So my last day in Hawaii was magical. The waves were huge everywhere, so I decided to go out surfing anyway. After all, it was my last day. Up till then, I had surfed the breaks with the smaller waves, nothing too crazy.
I was nervous, even a bit scared. I was with my friend, Regina. We are about the same skill level in surfing, but she surfs these breaks everyday and has been out in 20ft+ waves many times. Without her knowledge and experience, I would never have dared paddle out in those conditions.
That day, I decided Sunset Beach was the best place for me. The waves had 12-15ft faces. The conditions were clean, no wind, a bit crowded, but that is always the case on the North Shore. I paddled out using the channel, which allows you to get to the take off point without getting crushed by any waves.
Once out there, I just got my bearings, trying to stay out of everyone's way and making sure I didn't get annihilated by any of these mountains of water heading my way. It was so exhilirating and scary at the same time. You'll see these this giant masses of water in the distance hurtling towards you and you have to paddle for your life before it crashes on top of you.
There were a few stand-up paddlers out there. These tall, and muscular guys are standing on their enormous surfboards at all times. They have a long paddle which they use to move forward and catch waves. They look like sea gods out there. These particular guys happened to be world famous. They would stand way out there and catch the most enormous waves hurtling down the face of waves, bottom turning, and zip along inside of massive barrels. Best stay out of their way.
I got a bit adventurous and tried to catch a few waves, but my board was a bit short for the conditions. I placed myself farther inside in the impact zone, determined to catch one. Soon I saw this giant wall of water coming towards me. I ditched my board and swam for the bottom of the ocean. The wave still grabbed me, spinning me around, washing-machine style as they say. I held my breath as best I could, not fighting it too much.
After a while, I climbed up my leash (which attaches my board to my foot) to the surface, not knowing which way was up or down. I came up, out of breath, and shocked at what happened, just in time to see another 15ft wave crash in front of me. I made my way to the bottom and got worked again. I came up, got back on my board and paddled back out to the line up, a big grin on my face.
Surviving these kinds of conditions makes you feel so alive. The guys around me for the most part were probably accustomed to these kinds of extreme conditions, but I wasn't. This was truly a test for me, and I was loving it. However, I still hadn't caught a wave. I was not heading back to california without catching one of these. There was just no way.
I looked over at Regina and shared how much fun I was having. It was truly a great day. She hadn't caught any waves yet, but we were both determined. A bit later, we paddled for the same wave, but I was better positioned. I was not going to give up on this one. I paddled into it with every ounce of strength I could muster. I felt the wave surge under me. I hopped to my feet and stared down at the vertical drop in front of me.
Without thinking, I dropped in and raced straight down the face of the wave. I thought my board would do a nose plant and I would be destroyed by the lip. Somehow I made the drop, and I looked to my right at the lip pitching forward into a huge barrel. There was no way I was pulling into the barrel. I had no tube time and I was not about to learn out here at Sunset.
Regina got the next wave and we were both soooo stocked ! I ended up catching another wave that day to cap off an amazing surf session. I paddled in to the beach, a huge smile on my face. It was such an exhilirating experience, 3 hours of my life I will always remember. What a way to end my trip.
The experience has changed my whole perspective on surfing. Now I have way more confidence. Southern California surf spots with their sand bottoms and soft waves compared to Hawaii are just not intimidating like they used to be. Now I understand how taking calculated risks, not allowing my fears to stop or even slow me down, and pushing myself past my 'limits' can truly change my life. Now that is something I can apply to my photography business.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Posted by Greg Clarke at 5:46 PM