June 24, 2010 -
I like to get barreled. In fact lately, improving my tube-riding skills has been my main focus in surfing. There’s nothing better than positioning yourself inside of a wave and then coming out unscathed. I don’t even mind crash tubes where you get a short view before the inevitable pounding. But that’s over sand. Pulling into big tubes over shallow sharp reef is an entirely different thing. It’s scary.
I had surfed Frigate’s Pass before and it was thick and sketchy. I was a little nervous about surfing it again, especially since Bede had checked the swell models and said it would be pumping. Motoring out to the break the wind made whitecaps on the surface of the sea and I figured it would be blown out and no good. Once we turned the final corner around one of several small islands, we could see that the wind was actually offshore. The reef was still far off but we could see a succession of waves peel along and spit powerfully, indicating big hollow waves. I was instantly really nervous.
We scrambled over each other to pull out boards, put in fins, and apply sunscreen as the boat rocked in the rolling sea, then hopped from the big boat to a dingy to jet out to the surf. The boys were frothing and screaming but Maria and I were nervous. We took our time getting out there. I was still psyching myself up when Maria spun and went on a mid-size wave. The boys on the inside were hooting and she pulled out with a smile. “It’s not that bad,” I thought to myself. I stroked into the next one and tried to stall for a tube that didn’t materialize then nearly spun out on my bottom turn. I flipped my board over and saw I was riding a twin-fin. Oops! In my haste to get out there I must not have screwed my middle fin in all the way and it had fallen out.
I switched boards and caught another wave that didn’t tube, but helped my confidence a bit. Maria and I nervously paddled around looking for smaller “cute” ones while dodging the gnarly sets that the boys tackled fearlessly. They were laughing and high fiving. It was awesome to watch and I started getting frustrated with myself. I wanted to laugh and high-five after pulling out of a big bomb. “Screw it, I’m going!” A set approached and Alex and Bede each took one, but there was one more coming and only Maria and I still in the lineup.
“You going, Maria?”
“No, you go!”
I turned and started paddling. It was big, but it had a nice tapering shoulder and I was determined. I paddled and paddled and right before I started to think about standing up, there was so much water moving up the face of the wave, the only way to get into it would have been to throw myself over the ledge. I hesitated for an instant, saw Cheyne spinning around on the inside, and pulled back to let him have it. The wave barreled down the reef and he ended up getting pounded. I felt really happy about my decision not to go and then even more timid.
Maria and I were sitting a bit further in from the boys and Scott Smith our water filmer suggested we try to take off on some of the inside ones. Just then we saw a set approaching, one of the biggest of the afternoon. “Shoot!” I started paddling frantically straight towards the horizon while Maria took an angled path more towards the channel. I yelled at her to go straight ahead as we both duck-dove the first wave. The next one was bigger and already starting to break so that it was clear we wouldn’t have time to get under it. I was only about ten feet further out than Maria but that made all the difference. We both bailed our boards and swam for the bottom, but I popped up outside and she got dragged in. There were three more waves behind that one, all breaking a little further out. Each time I dove for the bottom and looked up to see churning whitewater above me. On the second one I felt my leash pop and break. Without my board dragging behind me I was able to dive deeper and get under the wave cleanly. After I’d made it through, I looked back and couldn’t see Maria anywhere. I was shaken up, without my board, and getting pulled up the reef and out to sea by the strong current, but I was ok. The dingy came and picked me up.
On our way to the other side of the reef to look for my board I saw Maria climbing into the other dingy where the photographers were sitting and I was relieved to see that she seemed ok. The boat guy took me inside of the reef and we waited a few minutes for my board to wash in. We spotted it, collected it, and then started heading back to the big boat. On our way I noticed a big brownish white object floating on the inside. It looked like a big tree at first, then the back of a whale. Finally I realized that it was a boat upside down. “That’s weird,” I thought.
(***I’ll leave it at that since I’m sure everyone else will tell the same story. I’ll let the people more involved in the boat part to tell that part****)