By Jake Howard
Considered the premiere high-performance wave in America, or surfing’s favorite “skate park,” for as good as Lower Trestles is, it can be a difficult place to compete. The A-frame peak has a lot of nuance and changes moods depending on the swell direction, tide and wind. A savvy competitor at Lowers will be able to understand all of this and factor it into their repertoire.
“Totally biased here, but I think the left is more versatile at Lowers,” explains San Clemente’s Tanner Gudauskas, who surfed in the Hurley Pro as a wildcard last year. “It takes a little more west and south, which is ultimate summertime conditions. I personally like it when it’s a little more west because the wall gets more vertical. It comes at you with end sections and stuff.”
The morning typically brings clean, glassy conditions with a light puff of offshore wind blowing out of the San Mateo watershed.
“If you have a heat early in the morning, the way the sun comes up and over the canyon, it shines right into the right,” cautions Gudauskas. “You don’t have to worry about that on the left.”
And while goofy-footers like Gudauskas relish in the opportunities the left provides, the right that breaks down the beach toward Middles and Church is actually a longer wave and can allow for a lot of scoring potential.
“The right, once you pop up and get a line, you can pretty much crank off as many turns as it will give you all the way to the beach,” explains Gudauskas. “The left will give you a vertical section right off the bat, then it goes into a roundhouse section, and I think that’s where a lot of guys lose it. The right is more obvious, I guess.”
One thing that has surfers like John John Florence and Gabriel Medina amped to come back to Lowers every year is the perfect pace of the wave. Not too fast, not too slow, the key is to find the waves that have just the right tempo to be able to seamlessly showcase maneuvers without any hiccups or bobbles in between. The WSL judges call this part of the criteria “flow.”
“With both the left and right you have to pay attention to how you’re linking it all together. The right, in terms of quality of wave, is probably better,” Gudauskas said.
Lowers is a wave that allows the WSL competitors to showcase their wide array of talents. From conventional turns and off-the-lip maneuvers, to more progressive, high-flying, acrobatic aerial kinds of moves, to win at Lowers one must pull out all the stops—but be smart about it.
“Watch somebody like Wardo (Chris Ward). He’s probably the ultimate Lowers local,” said Gudauskas, who grew up watching the local fixture and former world tour competitor. “He can get fast and twitchy, but he also gets really silky. He can extend through bottom turns and into sections, as well as pick a mid-face line. He does a really good job of exploiting everything that wave has to offer, and I think that’s really the key to making the most out of all the opportunities the wave provides.”
Perhaps more than anything, success at Lowers comes from being able to relax and soak in the atmosphere. One of the most crowded waves in California, the opportunity to surf out there with only one or two other surfers is a treat in and of itself.
“You breathe easy when you cross the railroad tracks,” Gudauskas said. “It feels like a sanctuary.”
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