Tuesday, December 06, 2005

10 Tell-Tale Signs You Surf in Oregon

1. Wetsuit fashion tip: Black is the new black.
2. You consider the black pinlines on your white board a bit racy.
3. You have big balls...
4. ...Yet you have shriveled genitalia.
5. In the winter, you don't mind company in the lineup (as long as it's human).
6. Avoiding logs in the surf has nothing to do with longboarders.
7. You actually wait to relieve yourself until your wetsuit is on.
8. Beards: Facial insulatial.
9. In the winter, you look forward to lack of swell.
10. The smell from your booties is an effective form of basement pest control.

Morcheeba - "Wonders Never Cease"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lost Weekend (Lost Blog)

Disclaimer: The following blog entry is a month old...

I woke up this morning with my right eye crusted shut. I didn’t bother prying it open, but instead squinted at the clock with my left, noticed it was only 7:30, and opted for a little more shut-eye (no pun intended). It had been a fun weekend.

As I milked a little more sleep from the morning, I rewound through the previous two days, which can only be described as an exclamation point at the end of the phrase, "Your wife is out of town for two weeks!"

Last night Gee and I ate four-dollar steaks at The Acropolis, having returned from our beach weekend hungry. There were some sad Sunday night strippers there, but the real attraction was the beef - farm grown by the owner of the joint and bleeding medium rare on my plate.

We were in the mood for red meat because we had been driving around all day looking for surf. O.S. was back in town from Amsterdam, and having been skunked the previous trip, we were determined to at least get wet. And we did, although Gee's knee kept him out of the water like a fantasy football player on injured reserve. Unlike Priest Holmes, I think he'll be back this season.

We hit the water at Shorties at the end of the day. The waves looked like big beer suds, but better than anything we had seen in our explorations all day. No surfers were out, but there were two kids splashing in the foam of the extreme high tide - wearing only their shorts. I was happy to have on my hooded 5mm wetsuit and booties when O.S. and I started making our way to where the waves seemed to have shoulders. They were bigger and more powerful than they looked from the shore. This was exaggerated by the fact that I wasn't really in the best shape for a surf: hangover, atrophy arms from lack of paddling, sleep deprivation, dehydration.

I almost made it outside, exhausted and not ready for the waves that were rearing up and smashing ahead of me. When I emerged from a duckdive, my right eye stung like hell as if a piece of sharp debris got wedged under the eyelid. I turned around and saw that O.S. had drifted 100 yards to the north and he hadn't made it past the first impact zone. I decided to stick with our original plan of attack and "stay together," bellying a wave toward where he was.

Despite taking wave after wave over his noggin, O.S. was having a blast. The excersize was doing us both some good, so we hung out in the reform area. Miraculously, a ridable wave approached and we both paddled for it. I grabbed it and got a short ride on the shoulder before the thing shut down. We flailed around until our arms gave up and we cruised in and changed in the dark.

It must be noted that we did some very interesting spot checking earlier that day. The most amazing find was a rivermouth we'd often heard about but had never seen working (we'll call it Drifty's). It was working that day and we wondered if we should paddle out alone on an outgoing tide, with the fresh water pushing out to sea and toward the troughy chaos at a rapid clip. We threw a piece of driftwood in the water and watched it cruise out to sea. We'd wait to go out with surfers who have been there before...

The previous day, we hunkered down at the Pelican in Pacific City, watching college football and playing drinking games with red wine. Oregon won. USC won. We lost. No surf. Eight hours and two meals later, we were tipsy. We went from the Pelican to a little night spot called The Sportsman, loaded up the jukebox and kicked ass at pool. We followed that with a trip to the Tide Water. I sang "Wanted Dead or Alive" and O.S. sang "A Boy Named Sue" on karaoke. A drunk redneck told a racist joke over the mic and we split.

Drove back to Oceanside and avoided dashing deer along the way...

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Devil's Waitin'"

Special thanks to Gee for the photos!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Not today, deer!

