This winter the storms are coming at steady one week intervals. FOUR SUNDAYS IN A ROW, this one makes five. It looks like one hell of a storm too fri/sat/sun.
The color indicates the obvious, and the length is long fetch for large period groundswell. Long periods gather up all the little shitty waves at less than nine seconds and shoves them all into huge waves over 12-13 seconds (time between the peaks). These waves are not to be underestimated, and can do lots of damage to shorelines and boats and people. Ireland, England, Spain, France, and Portugal will be the beneficiaries of this storm in a week with waves over 50-60’ tall. Killer conditions.
Wind shifts between noon and six into favorable conditions, and that’s when you’ll see my truck there.
Just heard this again. Can’t wait for Friday, Saturday.
Songs in head. Water and coffee in belly. Testosterone in veins. Heart in throat as we slide down ten foot wave faces in 30f air with 25 mph wind.
Keeps us aliiive.
Wave sizes and intensity is growing from this morning’s predictions. Gonna be a doozy \/\/\/
Ok- the reality:
I got there- holy shit I have never been in stronger wind. Full throttle wind gusts almost knocked me over the cliff and down the global warming eroded muddy slope. My favorite place to surf looked like World War Two-era North Atlantic naval warfare movies. More white than water, totally unsurfable.
It sure was interesting to go there and see the unmolested wrath of Mother Nature having her way with mankind. Dangling state park signs whipping around dangerously on their chains. Large trees toppled over on top of power lines stretched down almost to the ground, about to snap. People’s clothing pressed against the upwind side of their bodies.
I seriously almost got knocked down a few times.
Typical winter sky. Drab. Bleak. Possesses just a smidgen of hope, like our threatened democracy.
Ok, I got there and got in around 9:30, parking lot completely full, 100+ surfers in as if it were a hurricane swell. Crowded!
Sky dreary, waves loud, front row seat as I get my wetsuit on.
No wonder the parking lot was completely filled. It was a large, perfectly formed blend of nice weather, weekend day, powerful waves, and storm winds.
It was cold- I got out and warmed up a while then got back in and surfed another three hours... didn’t get cold again! More surf coming fri/sat. Winter surf is great.
Add incoming tide- 2-3' and it looks ok. Bringing longboard just in case. Two wetsuits too in case I want two sessions.
Sometimes going to surf is a crap-shoot. Sometimes I surf like a pro, sometimes like a beginner. The waves looked ok but I just couldn’t surf on them. I’m thinking it’s been a long time since I went, and maybe it’s the short period- who the hell knows? I don’t really care as long as it doesn’t happen too often.
This is a sport that doesn’t recognize those who deserve recognition. If you are an out of shape fat lazy slob (self description), Mother Nature will remind you Just who it is that’s in charge out there. It won’t be long before you wish that you hadn’t had that extra food, how you should have taken up a getting in shape attitude while you weren’t surfing.
It was great to surf again, but on this particular day I was reminded how important it is to stay in shape so when extraordinary swells arrive, I can go out there for HOURS. As it was, I surfed about four hours and felt it for three days afterwards.
Hopefully, I’ll have great stories this winter from the storms that visit during the kkkkold months.
Two stormy days kicked up a substantial swell that rolled in yesterday am. High swells and long periods with very dark skies and rain and almost 60f.
Periods of no wind and glassy water alternating with strong gusts and downpours made it interesting. At times, there were long waits but then a lot of sets would roll in back to back. Occasionally huge waves reminded us who was boss.
When I was there it was low tide. At this particular spot low tide makes one cautious. You paddle for a wave and look down ten feet below you only to see a broken back in your future if you make a mistake. Black boulders lurking, waiting for the hapless adventurer to visit.
To the left is this catcher’s mitt. Don’t wanna get friendly with this family. I have seen beginners who don’t belong here washed up upon this jetty unable to leave, repeatedly assaulted by wave after wave after wave. BLOOD. There is NOTHING that anyone can do to help the foolhardy when this happens.
One time about ten or or fifteen years ago I heard
HELP, I can’t move!!!”
I looked over towards the voice and saw a guy being washed up on the boulders just floating on his back, shouting but not moving. I was THE ONLY ONE who paddled like crazy over to him. Four other people from shore went towards him also.
