Surfing Cane (sort of)

Two weeks ago in this column, I vowed to do my best to surf at Cane Garden Bay


the day after the paper came out. This, I explained, would fulfil a promise I made in the fall to surf there this season.

Sadly, it didn’t happen that week. The waves were just too small.

I know this sounds like yet another lame excuse to weasel out of a task that I find terrifying. But it’s true.

At Cane, until the waves reach a certain size — known technically in surfer lingo as “freakin’ enormous” — only the most experienced surfers can safely navigate them without crashing into rocks. Since I don’t particularly enjoy crashing into rocks, I decided to pass it up.

Instead, I went to Josiahs Bay that week. There, the waves were so big I considered turning around and heading home.

Then I ran into a lifeguard friend who often gives me surfing pointers. I didn’t want him to think he had coached me for the past four years only to have me chicken out at the sight of large waves. So I went in.

After getting battered for about 20 minutes trying to paddle past the breakers, I wanted to give up and let myself get washed back to shore. But I was embarrassed to admit defeat with my surfing coach and his friends looking on from the beach.

I finally made it, and I sat on my board for several minutes catching my breath.

Soon an enormous wave welled up, breaking at exactly the right spot for me to catch it. I held my breath and paddled as hard as I could. By some miracle, I got on. By an even greater miracle, I stood up on my board and didn’t fall off.

It was the biggest wave I’ve ever surfed, and I rode it all the way to the sand.

After I reached the shore, elated, I looked around for my surfing coach. He and his friends were nowhere to be found. And the only other surfer in the water that day was facing the other direction, trying to catch his own wave.

In other words, my moment of glory was entirely undocumented.

Another chance

Even after catching the biggest wave of my life at Josiahs Bay, I was embarrassed to admit in last week’s paper that I failed to deliver on my Cane Garden Bay promise. I planned to let the topic drop and hope no one would notice.

Then I got another chance after last week’s deadline.

On Thursday morning, I got word that the waves at Cane were definitely big enough for first-timers. Left with no more excuses, I went.

Cane is intimidating right away. Most surfers enter the ocean off a dock and paddle through a section of choppy, fuel-smelling water to where the waves break around the bay’s northeastern point.

As I paddled out, I got a surfer’s-eye view of two distinct sections of surf at Cane. Just off the point, experienced surfers whiz past rock shoals. Farther into the mouth of the bay, less advanced wannabes can float on the edge of the action, catching the ends of waves while minimising the risk of getting tossed on the rocks if they screw up. Needless to say, I chose the latter section.

Several enormous waves formed there. Each one of them terrified me and caused me to paddle away from its breaking point as fast as I could. For the most part, this technique saved me from getting pummelled. Unfortunately, it also kept me from catching a single wave.

The closest I came to surfing was when a particularly large wave broke over my head, rolling me over and over and washing me toward shore.

Keeping a promise

Thus, I’m afraid I can’t report that I’ve surfed Cane in any conventional sense.

Still, I didn’t want to come away empty-handed. So when I got back to the office on Tuesday, I surfed the Internet for definitions of the word “surf.”

At first, I was disappointed. According to most definitions — such as Merriam-Webster’s “to ride the surf (as on a surfboard)”  — I definitely did not surf Cane.

However, the Free Online Dictionary provided me with the alternative definitions I needed:

•  “to move rapidly and easily through a particular medium;” and

• “to be carried on top of something.”

Though these definitions refer primarily to the Internet and to a crowd, respectively, I don’t see why they can’t also apply to Cane Garden Bay. When the wave broke over my head there, I definitely was “moved rapidly through” the ocean, and then “carried on top of” the water.

So by some definitions, perhaps I did surf Cane this season. And the next time I go, there’s a small chance I might even manage to ride a wave on my surfboard.

Disclaimer: Dateline: Paradise is a column and occasionally contains satirical “news” articles that are entirely fictional.