How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 21

Anecdotes and Personal Experiences (Name Dropping) - 12

Owl says, "Check your fin!"

One of the things you do when you're surfing.....

Wait, strike that.

One of the things you're supposed to do when you're surfing, is to defer to those with a higher skill level.

The people who have worked the hardest and traveled the farthest down the road of surfing skill should, by rights, be given precedence.

Should be given the wave.

Should be deferred to.

Of course, if you're at a spot like Waikiki, or the Cocoa Beach Pier, you're going to get swarmed by kooks, and everybody knows that, and you just sort of learn to deal with it, like it or not.

But if you're at a real spot, with real waves, then the best surfers get the best waves, and that's exactly how it's supposed to be.

And of course, as you encounter surfspots with better and better waves, this principle comes more and more into effect, the psychosis of Malibu notwithstanding.

So if you find yourself paddling for one at Sunset Beach, and you also find yourself looking at Eddie Aikau over there a little bit in front of you on the shoulder, and he's also paddling for the wave, and he turns his attention toward you and starts hooting you off the wave..... well then, you give him the goddamned wave.

It's his wave.



Fair and reasonable.

I've never had the least problem understanding and adhering to this principle, and that's one of the reasons I never had a problem (with one stunningly egregious exception) with anybody in the water at Sunset Beach.

But every once in a while, you find yourself in conflict with this rule, for whatever reasons of time, circumstance, fate, what have you, anyway.

Shit happens.

If you're an honorable person, you work diligently to minimize the shit to the lowest level humanly possible, but every once in a great while, shit happens anyway.....

Really nice day.

Pretty fair size, and it's breaking all the way through without a dead spot in the middle.

Mid-afternoon, blazing sunshine, and the water's not quite as perfectly blue and clear as it usually is, but it's not any kind of murky either. It's got this more-substantial, less-transparent, green look to it.

After a ride, paddling back out for the next one, and the sights and sounds were just fucking amazing. Breathtakingly beautiful.

Brilliant white plumes of spray coming off of, and delineating sharply, the graceful and more than just a little bit artistic curves of lips as they arched, formed, poured, and then entered that peculiar state of pseudo suspended animation where the shape of a perfect wave will cause the whole visual aspect of the wave to just sort of freeze into that strangely-rotating paradoxical state of dynamic stasis it will take on when viewed from an angle looking more or less right down the centerline of things as the wave peels in your direction.

Very nice waves that day. Very easy on the eyes.

And it was rolling right along out there, too.

Ok, that's enough of that.

And the memory does not permit me to bring back the circumstance of how I managed to initially get into things, and instead it simply picks up with me riding along on this great big peeling beauty of a wave at Sunset Beach with Owl Chapman in front of me.

It was clearly Owl's wave but however things had managed to happen, I was on it with him, riding behind him.

And so we roared along down the line together, me trying to simultaneously stay as far away from Owl as I could, while also avoiding a direct pole-axing from the lip which poured hollow and perfect for the whole length of the ride.

Out in front, Owl was clearly aware of my interfering presence there behind him, but he was graciousness personified about things, and although he was surfing like Owl surfs, (which is to say, better than just about anyone else you've ever seen surf in your whole life), he was also clearly leaving just a little bit of squeak-through room back there behind him for yours truly.

And so I got to watch one of the best surfers in the world do his thing on a perfect wave at Sunset Beach, up close and personal.

Best seat in the house.

Big forceful sweeping turns.

Way up into the lip, swoop back down to the bottom, lay the rail over, and zoom back out in front of things, and then do it all over again.

During any point at all along the lines he was drawing across that wave's face, he could have easily held things for just a trifle longer, going down to the bottom, just before laying it all over on his inside rail, and pitted me into oblivion, ending my interference with his ride then and there.

But he chose not to.

Class act, in spades.

And the wave cooperated so goddamned perfectly that it took us both right on into and through the inside section, right on through the inside bowl, and out the other side through what I personally call Tooth Rattlers, without a drop of water misplaced, no steps, no warbles, no six-foot-thick death lip levitating over a square bottom, just this stupidly perfect, and stupidly workable wave from one end to the other, and deposits us all the way over on the extreme far end of things into the channel, into the heaving jumble of chop and disorganization of the rip, as if we'd been teleported there by magic and set down on satin pillows while doing so.


Right there next to each other, side by side.

And before I could properly register the amazing sequence of events that had just occurred, another growling soup was bearing down on us, and it had a loose surfboard in it, and the damn thing was bearing down on me like a steamroller.

But we were in the deep water, and the soup was in the process of doing that near-instantaneous backoff it does in there, regardless of how big it might have initially been, and as it reached me I turned turtle a split second before the loose surfboard flew sideways through the space I had been occupying just before rolling over.


I felt the board make contact with my fin.

Not violent contact, but contact nonetheless.

And Owl, who had been just a hair farther over toward Kammieland than I was, apparently got a perfect view of the whole thing, and he was still right there next to me when I rolled back around and heaved myself back up on top of my board, and took my initial paddling stroke headed back outside.

"Check your fin!"

Owl wasn't quite done with being just the classiest motherfucker you could ever meet in your life.

The impact didn't feel like all that much to me as I experienced it, but Owl had enough understanding of things to make me stop. Get off my board. Turn it over. Grab the fin. Give it a firm side-to-side shake. And verify that it was not half-broken, ready to fail completely in the middle of my first bottom turn on the next wave I would ride after I got back outside.

The fin was fine.

Owl acknowledged that fact with a knowing smile, we both started paddling back toward the horizon, and that was the end of my interaction with Owl Chapman on that particular day.

Class motherfucking act.

Thanks Owl.

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