My first experience with the global weather phenomenon known as El Niño was in 1983. As a 12-year-old kid who was just starting to surf that winter, I was out of the water more than in due to the dangerous ocean conditions.
One morning in late January, my brother and I heard the news that the surf was massive and that the Crystal Pier might be destroyed by huge waves. We asked our mom to take us down to the beach and when we got there, we were just in time to see 100 feet of the Pacific Beach landmark fall into the sea.
The entire San Diego coastline changed drastically that year. Beaches were reduced to cobblestone and bedrock, and waves crashed into the boardwalk wall in Mission Beach, covering the 25-foot-tall streetlights with kelp. It was the winter to end all winters, or so I thought.
If you’re new in town, you’re in for quite a show. Coastal flooding in Mission Beach and Cardiff is inevitable, as well as Mission Valley and the Tijuana River Valley. When the huge surf does arrive, there is no better place to watch than La Jolla Cove.
If you see a news report saying the surf will be in the 15- to 20-foot range, this is the go-to venue to see nature show her teeth.
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him thoughts about the surfing and fitness worlds to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.