Tuesday, October 30, 2007



I was reading Sissyfish the other day and he was describing an experience of getting ragdolled, held down and basically worked during a wipeout. It reminded me of a similar experience; although, in truth, I would have to say it was one of the few times in my life I ever was concerned for my life while surfing.

I was surfing a north coast cove in mid winter. There were only a handful of others out and the waves were pretty much a mess. But there was an occasional fun one coming through and it was better than the alternative...that being, not surfing. We were on the south end of this cove, because it was the only way to the outside, riding the riverlike rip out to the lineup. There were rights and lefts coming through...the rights deposited you right back into the rip, and were soft and fat...the lefts were faster, hollower and left you in a mess of confused swirling waves, currents and inshore holes.

Of course, after a couple rights I had to have a left. I caught a good one and after getting knocked around and duck diving a half dozen waves finally got sucked back into the current along the headland. I surfed for a few hours and the waves definitely were on the increase, but the tide shift wasn't helping them much. I decided to head in once I got another one. Now, getting a right would have defeated the process of "heading in" since it would have placed me smack dab into the rip...even most lefts weren't likely to get you out of the area of the rip due to wide inshore trench where water piled up and ran south at speed. The only sure bet was to paddle a bit north, find a left or even just angle north as you proned in after the wave broke.

I found my left, but I was too late...I was up, but my board was airborne and never bit into the waves face. The lip grabbed me slammed me down, spun me and I felt that pull at my ankle that went suddenly slack...broken leash. It was my own fault, it was an older leash and the cord just broke, too brittle for the size of the waves...which weren't huge, but definitely 10 foot faces and meaty. I surfaced and looked to see if my board was somehow miraculously in the vicinity...no such luck. Just then another wave broke and I dove for the bottom, not deep enough though and got spun again. I went through this for about 3 more waves before I hit the deeper water of the inshore channel and started to swim for shore.

I was able to spy my board which had washed onto the beach and had been rescued by someone and pulled up out of the surge onto the rocks. At least I didn't have to worry about that. But I did have another concern, because I quickly realized that at the rate I was getting sucked south I didn't have a chance of making it to shore. But I gave it a good try, swimming as hard as I could for the beach only to get sucked into the rip and back out into the lineup. I swam past a couple guys, kind of embarrassed but what could I do. One guy asked if I was OK, I said I was and started to swim north. Once I got to what I thought was far enough north I headed in for round two.

I tried to pick up a wave or two and bodysurf them, but without fins I wasn't able to do much more than be driven in by them. Again, I made my way in to the inside and stroked for shore. I tried swimming at an angle into the current briefly but recognized I could make better headway swimming in with the current. I don't know if it would have mattered, but in any case, by the time I was about 25 yards off the beach I was in the sideshore and was getting pulled out. I could touch bottom, but the water was still chest deep. I resigned myself to another circuit and got sucked back out. There was a time that a swim like this would not have been a problem, but now I wasn't swimming or surfing regularly and I was feeling pretty tired. As I entered the lineup agin I talked with the same guy, who asked again if I was OK, I said I was...but did rest a few minutes before starting another swim for shore.

The third go round I swam even farther north, nearly to mid beach, taking my time and looking for the best spot to angle for. As I began swimming in I realized I was tired, cold and a little bit worried. I swam in slowly, diving as deep as I could between waves but I was having a tougher time holding my breath for any long period. Then as I hit the inner channel the beach started moving as the current grabbed me and I put my head down and swam as hard as I could. I looked up occasionally and I was worried to see how far south I had drifted in just a minute or so. As I approached the point of no return, where I would be sucked out for another go around I put my head down and stroked hard. I passed the creek and thought I was in for it, felt for the bottom and there it was, about waist deep. I waded ashore, made my way up to where my board was, grabbed it from the guys sitting there and said "That was a fun swim!"


nm said...

I had a swim in on Saturday. Surfing Timbuktu without a leash.....cold hands....lost grip on the board as I kicked out of a right. That swim kicked my ass....even after 4000 meters a day swims three days a week. (Quietly thanking my years of swim training & built up endurance.) Also....made me question how an average to below average swimmer would fair with the same task.

Glad you made it in. Third times a charm eh?

Foulweather... said...

That does it. Its new leash time...

surface tension said...

one guess which spot that was...