Monday, October 24, 2005

Can accidents be avoided?

Okay. I'm alternately irked and relieved from Sunday's foray into Ventura. (And I think I'm actually surfing at the Fairgrounds, not C-Street, but I'd have to remember to ask someone to be sure.)

First, let me say that people are SO nice up there. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think that when a break is populated by longboarders of all ages, people mellow out. Or maybe I just have no perspective from surfing in the much more aggro L.A. County. It was much more crowded this week than last week -- probably because it was head-high to overhead on the sets, but even then, people were nice, waiting patiently for their waves and chatting. I met a nice woman my age who moved here from Hawaii and surfed really well with clean style. I also chatted with an old man who looked like a goat and who got two of the best outside waves of the day -- they must have been 9-feet at least.

Second, my waves were nothing to write home about. Again, I brought out the wrong board. Last week, I had Doc and the waves had no power, so I found myself paddling like mad and popping up only to dig a rail in when I cut too hard. I finally learned, but still, I let a lot of pretty decent waves go last week because of my mistake. So this week, I brought Coop, thinking it's weight would propel me down mushy point break waves. Well, yeah, propelling happened, but mushy didn't. I would have preferred Doc's lightweight speed to make it around some hairy sections. As it was, I took off on some big-ass waves that went nowhere, but the thrill of the take-off was worth it. My one good wave actually made me feel like a surfer as I made a bottom turn around a section, came to the top to feel it hollowing, stepped back to come back down and made the hollow section without wiping out, but as I came around the second bottom turn, I was too slow and saw the whole wave collapsing in front of me.

But to my point: I am irked because I pulled out of a couple of waves where I was free and clear down the line but there was someone paddling out right in front of me. There's a chance I could have taken off and cut the correct line so I wouldn't hit him, but I decided I didn't want to take the chance should I have screwed up. I had the heavy board and I didn't really feel like killing someone that morning.

Okay, I'm not irked because I was a thoughtful and caring person. I am irked because someone else, faced with the same situation with me paddling out DID NOT think to do the same thing.

So, I was paddling back out, looking for my coffee wave (the one to take me home to coffee) and I saw a two guys scrambling for a wave. I would have made it over the wave safely if it were just the first guy taking off deeper in the wave, so I'm hoping the second guy sees that he should pull back because 1) I'm right in his line and 2) there's someone else behind him. But second guy does NOT do this and first guy has to kick-out. There is no way, no time for me to correct the course of my paddle-out and eat it in the breaking part of the wave. All I can do is paddle as fast as I can and hope that second guy takes the straight drop instead of taking off at an angle right toward me. HE DOES NOT. He angles toward me on the take-off. I have no idea what the hell he's thinking. I paddle to the very last nano-second until I have to bail or get finned in the the head.

The wave washes over me and I'm hoping that my big honkin' board hasn't knocked out the shortboarder. I pop up to see the guy. I'm relieved he isn't dead. I apologize because I'm nice, not because I think I'm wrong -- but that doesn't really come across, does it? I ask if he's okay and he asks if I'm okay. We're all okay and nobody yells at each other. His friend asks if I'm okay and says the most important thing is that everybody's okay. Okay. We're all okay. And I am again amazed that everybody is so nice. Relief.

His friend says that he heard someone get a skeg hit. I look at the board. It's me. Two surgical-precision fang marks all the way through the double volan glass on the rail. I told his friend there was no way for me to change the course of my paddle and he said in that situation all you can do is throw your board toward the wave and dive under. Great. Try throwing a 35-pound 9-foot-7-inch board while you're floating in the water some day and see how that works out. Irked.

I don't know, can accidents be avoided? I say yes -- at the cost of losing what could be your best wave of the day. But isn't there always another wave coming?


PS. I really think I'm having allergic reactions to the red tide. It was back in force on Sunday and I spent Sunday night breathing through my mouth. Today, I'm hopped up on drugs.

PPS. At one point waiting for my coffee wave, I hear my name being called. WHA-? Nobody's supposed to know me here. I turn to shore and see Jen-n-Joey from my home break in Santa Monica waving at me. Small surf world.


Surfsister said...

That is so wrong!! What a Malibu-type experience that was. It sound similar to the way I was run over there (except that there were about five people headed straight at me). What's especially wrong is you just got that board back from Aquatech!!! I'm glad you're okay though.

gracefullee said...

The thing was, I don't think it was as zoo-like as Malibu can get. I think it's sort of a normal crowded break on the weekend when waves are overhead.

I'm actually not that horrified about the fin gashes in themselves. They're easy to fix, I think I just want to experiment with some color so the repairs don't stand out so much.

I'm more peeved and rethinking my approach to surfing -- should I be caring more about getting my wave than about safety? It seems like most of the guys do this.

TedZSurfer said...

Safety first Grace, for yourself and others. Also, it sounds like you were at a point break and paddling back out over the shoudler. That's fine if you're far enough out that you won't get in anybody's way. But in general, after finishing a wave, you should head back out the channel, not the area where there are open faces to be ridden. And when you are in the breaking part of waves and someone is tryig to take off, you should within reason go for the broken white water part of the wave, don't try to race over the shoulder in front of them. Yes, this means you have to hold on to your board no matter how big the board might be. But eventually, we all get caught "right in the way" with nowhere to go. The surfer taking off should be looking at what's in front of them, but since they're in a more intense action (paddling and taking off vs paddling back out) that is why they generally have right of way. But they have an obligation to avoid you if they can, even if they miss a wave. It's your obligation to avoid the take off zone (yes, even shoulder hopper zone) so they don't have to be concerned with you. In the end it's safer for you.

Some times I feel like I should be more aggressive (OK some times I just feel like being a snake to get my share!!) but in the end, I always end up being in the polite club.

gracefullee said...

Thanks for the advice, TedZ! There's a lot I have to learn about negotiating a point break. So if I catch a wave and can't make a section that takes me all the way down to the channel, should I be paddling all that way to the channel so I can paddle out safely? It seems like a lot of work that not a lot of people do.

And I'm not seriously considering going kamikaze. I'm just breaking down my own personality as it pertains to surfing. I'm too mellow and happy in the water to be stupid and aggro. My rule of thumb is that I'll take off on insanely large waves, but only if there is no chance of hurting anybody but myself.

TedZSurfer said...

ah yes, the dilemma of paddling over to the channel when you're nowhere near it. Well, it's hard to describe without a visual, but the better you get, the more you'll be able to paddle back out at a point and be just far enough out on the shoudler not to mess up anybody's ride, but not all the way back to the channel. Especially at a really nice long point. I've never surfed Malibu but I've seen enough pictures to guess that there are so many people ready to jump on an unridden section that you'd pretty much have to go over to the channel no matter where your ride ended. Another thing is that the channel saves you from a ton of white water anyway when the waves are consistent. But you probably figured that out by now...