Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally, a Surfing Breakthrough

“Dunphee! – I’m so sorry I was in your way! Did I ruin that barrel for you or did you make it out?”

“Huh, what? Ahh, no, I didn’t even see you; all I could see was, like, barrel.”

Up-and-coming pro Michael Dunphee used hand motions to show me just how much tunnel vision he had focused on that barrel. The kind of tunnel vision where whilst getting so shacked, one doesn’t realize he trimmed casually over the head of a blonde wahine, whose life was spared by a mere millimeter of God’s good grace. I’m a realist, and my take is that this can usually only be attributed to being… a guy, a male an XY’er. When it comes to “pulling in”, we chicks tend to over-analyze the situation in a split second and almost decide how we’re bailing before the peak even swings our way. Straighten out, pull through the back, pray… there are a handful of survival strategies for barrel dodging and fleeing from a ravaging lip. Surfing Booms doesn’t make it any easier. Ana from New Zealand put it best after popping up from a failed duck dive yesterday morning (alas, board-ditching is common here), exclaiming, “This wave is brutal!!!” I don’t think anyone who has surfed here would disagree.

After 7 months, 3 weeks and 2 days of living within a 5-minute drive from this wave, one would think I would have it wired by now. I’m pretty competent in the water, have about 10 years of competitive and travel experience under my belt. I even spent a 3-month stint living right in front of it at Hotel Chancletas! But this is no ordinary wave. Unless you are a high-ranking WCT surfer, the wave at Chancletas will humble you. I say this after nearly a year of having witnessed pros on photo trips and Average Joes fly or drive in from around the world to a perfect looking, seemingly innocent line-up at The Boom, only to come in from their first session with head hanging, a broken board, or worse. The most agile athletes start to “hold their own” after a few sessions or sometimes a week, but let’s face it, we females are either much smarter or much safer about our surfing, given that most guys break more boards in a week than I have broken all year.

The elusive barrel~ I would pull in here and there; a calculated tread amongst dodging the obstacle course of closeout walls. On every wave I would have one eye on potential surfers (accidents waiting to happen) floundering in my bottom turn vicinity and one eye on the lip, making for some frustratingly interrupted and mediocre surfing. Focus! Obviously, living here I’ve had my fare share of perfect waves and tubes, but had never really shaken the anxious flutter in my chest of navigating a 12-inch thick pitching lip while trying to avoid a poor soul in the impact zone. Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday, everything just clicked. Energy seemed to surge out of my arms as I paddled. Each wave I mentally knew I was going to make it no matter what. Despite the very large, very perfect bombs pulsing through consecutively, I was unfazed. Wave after wave: push over the ledge, bottom turn, set, locked in, spit out. Or the other strategy: drop and stall, hand lightly trailing across the face of the wave as if it hadn’t crossed your mind that you skirted absolute disaster by a split second; the aftermath of the wave would have provided you a quick lesson on the physics of what I like to call the Black Hole (aka face slammed into volcanic sand).

Sure, after about 15 perfect waves I took about just as many on the head. And yes, I’ll admit the absolutely flawless surf helped make this breakthrough possible. But nothing could ruin the feeling of realizing that today I too had tunnel vision. Sitting sola in the still pumping line-up after while everyone, exhausted, was on their second breakfast, I couldn’t have been any more content. Today, it was more of the same.

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