This morning I woke up earlier than usual and I had a decision to make. I knew the waves were not going to be great, but I wanted to get out there. I could shoot up to Lowers and get in the water after sunrise OR I could surf Black's for the first time in at least two years. I opted for the latter and turned south out of my driveway.
Why? The bathymetry at Black's is unique in that it has a deep submarine canyon which tends to funnel in swell. As the continental shelf is felt out by the waves, they slow down. At Black's they are fast-tracked (picture the horizontal people movers you tend to see at airports) and thus dump that much harder when they meet their fate.
With the swell giving its last gasp, I knew it was my only chance to have a decent session.
It'd been a while since I'd surfed there and there was a lot of fog as I pulled off onto the street where all the UCSD students park. I made it to the end and racked my brain as to where the parking lot was. Remember, it was EXTREMELY foggy and I couldn't see more than ten feet in front of me. I turned slightly left and dead-ended at a parallel-parked RV. I parked, got out and looked around. This didn't look familiar, did they move the lot? I got back in the car and headed toward the dead lot entrance/exit and turned hard left. I was driving for about a minute when I thought that the lot to Black's wasn't this far away from the street.
That's when I realized that I was headed towards THE GAY LOT! My buddy Forrest once took me there (no, not in that way) after checking the surf at Black's and didn't tell me what it was. When we got to the end of that road, there were a bunch of cars backed in (no pun intended) with guys sitting in driver's seat looking straight ahead while wearing sunglasses. I asked him what the significance of this was and he told me it was the gay lot.
Just as I turned around, I noticed a car following me which slowed way down as it passed me. I didn't get a look at the driver but I can't blame him for thinking I was a prospect in my cherry red RAV4. I kept driving and parked out on the street, waiting for the sun to come up so I could see where I'd gone wrong.
Finally, I tried it again from the top. This time I pulled hard left from the get-go and was there in twenty seconds. The lot looked like the Black's lot, so I got my stuff on and started down the cliff. There was no sense in checking it with the fog this thick.
I knew it was going to be small, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see as I made my way through the sand to the canyons. I could barely see through the fog as it was slowly lifting and what I could see was not promising. Little dribblers with no push...
I trudged on, consoling myself that this was La Jolla beachbreak, not classic Black's. Once you make it down the sheer cliff, the walk to the peaks is about fifteen minutes. North Peak looked bad. Since I couldn't see South Peak and North Peak looked bad, then South Peak had to be better, right? Well, with that logic, I paddled out and hoped to make the long walk up and down the cliff worth it.
I noticed there were TWO kneeboarders out. I'd never seen a 'pack' of them. Record One broken!
I caught a quick wave that was a little affected by the slight onshore wind. I caught it and pumped, but couldn't make it around the always-just-in-front-of-me section.
The next wave I caught was a doozy. It was about shoulder-high, steep and looked pitchy, so as soon as I took off I angled hard to the north and watched as it barreled over me. I drove through it, the lip hit me, and I drove a little farther. The lip hit me again but this time I couldn't hold my line and I fell.
After that wave I noticed how mellow the crowd was. Black's is a high performance wave and is known to have some aggros, but today I think I was the most aggressive guy out there. People just seemed to pick a spot, stick to it, and catch the crappy waves without looking around or burning calories to get some nugs.
I paddled a bit south of where I caught my wave and was rewarded within fifteen minutes with the wave of the day. I was a little late for it, so as soon as I'd picked my paddling line, I quit paddling and let the wave catch up to me, not wanting to take off too critically on it. As I popped up, I looked at the wave and realized it was a screamer.
As soon as I got to my feet, I immediately pumped up, then down HARD. I took another few pumps, more vertical and efficient than I ever remember doing. I was moving faster on a wave that size than I ever have. The oncoming section neared. I knew I was too fast for a reo (since I can't seem to consistently make those) but I pumped halfway down the face, then up towards the lip, stomped on my tail and sucked my front knee up towards my chest, followed soon thereafter by my back knee. I was airborne, but my board became detached from my feet and started fluttering, as if I was doing a double kickflip. Had I had the foresight, the power of slow motion and was a little less horizontal, I could've grabbed the board stuck it under my feet and pulled surfing's first-ever double kickflip.
I didn't have any of these so I lamely stuck my arms out to keep the board from hitting me in the face. One of the rails hit me in the arm brusquely, but it didn't hurt for long.
On my way back out to my take-off spot, I got not one, but TWO compliments on the wave from strangers. This probably matches my stranger compliment count for my career, therby doubling it. The first guy said, "Nice wave, man!" and the second guy said "Wow, that one really lined up!". Yes, the second is more of a testament to the wave than the rider, but I'll take it as compliment on the wave nonetheless...! Record Two broken.
I caught a small right and I tried pumping to gain speed but couldn't get anything going.
I caught a small left where I really had to crouch down. I got covered up, but when the lip hit me I wrenched my bad knee (right) a bit.
I paddled back out and nothing came. I decided to bail.
On my way back up, I took the goat trail. If you've never walked down to Black's there are three access points. Two are by the gliderport on the south side, while another lets off just south of South Peak. There is an easy but time-consuming one which is the one I normally take down.
The goat trail is a pretty hairy walk, with sheer drops that will at least maim you if you slip. Because this part of the trail is not sanctioned by the State Park system, there is absolutely no upkeep done, so the trail changes constantly.
There is one point in the trail where there the trail is missing a couple of feet, and the cliff outcropping is slippery sandy rock that juts over the gap at about shoulder level. Combine this scenario with my barefootedness, carrying my surfboard and you have one gnarled-out EddieP.
I looked at it and thought, "No way, I'm turning back." This feeling lasted about five seconds and I looked down and thought if I fell, I may break a limb, but I wouldn't die. I put my hand on the slippery cliff that impeded easy progress. This was strictly for peace of mind, it turned out. I stepped forward with my left foot as a mini-leap of faith. My foot slipped just enough to make it excruciatingly exciting, but I had made it. Way gnarly. I will not be going that way again.