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.
Unusual-for-me late morning trip (9am) to surf. I usually leave at three or four am but the conditions dictated otherwise today. Who wants to sit in a parking lot waiting and waiting and waiting?
Wickedly underestimated storm caused power outages, train cancellations, and enormous waves with powerful winds. As you can see from this graph- that was an enormous storm that kicked up decent waves.
Conditions were good but everyone and their brother was at the best spot. You can see the crowd through the spray. This is a sheltered spot, yet look at what the wind does to these waves.
This place had smaller yet great waves but too many people jostling for position- a game I do not like. Most people are decent but then there are the testosterone-laden punks who sometimes create agita- who needs it. This is possibly one of the best spots on the east coast to surf. I’ve seen barrels big enough to drive trucks through. When it’s big, it’s SCARY. Lots to lose if you screw up here.
Global warming erosion gets worse and worse after each storm. Asshole tRUMP needs to address this in a serious manner. Do not hold your breath for that to happen, he is so CORRUPT.
This is a place where I used to climb back up after getting washed away during big storms. I’d climb back up through the weeds but the weeds have long since vanished.
This this is virgin soil and hasn’t seen the light of day since the glaciers dropped this sediment out of the ice 20,000 years ago. Geologists can firm up that guesstimate.
Looking over to my right was this wave. NOBODY surfing out there. The waves were 3X+bigger than spot number one but the currents four times worse and the wind ten times stronger. It’s a point break.
These waves are called A-frames. One can go to the left or to the right of the lip. Room for two surfers per wave. I don’t mind the huge waves, strong currents, nor the strong wind if it means that I can surf with just a few people, or alone. Conventional wisdom dictates “never surf alone”, but I do it A LOT.
NOW THIS is what I call a good swell, no wonder the oceans are eating up the land. The storms are POWERFUL now- not just the hurricanes. I sat there for a while thinking about nothing, watching, wondering why nobody else was in the water here surfing, and I kinda figured that I'll never know the answer to that.
I see waves like this, and I do not hesitate to get in. Most other surfers like better conditions and do not mind the crowds, whilst I do not like the crowds, and would rather surf in less than ideal conditions if it means that I do not have to fight for every wave. Some day I will opine on the type of human interaction that sometimes occurs whilst fighting for waves.
I got in feeling a bit apprehensive due to the "do not surf alone" mantra, but once I started paddling, I got more comfortable with myself and my best friend, mother nature.
I have another rule- you gotta surf for at least the same period of time as it takes to drive there and back- almost four hours. It's just kind of a habit of mine that I usually am able to keep up with unless the water is 38f. Then it's really hard sometimes to follow through on that self-imposed obligation.
I sat there waveless for half an hour or so, just not in the right spot. THEN, all hell broke loose. I found my good karma, and took wave after wave after wave. Some others started getting in and things got a LOT more settled. Then it seemed that EVERYONE from the other spots got in with me, and the crowds I detest joined me.
It is unlike me to end a good surf session without a song stuck in my cranium, and this was the one that my subconscious self pulled out of thin air.
Great unknownish band with good tunes. Ok, so the lyrics are a tad shallow but the tune sometimes gets stuck in ones head and stays for a while.
Desperation drives the truck to rake in the remnants from a huge storm. Absolutely nobody on I-95 at four am on a Sunday morning. Hopefully all the drunks are passed out behind dumpsters so I arrive alive.
Exciting arrival at my favorite surf spot. Tons of fishing boats speeding to and fro, bro. Their lights lit so I can track their progress.
Car lights illuminate that which needs no illumination. Morning scene is unforgettable. I told my son tonight that these views will be forefront on my mind when I am gasping my last breaths before my one way trip through the pearly gates.
The sun crept up ever so slowly for all of us as I watched the anemic pathetic waves crawl slowly but noisily towards shore. Looks like a wasted trip to me!
Driving to another break revealed the conclusion that the waves SUCKED but I was not unhappy! Views like this keep one’s soul alive and the heart beating. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world except.......
Back to my original spot where I actually suited up and got in the water. Waves STILL sucked but I was happy being in the water. I got a chance to speak with Henry (one of the top five surfers around) who said that this past storm created the biggest waves that he had ever seen at our spot Thursday and Friday. Look below to see the sizes in the following blog entry.
I left the house around four am and got there before the sun. Lots of people staring at but not getting into the water. I had just driven for a long time with the plan of getting in right away then going to work, and had no intention of lazing around in the parking lot waiting for everything to be “just right,” less wind, smaller cleaner waves...so I said “FUCK IT” and suited up and walked past the onlookers and sat on the shore for a few minutes. What I saw when I looked at the waves was a battle ahead of me- total warfare. Survival would depend upon knowledge and skill. Ok, so I exaggerate but makes for better storytelling.
Dawn patrol is awesome. Less cars on the road, less surfers in the water, more waves and more fun in general. I like getting in first, makes for a great start to any day. There’s a price to pay though, around five or six that night- “why am I so tired—- OHHH YEAH, I surfed this morning, that’s why!”
I sat on the shore and the three footers smashed themselves upon the rocks just feet away from me as I contemplated where I was going to surf and how I was going to get out there. The conditions were not ideal- lots of close outs (when the huge waves flop forward all at once- unsurfable) but every now and then there were HUGE well-formed perfect waves with giant barrels that makes for a great session. The wind seemed like hurricane force which was great because that condition keeps fair weather surfers out of the water- leaving the place to me and a few others.
