We didn't even have time to say it. Everybody was too busy jockeying for the shifty head-high-plus peaks to notice a dark line advancing from the horizon. After all, the buoys were only reading 6 feet, so -- more than anything -- we were all just stoked that so much swell had found its way into a break that normally knocks size off.
Sitting way outside, I'd just caught a great one that had the guys on the inside hooting as I made the drop, bottom turn, and set up for the racetrack that rolled and reformed several times before ending 100 yards or so to the north. At that point, thinking I had it dialed, I was probably one of the farthest guys out.
I spotted a bend on the otherwise flat blue line that marks the "end of the earth" and started paddling casually out to sea, not wanting to alert the whole lineup that a set wave was on its way. As it progressively grew, my strokes grew faster. In a matter of only a few seconds, I realized that the wave was standing up and feathering already, 30 yards in front of me. I kept scratching, though I knew I'd never make it out the back.
All surfers have faced dilemma: Is it better to paddle hard toward the maelstrom when a sneaker set is about to drop the hammer, or just sit and wait for it to lose a little power before facing a wall of whitewater? Thinking of the sandbars inside that had been delivering punchy waves all morning, I reasoned that the foamball would still be heavy, so I kept paddling.
As the first wave of the set slammed down, I did my best to hang onto my board, but it was ripped from my grip. The hold-down wasn't horrible, but when I emerged, a second wave had already broken behind it. I looked behind me and saw a few tombstones way inside and knew it was safe for me to swim for the bottom. This happened about five times in a row.
From that point on, the session was somewhat dicey. The clean inside waves were still there, but the temptation to grab a bomb on the outside -- and avoid being caught inside again -- kept me a little too safe. I caught one huge one and got bounced off by the chop. The end.
Back on the shore as we changed, Foul Pete told me that he checked the Tillamook buoys that morning and they read 13 feet at 13 seconds, so the jump in swell wasn't a complete bolt from the blue.
The pics above are somewhat deceptive. You have to blow them up to see the size (the guys caught inside give them perspective), since I couldn't get a shot with anybody riding.