxtaposition of the Bridge with the Fort right at the entrance to the Bay makes for one of the most interesting settings in the City. Because water flows in and out of the Bay at this point as well, surfers like to take advantage of the breakers here, and when the weather is cold and grey the viewing is even more exciting. True, we're not talking about anything on the scale of Maverick's, but Fort Point is still one of my favorite spots to watch surfers in action. 
The waves were biggest at the beginning and end of the 45 minutes I sat out on the rocks--the tide started to come in with a vengeance right when I left-- but the water remained soupy and tempestuous the entire time. The break is a bit deceptive as well--several large rocks, of the kind that surround the Point, lie just underneath the surface some twenty feet out from the shore, so that every now and then a surfer will unexpectedly stand up. Most of the time, however, they sat on their boards, riding out the swells like the flock of seagulls that was floating and watching them as well. 
The spray felt good after being away from the ocean for so long, and the longer I stayed out the more I toyed with the idea of going swimming in Aquatic Park, which happens every time I spend an afternoon by the Bay. The roar of the water around the rocks is both thrilling and nerve-wracking, and while Aquatic Park is sheltered, I still feel nervous about the idea. And excited. Maybe on my next trip to SF?

Since I was looking at the underside of the Bridge while I sat on the rocks, I was reminded of the time that DD was attacked by a frisky sea lion as she swam from Fort Point to the Marin Headlands (this swim, entitled the Golden Gate, is one that many members of the South End Rowing and Dolphin Clubs do, and they essentially swim underneath the Bridge the whole way). The friend who was accompanying her in an open water rowing shell apparently couldn't stop laughing because it was so funny, and knowing DD, I can't help but laugh when I think about it, and I wasn't even there. Still, I wonder--if I end up swimming in Aquatic Park, will the Bridge swim be the next thing on my mind? I shudder just thinking about it....but I'm also kind of intrigued by the idea

Where DD wrestled with the sea lion, much like Beowulf wrestled with Grendel's mother.
I met up with CG back at the Warming Hut and we went to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner, the Pacific Cafe in the Outer Richmond. CG used to go there in the 1970s when she was even younger than I am now, and the restaurant has remained the same since then--five or six types of fresh seafood specials (depending on what was caught that morning), green salad, steamed red potatoes, mounds of sourdough bread with cold salted butter, and crisp chilled white wine, a glass of which is on the house while you wait for your table. I ate a pound of bay shrimp and fried Pacific oysters and went to bed a very happy camper. It's nice to be home!


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  2. The nasty underside of SF surfing, especially at Fort Point: