January 9, 2012 Photo: J. Chandler

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Friday Jan. 14 Just Another Winter Day

Friday January 14, 2012 - The new WNW swell was starting to fill in but not fast enough for the dawn patrol. Town was small and soft so I headed to the beaches. But there the tide was too low, so I made the rounds, snapped some shots and decided to go home to wait for a higher tide as the morning aged.

Weather around here has been remarkable, spectacular, rare, even unprecedented. There are not enough superlatives to adequately describe our "Winter". Clear, bright, offshore mornings followed by light winds all day, leading into magnificent sunsets. Even if I hadn't surfed yet, it felt good to be out and about. A few hours later the tide was right and like MacArthur, I returned.

From the overlook it seemed make-able, all I had to do was get out through a building swell that was very consistent. The first bar I chose was wrong. But I soldiered on, waiting in the shore pound (it felt like forever) for a break in the incoming lines of waves and foam before I finally sprinted out the back, prone style laying on my paddle. There was a lot of water moving around and the sea surface was chaotic with motion. Cautiously assessing the line-up and my position in it, I paddled for two smaller waves that didn't break. Not cautious enough, for I was impossibly too far inside to make it over the first of sixteen close-outs that essentially washed me back up on shore only slightly humiliated. There weren't a lot of surfers out, and there were plenty who didn't want any of this today.

Not wanting to indulge in the insanity of repeating this first mistake, I got out and walked down to a bar Ron mentioned in a conversation last week. I talked myself into thinking it was smaller there and that a channel existed. Again, I waited in the nearshore white water until a break in the action let me paddle out untouched and into a peaceful deep green sea that was mirror smooth. No rough water here. From the land I had watched a small right hander break cleanly into a deep spot where the wave shoulder flattened. A rider could ease out over that section without getting pummeled. Again I cautiously assessed my position in the line-up, trying to avoid my first mistake. So far I had no waves ridden in this session but a lot of board handling in turbulent white water. Experience is good.

I clearly heard the pod of four dolphins before I saw them. They approached from the east as I was paddling hard for the horizon which had suddenly blossomed into a bolt of corduroy. It is always startling to hear their distinct, loud and somehow out of place exhalations which one almost always experiences before the sighting. I remember thinking that I'd rather not hit one while paddling, which would surely knock me off my board and put me way behind where I needed to be to avoid the wrath of the much more menacing incoming entities which I now faced. (A flash of hubris probably not altogether uncommon for a land based mammal.) I noted how large these particular animals were as I paddled up and over the first wave, butt low and knees bent pushing through the nearly cascading crest of the already formed lip. I pressed on more vigorously, heading for the next two of eight which looked bigger than the one I had just barely crossed over. These large sets were immensely delivered closeouts, too big and unrideable. But the smaller sets that threaded their way in between the larger, were just right.

Waiting, assessing and dodging, I picked up a half dozen screamingly fast right-handers sporting quick pitching lips with steep faces. The SIMSUP OSX3 gets up to speed in a flash and with Controllers humming adjacent to that first acceleration, I was able to make the drops, where fins and edges securely sped me into a soft spot on the wave down the line. From there a quick glance out the back for more of Poseidon's parallel arrows, then either turn up and over the slumping shoulder and paddle hard out the back, or turn down face for more. The best waves would allow you to slide down the smaller portion of the wave where it would then break. Riding the tumbling white water shoreward put you into the reform and a decent left that gave way to a deep spot prior to the nearshore and explosive final moments of that solely unique and particular wave's life. Here, ten yards offshore, there was a hole in the sand bottom which was for all intents and purposes, tranquil and safe. Wait it out and paddle back out for the next one.

Two hours later I found myself padding back upcoast, looking for a peak that would place me just where I wanted to be to get out of the water. I took the first (and smallest) overhead wave of the set and rode in towards the beach, but not nearly as far as I'd hoped. I took the next five on the head which washed me like a ship wrecked sailor up on the sand.

Sessions like this one feel more like a workout than a surf, mentally and physically. Vigilance is as important as surfing well, especially when one is SUP surfing. There is no duck diving a SUP, even a lightweight 15 pound, eight foot SUP like the OSX3. And in tricky surf, like today, how you approach the ocean is much like playing a game of chess. Forethought, planning, knowledge and experience are important. The consequences of laziness in thought or activity are not guaranteed to be profound or enjoyable. But heightened awareness leads to an extra jolt of adrenalin and mental focus that always, ultimately, adds to the experience of losing yourself in the moment. And that simple, usually fleeting experience, is what keeps surfers coming back for more.

It is a feeling of satisfaction, exhilaration and peace that saturates my soul and being after a day like today which is alive with true natural power and energy. Only a few can really enjoy it in this way. Lucky and blessed am I, are we who surf, love and respect the ocean.


  1. I've had dozens of these "sessions". Maybe hundreds. I choose my battles carefully now. I didn't go out cause I could read the writing on those walls

  2. Ha-ha...pun intended and appreciated!