It’s been a while but the structure of the recent posts has been around “the notes'” trip to Republicá Dominicá. This is the last. Stay tuned for a photo special from March and April here along the Right coast…
Cabareté, DR-Days four, five and six passed in an even pace of relaxation, surf, siestas, dinners, and rested sleep. After arrival at the Val-Maré, we were given the royal treatment by the condominium caretaker Alex and would later play around the ground with his son Alejandro. Along a hill line just up the beach road from the break, the condos are surrounded by green fields, banana trees, palms, and green grasses. The only visitors besides us were the cows or horses sneaking treats from Alejandro. At first, the fixture of such a tall gringo kept Alejandro’s curiosity at bay, though it was not long before we were up to childhood mischief. I was told to behave and Alejandro threatened with no swimming time so the wild roosters and chickens were free from our torment. Time passed unnoticeably. Mornings were spent at the beach; afternoons were spent at the pool or in the breeze and shade of the room, reading and napping, occasionally rising for cold beer; evenings were spent on the beach side of Cabareté, lounging under strings of lights stretched along palm trees and tables lit by candle. Todos tranquillo. Such an even mien hazes the memory. Details seem rather fuzzy, as if on the edge of sleep, which is easily explained by the frequent siesta. Yet there is certainly more. There is a humming from within. A steady gentle vibration which rises from inside and lays gently over all till the person knows this is what it means to be on Caribbean time. That would be days four, five and six. What follows are snippets of travel journal and pictures of each day-as best as I can remember.
“28 Feb. ’11-Cabareté, DR. No idea on swell-east-ish at maybe 3-5′ @ 9 seconds, trade winds. …the walk to the beach is easy, the hardest stretch being along the main road and near lawless, speeding, metal death…this place is schizophrenic. Its temperament wavers from tranquillo to “man, I can’t wait to get the hell home.”… Surfed the famed Encuentro. Funky and mediocre. Had I been home I wouldn’t have gone, but the water would have been just above 50°F. This was clear, blue and 75°, so I went. Two waves worth mentioning. Both rights near “Coco Pipe”. Long walls and glassy till mid am…stories of the trade winds are true. By 11 most everything is indistinguishable from blown chop. We spent 50 pesos on a beach lounge chair attended by Mejuco and his dogs. Dried off, walked home and relaxed in the shade by the pool. Alejandro met us at the gate with a squirt gun for drowning ants. Amy rolled her eyes and let me off the hook to play…rest of afternoon spent drinking cold beer, reading and napping-in no particular order.”
“29 Feb. ’11 Cabareté, DR. [corrected upon arrival home for an actual date existing on the calender-1 Mar. 11. Que sera.]. Still no idea of swell. Maybe 6′ @ 9 seconds? …am surf was cleaner, little more solid in size, good sets. Head high and better. No barrels at “Coco Pipe” so the name remains in doubt, but got a nice wave from a gypsy motorista cabbie. Thanked him and that bought me a couple more. Then he dropped in all over me. Ah well, his house…walked east along the shore to Natura Cabana for lunch-a secluded little resort/spa built into the natural vegetation instead of gutting it. Twice the beach disappears in lava rock and the trail wanders up through the tree line. Discovered a wave all to ourselves which kept us from lunch. No problema as lunch blends from breakfast and gently merges straight into dinner. There is no time. Walking home we write the names of our family in the sand and let the Atlantic carry it home, north to Carolina…walked the street of Cabareté for souvenirs for Abby before crossing through an alley for dinner on the strand. In the street old white men pick up hefty Haitian prostitutes with 40 oz. beers. On the strand are candle-lit tables, colored sun sails lit by hanging lamps and excellent meals-place is schizophrenic…interesting trip. Beautiful and dirty, good surf and poor, kind and indifferent…I am ready to go home. Not ready to put on a wetsuit. Ready to see my daughter, my dog, my home…”¿
