you may get wet

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Old enough to know better. Young enough to do it anyways.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Santa Cruzin'

Over the past two weekends I've been making my way up and down the coast like a traveling salesman. Fortunately, the only thing I've been pitching is myself over the lip of many a frothing wave. I even managed to ride a few of them - imagine that.

After heading south to Baja, this weekend I aimed the car north to Santa Cruz. Surf City, U.S.A. was in full effect. I drove over to Rockview with a friend and got a veritable history lesson on the many breaks that peel off the point. I lost track after "Pingers" and "Suicides." No matter what you called it, every inch of rideable face was inhabited by rubber-suited rippers. It's becoming a reoccurring theme in my California surf experience - if you wanna surf you gotta get used to the company.

It's not that I dislike people, it's just that there seems to be a correlation between the number of people in the water and my surfing ability. As one goes up, the other goes down. Trying to keep the latter up, I headed to Carmel. Unfortunately, the rich opulence on land wasn't mirrored in the water. A hard NW wind tore through the break and sent spinning sand storms across the beach. Of course, it was fine white sand imported from Hawaii, so it didn't sting quite as bad.

I paddled out into the crossed-up waters and waited just north of three other guys. The first set that came through jacked up quickly with an ugly ledge in the middle of the face. I motored toward it and as I plunged the nose of my board under and ducked, I felt the full force of the wave shudder through me. On the next set I again felt the full force of the wave, but this time is was detonating on top of my head. I paddled into what looked like a rideable section, but just after reaching my feet the entire wall shut down on top of me. I hit the bottom hard enough to think I was back in Oregon. After another half-hour of the same, I managed a couple of straight drops with no chance of making the closed-out section. Then the winds went from humming to howling, and the whole bay was whipped into a frothing latte.

The next day, I again went looking for solitude. Driving north, I pulled over into a dirt parking lot a little before Bonny Dune. I realized I'd forgotten my towel, and even though the beach is noted for an occasional nudist, I didn't feel like flashing my tackle box in front of any salty sea dogs. I tied my sweat shirt around my waist and squirmed into my suit. I then walked a quarter-mile into the spot to find it completely empty. Paradoxically, I don't like surfing with crowds, but I don't like surfing alone, especially at a remote break I hardly know, and especially when I can see something lurching in the water just past the break.

I sat and stared at it for 15 minutes. It was big. 8-9 foot faces pitched on the outside at the point and steamrolled all the way to the inside. Not to mention the tide was way out, exposing a rocky reef. My short two hour window of surf time was quickly closing. I thought of running back to town and nutting up to surf with the crowds. I turned to leave, and what do you know, ambling down the path comes a guy with board under arm and backpack slung over his shoulder.

"Do you know this place pretty well?"

"Yeah, I surf here all the time. You can paddle out through the middle channel, or you can walk the rocks to the point and jump in."

He walked the rocks; I tiptoed to the edge of the reef and launched myself into the channel. His way was quicker, and as I neared the outside he swung into the belly of the beast and shot past me, carving down the line. The paddle through the channel was long and strenuous. I sat on the outside to recover, but before I could catch my breath another set was upon me. I turned, paddled, peaked to the top and then slid down the back. The waves were monsters, but they were a little round at take-off.

"You almost had that one! There kind of hard to get into, but then they jack up on the inside."

"Yeah, I gotta commit more."

The next set came chugging in. I turned, paddled hard, peaked to the top and this time slid into the wave. A massive green wall swung into focus to my right. I popped to my feet, looked down the line and went to turn, only to realize my feet were way back on the board. As I bobbed down the face, I leaped with both feet to readjust them. Landing in the middle of my board, I shot forward down the wave's face. But my momentum was too much. I lurched even farther forward, lost my balance and was thrown into the meat grinder. I couldn't believe it. A perfect wave. I was in, and I blew the pop-up.

As low as I felt at that moment, it was actually the high point of the day. I lost my nerve a little after blowing the take-off, and then a couple other guys showed up. I backed off a couple of lips I really should have gone for, and then my day officially ended when a large set materialized on the horizon like an invading army. I scratched feverishly to the outside, but someone had called for a clean up on aisle G, and there was nothing I could do about it. I dove as deep as possible, but the avalanche of whitewater ripped through me, tearing my board from my arms like a lollipop from a little babe. I twisted, contorted and kart wheeled for a dark eternity. Popping up in time to relocate my board, pull it to me, belly up and get pummeled once again.

My surf window was emphatically slammed shut. I paddled back in with my tail between my legs, but happy that I at least paddled out. If it didn't kill me, all it could do was make me a better surfer.

I drove back to Santa Cruz, picked up my girlfriend and headed south on the 101. The next five hours were spent wondering, dreaming, replaying what could have been had I made that drop.


Blogger Slim said...

Empty? Damn, town musta been crackin' too. Next time you won't hesitate to hit it solo.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Foul Pete said...

'Clean up on aisle G.' Classic. Even though you were denied, i bet you consumed a wealth of surf knowledge that you will be able to put to use when it counts...

2:10 PM  
Blogger Nash said...

G-sus that sounds rad! Keep up the recon homey. I expect to be ushered from break to break when I come to visit. Is the picture from that day, that spot?

2:37 PM  
Blogger Nash said...

Hey one other thing. Be careful about throwing around important phrases such as "surf city." You might find yourself on the other end of a nasty lawsuit. Of course that might be a good reason for me to visit.

2:43 PM  
Blogger G said...

Every place was crackin'. And now I'll know for next time.

The pic is from another day, but same spot and same size. Head down anytime and you'll get the grand tour. Not sure if they'll take kindly to your North Pacific.

I meant to say Surf Shitty, not Surf City.

10:34 AM  
Blogger pushingtide said...

OH man. Good time to comb the coast.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Chum said...

I just can see the spot now. Watch for the kelp speedbumps! Were you on the fishy?

2:16 PM  
Blogger OS said...

Welcome to my world brother. You'll get 'em next time. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


3:34 PM  
Blogger OS said...

Welcome to my world brother. You'll get 'em next time. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


3:34 PM  
Blogger G said...

On the fishy fishy. Felt a little out-gunned dropping in on the little guy. But no kelp to contend with. Hopefully, we'll all get it together next time.

6:03 PM  

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