"It just doesn't get any better than this" -- 2/14/98

The Search

Doug sent me this session email the very same day of our latest surf together. I started working on a story of my own, but soon realized that I couldn't improve on capturing the essence as well as he had already did. So for this week, I humbly asked Doug if I could use his story as the foundation for my "Express Sesh" report, which he agreed to. I left his stuff virtually intact except for some elaboration in brackets. I've also tagged on my own perspectives at the very end (wordy, as usual). Did we score or what!?!

"It just doesn't get any better than this"

    Story by Doug

What a day! Started off about 5:45a, checked Makaha from my condo. Not a breath of wind. The moon shining down on Makaha was reflecting off the waves as they rolled in; was as glassy as a mirror out there. Long streaks of silver moving in toward the beach, then turning to pewter as the waves broke and turned to moonlit foam. Cruised down to the beach, and chatted with Jesus and Craig. Looked like 10-12' out there.

Then headed out to Y's [semi-secret spot names changed to keep them mysto], and met up with Neal and Jerry at G's. Big pitching sets; could have been makeable, but piledriver closeouts aren't my favorite. Reef break, not sand. C's was breaking really deep, not a good angle. The sandbar had formed (and it's gonna be great in the next few days), but the Y's right was breaking off the reef with a long pitching barrel and closing out right at the head of the sandbar. About a third of the waves were makeable, long screaming rides, and the other two thirds were closeout and cleanup monstrosities. Situation was a bit sketchy, with the reef boils clearly showing what was in store if you caught/got caught by the wrong wave. Decided against.

Cruised by PFS's, but it wasn't happening. Ditto R's. Looked at Makaha (the Buffalo [Buffalo Big Board Surfing Classic contest] at Makaha sorta ruled it out), and Klausmeyers looked like it would be a good destination. Decided to press on. Checked Cornets, but it wasn't the same direction as yesterday, and those long perfect rights were missing. Looked at Green Lanterns; about then the Maili reef let loose, breaking about 1/2 mile outside Green Lanterns/Sewers. The backwash was really messing things up, and the one shortboarder out there wasn't catching any good ones. Snarly mess.

Went to Rest Camp. We watched a set breaking outside the harbor channel. About then this 24' fishing boat cruises out of the harbor and heads outside. We're standing on the beach, watching the waves breaking _outside_ of the boat. The boat took the first broken wave about 3/4 to [almost broadside], and heeled over so far the masts almost hit the water. All hell must have broken loose inside. The captain was on the flying bridge, and I was amazed he wasn't thrown overboard. He got the boat 1/4 to [almost head-on] on the second wave, and it took a flying leap and crashed down on the other side. But fortunately that was it for the set, and he kept on cruising outside. One minute later, it's calm again. Duh; that's why there was a harbor entrance warning for Waianae Harbor. Maybe next time he'll poke his nose out and look for sets first. Anyway, about fifteen longboarders and more crew on the way made Neal leery of hassling for waves. So we decided to go back to Klausmeyers.

But since the Buff wasn't going to start for at least an hour, we decided to go to Makaha Bowl first. Surprisingly, the current was no problem at all, and it was an easy paddle outside. Only four people out, and Neal, Jerry and I gradually worked our way out to the Point. Sets were 8-10' and glassy. Unbelievably easy for me to paddle in and drop, and every wave I caught was a clean pitching barrel. At first, Neal and I were catching the more inside set waves. Then Neal caught one that took him way inside, and he headed for the channel. Jerry and I worked our way into the main Point zone, and I caught another full barrel. Then one came in where I was too deep, but Jerry was in the right spot. I yelled to go for it, and he turned and went. No hesitation. It must have been quite a drop, because it was breaking down the line rapidly. I saw him inside where it had closed out, and the next one cleaned him up; his head bobbed up, and then the next one nailed him too. I saw him pop half out of the water after that one, then he was gone. The next one was smaller, though, so I figured he'd caught it in (Neal sent me e-mail tonight that said he was ok). Anyway, Jerry, nice one!

Neal came back out, while I was drifting in to see if Jerry was ok. I caught a clean long barrel, made it out, and pulled into the closeout. But by then, I was in by the sand boils, and that meant another trip to the channel and the long paddle back out. When I got out, Craig and Jesus had gone in, leaving only Neal, Fred Hemmings and me. The current picked up, and we drifted way the heck out to the 14' lineup. A pod of dolphins came swimming by, and a whale blew outside. That's when Fred gave us the title quote of this e-mail: "It just doesn't get any better than this." We made it back to the lineup in time for a 12' set to come blasting through (we all passed, though). Fred and I caught one together; I had the inside barrel and he rode it all the way in, leaving just Neal and me. We caught some more, then it was time for Neal to go; good thing, because water patrol was chasing everybody out.