“2 March ’11, Cabareté, DR-Miami, Fl International Airport. 2-4′ at some weaker period. In the airport in Miami. This am I was surfing small, clean and crystal clear waves…at first sight through the palapa the hope was a falling tide might make more face to ride. Brought only the 6’4″ thruster. Posted up under a palm and slept while tide fell. Amy disappeared around head point in beach for a morning walk. The local dogs followed her in some sort of innate sense of protection as they had adopted her the last two mornings, particularly the black lab that arrived by scooter every morning…woke up and the surf was still small. Worked a deal to borrow a longboard. Choosing the board was interesting. Kid working the shack wasn’t too sure about loaning a board for free. Quizzed on frequency of surf, how good, and, finally, tested with, ‘which board you want ride?’ Suddenly had flashbacks of adolescence…rounded 9’2” with no rocker, single fin, tons of weight. Thing had been reattached in the middle and seemed to have added weight with the repair, but it was a solid stick. Choice was approved and board granted. Heavy was perfect for the glassy, Caribbean mush. Rode well. Even met the former owner in the water. “Hey, that’s my old board. Guevarra shaped it for me in Maui” Good noserides and sweeping drives. Ownere looked like he might give it another shot. Not sure it can survive it…Amy returned in view with her dog pack. Cold beer and rinsed and headed for the plane…sitting in the Miami airport we scarfed down big bacon cheeseburgers and a good old fashioned Budweiser. Each little girl that passes brings me closer to home and my own little girl. See you soon little one. Thank you Sonny for watching the house and our girl. Voy a mi casa y Carolina norte.”
There have been plans for an accumulated story on a devotion and passion, a few longboard sessions, some do-it-yourself trailer repair with the help of 96 Charters (check the blog under blogroll) for spring fishing and swells. Ultimately, little has actually been accomplished other than remaining afloat as North End Landscapes comes into the summer season and the classes I’m responsible for at the high school have been knee deep in their studies. So, chuck it all. It’s warm south. So, the Notes is headed south and then slightly north of there. A true amigo is set to wed and for that we load up, call in favors for babysitting and hop a flight towards the Dominican Republic. After a weekend of helping our friend celebrar su bode, the notes moves to the northern Dominican in the area of Caberete for lounging with Mrs. Notes for a week. Sold the whole idea as a last chance for a get-a-way before the new little niña arrives and all saving goes towards the inevitable Disney pilgrimage. Unfortunately the data rates for the web card just aren’t in the budget for a trip funded on unpaid bills and juggled credit. So, follow along with the tweeted notes (northendnotes@twitter) and check back here for photos and words on return. Be sure to grab a copy of Local Sessions for some new pieces coming soon. Till then, here are some shots to tide you over.
Thanks for checking in.
January has had some decent swell activity. And unlike closing the pub with your brother, these haven’t hurt the next day. Here’s a couple cold ones till you can get yours.
“Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray.”
There has been a lot of interest in the surf media lately regarding the vast stretches of coastline, fingers of rock, and unchecked reefs in the unexplored, great cold north. It’s been kicked around here at “the notes” to try just such an expedition. Such notions have been acted on before.
“In the gold rush of the Yukon 70,000 people left to reap their prize. 40,000 returned. Without exception, the one thing they had not prepared for was the cold.”
The recent swell activity came on the heels of one of the southeast’s worst ice and snow in recent memory. It would appear that the same has been true for the other side of the continent and of course the winter swells responsible for hundreds of shipwrecks and countless lost lives that are winter in the Outer Banks have been pumping. Without exception, the one thing which the media glosses over is the cold. Every guy that schleps their laptop or puts pen to paper on their return addresses the idea, but little more. Not in the true sense of cold. Not in its significances.
At 43 degrees the Atlantic delivered its lessons of heat and cold in the form of clean, head high surf. The prevailing offshore wind cooled the registered 32 degree air temperature to something far colder and more painful.
“Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man’s place in the universe.”
“It was nine o’clock. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass…
At the man’s heels trotted a dog, a big native [lab], the proper [cold weather hunting companion], [black]-coated and without any visible or temperamental difference from its brother, the wild wolf. The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for travelling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.”
