Leave her Johnny Leave Her

??”Rotten meat and a weevily bread
leave her johnny, leave her,
pump or drown the old man says,
it’s time for us to leave, her.
The voyage is done and the winds don’t blow,
it’s time for us to leave her.
No more around cape horn we’ll go,
leave her Johnny leave her…

From the songs of the tall ships, The Starboard List.

After three false starts to South Haven over the last two weeks a storm of moderate proportions finally hit that bears comment.

The wind started out of the due west at 20-25 knots and then veered northwest until it peaked at 30 knots. Risking catastrophe at work and home, I made my excuses in the middle of the day to drive to the beach to surf. I had that knot in my gut that it would not be worth all the effort. But finally as I approached the beach I saw a solid tier of breakers as far as the eye could see. The surf angled in to the beach from the NW in the way that makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. There were sheer glassy faces peaking at 6-8 feet. The connection line tied with a knot of anxiety that I associate to my terrestrial life eased and went then went slack as I suited up to surf.

I hopped in the boogie and then broke out about 300 yards, with some serious effort. I waited until I saw a rip in the water and followed it out like a runway. It’s funny because when you are breaking out, the waves closer to shore are quicker and dump a little more forcefully so the pit of dread in your heart wells up as you head out in a little 7’9 surf boat every time your bow rises higher than your head. But once out, even really big waves seem manageable because you start to get a quick feel for exactly how steep the wave needs to be to get a good ride. I spent a fair amount of time watching the break and trying to judge where I could get a good ride.

My first decent ride brought me down a steep 5 foot face and a quick cut back kept me on the greenwater, my tail skidded out a bit, but I managed to hold it. And then it closed out and I ended up in the white water almost all the way to shore. This resulted in a whiteknuckled concrete dig all the way back out.

Once out again, I closed in on the pier and a board surfer and I started swapping waves. The first one I caught was a beauty but I didn’t get the diagonal line I wanted and I got nuked hard, rolled up, got nuked by the wave’s little brother and then rolled up again. Luckily I didn’t have to break back out again.

Shortly after this, I nabbed the golden fleece of rides, a beautiful glassy steep spiller just off the pier, that I caught just right, I edged hard onto the wave I sped downwave at an amazing rate, cutting back as the wave curled and then flew off the back as it closed out. I have to say I had no thoughts of work, home, or anything other than pure joy at that point. To quote Bono again,

??you can’t sell it or buy it, you already lost it??

That is the essence of surfing I think.

All I got to say is, I hope fall has a few more storms like this, and make the next one on a saturday!!!