We got skunked again. This time the swell was maxing at 20 feet and our little Oregon coastline couldn't handle that much water. The ocean was chaos. We didn't see one surfer out at the six spots we checked. OS and I actually did get wet, though. Checking out a jetty break, a huge wave smashed against the rocks and soaked us from head to toe.

We had a bad day, but it could've been worse: Imagine if you were Bambi enjoying a bite to eat on the side of the road only to get a cap popped in your ass by John-Boy here.

Uncle Tupelo - New Madrid

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Eddie would go... home."

That was Gee's line as we bobbed up and down in the stormy surf on Saturday. It was 8 ft. at 11 seconds, which didn't look too bad on paper. When we got to the beach though (hung over from the National/Clap Your Hands Say Yeah show Friday), it was evident that winter was close at hand, with whitecaps beyond the breakers and big, unorganized waves under a stormy sky.

The crazy thing was that I had a great session at Shorties, despite the conditions. I immediately caught a few waves in the 4-6 foot range that had a lot of power. My hazy, slo-mo outlook on life must have contributed to my ability to stroke into these lumpy bombs and side-slip on a few drops without freaking out, pulling back, or bailing. I counted 5 waves without a wipe out, so my confidence was building throughout the session. On one ride, I even considered pulling into a suicide barrel that was closing out, but common sense took over and I very deliberately made a hard bottom turn into the trough and dove through the back of the wave under a thick breaking lip. I don't think my board punched all the way through, but it felt good to make it through a potentially heavy situation unscathed.

A wave later though, I pushed my luck a little too far on a huge right by not popping up fast enough. The waves had this strange way of forming where they would break on the crest first and you could actually catch it before it REALLY sucked out and broke a few seconds later. I was probably a little tired, so I thought I could do one of those delayed pop-ups where you ride on your stomach for a couple seconds until your speed is good, then make an easy transition to your feet as the board slides down the face. Bad idea. I was cruising on the top with my hands on the rails, waiting for the wave to steepen when the bottom completely dropped out. I tried to make it to my feet by popping up fast, but my craft was airborn by that time. I felt it turn in the air and I knew I was in for a beating. Luckily, I didn't land on it. I kind of expected a fin to the nuts but fate was on my side. The worst part about the crash was when I thought I made it out the back and let my breath out only to be sucked back over the falls again without any air in my lungs. I felt like I was underwater for a while, but I think it was just because I sank deeper without the extra flotation provided by an inflated chest.

I took quite a few pics of the day to set the scene... enjoy, and stay toasty.

The National - Mr. November

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Wall of Green Stained Glass

Finally! We got a late jump on our evening session Wednesday night, but Nash drove like Jehu and we made it to Squaw's in 1.5 hours. The conditions were almost identical to the last time I surfed there with Slim, (see my entry, "Uncomfortably Numb") but it was actually a little better.

Speeding down Sunset Highway, Nash and I said to eachother, "We're gonna get some waves today," but in our hearts we knew that the surf report we studied all day was less than ideal. I think the swell was 7 ft, with an 11-second interval. The x-factor was the wind, which should have been gusting at 25 kts.

But when we arrived at our destination, jubilation! Grinding 4-foot lefts were going unridden at the middle of the beach. There were only four guys out, and they were laying flat on their Bics on the north side. The wind had a slight effect on the outside waves, but a wind shadow cast by the rocks at the north side kept things relatively smooth at the take-off spot.

I realized with a north wind the lefts were harder to catch, after paddling like an Alcatraz escapee for several waves and being spray-blinded and blown back before I could drop. It almost felt offshore!

