Sunny Rows

Surfing 19: Indian Beach

Wednesday afternoon I broke away from the house for a surfing session at Indian Beach. It had been almost a full week since my last outing. In the meantime I’d been laid low by soreness and a need for rest, and then by a crazy flu-like 50 hour fever — which was not as bad as it could have been since, as I thought, I was probably wasn’t going to be surfing anyway in the apparently fershit conditions. The surf on Monday and Tuesday was 3 meters plus, with huge wind chop. And the wind had been very high indeed most days of the previous week. The ocean was chaos. My life and health was chaos. Ok.

Nothing much had changed on Wednesday, but I was feeling better, and itching to stoke up my inner surf fire.

From Arch Cape, conditions looked rough as they had for days. Although it was sunny, the wind was whipping and the sea was a raging froth. Buoy data from Wednesday afternoon suggests that waves were a stunning 2.3 meters high… but with a 10 second period. Borderline groundswell and head high! Sounded promising, if a bit scary. Also, the reports were that wind chop was severe, as a glance at the water easily confirmed. The entire coast looked like a turbulent mess along the beach breaks.

Securing a “hall pass” from wife and kids, I drove north with mixed emotions. I actually took my running gear to Ecola State Park, figuring I’d get a 40 minute trail run in, if the surf proved to be impassable.

But something happened, something magic, on my way into Indian Beach.

Indian Beach at High Tide, Wednesday July 14th

When I arrived, one of the best parking spots was open. I took it, and looked out, and was amazed to see what looked to be brilliant green swells approaching the break zone in rows that were almost neat. I couldn’t believe how well the geography of Indian Beach had cleaned up all the chop from the north wind and the NW swells. It was sunny, beautiful, and there were a number of surfers out… and a boogie boarder, and two kayakers too. Almost too many people. It was just high tide, and it was a big one, filling the cove at the north end, where a clear pathway out past the breakers was still there, undisturbed by the heavy surf. The sunny weather was like icing on the cake. Hallelujah. “I’m going surfing,” I quickly texted my wife, and snapped a picture because it was too good to be true.

When I first arrived I thought I’d forgotten my surf wax. I needed some because, last Wednesday, day of my last session with Joel, a day which was so frackin’ hot I literally could not stop making remarks about record books and such, I had left my board lying face up in the sun for around 10 minutes, and then when my wax melted everywhere I decided to just scrape it down and add a fresh coat later. Now, I was thinking that had been a big mistake. But I spotted a fellow surfer dude, drying his wetsuit on a bush. So I made bold to ask him if I could bum one… and he let me! More good omens, I thought. To make things even better, it turned out I had brought my wax. I had an unopened bar of Frigid Water Sex Wax in my backpack. Almost perfect for that 57 degree water. So I returned my enabler’s stub with many thanks for his generosity. “See you in the water,” he said.

As it turned out I would not be there that long.

This was one of the most punishing 40 minutes I had spent in the water in ages. I suited up quickly, got my gear to the beach, waxed my board, and, the smell of root-beer flavored surf wax in my nostrils, headed out for my lesson. From above, the waves had looked well formed, and they would have been, but for the residual chop of many days of wind. Everything looked beautiful, but the surface and set-up was so unstable that the riding proved too difficult for me, on most of my attempts.

Initially, I used the channel in the north, which was effortless. And after my first near miss of a ride, I used it again. But after that, I was more in the middle. Maybe six times I paddled all the way out from the break zone to past the farthest row of cresting green swells, rested, and then carefully hunted and sought opportunities to ride the swell. I got very close many times, paddling back and forth in the outer swells. But when my best opportunities came, only once was I in that perfect location to get a stable launch onto the rolling green. So, diving pitching perling into the washing machine, I got my clean clocked about a dozen times, and half the time got washed clear into the breakers. On one spectacular occasion, I must have taken 150 strong and long strokes, fording over wave after oncoming wave, I have no idea how many, just to make it back out of the break zone. My shoulders and triceps and forearms and lats and lower back and abs were all burning from strain, eyes asquint and burning with salt, I looked up towards the slowly decaying sun.

The bright sun wasn’t icing, it was consolation, or even a mild rebuke.

I checked. All too quickly my watch read 4:40, and it was time to head home.

In the end, I came in on a pretty nice ride. Not my best, and definitely a “bummer” as the only real ride of the day, but all in all, this session was fun all the same.

And if that’s the case, maybe that’s why I love surfing.


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