Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sometimes it's a good idea to just admire from the beach

(A surfer rides a 25 foot wave on the North Shore, December 2, 2008 -- photo taken by Bruce Asato for the Honolulu Advertiser)

There are huge swells coming from the north, so the surf on the North Shore of Oahu is firing. Like, over 25 feet in some spots. Around here, big swell is a big deal. People head up north just to look at the waves, and surfers take great pride in saying they rode huge waves. But in all of the hullabahoo, sometimes we forget how dangerous those waves can be.

One of the surf spots that Jason and I like to surf is a point on the North Shore that usually doesn't get huge when it's really big elsewhere on that side of the island. Something to do with the way the current wraps around a particular point, the deep channels nearby, whatever. So yesterday we figured we'd go up and check out the huge waves, and then maybe look at our favorite spot to see if we could handle going in.

When we got there, I took one look at the waves and knew it was more than I'd be able to handle. Usually the waves there are gentle peaks that crumble at the top rather than curl over in a heavy barrel. Also, they tend to break to the left, which is my preferred route, being a goofy-foot. But yesterday, they were breaking to the right, and were huge and heavy. There was also an obvious strong rip current that looked incredibly difficult to battle. Plus, the only waves that were really breaking with any consistency were way out off the back of the reef, and they were easily double-overhead or more, i.e., 12-15 feet. Way beyond my level.

(That's a huge wave called Avalanche breaking out in the distance. If you click on the picture, it'll blow up to a large image, and you should be able to see surfers towing in to the wave. It's about 20 feet high)

I told Jason I'd hang on the beach. He decided to paddle out and give it a shot.

The surf was so rough that it was difficult to see the surfers out in the water. So I tried walking around to the tip of the point to see if I could see Jason. I couldn't see him, so after about 15 minutes I made my way back to the beach to wait for Jason to come in. As I was walking back, I saw him standing on the shore, with half a board in his hand.

It took him at least 15 minutes of hard paddling to get out to the waves -- usually it takes about 3. Then before he could even catch a wave, he got caught inside a set of breaking waves, and got pounded. His board, which is a 10 foot epoxy longboard that floats like a barge, got pushed down into the water and started to crease. Jason was getting held down, and worried that his leash would snap, leaving him out in the crazy surf with nothing to hold onto, so he wrapped his arms around the board in a bear hug and just tried to hang on for dear life.

Another big wave broke over him, pushing him and the board down into the water again. He felt the board flex and then snap in two, and the top part of it shot away from him, scraping the hell out of his arm in the process. He managed to "ride" the back of the board back into shore. We later found the top of the board about 500 yards down the beach.

He was pissed that his favorite board broke. He was bummed that he had to go through all of that tumult, and didn't even get to ride a wave. But mostly, he was happy to be alive.


  1. Wow. Compelling! Sorry about the board but so glad Jason is safe and sound.

  2. Anonymous7:01 PM

    The thought of all of that water....*shivering*

    Glad that he made it back to surface.


  3. Maybe I'll stick to surfing in the tub with Zeke....

  4. Andrea, don't worry, we'll stick to the waves on the south shore -- much more friendly.

  5. So, so glad that our surf butler and dear friend made it. Please tell Jason that this serious reminder of how fast shit can go wrong is at least the second of which I am aware in the last three months. I want that man alive and living with my best friend in Denver very soon. All of you be well. Nothing wrong with butlering the hawlies from the mainland at White Plains. XXOO