How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 14

Anecdotes and Personal Experiences - 7


Some of the neatest stuff at Sunset Beach has nothing at all to do with surfing, sometimes.

There's all this tangential shit that people never think about much, or talk about much, but it still constitutes a significant part of the whole experience.

And the "rainstorms" are one of those things.

You're sitting way the hell outside, and when you're sitting out there, a lot of waves pass beneath you and keep right on going, unridden.

Some of those unridden waves are just barely too small to take a go at. Just a smidge less than what you're waiting for.

Which makes them fairly substantial waves in their own right, and they come steaming in and pass beneath you, and they're not all so very far inside of you when they rear up and fold over against the stiff tradewind, and when they do, a tremendous amount of water gets blown back off the top of them and forms this great plume of spray.

From the beach, or in photographs, that plume of spray looks all soft and white and fluffy and is quite beautiful.

From sitting outside, that soft white fluffy plume of spray takes on a very different aspect.

First of all, the damn plume of spray gets blown a surprising distance back outside, way the hell beyond the wave that's creating it.

You're sitting there, and you watch the back of the wave moving away from you inside, all nice and solid, getting ready to stand up and fold over, way on in there, and then the tradewind starts tearing more and more water off the top edge of the wave and that plume of spray forms and grows and gets carried way the hell up into the air, and then it finally comes back down, and when you're sitting there underneath it, it comes back down in the form of an absolutely torrential burst of rainfall.

Just this momentary salt-water cloudburst that equals, or even surpasses, the heaviest rainfall that you've ever experienced.

Big fat drops, by the zillion, closely-packed and relentless.

The surface of the water around you is just getting hammered with this stuff, and so are you.

And you sit there, and maybe squint your eyes some, and feel it pelting your skin, and it's just pretty damn cool, all the way around.

And then it's over, and you can resume your patient game of maintaining lineups and marks, watching for incipient bulges along the outer horizon, and just marveling at your impossible good luck to be sitting in such a place and experiencing such a thing.

The One Behind It

So you're sitting there, and of course here it comes.

Goddamned cleanup set.

And you start your race, paddling furiously to get far enough outside, to get to safety, to get over the damn things before they break.

And now the first substantial one is closing in on you.

You paddled over the one before it and are suddenly confronted with this simply colossal dark blue wall of water that's looming above you, and it's already starting to feather and it's steepening by the second, and oh god, please, do not let this happen to me, and you're thinking you've still got a chance to get over it before it breaks, and so you're paddling like a demon, burning energy furiously, squandering all of it, hoping that you won't need any of the oxygen that you're burning through for later on, when maybe you're in a place where there is no oxygen, and you're stroking as hard as you can, and you're approaching the front apron of this goddamned malevolent behemoth mass of water that continues to stand up taller and taller, steeper and steeper, and the thing is now feathering in a deeply frightening way, and it's threatening to break, and you're just paddling like a madman and holy shit, maybe you might make it after all, and you keep digging like hell, and ok, this just might work, and as you're heading uphill with every chance of pulling this off, barely, you then hear the one behind it that you can't even see yet..... break.

And yeah, that's no fun at all when that happens.

Paddling Over The Lefts

The channel at Sunset Beach is some seriously deep water over to the west of where it usually comes over, outside.

But on the other side, the side that faces Backyards, it's not so deep, and waves come over on that side of things often enough that you learn pretty quickly not to go left.

If you go left, the ride itself might be fair to partly excellent, but it's what happens after the ride that you want to always be keeping uppermost in mind.

Because when you're paddling back outside, after riding a left, well..... things can happen.

Unpleasant things.

So you quickly learn to leave the lefts alone, and in so doing, you learn to leave that whole side of things alone.

Just stay the hell away from that shit, ok?

There's nothing over there for you, ok?

Just leave the goddamned thing alone.

And so you do.

You leave the goddamned thing alone.

Which is all fine and good, except for the one small detail which concerns precisely where the peak comes over in relationship to that exceedingly deep water over there in the channel on the west side of things.

The peak, the goddamned West Peak, does NOT break right over there on the edge of the really deep water.

Far from it, in fact.

From where the peak normally comes over, there's a pretty good stretch of water that's not exceedingly deep, before you finally make it all the way over to where the water really is exceedingly deep.

Which means (as if there weren't already more than enough ways for Sunset Fucking Beach to get you), that every once in a while those big goddamned cleanup set peaks can come steaming in from outside, but they're not where they're supposed to be.

Far from it, in fact.

And so you find yourself paddling madly, trying to keep from getting demolished by these cycloptic nightmare peaks that are hissing and thundering as they bear down on you, and that clearly have eyes and that clearly want you, and you find yourself paddling as much, or more, across and to the side as you are paddling straightaway for the horizon, and you find yourself paddling over the shoulders of the lefts instead of the rights.

And oh yeah, those lefts very often break harder, more top to bottom, and run down the line faster, than do the rights, so when one of them is roaring along in your direction, you become very motivated to get the hell out of its way and you very much would like to avoid direct contact with it at all costs.

And with each succeeding left that you find yourself barely squeaking over just before it obliterates you, you're being pushed farther and farther over into the Zone of Death over towards Outer Backyards, and as you barely crest the left on each succeeding giant breaker, you get a quick glimpse of all those additional Walls of Doom stacked up outside half fucking way to Japan, and some of them are already feathering out there, and they're all coming your way, and you know that eventually one of them is going to break where it's supposed to and when it does, it's going to have your sorry ass.

Go look up the word "dread" in the dictionary, maybe.

Sunset Beach can, on occasion, become a very dreadful place indeed.