Blind Mullet -- 7/26/97

Heading into the weekend, the Pacific Ocean was looking true to its namesake--calm and tranquil. Except for a few far-off storms, there was no sign of impending groundswell action. This prompted me to target the east side in hopes of at least snagging some localized windswell action.

The dawn patrol on Saturday led me to the Sandy Beach parking lot, where I met up with Russ, my basketball bud from San Diego. Russ was just getting into sponging, so I was a bit concerned for his well-being. Even with small surf, Sandy's can dish out the donuts (no Foondoggy, not that kind). However, knowing that Russ has had some experience surfing in Cal, along with seeing the way he handled himself at Jimmylands last weekend eased my mind somewhat.

The surf was, as expected, pretty small. From the shore, it looked to be waist-high and crumbly. There was a bit of morning sickness from the erratic, but fairly light winds, and the tide was bottoming out. But at least it was rideable--hopefully, we could eke out a decent session. Anyway, it's (almost) always worth getting wet.

We paddled out just as the sun started to punch its rays through the clouds on the horizon. Rather than chance the shallow reef at Half Point, or the pounding shorebreak at Middles, we settled ourselves right in between at Pipe Littles (that actually has the dangers of both, only to lesser extremes).

So Russ started getting used to the bowling takeoff at Pipe Littles as I took off on some small, "getting-acquainted" waves. As Russ was paddling for one, a splash of water flew on his face. He immediately stopped, and began groping near his eyes--one of his contacts came out! We tried vainly to look for it, but it was gone in the swirling saline. This was before catching even a single wave! Bummers.

Undeterred by his impaired vision, Russ continued on, catching some good waves to the beach. I tried teaching him about the dynamics of taking off and edge control with a bodyboard, but as we all know, nothing beats good old water time.

We had the spot to ourselves for 45 minutes, before a few other bodyboarders joined us in the lineup. The surf seemed to bump up a bit, raising the stakes with a more critical takeoff over the reef. It actually started looking a bit juicy on the sets. Yum!

Then lightning struck twice. Russ started paddling for a nice set, but he seemed to be a bit out of position. I watched it all, impressed that he was charging, but pretty sure that he was going to eat it. As Russ took off, the water seemed to just draw off the reef and the wave hollowed out. No chance.

He tumbled right in the zone, but popped up quickly. Knowing he was alright, I continued on my own quest for waves. However, when I saw him take one in and walk up the beach, that's when I got a bit concerned.

I paddled in to see if he was OK. Come to find out that he had lost his *other* contact lens! Without either lens, he couldn't see jack! Two lenses lost in an hour and a half. Thank goodness he had a pair of glasses in his car so he could at least drive home safely.

Russ decided to hang around and watch for a while, in hopes of picking up some wave knowledge, so I headed back in for a short sesh. By then, Pipe Littles was starting to get crowded with a half dozen groms, so I decided to try my luck at Half Point.

I've never had much success at Half Point. The lineup has always been challenging to me, even on small days, with a prominent rip and lots of side waves on short period swells. The incredibly competitive crowd out there only compounds the difficulties of riding the spot. But this time, I had it pretty much all to myself.

As soon as I got out there, the surf seemed to turn on. The lefts were decent, with some nice walls, but the rights were going off! I snagged several good barrels, and boosted some clean rollos.

On one wave, I dropped into a shoulder-high pit and stalled slightly. Some tubes are silent, but this one roared with a hollow, guttural rumble. I remember thinking about launching a roll, twitched for the lip, but instead decided to wait. So I sat and enjoyed the view (and sounds) in the green room for a while longer before exiting with a clean roll. Total tube time was a little over two seconds, but it seemed like ten.

However, as always for me, there is a "bad ride" to talk about. On a small righthander, I pulled into an unmakeable tube. I did my standard board-bail and fell into the trough of the wave prone on my side. My body only penetrated about a foot and a half into the water before it connected solidly with the reef. Fortunately, I was over a flat part and I distributed the impact evenly across the length of my body. Otherwise, I might've collected a few more battle scars.

When I finally came in, I talked story with Russ about his day. He was bummed about cutting his session short and losing the contacts, but had fun regardless, even learning a bit by just watching the surf. And of course, we were both stoked that the swell was better than our original expectations.

Almost all of the aesthetics of surfing are derived from visual acuity. I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with decent eyesight and am able to enjoy the sport without that extra hindrance. But not everyone is so lucky.

A few times back on Kauai, I took my brother out into the lineup. Now he is a true "blind mullet", with uncorrected vision in the 20/400 range. He can't see anything without his glasses, and didn't own a pair of contacts back then. He tried valiantly to bodyboard, but only managed to catch a few waves after I gave him full orders on when to kick for it. Of course, once he got on a wave, get out of the way! (Gives new meaning to the phrase, "Sorry, I didn't see you.") One time after launching into one, he headed straight for some shoreline rocks. I was sweating, worried that he was going to smash his head in, but I don't think he even noticed them.

It must be very frustrating trying to learn how to surf in a blurred world. The only other option (besides funky prescription goggles or a pricey, scary RK/AK operation) is to deal with contact lenses and risk their loss. In life, nothing should be taken for granted.

As for Russ, well, he can't wait to get back in the water. Anybody know where he can get good disposable contacts?

Kainoa McGee at Half Point, circa 1991

Aloha from Paradise,