The aggressive waves kept pushing him up on the rocks and gravity pulled him back down, over and over again. It took me a few minutes to get to him, and when I did I found that what we had to do to get him out sounded easier than it was going to be. My surfboard, attached to my left ankle with a leash, tangled with his, and our boards kept smashing against the rocks and each other.
I knew that the sooner we got the boards outta the way, the sooner we could get him out so inbetween waves we got rid of the boards as others held the floating guy against the bashing waves, keeping him off the boulders as much as possible. All five of us wrestled his body over towards the left where sand and slippery rocks meets the sea. Incoming waves, in their demonic way, tried to thwart this Herculean effort but eventually we got him out.
He could talk just fine. We asked him questions, and it became apparent that he could not move any part of his body, and could feel no pain. The ambulance arrived and we all stepped back so the guys could find out more. They cut off his wetsuit, poked, pinched, and prodded and theorized that he had broken his back or severed his spinal column. Off he went in the ambulance to an uncertain future.
I was fucking astounded that I was the ONLY ONE of the surfers there that day who valued the well-being of another human-total stranger, over passion for surfing. Fucking disgusted at humanity describes one third of my hatred for people that day.
After I finished surfing I got out, got dressed, and went to get something to eat before I went home. On the way out of town I stopped back to watch for a while before leaving and started chatting with this guy who was watching too. After a while, I said “you look familiar.”
He replied “I should, you pulled me out of the water this morning.”
Turns out, he HAD somehow disconnected temporarily his spinal column but in the hospital his feeling started to return. He could move again. He got up and was able to regain all of his lost sensations.
Whatever happened that day to him I will never know, but whatever it was is a tribute to the magnificence of the human body that we all inherited from our ancestors and Mother Nature.
Surfing sometimes has a local’s possessiveness about it. The townies somehow feel that they own the place, and the hostility of a few is tangible. I have surfed in several places around the world, and the biggest assholes I have come to recognize are right there in that town. I guess if I lived in this town, I would feel the same way sometimes. All that melted away that day for me after the ambulance left the scene as one guy who had helped us pull him out declared to me that he was awarding me “honorary local” status. I went home and told my young son this story, and to this day, he sometimes reminds me that I am an “honorary local.”
typical nor’ easter bar graph. East swell with NNE heavy wind. There’s only ONE place I know of to surf in crappy conditions like this... but I’m not gonna say where.
Looks like it’s gonna be big and nasty, just like I like it!
Monday am actual buoy readings:
Some nor’ Easter blew waves up for some fun today. They were BIG yet well- formed. I paddled out with difficulty but finally got out to where I was no longer bombarded by the strong white water.
Getting out through the white water is easy if you time it right and find a rip current to help you. Rip currents kill LOTS OF PEOPLE- people who have absolutely no business being in the ocean... but rips are surfer’s friends. Where there’s a rip the waves are either non-existent or much smaller. Easy to paddle through. When it’s big though, rip or no rip, it’s REALLY HARD to get out, such was the case today.
Panaramic pic, albeit not a great one of where I was today. There’s surf to the left and right and straight ahead. Room for everyone. I’d say there’s about 3/4 of a mile of surf to be had.
The sky, the wet sand, and the glistening fish scales on the water offer bedtime memories that keep me alive. When I’m on my death bed, these views will be in my heart along with the sound of the wind buffeting my clothing and the sounds of the waves exploding. Everyone needs something to keep their heart pounding for more life, and these experiences are my lifeblood. Without them, I would die inside.
When I get out past where I’m no longer a victim of attempted homicide by water, I get to rest. I have a self-rule:
DONT TAKE A WAVE TIRED!
I am the sole enforcer of this self-imposed speed limit. When I paddle for a wave not-yet-recovered from the last one, tragedy usually ensues. I slip, I stumble, I crash and burn. Never paddle for a wave until the heart goes back down to...110, 120, etc. Break this rule, and you’ll be really sorry. Other surfers might think I’m being polite:
“Go ahead, dude, it’s your turn- I just got one...”
I’m not that polite nor charitable usually (although I really am when there’s just a few people out there). It’s pure self-preservation that I let perfectly great waves go under me unridden.
When I’ve recovered from any extreme exertion, it’s time to start the hunt. You don’t want to be where everyone else and their brother is- too much competition. I like to see my wave coming and take it, which takes experience, attention to detail, knowledge of wave behavior, and a great deal of luck.
