How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 7

By the time you reach the area along the reef at Sunset Beach where the Inside Section comes into play, there is, behind you, an enormous extent of very large whitewaters growling shoreward, and they're all funneling a vast volume of moving water into more or less the same place, and while that's happening, the place they're funneling the water into is becoming shallower and shallower to the point where there's nowhere left for any of it to go.

As a result, something's gotta give.

The water moves across the point into and along Boneyards and then gets added to by even more water, coming in from the Peak outside.

The whole thing gathers momentum and hurls itself across and into the gaps and holes in the reef just shoreward of where the inside section comes over with a violent bang, sweeps into the channel, and then turns and heads seaward, tearing the living hell out of what might have been some pretty good lefts at Kammieland, had the rip not chewed them into shreds.

When the water gets moving, the break at Kammieland takes a direct hit from it, and the result is not pretty.

Nobody rides Kammieland when Sunset gets rolling.

A great river of water develops and flows across a very irregular bottom, and as anyone who has encountered a briskly-flowing river that flows across an irregular bottom knows, standing waves develop.

These standing waves oppose the oncoming current, but since the water in the river never stops flowing, the standing waves simply stand in place, instead of going anywhere.

At Sunset, it's a little bit different.

The "river" is being shoved side to side with each passing wave and each new set. Great masses of water pulse and surge back and forth, high and low, calm and rough, set and lull, on periods ranging from a quarter of a minute to perhaps a full half hour or longer, and things never ever stay quite the same.

Which allows some of the standing waves to quit standing, and start propagating back out toward their source.

Keep in mind that these "standing" waves bear no resemblance to their counterparts in a landlocked river, but are instead, very subtle, very low, and more or less impossible to discern or pick out from the background chaos of the rip, which is a mighty thing, in and of itself. Once in a while some of these waves might behave in similar fashion to a backwash, but it's not really like that either. There's nothing simple or straightforward about any of it. The current swirls and eddies, the very low, long-period mounds of water that comprise the "standing" waves get torn, bent, partially erased, and distorted, and the next breaking wave that enters the inside section will find itself being hit with whatever has been generated moments prior to its arrival.

Compound all of this with a highly complex reef bottom of rapidly shoaling water, extra-large high-energy open ocean waves, and an occasional "actual" backwash generated by water pouring across the shoreward side of the reef table at Val's Reef, and the results can become very interesting indeed.

It's never the same thing twice, when you're dealing with the inside section at Sunset Beach.

Things can vary from completely out of control, to ruler-edged perfection, even on the same wave.

But it's not necessarily a bad thing.

And in fact, sometimes it's a very good thing.

For certain definitions of "good" that might include a level of violence which has to be experienced to be believed.

The irregularities can interfere constructively with one another, and when they do, the result is an extraordinarily-throaty large tube, with a bizarrely thick lip, a square bottom with occasional steps to traverse, and the whole thing roars down the line at breakneck speed for a great long distance, and once you're in, you're in, and there's no way out, not even by straightening out.

Try to straighten out on the inside section on a respectable day at Sunset Beach, and you'll quickly discover that it doesn't always work. Sometimes the lip has a greater reach than you do, and it will simply follow you out there, however far out onto the flats as you can possibly go, and then come slamming down directly on top of you like a collapsing apartment building, and deliver you one of the worst wipeouts of your life.

Better you should just stay in trim, and let it throw on past you and take what it gives you that way instead of taking chances with trying to straighten out at the wrong time.

There is no peak, anymore. The wave has become an endless wall, utterly transformed and completely different from the thing you initially took off on, far outside, and as this endless wall arches upward alarmingly, the bottom squares out, the lip throws, and then you enter a state of suspended animation, flying across the surface of the water at a very high rate of speed.

Above you, the great mass of the lip pours itself violently, like some kind of living thing, quivers and wavers, uncanny, otherworldly, frighteningly, intensely, and great pieces of it are now and then hurled forward for absurd distances and land way out on the flat, way the hell out there shoreward and in front of you, throwing up backblasts of whitewater even as the bottom of the wave develops weird steps and warbles, trying to trip you up. Things happen much faster than you can possibly deal with them, but somehow, you deal with them anyway. You're in it, for better or for worse, and so you bend and weave along with things, threading an ever-changing needle through a sort of fearsome liquid volcano that whirls all around you demoniacally, at stunning speed, watching in amazement as the lip closes low, and then opens back up, lurching and twitching, causing the great hollowness of the tube which envelops you to mutate, first pinch, and then gape wide, with each passing split second. Close attention must be paid at all times to keep the board from wanting to go fin-free in a sudden steep piece, or perhaps being guided by one of those weird steps and lumps to an unfortunate location. At any moment along the way, the next lip pinch could be the end of the line, and there's no way to know. A section could develop ahead of you that there's just no possible way to get beyond, and you might find yourself entering it at the worst possible moment as a lip that has thrown too thick, too far, explodes just ahead of you, and you find yourself entering a ferocious detonation zone at high speed, unable to do anything about it. You've committed yourself, and that's that. You find yourself bobbing and weaving in a crazed dance, simultaneously reacting and anticipating, trying to harmonize with a pulsing, breathing, throbbing curtain of violence that just keeps on coming, cascading down, blowing up, ever-changing, ever-threatening, trying to finish you off.

And you just ride with it.

And the very last bit of it is oftentimes the most extreme.

My own personal name for the absolute very last little piece, the bitter end, of the wave on the inside section is "Tooth Rattlers" and there's a story behind that name that, thankfully, does not involve me physically.

It's almost as if it saves the very best for the very last.

But it's dicey.

Very very dicey in there when you get to Tooth Rattlers.

Stupidly-thick lip. Insanely square, stepped bottom.

And it throws wide. Very very wide.

And then it all just slams shut in an instant, backs off to nothing at all, and it's gone in the blink of an eye!

It hits the deep lurching water on the border of the rip and disappears straightaway into the chop and foam and jumble, without a trace of proper whitewater, as if it had never existed in the first place.

And if you've managed to come out of it the right way, well then, that's the Right Way, and what more needs to be said?


Nothing at all.

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