Yah, it fell apart as it went past. I'm glad, because it was FAR too big early on.
Day 2: I woke up sore and salted as if it was day 7 of a
Mentawais trip. Still, I managed to haul myself and my stuff down to the truck
for the run out to J****s***, grabbing a Family Mart coffee and riceball
(salmon and wasabi) to help wake up. Didn’t need it. J-s- would’ve woken me up
Coming down the cliffs, we knew it was an event. Usually tame beachbreaks were
looking impossible to even paddle, let alone ride. Outer reefs we didn't even
know existed were blowing up. The sky was gray and raining and the sea the same
color with long lines of swell marching in from the horizon. Once we rounded
the last corner, we could see JS breaking waaaaay outside. It reminded me of a
big day at Ventura Overhead, except it wasn’t quite that far out, and it
connected all the way in until it detonated in a mile-long DOH wall. The wind
was hard offshore and I have to say we were both pretty intimidated. A bombing
closeout looks twice as big when the wind is blowing spray back, and that J_S
"beachbreak" looked like the jaws of doom.
The river had broken through the berm and the usual sandbar was in place,
breaking up the murderous beach. It was breaking waaaaay out there, but it
looked like typical J-S just supersized: A peaky crumble on the right and a big
hollow left. Very similar to my biggest day at the overhead. That's what gave
me courage to paddle out, I think.
We needed guns, but all I had was a quadlet of sponges, and his biggest board
was under 7'. We went with what we had. The river was our best bet, and so
that’s where we paddled out, letting the current sweep us closer and closer to
those streaming walls of foam. It was hard to tell if I was making any
progress. The incoming whitewash was huge. I couldn't really get under it, and
each wave seemed to push me back more than I was able to paddle out, but after
15 minutes of constant duckdiving and paddling, I saw I was outside of the “shorepound”.
I had angled left hoping it would be easier to break through the softer side.
After coming up from another duckdive, I put everything I had into squeaking
out across the impact zone before the shoulder came sweeping down. I just made
it. Then it was a longer, but easier paddle all the way up to the top of the peak.
It was BIG and lonely out there. My buddy was nowhere to be seen and the beach
looked like it was a kilometer away.
When the sets swept in, they blotted out the horizon. Something I'm not used
to, with these big waves, was that the whole thing looked like an inescapable
closeout to my eye, because even way down the line, it was still a hill. The
lefts were way scarier than the rights, so I finally nutted up and caught a
right from waaaaay out on the shoulder. I've had a 20-foot drop before, once,
in Ventura. It's scary. So was this one. Not the least because it felt like
100mph winds streaming up the face were trying to blow me back into the
growling shoulder, and I didn't want to be anywhere near that thing. The drop
in was bumpy and f--king crazy. I didn't do anything but try to stay as high
and as far out on the shoulder as I could, and then get over the back after a
I did this a few times, going a little lower and holding on a little longer
each time without getting punished. It was getting more fun than scary, but it
was still plenty scary.
My friend finally made the paddleout and joined me in the lineup and we caught
monster rights for a while. The lefts, however, were protected from the
offshore chop because the wind was coming slightly out of the East. It looked
pretty nightmarish, but I had gotten confidence from the rights. So I paddled
around the peak and set up to catch a left.
I had thought to hang outside and observe how the lefts were breaking, but as I
paddled across the peak a set came in. I should have paddled over the back, I
would have been fine, but my instincts said go. I was in perfect position. I
know it wasn’t really 20-foot air-drop, that’s impossible, but it sure felt
like one. This wave taught me that I don’t know how to ride big waves and
actually, I don’t want to know.
The last time I caught JS it was CH and gentle. You could stick in the barrel
for a while then punch through the thin curtain and turn back out for your next
wave. Not so today. The face was so large, I couldn’t decide where to bottom
turn. Afraid that I was going to get axed by a three-story lip, I missed
the speed pocket right off the bat, and pulled in far too high. It was by
far the largest barrel I’ve ever been in and it was really really fast. By some
miracle, I managed to get enough speed to get out of the giant tube before it
sectioned off, but there was still this ridiculously steep wall stretching off
into infinity. I tried and failed to get out in front of it and then bail out
over the back. I thought I had made it out, until the world started to tilt
past vertical. I will never forget the sight of the beach, the palm trees, and
the water’s surface—farther below me than if I were jumping off the high-dive
at the community pool back in the US. I ditched the board, got one really big
breath on the way down, and balled up before I hit. I landed on my side—I could
tell later from the huge bruise—under the lip and just got blasted. It was a
long, long tumble. I think I hit the bottom, but I can’t be sure. I had
stupidly worn a leash, and so my biggest fear was getting tied up ten feet
down, so I refused to uncurl until the spinning stopped. It was very dark, but
I had a strong sense of which way was up. Lucky it was right, because I broke
the surface really desperate for air. I got half air and half foam before
taking the next wave on the head. I must have been dragged in pretty far,
because I was pretty far inside the impact zone and while I had another big
tumble, I was pretty close to the surface after it finished running me over. I
finally got up and got a few good breaths before being freight-trained again.
Everything I had was gone except my shorts and part of my leash, even my
rashguard had been ripped off. It was a long swim in against the river, and I
was half-drowned from bodysurfing giant foamballs by the time I touched bottom.
I spent the rest of the morning hunting for my fins (found one) and board
(found half) and watching to see if my friend had died. I was NOT going to
paddle out again (maybe ever). He hadn’t drowned, and we took off around 12:30.
It was several hours of back-country driving to get up the
coast to T-----, which was just out of control. We picked up bento-style lunch
boxes and drove around looking for something ridable inside a jetty or behind
a breakwater without any luck. After J-S
neither one of us was feeling like bulling through any more big stuff, so we
gave up on T and headed all the way up to C----G----. We arrived almost at
sunset to find the left at CG still waaay too big and the swell still had too
much south in it. The park there was closed due to high surf, but there weren’t
any guards posted, so we just parked the Delicia off to the side and hiked in
to check out the north-facing beaches well protected inside.
The old lava finger shelves at CG were looking okay. They
never break, but with the big disorganized swell having to wrap almost 180
degrees, it was tamed down to around Head-high and really clean. The sky was
still stormy and it was raining off-and-on, but the wind was calm. The surf
wasn’t great, maybe 100-foot-long rides on sectiony right-handers before they
ground up on the cobblestones, but it helped restore some confidence after the
beating at JS and got me used to my backup fins. It was too wet for a fire, so we just drove down to town for
noodles, then back up to the CG boat ramp and parked under the palm trees.
Drank some beer, checked in with family, and sacked out in the back of the
truck right on the break, listening to the stereo, then just the rain and the
surf hoping that the swell would shrink a bit and turn more northerly by