The Best Wave of My Life
You've decided which wave of the set you want, so you go for it, hard - paddle to the takeoff spot, whether it's going to be a right or a left wave*, and when you've paddled to the exact correct position, you wait for the wave to arrive, turn towards the beach, and then paddle for all you're worth. You catch the wave, stand up, and drop in, either going frontside or backside to the wave, and then you find yourself in the perfect spot to either pull straight in to the tube, or make a bottom turn and then pull in. Charging it, in and committing yourself to a heavy barrel, is simply something that must be done to describe. The feeling of pulling in, getting completely shacked, and spat out through the end of a decent sized tube could be called amazing a thousand different ways, and you still couldn't fully describe the feeling.
So you drop in to the wave, see the tube forming up ahead of you, and make that decision to charge it through. Once you fully commit, you find yourself focusing so intently on that one all-important goal, making the tube, you drive your board ahead like a formula one racer, with a unique kind of tunnel vision that is both metaphorical and real... to travel through an ocean cave, a one of a kind piece of nature, as beautiful and unique as a snowflake, made of a perfect combination of water, energy, and adrenaline. You shoot down the spiraling throat of the tube, one so perfect that after you've traveled through, you make an amazing transition,getting born again, and like magic, time actually bends while you're inside the wave, and then you travel from inside to outside of the barrel, and back into the sunlight.
The wave of my life was at a far out of the way place called Salsa Brava, in the town of Pueto Viejo, on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. Things have changed since those years, the early 90's, but it is still the tranquil, beautiful, rastaman's beach with Costa Rica's heaviest barrel, as it's always been known for. On that day I'll never ever forget, the waves were absolutely perfect - double overhead, with the most amazing barrels just drilling their way down the reef. The wave there is primarily a right-breaking wave, but also has a tempting, perfect, and dangerous left as well. The left is an awesome, open tube, where you can reach for the wall and the lip and miss them both, it's so wide open. The left is a short wave, with a shallow coral area that must be avoided, but it's well worth it when the swell is small to medium, with the correct direction - from the east, but with as much north as possible. The right,which is the main attraction at Salsa, has two distinct takeoff spots - first peak, and second peak.
My wife and I had been in the US for a few months, and when we returned to Costa Rica, I took the buses back to Salsa, with her nice, trusty 6'6", a few pairs of boardshorts, enough money for rice and beans, and a tent. The swell was glassy and overhead, just as I had hoped. I admit I was nervous - the wave at Salsa is a heavy one, with serious consequences if you find yourself in the wrong spot. So I paddled out, so incredibly stoked to be back, and even though I was out of practice and not entirely sure how I was going to deal with a few months of no surf and a board I'd never ridden, it ended up being one of those days I'll never forget. I caught a few decent waves, saying hi to some of my rasta friends from previous year's visits and just feeling happy to be back, and then the perfect wave came.
It was on the first peak, the third wave of the set, and some local rippers took the first two and left wave number three all to me. So I paddled hard for the wave, with all of the incredible energy a heavy reefbreak like that contains, and dropped in, going right - backside to the wave. I pig-dogged* the right, was completely shacked on a wide-open barrel, and got spit out, hard; one of the few times in my life I've ever been spit out of a wave. I then dropped down, did a bottom turn, and carved back up the face of the wave and threw a big spray off the top. I dropped back down the face, still speeding fast, screamed in utter and complete joy, and carved up and over the back of the wave's shoulder. I had a smile on my face so big, I'll never forget it... and then I received the surfing complement of my life. One of the top-tier locals, a hard-charging local rastaman, paddled over to me, and with a big smile, shook my hand and told me "power, bra". That day was one of those days I'll never forget - I went from city life and a dead end job, straight to paradise within paradise - a perfect wave in a perfect place. It was, quite simply, the wave of my life.
*Going left means you drop into the wave and go towards your left. Seen from the beach, a surfer going left will be seen as going towards the right. The same concept applies to rights.
*Pig-dogging a wave means going backside in a barrel and grabbing your rail with one hand, while trailing your other hand in the wave's face.