Just One Wave (WSD 2002) -- 3/31/02

Doesn't look like much, but it was radical!

I was desperate. It was World Surf Day (WSD) 2002, the alt.surfing's annual event where waveriders from around the world have a global surf and report on their sessions. I just had to get some water time. My desperation was compounded by not having surfed for two whole weeks prior, so I was jonesing big time for some ocean motion.

The forecast for Sunday was promising, with a rising swell from a nearby weather system. Buoy #1 started bouncing around at a very respectable 15 feet, 14 seconds. Although the winds were forecast to turn onshore for the North Shore, light variables persisted which swayed our decision to hit the North Shore. Via IM (instant messaging) the night before, Buddy and I decided that we'd target Laniakea.

As usual, I woke up real early and drove out, cruising to the tunes that my wife ripped to CD for me. By the time I got to the Country, songs by Puddle of Mudd, Linkin Park and Saliva got me all amped and charged up.

Peering through the darkness, I noticed that the waves were indeed up--they were up substantially. In fact, it looked like there were occasional whitecaps way outside the regular lineup. It was big.

Rather than jump in with just a gibbous moon to provide light, I drove to the "upside" to see what was happening there. Pipe was relatively small, but it was tossing wildly, with some outer reefs feathering. There were quite a few people who peered at the surf, then turned around and drove elsewhere. Myself included.

On my way back to Laniakea, I noticed a lot of commotion happening at Waimea Bay. Didn't make the connection that it was Easter Sunday and there was going to be a sunrise service. All I knew was that Pinballs was breaking, with some bigger ones popping off beyond the point.

Nobody was in the water at all, but I just had to go. Buzzed Buddy on his cell, saying the surf wasn't good at all. I parked at Laniakea, suited up, and stretched out on the beach. Checking out the surf, I convinced myself that there were rideable lines out there. The inside looked doable, with some short walls. There were some bomb sets that seem to break way outside the normal lineup but eh, I figured I'd just take it conservatively.

Paddled out on my bodyboard without incident. The inside reef area was sucking up extra hard though, reminiscent of big Makapu'u shorebreak. Didn't think much of it; just kept moving forward.

Soon, I found myself chasing the middle peak. Since it was a fairly near-source groundswell, the waves were coming from many directions and had a shortish period to it. It was messy.

The current kept pulling me out and toward the east while I tried looking for something to ride. The size was definitely there, but the form was butt-ugly.

And then it came. A set started breaking way outside in a place I had never ever seen break. Surprisingly, there was no alarm or stress ringing in my head--just an "oh shit" acceptance that I was going to get caught inside.

I fruitlessly attempted a duckdive into this maybe 10 foot wall of whitewater, but just got ragdolled. By the time the set was completed, it had pushed me halfway in to shore.

Fight or flight? Damn, it was WSD. I had to catch at least one wave before going back in. So I made the loop heading west around the whitewater, starting over in the inside channel.

My strategy this time was to snag a wall before I got transported back out to sea near the outside peak. Unfortunately, nothing came in that was really rideable. I just couldn't stroke into anything. Guess I was playing it too conservative, staying more in the channel than in the pit. I got gun-shy from my first gotcha.

The swift current eventually drew me outside and I soon found myself way too far out to catch waves. Or so I thought.

As I was paddling back in against the current, I heard an ominous rumbling outside. Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. A big wave was coming at me, with a sweet peak headed straight for me. However, the one behind it had already broken and was about to steamroll anything in its path. I had to get out of there pronto.

I just whipped around and scratched for the first wave, knowing that I would get ragdolled back inside anyway. The wave peaked just outside of me, crumbling just as I took off. I knew it was do or die, so I committed myself fully. As I started sliding down the face, the top half of the wave folded right over me. I held on for dear life, keeping my board flat, nose up, pointed towards shore. The impact was jarring, but I amazingly held on, getting a serious jolting. I was snowblind for what seemed like an eternity before getting shoved out of the whitewater and into the sunlight. Man, was I relieved.

But that feeling didn't last long. I rode for a little while on the shoulder before it sectioned at the second peak. I think I ducked under the wave to avoid the explosion. Wrong move.

I ended up right in the pit as the next wave bore down on me. Fark! This time, the whitewater mauled me mercilessly, yanking my board out of my death grip. I panicked and scratched for the surface. Must've been under for only 20 seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. When I broke, my body was aching from oxygen deprivation.

The next few waves were also rough, leaving me gasping for air, just clutching to my board. By the time it eased off, I was pushed in all the way to the inside channel. I think someone was telling me it was time to leave.

I was so stoked to just reach the shore. Was hoping to have a nice long exercise session, but ended up just fighting for dear life.

Drove back up to Pipeline and saw absolutely no one else in the water anywhere. On my way back, I seriously contemplated going out to Waimea Bay for some Pinballs action. However, the waves were coming in at such an acute angle that there really wasn't much of a wall there. Anyway, there was a huge crowd in the park, having their Easter Sunrise Service. Didn't want to cross their path like an unbelieving heathen.

Reluctantly, I drove home after only an hour in the water and just one wave under my belt. I was pretty bummed about the session. But then again, I was truly happy to be alive. On a day that celebrates rebirth, I couldn't help but feel a little blessed.

Happy World Surf Day!