Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Big Waves

Jay has a serious ding and can’t go in the water until it’s repaired. But that’s ok because the waves have been more Emile sized lately. Emile is my most challenging board to surf on. It paddles slower. It’s harder to catch a wave and it’s less stable once I’m standing on it. The conditions appropriate to surfing on Emile are also the most challenging conditions that I ever surf in. So I have the least confidence going into the most difficult waves.

The other day I surfed at Hideaways and spent the whole session waiting for one good wave, but when it came it made it all worthwhile. While Emile may be difficult to ride, it’s much faster and more responsive than any board I’ve ever ridden and when the right wave comes, I’m in the right place to catch it AND I execute it well, it’s an exhilarating experience. I had such an experience that evening.

Today I hoped for something similar as Cameron and I headed to Hideaways again. The waves were somewhat larger than before and we had difficulty paddling out. In fact paddling through the surf proved impossible even for Cameron who’s a much better surfer than I. I’m still working on my duck diving (passing under a wave with your board) but I kept at it as wave after wave of white water pushed me back and erased any forward progress I made. Finally the current carried us so far down the shore that we could paddle all the way around the braking waves and then make our way back to the spot we wanted to surf. I was so exhausted by the time I made it out that I decided if I got caught inside again I would not attempt to come back out.

I sat on my board catching my breath and watching some other surfers drop in on some waves I can only describe as huge. At this point I should point out that size is relative. I’m not surfing what people call “big waves.” I guess you could say they are just biggER than I usually surf. I bided my time until I was in position to paddle for a wave. When it came, I stood up and dropped in. I slid quickly to the bottom and with the top of the wave towering over my head and about to break, I thought to myself, “that’s a really big wave!” I also realized that my execution was less than perfect. It had not been a total disaster. I had successfully caught the wave, popped-up to my feet, dropped in and I was still standing. However, I had miscalculated my angle of take off so that I essentially went straight down instead of sideways along the face of the wave. I was at the bottom of the wave with no way to accelerate and continue my ride or even get out of the way of the crashing wave.

There was only one thing left to do. I turned toward shore in hopes of catching a ride on the whitewater inside where the wave’s power would be diminished and I could get out. A reasonable plan under the circumstances, unfortunately the force of the whitewater catching up to me knocked me off my board and down I went. I was held under for what seemed like a very long time but was probably only a few seconds. When I came up I realized I’d had enough and it was time to develop and exit strategy.

A strong current had carried me down the shore to a point where there were only cliffs and no way to climb out. To get back to the beach I would have to paddle up stream. I could have simply alowed the current to carry me to the next beach down but that would have meant a long walk back to my car with no shoes and I found that by paddling steadily against the current I could make slow but measurable progress. I eventually made it in, winded, but unharmed.

It was arguably the biggest wave I have ever caught and certainly the meanest. It was also probably the longest I have ever been held down. I was in over my head but on the whole I was pleased with how well I did.


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