I've surfed twice in two years, a sad story for someone who surfed monthly for decades. When Covid came, the national guard intercepted out of state motorists to question visit info, and redirect people. Parking lots were closed at some surf spots, and staffing was short at the nursery so I couldn't leave work, so those small roadblocks tossed in front of me added to the small surf, the longish drive, to keep me away.
The nursery got really really busy, and with only half the staff I ended up working seven days a week for two and 3/4 years now.
When you stop getting regular exercise of the fun sort for that long, lethargy feeds on itself. Muscles atrophy, and attention gets redirected away from play and towards work. I found my energy level declined unnoticeably over time, with my body paying a steep price.
So it was with great anticipation that I saw Fiona come a week ago for the coming Friday. I arranged my absence at work, packed the truck with stuff and the dog, and took off knowing that the waves would grow all day despite the stiff winds that were supposed to be NW but ended up coming from the NNNW, almost NE. The wind put a stiff chop on the wave faces, but I cared not- all I wanted was to get abused by mother Nature for as long as I could stand it.
Between my pathetic physical shape and the wind, I decided to boogie board instead of surf. It really is a full-body workout, and with all that gear I got in for about four hours with no more than ten other people at this point break.
On the boogie board, I can take off on waves of any size with absolutely no fear because the price you pay for wiping out is nothing worse than a roughing up by watery hooligans. Eyes closed, breath held, board held on to (for as long as possible), the helpless body tumbles end over end buried by ten feet of violent white water until the buoyancy of the lungs, wetsuit, and board tombstones you back up to the surface. A quick reorientation into the saddle and paddling like hell back out before the next wave tries to repeat all of the above is a recipe for a great day in the water.
Fiona's brutal wind formed perfect waves with barrels as the day went from morning to afternoon, with the waves almost doubling in size. I was in the barrel many times, sometimes with my eyes closed due to the wind firehosing my eyes with stinging salt water. The chop on the wave faces were so great at times that I was launched off the little waves on the wave faces whilst riding the mother wave. I distinctly remember a few waves I was on where me, my ego, and my board unintentionally caught air- like 3' off the wave, landing with great impact back onto the wave. One time, by teeth smashed together so hard, I checked my front teeth to be sure none were broken. On almost every wave, I really had to hold on tightly to the board because of the speed I was going, the sizes of the waves, the wind, the chop... right elbow pushing the board edge into the wave face for stability, and the left arm straight and stiff to steer properly. Humans are not engineered for this sport, and after a while my left elbow started hurting from the repeated impacts, bone on bone- it still hurts.
I ignored that pain because I was having so much fun again for the first time in years.
On the outside at the tip of the point were some really sizeable waves that I'm guessing were about 16-18,' with really good typical hurricane-long rides. Sometimes I would paddle back out after a wave, and would see another coming right at me, and because of the ease-of-use boogie board, all I had to do was spin around and catch that one too.
The full sun glittering off the waves, the puffy clouds, and the pure blue sky made for an unforgettable experience that I hope will repeat when Ian rolls through next weekend.
The other thing worthy of mention was the fact that I saw dozens of Monarch butterflies flying out to sea towards a certain death. I started noticing this decades ago until I realized that these two week old adults knew exactly what they were doing- flying the hypotenuse to New Jersey instead of the longer land route to NYC then down, saving a hundred flight miles or so. These incredible endangered creatures are extremely smart, waiting for the stiff westward winds to blow their seemingly inefficient bodies west. The butterflies I saw flew 8-10' above the waves, arrow-straight towards the southwest. They fly in a jiggly way, not like a soaring eagle, and I always wondered why they fly like that. Maybe it's to make it difficult for a bird to eat them, but maybe there's an aeronautical explanation.