El Nino ....Early 80's...Southern California coast.......Huge waves and even bigger crowds.you have to surf 6 hours to get enough waves to satisfy your soul. Up at dawn i surfed "swami's" everyday then chowed down blueberry buckwheat pancakes and gulped down a strawberry/banana smoothie at the shepard's inn vegetarian resturant.
After the afternoon sessions it was vegetarian "turkey" club sandwhiches and carrot juice. During a subsequent grind fest a plan was hatched. Super Bowl sunday was coming up and we figured it would be a great time to surf "Ralph's" a secluded big wave spot, off Point Loma's naval base in San Diego, acessable only by boat. Ralph's is a reef break with a nice "bowl" section where you can get a nice tube ride thru the bowl. A "super bowl" section!
Super Bowl Sunday we're up at dawn load the car and drive off to San Diego trailering the boat. our sea vessel is a 16 foot fiberglass flat bottom row boat with a 15 horsepower evinrude. there are four of us with our gear and surfboards heading out to sea with an 8-10 foot ground swell running.
With the drone of the outboard engine making it difficult to have any conversation my thoughts turn inward and i go over a mental checklist to make sure i have evrything necessary......when all of a sudden i get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach!!!!!!!!! i think i forgot my wetsuit!!!i quickly check my duffel bag and horror of horrors....no wet suit!!!!my friend who is also named michael senses something is wrong and asks what's up.i tell him my predicament and offers to turn the boat around to retreive the wetsuit from the trunk of the car.i tell him thanks but it's worse than that.....i left it in the trunk of my car which is parked at his house an hour and a half away!!!! i feel sick and i tell him to just keep going,i'm an idiot and will just have to pay the price for my stupidity.
We arrive at ralphs and can only see the backs of the waves as they heave themselves on the reef. we anchor the boat a safe distance from the break.everyone suits up and paddles in to the reef. i want to surf badly even without a wetsuit but we all decide that it would be safer if i stayed in the boat.the water temperature is 52 degrees and if something should happen i would perish from hypothermia. it was agony sitting in the boat by myself watching the backs of the waves and the spray from my friends lip bashes. listening to the thundering waves peeling across the reef, the hoots and hollars of an epic surf session.how long can this go on?are'nt they getting tired? 6 hours have gone by!!!!!!8 hours!!!!!!it's amazing how when your surfing you don't get hungry but sitting in this boat i'm hungry,thirsty and cold!!!!!! finally they come back to the boat.......yes i know it was epic.
Michael starts up the evinrude and starts heading back.picture this....we are in the pacific ocean with a huge swell , offshore winds,the sun is starting to get low in the sky and no one is around for miles.you can't see any houses on the shore cause it's a naval base. since my friend michael is stoked from his surf session he starts "playing" with the waves using the boat.we start going deepr and steeper surfing the waves with the boat!it was fun for a while but the jon dory is not the best surf board and we were kind of low in the water with all the gear and people. i'll never forget what happened next.......
I was sitting in the back next to "mad mike" looking up at a huge face of a wave about to break on us."mad mike" guns it and the evinrude makes a high pitched whinning sound and pops off the transom and spins out of "mad mikes" throttle grip.the outboard makes a hard right and then starts spiralling down to davy jones locker!!!!!! i remember thinking that it was so funny looking over the transom at the motor spiralling down the clear blue water,then the gas line snapped and it was gone!!!!!!humor changed quickly to horror as the wave caught up to us.we some how avioded being capsized and rode out the wave and what a ride it was!!!!!!!!! i guess the shot of adrenaline we got from riding out that bomber set made us all start cracking up laughing and hollering.
We were happy at being alive but quickly noticed the situation we were in was grave. the sun was setting ,there is a strong off shore wind,the swell is building, we have no oars or flares,no food or water, i don't have a wet suit or life jacket and a current seems to be taking us out to sea.we are losing sight of land.we can't beach the boat cause the shore break i like 10 feet and there's mostly cliffs and big rocks with no beach. We see a boat in the distance but can't get them to notice us.we see another boat but they don't hear our cries for help.they must be watching the super bowl! the sun sets and we have maybe 20 minutes of light left......we see another boat in the distance and we all yell in unison this is our last chance.........we are in luck they change course and motor towards us!! super bowl sunday.........what a day!!!!!!!!!
Mike's buddy, "Mad Mike" at Swami's c. 1980. Doin better without the baggage of an outboard motor.