Before I started writing this tonight, I re-read my 1-25-19 description of a great surf session when I had the entire place to myself and three other guys. As I was reading it, my entire being was sucked back to that moment. Not just the surfing experience, but the writing experience also. I was HAPPY.
Im not sure which one brings more satisfaction to my life- seriously. Sure, I surf all I can, and have great memories of doing so. I get to research upcoming events, decide where to go, think about it during work, etc.. After the surfing and picture taking, I get to write about it.
Discarding all that I didn’t learn in school, I rely on vocabulary gleaned almost exclusively from decades of reading the NYT, where one can find the best of the best authors who have ever lived, and proximity to those works of art rubs off, inevitably, on even the worst students.
Months or years after writing my blogs (more aptly considered an online diary), I still get to enjoy this or that particular session. I urge you to find your passion, forget your age, and act like a kid until the undertaker lowers you down into your tomb. To do otherwise is to condem you to a life of decrepit aging. I find that unforgivable, and a waste of a perfectly good long life span.
If you love your passion enough, figure out how you can write about it. Share it with others. But most of all, record it for YOU, for Later. Otherwise, you’ll forget about it, which essentially is the very same thing as it never having happened to begin with.
I looked forward to Dorian the entire summer. What did I do to prepare for it, you ask? Absolutely Nothing! So, it was with great apprehension that I first paddled out after waiting in the parking lot for hours for waves to be good enough.
How long would I last? Too tired too quickly? I have techniques to combat fatigue, but they are only good for so long-if I get too tired then I have to retreat into the truck and go home, wasting a perfectly good hurricane.
There I sat watching the crummy surf build and the clouds darken and the wind buffet the beach erosion-control grasses in front of my truck.
A stranger came to my window and said “if I go in will you go in too?”
I wasn’t rude. We talked for a while then I saw the impatient guy suit up and paddle out. I watched him sit and sit and sit and catch an occasional waist high wave then tumble over sideways and paddle back out for more waiting.
Been there, done that. I figure I’m gonna employ experience every step of the way in this sport... otherwise I will not have learned from all my previous F-ups, and when one gets to be my age, that is an unforgivable crime.
I’ve done that before (improperly analyzing surf events), and I’ll do it again, but not an hour before hurricane waves hit. You gotta be smart, time it right, conserve energy, and have fun. It’s not fun when you surf hurricane waves but can’t really because you blew your load on crappy little worthless swells that aren’t even up to your shoulders.
That dude got a workout, but it sure as hell wasn't worth driving down from wherever he came from to surf poorly for 60 minutes.
An hour after he got in, he got out and went home. I think I got in about an hour after he left, stayed in for four hours until the sun’s descent below the stormy horizon had almost but not quite made it hard to see. I was SORE AS HELL.
One’s relationship with the sea can be equated to interpersonal relationships. You need to know when to get in and when to get out. Timing is everything in life.
If you’re comfortable in either, you can stay in forever, always the ultimate prize.
Yet sometimes, at some point, one can sense trouble brewing. Comfort levels waver, things feel good, things feel bad. When there’s more bad feelings than good ones... turn your life’s board towards the beach, and ride the next one in.
Save yourself for another... or for another swell.
I have discovered that if you stay in for too long in an iffy relationship/surf session, someone’s gonna get hurt, and it’s usually, if not always, gonna be you.
I've also learned another valuable lesson. NEVER go backwards. If you got out once, trust your judgement and stay out. Going backwards is an act of defiance against the previous you, the prior decision making process. Do not doubt yourself. If you got out back then, it must have been for a very good reason, and you gotta stick with your choice once you made it. Keep driving and don't look back. I’ve gone back in before only to get back out for the same reason as the first time.
I paddled out Friday on my short board and as the waves jacked up to decent sizes, so too did the population of surfers. Knowing that Saturday was going to be HUGE, I got out, got dressed, and backed out onto the street and got dinner.
It’s a two hour drive home, so instead I slept in my truck that night on the beach stabbed in the back by the seat belt thingys that ford makes stiff so they’re easy to find. The windows were cracked five inches or so so I could hear Dorian brag about what he did to Alabama all night long in "wave speak." The pickup is big- an f-350 diesel, but even that big truck was rocked and buffeted all night long by tropical force storm winds.
I'm not as good as that asshole tRUMP is at diagnosing, predicting, analyzing, and distributing information about hurricanes, so I can only guess HONESTLY at how strong those winds were- STRONG. The waves bombarding the boulders all night long literally exploded upon impact, and my happy thoughts of surfing the next day in those waves made it hard to sleep.