My first wave was my best: I dropped in late and at an angle, which afforded me a view of the peak that will forever be recorded in my mind for easy playback. As I descended the wave, heading left, I glanced up and saw the triangular shape of the face illuminated from behind like green stained glass. I had been staring into the sun at the horizon for the previous 20 minutes, so dropping behind the swell was a relief to my eyes. The surface of the water was slightly textured by ripples of wind, creating a mosaic effect on the surface where the the darker green wrinkles on the face made a net-like pattern over the slab of water that seemed to glow yellow-green from the inside. It must have been a second or two before the wedge folded over, but I was already down the line on a shoulder that was presenting a long ride. The wave went from vibrant green to dark blue, and I carved up and down the convexed sea. As the wave flattened a little, I had to transfer my weight forward and pump a few times, but it was steep again a second later. Now the water was brown and I knew I was seeing sand that was sucked off the bottom. I could see the wave begining to close out and I knew the ride was coming to an end. I thought I should try some kind of maneuver on the whitewater that was rapidly approaching, so I faded down, did a quick bottom-turn, came back up and tried to hit the foam hard. I ended up flying off my board and over the back of the wave.

I paddle back out and Nash was smiling. He said it was the longest wave he'd ever seen me get. We both proceeded to pick off a few more before the conditions deteriorated and our fingers felt like popsicles. I actually shoved my hands in my mouth to try to warm them up, which really didn't work.

Despite the cold (again) it was the best session I've had in a while - one which I really needed to rekindle the stoke!

Mark Kozelek - Find Me, Ruben Olivares

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Big Swell

The epic swell came and we sorta missed it. For the past week, it seemed like everyone was walking around with woodies in anticipation of the Big South. The surf forcast maps showed a flame-like swell pattern eminating from below the belt of the equator and nailing the whole west coast. MagicSeaweed.com promised 4-6 ft. swells with 17 second intervals. There was even a 5-star day predicted for Saturday!

So we drove over and hit Short Sands on Saturday, timing our arrival to coincide with the falling tide an hour after high. When we arrived at Shorty's, the most swell-friendly place on earth, our hopes were immediately deflated like a punctured beach ball. The full moon made the high tide more like a low tide. Smallish waves closed out across the beach. And the tide was only going to drop lower. To make matters worse, all the swell-horny surfers from Northern Oregon were bobbing in the lineup like a hundred black bouys. We suited up and joined the crowd, only to come to the realization that we wouldn't be getting many waves with 25 people paddling for the corners of the sets, which only came every 20 minutes or so...

So we bailed, hiked back up the hill, threw boardbags over the car seats, and drove in our wetsuits back up the beach to an empty beach break we spotted on the way. When we arrived, with only an hour left to redeem the day, we noticed that the beachbreak had improved tremendously with the exaggerated low tide. As we charged to the water, we saw five other guys paddling out at the same time. We got outside easily and caught a couple, but quickly realized that the other guys had the spot wired, grabbing hollow barrels on a peak further south. Looking at a guy manuvering himself into yet another tube on his fish, I said to Gee, "Why aren't we doing that?"

Without another word, we paddled closer to the wiser guys and tried our hand at the hollower waves. We only had a half hour left before we had to meet our girls in Cannon Beach. Gee and I were both a little tired from the double-sesh and it showed. Not paddling hard enough to get in early, popping up late: it was a dangerous combo in these punchy conditions. I watched Gee stand up late on the back of a breaking wave and go over the falls slowly. Next thing I knew, he was paddling in.

I snagged a 3-foot right and tried to grab my rail. It worked, but I didn't end up in a tube. I was in front of the curl too far. I realized that I probably wasn't turning my shoulders to face forward enough, making it impossible to see my posistion on the wave, let alone drag my front hand to stall. My next wave was a right. I missed the bowling section but made it around the broken whitewater for the reform, which was fast and fun.

Then, I also knew it was time to go. Just when it started getting good. The next day, the swell got a little too big for most of the exposed beach breaks. From what I heard, it became a closeout fest.

Today we're planning on checking out PC, a spot further south that seems to get a little protection from wind and chop. That will be important, since the swell has dropped and the wind is gusting now at 20 kts!

