My wave. Swinging wide past most of the pack and peaking into an imposing blue hill. I watch the scene unfold before it actually does, the same one I’d envisioned during more than a decade of daydreams: me stroking into the right, the local goofyfooter next to me going left, both of us standing tall and deep in our respective barrels, getting blown out with the spit, paddling out afterward and high-fiving one another. And so I paddle toward that vision, my future friend paddling toward his. The wave grows. We stroke faster. This is really happening. Steeper. Quicker. “Go, go, go,” I hear him say. But “Ho, ho, ho,” is what he’s actually saying. I’m blinded by my vision. I stand and stick my hand into the wall, waiting for the lip to pitch over me and reveal my path to glory. But the wave doesn’t barrel. I’d misread it. And misheard my old friend (new enemy), who’s now riding next to me yelling, “What the F--K!?!” His eyes are saucers.
It was 4-foot Log Cabins and my first session on the North Shore. I’d arrived the night before, crashed at the SURFING house and awoke to pumping surf. With the growing swell, maybe I should have driven to Rockies to test the waters. But with the glassy, sectiony peaks heaving out front, and Matt and Ford Archbold getting shacked almost alone, the time was now.
In the lineup, I greeted Matt and Ford and a couple other locals, and they returned the love. I picked off a couple of scraps to get my feet wet, measuring my preconceptions against reality: Yes, the waves moved fast. Yes, that reef boiling a few feet below was intimidating. But no, I wasn’t getting vibed, even by the dozen or so guys who eventually paddled out. I even bagged a thick closeout, and stood tall in the blue, foamy cavern before it swallowed me in its implosion. Catching my breath, I watched the crowd trade barrel after barrel, getting blown out with the spit, and I could see myself so clearly in their place. And then, about a half-hour later, it was there. My wave.
My wave, which turned out to be his wave. The rug is pulled out from under me as the wave closes out and we go under. We pop up punching distance away from each other and I stammer, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I thought you were—” “What the F--K !?!” “I’m so sorry. I’ll go in.” He looks surprised and, in fact, so am I. Must have been some subconscious plan to concede before the inevitable fight began. Still, this wasn’t an I’ll break up with you before you break up with me situation. But yes, he decides, “That’s right, go the f--k in, you f--king kook!”
And I do, returning to the house the long way so as not to sully the SURFING name. I assume my position back on the porch, defeated, and watch the rest of the session. After an hour or so, photographer Steve Sherman strolls back from the beach, smiling big. “Check out this shot,” he says, and shows me the display screen of his camera. The photo is of me, standing tall in that closeout from earlier, about to get pummeled by a respectable North Shore wave. A flood of potential suddenly drowns my embarrassment. A new vision appears. I see what could be, and I also see my enemy exiting the water with his friends. I grab my board. —Taylor Paul