Round two started off all wrong. I mistimed the paddle out, taking 3 or four in the impact zone and found myself way down at the ‘first crack’. I caught a fat, walled right and then paddled against the current down to the reef. Only just arriving to the peak, my arms already burned. I snuck into a wide closeout, straightened out and tossed about in the ensuing whitewash explosion. Just barely back to the line-up, a mega-set marched in. I watched Anna barely make it over the first and knew I was doomed. The first one broke 20 feet in front of me. I ditched my board and thanks to the 10-foot leash, I dove as deep as I could before it reached me. After a laundering in the ‘heavily soiled’ cycle, I surfaced with just enough time to see another unstoppable parade of ‘white horses’ approaching yet again. Another 2 beatings, and draggings and I was nearly at the beach. But I caught my breath, realized I was fine, saw a gap in sets, and foolishly paddled out back out for more.
When I finally made it back out, the late sun had altered the mood. The blue sky was now an ominous red-orange. The sea was black but for when a mountain rose up so that the amber hues penetrated its vertical crest. I scraped with every ounce of strength left in me to duck under the top of these emerald peaks that seemed to be only getting bigger and farther out. Pressing into their raw, cold power, penetrating through the back with eyes wide open, desperate to catch any glimpse of what followed…The sun set…Darkness seemed imminent. My tired arms in the critical conditions scared me. I wanted to go in.
Impatiently, I paddled in closer to the reef hoping to luck into an in-betweener to get me to the beach. Impatience NEVER pays in big waves. No sooner did every cell in my body ache with regret. Another beastly set approached. I could do nothing but wait for my punishment. Others were crushed too, but I got annihilated. Already tired, I couldn’t hold my breath like usual. The lashings came. I tried to stay relaxed underwater as the first, second, third swept and tumbled me toward the beach. I sucked in some water and for a few moments I was SCARED…but not long after, I washed up on the beach coughing, light headed, and feeling pathetic. My sorrow was shortlived, though, as I watched Anna plunge down a face and ride all the way to the beach.
Every now and then you take your licks. I took mine that second session, and later, I felt thankful for them. We went back for more over the next few glorious glassy days and feared little. The mega sets were gone. It was still big, but with no coral reef below and nothing as massive as what had tried to drown me on Saturday, well, I paddled my lithe new 6’4″ J7 to the top of the peak, hoping to catch the biggest of the sets. There was no wind. The crowd thinned in the afternoons and glassy peaks of world-class perfection continued to peal off the reef in a California dream so blissful, I hardly wanted to blink for fear I’d wake up and be somewhere else.