But eventually I did sleep, and I awoke extremely sore not just from the surf session the night before but also from the three poorly designed seat belt thingys. Took a little (a lot) of moving around to rid myself of the soreness.
Weekend surf is like weekend skiing. No can do. Too many people, so I always avoid the masses and think about where I can go to avoid the crowds. Wind determines that always. I chose the place where the waves would be the very biggest but the winds made it not so smooth and perfect, which keeps crowds away, which turns out to be PERFECT after all!
I saw Greg Levy walk, no, run into the surf. He is the best surfer, I believe, in our state. I got on my wetsuit and got in also, but because the wind was gusting at 30-40 mph, I chose the boogie board and fins. Very easy to catch lots of waves, and catch lots of waves I did. Greg got out at some point and I was out there by myself for hours before anyone else decided that it was appealing.
When the wind died a little, I paddled in to switch from the boogie board which had been EXTREMELY satisfying in not just the sheer volume of waves I caught, but also the sizes of them. They were, as you can tell from the pics, HUGE, and powerful demons that are not exactly on your side when things go wrong which they didn’t that day. I rode them with the attitude of a skilled pro (at least in my head I did), and caught wave after wave after wave with little rest in between. When you have a hurricane swell all to YOURSELF, you gotta take advantage.
But even that gets boring, so I paddled in, ditched the fins and board and pulled out my long board which I rarely use.
Longboards ROCK. They are a fiberglass magic carpet. Beginners, old folks, as well as really great surfers use them a lot. They can be ridden in the tiniest of waves, as well as hurricane swells, but getting out into the takeoff spots are harder- you cannot duck dive under the white water, you gotta go all the way around, or turtle roll when you're about to get crushed. All of that takes a lot of energy out of your body.
Paddling for a wave on a long board takes a little advance notice. You gotta get your speed up first, and it's kinda like getting an oil tanker or a long freight train moving fast- takes a LOT of energy either way, and you must be in shape, or you won't last long.
Looking down a very large wave, the steep face freaks you out sometimes. Fukkin' scary! The brain cells in the back formulate scenarios of destruction and one must overcome those thoughts in order to proceed. Once the commitment has been made and you start sliding down the face, you better be going diagonally, or you're going to be sorry. Crashing with a longboard in big surf is dangerous. It's a big baseball bat, and it HURTS when it hits you, so control, caution, and experience are needed to survive unscathed. Plus, they're expensive, and if your leash breaks and you have to paddle after it and find it bashing on the rocks, fixing the damage can cost as much as the board did when you bought it. My 9' Stewart was $1,300. Each ding costs $80-$200+.
Once up on the board, however, riding the wave, you find a unique experience waiting for you, slower in response than any other board, but really fun at the same time. More stable and comforting esp for the elderly and the beginners.
I have another surfing/relationship similarity.
One day whilst waiting for waves sittin' on my board, I thought back to all the boards that I have ever had. They're all different. They ride differently, look different, feel different, behave differently... no two are the same. Then I realized that it's kind of similar to girlfriends/relationships I've had. Some boards I rode just a few times and decided I didn’t really enjoy, A few were always fun no matter what. Some I lost and really miss. It’s strange where the mind goes at times of ennui.
Up and gone before the birds started singing this am. Nobody on the roads on a moonlit Sunday morning.
Enormous waves from a monster storm giving us waves for the first time in months with less than ideal wind. I care not. I need salt water in my veins again.
I said that “I care not” about the wind, but when I got there, sure enough the wind messed up the waves so I went to a more inland spot where the coast was more wind- friendly (but much much smaller waves). The waves were not formed ideally for surfing but going in there got me out of bed, got salt water in my veins again, gave my heart a workout, and began my shift back to surfing instead of bodyboarding (I had bodyboarded to get in shape for skiing for about six months last late fall/winter- it worked well for skiing hard). Transitioning to surfing from bodyboarding was harder than I thought it would be. It took about forty five minutes to get my surfing mojo jump started, then I was good to go again.
Getting into the water here takes place right there on those rocks in my video. It’s easier to get in than it is to get out. When we get into the water, we strap all the stuff on then try to time it so you jump in inbetween big sets. Sometimes the waves here are ******g enormous (3-4-5 times bigger than today), capable of actually crushing your helpless powerless body against and upon the slippery boulders. Sometimes, I stand there waiting, backing up- waiting, backing up again. Then, I just give up and swim like hell- toss the board away, praying loudly for help from above as I combine trying to dive under incoming waves with swimming as hard as I can to get out past the violence. Only once did Mother Nature deny me. I got out of the surf and succeeded on the second try.
