The waves turned gnarly today, back to the stormy soup we often have this time of year. 8-12', often on the big side, and closing as fast and as sudden as a venus fly trap. Not like the playful 6-8' entrance ramps that the beach offered yesterday. But not the certain death that we had a week ago, when the winds were 50 knot gusts and the waves crashed against each other like 20' titans wrestling for the best spot.
Ocean Beach, SF is a dangerous beach. There have been a half dozen deaths here in the past 12 months. A kid playing too close to the water, a father and son accidentally swept away by a rogue wave. I was once in the water on a small, clear, sunny day. I was bodysurfing and wondering why the waves were so small. I heard screams and swam over. Two kids, no wetsuits, being swept away in a small but overpowering rip. I tried to get them back in, but after 5 minutes...10 minutes...15 minutes...I hadn't made any progress. The poor kids were panicked and starting to hang on me. I called for help and help came. Fire trucks, water rescue teams, police, ambulances, lifeguards. Before they got in the water, though, Ocean Beach swept the three of us on to an unexpected sandbar and...we just walked out like nothing happened.
It's an unexpected place, and 8-12' gnarly days are no joke. I have my limits. For example, I know that the waves were peaking at at least 12' today because my comfort level at SFOB maxes around 10'. A city of 800,000 people and I'm the only surfer in the water. A day like that.
But this is my beach. If I waited for OB to be perfect, then I'd be lucky to surf once a month. The waves here don't have the shape of waves in SoCal. They don't curl and hug the shore like the photos I see of New Jersey. Ocean Beach chooses quantity over quality. The question around here is never, "is there surf?" The question is always, "is the surf too big?"
Now that I've been spending more time in SoCal and understanding the scene down there more, I'm beginning to understand that the Bodypo is a board that could only have been created in NorCal. It has the two things you need to survive an 8-12' day at Ocean Beach:
I had a beautiful wave today. I was testing a new board - a 42" bat tail Bodypo with a terrible, baby blue pigment job that was the result of a brief lapse of judgement. The Bodypo flies like a jet and cuts like a knife. It's a beautiful board, but I didn't totally get that until I caught this one wave.
I see it coming, but it's not like the others. It's not a big close-out this time, but a freak, unexpected left. Big. It looked like Nazaré to me, but it was probably 10'. It presents it's shoulder directly too me, I'm in just the right place, and I go for it. The wave pitches up like a vertical cliff, and I want to straighten out and bail, but I resist the urge. I dig the rail in, twist my feet into rudders and pick my line.
As I get up to trim I can't believe how fast I'm going. I know I invented these boards, but it wasn't until recently that Bodypo longer than 39" were possible. So this is only the second time I'm on a 42" - the right size - and its speed is a surprise even to me. At this length it's mostly the board that's gliding on the water, and I'm no longer dragging my legs down the wave. The Bodypo lights up and flies down the line. I'm trimming high, where I like to be, and I see I'm heading into a horseshoe of two opposing waves coming together. A right is meeting my left, and I see the close-out coming. At the last minute I cut to the right and free-fall through a solid 12' ramp and skim along the surface like a skipping stone. I hear the close-out crash behind me and a second later the whitewater hits.
The force of the water pushes me forward and I go with it. What else is there to do? It spits me back out the front and I keep going, looking for the reform. I find it going right and I kick into it. I push the board further under me and extend my arms out like Super Man. This board is so fast and responsive — all I have to do is look left and I go left.
Finally the wave loses steam and I roll out.
I know this is like reading a steamy grocery store novel, but what can I do? I caught a great wave at gnarly Ocean Beach. I surf this place, not because I'm not afraid of it, but because I am afraid of it. I made the Bodypo so I could catch more of these big, fast, pitchy waves. It works great in the small stuff, too, but we don't get a lot of that around here.