In the pre-surf cam world we checked the waves old school: we drove to the beach, found a good vantage point, and hung there, not only watching the waves but feeling the air and pondering the horizon and studying the clouds, accessing animal instincts, not unlike the ones that send dogs barking prior to earthquakes. Surfer, shaper, and shop owner Tyler Hatzikian knows all about this. Dawn Patrol has been a huge part of his life for over four decades. He lives in the blue-collar town of El Segundo, not far from Hammerland, a spot created by a long rock jetty built in 1984, after the ’83 El Nino winter wreaked havoc. Tyler rolls in a white Ford Econoline van packed with an extensive quiver of boards. He typically rides a 10’ “pretty gunny longboard single fin.” On cool mornings, the kind we can expect a lot of this El Nino winter, he keeps warm in Birdwell’s new Wool Shirt, inspired by those wool Pendletons the Beach Boys famously donned.
JB: How do your morning surf checks go?
TH: I usually hit it just before daybreak. I go the donut place and grab a coffee and maybe a plain donut and head over the hill. Hopefully the Grand parking lot gate is open. If it’s not I’ll pull up on the curb, or there’s another little turnout just south of the Grand parking lot and I’ll try to get a peak at the waves that way. If the gate’s open I’ll stop at the top of the ramp and get a pretty good perspective looking back towards the jetty. If I can make out any kind of size or line I’ll pull down, suit up, grab my skater, and head on down. I usually surf the north side. Swell-wise, you don’t want too much north for north side. It prefers southwest, west. And longer intervals is a little bit better, at least for me. I surf without a leash.
JB: Do you check it on the cams or just charge down?
TH: I’m finger on the pulse. Since I make boards and I’m in the industry I hear stuff from everybody. And where I live in El Segundo I’m so close to it.
JB: It’s almost an animal instinct we surfers cultivate. We can read what it’s doing, and what it’s going to do.
TH: Yeah, you can just feel what it’s doing or if there’s going to be a switch by just reading the horizon. And then things as simple as just walking out to your car and there’s dew on the lawn. You know that that evening there were no clouds. Or when it’s overcast and there’s no dew and a little bit more of that warmth. By nine o’clock, depending on the time of year, you kind of know when the wind’s going to turn. Or there’s morning sickness and you have just kind of an instinct that it’s going to straighten out. You feel it.
JB: What do you like most about surfing Hammerland?
TH: I grew up as a young kid surfing there, just skating down and spending a lot of time on the beach. I got to surf it a lot before surf cams. I got to surf it before crowds. It’s not the greatest wave, but it’s one of the hollower waves in the South Bay. You just build a connection. I feel invested, and have a love for the waves there.
The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow and Becoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.
This all-time classic wool shirt jacket will keep you toasty all year long. The US Navy developed it for cold-weather work duty in the 1930's and called it the CPO Shirt. Birdwell is pleased to pay homage to it with a modern fit and some unique details, including elbow patches made from our heavy duty boardshort nylon.