29 June 2008

Waddell Creek, 29 June 2008

With a south swell filling in, S and I headed down Highway 1, destination Waddell Creek. On the way, we stopped for a picnic on scenic Whaler's Cove beach by Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

The Surfline forcast for Santa Cruz was 3-4' with the tide pretty high all day and the cams showing small, so I decided to try a more exposed spot with easier high-water entry. I'd forgotten, though, that Surfline lies, and Waddell was more like 4-6', pushing the edge of my comfort level and better suited for the Xanadu. Serendipity again, I ran into N as I was checking out the surf and he was leaving the beach. As he said when I told him what board I'd brought, it would've been a good day for "not-the-fish." Maybe now that I have two shorter boards, I should start bringing them both, just in case, but I was with fish only, couldn't go anyplace else, and hadn't driven for an hour just to watch, so I was going in anyway.

Fortunately the swell was long-period with lulls, so Waddell didn't deny me entry as it has sometimes in the past. Unfortunately, it was more crowded than I've ever seen it. The parking lot was nearly full and there were several dozen surfers in the water clustered around a handful of breaks. I paddled out to one just north of the creek, with the sun thinking of emerging from the overcast sky. The waves felt powerful, reminding me of Hawaii. Glassy peelers intermingled with mushy rollers and slightly overhead crashing closeouts. When I tried for one wave, my instincts said "no go" and I attempted to back off, but the wave had my board already and took us over the falls. I don't know if it was the beaminess of the fish or just the power of the waves, but it seemed like I really should've been able to abort that one.

The size and power of the waves were intimidating, and maybe I wasn't trying as hard as I could've out of trepidation, but I got none. I'm still working out my paddling position on Nemo too, trying to find the sweet spot between too far back, stalling - where I usually am - and too far forward, pearling. The waves were fast too; surfers were racing down the line with the skilled ones getting in some nice turns and lip-smacking. D would've had a blast. But with the crowd and skill level, I had to give way often. And some of the good people were just jerks too. One shortboarder was paddling for the same wave as me, and I'd seen him riding and knew he was pretty good, plus he was arguably closer to the peak. So okay, I let him have it, thinking for pretty sure he'd get a ride, which he did, while my chances were... less. But later the same thing happened with our positions reversed, and he cut close in front of me so I had to back off. Dude, that was just rude. It was one ride of many for you, but if I'd gotten it, it would've made my day. So next time, think about sharing, OK? To counter him, there was a longboarder encouraging me to "paddle, paddle, paddle!" and another guy, who looked like he'd been in a cream-pie fight (it was sunscreen), telling me I shouldn't have yielded another wave to a dude who was on it farther down. At least there are some nice folks out there, but maybe I am too timid.

Every so often, an outside set would roll through, head high+ walled up closeouts, and somehow I managed to duck-dive them adequately. I was pleasantly surprised when one broke right in front of me and I thought I blew it, had the board ripped from my hands and rolled, but when I surfaced, I hadn't lost much ground. I count that as a success, even it if wasn't pretty.

After a while, I started to get discouraged, but then I have to remember why I surf. It's not just to ride waves, or I would've quit long ago since I don't get to do that too often. It's the feeling of being in the ocean, floating on a massive untamed body of liquid filled with unseen creatures, some who might look at you curiously and others who might eat you. It's the sensuous flow of water around my body, the sun on my face and the sea spray in my eyes, the view of the shore from outside that few see, the encounters with dolphins and otters and kelp. It's paddling hard at a wave about to break and feeling the power of the ocean as it lifts me up at the crest and drops me safe on the other side, and the thought of the sea's indifference as tumbles me like a bit of flotsam when I mess up. And it's having to set aside my worries and cares and live in the moment.

N said he'd been out for 3 hours, but I don't know how I could possibly last that long. After an hour I was getting chilled, due to inactivity as the lulls were getting long, and perhaps it was the two duck-dives in a row, but suddenly I feel nauseated. (I've been going out with just the seasickness wristbands - psychosomatic wristbands, according to S - and that's worked pretty well, but maybe I need to add the earplugs back in too. Unless it's just seawater ingestion, in which case I suppose I'm screwed!) So I paddled toward the beach and caught some whitewater, which was surprisingly difficult to ride prone, very rough and hard to hold onto the board, but it pushed me fast to shore. In trying to stop before my fins smashed the sand, I executed a 360-degree roll over my board, which S said looked like I'd done on purpose. Uh, yeah...right.

And now, my first attempt at video. Obviously next time I need to increase the resolution, but if you look real close, there's a guy going left.

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