Tuesday, February 09, 2010

It was a day of firsts, my first wave of the day, at a new break on my new board, in waves that were twice over head…and the first time I’ve been fully encased in the tube formed by a breaking wave. All around me, except directly in front there was breaking water. At Monaco a couple of years ago, I heard a race car driver describe how in critical situations everything seems like it was in slow motion, now I understood what he meant. Though it was only a few seconds, I could touch the wave and feel the water pass through my fingers, watch a piece of seaweed rush by caught in the vortex and then it was time to come out, shifting my weight forward the board shot out like a watermelon seed. Skating down the face of the wave that was twice my height, I got past the breaking lip and back up to the shoulder and skated down again and this time out over the top, my ride over.

I was completely pumped, Anne Marie was right; we did need to take a couple of days off and surf. As I paddled back out to the line up, a surfer flashed past carving a big S on the face of a wave over three meters tall, I barely cleared it as it broke and I looked over my shoulder to the rider paddling back out we caught each other’s eye and grinned like fools. AM, knew I need to get away and leave my thoughts behind, work wasn’t enough, and I needed to do something physical.

In things athletic, there is a competition between us. As hard as I may try, I’ll never be a better skier than she is, having started at three, the skis are mere extensions of her feet. While in running, whether a sprint or a marathon, I’ll leave so far behind it’s as if she were walking. It is surfing where we’re even; we started at the same time and have surfed the same breaks. In a sport that favors those with balance and quickness, we both are blessed with them.

We arrived during the late afternoon on Friday, as low tide approached and heard the excited talk of the waves earlier in the day and the forecast for the morrow. A couple of locals pointed out the rocks to us, where to get in trouble and where to avoid it. The next morning we stood waist deep in the water and looked at each other and out to the surf. The thought crossed my mind that we were nuts to go out in this, but if she was, I was and she probably had the same thoughts and with a last look we paddled out.

When the surf is large catching waves is difficult. Some will be too close to breaking and others moving too swiftly catch, so it was about forty-five minutes before I caught my next wave, it was a mistake. As I caught it, I looked ahead and saw that it had become a wall that was about to collapse. Then I made my second mistake, rather than simply diving into it and letting the wave pass over me I tried to go out over the top and as I neared the top it broke, taking me with it. Now I know how clothes in a washing machine feel. As the water flung me around I felt a hard jerk on my leg and then it was free, the leash that tethered the board to my ankle broke.

When I began to feel that I couldn’t hold my breath any longer I finally broke through to the surface. I sputtered trying to catch my breath while treading water and as my awareness of where I was returned, I realized I was caught in the rip tide and was being pulled away from the shore. I panicked for a second, but realized that I knew what to do and began swimming parallel to the shore and as if stepping across the yellow line on the highway I went from being drawn out to sea, to being pushed toward the beach.

Finally I could feel a solid surface under my feet and moved up toward the beach. I sat down to rest and catch my breath. Looking to my right, there was a guy jogging toward me carrying two surfboards. It took a second to recognize one was mine. He spoke to me in English, a Brit, I thought at first, but later learned he was an Australian, asking if I was OK. I told him I was and reached for my board, intending to return to the water. He suggested I not and rest, then showed me the hole in the board’s edge from a rock. The adrenalin was draining from my body and I felt fatigued, yes staying ashore was best.

From the top of a rock, I looked for AM. Our wetsuits have lots of pink on them, which helps us spot the other. I waved until she waved back and took my board and headed to Buster (a story for another post), Wags heard me coming and jumped up from his nap on the seat, tail wagging. After tying him out, I started the heater and got out of the wetsuit, changed and made some tea. As I sipped it, Wags on my lap, I began to contemplate how close I was to drowning. It made me shudder.

About an hour later AM returned saying that the surf was getting too large and dangerous. A while later the Aussie came by with a friend and the material to repair my board, which he volunteered to do. Tomorrow would be another day.



Blogger Gillette said...

Ooohlalala...I'm envious as I'm so not a surfer cuz I find that sort of thing way too scary.

Thanks for the vicarious, safe experience. Sounded exquisite.

3:01 AM  
Anonymous VJ said...

Nice description, and good fortune too. But... Buster?! Geez talk about a bad penny. In any case, I was thinking you needed to get away myself, and was glad to see that you took AM suggestion. Does a body good, no doubt. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

11:19 AM  

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