The Pit and the Pendulum -- 3/7/98

Maligs killing it at OTW

Pure torture. That's what it was like as I enviously saw reports of good surf conditions throughout the week. But things were looking up for my weekend surf. A swell was forecast to peak Friday night, then going into a steady decline.

Fellow alt.surfing crewmember Jose Borrero just happened to be in town, and so we planned to hook up on Saturday. However, he didnít have his own ride, so he was a prisoner to his friends as far as where and when to surf. The Seven-Mile Miracle that is the North Shore was small enough to maybe connect... maybe.

While heading out, I made several absolutely unrelated and irrelevant observations. The sky was lucidly clear in the calm, dark, moonless night. A drugged-out kid was swinging on a sign near Sunset Beach Elementary. Garbage was strewn around Ehukai Beach Park; methinks someone was foraging like a rat through old plate lunch boxes. An old man meditated on a park bench, unconscious to the world.

My sponge buddy Ivan and I paddled out in the darkness and started trading waves as others quickly trickled into the lineup. The surf was absolutely pristine--not a hint of wind whatsoever with a not-quite consistent 3-5+' (Hawín) swell rolling in. The salty spray just arced off the majestic walls in a beautiful, misty haze.

A mini-Backdoor beauty

After not having surfed bigger North Shore waves for some time, I was apprehensive about my abilities. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I just couldn't get my s#!t together. The madness began right from the very start.

On my first two waves, I got softly drilled by the lip on small, glassy Pipeline tubelets. After my third, I was caught inside and a set wave bore down on me, effortlessly slicing through my brand new leash like a scythe. I hustled out of the water, installed my backup (yeah, itís a crutch), then jumped back in, only to get nailed again on some small Backdoor waves. Apparently, I was getting hung up on the takeoffs and dropped into sections with very little lateral speed to pull me through.

I even had one "small-kine" altercation. I was in prime position to take off deep at Pipeline when this surfer-dude started paddling around me from the inside, seemingly to snake me. My mind instantly clicked into competition mode as I paddled further up the lineup. I took off going left, and he surprisingly tried going right. We bumped rails, then went straight. For me there was no escape from a pretty nasty tumble, while the surfer somehow maintained his stance and went left. No quarter, no arguments; I just gave him "one mean stink-eye" and continued catching waves. Sometimes North Shore surfing is a contact sport.

But wait, thereís more. I got caught inside a couple of times for like 10 minutes each, scraping reef with my knuckles on the duckdives--it was exceptionally shallow on the inside with no cushion of sand whatsoever. I finally paddled over to OTW, hoping for some sort of reprieve, but then promptly got my foot (accidentally) run over by someoneís skeg as I was pushing through a wave. It hurt pretty bad, but I maintained.

I shook my head in disbelief at all my early morning misfortunes. Was my biorhythm bottoming out or what? I seriously contemplated cutting my losses and leaving, but I had more time to kill... more precious water time. In hindsight, I was glad I stayed.

Slowly, the pendulum started swinging the other way for me. The crowd at OTW was a lot more mellow than at Pipe/Backdoor, allowing better freedom of wave selection. In no time, I started snagging some good ones.

The defining wave was this beautiful closeout wall. It looked makeable from the get-go, with a little bowl pushing in from the Backdoor area. Smooth takeoff into a slightly shaky trim. Got fully shacked, and drove through the cavern until the lipís shockwave bounced me off. That pit really pumped the adrenaline back into my veins.

I mustíve regained a lot of confidence on that one, because I started doing things I havenít tried for a while. With the body growing older, my back and neck have been more susceptible to strain, so Iíve been easing off on the launching stuff. But with my rejuvinated spirit, I went just for it, completing one nice re-entry and a solid aerial, both landing softly on whitewater.

Between sets, I started wondering about how our old bodyboarding crew no longer hung out together. Suddenly, out popped some of the guys--most of whom I hadn't seen all winter. Maligs, WonTon, A.J., Boothy, Chep--all of them came out and traded waves with us. It was great seeing "da boys" again. (Watch the mags for a shot of madman Chris "WonTon" Taloa decked out in a very colorful jersey doing a wicked standup snap--on a bodyboard, of course.)

However, with the influx of all that talent and the increasing period between sets, I started groping for waves. Well satiated by then, it was time to make my way in. On the beach, I talked to Ivanís wife, who said that I was surfing pretty good and that she got some of it on video. Then, pro-photog Joseph Libby told me he also clicked off a couple shots--yeah! Call me narcissistic--I covet images of myself in the act--doesn't everyone? (Everyone except maybe Tommy Lee.)

Driving back towards Town, I quickly scanned the parked cars on Kam Hwy, searching for Joseís ride. No luck. (Found out later he was busy surfing himself silly at Rocky Point.) Oh well, maybe next time we can swing it together.

This session started as a horror story but had a fairy tale ending. I guess sometimes you just have to be patient. All it takes is one good pit, to swing the pendulum back in your favor.

P.S. If you don't understand all the highlights, read Edgar Allen Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum."

Frame grabs of The Pit by Ivan Okuda

Aloha from Paradise,