The swell reports were very promising, but the wind reports not so much. I shot up to Oceanside, hoping for the best.
The swell was definitely there, as Buc Beach and Loopholes looked better than normal. There was an unfortunate side chop in the water courtesy of the S wind.
The tide was peaking just as I paddled out. My paddle-out was mostly uneventful, thanks to my opportune timing. I made it through one depth charge that detonated just behind me, its vibration resonating off my trailing foot underwater. I had to hustle as its bigger brother was on its way and narrowly avoided disaster as another depth charge went off JUST above and behind me, this time accelerating me up and out for a thrilling ride to the surface.
I was out the back and had suffered a slightly northern trajectory thanks to the expected new swell longshore current, but not too bad. I was all alone about to enjoy a new swell after a long time of not surfing head-high waves.
I caught a right and, true to its predecessors' nature from swells past, it closed out quickly. I had just set my feet and had begun my bottom turn when I realized this. I awkwardly launched myself over my board and braced for the impact from my surfboard, which thankfully never arrived.
My next wave was the wave of the day, and the best wave I've caught since March. It was a left which opened up to me. I pumped hard off the top, then again off the very top, to the point that I threw a grom's-worth of spray off the back. I then laid into a BIG slash which threw more spray, but I made the mistake of burning all of my speed, leaving me nothing with which to continue on my journey towards the sand.
I caught a right late and air-dropped. I noticed I have a bad habit of keeping my trailing arm posed awkwardly behind me, towards the face when I have a late backside drop. It changed my center of gravity and though I landed on the deck, my weight was over my heels and I ate it.
Another overhead wave came, this time a left. I paddled for it gingerly, as I didn't want to be too late. Looking back towards the wave, I knew I was going to be extremely late but decided to go anyway. I was pushing up onto the deck when I sensed the bottom fall out from under my board. I shoved my board aside and went over the falls.
I slammed down into the trough, feeling the familiar tug of my tombstoning board above me. Despite the tricks I'd taught myself, including quick affirmations and slow counting, I couldn't stop the panic from creeping in. This started a mid-July day in 1997, the closest I've come to drowning. Ever since that day, whenever I'm underwater for eight or so seconds, I begin to panic.
I resurfaced without flapping my arms, which is a small triumph for me. Nothing like a little fight-or-flight to get some adrenalin going!
I caught a head-high left, descended, took a quick look at my options in the face of a closeout and decided hitting the eject button was the best of them.
I sat for about a half-hour just north of Tyson Street, mired in a place not blessed by breaking waves. I took a shorebreak wave in and ran a quarter-mile or so back to Wisconsin to paddle back out.
I was frothing over the swell, though the frequency of closeouts was taking some of the foam off the froth.
I paddled out at the same spot and caught a bald guy taking off on a big open left and biffing, but he was pretty late. Ooh baby, I need one of those.
The beautiful wave I'd envisioned never arrived. I spent the majority of my remaining surf time paddling south to combat the current and taking off on crappy waves, while pulling back from the obvious closeouts.