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Hangin' Ten Before 6

Early risers hit the surf at Huntington Beach in the hours before duty beckons

September 02, 2002

In the predawn darkness of Huntington Beach, with only the lights of the pier to guide them, the surfers come. It's quiet this early, no crowds, no rowdy hot doggers breaking the calm. Just the dawn patrol, a community of early risers who are drawn to the ocean as surely as the moon draws at the water.

Smooth and glassy at 5, 5:30, 6 a.m., when the patrol begins to arrive, the water takes on the deep lavender shade of the sky and this early, before the winds kick in, the waves hold an ideal shape. No chop, no mushy whitewater.

The couple of dozen surfers who make up Huntington's morning regulars mostly come to beat the crowds, and the clock. Many have morning jobs and soon, morning classes, so they rise when most others are catching the tail end of a deep sleep. It's a great way to begin the day, they say, making their outlook more positive.

"I like to watch the sun come up," says professional surfer and Huntington Beach native Danny Misken. And what better place to see the sun burst through with shades of pale yellow and orange reflecting in the tide? "I'm out there every morning," Misken says. "There are about 20 or 30 of us there--come rain, snow or hail, whatever. We call the others fair-weather surfers."

Some among the hard-core dawn patrol have been known to head to Trestles in south Orange County as early as 4 a.m. to surf by only the light of a full moon. They pick their way through the rocky shoreline and then paddle into the darkness for the best point break around.

Elena Nelson Howe

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