Saturday, 3 September 2016

GOIN' LEFT - the story of a wave

..go very left.

Me and Stu went for an early one - it was a decent sized swell, coupled with very strong southerly winds. Which left us with only a couple of sheltered options. We scoped a spot and decided to go for it.

The paddle out was the usual Cornish-beachy-at-size slog, and there was a sweeping rip to the north, so any loitering in the line-up resulted in a drift up the beach requiring another head-down, salty-eyed paddle against the wind to get back in position.

The waves were overhead, but it soon became apparent that only one or two waves in each set were actually peaking & peeling while the rest of the them were top-to-bottom closeouts.

We both snagged a couple of good ones and then as the tide dropped out and the waves got even steeper we noticed a particular bank start firing - the wave was jacking up in exactly the same spot each time and doing as good an impression of a left-hand reef break as you'll see on our local beaches. The shoulder lurching up, spitting out a crest of whitewater and then scooping out into a rapid, peeling left across the sandbank.

The wind was a challenge though, because unless you were right under the lip and right on the peak, it would gust up the wave face so hard that it lifted the nose of the board, stalling you in the lip - frustrating...

The only option was to sit deeper and have faith that the offshore would hold up the wave and allow enough time to get in.

A set rolled through, the lip already feathering as I decided to go for it. Luck was on my side as this one stayed open, and I stroked down the face feeling the momentum shift as the wave folded over and knew I was in.

Then it got interesting. It was really steep, and as I looked down the line all I could see was a near vertical wall of dark green water ahead of my left shoulder with no sign of any tapering wall beyond it. (Note: I'm a regular foot) But it didn't feel like a close-out somehow, and I certainly didn't have time to straighten out. So the only option was to drive on.

I'm definitely not confident on my backhand when it gets steep, so I dropped the back knee, grabbed my outside rail and leaned down on the nose to try and accelerate around the corner before that thing dumped on my head. But the wave was still lifting itself up on the bank and I had a long way to go before I was anywhere near a bottom turn. So I just held fast and hoped for a good outcome.

Because I'd thrown my weight forward and the wave face was now going beyond vertical I felt the fins break free and the tail started slipping and skipping about... This was where a facet of board design that I've always believed to be absolutely key really came into play - it was the rail that was now doing the bulk of the work keeping me and the board going across the face. If you need visual proof, watch Ben Thouard's beautiful underwater footage here. Clearly shows how important your rails are.

Luckily, despite the fins slipping out, the rail bit in and I managed to hold on until the wave caught up with itself and I made it out onto the face.

Beginning to really enjoy goin' left these days.

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