surf sessions #23, #24

(Nearly June and only 24 surfs? Where are my priorities?)

#23: Sunday night, Camel. The high low tide barely reveals Wash Rock, not a good sign. But even with the sloppy, short-interval wind swell, a few longboarders have keyed into a peak – “peak” being a bit strong for what this aforementioned sloppy, short interval wind swell shapes into, implying as it does a defined, consistent and promising shape; what lies below the lookout is more haphazard, swells that occasionally crumble over in such a way as to resemble rideable waves.

Sun’s out. No wind. Nick, his buddy and I find a fine time awaits. No one would ever look at this session and think, “Wow, that looks awesome” – I would never claim it was anything more than serviceable fun – but some paddling, a little saltwater, glorious scenery, an occasional slide down the face of a wave? Still beats not surfing. 

Only drawbacks: the north winds have knocked the water temp back down to 48 or so, highlighting the splits between my wetsuit seams and I think my fingers are going arthritic without gloves; the rights send us right into the Boneyards every time. I vacillate between surfer mode and mom brain. Once you’re in the rocks, holes and currents make escaping without banging a board or a knee a challenge.

#24: Monday morning, Jetty. The waist-high sets at Camel arrive overhead-and-then-some here. We arrive early, but a squadron of surfers, lured by the deep minus tide and national holiday, has already claimed the break. Sand lies exposed clear to marker 60. The sets crash right through the channel and into the jetty wall. Shortboarders and longboarders pick off the lefts with equal skill and grace, step off their boards into ankle-deep water. My shoulders ache from recent workouts at the gym and last night’s surf. The lack of smooth passage out dismays me. My suit feels somewhere between damp and soaked. The air and water both measure in the 40s. I should be stoked – and every pretty left does inspire – but very little about the scene compels me to squeeze into wet, cold neoprene and play Mama Duck in the morning ocean.

The boys are already half-suited up. I sigh, struggle into my suit – rather like easing oneself into a chilly pool or river, only less comfortable – and warn Nick and his friend that I’m not totally feeling it, that the channel is a mess, that a lot of current awaits due to the minus tide, that they need to be extra careful to stay out of the way, that if they get caught inside they should just come in and go around rather than waste all that energy fighting to get through the impact zone, that the water’s shallow so be careful when wiping out or otherwise exiting a wave. To paddle parallel if caught in a current. They know. They’ll be fine. They just want a couple of those inside lefts.

We paddle out. We practically walk out, the tide’s so low. Nick’s friend has raced on ahead, placed himself in position on the inside. As Nick and I paddle past the dolosse, the set of the day arrives. Double-over and damaging. Did I mention, based on the smallness of the night before, I’d brought only the longboard for myself? Managing a longboard in anything bigger than shoulder-high frustrates me. It’s so big, so much to deal with, so likely to yank me to shore when caught inside despite efforts to either turtle roll or shove the board over the breaking crest. In short, I get worked. I bust back up from the icy depths in time to see Nick still in the corner, safe and giving me a thumbs up before the next wave hits. And the next. At least I can stand up by the time it’s all over – but now Nick’s outside and I’m inside and his friend is way over on the side and I am freezing and just done with this whole thing. Happily, without trouble, both boys make it in, even catching pieces of waves along the way.

“Wow, that was quite a set right when you paddled out,” another surfer observed when he arrived at his truck a few minutes after us. “Nothing like it before and nothing like it since.” At least it wasn’t just me being paranoid, I think. I wish I could always be all cool and at peace and dialed in, but sometimes trying to balance responsibility and risk leaves me too tense for fun. Oh, well. At least they got another paddle out.

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