Thursday, April 20, 2017

Surfing A Ten-foot Wave, Sunset Beach, 1988

Larry K. Collins, my husband, co-author, best friend, and cohort in crime is my guest blogger this week.

Having surfed for the past sixty years, I’ve ridden countless waves. Many are forgettable. Still, a few will stay in my memory forever. Even today, I can close my eyes and relive every movement and feeling of the glorious ride.
I decided to describe one memorable ride. But to do it without the surf jargon and clich├ęs normally used to describe the sport and make it accessible to people who have never surfed or even seen the sport. Here is my attempt.

I’m sitting on my board beyond the surf line, facing out to sea. Twenty yards inshore, fifteen or more other surfers, most not even half my age, jockey for position on the incoming swells. I sit farther out, as my ten-foot surfboard allows me to catch waves earlier. They ride the shorter high-performance boards.
Even though I’ve done this countless times, my heart still races as I spot a swell building over the outer reefs, and see the wave begin to take shape. Others see it, also. They begin a hasty paddle out toward me. I turn and start to paddle, arms digging deep into the water. I’ll need speed to catch this one. I glance over my shoulder to position myself. It’s going to be steep.
As the swell lifts the board’s tail, I rise, my left foot forward, my weight pressing the nose down against the wind, right foot steady for balance, knees slightly bent to absorb the bumps and undulations of an ever steepening face.
Before reaching the bottom, I shift my right foot back and press hard on the right-hand rail. The board obediently sweeps right to line up with the wall of water stretching out before me. Two steps forward to the trim spot, the fastest position. I’ll need all the speed I can muster. Behind me, I hear the thunderous roar of the collapsing wave.
My hand dragging on the liquid wall adds stability. My heart’s pumping, mind awake, senses sharp. The wave arches over my head, and in a kaleidoscope of greens, blues, and whites, splashes into the sea beyond my board. I’m in the tube, the barrel. I’m steady in the eye of the storm. Water sheets from the roof above, hitting my face and chest. I blink to clear my vision and crouch lower to urge the board onward.
Then I emerge into the light, out of the tube, and back again on the green wall. Ahead, I see the wave collapse and another tube heads my direction. Time to get out. I sweep a turn to drive the nose up the vertical face, past the lip, and ten feet beyond. I kick the board away, so as not to land on it, and splash on my back into the warm Hawaiian water.
A quick breath, then I feel the pull of the leash attached to my ankle. I’ve made it over the wave. My board did not. I’m pulled backward and drawn below the surface, clawing at the water, struggling against the maelstrom behind me. Finally, the board slips free. I fight to the surface and pull myself aboard.
It’s not over. Another wave looms outside. I stroke for the rising horizon, lungs gasping for air. Oxygen-starved arms feel like I’m pulling noodles through molasses. Offshore winds feather the wave’s crest as I sweep up the wall, over the top, and down the back. Another thirty strokes, and I’m safe outside again. I let out a yell.
It doesn’t get any better that this.


  1. Replies
    1. Do you surf? If you come to California, let us know. Larry has a full "quiver" of boards.

  2. Thanks, Larry, for attempting to explain the thrill of surfer to a non-surfer. I've always wondered what it might feel like to surf. And although I've watched thrilling surfing movies, none actually gave me the words to go with what a surfer feels. Your blog post did give me a clue. Thanks. It's most likely the closest I'll get to understanding what I'm missing by never surfing. I do, however, love to swim, be in the water, and walk side by side with the sea.

    1. THat's what he tried to do: give non-surfers a sense of the feelings.