Saturday, March 8, 2008

Might As Well Jump

The hardest thing about surfing in Hawaii (for me) was getting in and out of the water. It could be the difference between a magical day or a trip to the hospital. I had surfed the North shore the year before. Now I found myself at the jump off spot on Maili Point, feeling as though I had never been in the water. For some reason, my whole year was coming to a head. I was in a band I hated, my father had died that winter, I had just married, and now I was unable to get in the water. Some big decisions had to be made and made now. The boys in the parking lot were starting to notice my lack of resolve. I felt the pressure of their stares and the clock ticking on my life. I was thinking of what I would say to my brothers, also surfers, if I backed out. I was thinking of what I would say to my wife, if I got into trouble out there. The reef in front of me rose and sank away again. I watched the the white water hiss up to the ledge and draw back. I put my cord in my teeth, so it wouldn't snag on the rocks, and on the next wave, I jumped.
Once in the water, I paddled hard to get off the ledge and followed some guys out to the point. The next two hours were a blur. I was in and out of position, I had to fight the current to get back into a safe take off zone. I caught a few waves in between the bigger sets. Then a huge set came through while I was too far in. I looked up and all I could see was a big Hawaiian looking down at me on the first wave. I hesitated to see if he was going right or left. When I finally paddled left, he angled toward me and I panicked, pushed my board away, and dove for the bottom. When we came up our boards were tangled by the cords. He was giving me the Nanakuli death stare so, I took my cord off, pushed my board away to free him and hopefully, stop the inevitable beating. He sat between me and my board until a wave came through and took it away. He told me I was dangerous, invited me to leave, and paddled off. There was a lull, so I swam to my board and went in.
When you do something that scares you, everyday stuff doesn't seem like that big a deal anymore. It could be a century bike ride, quitting a job, a bully, pick your poison. In the end you have an arrow in your quiver no one can take away.


AucillaSinks said...

Near the end of a five month touring trip along the west coast I rendezvoused with some surfing friends on a beach just north of Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula. I had shipped my bike back before crossing the border and received my Mexican gear package that included full snorkel gear. Not being a surfer dude I had no board but I never met a surf that I could not swim through and snorkel in. Until that day. I swam out into the waves with $200 of gear that I had just hauled 800 miles. The first wave pummeled me against a nasty bottom but I just rolled with it and did not panic because I had supreme confidence in my inner fish. The second wave smashed me against the bottom and did not let me up. I can hold my breath for over a minute but I was running past empty as three fire hoses rolled me along the rocky bottom under six feet of sea water. When I was finally able to surface all my gear was gone including one dive bootie! I was bleeding all over. I had a new and truer appreciation for the power of big waves.

Human Wrecking Ball said...

It's pretty crazy how bad it can go. I once got pulled under water sitting on my board! I was thinking "Man I am gonna die sitting on my board!"
I have had six or seven "this is it" moments in my life as a surfer. It's funny when it's real bad you just chill out because you know you are in for a ride. The thing that scares me the most is waiting for the wave to hit you paddling out. I never got used to that.