A day after the humongous waves of Hurricane Danny, I expected things to have quieted down a lot, but they really haven't. There are still some five to six foot waves out there, I judge by watching people ride them. But I decide to go in anyway.
Getting out isn't easy. After 15-20 minutes of trying and getting pushed back, in full view of the boardwalk peanut gallery of course, I decide to try going out by the jetty, as D. taught me long ago. (I consider the surfer's maxim, If you have this much trouble making it out you shouldn't be out, but I reject that idea.) I pick a guy with a board the same size as mine, a guy I am sure knows what he is doing, and decide to just do what he does. Mostly what he does is wait for a lull, same as everyone else. (Same as J., an arrogant King-of-the-Beach type shortboarder---I note with satisfaction that he has to wait just like the rest of us.) Finally there is a lull, the guy jumps on his board---but I am several yards behind him and not as fast and don't quite make it like he does. Well, then I see another longboard guy and follow that one. Basically, I start paddling when everyone else does---duh, when we all see the lull. And I make it.
Once out, I move over where the less experienced surfers are, and wait for a suitable wave. There aren't really any small ones coming through, so if I don't go for a big one, I won't get anything. One comes by that I'm in position for, I paddle.
Whoa! What is this thing I have never experienced before---a big drop at about a 45 degree angle! I mean, we talk about making the drop on the small waves I am so used to, but it's hardly a drop, you never even notice it. This; this is a real drop. I have caught the wave perfectly and I know it but then I'm faced with that slide down the slope and it scares me. It scares me enough that I don't try to get up. I think my nose is going to go down and I focus on just holding on to my board. Then, of course, my nose goes down, and I'm tumbled. Also held down a second longer than I'm used to, not a big deal, but I note it.
I think that if I had stood up right away I would have been OK. If I had treated that five to six foot wave as a three footer, I would have made it. Really, it's the same thing (only much steeper).
I am cheered by the fact that I tried and made the wave. I am pushing my limits today, and it feels fine, really.
I didn't come all the way out here not to try for a wave.
The next wave I get, I actually get to my feet, but then fall immediately. I am cheered to have gotten to my feet, to have made progress from getting out to taking off to getting up, however briefly.
Once I'm in, it seems like an hour has passed, but an hour that equals two hours on easy waves. Two waves, two slightly long holdowns, not counting the scratch on my face from where my board hit me on the way out which I don't even notice til someone says later, Your face is bleeding. (Only a tiny bit.) Six foot waves. Even five is great for me.
I decide to rest while I debate going out again. But I don't. I am intact and stoked, and that feels good to me. It was all more challenging than scary.
Later, I realize it was strangely fun. Not the fun of riding a wave fun, but the fun of trying something hard and proving to yourself you can do it (or will someday soon) fun. The fun of not getting killed.
And something else. I think of the phrase "adrenaline junkie." Not that I am one, but a lot of surfers are, or at least I've heard that phrase used to describe why people surf. On two foot waves, it's pretty hard to experience a rush of adrenaline, no matter how fun they are. Maybe adrenaline is several parts fear, several parts risk, combined into a relief cocktail at the end (if you survive). Well, I got the fear and risk part today (if not the riding the wave part). And it is a whole different experience than my usual surf session. I could maybe start to like it.