The idea of a west-facing coastline of that proportion is salivating. The diversity alone is enough to make me want to wax my bank account.
Alaska and Canada were unique, and it’s sort of nice to surf alone. Oregon and California in the fall is all-time. Got lucky when El Nino produced back to back swells through Mexico and Central America for eight months solid - from Killers on Todos Santos Island, to sick reefs in Panama. Spent that historic May, 2015 swell on El Salvador’s points.
A highlight for me was Mavericks. It was a highlight because I was as scared as a small child seeing his first four footers. Probably more. I’d been surfing for a few days in underground Point Arena, stealth camping behind the disbanded shed next to the pub, when I saw that sweet blob on the internet. So I rode south fast, and got the sidecar sideways once or twice in pursuit of it.
Turned up to the cliffs the afternoon before it filled in proper. It didn’t look that big from up that high, so was thinking I could paddle out on my 7’2” – she’d been trusty in everything else.
Turned out I got talking to a nice guy there called Jeff, and it turned out Jeff was the first to surf the place. Turned out he surfed it alone for years before the others caught on. Turned out Jeff’s a great bloke, and when I told him I was on a 7’2” he just laughed, walked me to his truck and handed over his 10’4”, then left before even asking for my last name. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.
“And remember, it’s just a wave...” he grinned and rolled away.
Bloody hell I thought, at least if I paddled out on my 7’2” I would’ve had the excuse of being undergunned. I’d never even seen a board so long, let alone contemplated using the thing,
I’ve really done it now, Jeff thinks I can actually do this, he’s gone and offered me his board. What the fuck am I supposed to do with 10’4”? He thinks I’m hardcore just 'cos I’m on a motorbike. It’s not true. Now I have to give it a crack. Bloody hell…
That night I camped alone on the Maverick’s beach - the rising swell broke my sleep in the middle of the night. Strange how thoughts can you keep you awake - thoughts amplified by the rumble of whitewater, thoughts through my mind for an hour and a quarter.
Awoke really early to a beautiful sunrise and drank a lot of water for some reason. Not sure why, but something told me you should drink a lot of water. Made my standard brekkie of cold porridge with trail mix, honey and cinnamon, and made my way to the cliffs.
It looked solid to me. No one was out. I wandered back to the car park and met a couple of Santa Cruz lads suiting up, Dan and Jake. I admitted to them it was my first time.
“We’re not even gonna check it – we’re out there as soon as I get this damn inflatable vest on…I’ll show you where to paddle out if you like?” Dan offered.
Quickly started pulling on my wet wetty - hoping that they’d wait for me. I was bought a bit of time when one of Dan’s soda bulbs on his vest goes off, and he’s standing there all inflated. We all laughed, but deep down it just made me wish I had one. I drank more water - but no matter how much, my mouth stayed dry.
Dan was a cool cat; he had that old school camaraderie thing happening. As we were walking he gave me the full run-down of the paddle out, the currents, the west sets, what to do if I got caught in the boneyard, and all his line-up points. I chose the safer, longer paddle out around Mushroom Rock, and afterwards sat in the channel for about half an hour, studying how it broke.
It looked like medium Mavericks to me, definitely not anywhere near as big as it gets, but definitely not as small as it breaks either. Light offshore, low tide, and three guys out. The bombs doubled-up and sucked so hard, I couldn’t even envision how it was possible to make the drop from the bowl on some of them. I edged my way in, slowly. Awesome vibes from the now present crew.
In the end I caught five waves that first day, the guys at Powerlines caught one of them on video. It was a swinger, not huge, but a good one to get me in the groove…maybe not so fun for the guy on the inside.