|Alone at my favorite mid-atlantic surf spot, 2003. Photo by Rod|
I needed somewhere quiet and lonely to go surf. To reconnect with the ocean and figure it all out again. How to feel the swell under me. How to trust that the wave you're on might act the same way the last wave did.....and you'll stay upright. The saying goes, "Only a surfer knows the feeling." I think there's some truth to that.
The night before the trip, I couldn't sleep. Swell forecasts showed a sunrise around 545am, low tide around 550am, and a gradually rising swell. I knew I needed to be back at my job site by 10am at the latest. I hadn't had a good surf session in nearly THREE YEARS, despite finding myself at some of the USA's best known surf spots from Oregon to Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod. I needed something to work. Delaware - inauspicious Delaware - was close to a job site. Some data-searching told me that its most northern beach at Cape Henlopen might offer me the solitude I was seeking. The place has a very black and white following - some folks think the wave is amazing and special. Others think it is not at all worth the trouble. I had no idea what to expect.
|Same DE beach access road but at dusk, in June 2006|
I was on the highway by 345am, and pulled into the state park in time for the 5:45 sunrise. The last access gate was locked, so I had to huff it down the road another half mile. When I came over the dune, it was already hot outside, flies biting....and no waves as far as the eye could see. I couldn't believe it! It was happening again. Something inside me said, "Oh well, you're here. May as well go for a paddle."
After a leisurely summer paddle and - I swear to God - an actual nap on the beach, I decided to concede defeat. Again. Right as I did, I saw a small but nice wave smack off The Jetty and reeeeeeeeeeeeeel down the cove. I paused, and waited for another......which took about 3 minutes. It was still breaking when I started paddling out. Not another human in sight. The tide was coming in and letting the waves come in too!
|Same spot, Cape Henlopen, Spring 2002|
Remember that thing about the cedar stumps? Yeah, I didn't. My palms and knees were slashed by the wood and by the millions of tiny mussels growing on the wood, as I tumbled around in the surf. Stupid.
|Low tide in Stumpville, Delaware, maybe 1999 or so. Photo courtesy of Surfline.com|
I was so juiced about the possibility of catching another wave like that one, that I didn't even pause to see how badly I was bleeding. A few minutes later, my chance came, and I caught that wave too. I rode the tiny swell for over 100 yards, which required all kinds of turns and footing adjustments. I was smart enough to dismount right onto my board instead of falling back into "Stump Ville."
|Steering wide of Stumpville, May 2002|
That short morning at Cape Henlopen carried me through another 4 years of surfing in all types of conditions. It reinforced my willingness to pull through and accept the bad days, because mathematically, you're eventually due a good one.
I've been thinking about this day a lot recently because I've really been feeling like I need one of these magical days. You better believe that when I try to cash in my surf karma this summer, I'll be going back to this place, as I have so many times over the last 10 years. When I find that feeling again, I look forward to telling you about it.
|Picture of me taking off on a small, super fast wave during an amazing day with old friends. Delaware, October 2003|