Review & Photos by Bill Polick
Some days itís huge. Some days its ripples barely lift the kelp. But
Tourmaline Surfing Park in San Diego has consistently decent waves. And
Tourmaline, or "Turmo" as the locals call it, is really three
To the west of the parking lot is "The Point" which is, of course, a point break. Itís
also known as PB (for Pacific Beach) Point and Gunnerís Point by the old
timers who surfed there in the shadows of the World War II gun emplacements
that sat above the break. The point is primarily a right that breaks on northwest
to west swells. It can be a tricky ride over some gnarly
rocks that appear toward low tide. But when the swellís up, hollow
overhead-plus boomers offer steep drops, quick bottom turns and a glide to
the shoulder. This is not a break for beginners.
Inside the Point is a cove, referred to as The Cove (gee, howíd they come
up with that name?). There
are a couple of breaks here: Old Manís and
Secret Spot. When a swell hits, 15-foot rollers move through. But the waves
roll, feather over at the top and re-form inside. Backwash is a problem with
big waves and high tide. At low tide rocks can be a problem. "Grimace
Rock" earned its name from the expressions of unwary surfers who
discover its location too late to cut back or kick out. Inside and to the
left is Little Grimace, a smaller but no less hazardous clump of sea
stone. Snorkeling gear may earn you a collection of fins (many still in their
fin boxes!) at the bottom. The gentle break here lends itself to the less
adventurous, but the crowded conditions leave experienced surfers
frustrated with the cow-eyed kooks sitting inside.
The third break at Tourmaline is Pump house, named (you guessed it) for the pump house
sitting on the cliff face on shore. Bottom conditions here make
the waves hollower and
faster than the Coveís. They tend to wall up but
are often makable to the left or right.
Tourmaline is a City of San Diego park, complete with restrooms, showers
and a paved parking lot. The problem is crowds on the weekends. The small
parking lot fills up by 7 am in the Summer and cars parade around looking
for spaces that seldom appear. On good days, itís common to count more
than 100 surfers in the water, all competing for the same few peaks.
For all the crowd, the locals are friendly and can be helpful to those
who respect the beach and other surfers. This is definitely not a place to
bring your attitude. Itís a generally laid back environment for men,
women, boys and girls who care about the sport of surfing.