Califone - "Slower Twin"

Pictures courtesy of Slim (from later in the day)!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Morning Glass and the Man with the ‘Stache (Mexico, Part 4)

Our last full day in Mexico was idyllic: Dawn patrol revealed that the swell was still there, though not quite as insomnia inducing as the day before. After a great morning session on the Haut, I came in and had a Michelada (a tall beer glass with a salted rim filled ¼ of the way with lime juice, the rest with Corona and ice, and accented with a splash of Tobasco and Worcestershire sauce). As I ordered my third, I noticed an older guy making his way down to the beach with a red rash guard and floral trunks. He stood over six feet tall, with silver hair, a perfect bronze tan, and a big yellow epoxy Mickey Munoz noserider under his arm. The restaurant was abuzz. A middle-aged surfer dude dad craned around behind where we were sitting and pointed him out to his son: “That’s Mike Doyle.”

The one-time champion waterman had finally made an appearance at the surf spot he put on the map. He paddled out effortlessly, right into the middle of the lineup. As if on cue, a solid 3-foot wave appeared out of nowhere. He swung his board around, took two easy paddleboard strokes, and he was in.

Doyle stood up and sped straight down the face until the whitewater threatened to engulf his tail. At the last second, he raised his arms above his head, dropped a knee, and stomped on the back of his board, kicking the nose upward like a yellow bird’s beak. The longboard responded by banking hard right, sending a rooster tail off its outside rail. With the casual grace of a soft-shoe dancer, he adjusted his footing so that he was close to the middle of the board. The Munoz elevated to the middle of the face and he entered the state of “trim,” where no tweaks are necessary and the surfer slows down time by standing like a statue in the sweet spot of both board and wave.

When he glided too far out on the shoulder, he stepped back to the tail, did a cutback and repositioned himself on the steepest part of the wave, closest to the curl. Rinse and repeat, again and again, until he was right on the shore where the wave was reforming and about to crash on dry sand. He stayed in the wave through the final pitch, kicking out at the crucial last second.

This was more than a great surfer I was watching; Doyle was an artist, and I can assure you that his creativity on the waves was even better than his paintings on the walls of the hotel behind me.

I also had the opportunity to watch the upstart pro surfer girl I met earlier. She ripped. She positioned herself halfway to the beach from where the longboarders lined up. A smaller wave would roll in and the guys on the outside would let it go. She would get in easily, flying right or left on her little Flyer. Her petite size made catching waves easy; a shoulder-high face was way overhead on her. Her tanned mom was constantly standing on the ridge by the pool, filming every move with her camcorder. Stage mother/surf mama, I suppose.

After a few hours and a few more beers I was ready for my evening session, even though the waves had dropped a little and the sea had become choppy. I slipped my underwater camera on my wrist, grabbed the Hogfish and paddled out. On my way to the outside the shredder girl was paddling in. She said, "It's smaller, but still so fun out there!" I ended up sitting on my board and taking pictures of Mike Doyle and his girlfriend as they cruised by on their longboards. By this time, my ribs were bloody nubs and I was fairly surfed out.

One thing I noticed was a surfer a little further south, sitting amongst the rocks, all alone. This is a zone known as "Mike's Hole," according to fellow blogger Patch. I assumed it was a crazy Loco who was so intimately familiar with the spot that he could easily glide through the boils and jagged rocks inside without wiping out. Then, I saw him catch a wave and tuck perfectly into a small tube. That loco local was damn good!

When I paddled back in, I traded the fish for the JC again, wanting a board I was comfortable with for my last session the next morning. I jumped in the swimming pool to wash the saltwater away. By this time, Doyle had made his way to the hot tub next to the pool. He and his girlfriends were drinking beers and watching the surfer riding on the south side of the beach. When the unknown surfer did an agressive turn off the top of a wave and followed that move with a roundhouse cutback, they all went "oooooh" and "ahhhh" in unison. By this time my interested had piqued.

