In South Africa, they often call onshore winds “devil winds,” because the unwanted gusts tarnish perfect surf and generally ruin whatever swell stirs the waters. For better or for worse, the term suits Southern California’s offshore “Santa Anas” in a much more literal sense, because when it blows offshore here, Southern California fires. Literally. While wave faces glow with trailing comets on their lips, and boards tuck beneath curtains in offshore sinews, the wind breathes fire atop the state.
“There were perfect waves with all of this sh-t going on: fires in Malibu, Irvine, San Diego. The surf was perfect, but it was horrific everywhere else… “
Bad Religion’s “Los Angeles Is Burning” became a nightmarish reality today as wildfire set the state ablaze from Malibu to San Diego causing more than 250,000 to evacuate their homes in search of safety.
Saturday night around 10 PM, just as the sun set and surfers retired from a day of perfect waves, fires erupted in Malibu. Since then, almost 1,400 firefighters have been deployed into the area and have been battling the relentless flames early into the morning.
The fire has obliterated ten thousand acres of land in Los Angeles County and the Santa Ana gusts are only making the situation more dangerous. Governor Schwarznegger even declared California in a state of emergency, as after a ravenously arid Winter, the hot air coming from the east has made all flammable materials even more susceptible to ignition.
Even worse is the situation in San Diego. Down South, flames suffocate nearly 100,000 acres, and land east of I-5 has been evacuated. Qualcomm Stadium has been designated a refuge open to the public.
San Diego Mayor, Jerry Sanders, was unavailable for comment as he is on site helping in any an all capacities to mitigate the situation.
“The situation is very serious down here, and we’re doing everything we can right now,” said a representative from his office.
But with perfect waves licking the coastline all weekend long, a lot of surfers were completely unaware of the dire situation in Southern California.
“Yesterday the waves were perfect all day long, just barreling and fun, and then on the way to work this morning it was just raining ash,” said David Creel, a construction worker from North County San Diego.
“They called off work, because we needed masks to work outside at all and do our jobs; it was just terrible out.”
Brad Lim, a Newport Beach resident and local surfer, noted the irony of the situation. “There were perfect waves with all of this sh-t going on: fires in Malibu, Irvine, San Diego. The surf was perfect, but it was horrific everywhere else… at sunset the red sky met with the smoke and ash over the Newport Coast, and it looked like Armageddon.”
While the Southern California coast drones as a pallid apocalyptic canvas, firefighters and community leaders are doing everything in their power to stop the wildfire. In the meantime, surfers are trying to focus on the positives.
“I feel bad, but you have to look at the good that’s come from this,” says Creel. “I mean, hey, at least the waves are perfect.”