The phone rang mid-morning. A great pall seemed settled over the lower Cape Fear. Plans were made for the hour or two which could be tolerated at temperatures below man’s normal limits. The range, which despite incredible advancement in layered suits of rubber, affects the soul hearty enough, or foolish enough, to attempt to brave its slow, dense and deathly medium in varying degrees of pain and denial. Sonny opted to stay on the warmth of the couch. He only raised his head as the gear was loaded into the truck. His instinct told him this was no time for going to the sea. No such voice of reason spoke to “the notes” or his brother. After all, all a man really needs is his own two hands and a level head and he can survive the cold.
“The extremities were the first to feel its absence. His wet feet froze the faster, and his exposed fingers numbed the faster, though they had not yet begun to freeze.”
Then the chill seems gone. It’s not cold. The surf is good. All is well. The toes have stopped feeling and the drive to paddle hard enough to get in the wave early seems only vaguely necessary. It is much easier to simply sit inside and take the late drop. One hold down on the inside does not seem so bad. The second hurts, but the surf is good and the next wave will be ridden as you see it in your mind instead of as a stiff, slow and near hypothermic body.
“It struck him as curious that he could run at all on feet so frozen that he could not feel them when they struck the earth and took the weight of his body. He seemed to himself to skim along above the surface, and to have no connection with the earth. Somewhere he had once seen a winged Mercury, and he wondered if Mercury felt as he felt when skimming over the earth.”
To turn and paddle flushes the suit with water anew and the eagerness to paddle as necessary seems dull, vague, and the mind wanders. The echo of pain returning to the hands and toes despite modern advancement allows for a reflection on the poor drowned souls who must have flung themselves overboard in the vain hope to reach land from their wreck on Diamond, Frying Pan or Cape Fear shoals. Such an incredible pain must have entered the body. A fear, cold and certain. Now, there is only the wait for the last wave. Just one more before the big toes are totally devoid of sensation and offer no balance as you try to round off a bottom turn, only to discover that you’ve placed your feet in a horrible position to begin with. The last wave will satisfy and there will be the warmth of the heater and the shower back at the house beyond.
“Once in a while the thought reiterated itself that it was very cold and that he had never experienced such cold.”
The body shakes uncontrollably and you must find shelter or risk loss of consciousness. To wait so long on the last wave was foolish indeed. It did arrive, as it always will, but the extensions of your body are frozen somewhere out on the end of your core and the pitch over the falls was not surprising but elicits curses anew and you think, well, maybe one more. Turning to face the lineup you have no ability to duck the oncoming sets and find yourself washed ashore. What is surprising is the terrible cold as no there is no water protecting the suit from the wind and it cuts through the damp neoprene with a icy quickness. Your hands and feet are hopelessly frozen by the time you reach the truck. Your fingers will neither clutch nor grasp the key. Attempting to remove the suit is forgotten over the desire for the heater to become nuclear in intensity. Visible confirmation that your feet are still attached to you will have to wait till home and shower, which seems thousands of miles away.
Such was the risk by a duo out on the north end of Carolina Beach. It was good surf that had been absent for quite a while. The pain in the hands upon warming in the truck was excruciating and hands were beaten on legs and groans were audible as blood rushed into partially frozen fingers.
The swelling and cracking of your appendages in the hot shower confirms the notion that for “the notes”, there will be no such expedition to the great cold north. Not for this hombre. Mis dias están al sur de la frontera por favor.
And, perhaps, it is even better than the merry-go-round. After all that thing gives a serious queasy feeling if forced to ride on the top level and, what is more, you deserve it for being in the mall this close to Christmas. So any time you are able to steal in the water is cherished indeed. As evidenced by the recent post count, there has been little surf to speak of. What has been around has been fun, but has needed a little luck, a little groveling for the time, and a little more rubber. The last swell or two right before Thanksgiving was done in water hovering right around 60 degrees. If the sun was right or the wind quiet then you could steal an hour or two without the booties. Now, at 53 degrees, the heavy rubber comes out and the boots are dug out of their storage spot and have begun their stink anew.
What follows is a random collection of shots taken in the last few swells. Apologies for the shaky focus as most of them are snapped at the very same time as the photographer is racing to jump into a full suit of rubber in the anxiety created by a small window of daylight, wind and responsibilities begged off. In short, chaotic and childish at best. In these swells we had barrels, noseriding, and fun. It also saw the end of long, trusted soldier. Rest in peace trusted Bill Stewart. Thy time was cherished.
