Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ocean Beach

I had some extra time today so I decided to Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I've been living in the Bay Area for a year and a half now, and in the city for about half a year. I've always wanted to see Ocean Beach, but just didn't really get an opportunity yet as I'm always busy with something during the weekends. Not today though. I had a Sunday to myself which I decided to use for a trip to Ocean Beach, the library, and some shopping.

It was quite chilly when I stepped outside, and windy. I thought to myself what bad luck with the weather. The day I decide to go to Ocean Beach, it is cold and windy. I hopped onto the 22 bus from 16th and Mission, just outside of my apartment, and transferred to the N line trams, which passed through Irving Street and passed very close to one my my favourite places to go for chicken wings - San Tung.

As we got closer to the beach, I saw the blue choppy waves in the distance. The surroundings were becoming less bustling as we passed through some residential districts. At the end of the line, I got off the tram, and crossing the street, arrived at the large grass covered dunes separating the beach from the rest of San Francisco.

I was greeted by an unusual sight. The wind was much stronger at the beach. Sand was being blown over the dunes and onto the road just behind it, creating a mini sandstorm reflecting the light from the headlights travelling through the dusty haze. As I walked through a gap in the dunes, my face felt like it was being sandblasted and I had to keep my eyes shut most of the time.

The beach was beautiful. It was a surprisingly wide and flat swath of sand littered with patches of pebbles, driftwood, and the occasional jellyfish as big as a dinner plate. It stretched up north about two kilometres from where I was standing to the Seal Rocks, with the white foamy sea furiously beating against its steep black cliffs, and the Cliff House perched precariously on the edge of a rocky outcropping. To the south, I can see rolling hills in the distance, green from the recent winter rains, but I can't see where the beach comes to an end. As I enjoyed the scenery, I played a game of leaning my back into the wind coming from the ocean to see how far back I can lean without falling over.

What really make this trip interesting and make me decide to write about it was the curious effects of the wind. I didn't stay long as it wasn't really that enjoyable due to the chill and the violent lashings from the stronger gusts, but the wind did produce an effect which I had not seen before. The wind was ripping the small foamy heads off of the cresting waves and scraping them along the beach. As some of the water was also being blown up the beach, there was a thin layer of water for the foam to slide on extending twenty to thirty metres from where the water actually ended, creating a second, false shore. Large ripples and waves of foam were being created and animated by the wind starting from water and ending up at and collecting at the false shore in large chunks. Once in a while, a strong gust of wind would rip apart such a collection, and pieces of the foam would race up the beach. As they were scraped along the sand, they would shrink in size until the popped out of existence. It was rather like watching a meteor storm that was happening in the sand below your feet rather than in the sky above your head.

This was the highlight of my day (yeah, I know, kind of a slow day) and I thought it was a great show which was surprisingly difficult to capture on camera. After a while however, I had to head back to get away from the wind and and cold to spend the rest of my day picking up fresh fruit from the local farmer's markets and books from the library.

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