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I'm pretty sure that most of the 'wave aware' kiters know that we had large waves forecast for the CA coast. Since we were in a wind pattern as well, I had my hopes high for a unique experience.
Wed was the day that the swells were in the 16-20 foot range with a nice long period. This means the waves were clean, mean and powerful. First sign that it's big: in Half moon bay, every other car was towing a jetski - to go play @ mavericks.
On my drive down US-1 I nearly ran off the road multiple times gawking at the waves breaking out in the ocean. It's hard to appreciate the size of the waves until you see them in person. Usually the ocean looks flat w/whitecaps and waves close to shore. On Wed, you could see massive swells all the way to the horizon (if the forg was not in your way. I stopped @ pigeon Pt in total amazement. The waves were peaking waayyy before the lighthouse, and wrapping all the way into the rocky bay: an incredible sight. Like a dork, I did not have a camera....I"m sure that my photo skills are not up to par and would not have done the waves any justice.
When I pulled into the lot @ waddell, it was out of the question. The white water was soooooo big, I did not have the balls to go out in this type of light wind and giant waves. Since it's beach break, it did not handle the size very well. On to Scotts Creek.
Driving to Scotts was wild, as the waves were breaking over rocks that never see water on them - totally amazing. When I got to scott's, no other kiters were out or setting up.....hmmmm, why is that. Reason 1: wind was light. Reason 2: waves are giant. Reason 3: surfing in town of Santa Cruz is epic on this day. I am here to kite, so I set up my 16 and decide to give it a shot. The waves are big. VERY BIG. GIANT. There is not channel at ALL - just miles of white water, and out there, there are big waves jacking up and breaking. How do you know it's really big? when the creek that normally flows on the beach, has been completely covered in sand due to massive waves! there was no creek on Wed @ scott's creek: It was a puddle.
Attempt #1: walk up to the N. end of the reef below the cliff. The kite is pulling pretty hard, good sign. Get in water and do 1 kite sine: holly crap, the cross current is so intense that I get half way down the beach before hitting any wave left over. Wow. Keep trying and just got so spanked by white water that I did not make it out. On final try of attempt 1 I almost got to the outside, but the 3X overhead wave about to crash made me jibe and head back in. When I finally made it to the beach, I was all the way at the other cliff - used up all the beach left to get out....if you go anymore downwind, you did not have any beach to get out due to size of surf: just cliff and pounding water.
Ok, I get out, heart is racing, adrenaline is pumping. Gotta get out and get a wave ride. One other kiter is now pumping up his kite: a 12. He rides a big directional. Asks me how it is, I give him a simple answer: BIG. I walk back up the beach to the top of the reef for take #2.
Attempt #2: wait for massive sets to give me a small window. Get in water. Send the kite really hard and go for it. Over the first wall of water that is about 15 fee high. Nice. Over the next massive mack truck, scary but made it over. Almost to the outside. Keep it together, don't look around too much. Drive upwind.........as I approach the next wall, it's so fucking big, it starts to pitch up and looks like it wants to break....it can't break this far out......can it.......oh shit it can.....not enough power to jump over it.....better jibe really fast and go with the energy......make the jibe, the wave breaks just behind me....the whole ocean seems to be boiling and angrry. The water all around me erupts, picks me up and tries to drive me under water. Board gets ripped off my feet. I'm held under for feels like forever. Thank god the kite was pulling me up.....When I surface I'm amazed how close to shore I am....board nowhere to be seen. I body drag rest of the way in, which in 20+ foot waves is quite the adventure. Get to beach to catch my breath.....I was pretty much resigned to forget the board, pack up and go home.
To my amazement,the board washes up a few feet upwind of me. I grab it and decide to try one more time. Afer what I just went through, I gotta ride a wave on my board, not just on my belly being towed by a kite. Walk upwind, to start attempt #3.
You know how it goes. Power kite, get over massive white water. Repeat 5 TIMES: feels like near death experience each time. Finally get to the outside: holly shit, I am on the outside. JOY. Happines.. RELEIF.......let me tell you about riding powered up in 20+ foot seas. As you are reaching along going up the swell, as it passes you, you are 20 feet in the air w/out sending your kite. It's fucking sick. I start getting used to it. Can't go out too far: what happens if kite goes down? Can I even swim in in this crazy ocean. Do a jibe and head back in. No chance of making it to the shoulder where the wave has some shape to it. LIne up on a wave that I think I can ride. The wave starts pitching up. I'm getting towed into this moster of moving water by a powered up 16m kite. Pull the red strap to loose some power - whatever, the wave is so fast it makes no difference. I start dropping down the face of the 2-3 story building. Insane speed. Keep it together, no going down in this water again. Once was enough. I keep it together and think about a bottom turn, until I see what is jacking up behind me. I do a chicken bottom turn and the power of the kite and wave are too much. I release my rail and just ride in front of the beast.
After this wave breaks, I jibe and head back out. Make it out w/out any incidents. Ride 2 more waves. Even make some bottom turns. It's a trip to be riding up the wave for so long......going back down these mountains is wild.
I get back to the beach in total exhaustion. From the adrenaline and physical exhaustion..........
I went back to the coast yesterday. The waves were down a notch and the wind was better: I was on a 10m, very well pwered. The waves were still VERY large, but after you climbed K2, the local hills seem much more manageable. An epic session of nice double overhead waves that actually had some shape. We even had a channel for a minutes at a time so you could get to the outside w/no problems. only 6 people out: most of the regulars were surfing.
Great two days on the coast. I have a new found respect for the power of the ocean.
Good wind + Glassy waves, Z.
A little late for the article contest, but man it's like a kiters version of 'Old Man and The Sea'.
So tell me again, how many near death experiences did you have just to get outside??
It was the first time that my chair started to lift up behind me as I read about catching that first wave in ....
You must have been thinking "it's just water ..."