Monday, February 11, 2008

Solo Style


I wrote the snippet below on a prompt from a guy who solicited me for an online "surf" zine a while back...haven't heard hide nor hair out of him who knows. Anyhow, borrowed liberally from Speelyei's "Coastal Zone" story for the beginning and ala Michael Kew reworked some past, here ya go.

It’s raining again. I can hear it on the roof coming down hard…what’s it been? Four days? Five? I get up, sneak out of the room to avoid waking her, grab the pile of clothes lying in the hall and get dressed in the living room. Going downstairs, the garage door groans to life when I press the open button. I can tell it’s really raining hard, from the water covering the garage floor. Little waves radiate toward the center of the garage as even more water flows in, radiating and refracting around submerged cans of paint, toolboxes and other crap I never got around to putting away.

I tiptoe through the puddle towards my surfboards. I’m going to need to fix that drain…I think to myself. Knowing I probably won’t. Which board? Yesterday it was head high on the central coast, but a mess…wind blown and disorganized. The swell was supposed to jump overnight…so? I grab the 6’ 10”, but notice the unprepared ding on the rail. I’d meant to fix that by now. I put it back and grab the 7’ 6”. Maybe a little more board than I need, but it’ll do. I open the car, push the piles of crap aside and further back and slide the board in. Pop open the plastic tote and check…booties, gloves, leash, backpack …it all seems to be there. Time to go…I’m out before first light, about 5:30am.

It is definitely colder than I thought. There was talk of snow in the pass and as I climb into the coast range I see it was more than talk. The light quickens and the mountains looked like a crystalline forest. At the summit, the sun lights snow covered mountains in the distance in a burnished orange glow. I find myself considering how a sunrise glow differs from a sunset glow not only in the quality of light, waxing versus waning; but in the state of the viewer…beginning and ending, increase and decrease, what will be and what has been.

Coming out of the mountains, a heavy gray sky takes hold and the rain again comes in torrents. If this keeps up I’ll need to alter my plans. Oregon’s pretty clean, but with heavy rain the rivers still dump filth into the lineups. Water quality, along with logs and bloated cow carcasses, becomes a concern. I think instead of surfing the river mouth jetty I had planned on, I’ll swing south to check a headland right that might be good if the wind isn’t on it.

Pulling into the cobbled lot, the rain has thankfully stopped. Stepping out of the car, the wind seems pretty slight through the trees, but definitely there…not a good sign. Walking down through the brush, the wind increases…onshore and stiff. The waves are blown down and struggle shoreward…pretty good size, at least overhead…no one’s out and at this spot, that’s a surprise. I head back up the trail…plan B, I think. A truck pulls in as I come out of the woods…the window comes down, ”How is it?”…”Not so hot”…”Didn’t think so”…he gets out…”Guess I’ll take a look though”…and down the trail he goes. And back on the road I go.

Over the course of two hours and about a hundred miles of coast highway…spots checked and rejected as too windy, too bumpy, too sharky and any other number of reasons not to paddle out…I arrive at the intended spot. There are only a few cars scattered along the road…which could be good or bad depending upon your perspective. It is a weekday, and this spot is pretty rocky and remote not getting a lot of takers even on summer weekends with the hordes opting for 'the Pool', 'Crossups', '3 rock' or 'Connie's. "Trench" breaks right, off of a broken headland over a flat rock shelf and into a narrow channel that, at over 10', may not provide that easy access you long for. I consider moving on to those 'safe' spots, but pull my board from the car, slip on the pack, pull up my hood and head down the trail.

Big drops fall from the canopy of the huge firs, cedars and spruce that make up the coastal forest here. The creek churns through chutes choked with fallen tree trunks, the sound of the water eliminates any chance of hearing the surf. You see it first, feel it if it's big and hear it only once the river and trail diverge near the beach. As I come out of the forest, I see lines and a breaking wave, there's no vibration so it's not too big. As I move closer to the water I finally hear it, a distant concussion that only a hollow wave makes. I get that nervous feeling, giddiness mixed with a kind of fear, fear mixed with desire, desire mixed with hesitance. I come down the rocks onto the flat exposed reef and's doable, pretty big...but definitely surfable.
Walking down towards the north end of the small cove I head up to the high tide line and set up on a huge burled root ball. I suit up, struggling into the wet, sand covered wetsuit with much grimacing and discomfort. I watch as the waves jack feeling the rock shelf below, exploding into the crumbled cliff, bounce off and then reel down the beach about 50 yards in a solid, warbly tube before petering out in the channel. A couple of the bigger sets mush out in the channel, but make it through and reform into a tight bowl that closes out in the shallows. It'll be fun and add about another 25 yards to the wave, but if you don't get out in's a definite board breaker, not to mention getting bounced off the rocky bottom there could break you too.

I watch for about 15 minutes, stretching a little, visualizing, mind surfing, psyching myself up and timing the paddle. If you don't get it right, the reward will be a serious pounding. I head down to the water; take a few deep breaths, waiting for the moment. I move forward, hopping waist high surge that has surprising power. I try to hold my position, inch forward, make up lost ground. A head high foam ball approaches, diminishing...I jump over it, onto my board...there's nothing behind it, so I start scratching. I stroke as hard as I can, building momentum. A smaller wave breaks outside of me; I duck under it and popping out of the water start pulling hard again. A couple more small waves come through, but no problem...I am outside in the calm of the channel. I sit up for a moment, adjust my hood, check and retighten my leash, look up and watch as an empty overhead set explodes to my right on the reef. Lying down, I paddle to the peak...


pushingtide said...

cool writins'