We had been up early for a sunrise Easter morning service. I’m not certain of the year, but it was sometime in the early 1970s and the entire coast was flat. I always carried a board with me and now I had a 6-foot-10-inch egg shaped by Rusty Prisendorfer, several years before he rocketed to fame under his own Rusty label. More famous even than people whose first names say it all, he would soon be known simply by the big capitol “R.” The board was magic, a Skip Frye-inspired double ender that carved the best tracks ever on North County waves.
With nothing to do, I decided to take a walk. My board didn’t fit in my car so I would have to take it with me, down the Swami’s stairs — maybe there would be a little something to the cliff and around the corner, to the beach breaks. Dabbers was flat and thick with dead kelp. So were all the sandbars from Swami’s to Pipes. It had been stormy and nobody was around.
The tide was still draining and was now so far out you could have raced five cars, side by side, along the hard-packed sand. I was drying out and needed to get wet. I paddled out at one of the reefs and sat there, when to my surprise a small bump formed on the horizon. I paddled for it, caught it and it jacked just enough to make it worthwhile. Then the bottom fell out and the little wave peeled and threw out, not changing its perfect shape for the next 30 yards. This was one of the most perfect tiny tubes I had ever seen. Next time I would get deeper.
Stoked and looking up, I could see someone tearing down the Pipes road with a yellow board. When he got closer I saw that it was Texas transplant and good surfer Rick Rouse. He paddled out and immediately hooked into Backdoor Pipeline in miniature. He got deep and exited the little barrel shouting at the top of his lungs. We traded waves for hours, oblivious to the icy water or cold side shore wind.
Wave after wave poured in, each one perfect, many sets with two, three, four, five in a row, all unridden as we scratched back out into the lineup. I still remember one little wave I caught, transparent at the top, the way it often was in those days before overbuilding led to the dirty water we have become used to. That wave was a full foot bigger than the others, nearly chest high. I spun around, no paddle, ducked and was quickly floating in a clear blue bubble, far away from the sounds and cares of the world, locked into a time capsule that everyone knows lasts forever when you are in it. Nobody ever saw that wave and I’m glad for that. It is a memory best savored in solitude.
The waves built a little as the day progressed, but their magic faded with their size. The tide was filling in and turning the crisp little tubes into fat, lazy rollers. We’d had enough and so exited the water, happy with our little secret.
For years I would walk down to see if that little spot was firing on some nonexistent swell. I never did catch it that good again. Rick and I talked on the beach and wished each other a “Happy Easter,” a very special day for both of us, made all the more so by a gift from a Savior that loved saltwater and reefs enough to make them come together perfectly for two friends, a long time ago.
Filed Under: Sea Notes