Finding joy in aligning symbology with the poetry of experience,
memory and storytelling, meaning and discovery.
In the waves —
the big ones, the farther out set,
what I call the third tier of rollers —
I find unbridled joy. I’m home again.
Being out there, you begin to see the beginning of a swell, say 300 feet out to sea — or the evidencing of an emergence.
Then it comes, and you can swim out to it. To prep for a ride. It rises like a mountain, then it reaches a kind of velocity and crests to a curl — and you’re either ready to ride from the top or the curl, or you dive down and swim through it.
Always, you keep your eyes to The Sea, since invariably, there are big swells that can pile on top of earlier sequences of waves and can overwhelm you if your back is to The Deep.
When the tide is in the middle of a progression or regression, the waves collide with each other, outbound, inbound — and they explode in vertical collisions, shooting straight up. During a storm, this energy is spectacular. And fabulous to be in the middle of this backwash. The Sea, this time, is roiling and lumpy with energy.
What I like to do is to keep swimming out, farther and farther, till I’m in the middle of the wildness, where big waves and rip tides keep pummeling me; it’s exhilarating and thrilling, adrenalized and riskier — attention and stamina play potent partners.
Seals are out there.
Whales too — out further.
Flocks of birds fly by, close to the water level.
They riffle by in wispy murmurations. Pelicans jabber, Canadian Geese honk in rhythmic winging, Cormorants cascade. The wind blows mist off the cresting waves, rain comes, there are bursts of sunlight — and meanwhile, you feel like you’re in the middle of a deep ocean storm — big waves, surging currents pulling you out and out, the Rip pulling you back to Her.
And salt, all over.
If you’ve ever gone river-running — kayaking or rafting — in a class 5 river; well, it’s like that. Only you’re not on a raft, running in one direction, but you’re being pulled in a multiplicity of currents.
Swim like your life depends on it.
Mostly we’re out when there is a “do not enter the water” advisory for the Washington Coast. The wave energy, measured in Joules — starts at 500 kJoules. 2000 kJoules is a warning sign on the Surf Forecast we use. We’d consider a minimum suit-up and run-out, at 5000 kJoules.
But the best is storm-warned [mostly winter]weather, with the big rolls, out at 14,000 kJoules. That’s when it’s best, the roughest, the wildness of the marine, salt-sprayed world all around you. When you’re swimming out that far, it’s spectacularly energizing — joy rejuvenates.
The best waves are called “overhead,” that is, they’re taller than you. That pushes out to 10, 12, 14, 17 feet curls.
Out there, swimming.
A small body board is your transit ticket.
And it looks like this: