Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two Points In A Row

Photo: Olaf Mitchell
Story by: Olaf Mitchell
Everyone likes to paint a nice picture of how their sessions go and I am not any different.
But there is only one way I can describe how this winter is going for me and that is GNARLY!

We have been having back to back advisory/warning level swells and nuclear winds.

Being an avid wave sailor I should be delighted but so many mishaps have occurred that I am getting worn down.  I had two separate windsurf related rib injuries earlier in this season. One was in the front on my left side and the other on the right on my back side. Each of them took a long time to heal and kept me out of the water for a while. Then, no sooner that that episode was over I was delt another unfortunate injury that I won’t go into just now. That one wasn’t directly surf related.

Surfing and wave sailing in substantial conditions require being in top condition and I really haven’t been injury free for most of this season.

Now don't get me wrong, I have had some great surf and wave sailing sessions this season but lately it has been very challenging and I am not the only one that is feeling the daily wear and tear

Two weeks back it was just sick big!
I sailed the day before it got totally out of control and I caught one session as that swell was dropping.  In both of those sessions I was careful not to get caught inside. This was followed by another event of equal proportions.
Art Szpunar   photo: Tad Craig

 The wind was so off shore that there was  no wind on the inside and it was blowing like stink on the outside so it was next to impossible to choose the proper kit.
What do you do?
It’s very important to rig a sail that has enough power to get through the impact zone. If you rig too big you're over powered and you can’t express yourself on the wave face. This being the case I tend to rig on the small side and hope for a break in the sets so I can sneak out through the impact zone without getting clobbered.

In one of my recent sessions  I was held under longer than I have been in a very long time. That was spooky!

In the last week the giant long period N/W ground swells have dropped off. 
They have been replaced by massive tight interval S/E wind swell that's producing waves of substantial size that are spaced very close together.
Now this isn’t all that bad in that the faces of these waves are fairly smooth and easy to ride but ya always got to keep an eye out over your shoulder and make sure that the wave behind you isn’t going to eat you when you kick out the back.

The first part of last week it was so stinking windy that I chose to wait till later on the day. I was hoping for the wind to recede a bit. Each day as I was about to launch the wind just crapped out once due to a passing rain squall and the other it just dropped bit by bit. I showed up with a 3.7m and before I got on the water it had dropped a notch. Not wanting to go out in surf of that magnitude under powered I walked back to my house and got my 4.1m sail. No sooner did I get it rigged the wind dropped another notch. I could have or maybe should have just gone back home a got my 4.7m but by this time I was getting frustrated. So I just took my stuff home and put it away.

The next day I was determined not to let that happen again so I went earlier.I rigged my 3.7m. and I went out. I got  worked pretty good by several waves but eventually I made it through the impact zone.

 On the outside it was so windy that it was a challenge to keep control my rig. I did get some great waves before I decided to go in. (I also almost sailed right on top of a whale that was cruising along the surface not very far outside the impact zone)

Sailor: Griffin Freysinger , Photo: Giampaolo Cammarota

 The spot that I typically sail has a very technical launch and return. I have had just about everything imaginable happen to me in the last thirty meters. This day the current was running like a mountain stream in spring runoff.
With a rip running that strong and no wind on the inside I fell in a very bad place. I made an effort to swim with my gear but it was futile so I decided to  go back outside and give it another shot.

Photo: Olaf Mitchell

Photo: Olaf Mitchell
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

By this time the current had a firm hold on me and before I knew or could do anything about it I was in the middle of the bone yard and these two to three foot demons were pounding me into the rocks. I have been in this place in the past and know that there is no use in fighting the inevitable. I just tried to not get clobbered by my gear as the waves crashed us on the rocks.
It’s very entertaining to watch someone get the living S..t kicked of them in that rock garden.
Well, I came out of that relatively unscathed but my 68ltr. Quatro wave board took some big hits and my 3.7m Goya wave sail suffered some serious bruises. After that I collected the carnage and called it a day.

The next day looked better. So I showed up at the beach and rigged my 4.2 and went out. I was denied access time after time until this one substantial wave hit me.
Typically when I get hit by a wave that size I let my rig go and then swim after it. But several of my friends lost their entire rigs in the past two days due to the extreme currents generated by this vigorous N/E wind swell so I held on.
The power of that wave combined with the resistance of me hanging on was too much for my Goya 370 mast and it folded.
I have been in this situation several times in the past and I realize that there is nothing that I can do but keep hold of my gear and start swimming for shore. The current was very strong and my choices of possible landing sites were very limited due to cliffs and jagged rocky beaches.
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

 My first choice was the back of the bay but that possibility soon diminished so I set my sights on Blue Tile House this seemed  possible but as I worked my way closer I realized that the current wasn’t going to let me come in there.
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

 Well next possible place was Spy Glass house but I dismissed that option remembering the last time I tried that spot.( I just got beat up severely on those rocks and my gear suffered majorly).
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

Photo: Olaf Mitchell
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

The next possible port was Buddha Bay. I have retrieved numerous wave sailors that have broken down and washed in at that spot over the years. None of those guys had a positive thing to say about that spot.

Photo: Olaf Mitchell
As I got closer I realized that the current was going to push me right past Buddha Bay and I set my sights on Paia Bay and wasn’t dismissing the possibility of landing at Baldwin Beach even further down the coast.

I was completely at peace with my situation in that it wasn’t close to dark yet and there wasn’t anything that I could do other than go with the flow.
That‘s when I noticed my friend Dean sitting on a kayak with a big smile on his face. I told him that I was glad to see him but didn’t feel there was anything he could do to help other than hang out and keep me company while I worked my way to the next possible landing spot.
Dean had strapped a surfboard leash to the back of the kayak and told me to hang on and he would try to tow me against the current into Buddha Bay. I was doubtful that this was going to work but I was getting tired and more than willing to give it a try.
Surprisingly we made slow but steady progress.
We could see the waves pounding the shore at Buddha Bay and knew that we were going to have to come up with a plan.
The last thing we needed was for Dean and his kayak and me and my sailboard rig to be taken out by a sneaker set while trying to land.  The thought of the two of us and the gear tumbling in the same wave was not pretty.
Then the next thing that I know a head popped up out of nowhere. It was Tracy. She had been watching and swam out to help with negotiating the dicey last bit. She had been scoping out the best place to come in and had it all figured out.
Photo: Olaf Mitchell

The next thing I noticed was Viktor standing on the beach spotting the best place as well.
With all these wonderful friends helping, the landing went seamlessly and we carried everything up on to the lawn at the Buddhist Temple and I started to de-rig my broken gear.
Next Pete showed up. He had gone into town and grabbed a 12 pack PBR.
We went back to the Launch and had a beer, talked story for a while, and watched another Maui sunset.
All in all it was just business as usual in my neck of the woods.

Photo: Olaf Mitchell
Photo: Goldie
Photo: Olaf Mitchell