22 April 2008

Surfline's Alternate Universe

Our rental house on Oahu's famed North Shore was near Chun's Reef, which Surfline reported was 2-3' on Sunday morning. As I've griped before, Surfline's given some crappy info in the past, but that report was so far off that I now suspect the Surfline folks inhabit some parallel universe with an alternate reality disconnected from that of our known Earth. On their North Shore, the surf was 2-3'; on the North Shore in my reality, it was 2-3' overhead. At first I thought maybe they were reporting in Hawaiian surf heights, which are about half actual, but the report also said knee-waist high. I've seen some Hawaiians who are much wider than average, but none who are twice as tall, so the report was just totally bogus.

I know my limitations, and the real surf exceeded them. After being spun ass-over-teakettle by a powerful overhead wave I couldn't duck-dive the day before, I didn't want to put myself in the way of even bigger monsters, and I couldn't go searching the coast for a better spot. So I kicked back on the beach with S and his parents, a couple bottles of wine and a good book. After baking for a bit in the hot sun, S suggested a dip in the ocean to cool off. While I was picking up wine and snacks at the grocery store in Haleiwa, he'd been on the beach for an hour and had been in the water already, so I just followed him in, leaving my common sense on the shore and failing to check out the sea scene as I normally would before entering the water to surf. We were both a little drunk, and the bottom dropped off to deep water near shore. After a minute S pointed out that we were very far from the beach - we'd been sucked out by a rip current and were still moving away at a good clip. A little voice in my head calmly said, Swim parallel to shore to escape a rip current. I turned left toward the only surfer in sight, figuring at least he had a floatation device and might help if we really got in trouble. But after swimming for several minutes and starting to tire in the choppy water, we still seemed to be going nowhere, and S suggested reversing course because earlier he had noticed other surfers drifting rightward. So not only had we been fighting to swim against the rip, we'd been going against a sideshore current too. To make matters worse, my arms were already fatigued from all the paddling that morning and the day before. And I was wearing boardshorts that extended below my knees, board crop pants really, which made swimming more difficult; I was contemplating whether it might not be better to take them off. We swam on, and after what felt like ages, with the subtle fear of drowning knawing on the edges of my mind, we finally broke free of the currents and gasped onto dry land. Looking back at the ocean, I could clearly see the current, angling outwards and down the coast toward town. Stupid, stupid me.

Later S and I walked east to another break, perhaps Leftovers, where there were some pro surfers showing their stuff on waves that sounded from the beach like a roaring freight train. At least I'm guessing they were pros, since they were very very good, and there was a guy on the beach training a fancy camera on the action. We sat on a rock and watched them for a while. It looked like they were having a blast, and I hope one day to be a tenth as good as that.

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