The guy rode the next wave all the way into the shore. I noticed his board was a thick resin-tinted orange single fin without a leash. The blue fin had a wacky vee extension off the end. As he walked up the beach, I realized he wasn't Mexican. He was wearing unbuttoned shorts with Surfer magazine covers all over them. He had a beer belly and a moustache. Shit, mang! It was Donavon Frankenreiter! After he shook hands with the kids running the surf shack, he ran up the steps and jumped in the pool with his board. He called his 2-year-old son, "Marley" over and had him stand on the board in the pool. Marley had better form than me.

That night, my wife, our new friend Heather, and I went to dinner at a cool Italian restaurant in town. It was really great.

The next morning, I went out for my final dawn patrol of the trip. It was 7am and for some reason I was the first guy out. My first wave was one of my best. It was perfectly glassy and overhead. By the time I paddled back out, there were three more guys in the lineup.

As you can tell by my unwillingness to let it go, Mexico had a profound effect on me, especially during a summer like this, where trips to the Oregon ocean have been few and far between. During my five days in Cabo I fell in love with the place. I immediately bought Mike Doyle's book "Morning Glass" when I got home and read it in a week. He loved Cabo too, and I admire his ability to still enjoy it even though the crowds have moved in (he may be partially responsible for that, actually).

I will return to San Jose Del Cabo someday, but first I have a trip planned to hit Short Sands tomorrow ... where the swell will be 5 feet at 14 seconds!

I hope to be blogging more often now that I'm home again...

Bloc Party - "The Bluest Light"

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I Shoulda Been There Yesterday, Tomorrow

All my buddies decided to go on an impromptu surf trip yesterday and for good reason, I couldn't make it. Keeping in mind that we haven't had decent swell in Oregon for months, I was gutted by the email I received this morning:

--- Nash wrote:

> I would like to give a big shout out to all those who rode the the single most epic day of the summer yesterday. Dialing in my short board, riding till it was dark in the water and catching so many waves my arms and shoulders felt like jello was the perfect way to celebrate Tuesday. Sorry to those who couldn't make it but more waves for me Beotches! On a friendlier note, anyone interested in a Thursday sesh?Conditions look like they are going to hold up for a couple of more days.

---Gee wrote:

>I almost don't want to ruin the golden glow in my stoke-rich mind, but hell yeah, I'm up for heading out Thursday.


I, of course, am still unable to leave town so I must wave a white hanky and wish them bon voyage. I'm just so happy for them I could cry, the bastards.

Jimmy Cliff - "Many Rivers To Cross"

Monday, August 29, 2005

“Welcome home,” he moaned.

Went surfing yesterday, if you can call it that. We got to the beach and it started raining. The waves were rubble, small and choppy. We drove to three spots and then decided to hike in to a place we’d never tried: a half mile down to the beach on a steep, switchback trail. I stepped in dog shit along the way. When we got to the “desolate” location we noticed three surfers walking up from the direction of a parking lot on the next beach over. Their clothes probably stayed nice and dry inside their car. So we paddled out into the 2-foot slop. The water was a freezing yellowish green concoction with dead birds and other debris floating on the surface. I felt like an olive floating in a very dirty martini.

Surprisingly, we actually all caught a few waves, not that they were good. They were mostly closeouts though and sections were really tough to make. I caught maybe two where I rode a short distance, bottom turned, top turned, went straight as the lip collapsed. The slippery hike back up the sloppy slope would have made Sisyphus drop his rock and cry for mammy.

After we drove home, we unloaded our equipment and I accidentally switched boards with Nash, who has the same board bag as me. Welcome home indeed. I think my next entry will be about Mexico again.

This Oregon surf is enough to make a man want to take up fishing...

Wiley - "Pick U R Self Up"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Eight Feet at Sixteen Seconds (Mexico, Part 3)

So there I was, side skipping down the face of a six-foot wall on nothing more than a piece of blue plastic, thinking, “What happened to my little Waikiki dream?” I did a wheelie at the bottom of the wave and the tail slid out from under me. Imagine Wiley Coyote’s expression the moment he realizes the lower half of his body’s already long gone off a jagged abyss. That was me. Blink ... blink ... POOF! How did I get here?

