World Surf Day/Week '98 -- 4/18/98

Of course, it cleaned up AFTER I got out of the water

All waveriders on alt.surfing banded together for a World Surf Day/Week. Just like last year, everyone was invited to catch some waves sometime between April 12 and 20, 1998, then turn in a session report. Here's my contribution for this year:

Name: Neal Miyake
Date: Saturday, April 18, 1998 (belated)
Time: 5:30-9:30 AM
Location: between Insanities and Ehukai, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Distance searched/Traveled:  0 miles/70 miles roundtrip
Weather: partly cloudy with strong sideshore gusts
Air Temperature: 80 F
Water Temperature: 78 F
Conditions: rising tide, lots of sand, funky
Crowd: fairly empty with maybe six on a peak max
Food: Pre: banana, yogurt, cookies, water
Transportation: Honda Civic beachmobile
Wave riding vehicle:  Custom X bodyboard ("M"-tail, channels, leash)
Swell: rising NNW with some lingering NW
Surf: 3-5'++ Hawaiian scale
Comments:  see below

One Good Ride -- 4/18/98

"I was in the pit with no escape as the set bore down on top of me. It shoved me down into a dark, cold, sandy abyss; into a place I did not want to be."

Backtrack one month: I was fortunate enough to travel to Guam on business. Caught some really fun waves after work for two-and-a-half weeks straight. However, upon my return to Hawaii, I got consecutive bouts of both a flu and a cold. All the conditioning I had gained in Guam was lost, as I wallowed in over two weeks of sickness.

Finally, I was ready to surf; and just in time, too. The incessant winds that had plagued the islands for over a month were subsiding to a "reasonable" 10-25 mph tradewind. Also, a quick-moving Aleutian storm was forecast to send a decent swell to the North Shore right on the weekend. I was on it!

I paddled out early on Saturday to Pipe with a crew of other bodyboarders. Conditions were messy, with the winds still fairly strong, chopping up the water surface. Because there hadn’t been any recent big swell activity, the offshore sand had been smoothed evenly over the reefs. This left virtually all breaks sectiony and warpy, with no well-defined channels for the waves to peel across.

We worked our way west, looking for a decent peak. Backdoor wasn’t happening; ditto for Off-The-Wall. But Insanities had a few, so that’s where we ended up.

I soon realized that I needed to reacquaint myself with Hawaiian juice, especially with the swell running at a gnarly 3-5’ (Haw’n). The surf I experienced in Guam was perfect at times, but had nothing on the raw power I was feeling here on the North Shore. And with my recent inactivity, I felt especially sluggish in the lineup.

Then the madness began. It all started so innocuously, really. I caught a less than mediocre Insanities-right ride, and kicked out. When I turned to paddle back out, I found myself caught right in the pit of an oncoming set. I was sitting right where two peaks heaved together, dredging water off of the sandbar.

Talk about a salt-water enema! I was churned on four double-o waves, tumbled and held underwater for what seemed like an eternity, times four. I felt like a lemming getting flushed down a toilet. Choking on the surface, with the first pangs of panic setting in, I finally did the noble thing--I went in. It was 6:00 AM.

For a full half-hour, I sat on the beach, just gathering myself. I had burned so much adrenaline that I could barely walk straight (OK, so I still had my fins on). I was exhausted, but worse than that, a small seed of fear was planted into my subconscious.

Suddenly, a familiar voice called from behind. I turned and saw my good friend Ivan Okuda. Instant rejuvenation! I love surfing with Iv’ because he's one of the few guys with even more stoke than I have (plus he's also almost as old as me).

We decided to chance the Beach Park, so I jogged to the parking lot to meet him. Ivan had videotaped a previous session of ours, The Pit and the Pendulum, and so he gave me a copy that he had burned. (BTW, he got "The Pit!")

When we got to the park, we found that a HASA amateur contest was about to take place. No big deal. After (jokingly) hassling the contest director and judges about water rights, we headed out right in front of the park before they started.

Gums was our target, but I had my mind set on Ehukai proper (the eventual contest area). Unfortunately, the surf there was also "all weirded out". There were some solid 5 footers (Haw’n), but the big ones were just shutting down completely. Then there was this unusual backwash to contend with that made the conditions especially funky.

Unfortunately, I picked up right where I left off at Insanities. First attempt at a wave, I pulled back at the last minute, then got sucked over the falls (kook!). Second one, closeout. Third, straightened out. And so it went.

Ivan was doing pretty good despite the conditions, getting some clean walls on the smaller waves. He was riding one of his newfangled board designs--a bodyboard with an asymmetrical tail--to facilitate his dropknee attack. However, conditions weren't really conducive to testing the subtle design improvements.

Once the contestants started filtering into the lineup, we settled in at Gums. For the life of me, I still could not dial into any good ones. I did manage to perform a splayed over-the-falls wipeout (9.9 on the difficulty scale) along with some dorky dropknee attempts.

After a couple of hours in the poor conditions, Ivan decided to throw in the towel, leaving me to ponder my next move. Pipe was looking pretty inviting, with a few hollow hooks coming in to a sparse crowd, so I drifted down.

Scoring waves during this time of the season is great because all the visiting surfers are all but gone. I hooked up with a few local riders that I know "by face", and we took turns on the peak.

However, I still didn't really have my act together. Got axed at the bottom of one wave with the lip drilling me right between the shoulderblades. On another, I reached the bottom just in time to swerve into the barrel and savor one moment of visual ecstasy in the tube. Then I became one with the lip and got sucked right over the falls, eventually doing cartwheels in the whitewater.

Finally, I decided to just wait for a good one, at least one good ride, before heading in. And so I waited, and waited, and waited.

Suddenly, a single wave reared up on the horizon. By the time we saw it, it was already feathering in the firm crosswinds. I was sitting the furthest out, but had to paddle out even further to get in position. I quickly swung around then used all four appendages to scratch into it. The wave jacked quickly, and I soon found myself freefalling down the face, just sketching big time!

Once I reconnected, I meekly decided to straighten off slightly. It's a good thing too, because moments later, the thunderous lip bombed down just a couple of yards behind and to the inside of me. I managed to slowly bank around the curl and onto the (by then) severely tapered shoulder, then kicked out in the channel.

What a rush! Don't know if I was shell-shocked from that ride or just tired, but I remember paddling back out with a slight tremble on my breath. After getting a few "How was that wave!?!" comments by some of the boys, I decided to call it a day taking a cute little tube to the beach.

I was physically and mentally exhausted. Both ankles ached from excessive strain against my fins. My left shoulder throbbed slightly from the ax-job. My flooded sinuses again gave me a headache. But one good ride was all it took to make it all worthwhile. Even the near-drowning incident became just a distant memory. I guess that's what stoke is all about.

Happy World Surf Day/Week '98

P.S. The size of that wave? I'd say close to eight feet, Hawaiian. Yow!