Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Surf Dolphins RULE.

I've surfed with all kinds of sealife: turtles, spotted eagle rays (gliding underneath me on a big left at Pavones), sea otters, whales, dolphins. Way back when I was still kitesurfing we used to zoom along and see dolphins just underneath us. Those guys were either trying to figure out what the hell was going on or trying to ride the tiny wake off our kiteboards. Once, as I was zipping along, I watched a dolphin come up underneath me, turn on his(her?) side and look up at me with it's big dolphin eye as we both jammed across the water. That was pretty cool but it was nothing like today. Today, I had my best dolphin encounter ever.

I had just enough time after school to suit up and paddle out at our local offshore wave. It's a solitary spot, way out there- so it's perfect for stand up surfing. It, however, is spooky because out there you feel like a soup ingredient. Sometimes it gets straight up creepy because the water feels so alive; all kinds of things are swimming around down there. There's lots of fish that come out of the deeper water to feed on the reef and I suppose they attract the dolphin. Or maybe it's the surf. I say this because I have never surfed a spot that is so infested with surfing dolphins- and these guys rip, busting pirouette air moves, speed carving the face or pulling off underwater go-behind figure eights. These locals are definitely shredders.

Given the size and quality of the surf, I wasn't surprised to see a couple dolphin way out the back, catching one of the big outside humps, busting free and then diving down. Or so I thought. As the wave made it's way towards me, I saw the two dolphin resurface and then both simultaneously busted an air. Dang! Those were two of the biggest dolphin I'd ever seen- I mean those guys were thick, probably in the range of five hundred pounds. Boom! They smacked down right in front of me and in a flash- they were gone. 

Fortunately for me, the wave they were surfing didn't disappear like they did. Instead, it was gobbling up a smaller wave in front of it and getting ready to double up into a sweet, ledgey left. These are the ones you wait for. Double-up lefts run across the whole reef, they're fast, they're steep and they are long. Perfect. I spun around and in a couple of strokes I was into it, charging down the face and angling off the bottom. I finished my turn and found myself right in the sweet spot, a thick, steep wall buzzing by just a couple of feet from my left cheek- I was tucked right into the pocket, not barreled just nicely slotted in the hook of the wave. What I saw next almost made me pull the eject cord. 

Surfing right next to me, inside of the vertical face of the wave were the two dolphin! It instantly reminded me of a photo I had seen of a surfer in South Africa unknowingly surfing along with a Great White shark within the wall of his wave. Those two dolphin seemed like they were standing right next to me- I swear, if I jammed my hand into the wave I would've touched one of them. Even more strange was the fact that they were keeping pace with me in the bowl of the wave- they knew how to find the juice too! We cruised along like that for probably five or six seconds- checking each other out.

We didn't surf together very long. I remember thinking how cool the two different shades of gray looked along the curves of their bodies. And in an instant they were gone. At first I thought they were going to get airborne to finish the wave (I've seen them do this before) and I started hoping that they wouldn't land on me (do you remember the surfer who got squashed by an airborne dolphin? True story.) but this time, they were gone for good- probably disgusted by the kook with three arms, surfing ugly and blowing their wave.  


Jeff Wallis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Wallis said...

Cool experience John, and a nice write up! Should have had the GoPro you might have caught a frame or two.

John Ashley said...

Hey Wally- Yeah, in all the years I've been doing stuff in the surf... this one was the craziest... that thing seemed like it was inches from my head!