Stoke and Losses -- 6/4/05

Trying to be casual over the reef

Date: June 4, 2005
Time: 0600--0900
Spot(s): Westside
Conditions: Light trades and light crew
Swell: Background south with tradewind swell
Surf: 2-3'+ Haw'n

Words: A death in the family is tough. Of course, there's the sadness, but lots of other things can change. Priorities, responsibilities, and even attitudes towards life. This was the prelude to my latest session.

After a two-week hiatus from surfing due to our family loss, I was aching to get back in the water. To heal. To rejuvenate. To get stoked.

The anticipated SW swell that rocked Fiji earlier in the week was forecast to arrive on the weekend. However, it just didn't quite materialize. I headed west on Saturday anyway, hoping to find something, anything to ride.

I had just taken delivery of my modern "fish" board. Makani shaped it just right for me, really wide and thick for my excessive heft. Since it harkens back to a retro board, I told Makani to throw some splashes of color on it just for fun. Well, he delivered big time. The schema reminded me of a mahimahi (dolphin). And so it was dubbed the Mahi Board.

The spot I settled on had some fun, inconsistent sets between lulls. Conditions were sweet, with light offshores, clear skies and smooth water. However, the spot was sketchy on the low tide, with a very shallow reef below and muchos backwash above.

I don't know why, but even though I was riding a brand new board I surfed with reckless abandon. On my very first wave, I ended up going over the falls. Went into survival mode, curling my body so that my back would take the brunt of the impact. Unfortunately, I got planted right on a coral head, with my body literally arching around the reef. "That's gonna leave a mark," I thought as I winced a bit in pain.

Gathering myself in the whitewater after the impact, I knew it was bad, but could have been way worse without my rash guard and... Damn! My brand-spanking new Pentax Optio WP camera (waterproof digital) was tucked in back under my rash guard. Pulling out the camera, I was horrified to find the battery lid wide open (despite me locking it prior to use). The camera was waterlogged and completely toast.

Went to shore and deposited the camera carcass in the car. Of course, decided to keep surfing anyway. I needed to raise my stoke level. Probably more than ever.

The session itself actually turned out pretty good, despite my poor surfing aptitude. The crowd never went over four local boys, and everybody was cool and respectful. Most of the guys favored the more open lefts, but my limited skills made me gravitate to the rights (frontside for me). The boils in the water was a clue to the nature of the reef as it went from eight feet in depth to what seemed like one-foot on the inside (was probably more like three).

I caught some exciting rides taking straight line shots and doing Hawaiian pull-outs on the closeout end section. Although it wasn't all that big, the shallowness raised my exhilaration level big time.

I was pushing the new board and myself into situations where I probably shouldn't have, kind of like a game of Russian roulette. I guess I just had a lot of energy/emotion to release.

Towards the end of the session, it ended up being just me and one other guy in the lineup. We both were absorbing in the beauty and grandeur of nature and simultaneously tripping out that there was no one else but us in the fun surf.

However, after one particularly close call where my head lightly grazed the reef, I decided that I should cut my losses and catch one more in. It took a while for me to find one, but I finally dialed into a left. Unfortunately, the wave closed quickly so I kicked my board out, landing my feet right on the reef.

When I came up, I could not believe it. The fiberglass on the left side of the swallowtail deck somehow got pushed in, with cracks running all the way underneath. Argh!

Broken camera, scratched up body, dinged board. Talk about adding insult to injury to insult. I came in feeling disgusted and defeated, so I packed up and headed for home.

On the drive back, I soothed myself with my standard musical faire. The song "To Where You Are" surprisingly came on the stereo. It was the same song we used during the funeral services. Suddenly, things were put into perspective.

Despite the camera, the board and even my body, I really didn't suffer any major losses. In fact, I experienced moments of stoke that I could cherish for the rest of the day and beyond.

Aloha from Paradise,