The sun hadn’t risen yet, but eleven surfers already had. I scrambled downstairs, snagging the tiny Hogfish off of the rack in the hotel lobby along the way. I got to the beach just in time to see the first set roll through. The swell that I had been tracking for the last week was finally making its presence known: Eight feet waves at sixteen second intervals. A guy on a longboard dropped down the face of a six-foot peak and did an artful bottom turn, the nose of his log pointing upward, spray fanning from his outside rail. From there it was a straight shot 75 meters down the line and I noted that the glassy blue crest was three feet over his head. And he was standing straight up.

Feeling the cool sand on my feet at the water’s edge, I stretched a little, waiting for a lull. With long intervals between sets, timing your paddle out is pretty easy. When you no longer see monster waves undulating on the horizon, go for it.

That’s what I did. I launched myself out to sea on the receding backwash, landing squarely on my stomach and paddling like hell. But pain shot up from both points of my ribcage where a rash had formed from “trunking it” the last few days. It felt like I was lying on two red-hot cigarette lighters. With every stroke, I winced. The smaller board had less float and plowed through the water slowly. It took me a while to get outside and when I noticed some whitewater rolling toward me I decided to duck dive under it. I went so deep that I hardly felt the turbulence of the broken wave above me.

A quick sidebar about the line-up at Old Man’s: There are four kinds of surfers you’ll find out there on any given day. First, there are obviously the Old Men. These are the leathery expats on longboards who sit farthest outside and to the south of the main peak. By positioning themselves halfway across the Sea of Cortez, they insure that they will catch all of the largest set waves and milk rides all the way to the sand, getting a few minutes of open face time. My favorite Old Man was a guy who looked like a short version of Nick Nolte who always paddled inside of me and snaked me no matter where I was positioned. I ran into him at the airport on the way home and actually told him he should cut in front of me in line, “Just like back at Old Man’s,” I said. He thought that was pretty funny.

Next, you have the locals. Let’s call them The Locos. These surfers can be guys or girls, and aside from their mocha skin are instantly recognizable by their boards shaped by local hero and Costa Azul surf shop owner Alejandro Olea. Many wear trucker hats in the lineup and sit a little closer in to catch the more consistent, slightly smaller waves. Some give surf lessons. My favorite Loco was Sergio, the jazz-whistling surf instructor who worked at his family’s taqueria, Hangmans.

Closer to the beach, catching the steeper inside reforms that broke over the rocks, are the shortboarders, The Rabbits. They are in constant motion - bouncing up and down and side to side to build speed on the mushy leftovers. Some of these kids were adept at getting speed and could execute amazing maneuvers before pulling out at the last second as the waves thumped on dry sand.

And then there are The Rooks: First-time surfers of all ages and sizes scattered throughout the surf zone, flailing around on 3-inch thick longboards. Any surfer who has gone out at Old Mans knows how to slalom and weave through the network of panting Rooks, and fully expects to be dropped in on by them several times in a session. On one occasion, I couldn't avoid an errant board from a rookie wipeout and my legs were knocked out from under me by a red foam torpedo as I sped down the line. As I hurtled through the air, all I could think was, "Will my trajectory land me headfirst on that urchin infested rock?"

And then there was me, somewhere between a Rook and an Old Man, paddling into my first six-foot set wave on the smallest board I'd ever had under me. As I popped up, something immediately struck me. These glassy conditions weren't exactly as marble smooth as I had imagined. The little blue board skipped down the face of the wave and I tried to turn right but instead spun out in the trough. I got tossed like a ceasar salad under the water, but quickly found my bearings, slid up onto the board (ouch), and ducked deep under the next waves.

I realized quickly that I was undergunned. “Undergunned” in this case meant that I didn’t have enough board for the conditions and my skill level.

In a lineup of decent surfers who are all hungry for large set waves--and when 10 minutes can pass between each large set--a surfer is only allowed one or two screw ups. If the other surfers peg you as a kook after seeing you blow a perfect wave, nothing will stop them from dropping in on you for the rest of the session.

