This morning I met Forrest at our now usual spot in front of the first lifeguard tower at Torrey Pines. Our photographers (his mom and his new daddy) were meeting us there. They arrived quickly.
To my horror, I realized I'd somehow transported only one booty with me. The next tragedy I discovered was I'd taken the paper clip off my wetsuit closure zipper, but neglected to replace it with a new one. The offshore winds were going to make zipping in and out a challenge! Luckily Forrest's mom came through with a metal savior.
The waves out front were macking, and Forrest swore he saw some better lines to the north. I didn't argue with him, as he'd been watching it longer.
We walked up there, my left foot's toes were turning interesting shades of light purple/dark pink. We paddled out. With Forrest on his longboard, I gained on him and passed him quickly. The waves were coming in at a relentless rhythm and it was a brutal time getting out there.
After about twelve or so minutes of nonstop paddling, duckdiving, and more paddling, I arrived at my very temporary perch. We had paddled out at the crane that was retrofitting the ancient bridge connecting the city of San Diego to Del Mar, but looking back, I was easily 150 yards south of that. The swell had been steadily rising all night and peaking just as we were surfing. This means the sets were more numerous and longer in duration, which means the current was also at its max for the swell's duration.
I spotted Forrest paddling about fifty yards south of me. He had made it out after all! Because of the frequency of the waves, any attempt at pleasantries or exchange of battle stories was nixed due to us being on high alert of getting caught inside of a bomb set.
I'd made the dubious decision of bringing my standard 6'1", which is the thinnest, narrowest board I've ever ridden (not counting my 5'11" epoxy, as it floats me much better). Being on this board would mean having to be spot-on in my can-I-catch-this calculations and paddling my ass off to hopefully speed down these elevated faces.
My first wave arrived within fifteen minutes of perching. It let me in relatively easily, considering the amount of foam I was on and the offshores. I was wearing my gloves, so that may have helped, as I was moving that much water. I dropped down the face with just a little offshore-caused delay. I tried to make it around the section, but it took me down.
I paddled back out without incident. I dodged some big 'uns, and then less than ten minutes later, I caught my second wave.
This one was much more open and was a sheer pleasure to drop down. I had a little time to maneuver, but on waves this size and on aboard that small, that can be difficult to do. My other concern was putting myself in a position on the wave where I'd have no escape from the lip. This would lead me to get hit by that wave, then lose more position and possibly get smashed by the next wave too. With this in mind, I admired the view, my speed and the size of the oncoming section while quickly deciding to kick out and help increase my chances of a non-traumatic return to the outside. I caught A LOT of air while kicking out. What the camera catches is pretty funny, so be sure to pause and unpause the video quickly.
Forrest was nowhere to be found, but I figured he was somewhere north of me, as I hadn't seen him catch a wave.
On my way after this wave, there was no monster wave I'd feared. But about five minutes later, I did get trounced on a duckdive after deciding not to go on a wave that turned out to be a close-out. Ever since my near drowning experience in 1997, I have always panicked when being held underwater for longer than 7 or 8 seconds.
For some reason, during this beating, I had the Education Connection jingle stuck in my head and I was able to keep myself from panicking as a result. It's the first time I can remember I've taken a beating like that and not panicked, so I will have to remember this trick.
I kept getting swept down with every passing undulation beneath me. Pretty soon, I was floating by the southern half of the parking area. I passed three guys who weren't catching much either. I waved one of them into a wave I was too deep for.
Soon after they paddled past me to the north, the biggest wave of the day came. I paddled as hard as I could, my eyes constantly scanning the wave and assessing as to my chances of making it. Was I better off stopping and hoping for a lesser beating by being a bit inside of the detonation zone (Missed-It-Mike's method) or should I press on with some chance of escaping to safety under it.
I can say with full certainty that this was the hardest decision I've had to make in the water in this situation. The wave reared up and I panicked. I started my I'm-ditching-my-board motion, then recanted and duckdived as hard and deep as I could. I counted six Mississippis while underwater, but I had made it!
I came to the realization that the sheer terror of getting crushed was not worth the inconsistency of my sporadic rewards: Big open faces. I made plans to take the next one in. A small wave (just under head high) came through and I was on it. I had a hard time staying on it, but made the inside connection and get a small hit out of it. I walked up to the road and couldn't help feeling a little like Mad Max, with just one booty covering my feet.