Where is the dignity?
Southern Californian surfers are not often challenged by eight-to-ten-foot swell at twenty-second intervals.
My friend and I had surfed an exposed point the entire day before dodging bombs and getting mowed.
Our intent this second day of the swell was to catch more waves.
Simple as fuck.
With an unusually westerly direction of 270 degrees, I drove us toward a refined point break at the base of a cliff that would offer us more riding time and less duck-diving for our lives.
The tide was high and whitewash was punishing the base of the cliff so we passed on the old trail leading into the bay. Rains had left the bluff dance at the top of the point treacherous, but we found a jump off point and made it out into the lineup relatively easily.
I kept seeing these perfect DOH lines wrapping the tar-filled shelf, like pinwheels of our imaginations and that was exactly the experience I was after.
My friend took a different approach, safe and sane, by waiting out the swing wide sets pushing TOH.
Without shading my bro, I had no interest in the fat end sections pushing out to sea.
The roll of these dice were an easy decision for me to make.
Until it wasn’t.
I caught two gems and hugged the point on the paddle back into position.
These paddles were crazy but the sweep outside in the “channel” was profound.
Regardless, everything was clicking and I had found my zone.
As I made it to the ledge boil I prefer to take off under, the next set hit.
I knew I was doomed.
Even the three guys sitting wide were scratching.
The maelstrom was easy to imagine. I dove as deep as I could and my 6’8” swallow snapped like a toothpick. Another lesson to stop riding paper-thin boards that I refused to learn.
I came to rest near the sea floor bottom and I opened my eyes as I heard another rumble outside marching towards me.
The sun shone bright above, but there was a forest of kelp trapping me in position as the next wave washed over.
Once again, I looked up after the steamrolling and I was still caged by kelp.
There was no way I could make the surface without getting trapped.
They say a million thoughts sweep your mind during distress.
That was not true this day in January 2009.
“Hippy, you’re in a tough spot, but we are all waiting for you…”
Fuck, my dad was talking to me from the grave?
His voice was clear as day and I could see his eyes smiling. I had lost my entire family above my age in the previous eighteen months.
I thought about my wife and puppy… they needed me.
That stroke of ego woke me into swimming laterally under the kelp bed and I finally made the surface when the next wave swept the bay.
Now I had become one with the current moving faster than a river, but at least I could breathe.
I had to find a way to shore at the cliff trail inside the bay or I’d be washed another two miles before the cliffs gave way to another landing spot.
This scenario has happened to me before and since, all too familiar and I’m kicking myself as I always do. That sirens call of perfection just yards inside the danger zone is my muse and I pay as often as I cash the sirens wave checks.
I missed the trail wash by five yards, but I found a foothold on a shelf as the set abated.
This wasn’t a safe place to remain as the next set would impale me in this position against the cliff.
Somehow, I negotiated twenty yards swimming against the current to my friends assist at the trail base.
I pushed past the spectators concerns and walked back to the car shaking.
Internally, I told my Pops that I wouldn’t be seeing him that day.
I never found the 6’8”.
Today, I purchased groceries and it felt like I’d accomplished a “Mission Impossible”.
My puppy’s eyes looked worried as I readied to visit the store.
Did she sense something?
On the way back to my car after shopping, I told my Dad to be patient, I haven’t caught the flu… yet.
How is it that I have survived so many gnarly things in my surfing life and now I am hiding in my house waiting to die from a virus?
There is no dignity is this kind of a death.