The down time in between has been spent chasing trout and finally putting together the newest Wall of Fame page featuring Jeremy Robinson of CB Surf Shop. Be sure to check it out. And, in the spirit of bragging on solid surfing and good guys, Bo Raynor was recently featured in Transworld Surf Magazine. It was only yesterday where he lumbered after his two brothers (exceptionally talented surfers and nice young men in their own right) and was not much more than 2 feet or more of runny nose. While little Bo-bo may not remember, “the notes” does and it is brought to the attention of you readers because before long it may be the only way left to keep that little man in check. “the notes” sure won’t be doing it from the water. Like all the Raynor boys, Bo is humble, kind, genuine and talented. He and his brothers are on the surf any time and any place it’s good. It shows. A recent string of top places and contest wins as well as an ESA All-Star selection earned Bo a spot with Billabong and he isn’t looking back. Bo and his brothers are beginning to follow the trail made by their father. They exude the simple life of being a surfer and loving the gift it is. They are good surfers and good men. Here at “the notes” we have nothing but love for Bo and cherish watching him go after his dreams in and out of the water. Good on ya Bo.
At the risk of jinxing a good thing, I submit the following. I wrote this article for Chris McQuiston at Local Sessions and it ran in their recent session. Four or five good photos ran with it (thank you Chris), but the beauty of having your own blog…you can run all the photos you want without fear of advertising.
There is something about the holidays. Particularly surf on the holidays. It seems as if it arrives just in time. The year’s little troubles and taxes that you pay have been steadily building like the plate of turkey you piled up on Thanksgiving. Not enough by itself to make you drool on yourself on the couch, but added all together is sure to create one unholy smell if you can sneak into a room free of company (or a chair with a dog nearby). The holidays, however, are a break from those troubles. They’re the reason you go back for seconds when the first plate alone was probably enough to slow your heart. The surf on the holidays are that time when a sick indulgence is necessary and oh so rewarding.
Some spots along the east see families pass on the sled, opting instead for a little more rubber and a little more foam to float it. The line up seems to clear in direct proportion to the wind-chill and water temp. The camaraderie in the water is palpable. It becomes a weird little frozen family. Grins are returned and, when it gets truly solid, waves are even traded and shared. Wave selection becomes that much more crucial since a hold down on the inside or a blown drop means you’re that much closer to hypothermic shutdown and the end of your other worldly get-away. A simple duck dive might be something you think twice about. Hoots are cheered from land and the whistles reach your ear in the thin cold as you drop along the face of the wave. The guy on the shoulder might even claim it for you with both arms—there is enough room in there during this season—but they are probably scratching and clawing, heaving in breaths to make it back outside, grinning from one ear to the other. The wave seems to move with extra push and a little heavier, thicker, more hollow and louder—or maybe it’s simply the echo in your hood.
We have waited all year and now have no work, no heavy responsibility except to make it to the store before it closes for gifts you’ve promised or egg nog. Without work to bunge things up, the small window of clean swell is open just a little wider and the western hammer of a wind that will blow it flat is only feared for possible night arrival. There are the promises of warm meals and age appropriate drinks when you’re warm and dry. Without a hassle for a take off you challenge the best the swell can throw.
It might be only 40 minutes before the wait between sets slows your reaction and your drops become later and your ability returns to the days you started with a few extra pounds of rubber—maybe ham too—you’re toting around. If it’s small and the wind is calm, you surf like a grom and if you’re a grom, you’re in heaven. There is no school, no homework and those oldest in the line up that seem to steal the wave you wanted are not to be found. It truly is a feeling of family and big or small, a surf on the last or first day of the year is not quite like the others. Days around Christmas that bring waves seem the best gift and the fact that a family is in the water and on shore makes your grin that much bigger, even if you stopped feeling your face long ago.
