A couple weeks ago, Pat told me about an Instagram video that caught me surfing Gooch's sometime in November or December 2018. Shot by Evan Loignon (evanloignon), the clips are part of an edit that spotlights a decent-sized day with howling offshore winds.
Once I saw the footage, it brought me back. I remember the day pretty well because there were just a few surfers out. It was pretty tough going. The combination of chop and gusts that made it hard to get the nose down to make the drop.
I'm riding my Driftwood Caravan "Sam," a board based on the "Magic Sam" ridden by Nat Young in the 1966 World Surfing Championships. His win that year helped propel a new "involvement" surfing style, which eventually leads into the shortboard revolution.
Like many so-called "Son of Sam" boards, my Sam is basically a traditional pig template (narrow nose, wide point aft) with very little nose rocker, a bit more tail rocker, and a gorgeous redwood stringer. It has very pinched soft rails throughout and, as required for a Sam, a long, narrow, swept flex fin. It's nice for me to see that I mostly surf it in the pocket, where it belongs.
After an awesome September for fall surf and a mostly satisfying October, November brought a sort of doldrums of surf to southern Maine. With fewer sessions available, and decent swell seemingly more rare than a snow leopard, I have been hunting down 2' waves in 35mph offshore winds just to get on something - or so it has seemed.
Just before dinner on Sunday, December 3, my friend and colleague Matthew called to ask if I'm planning a session under the supermoon. I could see the moon through the trees across my street because I was out grilling at the time. But I quickly dismissed him: it was already quite dark and I was about to head in for the family Sunday dinner.
But over the course of dinner, the thought sat in the not-quite-back of my head. I hadn't caught a really good wave in more than a week, and the moon was, as our president might say, "YUGE!"
At the end of dinner, I pulled up the Wells Beach cam to see what - if anything - I might see. Not much. I pulled up a swell, wind, and tide report, and things looked semi-promising. After checking in with the family, I threw gear in the car and a board on the roof before driving to Wells on a semi-hope for a 3' wave. Was I ever rewarded.
It was hours after sunset when I arrived, of course, but the sea, sand, and sky were nicely lit by Supermoon. It was tough to gauge the size of the waves from the lot, but it was clear that I'd at least get on clean, 2' waves while bathing in moonlight and ocean temps in the mid-40s.
But it wasn't 2'; it was a solid, consistent 3-4'! And clean. It was a bit tough to really judge position and time the waves. While the moon carve a long, runway-like swath of bright light across the narrow band of the ocean, outside of that band it was really tough to see the incoming swell. When I dialed it in, though, the near-dark drops were exhilarating. I caught perhaps half a dozen rights and at least as many lefts. Partly owing to the vision penalty, I often struggled to get the most from the waves, and there was a bit of a rip where I was set up, which pulled me too far outside over and over. But also got my share of 10-second rides complete with cutbacks.
The hardest part of it all, I think, involved finding and maintaining trim position on the face. The supermoon lit the lip right up, leaving a really dark (practically black) face and trough, which made it really difficult to judge position on the face. Going left, especially, I found myself riding up the face (towards the lit lip) and even off the wave - even with some conscious efforts to avoid that problem. It was interesting - and weird.
I've been thinking about it, and I liken it to driving a car into a pronounced curve. If you look to the inside of the curve, you'll drive right in and round nicely. If you let yourself look to the outside of the curve, you find yourself battling an outward drift that can actually be dangerous. I think my eyes were drawn to the light of the lip, and the board just followed.
December 3, 2017: 1 hour of night surfing under the supermoon at Wells Beach, Maine.
Autumn has been good for surf, which is a really good thing because the summer was just awful. Hermione produced some really clean head-high to overhead surf at the local break, and Matthew served up some decent sessions as well. I've been out in some of my biggest waves, and I'm mostly able to manage the drop, the turn, and the trim - even in lineups packed with surfers.
In between the big storms, we've had plenty of long period, midsize swell that's just great for logging. In late September, I made a commitment to cross step. While it has really compromised the quality and length of many of my rides, I've used the relatively consistent 3- and 4-foot surf as an opportunity to get comfortable moving fore and aft. I still head to the nose too early (or too late), but I'm pretty comfortable cross stepping my way around the board. It's still not pretty; I have a heavy-footed approach that I need to lighten up quite a bit. But I can sense the progress. I see it, feel it, and experience it in the ways I recognize what I need to do on the wave and quickly execute it.
In a moment of wild enthusiasm, I decided to develop a surf wax brand: Humanism's Surf Wax. It's a great wax for New England, and it has a history dating back to the gods and titans.
The Legend of Humanism's Surf Wax:
Invented by Hephaestus, god of fire and woodstoves, this wax helped Poseidon surf the ancient seas. Stolen from Olympus by Prometheus, the formula contributed to human flourishing for millenia. Its loss ushered in the Dark Ages. But fortune favors the curious, and Renaissance scholars found the lost formula while translating Homer's third epic, Kymatistá. This wax - now forged in New Hampshire for those strong in spirit, free in thought, and sound in body - may have failed Icarus. But it is perfect for New England. Enjoy!
The back story involves a trip to a local surf shop and discovery of the option for surf wax custom branding options out of New Hampshire.
I reached out to Jim at Jimbo's Surf Wax to get a case of "private label" Cold Water wax and got busy with a design. Along the way, I got a bit overzealous and ended up designing three distinct private labels (Lil' Crippsy Surf Wax and Ma Em's Noogis Surf Wax are the others) and getting Jimbo to put his special blend in my wrappers. Fun stuff.
To put it mildly, I won't be wanting for wax anytime soon!
The inspiration for my "legend" is the legend that appears on every carton of Newman's Roadside Virgin Lemonade, a great lemonade that pairs well with brewed tea in the Maine summer.