For all experiences in life, the first time is always the most raw. Everything is so new, so foreign. You become almost hypersensitive and notice every nuance that the trained eye overlooks. It’s a beautiful thing, really. And on Tuesday, for the first beautiful time, I surfed California’s great titan. A place after which Gerry Butler starred in a Hollywood movie. The place that has claimed the lives of some of the boldest individuals in the history of ocean. The one, the only, Maverick’s. And here’s what these two virgin eyes saw…
-Fog might be the cure for psychosis. A coat engulfed the whole of Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point for two hours after sunrise. As a result, the parking lot became the peak. Guys paced around the gravel wondering if it would ever lift, subsequently preventing them from being on the actual peak and making the unsound decision to scratch under the ledge of a bomb. And so the fog hindered psychosis. They should consider fogging out the hallways at mental institutions. My bet is that the patients stop being crazy and start talking about Game of Thrones and how much they hate social media like the rest of us.
-The rocks on the inside haunt like bulging, dark ghouls. They’re there, eminent reminders of the catastrophe that could be. The faintest misstep could buy you a non-stop ticket to Rock City and no, not you Detroit.
-The range of emotions you experience is wild. You’re scared then psyched. Nervous then nonchalant. Too confident then too careful. But the most interesting mental polarity comes in the before/after stages of actually catching a wave. I waited for at least an hour before my feet found the board and during the hour, I had my doubts. It’s too crowded and complicated. Maybe I’d prefer to surf somewhere I could actually ride waves. Those feelings took a full 180 when I finally caught one. Suddenly, I felt like quitting everything, applying for a busboy position at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and surfing Maverick’s every time it breaks.
-Being in the trenches tweaks the way you think about other scenarios. Suddenly, wearing a 15-foot face on the head at Ocean Beach seems like an attractive training exercise when it used to just seem like hell. Perspective is funny like that.
-Everybody is in it together. Alex Martins took off on the bowl of a massive set and went down. The whole lineup watched his board tombstone and waited for Alex to pop up. We waited and we waited but the next wave broke before he surfaced. Alex and his board disappeared into a whirling sea of foam and mystery accompanied by the restless buzz of a rescue Ski. Thankfully, he survived without any life-threatening injuries. I overheard some of his friends in the lineup afterwards. “Alex? Yeah, took and two-waver and went in. I saw him in the channel and he had that look…his face was real white.”
-It can be hard to tell if people are wearing life vests or if they really are just that hulking. But the dominant presence of confirmable vests was a pleasure to see. Guys are risking their lives and they’re doing it safely.
-You know how you hear about die-hards packing energy food into their wetsuits so they can stay out longer? Yeah, that totally happens at Maverick’s. In between sets, guys were clobbering Cliff Bars left and right. Anything to prolong the pursuit — or chase, if you will.
There is such a noticeable difference between the top big-wave surfers and a layman. The list is too long to name names, but those guys function on a separate level. Where they sit, the way they take off, the way they actually ride the wave; it’s all so different. This might be hard to conceptualize for some people, because some people think that big-wave surfers get paid to go straight. But comparing them to common folk is like stacking John John Florence or Kelly Slater up against to your everyday beachbreak mercenary. They are that much better.
-There have been no noticeable differences in the size of any appendage in my groin area, nor the presence of hairs on my chest. On top of that, my toleration of spicy food has remained the same.
-It’s code yellow for the Maverick’s Invitational to run on Friday. I’m not entirely sure what code yellow means, but I do know that if you mix yellow with blue you get green. A swell from the deep blue sea and perhaps we’ll see a green light? Forecast looks good and most of the competitors are already in town, if not a quick flight away in Hawaii. Stay so tuned.
-Maverick’s Correspondent Brendan Buckley