Deep in January you reach a point where even a little wind cuts through the rubber with a damp cold that freezes the brain and cripples the hands. Trying to get the key in the lock or ignition is an act of futility and you can’t remember where you hid it in the first place. It doesn’t really matter since the truck takes so long to heat that you’re home and using every last drop of scalding water from the tank just to keep the shakes down. Never mind the rapid swelling and cracking of your hands. Climbing out of your suit becomes an exercise in ridiculousness. Your body has stopped listening to your brain or has at least grown lazy in response. There are places in the world without winter holiday surf where this is referred to as hypothermia. Down here we call it stoke. If there is still swell, you figure out a way to dry your wetsuit as much as possible without adding to the growing stench of digesting dinners and you put your booties someplace that the nose of another fellow human will never run afoul because in the dark blue of morning, you’re going out. Or, maybe you’ll wait for midday and the promise of a little sun. After all, there is no rush, it’s a holiday.
It’s the rule for surf here. We know it. We joke about it. We dare the jinx and try to ignore the hype because in the end we just take what we can get. Apparently some serious karmic harm has been perpetrated. Could it have been the open mocking of the fickle sea on forecast websites or maybe it is the close friend’s new board? Even more maddening is that she will never tell but continue to hold it over our collective heads. So, when the last little 11 second wave period rolled in under a harsh WSW wind, the notes got in for a surf with Jeremy Robinson (stay tuned for his addition to the Wall of Fame) and Drake Courie at a shifty spot, alluring from shore and fun to be wet but-eh….take what you get.
As I watched my brother’s dog hawk my daughter’s snack with the soft, tender, lovable approach that labs use to win their treats and mastery of us, it occurred to me that patience is absolutely necessary in July at the beach. First, it’s hot. Very. The kind of heat and humidity that appears like a white hazy cloud and makes you bow your head in order to stand its searing weight. Second, it’s crowded with tourists. Really crowded. To the point where any out-of-state plate is suspect for causing a good traffic jam. Third, the surf is flat. Very flat. The kind of flat that makes fishing wrecks along the coast possible without fear of jarring your skeleton loose through your nose on the return trip.
Recently all “the notes” brothers and “the notes” Sr. went out along the Cape Fear coast to do just that. Fish wrecks, not snort skeletons. Everyone fought honest fish and the take was pretty solid, including a long and under-gunned fight with an over slot sized red drum. After downing ridiculous portions of flounder and rice there has been mostly laying about and working off some of the cholesterol.
While the surf seems to be tempting as it rises above thigh high here in the middle of the month, it is still a tough sell to trade in favors and call off work for some wobbly, 5 second period wave. However, the alternative is to stay dry for the month. So we search and go any way. Furtively driving up this block and down the next we are on the lookout. Checking the next little street just past the corner market because I think the sand is starting to shoal up better right there. In that spirit there is a new addition to the Wall of Fame. Summer appropriate as we slog our way through July and eye the tropics and coast of Africa. Check it out here, on the Wall of Fame page or by using its page link directly (on the right under “note pages”). Keep a weather eye on the charts and happy hunting.
Check out another new addition to the “Wall of Fame” entitled “Shark Island”. Either click the hyperlinks here or check out the “pages” menu on the right. Keep checking back for a post on Memorial Day Weekend (thanks to our Service Men and Woman) and the opening of Tourist season as well as some swell report on the most recent Nor’easter and subtropical low system which was kind enough to spin some waves this way. It was much needed. Thanks for reading!
Chopes has been lighting up.
Local pros Dylan Kowalski and Ben Bourgeois have been lighting up the Vans Pier Classic and around here, well…it’s been flat. While it has been flat, that is not always a bad thing. It affords us the opportunity to fine tune our other hobbies, to branch out and broaden the search for those things which make work tolerable, and it affords us the time to actually get work done. Before our most recent swell arrived this week it has been flat. So “the notes” and some of the local youth went real flat. Smooth and flat that is at the local skatepark. The surf style of a beach town is reflected in its skaters as much as its eateries/shops (The Surf House), the surf shops (Island Kite), pubs (the Last Resort, The Dive Bar, and The Fat Pelican) local trade shops (like Something Beachy: Beach Furniture and Nautical Consignment or even Island Tackle and Hardware). Check out the gallery below for some pictures of local Andrew Silvagni out of hibernation as well as one or two others enjoying the sun and 70 degrees.
