22 January 2011

Blind People Shouldn't Surf in Crowds (Capitola)

With a big WNW groundswell coming up through the day, I had a notion that Capitola might be good for an early afternoon session. When Darren, J-Bird and I arrived, it was firing, with set waves on the outside peak going slightly overhead. Truth be told, I hadn't expected it to be quite that big. Still recovering from jetlag and a string of nights with little sleep, I was looking for something more mellow. But it the shape was good, long pealing rights, too nice to pass up on a warm summery day, although there was a dismaying crowd already on it.
J-Bird and I walked east on the beach to paddle out with less of the energetic whitewater in our path. Just after I reached the outside at an empty peak east of the main one, a set came through and I caught a fast and fun head-high right. When J-Bird joined me, I told her I'd stay there, away from the crowd. She soon paddled over to the main peak to meet up with Darren. I caught another fun wave, but then my peak clogged up with a six-pack of shortboarders, so I headed west to join my buddies.

I stopped to chat with Darren, who was sitting on the inside, but after a few minutes we both had to paddle toward the horizon to get out of the way of an outside set. We made it over the first wave or two, but the next was going to break farther out, and I knew I was too far in. Although she was dangerously close, a woman on a green shortboard* a bit outside and between us took off on the wave, dropping down with the breaking lip as the section closed out in front of us, and since the whitewater was about to hit me anyway, I turtled my board just a little early as a shield. She could have avoided me, and I can't believe she didn't see me, since I was wearing a red helmet and displaying my light blue surfboard in her direction as I rolled under it. (Perhaps I need to add a flashing light to the top of my helmet.) Nevertheless, instead of dropping in straight and bottom turning a few feet farther along, threading the needle between us, she inexplicably turned into me, and I felt a hard thunk and sharp pain in my left thigh as she rode her board right over me. Darren asked if I was alright, and I told him I wasn't sure but was going in to shore to check body and board. The rider had been thrown nearby in the collision, and she called out "sorry!" but didn't follow me in when I told her she'd hit my leg. The set waves were still rolling through and I caught a wave on my belly, foolishly deciding to pop up for the rest of the ride in. My leg immediately howled in protest and buckled, dumping me until I could catch another broken wave, this time all the way in on my belly.

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicOn the beach, I assessed the damage. My new Rip Curl wetsuit was torn and gashed across my thigh, and though my leg hurt a lot, and even more when I weighted it, there seemed to be nothing broken or cut. Thank the cold water that I was wearing 3 mils of protection against fin cuts. Recalling the thunk, I checked Emm over carefully, but she was unscathed. After testing the leg a little I decided I could probably surf some more - and besides, I had no ice, so 53-degree water was the next best thing.

With the tide dropping fast and the swell still rising, the waves were starting to close out more, and the paddle out was tougher than earlier. When I finally reached my previously-empty peak I was surprised that now there were 15 shortboarders on it, but I realized later I'd been pushed even farther east, almost to New Brighton. I caught a wave but again my leg refused to cooperate, and I fell. It was worse that it was my back leg that was injured, since it has to carry much of my weight on the drop. Stealing myself for the pain the next time, I caught a breaking right and popped up, staying vertical this time and riding it out, into an inside reform and all the way to the beach, where I got out and hobbled back through boulder-strewn sand to my car parked on Esplanade.

I'm glad of those two fun head-high rights I got before I was run over. But really, blind people shouldn't surf in crowds.

*In Indo, green shortboards are considered back luck. It was certainly true for me.

Surfline: Solid long period NW groundswell is on the rise this afternoon as some old WNW swell mixes in, and conditions remain mostly clean. Better breaks are good for shoulder-head high-overhead surf, with top exposures in the 2-3' overhead to double overhead range on the better sets. Winds are light/variable, with exposed breaks and those that can focus the longer period energy offering up some clean, workable corners. Buoy 46012: (Wave) SWELL: 9.5 ft at 19.0 s WNW 06 / WIND WAVE: 2.3 ft at 5.0 s NW / WVHT: 9.8 ft / APD: 11.4 s / MWD: 297° Tide: 4' falling fast to 1.5'


  1. Bummer, sorry to hear about your leg (and your suit). Take lots of motrin for yourself and take your suit to heatwave wetsuit repair in Santa Cruz to get it fixed.

  2. You can also take it to sonlight, they will have to ship it out, but it will probably only be about $30 bucks for the repair.

  3. People are so frickin clueless and rude. Your post makes me rethink the helmet thing. I've never really considered wearing one. I've only had my board damaged not my body...so far. Hope the leg feels better.

  4. Thanks, y'all.

    Steve, any idea how long/how much at Heatwave? I've heard good things.

    Luke, doesn't it take at least a few weeks if they send the suit back to Rip Curl?

  5. After having 4 stitches in my forehead from the rail of my own board I started wearing my helmet. It saved me from a full thump on the back of my head as a teenager mowed me down. His entire weight and the board almost knocked me unconscious, I'm sure it would have if I hadn't had the helmet on. Doesn't look that cool but who cares!

  6. I wear my helmet all the time now, even when it's not crowded and I'm not surfing over reef/rocks. Just seems like if I leave it off, that'd be the one time I'd regret it.