December 7, 1997
It's been three weeks since I crossed the Island to surf. The bruise on my thigh has
disappeared, but I have not mended the skeg slash on my suit yet.
The swells this fall seemed to come weekly. There was a series of lows, that drifted
south, out of the Bering straight and fired at the Island. Early on, a few storms
reordered the beaches, moving sand bars and channels. Lots of strong rips and less
than perfect peaks, some days. Friends introduced me to a point break, that I won't
name. There was a long hike through a forest trail, littered with bear sign and salmon
carcasses. We broke out onto a pebble beach full of shore birds and bald eagles, and
the first site of this makin break in the distance. The pictures I had seen of it did not
prepare me for the presence of that beautiful beast. The thunder of the collapsing
tube as we paddled out to the point sent waves of adrenaline coursing through my
body. I felt like a kid arriving late to a parade, and rushed for a position of vantage. I
heard someone let out a hoot before anyone had reached the line-up and realised it
was me, but I was not alone. The veterans of this break that accompanied me were
totally stoked. This wave, bless it's soul, made children of us all. For a boy weaned on
beach break, this was a journey of revelation, an introduction to an entity. No way
was I ready to place myself on this creatures face and be thrust towards the rocks,
but I was awed to sit on it's shoulder and become acquainted. I'll go back, and I'll
ready myself for this wave. I long to surf it, now that I've met it. I want to know it
On other days, we surfed the beaches. As we entered the water the cry would rise, El
Nino ........ El Nino. Late autumn and no need of gloves and hoods. This is the first
year in many that I have been in good enough shape to get out into some bigger
waves. Some of the cleanup sets, which pushed 15 feet, were down right intimidating.
I was on my 9'6 and enjoyed the paddling speed and the ability to skirt around unruly
peaks. Mostly the faces weren't great, and the rides were marginal (not just mine, but
the more accomplished surfers with me as well), lots of ledgy faces and closeouts.
Watched three sealions surf one of the bigger peaks side by side and was reminded
that even the most proficient among us are flailing initiates. The lions would rocket
out of the face, one slightly leading the next in a choreography dictated by the
dynamics of the wave. They would land down the face, disappear, and re-emerge at
the top of the face, to repeat this horizontal breach again and again. Such a show,
Marine World will never have. I had an awesome, humbling, exhilarating, exhausting
time, on two, three day trips. Getting my switch stance down pretty good. Let's see a
sealion do that.
I paddle the flatwater in front of my house, nearly every day, and finally replaced my
slashed 4/3 kook suit with bonafide winter rubber, a hood attached 5/4/3 Quicksilver.
The warmth of it all. The paddling has been great. A quiet moment of solitude on my
ever changing bay. The seal that has kept me company for months, has disappeared,
leading me to believe that the salmon runs in the local creeks have finished. The
swan has sung it's song and is gone as well. Rarely does anyone join me now,
although they always claim to be warm enough when they do come out. I guess they
have trouble warming up to the idea of getting cold and wet, with no possibility of surf
to justify the excursion. Had five otters check me out one day. They quickly lost
interest and snaked their way back to the debris in the tide line. They looked like the
five disjointed humps of a serpent breaking the surface and disappearing again. If
it's sunny I paddle in the middle of the day, otherwise I wait for the glassoff at dusk,
or even after dark. I love the lights on the water, and the whistle of the dayliner (one
car passenger train) echoing across my bay, back and forth between the mountains.
Two of the guys that do paddle with me occasionally, crossed the Island with me
yesterday. The buoy was about 6 feet at 12 seconds, and the wind was SSW when we
began our three hour drive. The swell and wind had been holding constant for a few
days and I hoped we would be able find a working break that suited Tyler and Brad's
inexperience. By the time we drove across, the buoy was 11 to 12 feet at 20 seconds.
There was a lot of water moving, and mammoth cleanup sets spaced maybe 25
minutes apart, that pummelled every one of the dozen or so guys that followed the
channels out. The only ones getting good rides out there were five sealions, again.
Tyler and Brad were happy to fool around in the very powerful soup, and I kooked
around with them. I see real progress in both of these guys. They surf so infrequently
that it's hard for them to get out of the beginner stages, but being in their teens, they
forget nothing that they learn (about surfing) and conditioning is not an issue with
them. They can run me into the sand. Three hours in the sun and soup and I was beat.
The guys, as always, were great company on the long drive home, and the van stereo
effectivly drown out their snores.
Still not wearing the hood up or using gloves.
El Nino ! . . . El Nino !