Flying Through the Air

- A Breezy Day at Outside Velzyland -


The Kahuku end of Oahu pokes up into the tradewinds like an obstruction protruding into a river from the riverbank. The trades get squeezed going around the northernmost part of the island and they can blow like hell coming around the corner. At Velzyland the wind can really whistle if it takes a notion to.

In the 70's we'd occasionally surf the big peak outside of V-land. I don't ever remember seeing anyone else surf out there except for whomever I might have talked into paddling out there with me (and remember, this was before cords so if you lost your board you were in for a pretty good rough-water swim). For that matter, I do not remember it even having a name back then. It was just this big wave that broke way the hell outside of the normal lineup at V-Land. It's called "Phantom's" nowadays. Anyway, it's a nice peak and has a lot in common with the peak at Sunset which is just down the coast toward Haleiwa. But sometimes the wind would just blow.

One "ride" in particular stands out from the rest.

It was a fair-sized day. How big? I dunno. Big enough. Triple to quadruple overhead and then some. I dunno. You tell me how big it was. I didn't bring my tape measure that day.

Anyhow, we were sitting there and the trades were howling along in fine fettle. Sitting outside waiting for the next set. And here it comes. On this particular day the waves were standing up way outside and feathering along for a while before they finally lunged forward and went off like a bomb. Just like Sunset does sometimes.

And so, a really nice peak stands up and I'm right there for it. Stroking the nine foot rhino chaser like hell and start down going backside left from the very top of the wave. Headed directly into a very stiff trade. As I came to my feet, I could see that there was some pretty impressive chop coming up the face. The tradewind was certainly doing its job.

The chop had to be at least a foot high and was well spaced. Hell, I've ridden smaller waves in Florida than that goddamned chop coming up the face of this peak.

The effect was one of riding a skateboard down a flight of stairs. As I began dropping down and to the left, the chop was just hammering the underside of my board. BAM BAM BAM BAM! And just when I thought the board wasn't going to be able to take anymore of the beating, I went for my "ride."

I had managed to go down the face to where my head was about even with the top of the wave. Not very far. The series of concussive shocks from the chop was getting worse when all of a sudden it quit. One last WHAM! and I had stopped surfing and started flying. Not spinning out in free fall or anything. Just fucking flying! Hell, the wave wasn't even all that steep yet.

With the sensation of watching myself from somewhere else, I sailed smoothly and evenly, directly forward into the teeth of the roaring gale coming at me from in front and below, out away from the wave face. I was no longer dropping downwards but instead was flying horizontally out in front of the wave, straight and true. I'm not sure how long this lasted, but it seemed like an awfully long time. The wave cooperated nicely by not jacking up and breaking. It just feathered along with a big sloping face that I could see quite nicely from my vantage point up in the air above it.

Needless to say, the equilibrium was very dynamic. And in the blink of an eye the board got a little sideways and was instantaneously snatched out from under me and blown way the hell back outside (no cord, remember?), high into the air over the top of the wave.

I plummeted like a stone back down into the wave.

Which still didn't break, so I didn't go over the falls or anything.

I just swam outside to where my buddy had retrieved my wayward board and climbed back on it.

He asked me what the hell had happened.

It was a couple of days later before I could properly explain it to him, and I'm still not sure to this day whether or not he believed a bit of it.

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