Thanks (WSD 2003.2) -- 11/29/03

Fun-sized, but still treacherous--Brian Pacheco

Date: November 29, 2003
Time: 0730 -- 1015
Spot(s): "Ekolus"
Conditions: Offshore; surprisingly full lineup
Swell: Diminishing, NNE swell, wrapping around
Surf: 2-3' Haw'n

Words: Where to surf? This is always a difficult decision for me, but especially so this time. The funky weather pattern that we had for more than a week continued, with a big NNE swell once again pounding our shorelines. The swell was 8-12' Haw'n on Friday and supposed to peak in the evening. Forecasters were calling for the Country to be 8-12'+ on Saturday, well beyond my skillset.

Since the winds were also supposed to be firm trades, essentially mushing out the eastside, I decided that west would probably be the best bet. I was encouraged by a session report on Friday that Buddy had scored excellent "Ekolus".

Woke up late--damn, I hate that. Was a bit tired from the early Christmas shopping, and a bit delirious with a touch of sinus congestion. Rushed out of the house without looking online at the conditions. Went with my earlier decision and headed west.

Surf was still small on the Westside, but there were some fun waves to be had. The lineup was initially empty, but filled up quickly. It was slightly bigger than the last time I went out there, but still somewhat of a disappointment.

There were familiar faces coming out to the lineup. In fact, I believe I'd seen most everyone before somewhere or another. Local pros Brian Pacheco and Melanie Bartels were out, showing us how to ride the spot. Brian and I used to compete in amateur bodyboarding contests back in the day (I lost to him when he was 11 and I 23). I snapped a picture of little Melanie bodyboarding back when she was 11, probably the first published photo of her. Both have made Hawaii proud with Brian having decent coverage in the mags and Mel winning the WQS this year even after having a baby--she'll be in the big leagues (the women's WCT) next year.

We were catching some fun ones, with everyone knowing their place in the lineup. Although the waves were somewhat inconsistent, the surf was adequate.

I was inside when I heard a surfer yelling out for help. After pulling into a small tube, the guy apparently got hit by his board. I stroked over to assist and found that the nose of his board caught him just under the left eye. He was understandably stressing out in fear of losing his eye. I tried to reassure him that it would be OK, although I could not offer a guarantee. It was a scary wound.

Our next task was to make it to shore. Between the jagged coral coastline, there was only a six foot swath of sand that we had to shoot for. Fortunately, it was small, so it wasn't too difficult. Still I had to guide him in and we had to time the sets just right.

His girlfriend/wife was onshore and took him to the hospital. I was reassured that he was in good spirits when he turned and thanked me for helping. I truly hope that he was all right.

Paddling back out, I found the lineup had changed to a totally somber mood. Everyone was worried for the guy, and probably internally thought about how easy it was for any one of us to also get injured. It was a time for quiet reflection.

Eventually, we got back to the business at hand and made the most of the surf. My best wave was my last where I drove for a very long time in the tube. Not knowing where I was relative to the craggy shoreline, I bailed forward off my board. At that instant, the wave opened up and I found myself flopping on the wave face as the tube opened up. Darn!

When I got home, I got mixed messages on the conditions on the North Shore. I heard one report that it was gnarly, with very few people even making it out. However, my friend John "No Fin" said it was as good as it gets at Laniakea. I always try to push myself, targeting the best surf I can handle. So I felt simultaneous frustration and relief for missing the big waves.

I continued to stew over the missed opportunity for a couple days. Such is the anguish that I sometimes (stupidly) impose upon on myself. I eventually realized that me being there on the Westside allowed me to help out a fellow surfer in some small way. I'm sure he would have been taken care of by someone else if I wasn't there, but just the same I'm glad that I could be of service.

Postscript: On Sunday, an Argentinian bodyboarder drowned at Pipeline in rough conditions. I was saddened, but at the same time felt reassured that I made the right call and took it easy the previous day. Given the short time we have on this planet, we should be thankful for every wave we ride and grateful for the opportunities we have to help others.