"One Fast Move or I'm Gone."

It wasn't a good idea, paddling out. The buoy was reading 27 feet. The swell was pushing from the northwest. A gail warning was in effect. But it didn't look that bad. Big, but surfable. So we suited up. The horizon was difficult to define. Sky and sea blending together before us. A lull allowed us to get outside without much trouble. The first wave was fun. An overhead left that didn't last long. And then, pushing it's way in from somewhere out at sea, came a change, an increase in both size and shape.

The next few sets were well overhead. Growing exponentially. We paddled further out, cresting the top of these big blue bastards. The current was moving us further away from where we'd begun. Down the beach, towards an outcropping of rocks, jagged shapes eagerly awaiting our arrival.

Karissa was worried. It seemed like they wouldn't let up, not anytime soon. She decided to head in, leaving Derek and myself to fend for ourselves. Into the soup she swam. First one swallowed her whole. Saw her single fin Stewart shoot into the air. And then another wave. I wasn't sure what happened. She was caught on the inside. I could see that she was struggling. Trying desperately to swim to shore. Somehow she made it.

Derek decided to paddle further out. Perhaps he could catch one on the outside, ride it in. I stayed a little closer to shore, paddling east at every opportunity. I went for a few waves. Too early. I needed to be further in, to enter late, drop down with my nose up, a quick bottom turn, faster, faster, across the face. But that didn't happen. I tried. But I failed.

After an hour, Derek decided to have a go at getting in. He waited, paddling for whatever came his way. Somehow he managed to make it to shore without incident. Now it was my turn. I could see the swells rolling through the strait. Building. Big, tall bastards. I wanted one more. One big one. But I brought a knife to a gun fight. I needed a smaller surfboard. Something that could survive the late entry, that steep blue face. The Bing was a bad choice. That didn't stop me from trying, though.

The first one I went for, a thick, heavyset sonofabitch, pushed past. I tried for another. Then another. Stupid. In my feeble attempts to have one more wave, I'd paddled inside. One fast move or I'm gone. Better not fuck this up. Next wave was huge. At least that's how it looked from where I was. It pulled me up it's face, pointing me and the Bing down toward some shallow, sandy grave.

I managed to make it to my feet. Not sure what happened next. Felt like forever. When I finally emerged from the washing machine, gasping for air, wondering where the hell my board went, I realized I was just a hundred feet from the beach. Good thing. As tired as I was, I'm not sure I would have survived much more of that. Karissa and Derek were waiting for me. I could see she didn't like all that big shit. Derek and I discussed the value of risking one's life. The fear and the feelings of relief. Good times.

Photo courtesy of Justin Martin.


Justin M. said...

Nice write-up on the conditions on Saturday. I tried both my 5'11" shortboard and my 7'6" funboard. Not much luck on either one. It was a mess of big swell and energy and currents and rips out there.

Anonymous said...

I love reading about waves and surf. And I too love the ups and downs of PNW surf. It's inspiring and get's me super fired up. I do worry though about all the photos and posts tagged "WA". I think that the constant photos and recognition will have an effect on the breaks we know and love. More exposure to these areas (many of which are on private or reservation lands) could easily get taken away from us. I too love to write about surf, and share with friends...but I keep careful not to spell them out to the masses. I hope you'll consider all of the people who live in these areas and whose lives will be greatly affected by growth to their backyards. It effects you too. Imagine not being able to photograph, or even surf these spots anymore.

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