Craig came back out to do water patrol, but since none of the tandem bodyboard and bullyboard competitors came out to the Point, we had the whole place to ourselves. So we took turns catching the best of the set waves. The tide had dropped, and the outside was feeling the reef and doubling. Steep drops and fast runs. I let some go I shouldn't have, but I was catching all the waves I wanted; all clean, fast, pitching barrels. Then I caught one and rode it all the way in to the island, and I knew it was time to go. It was about 10:30a by then, and no sunscreen.

I guess this is kinda long, but it's one of those days that's so full of stoke that it's just worth passing on. I'm looking forward to Neal's writeup on this session.


Neal's (aka Sponge's) Amplification:

Like I said, I can't improve on Doug's great story; I can only give some of my personal insights to the events of the day.

The search: We did checks of no less than 15 distinct surf spots, spending almost two hours running along the coastline. To say that I was anxious to get wet would be the understatement of the year. But I think that the long search was fun and made the final score all the more satisfying.

High surf advisory: That boat at Rest Camp came within an "RCH" of capsizing--it was nuts!

Sponge take: When we finally hit Makaha, I just jumped on any wave I could find. I scored a lot of middle-sized set waves, just continuously paddling out, then taking off. Big walls of water lined up nicely, with a big peak near the channel and a great bowl on the inside--ended up mostly trimming with an occasional cutback and re-entry thrown in for good measure. Finally, I pressed my luck too far and got caught inside for almost a half hour (!), battling the whitewater and the sets that swung wide. I ended my session near the point.

The biggest: During my floundering, Doug and Jerry drifted off towards the point and Jerry took off on "the biggest wave of his life." As recounted to me, this is what happened on The Wave: Doug was too far out for it, but Jerry was right in the pit. Doug yelled some encouragement, but Jerry was completely oblivious--didn't hear anything--he just went for it. And he went LEFT! Charging down the face for what seemed like an eternity, he soon realized that it was shutting down. So he turned right. However, that side was closing out too, so Jerr had no choice but to straighten out. By then the wave was drawing lots of water, and it created a chop that just took him out. His body flipped around just enough for him to see the closeout section bearing down on him. SLAM!!! Jerry got some serious doughnuts. He then proceeded to take a few more on the noggin', leaving him gasping for air. Ended up proning it to the beach for a breather. Some locals who saw the whole thing told him, "Eh get drag, dat one [pointing to Jerry's bodyboard]. Mo' betta ride one skimboard next time--mo' fast." Jerry ended up being all wired from the sesh, and couldn't sleep till the wee hours of the morning (I don't blame him).

Pure surfing: Doug, whom I call the resident Makaha Point bodysurfer, doesn't toot his own horn, but he charges big time nonetheless. It's pretty amazing, really, because you just don't see bodysurfers riding point surf. But Dougie makes it work, usually getting solidly pitted or speeding down the long wall (sometimes both). Truly inspiring.

The Republican: Another inspirational sight was this older-type surfer who was catching these perfectly lined up waves from the bowl near the point. You could tell that this guy had lots of experience at Makaha, because he took off really deep, yet rode the waves all the way through. Only after paddling all the way out did I realize it was none other than former surfing world champion (1968) and former state representative (R) Fred Hemmings. I complimented him on his great book, The Soul of Surfing is Hawaiian, and asked for a future interview for my website. Man, he's still got it.

Serenity: The three of us (Doug, Fred and I) quietly absorbed the absolute beauty of the ambiance out in the lineup. Though we all recognized it, Doug was the first one to verbalize why it felt so good: the dolphins cruising within a few yards of us, no wind and sunny skies, soft Hawaiian music playing in the background, big perfect waves, and no one else out! Then Fred said the epic words, "It just doesn't get any better than this."

The set: On that big set that we all missed, I was kicking into the first wave when I got a double cramp on both calves. Watching it heave down the line unridden was just as painful as the strain in my appendages. I think someone was telling me that I wasn't ready for one of those just yet.

Finis: When the jetskis came out, they politely told me to go in since they were running the bullyboard divisions and didn't want the judges to get confused with me (since I was on my bodyboard). So I obliged by catching a middle-sized set in. Once on shore, I playfully admonished my friends on the judge's stand for chasing me out of the water, then went looking for Jerry. Knowing that he got drilled on the big set, I started getting a bit worried. However, I was relieved to find him at Klausmeyers, trying to surf the lefts out there. Despite the bad fall, he decided to get right back in the saddle and chance the other spot--good attitude. He came in soon afterwards, and we left just after 10:00 AM, with Doug still enjoying the excellent surf at the Point.

We spent a lot of time looking for the best waves, but it turned out to be staring us right in our faces all along. Like Fred said, it just doesn't get any better than that!

Aloha from Paradise,