Surfing Tropical Storm Danny’s Swells

Tropical Storm Danny is turning out to be less dangerous than we feared. Living in Florida, we take hurricanes seriously, but not too seriously. We hear day after day the weathermen warning us about tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes that we quickly get over saturated. Usually they end up to be less severe than the weathermen would have us believe.

Mostly, we worry about how the storm will affect our weekend plans. When a truly significant storm comes our way, though, we batten down the hatches. We hunker down and await the inevitable fury of mother nature.

Sometimes, though, we get to reap the benefits of a less than cataclysmic storm. Today was one of those days. Weakening Tropical Storm Danny created some truly magnificent waves, ideal for surfing, today.

My buddy, and boss, Jorge and I decided to go surfing this afternoon as soon as we confirmed that the storm swell was creating some stellar waves. We’d put in a LOT of hours this week and last anyway on various projects and needed the downtime.

So, Jorge, Ekti, and I grabbed three stand-up paddle boards (SUP) and headed to Cherie Downs – a nice surfing spot just north of the Cocoa Beach Pier.

SUP surfing is not new, but it’s gaining popularity. The boards over between 9 and 12 feet long and you don’t have to lay down on them. You stand on them and paddle your way into and out of waves. You can kneel as well.

My brother-in-law, Craig, is not fond of SUP at all. He’s been surfing for over 20 years and finds SUP boarders to be insolent newcomers. Every time I talk about SUP to him he gets a sour look on his face. Truth-be-told there is a lot of negative press about SUP. SUP boarders are taking over traditional surfing breaks – fights are brewing between SUP boarders and surfers.

Jorge, on the other hand, loves his SUP board(s). He can easily get into the surf, can pick up waves that traditional surfers cannot, and can see waves coming long before other surfers because he’s standing up.

Before today I had only been on a SUP board once – and that was at a local lake to practice with Jorge. Today was my first time in the ocean with one. And the waves were huge.

When we got to the beach the waves were over 5 feet tall and there was no wind. They were coming in 12 second intervals and were fast moving. The breaks weren’t perfect but they were damned good. I was excited. I grabbed a 12-foot, 50-lb SUP board and oar and eagerly went into the surf.

Wow – was that a mistake. I had no idea how to handle the SUP board in the ocean. It took me half an hour to get past the breaks with that beast and when I made it out to where Jorge and Ekti were waiting for me, I was too tired to do anything other than sit there for 20 minutes.

I learned quickly that a SUP board is not all that easy to handle. It is a lot heavier than a normal surfboard. You can’t duck-dive under an oncoming wave with one. You have to go over it. If it is breaking on top of you – good luck. Try not to die.

Eventually I figured it out, though. I was unable to stand all the way on it though, so I paddled from a kneeling position. I caught a wave easily, almost too easily. It was a 5-footer, breaking perfectly. I rode that wave for almost 30 seconds – much, much longer than I would have on a regular surfboard. I cut in and out of the top of the swell. I picked the wave back up again after it lost shape and reformed in shallower water.

Then, I had to paddle back out again.

I couldn’t do it. The waves were too big and I was too exhausted from my earlier try. I literally almost drowned trying to get back out a second time. So, feeling beaten and dejected, I walked back to our “camp” on the beach and sat down to recover.

I was angry at my weakness. I know I am still recovering my strength; cancer treatments have taken a hell of a toll on me. I don’t have nearly the strength I used to have – and my endurance is not back to where it used to be either.

But no way was I going to get a single ride out of these fantastic waves. I rested for 30 minutes and went back out. This time I made it out. The waves were getting slightly smaller as the tropical swell lessened, so I caught another wave easily. I rode it like a pro – it was a fantastic ride.

There’s nothing like the feeling of riding a wave, people. It’s magical.

That’s it – three hours at the beach with 5-foot waves and a SUP board and all I I managed to ride was two waves.

But it was enough.

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