Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bragging on a friend's writing

Note: I have known Chuck Steward since he hired me to take his place as sports editor of the Alice Echo-News back in 1984, as he moved up to the managing editor's post. I have seen Chuck's writing improve over the years, and I am very glad he shares some of his works with me. I feel blessed, as the following narrative entry will tell you. He took the photo of the seawall, too.

Tales of Brave Ulysses

Tuesday July 22 Hurricane Dolly is still in the Gulf approaching Brownsville.

I arrived at Horace Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas at about 1:45 p.m. The waves were breaking just beyond the "T" at the end of the pier and coming in hard and fast enough to send up big splashes as they rolled through the concrete pilings beneath.

There were a few more surfers here than usual, especially for a Tuesday afternoon. On the beach the sargassum seaweed along the shore stunk like something dead and the sand in this area had a gooey feel as one walked through it. The water, however was very clear with just a little seaweed. There were no breaks near the shore. The first set looked to be about 150 yards out.

As I got into the breaks I noticed the water had a shove from north to south and there were pockets of colder water as I paddled to the second set. It was exhausting paddling my 205 lbs. on a longboard. I had to try and maintain my place in the second set (five to seven feet high) and catch my wind. I was very tired and I hadn't caught a wave yet.

I finally jumped a break of the rolling thunder variety: A slope with white water at the top that gradually rolls down. There was considerable force in the waves as this slow roller took me about 200 yards to near the shore. As I turned to go back out I saw some surfers coming in from the outer breaks beyond the "T." They were catching rides of 500 yards or more. There were times it appeared there were surfers dancing on waves to the front, the left, the right and even behind me. They were everywhere. There were a couple of kite surfers catching the wind and the waves. Their kites looked dangerously close to the pier a couple of times. Also, I saw one surfer hugging the pier a little to close where he had to bail just before he hit a piling. He kicked his board away from the pier before flopping in about a yard from the pier.

The water continued to be inconsistent. There would times when there were long spaces between the waves and other times when there five or six waves within a few yards of each other. There were also swells that came from all angles make what looked like a good wave become flat surface in an instant.

The next wave I caught was a nice clean break, but within seconds after catching it a cross wave cut through my wave at a 45 degree angle and boom! I hit the water butt first in an instant and was tumbling in the sand.

The next wave was probably my best of the day. It was a clean wall about seven feet tall. A north wind had picked up and the waves were lining up clean. As I peeked back I could see this one had my name on it. It was swelling up with a fine curve and slope. I paddled hard for this one. I caught it at the upper lip and dropped in nice and smooth. It broke behind me and I cut toward the north over glassy water with enough momentum I could "ride the line" with considerable speed. I have no idea how long this lasted...time stopped. Sometimes the water is your friend. It is very rare when I have caught a wave like this where it has the speed to shoot you along near the top of the crest just before it breaks. These are moments when you rule the world. Nature has crowned you with sweet grace.

I nearly caught another wall like this when a kid on a short board cut in from below. I pulled back and watched as the kid jumped in. It must have been a strong fast it looked like he was going to fly like a rocket on this wave. He did. It shot him off and over his board in an instant. He was airborne and flying fast. He came up moments later so I knew he was okay.

I went toward the shore for a breather when two teenage girls approached me and asked if they could try. I launched them both after I told them the usual, "Keep your belly button on the board and your toes at the back." They both enjoyed nice "boogie" rides. While one asked to do it again, the other came back with three more friends. All five girls had nice rides and one of them even stood up for a few seconds. They said they were from San Antonio. I told them they could tell their friends back home they surfed in Port A during a hurricane and have the witnesses to prove it. The parents of one of the girls both thanked me. I thought of my son Casey, at work, and how much more he would have enjoyed letting five teenage "sirens of the sea" experience the thrill of shooting across the water on a surfboard.

When I went to my truck for water I saw a fellow about my age get out, put his board down and look out at the water. He continued to look as I drank my water. After the water break I went back out and caught a few more rides before calling it a day. Two of these rides were "on the line" including one where I zoomed by a couple of girls in chest high water who looked up at me with their jaws dropped. I smiled and shrugged like it was nothing. Actually, I was gassed. Back at my truck, the man who had appeared to get ready to surf had put his board back and left.

When I got back to Rockport I could barely get out of the car. I took a long hot shower before I felt half human again.


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