Yet, it is an island and beach town as the lead photo would suggest so when the surf is good…”nobody works.” Perhaps the last real swell in March was not much to get hyped about. It was a blessing to find it larger than expected. A short, and not altogether strong, blow overnight turned offshore in the morning and the resulting leftover windswell was enough for those of us over 90 pounds to grab a few if you’re patient and allowed the groms a chance to show off. The Raynor boys made a visit to the north end and “the notes” blew off going in to work early (hey, it’s Spring Break man!) and caught the guys fresh from some stellar performances in last week’s ESA contest. Jake Raynor took first place in “Boys” while his brother Jesse finished a close second. Bo Raynor continued to impress as he took down the menehues. The Raynor boys and “the notes” were joined by longtime Ryanor riders, the Morvil family. Dad Jeff still is stylish and strong front or backside despite a less-than-strong back and his own boys, Gabe and Vance, showed they definitely landed close to the tree. Long time north end regular Joe Deans showed up with his buddy and standout Drake Courie (UNCW surf team member) for a surf both fresh from Puerto Rico. The warm water must have had them jonesing to shed some rubber, but by the time “the notes” left the beach to head back to work both had replaced their common sense and added their booties. Soon boys, soon. We are all waiting…
It seems as though every year March brings not just the promise of spring, but also waves. On Pleasure Island, this is the month that you are likely to see the most decent push of solid, clean conditions. Rivaled only by the hurricane, the March swell is warm enough that you can lose the gloves, feel the sun in between sets, and even enjoy a day with family and friends on the beach.
This past weekend was the promise of March fulfilled. Friday evening a low pressure system pushed off the coast and held long enough to send some decent wave energy in just the right direction for the Carolina coast. It even saw fit to keep the winds slight. Friday afternoon the Northeast winds that circled through built the surf to head high and bigger conditions. Seeking a better wind across the face of the wave and a break from so much drift, guys in the immediate area hit their favorite barrier island or travelled along some of Carolina’s blue highways. The Sonny Days made anchor in a sheltered little cove on the favorite nearby island. At first the wind was strong, but by sunset the wind had swung more offshore and even laid down lining up the swell for a display of the island’s best potential. A rich blue-green peak feathered on the outer shoals before arriving in the line-up in crisp perfection. The warmer air temp made it bearable to put away the gloves. The ride home along the Intracoastal Waterway was
bathed in a sunset with blues and orange as rich as the greens of the sea. The low system showed swell on the ocean buoys (not the one the Coast Guard spent the weekend trying to retrieve from sunning like some red and white metal work of modern art– “Midwesterner in Repose”).
A four-foot tide hid some of the potential early on Saturday morning for most, but March has been a time of swell for all and the regular crew of stand-up paddlers and heavy longboards were able to surf an open line-up early. The Surf House SUP crew, the guys and gals on the couch in the local eatery and shop, were there before hitting the breakfast bar and putting the coffee on. By midmorning the tide had dropped out and the word had reached the Wrightsville Beach regulars. As the cloud cover began to break up, Allen, Finch, Scott, Chad and Doug all made the trek down US 421 for some of the best waves of the day. The reports called for a light wind all day. Spring must be on the way for certain because the midday sea-breeze returned and settled in with some of the winter blow still behind it. ‘the notes’, family and friends all spent the last few hours of the day catching one or two waves and playing with the kids in the sand. The swell is due to hold through tomorrow. The winds are supposed to stay favorable. One thing is certain, March still has three more weeks.
Check put the photo gallery below for all Saturday’s action (Sonny blew off his photo duties Friday evening).