You need to look for a wave that is going to jack up in front of you or close to your right or left. You also need to be in front of where it’s about to tilt forward and flop over, to use land-lubber terms.
I almost always align myself with the four telephone poles on the street next to the parking lot. Usually it’s a great spot. Distance from shore depends upon how big it is. I’ve been out there during some storms in HUGE waves with one or two or no people. Huge wave trains can be seen on the horizon (I’ve always called them “BLACK MUMBAS), and when they get closer, you better paddle out as fast as you can or you’re gonna get CRUSHED. Black mumbas are rage-filled angry demons, spirits of the undead who want your body so they can live again. Not wanting that of course, I always keep my wits about me and I always remember another rule of mine:
NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THE OCEAN.
Assuming you ain’t scanning for preservation of life and limb, it’s time to surf. Surfing is a slowly-acquired sport, learned incrementally one size wave after another. Thresholds are attained and passed repeatedly.
Sizes increase every year. Desire for improvement never stops, ever. It’s a never ending search for bigger and better highs. You find yourself saying “wow, I really CAN surf big waves.” Or, “Wow, I’m pretty good at this.” Cocky statements like that can get you in trouble but they also give one the confidence needed for sports like this. You must know what I’m saying from your own experiences, from whatever sport you have chosen to sustain your life.
When I see a decent wave coming towards me, I look left and right for others who might want it also, and if nobody else is near me or going for it, I grab the tip of my board and swivel around on the tail then look behind me to see when to start paddling.
Usually by then I know if I’m going to the left or right. You can see by these pics that good waves have a peak in the middle and slope off to both sides, lowering down nicely. Shitty bad waves are straight and flat on top and flop over all at once (close-outs). NO BUENO!!!
Im goofy-footed, right foot front, chest facing the wave going left... back facing the wave going right. I like either way, but it’s a superior sensation going left as a goofy footer, fingers on wave face, the whole world in front of you... going really fast.
Assuming I’m in the right spot though, for my chosen wave, I need to be narrowly focused. I check again for other surfers so there aren’t any collisions, then start paddling like hell for speed.
This is where my lifetime as a competitive swimmer kicks in. I was a butterflyer and a freestyle sprinter, and know how to hit the gas. I see a lot of people out there who never had that experience and that’s my edge on them when it comes to competing for a wave. It helps to have a kick ass surfboard also. Check mark in that box too.
My wave lifts the back of the board up feet first then I’m on top of the wave, a literal tipping point.
Slow paddling down, and the wave keeps going without me(DONT stop paddling!). The heavy winds create a salt spray that stings the eyes, and heavy blinking enables me to see barely well enough so I can tell if I’m in the right spot for descent down the face.
Sometimes Im totally blinded, yet put my faith in myself and keep going. In the old days when I did that I just KNEW that I was going to fall, and I always did, that lack of confidence turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy of total failure. Failure gets old eventually, so one time I shouted to myself-
...and slid down the wave totally blind... and made it! I’ve been doing that ever since when blinded by forty-plus mile per hour wind/saltwater spray eye drops paddling for a wave.
Back to my wave- if I've done my job right, I can feel my speed increase and something similar to G-forces affect me and the board. I stop paddling and grab the board for the quick jump up onto the board.
This movement HAS to be done in one smooth hop. Anything other than an instant upright stance results in loss of balance and crashing. Don-wanna-do-dat.
If I am positioned properly on the board, it kinda looks like I am in a crouching pooping stance- feet spread, knees bent to absorb irregularities in the wave face.
AS SOON AS IM UPRIGHT (and I mean immediately), I need to do a sharp, perfectly executed bottom turn so I’m going sideways along the path of the breaking wave instead of heading towards shore.
Assuming all of the above occurs in relative peace, it’s a wave well-chosen, well-paddled for, well-ridden. Enough of those, and I can go home high as a kite with endorphins coursing through my veins- mixed with a little blood.
Hi, my name is
David Benjamin and I started swimming in Chappaqua, NY., swam for Badger swim team, Mercersburg Academy, NC State University, then Westport YMCA masters. I got bored of the ol' back and forth of competitive swimming and the high cost of skiing. Surfing took over and I never looked back.