Redemption

Years ago I had a memorable session on Black Friday. It was an unexpected huge day at Dockweiler, with offshore winds that blew back white caps like snow flurries. The water was glassy and it rained, the gentle rolling clouds only adding to the epic waves we were riding. I faced fears that day, though unfortunately, I caved when the big ones came. That session has always stuck out in my mind, and every Black Friday, I find myself wondering if it will ever return. Another epic session, another chance at redemption.

Well, this must be the year, because yesterday, I had one such session. Los Angeles has been mostly flat the last several weeks, but like a Thanksgiving gift, we are receiving a nice little swell, directly hitting the Angelino shores. My brother-in-law was in town, and he is always down for a surf, so I know I had an extra reason to paddle out. (A couple springs ago, while we were in Charleston, SC, he came down to visit and got me out in very cold, sloppy surf for two days in a row...after two early morning shifts at work. He spent some time in Maine surfing, so thick skin in cold water isn't really an issue for him.)

Same spot, smaller day.  Looks similar, but imagine bigger waves.

As the days crept forward, I noticed the surf report improving. And when Black Friday arrived, it was bigger than expected! We ditched our plans for El Porto and opted for the slightly smaller (but far less crowded) Dockweiler, which is my favorite beach anyway. Waves were coming in like steamrollers, breaking in places I've never seen them break before. Smooth and glassy, large and fast. This looked like Black Friday 2013 all over again (minus the clouds, as this was a superb sunny California day).

We suited up and I gave a little impromptu surf lesson to Kevin's girlfriend Allie, hoping she would find something fun on a bigger-than-usual day (she did). Paddling out, there was that all-too-familiar fear that crept up in my belly. These waves were large and steep -- just like the ones I chickened out on that fateful day five years ago. But experience and skill were on my side as I sat and watched a couple roll in (always a wise choice). Before I knew it, one came my way and I made a quick and very steep drop, then rode a little before it dumped. That was it. No big deal.

Taken after the session. Smiles all around.

Steep waves are very intimidating, especially for a beginner, and have kept me off many-a-wave over the years. But as I told Kevin, they ride almost the same. If you ignore the drop and just move and react like you do on any other wave, you will likely ride out just fine. And I did -- redemption!

Wave after wave rolled in, and though they were big fast drops, they were pretty fun. I got a quick little smother of a barrel on one wave, hit a few corners and got some major speed on the good ones. All in all, it was a great session. Good waves, great weather, and overcoming fears. I certainly know what I am thankful for this year.


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