Pushing the Envelope -- 12/23/97

Check this bowl!

I wanted it. I wanted to try and surf bigger waves. My chance finally came.

On Monday, a huge WNW swell boomed on the North Shore, bringing in sets as high as 18' (Haw'n). The swell was to be fairly short-lived and expected to diminish by Tuesday. Coincidentally, I had Tuesday off!

Outside Off-the-Wall

Leaving a little bit later than usual (taking care of my paternal duties), I met up with Jerry and headed out to the North Shore. We arrived at about 6:30 AM and saw... well, the swell seemed to have dropped considerably (whew!). No one was out yet, so there was no reference to gauge the surf. But it still looked pretty big for us.

After suiting (and psyching) up, we following some other spongers through the shorebreak. Thereís always a bit of apprehension jumping into the sweeping lateral rip, but punching through turned out to be pretty easy.

Early morning dredger

The surf was about 6-8' (Haw'n), but didn't look like the pure swell I had expected. There was a bit of northerly component that sketched out some rides. Also, despite the light offshores, there was a subtle surface chop that wobbled the otherwise smooth conditions.

Jerry chose to sit in the channel, and picked a few shoulders off. But the crowd was pretty aggressive so he went in early, taking pictures for the remainder of the time. Give the boy points for just getting out there.

As for me, I initially tried sitting at the main Pipeline peak, jockeying with the rest of the pack. However, with bodyboarders like Tamega, Ronquilio, MacKenzie and Vieira out, I didn't stand a chance.

So I decided to sit the furthest west and wait for peaks of my own. To my pleasant surprise, I found that some waves at Backdoor and even Off-The-Wall (OTW) lefts were rideable. For the most part, the sets closed out from Insanities all the way thru Pipeline; but if you were patient and lucky, you could snag a few smaller ones in between, and paddle back before the next set nailed you.

Discretion is the better part of valor

I had a new, custom Custom X bodyboard that I wanted to try out. It had a new "M-tail" of my own design. This would definitely be a trial by fire--for the board and for myself.

Right off the bat, I remember catching a really good one. A surfer and a bodyboarder were jockeying for the left at Pipeline, and after a millisecond of hesitation, I pushed myself over the edge to go right. I thought I was going to do a short freefall, but the wave kind of burped and let me drop in smoothly--probably from a little backwash. I gathered myself and pulled into a good trim, then got a clean, casual coverup, feeling the decompressive "whump" from behind. Coming out, I slowly edged my way out and over the face, and kicked out just as the section closed. (big grin)

Banking around the whitewater

Everyone else was pretty much going left, so I continued to carefully pick off a few at Backdoor. After about an hour, some others finally caught on to my gig and joined me on the rights.

The crowd eventually ballooned to about 40 people, mostly bodyboarders. It's pretty neat that once "The Show" (ASP) leaves town, the bodyboarders kind of take over Pipeline in prep for their men's and women's world championships. There is a noticeable transition in the lineup; like a changing of the guards.

Paddling back out from a small Backdoor ride, I was mesmerized by this wave that just barreled left from OTW. It was just a full-on pitching cylinder that funneled endlessly. Had to raise my hands in a high "Y" mock claimage as I ducked through. Since Backdoor started getting busy too, I decided to take my chances solo looking for one like that.

Although OTW was closing out 95% of the time, there was an occasional makeable peak. That wave was so alluring that I had to at least try--if nothing else, just to get away from the crowd. I ended up spending a lot of time just dodging closeout sets, but I did manage to dial into a sweet one.

My sweet one

A medium-sized wave came in that had a smooth, tapering wall that ended right at the Pipeline reef. I kicked into a rather easy takeoff, then proceeded to get nicely shacked. It just kept throwing, and I kept driving. Unfortunately, my tube-riding savvy leaves much to be desired, and just as I was about to exit the tube , my board slipped from my grasp. I ended up bodysurfing out of the tube, then got drilled as the lip blew me in front of the rolling whitewater. Jerry later said that the gallery was watching, and he and they fully expected me to make it. I let them down. :-(

Scrambled eggs

Humbling wave of the day: I went on this smallish left that dredged just as it hit the Backdoor/Pipeline shallows. I could do nothing but plop into the pit with zero speed, while the wave threw over me. Unfortunately, I ended up slightly respraining my nagging thumb injury. But to add insult to injury, I literally slapped my balls big time on the flat landing (auwe!).

Top of the precipice

Towards the end of the sesh, some closeout sets came through that really put some excitement into our lives. It was so exhilarating just paddling through those beasts, peering back over the precipice. I donít know how these guys go on such waves--itís just a different level of surfing that, frankly, Iím glad Iím not a part of.

Came in after about three hours of water time, fully stoked on the session. Although I didnít catch any real set waves, I still felt a bit of accomplishment just participating in the big conditions. And I know that I pushed my personal envelope of wave riding just a small notch higher.

Aloha from Paradise,