Some of you may or may not be aware that I write, on an irregular basis, for the New England Windsurfing Journal http://www.worldwindsurf.com/newj/. My most recent story recounting my February trip to Maui was published in the May 2008 issue, and I just rec'd my copy. So stoked about the pictures he choose to run with it.
The story i wrote was rather lengthy (no surprise) so he choose to break it up into two articles. Both are in the May issue. I'm most pleased with the short story I wrote about my attempt to sail to an outer reef on a day with a posted High Surf advisory.
Here is that story:
On Thursday, Feb 14th, I sailed in the biggest waves of my life. Well over mast high. To be honest, I was pretty much running from them, not riding on them. I believe the forecast was calling for 10-15 foots waves, which no shit translates into 20-30 foot faces. The bigger monsters break on the outer reefs. I mostly played on the waves that broke on the inside, and those were pretty meaty themselves. I generally blasted out thru the channel, hitting big jumps along the way, and go about as far as conditions allowed. Then either gybed onto a wave face or chicken gybed in front of a breaking one. Ride that back in, and then do it over again. I was content to do that all day. Paradise found. That being said, I wanted to see what those big ones look like up close. I mean, how many chances to do you get to sail in conditions like that? Unless you live on Maui, this may have been a once in a lifetime shot. From the first sandbar, you can see them out there. Big pitching beautiful blue faces, overshadowing all of the smaller stuff on the inside, and remember, the smaller stuff on the inside is pretty big stuff. The stuff on the outside is off the charts, just out there, breaking, beckoning you to come out and ride one. Very intimidating let me tell you. I have so much respect for the sailors that go out to the bigger breaks, like Spartans, just upwind from Sprecks. Studs. Well, on one reach, I found what appeared to be an opening out to the blue water, so I took it, fully powered, and blasted thru. Yeah, I’m a bad ass right? Well, low and behold they start jacking on the outside, and it can be tough sometimes to find a shoulder to skirt over. They just get too vertical with no choice but to chicken gybe or jump it. If you opt to jump the wave, just make damn sure you don’t come off a plane on landing, or else. Well wouldn’t you know it I screwed it up, on the first wave no less. I made it over the first wave by jumping it, but came off a plane, with the next one, even bigger, bearing down on me. It was like everything happened in slow motion after that. I remember thinking to my self, “oh shit, this is not going to be good”. Somehow, out of the straps, I made it over that next wave after it had broken out in front me. Huge white water, front foot up by the mast base, I did it text book correct. Of course on the other side there was a lull and I dropped in oh so lazily, maybe without even a splash. I’m in a perfect water start position to boot. No problem right? Just flip the sail, get up, and head in. Then I look up to see the next wave, even bigger coming. No time to flip the sail. I must of looked incredibly insignificant, down in the water, holding the sail up in the water start position as this impossibly large wave jacked up, right in front of me. I was definitely not in a good place, and it was terrifying. I was fortunate that the wave didn’t break on my head, but instead broke out in front of me, and it was the white water that pretty much mauled me. I held on as tight as I could, and was shocked that my stuff wasn’t ripped from my hands. I was held down for not so long a time, but its very disconcerting when you’re being held under, in the middle of the outer reef, in high surf, Hawaiian high surf no less, not knowing what is coming next when you pop back up to the surface. Was there another big one coming? Do I turn around to look? As best I could, I tried to remain calm, with no wasted energy or panicked motions. Controlled breathing. Let me tell you what, that was the best, quickest water start of my life.
I made it out before the next one came. Phew. Lesson, hold on to your kit no matter what, and maybe don’t sail out to an outer reef alone. I sailed back to the beach and literally sat there for almost an hour, shaking. It was honestly the most terrifying moment of my life, and I can’t wait to do it again!