So I had already blown one wave. I paddled further south, hoping to position myself in a place where I could grab a less popular left off of the main peak. I also wanted to go left so that there would be more chance for me to actually make the wave on this minnow I was riding. The second wave I attempted, I couldn’t get into. The third wave was slightly better. I dropped in and stayed as low as possible, holding on for dear life. I managed a few pumps and recognized the “skatey” feeling so popularly used to describe riding fish. I quickly kicked out over the top of the crest before it closed out. Did I mention that the lefts at Old Mans break right into a cluster of boils and rocks? I guess that’s why it is the less popular direction to ride.

When I returned to the lineup, I looked in to see if the surf shack’s door had opened yet. It must have been 8am, because people were milling about the entrance. I bellied a small wave all the way back to the shore. Inside the shack, I spotted a board that I had seen another hotel guest having a blast on over the previous few days. It was an 8’ baby blue Haut hybrid shape. I grabbed it and paddled straight back out.

I have to jump right to my first wave on the Haut. It was around 9am and the swell had picked up even more since dawn. I sat farthest outside and waited patiently for 20 minutes before the biggest set wave I had seen came rolling in. I had position. It was mine to take. I paddled as hard as I could and caught the wave early. After the epoxy M10, the longer board moved fast and felt safe under my feet. I made the drop easily, fading right, and rose to the middle of the wave. Then, I noticed an old longboarder dropping in ten yards in front of me. It was this 70-year-old dude who I had watched dominating The Rock on the previous day. He had a young Mexican wife with big boobs who helped him carry his board. Anyway, he dropped in on me and for a few seconds we were both on the same level in the wave, one right after another. Then, he rose up a little higher and gracefully cross-stepped to the nose. He hung ten casually with his arms by his side before backpedaling and regaining control of his board. I couldn’t help myself. I hooted and cheered at him as he kicked out and gave me the rest of the wave. I rode it all the way to the sand.

As I paddled back out, I asked a Mexican kid who had seen the ride who that old guy was. I expected him to say “Senor Doyle” or “Roberto August,” but he just gave a look of disapproval and said, “He’s nobody. Fucker always drops in on people!” I still was stoked. It was the biggest wave I’d ever ridden. More than that, it was the fastest, the smoothest, and the most fun.

I paddled out and waited my turn to catch one more that was close to that size. I was all alone on the next wave and as I flew north toward nirvana I had to avoid a guy on the inside, almost running over his feet. When I paddled back out again, past where he was still perched inside, I was grinning, saying, “Sorry, man. I almost clipped your feet there!”

He just smiled and said, “Nah! You were just beautiful!”

When I had my fill, it was only 11am. I had been surfing for almost five hours and the waves were still huge. I ran up the steps of the hotel and jumped into the swimming pool where my wife was chatting to a woman she had met the day before.

“Did you see that?!” I gushed.

“Honey,” she laughed, “I can’t see anything out there. You all look the same from here. This is Heather.”

It must be Murph the Surf’s Law that my wife had been patiently taking pictures of me for the last three days but finally decided to take a break on the biggest swell of the week (and perhaps of the summer, judging by how stoked The Locos were). I wasn’t really disappointed, though. I was still buzzing with the pure joy that only surfing can bring and even more so because my beautiful wife was having a great time too.

O Povo Canta - "O Telefone Tocau Novamante"

PS: I did grab the camera and snap a bunch of pics at lunch to record the day. The two pics of the left above are from my first session in the morning before my wife threw in the beach towel.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Smiley Smile (Mexico, Part 2)

This is going to sound incredibly trite to most surfers out there, but I'm being honest when I say that I actually played Brian Wilson's "Smile" album on the second morning I was at the Cabo Surf Hotel, standing on my balcony, watching the sun rise over the breaking waves. When the line "Dance Margarita, don't you know that I love you..." came on, the hair stood up on my sunburned neck.

