Tuesday, March 8, 2016

El Nino provides

Journal Entry


So no shit there I was paddling as hard as I could out to the deep blue sea. “Viene un set” was all I heard as a friend Vicente paddled hard past me as I was keeping an eye out for an un-ridden wave slightly on the inside of a crowded day at Todos Santos. As I paddled hard I realized that this time I wasn’t going to make it up and over one of the bigger sets of the morning. The motions and nerves took over as I paddled. For the past month I trained for this moment. Spending the entire month in Baja, surfing 2-3 times a day, pushing myself during every swell that came my way, yoga in the morning and the evening and already with 2 solid sessions in at Todos under my belt during the past month I felt ready. I am no pro, I have surfed my whole life but the draw towards big waves felt strong this year.

My first session at Todos gave me the bug or addiction for more, for another big drop, another big wave. With the insight of some fellow big wave surfers I realized that my 8ft-6 inch gun I bought back in December wasn’t going to cut it for solid big waves. A buddy Quinn said, “Go big, at least a 9-6, but if you can why not just get a 10 foot gun?” The goal, to paddle into a giant wall of water, make the drop and hopefully come out standing in the channel. With Quinn’s help I was hooked up with Legendary shaper Gary Linden and he had a beautiful 10 foot gun that was slightly used. The board was shaped for recent Mavericks champ, Nic Lamb so it seemed light the right choice.

I picked the board up in Ensenada 2 weeks before this last big swell and eager to give it a test headed towards the docks in hopes of finding some guys heading out to Todos Santos Island. I knew that there was a crew of local guys camping on the island, so at very least maybe I just buck up and pay for the whole panga ride myself. To my luck there was a couple who were interested in checking out the famous big waves of Killers. We split the cost of the boat ride out through the fog, not sure what the surf, weather and conditions would be like. When we pulled through the channel I could see there were some solid sets, at least 15 foot. No one was out, maybe the crew had an epic day prior with a bit bigger surf. A bit nervous paddling out alone, I made my way into the line up. The day ended up being epic, surfing solo for about an hour or two before Vicente and another Mexican surfer paddled out. The conditions were not prime, but with no one out I could choose wisely and carefully which waves to take and had a fun safe session with no wipeouts.

Now back to my last session. Vicente invited me on a boat with a solid crew of chargers as we headed out to what was looking like an epic day of big solid surf. When we pulled up to the channel we saw the first set, beautiful 25foot face waves, with big wave surfer Rusty Long dropping into a bomb. The crowd was big so it was a bit harder getting a wave than my first few sessions with almost no crowd. My first wave was shared with Gary Linden, pretty special to share a wave with such a legend. 66 years young and still charging hard. Another wave after that than all I see is Vicente paddling as hard as he can towards the deep blue sea.

This is the “Oh Fuck” moment.

Go, paddle hard. When I realized I wasn’t going to make it my body and mind started going through the motions. Instinct took over. I paddled until that last moment then climbed on top of my board and dove as deep as I could. I kept my eyes open as I submerged deep and noticed I just barely made it under the explosion of chaos. But attached to my leg, by a strong 12 ft leash (Thank God for Stay Covered leashes) was my board. The leash went tight as the dragging started. It pulled me back quite a ways as I tried to stay calm. The life jacket I wore under my wetsuit slowly kicked in as I finally made my way to the surface for that beautiful breathe of air and the sight of the blue sky. As I got that first breathe of air I noticed the 2nd wave of the set was heading right towards me. For a moment I got a glimpse of a rescue jest ski and felt a relief. But then I noticed he wasn’t coming for me but instead for another surfer who had a broken leash and was a bit deeper than I was.

I tried to slow my breathing and calm myself as another wall of whitewash, maybe 30 feet was heading directly towards me. This time because of spent energy I didn’t get as deep of a dive and I was dragged for what felt like an eternity. In my past 9 seasons as a whitewater kayaker I have taken some big swims, one of the most notable being on the Zambezi River on rapid #9, commercial suicide at high flows. When the Zambezi ripped my body from my kayak and I went into the black unknown, I eventually re surfaced and made my way through the rest of the rapid. This beating at Todos felt like a step above that one. As that second wave dragged me all I could do was try and stay calm, knowing that I was wearing a PFD and that it should eventually bring me to the surface. When the PFD seemed like it was of no help and my lungs where burning I clawed my hands toward my lower leg and leash which was attached to my board. When the rinsing cycle slowed a bit I was able to climb up my leash to the surface for a breathe of air.

Thank God. But as sets go there is usually more than two waves. I took another 2 wave smashing, pretty much just lying there and letting them push me further and further towards the inside. Not wanting to get pushed into the rocks on the inside I did my best to climb back on my board and stroke towards the channel before the next one hit me. When I made it safely to the channel I sat there and caught my breathe and realized that this is a very true cost of surfing big waves, Big wipeouts and Big Hold downs. But like all athletes that push a sport, the rewards are beyond description sometimes. I took a break on the boat and as the crowd slowly thinned out later in the day I made my second go and got a handful of beautiful waves. I was stoked to be part of an epic crew and a special day of waves, also pretty happy to come back to the casa and have little Charlie excited to see me. My Life in February: Baja, Friends, Family, a puppy and some epic surf.

First Session

Quinn Campbell, RIP to a great board. Broken in 2 after this big one.

La Isla

Quinn and I happy to scratch over this one.

2nd wave of my last session

JoJo Roper on a bomb

Afternoon beauty. Photo: Chris Corona
Vicente on a gem

Thanks Chris Mumford for Iphone photos

Offshore days at the Casa

The point in a beautiful offshore morning

Charlie and the catch of the day

Scotty and Birthday beers

Yep the little guy likes fish

Christmas in February, Hand shaped by Gary Linden 10 footer

Iphone video of first session with new board

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