Stay Salty:

It Was Only Six Feet

It was only six feet.

It wasn’t even a constant six feet. It was more like five, with bigger sets. Six foot waves pushing around the extra gallons of water brought in by the high tide. Waves that went from soft and mushy to hammering closeouts in a matter of yards, too much water for the sandbars to really work properly. One moment the wave seemed like a sloping, early takeoff; the next minute, after a few extra strokes, it sucked you over the falls and left you wondering what happened to that easy takeoff you could have sworn you saw.

It was only six feet.

It wasn’t even a real six feet, the way the Hawaiians or Aussies or the rest of the world would define it. A six foot swell by their measures generates waves with 10- to 12-foot faces, true waves with consequences beyond what most of us are ready for on a sleepy Wednesday morning. This was six foot Californian, six foot faces, waves that were head high, or slightly overhead. Maybe a little bigger. The biggest sets rolled in and caressed and broke along the bottom of the pier, slapping whitewater against the pylons before hammering in a crescendo through the lineup.

It was only six feet.

Grab-rail reverse on the inside section.

I wasn’t ready for six feet. I was ready for four feet, a keel fin fish tucked in my car for the morning. I thought it was supposed to be smaller than yesterday, I was ready for the tide but not the incoming swell. I’d misread the forecast, hell, maybe I’d just forgotten to read it at all. My buddy took one look at the conditions and wisely called it off. But there were guys out there, some getting waves, some getting worked. It was possible, even plausible, to sneak in a few good ones, so why stay in the parking lot?

It was only six feet.

And then it’s 45 minutes later. One solid right drop with a half-assed forehand carve. A half dozen waves tossed off the top of the falls into the flats below. Outside cleanup sets that landed solidly on my back after chasing smaller inside waves. When it’s all said and done, I’m sputtering in the knee-deep water lapping against the sand, dry heaving, my stomach desperately trying to push out the sea water it took on during the last ragdoll tumble on the way in. There's a new dent in the deck of my board, courtesy of the top of my head during the last whitewater spin cycle. Coughing, retching, the taste of salt water and kelp draining out of my mouth and sinuses. I’m sure the trolls sitting on the retaining wall saw it all, laughing to themselves.

I drove down the beach a ways. It was more manageable to the north, the jetties holding a little more shape, the beach breaks not focusing the swell the way the pier had. It was still heavy, but the majority of the lineup was at least able to get in and make some of the drops. It was smaller. I commended them for their choice in better wave selection, but quietly judged them for not paddling out in the biggest waves.

It was only six feet.

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