Another Surfing Day To Remember - Brent the reluctant rescue victim
Byron and I took off before dark this morning for an early surf. We'd been watching the swell and hoping that there would be a bit of delay before an anticipated large swell hit the coast of Oregon. It appeared, based on the reports we both read that morning before leaving for the coast, that the swell had come early.
Upon arrival at a location named Seaside Cove, we surveyed the break. Big, cold, macker waves were breaking with less organization than we had been hoping for but both of us agreed that it would be worth the paddle out and started to suit up. We walked down to the waters edge, which in the cove is made up of large round, torso sized boulders covered with barnacles and moss. It's always intimidating during a large swell to get into the water at Seaside and even worse if you have to get out at that location.
We didn't really talk about where each other was going to surf. In fact, we rarely do. I headed up north and Byron hung out closer to a well shaped left coming in not far off the rocks. The swell was increasing as we paddled around and I headed further outside as I didn't like the idea of getting caught inside on a day like this.
I soon lost sight of Byron which is not at all uncommon, especially with a swell of this size. More often than not, you find yourself in a trough between waves making it next to impossible to even survey the ocean's surface, let alone find a surfing friend somewhere in the water. I drifted to the north, catching an occasional wave but kicking out very early as I did not want to get punished inside and I was not ready to head in yet. Finally, after the surf showed no sign of settling at all, I decided it might be better to head in, make sure that Byron was okay, and call it a day, happy that I'd made it though with no drama.
It took a long time to wait out the sets and find a decent wave to get in on. Many of the waves were closing out (breaking all at once) which does not leave much room for surfing. I finally spotted one, stroked in and, although I stood up and surfed a little, I ended up falling and got severely maytagged as the wave tossed me around like a ragdoll before finally releasing me. I came up to the surface, saw an approaching set wave which had already broken and was just a wall of whitewater and turned toward the beach, getting ready to be picked up by the wave and carried to shore. Letting a wave of that size pick you up in it's whitewater can be a horrifying experience. The water is moving every which way and it tries as hard as it can to toss you off the board and even wrench the board away from you. I held on for dear life and made it into shore to the shallows where I stood on solid ground, removed my leash and wrapped it around my board, dunked back into the water to rinse a bit and smiled at what had been a good session.
While I was drifting up to the north, Byron had been surfing the lefts and got a severe beating on a couple of set waves. He got a bit of a scare when he was being hit hard by wave after wave in the impact zone and told me later that he had a few moments of panic when he wasn't sure he'd be able to get enough breath before the next wave hit him. He calmed himself by slowing down his breathing, got composure and turned to head in to the beach. I believe that the scare that he experienced set the stage for what happened later.
I climbed up the rock strewn beach and waved at a couple of middle aged women watching the waves. One of them asked how the surfing was and I remarked to her that
"It's really a bit bigger than I'm comfortable with, but it sure felt good to get wet." The other woman asked me if I had noticed the Coast Guard helicopter flying around over the surf and I said,
"Yeah, is someone in trouble out there?"
"Well, we thought it might be you!" she laughed. I didn't really catch that but immediately got a bit freaked thinking that Byron might be in trouble. I said goodbye and started a jog back to the car park. Didn't get too far across the beach before a red ford explorer pulled up down the beach and waved me over. As I got closer I saw the markings on the vehicle showing it to be Seaside Fire and Rescue. Oh shit, I thought, Byron must really be in bad shape.
"Is someone in trouble out there?" I asked the rescue guy who looked like he'd been asleep not too long before he arrived on the beach.
"Yeah, you're in trouble, aren't you?" I didn't quite get what he was up to and he must have seen it on my face.
"I'm here to rescue you!"
"Wow, thanks, but I think I'll be okay. Why are you here really?"
"Honestly, your friends called for a rescue. They thought you were in trouble. Looks like you're okay though. Oh well, at least this'll be a good story. Hop in, I'll at least give you a ride back to the car." I actually had to think about that for a minute. If I rode back with him, it would look to the people back at the car park that I HAD been rescued which I didn't like the idea of at all. But, he already had a jacket spread out on the front seat and I got a waft of warm air from inside the car which was just too tempting.
"Surfer is okay, he's in the car with me now," the rescue guy voiced into the microphone of his radio.
"Did he have a good surf" the hovering helicopter pilot asked. The rescuer turned to me and raised his eyebrows.
"Tell him that yeah, I had a good surf all except for all the racket at the end." He laughed and told the chopper to head back to base.
"I'm Chris" he extended a hand.
"Hey Chris, sorry you had to come out here today. I'm Brent."
"Oh yeah, I know who you are, how long you've been surfing, your physical description, and a lot more." He laughed as I shook my head.
"You should have seen the guys in the car park" he said.
"They were scoring your rides and cheering for you out there." I put my head in my hands and thought of the beating that I would give Byron if I could catch him.
As we pulled into the car park a cheer went up from the folks watching. There must have been about twenty people watching the excitement and waiting for a death, dismemberment, or at least a good maiming. A bit disappointed when I turned up looking okay, albeit a bit shamed, they quickly lost attention and went back to their business. The two ambulances, complete with lights still flashing on top, and one other rescue vehicle waved as they pulled out and headed back home. I said goodbye to my rescuer friend, Chris and walked over to Byron's subaru wagon. He emerged from the side of the car smiling sheepishly and said that he was glad I was okay.
"What happened here?" I asked.
"I thought you were in trouble and called 911. Wow, a lot of people sure showed up." I called him a few names not fit for print here and let him know that although I appreciated his concern, it really, really, REALLY wasn't necessary to call out the national guard.
"Yeah, I know, I realized when I walked up where all the people were watching you in the water that you were probably okay. We were standing up there and one guy had binoculars and was watching you, expecting you to be drowning or something. The guy finally says, Hey, he's not drowning, he's looking for an outside wave to catch!"
"I tried to tell the fire and rescue guys that I thought you were okay but they said they'd have to be sure."
"The rest of the time I just waited here by the car thinking about the grief you would give me when you got here." We both laughed. It was pretty difficult to get after someone that had only done what he thought was right out of concern for my safety. That being said, I am definitely going to get back at him for this one.