The Beauty of Gray -- 12/23/96

Silky Wall

Just back from Puerto Rico, I was really eager to get back into the North Shore groove. Traveling is fun, but there's no place like home.

A big swell was forecast to come in on the weekend, but I had major commitments. Decided to dawn it before work on Monday instead. Just as well--the swell never really showed on the weekend.

Sitting on the beach at Pipe under a three-quarter moon, I could see five silhouettes sauntering over, sticks under their arms. Mid-season North Shore means crowds, no matter what the time of day. Paddled out with my bodyboard into smooth two-to-four footers under ominous skies.

My first one was a beauty--overhead wave in the dark--just did some nice carves in the hook. Going back out, I started talking to this surfer--couldn't really distinguish him out in the darkness. Turned out to be my friend Jason Gantz, a local pro surfer whom I had photographed for the University's newspaper.

As the sun rose, I recognized more friends: Shawn Sutton (who just won the Bud Surf Tour), Mikala Jones (brother of supermodel/surfer Malia Jones), Mike Stewart (bodyboarder extraordinairre) and others. Even though it was pretty crowded, it was nice talking story to some friends.

The weather soon went from calm to wild as a wicked rain squall slowly pushed through the coast. The rain pelted down in undulating curtains, splattering down and back up in our faces.

Surfing in the rain is actually quite nice because it usually thins the crowds and smooths the conditions. But it also can screw with your depth perception. On this day, the horizon darkened to a grayish tinge that blended with the horizon. That, coupled with the pitter-patter on the water, made it difficult to see incoming waves. Added an extra level of excitement.

The surf surprisingly sprung up to six feet during the session, making for some really great rides. I shied away from the crowd and ended up between Backdoor and Off-the-Wall--somewhat of a no-man's land that saw an occasional peak.

Caught a perfectly lined up four foot right that peeled beautifully all the way to Insanities. I stalled most of the way, and stayed right in the hook. The wave never sectioned off--it just peeled perfectly, reminescent of my session at the artificial wave at the Schlitterbahn.

After 8 am, the surf backed off, along with the rain. Shot a few pictures on the beach, talked a bit with Stewie, then bailed to work.

It doesn't always have to be sunny and offshore to be a classic session. As the music group Live professes, "And I believe that maybe today, we will all get to appreciate the beauty of gray."

Aloha from Paradise (in gray scale),

Sliding Into a Nice One at Backdoor

Splitting the Peak

Better Hurry (don't think he made it)