Big, Mean Surf

Gary Kewley
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Friday - December 02, 2005
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Makua Rothman was one of many pros paying their dues during the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach last week
Makua Rothman was one of many pros paying their
dues during the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach
last week

Aloha, surfers!

Time is ripping, shredding and carving through the holidaze ... and so is the surf! Huge waves have been greeting us and the competitors for the Vans Triple Crown. Talk about scoring! So far, both the OP Pro at Haleiwa and the O’Neill World Cup at Sunset have had up to 15 feet.

That’s BIG. That’s death-defying material. These water-bound athletes have to risk it all. We sometimes forget this. An experienced wave rider doesn’t need to be riding/towing 20 feet to drown.

I went out at Laniakea last Sunday afternoon, the first exposed surf spot heading toward Sunset Beach from Haleiwa. Turtles were safely beached while 8-12-foot waves rocked my world, with occasional 15-footers ... and I’m not using this term “rocked” in a positive light. I would have been safer hiding under a rock. I could’ve ended up buried under one - in the ocean.

The currents this day were fierce, the waves were wild and seemed to say “I want to eat you” ... they were angry and hungry. Right as I got outside, before I was warmed up and ready, a giant set closed out the left side of the break (rare). I had to “bail” my board and head deep. I’m thinking, what? I had to be ready even though I wasn’t. The ocean teaches you this. I popped back to the surface only to find another monster bearing down ... So down I went again, except this time I knew I could only handle a few more like this. Your body doesn’t just keep re-oxygenating to 100 percent - it drops considerably each time after holding your breath while getting pounded 10 feet under water.

As luck would have it (knock on fiberglass) I was given a break. But soon there were more sets cracking on the second and third reefs and swinging wide to the left. She was crazy, the sea ... and me for being out there! The current on that side of Laniakea wasn’t allowing me to paddle in or even stay in safe position. By this time I wasn’t “feeling right.” You know, sometimes it just isn’t your day, and this was one of mine. I had to respect this. So I said to myself, and God, get me outta here! It was a very humbling experience, sort of depressing, but a huge lesson of renewed respect for Mother Nature’s ocean. And I’m going to get in better shape.

Despite catching nine waves, Mikael Picon of France finished third in his heat and was eliminated from the event
Despite catching nine waves, Mikael Picon of France
finished third in his heat and was eliminated from the

Now let’s see how the pros fared up at Sunset Beach on this same day. Well, wouldn’t you know? Sunset was teaching lessons to the world’s best! It was cracking 8-12 feet and even 15 “out the back.” It was heavy water, and the competitors felt every pound. The lineup was particularly shifty and cruel. Even guys like Hawaii big wave veteran Ross Williams shared the truth: “It’s pretty intimidating. I probably had the heaviest hold-down today that I’ve had in ages, which rattles you a bit.” Even young up-and-coming star Nathan Carroll, a Sunset hard charger, confessed: “The conditions are really hard ... It’s kind of scary. It’s like ‘don’t fall!’ I had a really bad wipe out and hit the bottom. It’s kinda like survival surfing - do what you have to do to get the score but don’t wipe out. You can get pushed down 10-15 feet out here and it feels like you’re doing 20-30 summersaults under water. And there are so many air bubbles in the water you can’t even get yourself to the surface for a breath, or it’s so dark you don’t even know where the surface is ... I’ve had to climb my (surf-board) leash to get to the surface!” Thank you, Ross and Nathan, I needed to hear you say this! Wow, and we thought surfing was all just fun and games. My respect for our pro surfers has jumped a few notches.

And just wait till we get to Pipeline, Dec 8-20.

I’m out of time and space, but after Sunday’s close call I’m glad just to exist in it. Be here next weekend when I’ll share what was one of the best awards banquet in Waimea Valley, Free Surf Magazine‘s first Kai Mana Awards!

I’m GQ, dropping in 4 U!

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