It has been flat, cold and wet for a while. This weekend the wind was still or slight and the sun allowed to stay on the body long enough to feel warm. Spring is just under the cool breeze and still present bite to the water temperature. When waves came around today a few of the more familiar faces came out of slumber–one from Boliva– and work hibernation to waste some golden time in some small groundswell. Last week there was very little sun and the damp breeze made the bite more of a stab. Thursday surprised everyone with some solid chest high barrels. Surprise enough that the battery on the camera was uncharged and the thruster only put in as an afterthought. A leash would have been a good forethought but an occasional swim seems tolerable if you were tucked back far enough to have earned it. Ah, March. Thought you would never make it.
and his 6 more weeks of winter. Some winter shots laying around. While the winter was pretty darn cold and pretty darn flat, there were a few sessions to be had. Out f the corner of your eye you may have begun to notice the water temp is climbing. Yea, only 50 but that is warmer than 46. Things will be heating up so don’t forget to check “the notes” for swell coverage and more photos. Enjoy
There is something about the holidays. Particularly surf on the holidays. It seems as if it arrives just in time. The year’s little troubles that bother and the taxes that you pay have been steadily building on your mind like the plate of turkey you piled up on Thanksgiving. Each little piece not enough itself to make you drool on yourself on the couch, but added all together is sure to create one unholy smell when you sneak into a room free of company (or a chair with a dog nearby). The holidays are a break from those troubles. They’re the reason you go back for seconds when the first plate alone was probably enough to slow your heart. The surf on the holidays is that time when a sick indulgence is necessary and oh so rewarding.
Out here on the coast families pass on the sled, opting instead for the board of their choice, a little more rubber and a little more foam to float it all. The line up seems to clear in direct proportion to the wind-chill and water temp. The camaraderie in the water is palpable. It becomes a weird little frozen family. Grins are returned and, when it gets truly solid, waves are even traded and shared openly. Call it the spirit of the season or maybe it’s because wave selection becomes that much more crucial since a hold down on the inside or a blown drop means you’re that much closer to hypothermic shutdown and the end of your other worldly get-away. A simple duck dive makes you think twice. Hoots are come from land and the whistles reach your ear in the thin cold as you drop along the face of the wave. The guy on the shoulder might even claim it for you with both arms—there is enough room in there during this season. Still others are scratching and clawing for the outside, their breaths coming in heaving gasps, grinning from one ear to the other. The waves seem to move with extra push and a little heavier, thicker, more hollow and louder—or maybe it’s simply the echo in your hood.
We have waited all year and now have no work, no heavy responsibility except to make it to the store before it closes for gifts you’ve promised or egg nog. Without work to bunge things up, the small window of clean swell is open just a little wider and the western hammer of a wind that will blow it flat is feared only for the possible night arrival. There are the promises of warm meals and age appropriate drinks when you’re warm and dry. Without a hassle for a take off you challenge the best the swell can throw.
It might be only 40 minutes before the wait between sets slows your reaction and your drops become later and your ability returns to the days you started. Add in a few extra pounds of rubber—maybe ham too—and you struggle in way you have not known in a long time. If it’s small and the wind is calm, you surf like a grom and if you’re a grom, you’re in heaven. There is no school, no homework and those old guys in the line up that seem to steal the wave you wanted are not to be found. It truly is a feeling of family and big or small, a surf on the last or first day of the year is just a little different from all the others. Days around Christmas that bring waves seem the best gift and the fact that a family is in the water and on shore makes your grin that much bigger, even if you stopped feeling your face long ago.
Deep in January you reach a point where even a little wind cuts through the rubber with a damp cold that freezes the brain and cripples the hands. Trying to get the key in the lock or ignition is an act of futility and you can’t remember where you hid it in the first place. It doesn’t really matter since the truck takes so long to heat that you’re home and using every last drop of scalding water from the tank just to keep the shakes down. Never mind the rapid swelling and cracking of your hands. Climbing out of your suit becomes an exercise in ridiculousness. Your body has stopped listening to your brain or has at least grown lazy in response. There are places in the world without winter holiday surf where this is referred to as hypothermia. We call it stoke. If there is still swell when the session is over, you figure out a way to dry your wetsuit as much as possible without adding to the growing stench of digesting dinners. You put your booties someplace that the nose of another fellow human will never run afoul because in the dark blue of morning, you’re going out. Or, maybe you’ll wait for midday and the promise of a little sun. After all, there is no rush, it’s a holiday.