As I sat there on the wet rocks buffeted by the fifty mile an hour winds I wondered how the hell I was going to get out there. The day before I had been “denied,” a rare event for me (incoming waves prevented me from getting out to surf). I just went west half a mile or so, found a rip that made it easier to penetrate the incoming waves so I could go to my spot, then had to paddle back over to where I love to sit waiting for waves.
The strong winds were getting me cold so I just said “fuck it” again and hopped in. I paddled straight out but got swept west in one of the strongest sideways rip currents I’ve ever been in. As hard as I tried I couldn’t get out through the breakers, so I just literally “went with the flow” and paddled over towards where I knew they were not breaking anymore so I could start heading out to sea.
I know this place like the back of my hand. I knew I was going sideways really fast, I could tell by the kinds of waves that were in front of me. First the big right, then the bowl (not a place you want to get stuck in front of because you sometimes can't get out), then the BIG left that goes on and on and on forever. When I got to the side of the big left break I turned around to ascertain my position in front of the land and saw that I was a few tenths of a mile past the restaurant- NOT a good place to be with an unknown future for anyone getting swept away from there. Didn't feel good about this development.
I wouldn't be stretching the truth to say that I was scared. You would be too if you were there. The incoming waves towered above my head and imploded upon themselves with thunderous explosions right next to me. I did not want to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I paddled with a worried look on my face. I was alone, and it was not even seven am yet- nobody was out watching the waves. If something happened to me- tough shit, I was on my own, that's what you get for disrespecting mother nature.
I had to paddle way way way out to get past the huge swells- didn't want to get caught by surprise by some humongous set then get pushed back towards shore and have to start all over again. I paddled for a VERY long time back towards my starting point. I saw another guy waiting for waves ahead of me and felt a great deal of relief knowing that I wasn't alone anymore. As I got closer, I saw that he had not one care in the world about me. Closer and closer I got..... then I realized that this is one of those guys with either such intense focus he had no time for interpersonal interaction, or such minimal personal skills that he just did not have any interest in the comfort another person brings to this type of event. WHATEVER, I paddled past him without waving, shouting hello, or anything of the sort. Paddled past him uncomfortably realizing that my own focus had shifted from fear to comfort. When one no longer worries about survival and instead thinks about people stuff, you know you are going to be ok.
Once I had paddled past the silent guy I was closer to where I like to sit waiting for waves. I saw a guy paddling out who I had surfed with there the day before and I was very much relieved. We hung out there for a long time, basically had the entire surf spot to ourselves. After a few waves, I got REALLY cocky and paddled over to where everyone sits all the time- where the break is the very best and biggest. I sat there for a few hours taking any wave I wanted to.
The wind was right up there with the strongest wind that I have ever surfed in, and the waves were incredibly strong. I got rolled over the falls and abused repeatedly. I got destroyed on multiple occasions, and once was rolled and tossed about and held under for a long time until my body was shoved onto the rocky bottom for the first time ever in my life. It didn't hurt, but sure was a wake up call. You can get hurt doing this!
After I touched down on the rocks, I had to pull myself up back to the surface using the leash attached to my board. I felt strange doing this- I had heard about having to resurface using the leash before, but only in Hawaii- Waimea bay and the like, but have never had to do it myself. Sobering experience, especially when your breath has almost run out. Because I had been shoved shorewards and held under for so long, I was on the inside, so I had to paddle all the way over then back out then back to my takeoff spot which took, I dunno, twenty minutes...not fun, but all that is part of the deal. When you eat dinner, you gotta clean up after yourself; the good always comes with a little bad. That's all part of the deal, and if you don't like it, find some other sport.
My surf session ended early, unfortunately, when my leash broke. I actually do not remember how it happened but I was on a wave and when it decided to destroy me, it also decided to separate me from my board by snapping my leash. HOLY SHIT!!! I swam like hell after that board and had it in my hands just as another wave landed on top of both of us and took the board away. I swam like hell again and caught up to it before we got separated again. I lay on top of it and rode that thing all the way back to the beach where I got out after hours of exerting 100% and worrying during the entire experience. It's saturday now, and as I type this I realize that my body is still really sore, and has not yet converted from sore muscles to the endorphin high that for me lasts about a week after intense physical efforts like the past two days.
What a lucky guy I am for being able to navigate in big water like this. I again tip my hat to the world-class competitive swimming experiences that I had in my life that enable me to do this sport, and to walk past onlookers standing on the beach as I am getting into the water (although looking back at the beginning of this little story I wasn't so sure of my abilities the entire time).
I got back to the truck and fidgeted with my equipment, got dry boots on and was prepared to go back out when I realized that I also have a job that needs my attention. I got dressed into street clothes and backed out of my parking spot feeling like a million bucks!!!
14-18’ surf coming this week- that’s what models say anyway. Believe it when you see it
These predictions change each minute... downgraded a bit since last night.
You absolutely cannot better Friday’s surf conditions- full sun, temps in the seventies, clear skies, light westerly breeze for organizing the waves, and six feet at twelve seconds. PLUS, it was a weekday with few people.
Huge waves came in at thirty minute intervals, normally big waves every twenty minutes, and average sets every ten. The power of hurricane waves from an unseen storm that got no press attention was striking.
I hopped in with my shortboard quad. It was THE PERFECT board for this day, performing sharp bottom turns, lefts and rights on steep wave faces propelling me quickly down the line for never ending rides on uncrowded waves. I shared the day with one or two other people- nice, because I shouted “go ahead, take this one” to the guy I was sitting next to. “THANKS!!!”
Its unusual to be polite in hurricane waves. Usually, it’s a cat fight to see who gets to ride each wave.
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.