Cardiff cold snap and other gifts

It was already cold as the wind gusted from the north and I pulled on winter clothes and decided to walk. Only one place would be offshore today and I didn’t want to make the drive. Cardiff Reef heaved a surprisingly thick slab as an unknown rider took off late, got barreled for seconds and was swatted down.
The next rider dropped in as the floor dropped out beneath him, turned hard off the bottom, parted company with his board and dove back down into what looks like very cold water.
In an uneven year of waves, today looked like the most uneven, some sets approaching the biggest and most powerful of the year. Late opening day, I thought to myself before turning up the street on a path that will lead to water’s edge.
The Cardiff Kook was not dressed for the occasion: T-shirt and Charger’s chin guard. Maybe the guys who made the shark set the bar too high. Pulling my cap lower over my ears reminded me that it’s cold out there.
Somewhere along the line I have grown soft and never paddle out on these stormy afternoons anymore. I made a mental note to get a new wetsuit with a hood, hoping that will restore some of the irrational stoke the years have robbed.
The Cardiff bridge on Coast Highway offered a perfect view of Suckouts, and the half dozen chargers who pulled sub-6-foot boards into desperate sections. Somebody got deep and was shot of the barrel like a bullet. While stoked for the guy I was also a little envious, not of the ride but of the youth such agility represents.
To the south George’s, named after the long-gone restaurant that used to be there, enjoyed a new sandbar. A small pack sat, waiting for the next set. The swell was more focused here than at the reef. The waves were surprisingly hollow and one surfer in particular surprisingly good. Late drop, turn hard, sn-nap! One, two, three. Whoa! Looking down I saw a purple pebble in the peek-a-boo sunlight tumbled smooth for years in the shore break. I picked it up and put it in my pocket so it can clutter my already cluttered desk.
By the time I looked again, the surfer was back in the lineup, dropping in to repeat the performance of wave one. Who was he and what was he doing on the worst wave on the coast? Each turn could empty a swimming pool. The section lined up and he pulled in and was spit out. To surfers of my generation this wave would have peeled too fast to make. For the best of the mystery rider’s generation, this is just another day of alchemy, turning nothing into fun.
My generation likes to think we surfed that way and could brag that we had if not for the films telling a far different story. We never dreamed of traveling as far, fast and vertically as guys like this do. Not that there are many guys like this, anywhere.
He paddled back out, caught a wave, pulled off the bottom and rocked his rail off the top, air dropping casually before being covered for a few seconds. Just when it looked like he was gonna be buried by the soup, he pushed his inside rail and was squirted onto the flats where he does a series of little turns before riding to shore.
At close range I recognized Damian Hobgood, who along with his twin brother CJ has been politely residing at or near the top of the pro ranks for at least a decade now. Driven by more than a well-paying and fun career, Damian and CJ lead a small movement of surfers whose faith carries them through even the heaviest of circumstances, like the 15-foot-plus Tahitian dream Damian paddled into on a 6-foot-4-inch a few years back.
To get a better idea of all this, visit youtube.com/watch?v=mWYDzNRbNnA
and view a snippet in a life worth living. The clip is taken from Jesse’s Schluntz’ “The Outsiders,” the song is sung by Jesse’s wife, Rheanna, the surfing is Damian’s, the waves are a gift from someone who loves you.

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