Monday, March 05, 2007

A Great Run

"That was a great run!" an old lady called out to me as I walked out of the surf, wrapping the leash around my board. I said thanks and turned to look at the waves. A big blue line rolled in and feathered, breaking in that slow motion curtain-drop way that indicates significant size and distance. Off the back of the falling lip rose a plume of mist. It was like smoke - like the udulating hills were on fire.

The waves were firing. Had I actually ridden one of those?

It had been a crazy session. When we pulled up to the dirt parking area a few hours earlier, there were lots of cars and trucks with surfboards on their roofs, but only three souls were in the water. Old guys with moustaches, crow's feet eyes, hoodies, and coffee mugs milled around, commenting on the action.

"Did he make it out of the barrel?"
"That was a big one."
"Never seen it work this good."

The waves were large and well-shaped: a solid head-and-a-half high on the sets. And hollow. Some closed out, but many ran perfectly for 200 yards toward the beach. I watched a guy tuck into a tube and glide back out onto the shoulder.

My compatriots, Nash and Slim, stood and watched next to me shivering at the brisk offshores, the prospect of charging. Nash instigated: "Let's do it!"

Suited up, we scurried down rocks and into the rip. No way could we have made it outside without the help of the outwardly moving current. I had butterflies in my stomach as I bounced through the chop, looking right for where the other surfers were lined up. I spotted them and began to paddle their way.

In a matter of only a few seconds, I realized I'd made a big mistake: I had turned out of the rip too early. Out of nowhere, a massive ledge arose and I redirected my paddling toward the horizon, trying to beat the wave to where it was going to break. I knew I wouldn't make it, but I hoped that by confronting it head-on, my speed would help me get deeper on my duckdive. The lip began to fall as I reached the trough. I pushed the nose as deep as possible, then jammed the tail down with my knee.

I was under the water fairly deep, but not deep enough to avoid the brunt of this wave's impact. My body went limp under the force and my surfboard vanished from my grip. I spun under the water and waited for the turbulance to pass. It did, and I swam back up for air.

I was rattled.

I got comfortable on the outside, letting swell after swell pass under me. I caught my breath. The first wave I went for was fairly huge (by my standards) and I mistimed it completely. I was too late. I went over the falls, falling through the air backwards somehow, feeling my board pass me on its way up into an offshore gust. Again I tumbled under the water for a while, scrambling up for air when the sea let me go.

I regrouped, watching the local surfers, who had the waves dailed. I noticed that they were taking off a little farther south than me. The peak seemed to crumble there instead of pitching from top to bottom.

The third wave I paddled for, I caught. I made the drop and quickly angled down the line, feeling the speed of rushing water under my feet. The mist of the lip seemed to tickle my shoulder as I rose up the face. I dropped back down and noticed Slim in the flats ahead, his smile confirming the fact that I was locked in the pocket with a teardrop in chase.

I rode it until the wall backed off a little and didn't push my luck, kicking out before I got too far inside. My fear was suddenly replaced by pure stoke.

I caught several more as the hours rolled by, wiping out often, but staying alert and careful. Keeping out of harm's way. I was completely focused. I chatted with my friends about the conditions and we advised eachother on easier ways to get into the freight training waves.

After a while our toes and fingers began to numb. The waves got a little less consistent as the tide advanced. Nash went in. I motioned to Slim with my index finger, signaling I was only good for one more. In a few minutes, it came.

The wave approached almost from the north, it seemed, in a long line. I had gotten used to the fact that even when it seemed to be rolling from that direction, it would hit a sand bar and break closer to the south first as it walled up, creating the hollower set waves. I spun for this one, being the closest to the peak, and paddled with everything I had left. As the power pushed me forward, it crossed my mind that I might be too late. I popped to my feet looking down at a near vertical eight-foot drop. My fins caught the wall and held, generating speed. A surfer who was paddling in pulled his board back as I sped by. I was slotted.

I stayed in the pocket with my hand dragging along the face. When I got too far out, I dropped again and found the pocket. It went on forever, and the lip seemed to be right above me. The tube must've been so close. This wave reformed at least three times as I got closer to the shore.

I finally got to the shallows and jumped off my board, buzzing from the ride. Grabbing my leash, I walked toward the sand, wrapping it around the fins. I pulled the hood of my wetsuit back and heard the woman compliment my "run."

Walking back up to the truck, I wondered if anybody else had seen my last wave. It was probably the best of my life.

"Dude!" It was Nash, who was scratching his dog's ear on the other side of the cab. "That was the sickest ride. I didn't think it was you at first. You were like two feet in front of the barrel. If you would have slowed down, you would have been in!"

We cracked a few beers and watched the waves for another half hour. And that was only our first session of the day.

Split Endz - Shark Attack

*The photos above were shot stealthily from inside the truck. The swell got knocked down considerably with the higher tide, but there were still decent waves to be had. The location of this spot will remain anonymous, to protect the innocent locals who were kind enough to share their waves.


bk benz said...

Winter score for sure - thank you for the leash
Much respect to the locals

Nash said...

Such a sick day. I was dreaming about it at work yesterday. I wish I would have gotten a few more of those bombs but am really glad I got the few I did. Can't wait for the next sesh. Good call on the leftovers up north. I got my ride count up and had alot of fun there too. Now if I had just had a squash or pintail for the first sesh...

G said...

"Best ride of my life." I can't count on my fingers and toes the amount of times I've heard you say that...but somehow this time I believe it. Well done young man. I bet the 2+1 would of slowed you down right into the pocket. Head an' a half up there. Ankle to knee down here. That should be changing tomorrow and, hopefully, I'll finally be able to get in the water. Where was the second sesh?

Anonymous said...

Nice! Classic quote. You guys scored for sure, but consider yourselves extremely lucky. As much as I've checked it, I've only gotten it a handful of times and even then a few of those were worth remembering. But if you put in the effort along this fickle coastline, you will eventually get the pay off. Looks like it was pay day! Never made it over, but sure wish I did.

Surfsister said...

So that's where all the winter waves went!!! You guys got them up there!

Nice post. All I can do is ride the wave with you while I read along. There's nothing to ride down here.

pushingtide said...

Sissy gettin' on with it!! Looks fun.

Chum said...

bk, you're welcome. I just have to remember to buy a new backup leash for my bag. Hope you had a great session. Matter of fact, I think I may have a pic of you from that day.

Gee, hope you are finally scoring down south. You socal folks sound like you're getting the shit end of the swell stick down there. Don't worry though, the winter storms are back and it looks to be out of control again!


bk said...

chum - could i get a look at some of the other shots you took that day ? I would love to see how dorky i looked, that was the first time i had ridden that board - makes me think about the movie "the red violin" but instead of the violin it's the surfboard and life its lived as it changes hands.

Chum said...

Hey BK, send me an email... sissyfish at Gmail dotcom ... with your email address and I'll send you those pics!