It was still pitch black out and the temperature of my room made it seem as if I was located inside of an industrial refrigerator when I was rudely awoken by my obnoxious phone alarm that was blasting a death metal song at full volume. I lied there in bed just staring at the ceiling for a few minutes questioning myself why I would have ever set my alarm to wake me up at the ungodly hour of 5:00 A.M. After those few minutes of self-loathing passed, I built up enough courage to leave my warm and inviting bed and rapidly put on several layers of clothes before making my way downstairs and into my garage. Still half asleep, I began collecting all the equipment that I’d need for the day ahead of me: Wetsuit, bodyboard, beach towel, swim fins and slippers.
The previous night, I had looked up the swell reports for the Southern California coastline and to my delight, the reports showed that a swell claiming to be over 6ft. was planned to hit the next morning. I decided that the only place that would have waves worth waking up at five in the morning for would be The Wedge, located in lovely Newport Beach, CA.
Once all my necessities were shoved into my car, I began my serene morning drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. Though I hate to wake up early in the morning, I truly do love driving at that time. There’s almost no cars along the roads, which allows the pleasure to look at everything around me, including the slowly rising sun, without any of the stress that traffic usually brings with it.
Along with allowing me to appreciate the views that I drove by, having no traffic on the road made it possible for me to arrive at my destination in about 25 minutes, rather than 45 minutes which is usually the case. As I pulled onto the street located right next to The Wedge, I could already hear the consistent crashing of waves against the shore, making me suspect that the surf was larger than usual. Just for good measure, I rolled my window down next to a surfer who was returning from the beach and asked him, “ How’s it lookin’ out there”, to which he replied, “It’s massive as shit!”
My suspicion was confirmed.
I quickly found a parking spot,(which is rare to find on the Newport Peninsula), unloaded my car and slowly made my way down toward the beach. As I approached, the sound of waves began to resemble thunder and vibrations began pulsing through my body. I finally reached a lifeguard tower that was perched directly in front of the shoreline which is where I got my first glimpse of the waves.
“ Well shit…”, I muttered solemnly to myself
A relentless surge of unforgiving waves flowed in from the ocean and would form into a magnificent 15 ft. A-frame before violently crashing onto the sand. Slowly but surely I changed into my wetsuit and began strolling to the shoreline. After making a few prayers that I don’t drown or get tossed like a rag doll into the jagged jetty rocks, I leaped into the water and paddled ferociously before the next set of waves would arrive to annihilate me. Once I made it out past the break-zone, I looked around to see if I recognized any of my fellow surfers in the water with me. There were only 3 other guys, which was surprising, and one of them had the strongest Australian accent I’ve ever heard to this day.
He sounded like an Australian Forest Gump
During the first half-hour of me being in the water I was acting a little cautious and apprehensive with the waves I rode, resulting with me only catching about three waves, which were all comparatively tiny.
Finally, a huge set rolled in and as I was paddling for this goliath of a wave, I looked down from the peak and decided that if I kept paddling, I’d definitely meet my demise. I quickly spun my body around and paddled away before I got sucked back into the waves clutches. As I was making my way back into the line-up, the Australian Forest Gump came paddling by me and said some profound words which I still remember to this day, “If you don’t fuckin charge, ya gotta get outta’ the wata’.”
After his little words of wisdom, I decided to start “charging” and began paddling for waves that were twice my height, having them completely engulf me and toss me around like a little rag-doll underwater. Despite my fear at the time, after every wave my head would resurface and I’d take deep breaths, reassuring myself that I was still alive and breathing. After catching several more waves that seemed as if they had the capability of turning me into sand, I left the beach with a new understanding that things aren’t always as bad as they seem.
The only thing I regret from that day, is that I didn’t that thank the little Australian Forest Gump man for the harsh yet helpful words of advice he told me that morning.