Not If, But When -- 1/8/98

Da Girls Go Off

The Morey International contest's waiting period began on Monday (1/5/98). Although there was plenty of size throughout the week, bad winds made it uncontestable. However, they were predicted to switch to offshores on Thursday.

I decided to do a short bodyboarding session with Jerry just before the contest, in hopes of: (1) catching a few at dawn, (2) taking some water shots of the contest and (3) talking story with the crew. All this, before getting to work at 9:30.

We paddled out in the semi-darkness at 6:30. The surf was small-to-medium sized, maybe 3-5' (Haw'n), and lumpy. Lots of people came out, practicing for the competition. Tahitian Matt Walbrou had the tube of the morning. Really, really deep coverup--only a select few people could have steered through that one. Very inspiring.

My best wave of the day was my very first ride. Slightly late takeoff on a four footer. Wide open wave that barreled nicely. Although I wasn't fully shacked, I could see the wave throwing above and around me for almost four seconds before exiting to the shoulder. Sweet!

However, at Pipeline, they say it's not a matter of if you will get a bad wipeout, but when. This day was my when. The crowd may have had something to do with it, but I think it was more the overconfidence that I built up from my previous successful sessions.

I took off late on another four footer and freefell most of the way down. I tried to put the rail on edge, but I was still skipping in the trough. Before I had a chance to bail, the lip nailed me square on my back. The initial concussion was pretty powerful--I felt like a rag doll underwater. Somehow, my knee got jammed under a ledge in the reef and I felt my back just torque as the wave thrust me shoreward. Mercifully, my knee popped out, but I continued tumbling, lightly grazing the reef along the way. I felt a buzzing numbness underwater, more from shock than pain. Regaining my faculties, I pushed skyward, surfacing just in time to take another one on the noggin'.

I was rattled. Damn, it was a pretty small wave, and yet it still kicked my ass. I'll humbly take it as wake up call--never underestimate the power of the ocean. However, I had to get back in the saddle again, so I paddled back out.

After a few mediocre rides, Brock Little came out on a jetski and ordered us out of the water. The Morey contest was about to begin, with the women hitting the water first. So I caught one in and got my gear to shoot from the water. After getting the proper OK's from the authorities, I jumped into the rip and made my way to the lineup.

The surf wasn't all that great, but at least the sun was out and the waves were pitching... once in a while, anyway. Before I even knew it, I got swirled out to Backdoor. I think the low tide made the water swing back west on the outside, especially because of the prominent sandbar at Gums. Had to really watch my positioning to make sure I wasn't in the contestants' way.

Once I got settled, I reacquainted myself with the joys of bodysurfing. I felt so mobile--like a seal, deftly slipping through the waves. In some way, it helped me recover from my bad wipeout earlier--bonding with the ocean seemed to have a rejuvinating effect on my spirit.

A set broke about ten feet in front of me, so I sounded the dive alarm. The water was lucidly clear, especially with the sun out. The reef was fairly flat, but surprisingly shallow (maybe five feet deep under a ten foot face wave). I hugged the bottom and watched the mayhem from below. Plumes of whitewater surged around in columns of energy. After avoiding the turbulence, I headed for a refill of oxygen. The deck looked glassy clear, with speckles of drops from the offshore spray dotting the blue surface. I swear the vision was out of a Don King video.

I quickly shot off the roll, getting a lot of unspectacular photos. Because of the peaky conditions, the girls took off all over the place, and went in both directions. I missed the best empty tube that came straight at me (classic fishing tale)--who the hell turned the stupid shutter lock button on!?!

Heard the surf rose to about 10' by the end of the day, and Brazilian Daniela Freitas took home the women's gold. Believe it or not, I made it to work in time--barely! I'm still licking my wounds from the tumble on my sponge, but I'll live. Getting spanked may have been a blessing in disguise.

Aloha from Paradise,