Surfer - - Contents -

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.

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