A Word About Q-Tips -- 8/23/98

Buddy, first wave at dawn

(Also check out Buddy's report and pics.)

A much anticipated south swell was again forecast for the weekend. Although the buoys were showing an increase in wave height, the wave period indicated only windswell. Looked like it might be one of those overhyped skunkers again.

Called Buddy and Makani and we agreed to give it a go. We've been waiting for half the summer for a solid south in hopes of scoring this semi-secret spot I'll call Q-Tips. Buddy and Makani had both surfed there before and said that it goes off on big swells. Buddy thought this would be the perfect time to give it a go.

I, on the other hand, had my reservations. The surf was definitely on the rise, but wasn't up to expectations (isn't that always the case?). Also, strong easterly winds were in the forecast, creating some intense sideshores. Some head-high mush was all I was hoping for.

Buddy picked me up before dawn and we headed out to the parking area. Surprisingly, there already were three surfers in the lot contemplating a go-out (Buddy knew a couple of the boys). The surf looked unimpressive from shore--small and sloppy. But as I was about to find out, looks can be deceiving.

When Makani arrived, we toyed with the idea of going somewhere else. But since Buddy and I already were waxed up with our toes halfway in the water, we convinced Makani to stay.

What looked like lousy waves from shore turned out to be some pretty damned good surf! We had to paddle over a deep channel to get to this outer reef that only shows on bigger swells. The reason for my deception was because of the sheer distance to the lineup--maybe a half mile plus. No wonder Q-Tips is not surfed regularly.

The surf was inconsistent at times, but when the sets came, they were awesome. Maybe 3-4' (Haw'n) with the big ones nearing double-overhead on the peak. The sideshore winds were definitely a detriment, bringing in a bit of an easterly component which shut down the end section of the rights. The lefts were open, but paddling straight back out was a crapshoot.

Buddy was on fire right off the bat, tearing up the rights on his forehand and riding them all the way inside to the closeout section. He was on a 6' 3", but still managed to scratch into the waves from the peak, then charge down the line, carving it up along the way.

On one especially good wave, I saw him take off on the bowl, bank around the whitewater, snap a couple of times, stall in the hook, whip some cutbacks, and finish off by spraying me in the face. I had my water camera in hand from start to finish to record the action... but the camera JAMMED! Sorry Buddy.

The usually smooth Makani was uncharacteristically out-of-sych throughout the session. He didn't seem comfortable riding his 7' 0", and was content to just work (and get worked) on the inside. Makani was pretty understanding that sometimes these things happen, and was already planning an afternoon session to satiate his unsatisfied wave hunger.

I saw one of his memorable (?) rides when he came down backside and just swooped right into the hook. Somehow, the foamball caught up with him, loosening up his stability. The strong winds suddenly got under his board and fluttered it over the lip like a kite as he got swallowed by the barrel. It was that kind of day for him, but he was still stoked just the same.

As for myself, I had a very exciting session. Snagged some fun ones in the beginning with my 9' 0" longboard. The board was designed more for carving than noseriding, so it handled the drops well. And boy, did I drop on some waves.

After feasting for the first hour or so, I started getting pretty cocky. A set came in and I was the only guy out. Had to go. I must've really misjudged it because as soon as I planted my feet on my board, the lip planted itself to my butt. I went down big time!

Surfacing amid the bubbles, I soon realized that I was caught in the impact zone at the very beginning of the set. I scrambled back on my board and scratched for the horizon. No chance. Ended up turning turtle for what seemed like an eternity, grudgingly trying to punch through on the wrong side of the break.

Just when I thought I was about to make it back out, another set suddenly poured in. I thought I was close, but it broke 100 yards outside of me. I was above water between rinse cycles just long enough to see Buddy stand bolt-upright on a freight-training wall, then heroically pull into an unmakeable barrel section.

After a half-hour of fighting, I finally relented and paddled around and into the channel. Buddy jokingly said they were ready to call the Coast Guard to look for me. At least it was a good AEROBIC workout.

All I knew was that I was pumped to ride more waves. I had to catch something special to bring some sort of parity back into my session. There's a word to describe my need, but I could not, for the life of me, think of it. I just knew I needed some sort of recovery.

Of course, right then, the ocean went flat.

We played around for a while, catching some small ones along with the three other guys in the lineup. The winds were so strong, that we had to constantly paddle just to maintain position. But nothing substantial came.

Slowly, it started turning back on. Lots of waves just walled up and closed out with the easterly hook, but if you dialed into the right one, you were rewarded with a long, wide open face on a steep wall.

A solid set came, and once again Buddy was right in position to grab the first wave, which he ended up working all the way in. The next one came in and looked just as big. A surfer was sitting outside of me, but he was a little too far behind the peak and backed out of it. I was on it!

Despite my aching shoulders, it was a remarkably easy entry. I vaguely remember Makani yelling something in encouragement, but my mind was focused down the line. I pressed up and got planted firmly on my deck right into a righteous, swooping drop. The strong winds chopped the water ahead of me, but the board didn't chatter at all--it just trimmed beautifully as I took a conservative, mid-face trim. I was content to just stay in the hook and ride the well-overhead face, raising my arms in total stoke.

When I finally kicked out, all I could do was close my eyes, tilt my head up to the sky and fall back into the water in elation. It was at that moment that I remembered what the word was... REDEMPTION!

Aloha from Paradise,