Pinballed, Part 1 -- 2/7/98

Actual unretouched photo of my ballbreaker of a wave

We planned to meet up at Jimmy's house at 5:30 AM for our Saturday surf session. Ushi was a no-show, so the remaining crew consisted of Jimmy, Jerry and me.

The surf was coming down from a big NNW and the winds were variable, so it was a difficult call as to where to go. For our own comfort, we decided to head out west to catch some of the smaller wrap. So we piled into my compact and ventured out into the darkness on our surfari.

Much to our dismay, when we got to Maili Point, we found small surf. Knowing that there was a contest at Makaha, I told the boys that I'd rather we cut our (time) losses and chance the North Shore instead. Sleepy Jerry didn't really care where we went, but Jimmy was a bit hesitant.

You see, Jimmy has been surfing for many years, and has had his share of dangerous encounters. One time, he and his high school friends went out to Pipeline on a big day. His friends didn't want any part of the action, but Jimmy boldly went out by himself, his trusty 5' 8" twin fin tucked under his arm. He managed to paddle into a six footer, got up, then... freefell to the bottom. Jimmy got worked, got pinned, got his butt kicked.

Methinks that this long-ago tumble has made Jimmy a bit gun-shy. However, today he was up to the challenge. "OK, let's go," he said.

We arrived at Laniakea at about 6:40 AM. No one was out, so we couldn't gauge the size, but it looked like it was raging. In my audacity, I decided it was rideable, so I busted out my 9' 0" tanker. Jerry blindly followed me on his bodyboard, while Jimmy decided to wait and see how we would fare--"Too cold, right now," he honestly said, his breath condensing in the morning air.

Paddling out, we soon realized how rough it really was. The inside reef was literally tossing us around in a frenetic chop. However, we quickly made it to the channel and into the lineup, thanks to the northeast rip.

The surf was really big--a solid 4-6' (Haw'n), with some much bigger ones. I speak for myself when saying that I was both stoked and spooked by the conditions. This was not what I had expected in the forecast. What I thought would be a pure NNW swell, turned out to be a mix, with some new west coming in. making the lineup peaky and shifty.

After some futile attempts, I finally found a good one to try for. I was paddling hard on the inside, fueled by Jerry's encouragement from the shoulder. Couldn't make it. I turned around just in time to see this macking closeout set, solid eight footer, pour down on us. Jerry and I bailed our boards and dove. Amazingly, we got through without a hitch.

I turned to Jerry and told him that this was a little more than we bargained for, and that we might want to try somewhere else, especially so Jimmy could join us. (Yeah, we should all suffer together!) No sooner than I tell him that, Jerry catches a really nice wall that he ends up riding all the way through to the inside--his wave of the day.

So I searched for one of my own. I had to catch one wave; hopefully a set wave. Couldn't paddle in with my tail between my legs.

Finally, peak and positioning came together as a rideable wave came right to me. I paddled into it and jumped on. My board chattered a bit with the chop, but I maintained, hugging the wall. However, my success was short-lived as a down-the-line peak shut down in front of me. I had no choice but to straighten out.

Trying to "ironleg" the whitewater, I got into a Greg Noll big wave stance. But the closeout peak came in at an acute angle and just bowled me over. Jimmy saw it and said that I got annihilated by the ball of foam!

Rather than bounce away from me, my board curled onto its rail. Somehow my legs got between the board and I scissored straight down on it... Pow! Karanged my allahs big time! Thank goodness it was cold--shrinkage helped save me from permanently becoming a soprano!

As I was being tossed underwater, I was literally laughing at the irony. I was just like Jimmy at Pipeline! I went out with a little cocky attitude, then got slammed for all of my friends to see. Paddling in, I had my tail between my legs; but at least my family jewels were intact.

After getting razzed by the boys, I told them there was still lots of time for them to get their turn. We quickly jumped into my surfmobile and charged up the coast, looking for a more manageable spot. Of course, we eventually found one.

Next, Pinballed, Part 2

Aloha from Paradise,