How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 24

Anecdotes and Personal Experiences - 14


This one involves the board that lost its fin in a most unsettling way. We've already talked about it before. That board went through a lot.

Here's the one and only picture of it that I ever got, and it's the one over on the far right, finless, sitting bottom-up. A little more story on it here, and here, if you're interested.

Ok, anyway, as previously mentioned, that board was never quite right again, following my sloppy job of glassing the fin back on.

No real surprise there, right?

It hummed.

Nice low hummmmm sound that you could feel and hear distinctly when riding it. Kind of slowed the board down, just a trifle, too.

So of course I never bothered to remove the fin and glass it back on, I just rode the sonofabitch, and dealt with things on their own terms, and me and that board hummed our merry way along, from that point forward.

Until one day.....

Big day.

Big goddamned motherfucking west swell day at Sunset Beach.

One of those days where the peak moves way the hell outside and to the west, taking it almost to a point where you're sitting outside of Kammieland(!) of all bizarre places.

One of those days when the peak more or less completely detaches itself from the rest of the lineup at Sunset, folds over waaay on out there, and then backs off in the deeper water so completely that you cannot ride it in through the dead spot to the inside sometimes, even when you're trying to, if only to take one last ride into the beach so you can leave.

So yeah. So pretty big day, ok?

And the wave in question just might be the largest wave I ever caught out there, in all the time I surfed the place. I dunno. Pretty damn big wave for Sunset Beach, ok? We'll just leave it at that, ok?

The "West Peak" on strongly west swells tends to almost overwedge itself. The two wings of the peak begin crossing at a very strong angle, and the wave sort of pyramids up, breaks, and then fades out rapidly.

On this one, it came in over toward Kammieland from where I was sitting, which placed me behind the peak, on the north side.

But some times, you can just tell, and this was one of those times.

Despite the overwedged aspect to things, I could just tell that it wasn't going to pitch, and so I took a run at it and got in cleanly, a pretty good ways behind the apex of the pyramid.

And in my mind's eye, I can just see things as clearly as if they'd happened yesterday. Afternoon, but not late afternoon. Water had a darker, greener aspect to it than usual. None of that "clear blue" stuff at all. Trade wind blowing along pretty good, and maybe just a weency bit more north in the trade wind than I might have wanted, but overall, it was ok. And as soon as I came to my feet, my stomach dropped as I looked across to the rapidly-cupping center of the pyramid over there in front of me, looking from my vantage point right up at the very top of the wave's north wing where I came to my feet, looking much, much farther up towards the apex of the peak than I ever wanted to.

It was an unnerving sight, seeing all that water well in front of me and well above me, being compressed and pushed further upward by the oncoming west wing of the wave. Just this cycloptic mass of water, and I'm taking the line that the north wing was giving me, going down, but also going inexorably across, in the direction of all that focused energy out there ahead of me, which was by now coming over at the top, forming a Niagara of whitewater up above me which was now beginning to race down from the top of the peak, toward the bottom, and which I had to outrace to get down to the bottom first and somehow get around, below and beyond it, or face the consequences.

Kinda scary, even thinking about it now, all these years later.

And that was when my poorly-reattached fin did something peculiar, and which I've never experienced again, anywhere.

As I started to pick up speed going down, the fin began humming, as usual, but then, maybe a third of the way down the face and still gathering speed, the fin switched gears and abruptly transitioned from a low hum to a bizarrely high-pitched, loud squeal.

It was as if the fin itself was terrified of where we were going, and it let out an involuntary squeal of high-pitched fear.

The sound was so strange, and so unexpected, that it diverted my attention from the developing situation in front of me for a moment, and embedded itself into my memory, never to leave.

But not for long, and the unfolding situation once again took full command of my attention.

Miraculously, I made it down and around that nightmare of whitewater and escaped out on to the shoulder of the wave, untouched.

How nice.

The wave promptly fizzled out, and that was the end of that.

But that sound. That sound the fin made.

Nothing else like it in all of my lifetime.

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