“To hell with it,” I said finally, and I paddled into a big one.
At this extreme low tide, a lot of sand was sucking up the wave face. As I pulled my turn on the bottom and looked down the line, I thought I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. The wave looked like a sand cavern, only it was moving fast and now closing down on top of me. I could have bailed out right then, tried to use the momentum from my drop to punch my board through the back of the wave. I might have made it.
I will never know.
I had one line on that wave, and one line only, and I held onto it. It grew dark inside, and this is where I lose track of what happened exactly when. I saw an eye of light at the end flashing open and closed, now giving me hope, now shutting it down. I remember focusing on that tiny portal as it telescoped farther and farther away from me. I was falling, at that point, farther and farther back from the light, getting sucked back into the tube, and I thought, I’m not going to make it now. I’m too far back.
I was in a dangerous position, racing high on the wall right over the sandbar. If my board had been any higher, my single fin would have spun out of control. The section of wave ahead was mindless and walled up as far as I could see. No chance of escape at all.
In these extreme situations there is always the tendency to jump. Just bail off the back of the board and throw your arms in front of your face. Take the hit you know is coming. And sooner rather than later, because more speed is only going to make things worse. At least you have chosen the moment, right?
It is fear that tears us down, and lack of imagination: I can’t keep this pace. I can’t ride any deeper. It’s not possible to go any faster on a surfboard and survive.