I woke up at 7:00 to beat the crowd, which can get pretty thick at Old Mans, but by the time I finished my cornflakes there were 7 guys in the line-up. The glassy morning conditions and lower tide gave the waves a little more juice, so I traded in the Robert August 8-footer for a 7'4" JC Equalizer thruster. I was tempted to paddle out to "The Rock," a more powerful wave to the north, but decided to try out the spot I was relatively familiar with. It had picked up in size to about 3-4 feet.

The first thing I noticed was that the JC got into waves really easily, and moved MUCH quicker. I was still feeling very stiff going backside on the rights and realized how many things I still had to learn about where to position myself on the waves to get the most speed.

I have to say, besides a constant sensation of surf-bliss (and a burning sensation on my rashy ribs), the predominant emotion I felt in Mexico was one of humility. Everywhere around me--from the little local kids to the bikini-clad girls to the Old Men who gave the spot its name--people were surfing much better than me.

I overheard a couple 10-year-old boys in the pool talking their sponsors and swam over. "I only have one sponsor," said one knee-high grom with a bushy blond hairdo that was going chlorine green in front of my eyes. "But my sister has lots." As if on cue, a thirteen-year-old girl jumped into the pool wearing a Rip Curl rash guard. Her hair had the same green highlights as her kid bro.

When we all started chatting about our boards, she said, "I have lots back home in Santa Barbara."

"Hm," I deduced. "Lots of boards, sponsored, from Santa Barbara... You wouldn't happen to be riding for Al Merrick wouldja?"

"Yep!" she said.

I said, "Would you mind putting an order in for me? Tell Al that you put on a few pounds in Mexico and need something a little bigger." I also made a mental note to keep an eye out for her in the line-up.

Before she got out of the pool, she said, "It's supposed to get big tomorrow. Big south swell is on the way from a hurricane or something."

"Cool!" I said, trying to sound casually enthused, or at least not nervous. "See ya out there!"

That night after my evening surf, I went to the surf shack and traded in the JC for a 5'8" M10 Hogfish. I had been telling all my friends back home that I was going to try a fish, so I thought I might do it in the glassy morning waves when there would be less people in the water that I might injure. As I walked out with the bright blue potato chip under my arm, the Mexican kid I rented it from called after me, "Man, it's gonna be big tomorrow. Good board!"

"Si," I said, a bit more hesitantly.

At 8:00, my wife and I drove into San Jose Del Cabo, to an open-air taqueria called "Hangmans" on the recommendation of fellow blogger Flotsam (kudos!). The restaurant was unforgettable; one of the highlights of our trip. It had funky decor: old puppets, license plates, skeletons, glowing plastic rocking horses, and broken surfboards hung from the walls. A live jazz band played in the corner. On each table were no less than eight saucy condiment bowls for doctoring up the succulent tacos that they grilled under the stars. Just as I settled into a seat and opened the menu, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"How was your surf today?" I looked up and recognized one of the young Mexican surf instructors from Acapulquito. Something clicked. I had heard a native surfer whistling jazz standards in the line-up earlier and thought it was odd. Now I was face-to-face with the soloist himself. He said his name was Sergio and that his family owned Hangmans. His gray-bearded father (who was also a surfer and also named Sergio) brought the restaurant over from mainland Mexico 11 years ago. This was a favorite hang out for locals, so when Sergio Jr. recommended the cow tongue, I had to oblige. It was as tender as liver, but lacked the dirty flavor of internal organs. It was more like buttery sirloin. I smothered the oblong pieces of meat in chipotle and temped the fate of my bowels.

When we finished our meal and headed toward the door, Sergio said, "See you tomorrow! Good swell coming!"

"So I hear," I said, too tired and full to act macho. "See you then." With that, we drove home and went to bed.

That night, I hardly slept. The sound of the pounding surf and the anticipation of waking up early to beat the crowd had me doing bleary-eyed clock checks every hour on the hour. When I finally rolled out of bed at 6:00AM and threw open the curtain, I realized that the south swell had arrived.

Brian Wilson - "Heroes & Villians"