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Tourmaline Surfing Park
San Diego, CA


Tourmaline Cove--Art Work by William Polick

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 crowds.

Tourmaline, or "Turmo" as the locals call it, is really three breaks.

The Point
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.

The Cove
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 grass-covered 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.

Pump house
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 Surfing the Covefaster 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.