Getting out of the surf to dry land is ten times harder than getting in. It’s an entirely different story because you need to beware of in front of you AND behind you at the same exact time. IMPOSSIBLE! I need to see where I am going as I approach the cranium-crushing boulders, looking out for the above surface ones, and hoping the below surface invisible ones leave me alone. All this is happening as I’m sweeping sideways along the shore at a good clip with unknown incoming waves behind me about to jack me up in the air and toss me shoreward like a bowling ball. I can’t see them as I look forward but I know they are there.
I am essentially powerless against this water as I slowly move towards land, and have only my instincts and my experience to help me. Struggling for control is a beginners mistake. Go down the shore a little you suggest? No- I tried that. It’s just as strong down there as it is here. When it’s really big I don’t even try- I just paddle half an hour westward where there is a jetty (but that’s a battle in itself). Every day is different there.
Sometimes, I’m all set to make my move to get out but I always first turn around to check before I do only to see a wave towering above me about to smoosh me. I’ll toss my board away and try to dive underneath the waves. Most of the time that works but sometimes.....
...well, sometimes it doesn’t! My helpless body is jettisoned towards the rocks head or feet first on a salt-watery-cushioned magic carpet. I always manage to channel my panic into swiveling my body around to a feet first approach and try to choose the path of least resistance like the pilot of a small plane whose engine died looking for a place to land before he crashes into a place where he doesn’t want to land.
At first it’s ok but as I get closer the cushion shrinks then disappears and all that’s left is me, my board, my momentum, and the rocks. Scary as hell!!! Not to mention the scary FACT that right behind me is an unknown number of waves just as big or bigger. I just try to survive one wave at a time.
I usually have about ten seconds to slow down, grab the board, stand up somehow, then brace myself against the pounding that is sure to follow by the next wave. And the next. And the...
Its not fun, to say the least. My biggest fear is to place my feet down inbetween the rocks in thigh deep water then get shoved REALLY HARD by the next wave before my feet are pulled up and out of the rocks. If I can’t get them up and out, I’m always afraid that my leg bones will snap like stepped-on twigs.
If that were to happen, then it’s curtains for me because there is really no way that anyone can come to your aid.
I liken this experience to a video clip I saw recently of an idiot who was taunting a crocodile with a chicken that was tied to a stick with a string. This fool was dangling the chicken above the croc’s head when the croc surged towards the chicken (NEVER underestimate Mother Nature). The idiot scrambled backwards really really fast as if his life depended on it (it did), and slipped in the lakeside mud and fell as the croc scrambled towards the chicken. Every time the dude tried to stand up he fell again as the croc got closer and closer. The video ends before the viewer gets to see him get caught in the crocodile roll as arms and legs are dismembered and the croc gets a dinner better than chicken. That’s a great analogy for the scrambling I do when I’m trying to get out of the violent efforts of the waves to eat me (that croc feeder was a total ass- Darwinism at work, but who knows... maybe people will think that of me if I ever meet my untimely demise on those rocks).
I often realize how lucky I’ve been surfing here, and hope my luck hops into the water with me each time I get in to surf at this spot which has a verboten name.
Having said all this, I’m still good with surfing here. I like the salt, the thrill, the exercise, the endorphins. I’ve never played golf, seems way too boring, even though I know millions play it.
Yet I want my heart to beat over 120 for hours at a time. I want to feel the endorphins coursing through my veins for hours afterwards. I like the feel of shredded muscles for a week afterwards. I figure that I’ll transition to safer sports when my mind and body can no longer tolerate risk which I hope never happens.
Like my little story? I did. I like writing about this stuff because I get a functional reason to remember the times I’ve had surfing here and there. When I get the energy I’ll write about actually surfing at this spot- where I like to sit and why. What it looks like when “BLACK MUMBAS” are rolling towards us. What it feels like to paddle against other surfers going for the same wave, what it feels like trying to stand up on a tiny surfboard going 20 mph straight downhill with boulders not too far away, then bottom-turning to the right to continue to ride the wave, and the eventual dismount (intentional or not).
Not so fun to read stuff like this! Going into the ocean has its drawbacks. You can get killed if you are not smart/in shape/aware/experienced. I’ve been to half moon bay and would choose my days there VERY carefully. Going into the water anywhere in the world might just be the last thing you ever willingly do in life, so you gotta be smart! Everyone should know that. So sad to read about this promising young man’s death. Today’s paper:
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.