I rarely hear people yell "Outside!" anymore. One of the reasons, I think, is because I no longer surf with beginning surfers. (We would all start yelling "Outside!" as soon as we saw a bump on the horizon, a bump that would eventually show itself to be only a chest high wave. Now I'm sitting here laughing about how waves of that size used to scare so many of us who started surfing at the same time. We would be scratching, slowly and awkwardly, for the horizon as if a big slab was about to bear down on us.) I also don't surf breaks with nasty set waves. If a wave doesn't show me any shape while rearing up to take out the entire lineup, I'm not going to paddle out.
Anyway, I was at the end of my session today. I'd elected to take the mat out at this spot after having surfed it on a board on Tuesday. I had an inkling that there would be a crowd today. I also figured there might be a little more energy in the water. The mat, then, was my weapon of choice; it actually gives me more freedom when surfing in a crowd. I can often take waves that others can't. I can also move over into the kelp while the board surfers do their best to steer clear of it.
The waves definitely had size today. Unfortunately, as the tide drained out quickly, the shape took a hit. After an hour and a half, I'd recognized I was ready to call it a day. I was simply waiting for the wave that would take me in.
Then I heard a guy scream something out. He only said it once, but it caught my attention because there was no hint of machismo in his tone. None.
I'm lying there on the mat, thinking about the tone of this guy's voice. At the home break, the locals will often jokingly yell "Outside!" to make newbies and non-locals nervous. Their tones, however, never betray anything more than mischief.
But this guy's tone was different. I was thinking, "Damn. Why is he screaming like a little bitch?" Yes, we chicks sometimes think and talk that way too.
So, I'm there on the mat, not moving, lost in thought. Then it hit me, he wasn't kidding. I looked up and saw something marching in.
What's interesting about my sessions on the mat is that my thought processes speed up. On a surfboard, I normally don't have a lot of choices about how to handle a big set wave that's rolling through with others behind it. I know I'm probably going to take a beating. I know I'm too far inside. I know I'm not going to make it over one of them. I just know there's going to be some hell to pay before that set is over.
On the mat, however, my choices are varied. It's not necessarily a given that you're going to get worked. So, I'm looking at this wave and I'm thinking quickly. In my mind, I'm deciding whether I can make it over that wave and what will happen with the others behind it. I quickly realize I can't make it over. I immediately have to determine whether I should duck dive it (and the subsequent waves), try to catch it or throw caution to the wind and belly it in no matter what happens.
I sized up the wave. It was big. I'm not sure how big. As they say, when you're on a mat, every wave is overhead. Nonetheless, it was at least head high, if not bigger. And it was going to close out. That was certain. But would it close out on me?
After much indecision (all 1.3 seconds' worth of indecision), I recognized that the wave would break just in front of me if I stayed where I was. My best bet, then, was to kick out to meet it . . . and drop in.
That was the best decision I made all day. The wave swept me up, closed out, bounced me around and, eventually, pushed me almost all the way to shore. I stayed on the mat the entire time. The whitewater made steering difficult. Nevertheless, I stayed on the mat and I stayed with the mat.
Prana is talking about being in a mat meet holding pattern. I'm ready, Prana. Let's do this!