Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bali Ma!

The swell size had doubled in the hour that I had been out. I was sitting on the outside corner of Uluwatu, one of Bali’s fiercest and most beautiful breaks. The sets were now between six and ten waves – relentless.

The waves that didn’t close out on a section of reef called Race Tracks were curling into beautiful tubes the size of my living room. Each set was breaking further and further out, as the size continued to increase. The gorgeous thing about Uluwatu and the outside corner is that if you can make Race Tracks, there’s another 200 yards of wave, sometimes reaching all the way down around the cliff to Padang Padang, Bali’s Pipeline.

I was in position and another huge roaring set was coming in. The thing about waves this size is that there is the urge to paddle out, as it looks like they’re going to break sooner than they do. Stay, I thought, so I sat in position. The first wave was a giant close out. A surfer a hundred feet up the wave from me went over the falls and I lost sight of him in the white water. It’s a bad day to break a board or leash.

The second wave came screaming towards me – dark and mysterious, she roared. I drop onto my board and pushed off. The thing about waves this size at Ulu is that they’re going fast. Really fast. I pushed hard pulling myself through the water. I could feel the wave fall in behind me and I started kicking. The wave doubled up and I pulled hard and paddled faster.

I was about to drop in. Everything in my body was screaming – no! With one more kick my hands slammed down onto my board, my feet sprang up into the air and planted hard. I dropped in. I tucked my left shoulder back and grabbed the rail with my right hand. I went screaming down the face of the wave. Insanity. I built so much speed in the drop the board began shaking violently. My toes pushed and gripped hoping the board wouldn’t fly out from under me.

The roar was so loud. I couldn’t hear anything else.

I reached the bottom of the wave and gave it a hard backside turn. One mistake and I would be slammed against the reef with twenty tons of water on top of me.

I made the turn. I zig-zagged up and down the wave building speed – I had to make race tracks. The wave started to come down over me. I pushed hard with my front foot as the wave peeled. I leaned forward, and the wave completely arched over me. Perfect barrel. For a moment, the roar silenced and there was nothing. Perfect floating bliss, suspended in space. Freedom and God.

The mouth of the monster opened back up and I saw daylight. I pushed harder on my front foot and charged for the exit. I made it out with a splash of spray in my face, and gently, calmly, rode over the crest and dropped onto my board. I paddled back up the line to sit and wait for the next one, to do it all over again.

Bali Ma!

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