After the bathroom, I followed the same path as usual, and gathered all my stuff, in the same mechanical way I always do, so as to not forget anything. Patterns, habit, and regiments are good if you don't want to forget anything. The only thing I 'broke' in the pattern was last night, I combed by board with the wax comb, so as to make things faster. Chris always gets to the beach before I do, so I figured I'd tweak things to give me three minutes lead time, and him less three minutes of arms folding and foot tapping.
After warming up the motorcycle, I begin my journey to Sloat. When I get there, it's 6:42 and it's still quite dark. I see Chris there of course and we have our first conference. I took one look, and noted the tide was really high there, and if there was any drift, I didn't want anything to do with the Southern Rocks of Despair. From what we could see, we noted some sets coming through, and they were sizable. My internal gut feeling was that I could take on Sloat, but if I had an option to not even deal with rocks, then I probably would take that, and I that's what I told Chris. Chris promptly said, OK, let's go to the Chalet. It was a done deal. We motored to the Chalet, dismounted our vehicles, and suited up. It was decided without merely a look, we were going in. Chad then pulls up while we're getting ready and that made three.
After suiting up, it was a bit lighter, and I could see what we were in for. Things always look small from the beach. It would be quite a foolish person to even remotely call something 'small' while standing on the shore. Everything is small from the shore. Everything. When you've been in double overhead plus surf before, your perspective changes quite a bit, once you attempt to get out. One day, I was being a newbie jackass, and I called something small in front of Chris. He basically called me a jackass, and said 'dude, count how long it takes for that wave to break'. He was right. That day, I counted two mississippi's for the wave to go top to bottom. That meant only one thing. It was big. Bigger than I originally thought, while I was standing on dry, flat, paved, parking lot land.
So, I took one look at today's conditions and counted that same kind of mississippi's and I knew right then we were going to get into it. The only questions in my mind related to how these beasts were breaking. Were they going top to bottom or were they folding gently on themselves, peeling nicely with relatively soft, forgiving shoulders. It looked as if it was a mixed bag from shore, which is why I think we had absolutely no qualms about just jumping right in. I thought to myself, "Today would be about wave selection then, more than anything. OK."
The three of us then get to the waters edge, put our leashes on, and headed in. Chad led the charge the whole way while Chris and I kind of sandbagged behind. We were the watchers. Just ahead was a big, angry, unforgiving, cookie monster bar that was folding very heavily on itself. Chad got pushed back on one monster close chomp, but then absolutely charged over something that I thought for sure would bite him. I saw his feet narrowly escape over the top-to-bottom lip while I was still inside, biding my time. That wasn't working out too well as I started to get more and more of the closeout power as I was getting closer and closer. Finally a lull long enough for me to get through let me pass, and as I saw another monster building, I sprinted as hard as I could to get past it, and I did. Phase one complete: I got past the monster inner bar.
At this point I had lost both Chris and Chad from my sights, and was kind of wondering where they were, what the outside looked like, and how it would affect me, given my newly acquired position. I knew from experience that generally, once you make it past the inner bar, it's a great time to rest and you don't have to worry about too much. The paddle generally isn't going to be tough. You still have to worry, but it's more about reading what's happening on the outside and how to get there without getting pummeled really hard because of a cockpit error. Today's interval was relatively long so while the waves were big and powerful, there was time to plot to get to the break zone.
I finally found Chris and Chad, and I paddled over to them. I thought they were a little inside, but I figured it wouldn't be too much of a problem. As I got to them, I sat on my board, and took a rest and watched what was going on. The waves here were pretty sizable and thick. It was the thickness that was of note, mostly. We saw a wave coming, and Chris and I sat as we saw Chad to our right go for it. It was a big, thick, heavy wave, and Chad almost got into it, but at the last moment kicked out because it was about to fold over very nastily, and it did exactly that. He managed to get off the bull relatively unscathed. There was another wave coming shortly after that, and based on my position, I decided I would charge it. It was building and cresting and Chris was in an OK position to get it, but asked if I was going and I said yes and then he backed off. The wave started to get bigger and bigger as it neared me, and I paddled hard to get into it. I managed to get into it just as it was cresting and I felt my board go into the wave, and I stood up, but this wave was not something I could manage. Standing up like a man doesn't mean you're going to get treated like one. This angry wave folded over very hard and was too steep for me to handle. I probably was too far forward on the board, and the nose caught, and that was that. The rest of the beast folded on top of me and I could feel the violence, followed by the foot drag. I popped up, looked around and blew it off, no worse for the wear, and went back to them.
A few waves were coming in, nothing too terribly big of note, until...I could see a big set coming in. I saw something out there that made me think to myself, "hmm better get outside a bit", so I said "outside" and everyone followed. As that wave past, I kind of barely made it over it, and then I caught a glimpse of something that was even bigger. Internally something went off saying "outside" and I promptly vocalized it very loudly to Chris and Chad. I was feverishly paddling to try to scrap over something that was coming. It kept building. I could see the darkness of the lip forming and it was then that I wondered what I was going to do...paddle harder and try to make it under the lip that was going to fold over, or just stay there and deal with the wash. I opted for going closer to the beast. It was certainly the right decision because a lip smash from this wave would not be good, and where I was currently, would have been right where the lip would have folded over. This was at least a 15 foot wave that was coming and I needed to get over it any way I could, so after sprinting as hard as I could, I thought I'd be close enough where I could get over the lip. I was wrong. Very wrong. I didn't get the 15 foot lip folding onto me, but what happened next was ultra violent. I started to go over the lip forward, but then I found myself vertical, holding onto the board, in free fall. That's when I said to myself 'oh shi---'. I couldn't even finish my words, as my board and I went deep, very deep. The board was then ripped from my hands and I hit the bottom, pushed to the sandy floor on the outside. At least I knew what direction to swim. My next thought was more or less thinking and worrying about taking another one exactly like that in that zone, not too far off into the future. Sure enough, I was right in the impact zone after coming up, so I inhaled some foam and watched another huge macker just absolutely violently throw down right on top of me. I was pushed further inside, and I had the same thoughts...another one coming to get me, or what? When I came back up, I collected my board and just breathed. I marveled at the pure, complete, unadulterated, powerful, punishment, and headed back out to them. I mentally went in at this point, but my friends were out there, and there was a lull, so I decided to go back out and just collect myself more, maybe catch a wave, maybe not, who knows.
So I start to go back out, and then Chris and Chad start to come in. I think after my 'wave' they'd seen and been in enough. Then I see Chris and Chad on the inside by Cookie Monster, and Chris is doing the 'lasso-wrap things up buddy' with his arm. In my head I was all "dude, fuck. I already did that", and to be honest, I was happy he called it at that point. I could have made it back out and probably caught a wave, but being alone out there wasn't such a good prospect, so I followed suit and started my way in. Of course that's going to be tricky...I see a medium size wave that's my ticket in, that happened to break on the outside that would serve as something to get me past the cookie monster inner bar, if I stayed on it. I got on the back of my board and took the wash in, passing directly between Chris and Chad, scoring the surfer field goal :) I wanted absolutely nothing to do with a stall at the cookie monster zone, so after my beating I was going to take this wave as far and fast inside as possible :)
When I got back in I noted OB was starting to get angrier. I was forced to the shore very powerfully and tossed around like flotsam as I hit the beach. Chris too, who was beside me was tossed and was laughing.
We all laughed heartily as our feet were free of the water, as we stood on the sand.
This was a good morning.