How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 13

Anecdotes and Personal Experiences - 6

The Nature of the Bottom at Sunset Beach

There are differing types of bottoms at different locations on the North Shore, and these differences cover the full scope of physical makeup, from large-scale features and topography, all the way down to fine-scale details of, for lack of a better word, texture.

With very few exceptions, such as small Waimea Shorebreak and the sandbar that sometimes forms more or less directly in front of the beach park at Ehukai, it's all rock, of course.

Some of it's fairly smooth and flat, like the areas of smooth flat limestone where Gas Chambers gets you as you attempt to come out of those stupid too-long lefts that just wind up going faster and faster and faster until they've drawn you all the way over into that unpleasantly shallow territory over there next to Rocky Point where they will then smash you and bounce you off that concrete-hard smooth flatness a lot harder than you want or need.

Some of it is smooth and volcanic, but definitely not flat, like all those weird black basalt teeth, pinnacles, and other truly scary shit that lurks just beneath the surface at Log Cabins.

Some of it is more or less smooth, but very much contoured and convoluted, and kind of angular in places, like the stuff that will knock the living shit out of you at Off The Wall and Pipeline.

And some of it is smooth limestone, sometimes flat, sometimes lined with deep grooves and channels, but all of it covered in an unbroken carpet of mostly, but not all, dead or fossilized coral that sort of crunches in places if you try to walk across it (Do not. Each one of those "crunches" is the sound of lithified razor blades and shattered stoneware being broken off into your own soft yielding and freshly-cut tissue.) that my own personal name for is "Crispy Coral."

The bottom across the full extent of the playing fields at Sunset Beach is crispy coral. The whole place, from one end to the other. There are deep grooves in the reef all over the place, and this can be seen in the high-resolution lidar bathymetry images, and there is also an area of deeply-frightening pillars and other high-relief features over at Boneyards, but it's all crispy coral. Every last bit of it.

Which is nice, I guess, for avoiding the severe blunt-force trauma which the pointy parts and angular edges that you'll find at Log Cabins, Off The Wall, and Pipeline will routinely deliver to their victims, but not so nice for avoiding the business of being cut to ribbons if you hit it wrong, in just the right location.

Some solace can be taken from the fact that Sunset Beach is a deep-water wave, and the odds of hitting the bottom outside are quite low.

Although that too contains a hidden "gotcha" on those rare instances when you and the bottom finally do manage to have a personal physical interaction, in the form of "Well dammit I just got banged off the bottom out here, and not only did the sonofabitch slice the shit out of me, but now I have to swim twenty-five long and difficult vertical feet through madly-swirling water, just to get back to the fucking surface, and must do so quickly enough to avoid getting hit by the next oncoming wave before surfacing, and being put through the whole goddamned we're not kidding around here anymore life-or-death process again, in a two-wave holddown."

In these sorts of instances, the cuts, no matter how large or deep, become completely negligible, almost unnoticeable really, and are lost in the background roar produced by other input from things that have taken on a vastly greater immediate significance. Your brain would love nothing better than to be able to return to the cuts later, still amongst the world of the living, where things have calmed down some, where there's more time and less other "right-now" stuff to deal with. They'll still be there.

Farther inside the odds of getting scratched up a little, increase.

And probably the worst place of all is the very last bit, just before you make it to the shoreline, on that part of Val's Reef that sticks up out of the water, completely exposed.

If you took your fall, or cleanup set, or whatever, farther up-point, farther outside, then when you finally get in to the far side of the rip in the backed-off area just off the beach, you're going to be confronted with a choice, whether you even know that or not.

And first-timers often do not realize this.

Right there, just off the beach, a little to the right of where everybody parks their cars and watches from the top of the dune, there is a table of reef that slopes ever so gently and evenly, higher and higher as the distance to the sand decreases, and over on the side of the table toward the point, in between each new surge of whitewater, it shows itself fully exposed to the sun, the sky, the air, the people on the beach, but not someone swimming in, or at least not until it's way too late to do anything about it.

Welcome to Val's Reef.

From your vantage point of swimming in, bobbing along in the rip and none too far from the beach, there's nothing to see.

It's invisible.

And you're just supposed to know that it's there.

You either swim in far enough over by the point to provide more than enough margin to keep you clear of things, or you stop swimming for enough time to allow the rip to drag you sideways down the beach far enough that you'll be swimming in over on the downcurrent side of things where it's nice and safe.

But every once in a while, you'll be up on the sand, hanging out and watching things, and a guy will come slogging in out of the rip, and he won't realize what's in there.

It's not pretty when it happens.

The top surface of that gently-tilted table of rock is nice and flat in general aspect, but it's sharp like a motherfucker with crispy coral.

And our next unfortunate victim of circumstance, who cannot properly hear, nor understand, the shouts and arm-waving that's coming from the folks on the sand there in front of him, is by now discovering that not only can he touch the cutting edges of the bottom between waves, but that he's also getting dragged over to where it's even shallower, and now here comes a couple of soups, and he gets shoved again and deposited softly, onto the cutting and slicing surfaces further upslope, and the water starts shallowing back out to where he can no longer swim, but must now instead walk, and he's walking all gingerly, like he's walking on broken glass or something, which he is, and then the next soup that's coming finishes drawing the water all the way down and the whole tabletop is now completely exposed, and our victim perceives his true place in things, and attempts to quickstep it over to the far edge of the table, but he's still on broken glass and he's having to deal with a million small pits and tiny declivities which are all trying to trip him up, to roll his ankle, to make him fall down, and his feet are already being sliced all to hell, and he can't move anywhere near fast enough, and now that goddamned next soup has him, and he finds himself being tumbled, rolled, and dragged across the last ten or twenty feet of tabletop and over the side into the little trough that separates things from the actual sand of the beach, getting the holy living shit lacerated out of him, the whole way.

Like I said, it ain't pretty.

So there's plusses and minuses with the bottom at Sunset Beach, and you really do need to pay attention to all of them.