LIBERATION DAY, JUNE 14, 2018
Today, 36 years ago, the war for these islands ended. We’re told that there is going to be a parade later this morning, but we’ll be far from it, taking one last shot at that elusive high-tide tube. The weather has finally cleared and black sky is turning blue as we head south toward the beach on one of the island’s few highways. Snow coats the mountains to our right and the ocean becomes visible on our left.
Today is the coldest day of the trip, but it also just so happens to be the day with the most perfect wind and swell. We’d spent the past 12 days mapping out new spots, taking notes on how wind, swell and tide affected each bend in the coast, often pulling our hair out trying to forecast the mercurial stretch of ocean. Now, with the wind at our backs, we find ourselves in the right place at the right time. As painful as it is to even crack open the door of the car, no amount of cold is going to keep us from that lineup.
During this trip, conversations in the water have consistently returned to the subject of just how cold we were. We’d paddle in circles, slapping the water with our arms and legs, trying as best we could to keep our blood circulating and to trick ourselves into believing we weren’t flirting with hypothermia. I couldn’t help but think about Shackelton’s men and the relentless, bone-chilling cold they had to endure in desperation for survival. In comparison, it seemed almost silly to subject ourselves to these elements for a few waves.
But today will be the real test of what those waves are worth. I only have one wetsuit with me, and it’s sitting in the back of the truck like a neoprene icicle.
My teeth chatter as I stand on my board bag in the howling wind. I shuffle my legs into the sandy, almost-frozen suit before jumping back into the car for a last blast of air from the heater. At a certain point I realize I have to stop stalling, and I spring out of the car, grab my board and run as fast as I can toward the reef.
Without a doubt, these are the best waves we’ve seen the entire trip. We knew we were in for an adventure, but only dared to hope for fun waves in this region. This spot, however, was on the brink of world-class in terms of its predictability and consistent tube sections. The waves get better and better through the evening and into the frigid twilight. Looking back from the water toward the beach at the snow-covered caps in the distance, the scale and raw beauty of the place is hard to comprehend, as if we’re somehow surfing the base of the Sierra Nevada.
For a moment, I don’t even think of the cold.