Appreciate the wildlife!
Did you see that fish go by? Did you see that pelican hoversurfing past you? Did you see the osprey checking you out? How about the seals? Have you ever stopped to consider how many different species of seals you see out in the water?
I surfed with two seals the one morning last fall. I went down to Short Sands specifically because I didn’t feel like surfing by myself. It was nine on a Thursday morning in mid-October and I thought a little company would be quite nice.
The swell was 4-6 feet but I hadn’t checked the wind or period. As it turns out, it was a long enough period to push the faces up to around eight feet. Eight feet and barreling. Admittedly barreling and closing out for the most part.
Anyway, I was the only person that felt like surfing in that this morning. There were four other guys on the beach, evenly spaced down the beach, each pretending to be enjoying the view in totally solitary selfness. I hadn’t brought a leash because I thought it was going to be four feet.
Waxing up, I spotted a channel, paddled out, and got hammered by a seven wave set. Should have counted that from the beach, I guess. Oh well. That is the benefit of getting hammered by a set on the way out; you get a chance to have a good close look at what is going on. This morning, the waves were coming in in sets of seven with the first or second wave the biggest. The problem with that is that you either give up the biggest wave of the set or you risk getting hammered by the next five or six waves. Although, that is usually not a very difficult decision.
After surfing for an hour or so, I was joined by a seal. He popped up a couple hundred feet away. We stared at each other until I spun around and took a wave.
One of the nice things with surfing by yourself is that the only factor in choosing a wave is whether you want it or not. I wanted this one, spun, paddled two strokes and zipped off down the line. Kicking out a couple hundred feet later, I could see that my new buddy was gone. Two minutes later though, while I was still catching my breath from my paddle back out, he popped up again. Now only 50-60 feet away, I could see that he was a nice broad shouldered spotted seal. A male I would guess.
We enjoyed each other’s company until the next set swung through. I missed this one though, a bit aggravating as the sets were a solid ten minutes apart. I missed it because when I spun around, there was another, slightly smaller seal right behind me. This one, a female I would guess, although I don’t know why, was only 20-30 feet away. I am surprised that I didn’t smell her.
Often when a large fish eating mammal is that close, you can smell them (remind me later and I will tell you that story too). Anyway, I missed the set and hung out with my seal friends for another ten minutes. When the next set came through, I had to paddle a little deeper behind the peak to grab the wave I wanted so I wouldn’t hit the little seal on the inside. Ironic, since I had just been enjoying the absolute freedom of surfing by myself. In any case, the little seal forced me a little deeper than I would have taken off. It was no big deal. I was on my fish, a super fast little board, so I just had to speed under the pitching lip to make the wave. From there I flew on down the line. But I was always just a little behind. Just barely under the pitching lip. Not deep in the barrel, by any means. Just deep in the pocket.
Too deep to kick out when the whole thing closed out at the end. Which is also no big deal. Except it was the second wave of the set, it was a solid eight feet, and I wasn’t using a leash. So I zipped as high as I could on the wave before shooting the board up in the air, into the offshore breeze and over the crashing lip. Ducking under the barrel, I popped up behind the wave and swam over to my board. To the applause of the outside leopard seal.
My buddy on the outside was barking and he didn’t stop until I got back to my spot between him and his girlfriend. She forced me deep on the next one as well, on which the whole performance was repeated to the repeated applause of her boyfriend on the outside.
I surfed with the jokers for another hour before heading back in for another day of shaping wood boards. They had helped me surf better than I ever would have ever surfed alone that day. And they had been exactly the company that I had hoped for.
Open your eyes when you are out there. You are so lucky - you have the pleasure of playing around in the last great wilderness. One of the last places of actual wildness. Enjoy.
Life is short. You are good. Ride a board that makes you proud.