How Does Sunset Beach Work? - Page 12

Anecdotes and Personal Experiences - 5

Inside Section Perfect Point Surf

Once in a great while, small north swells, when they're rising, will start out by coming through sort of in the middle there, not really on the point, not really on the peak, and if they're inconsistent enough, the rip will stay quiet for a while, and the north angle does a pretty good job of counteracting the usual tendency to warp back around against itself into a distinct peak, and it starts peeling down the inside section like some kind of perfect point wave, with a really nice wall to it.

If the swell rises in fits and starts, which it will do sometimes, each small ratcheting up in size will permit the next substantial set to move just far enough out past where the last ones broke, to keep everything out and away from any effects of the rip, which is still not really in business yet, and let the wave just reel along, perfectly.

Hardly ever happens.

But once in a while, you just might find yourself out in the water at low tide, midday on a more or less flat day, just for the hell of it, nobody else around to speak of, and then these lines will start to come through, fitfully and very inconsistently, and you'll find yourself enjoying a facet of Sunset Beach that not many people are even aware of.

Peeling rights, running down across the entire length of the inside section.

And when it happens, the place shows you a side of itself that you may have never suspected could exist.

One of the most perfect days I've ever surfed in my life happened this way.

Completely by accident.

Perfection peelers, rifleshot fast, clean as a whistle and hollow, but in a non-threatening way.

You could take off, turn at the bottom, pull back up and in, and then just race off down the line with it, watching as it poured across above you and in front of you all silver and glittery, all the way to the end, without a drop of water out of place.

But it can't last very long.

It'll give you an hour, maybe two if you're really lucky, before the rip finally wakes up, things move out on to the peak for real, and that's the end of that.

Fun while it lasts, though.

Great Circle Route

Once in a while, bad wipeouts, for no good reason, will end well.

Miraculously well, even.

Big day. Real stuff.

I do not recall how it came to pass, but however it came to pass, I was going over the falls.

That's never any fun on a big day, right?

Not much you can do about it once you're in it, though, so over you go, around in a big circle with the lip.

Hit the water at the bottom and kept right on going, with hardly any sensible impact at all, down deep.

Opened my eyes like always, to get my bearings, and discovered that in the blink of an eye I'd fallen all the way through the bottom of the cloud of thrashing turbulence, right on in to the calm and undisturbed water, just a couple of feet beneath all that darkly-churning violence right above my head.

And not only that, but through the delightfully-clear undisturbed water, I can see the base of a chimney of equally clear, equally undisturbed water, right there, right next to me.

And with maybe two easy strokes, I swam into the bottom of the chimney of clear water, where I could see that it extended all the way up to the surface where bright shafts of sunlight were slanting down, and it was not only clear water, but it was also rapidly upwelling water.

And with about four more good underwater swimming strokes, I completed the great circle that had begun so poorly with me entrained in the lip, shot up what had to be twenty or maybe even thirty vertical feet, straight to the surface, unharmed, unmolested, completely untouched.

Total elapsed time for the entire circular journey, start to finish, could not possibly have been greater than fifteen seconds, and the recollection of things is noticeably less than that, but I do not want this to sound completely beyond believing, so I'll stick with the fifteen and give you a little wink to go along with it.

Pop my head above the water, no more waves are coming, and start swimming for the beach.

Tra la la, nothing to it.

The Easy Way In

You hear a lot about swimming in when the waves are substantial, but not a lot of detail, so here's a little bit of how-to for getting in to the beach from way the hell outside, sooner instead of later.

You take it sitting down.

There's one hell of a lot of water moving around out there at Sunset Beach, and it seems kind of silly not to try and use some of it to your advantage, if you can.

A surprising amount of folks, upon surfacing all the way outside following a wipeout, or getting cleaned up, or whatever, and finding themselves confronted with a massive wall of churning soup bearing down on them, will swim down, deep, presumably to avoid the imminent thrashing that's about to overtake them.

This never made sense to me.

You can swim as deep as you like, but no matter how deep you swim, you're still gonna take a hit and get thrashed, and that's assuredly going to happen, like it or not, after you've already expended a fair bit of energy in the effort to get as far from the surface as you can.

And even if you do manage to somewhat minimize the hit you take, your reward for doing so will be to return to the surface in the near vicinity of the initial impact zone, where the violence is greatest, which is the worst place you could pick, when you really start to think about it.

What's up with that?

Why bother?

So instead of going through all that, when confronted with twenty feet of grinding whitewater, just let the damn thing have you, and let it throw you as far in toward the beach as it can, getting you farther away from the impact zone for the next one that's coming, even as it also gets you closer to the beach without having to actually swim to cover that ground.

So you're sitting there in the water, and here it comes.

Turn facing the beach, assume a sitting position, neck-deep, with arms underwater, down and out to your sides.

Just as it gets to you, give a little upward stroke with both arms, pulling your head just beneath the surface, an instant before the soup encounters you.


And then resurface a surprising distance closer to the shoreline, without so much as having had to take a single proper swimming stroke in that direction.

Followed by an encounter with a next wave that is much reduced from when it first came over, all the way outside.

May as well go with the flow, right?

Unless it's going to break directly on top of you, of course.

Try to stay away from the direct impact of that falling lip, every chance you get, ok?

If it's going to break directly on top of you, then by all means swim down underwater to try and get the hell away from it.

And then sit the next one out and let it roll you toward the shoreline like we just talked about.

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