Monday, August 08, 2005

Uncomfortably Numb

In the inimitable words of Hannibal from the A-Team: "I love it when a plan comes together!"

When Slim and I headed out for an evening session last Thursday, we had low expectations regarding the surf sitch. Forecast was foreboding, predicting 6-foot swell at 7-second intervals. Wind was to be whipping. But when we pulled into the parking lot of "Squaws" we were pleasantly surprised by perfect peelers pitching from no less than three peaks. We jumped out of the car and I fired off a couple photos as I wriggled into my wetsuit. Slim was already running down the path before I could lock the car up, anxious to get his new stick into some juice.

The paddle-out was of the dry hair variety, meaning that the waves were organized enough and the channel on the north side of the beach was working briskly (that's a rip tide, to you civilian readers) so that no duckdiving was necessary.

I must admit that it took me a while to get my engine started. I think it had something to do with the fact that I rarely go right, and this particular peak was an all right affair. The other thing that might have been slowing me down was the realization that an offshore upwelling had created the coldest water temps I had ever felt. More on that in a minute.

So I watched Slim catch a couple, disappearing from view down the front of the wave and reappearing much further down the line in short order, telling me that the waves had some umph. He was also smiling when he paddled back out to the line-up, and he is normally as stoic as a cigar store indian while surfing.

Finally, I caught my first right and tried to get my center of gravity (read "ass") low enough to keep me in the pocket. No such luck. I watched the glassy shoulder move farther away and dove backward into the whitewash. I overcompensated on the next right, getting too far ahead of the sweetspot in the wave and trying to cut back down but losing momentum and falling off the back. After about an hour of unremarkable rides, I finally grabbed a right where I felt, well, right. It was bigger and bowlier and I rode for a while in the pocket, making a small turn and remaining in the powerful part of the wave.

By this point I had gradually moved south (by riding right) and ended up at the center peak on the beach (pictured above), where there was a steeper left-breaking wave working. It was easy to find my line-up out there because there was a bouy floating right at the takeoff spot. Another surfer warned me to be careful--there was a network of ropes under the water in that area. The icy sea temperature was finally starting to get to me and I knew I could only stay out a half-hour more. I literally couldn't feel my hands or my feet, they were so numb. Sure that I was in the early stages of hypothermia, I scanned the horizon for the perfect wave.

A few minutes later, it came. Head high and triangular, the peak jacked up like morning wood under a green satin sheet. I turned and only paddled twice before I felt the familiar surge that meant I could pop to my feet. I leaned into it with my knees bent and looked down the line at 20 yards of workable shoulder. The period at the end of this liquid sentence was the surfer sitting on his board inside, smiling at my drop. Pure stoke. I rode a little too far inside and paid for it as I paddled back out. It took me a while and my ice cream headache was almost unbearable.

I should have just made that left my last of the day. Paddling back out forced me into a classic surfer's dilemma: Wait for another great set wave, or just take a mediocre ride in. Every minute I waited, I became colder. My ankles felt tight. By this time, I was alone and it was getting dark. I was tempted to ride whitewater in on my belly, but I was a little superstitious about not ending on a good note. Bad luck. After about 15 minutes without any large swells coming through, I paddled inside and caught a smallish right. I lost my balance almost immediately. I rode the next one in on my stomach.

When I peeled off my booties, my feet were shriveled and they had whitish yellow spots on them. It took a half hour under the car heater and a PBR before I could detect the feeling of carpet under my soles. By that time it was dark and we determined that it was safe to drive home.

Wire - "Outdoor Miner"


Whiffleboy said...

Never again will I bitch about the water temperature mid-summer in Los Angeles. Well...yes I will, but, I at least felt sincere saying that for a second or two.

Patch said...

Seems like you picked a spot that was sheltered from the prevailing winds, nice score. The coldest I remember the water getting in so cal was in the low 50's. Do you have any idea what the temp was at IB?

Music: The Magic Numbers—Forever lost

Connie said...

Just curious...what's a PBR?

Sorry you were so freezing! That sounds miserable. But, it does sound like that one ride may just have made up for it. Can't imagine the water temp being so cold this time of the year. It must never really warm up. :(

Slim said...

Thanks for making it sound like I was dropping into overhead bombs. I was, and we both know it.

Chum said...


I'm guessing it was upper-40s out there, but I'm not positive of that - and where did you get the impression this spot's initials are "IB"? Damn that!

Connie, BBR is "Babst Blue Ribbon," our low-cost sports drink of choice!

Slim, I wasn't suggesting that your waves were overhead... I'm short enough not to be able to see over the backs of tiny swells.

Whiff, this is a fairly typical summer thing in Oregon. Cold currents and upwellings make a 4/3 wetsuit ridiculous, but then in a month it may get warm enough to drop trou.

Patch said...


The shot from the top of the bluff that shows the railing gave it away. Hermano, upper 40's is down right nut numbing!

Candi said...

Morning wood under a green satin sheet...who writes this stuff? ;)

Chum said...


I thought you were from So Cal...


It's hard to find new metaphors about surf. And by hard I mean difficult.

Patch said...


Yep, I am from down south. The furthest north I've ever surfed (on the west coast) is the Ranch and up around SLO. I've never surfed the lost coast of NoCal or ventured into the Beaver State (you've gotta love that name). I am familiar with some breaks in your area though. The shot of IB happened to be one of them.

Music: The Black Keys—10 AM Automatic

site said...

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