Sunny Coast at Rincon

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Rincon Bay Sunny Day

Rincon Bay Sunny Day

A pristine coastline, bathed in beautiful sunlight.  The view and the warmth of the coastline makes the ideal vacation spot.

The wave at Rincon is so long that on a good day, you can take off in Santa Barbara and ride to Ventura. All right, so the county line bisects the point, but it’s still a really long wave. The Queen of the Coast, Rincon del Mar is a prominent right-hand point, located directly along California’s beautiful Highway 101.

A winter spot, Rincon plays moon (queen) to Malibu’s sun (king) as Southern California’s two classic pointbreaks. Fortunately, Rincon is farther from Hollywood, so it remains less familiar to the outside world.

When it’s good, The Rincon (as it has long been called by respectful old schoolers) comes amazingly close to producing the ideal point wave. Wintertime is when Rincon shines, as north and west swells sweep in, wrap around the shallow cobble point and peel off with remarkable regularity and evenness as they refract around the bend, maintaining a relatively constant distance from the curving shoreline.

Surfwise, Rincon has an Indicator, a Second Point and an inside cove, with the Indicator being the peak and shoulder of the point’s west side straight-on, close-out reefbreak. Historically, Rincon was “the north” for Southern Californian surfers in the ’50s, before growing numbers forced the frontier to the Point Conception ranchos. But surf reports were little more than rumor in those days, and the unpredictability of a rather arduous drive kept crowds to manageable levels

Rincon gained some mysto allure in January of 1953, when a north swell pumped huge, perfect waves toward the point and many California surfers got their first taste of big-wave riding. Ricky Grigg referred to it as his first big-wave “shake out.” Young John Severson stood slack-jawed as triple overhead sets peaked and peeled far outside the cove.

Most commonly, Rincon was a winter alternative to Malibu — a complementary small wave — and the great point stylists (such as Miki Dora, Lance Carson and Phil Edwards) shared waves with Reynolds Yater and the Santa Barbara crew.

But every so often, Rincon will host those grinding northwest swells and any similarity to the ‘Bu vanishes. In January of 1964, the point was huge, waves were cracking out in the middle of the bay and three riders were seen surfing — one fully above the other — across an inside face. When the big swell of December 1969 swept into Rincon, some of the best surfers in the world were on hand to ride the classic coldwater walls, including North Shore gunslinger Reno Abellira.

Rincon was also the haunt of fabled kneeboarder George Greenough, who loved it when it got ugly. It was Rincon where he strapped a battery pack and lights on his back in the late ’60s and filmed his POV while night surfing; it’s where he loaded up a 16mm camera and backdoored a solid 8-foot wave, perfecting his spectacular filming technique for his beautiful Echoes movie. Greenough also hosted Australian shaper Bob McTavish during a critical phase in the development of the shortboard. For six consecutive weeks late in 1968, Rincon provided the ultimate testing ground for McTavish’s revolutionary designs.

Known as a conservative surfing area, Rincon was noted in the ’70s and ’80s for its legions of black-suited surfers. Three-time World Champion Tom Curren (1985, 1986 and 1990) was a Rincon regular during his rise to international celebrity (as is his longtime shaper Al Merrick of Channel Islands Surfboards) and reflected his home-spot bias in his celebrated use of minimal sponsor logos.

But the place has always been a shining beacon for surfing style and performance, producing the likes of brilliant backsider Bobby Martinez, while remaining a regular haunt of forehand freak Dane Reynolds. Furthermore, Kelly Slater uses the rippable righthanders to test boards, furthering the break’s role as a place to push surfboard design.

Although Rincon has its off seasons and years, it remains a classic setting for the surfing experience. Neither its quality nor popularity has faded; huge crowds and occasionally fantastic surf are still trademarks of the Queen of the California Coast.

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