I’ve heard many surfers talk about their first wave, sometimes describing in vivid detail this action-packed rush-of-a-ride that first got them addicted to the sport.
I often wonder if they are really talking about the first time they caught a wave with a decent “face.” The first wave I ever caught was a sloppy, mushy, waist-high swell not really worth remembering.
So was the case with every wave for my first few weeks of learning to surf. When they did have some shape, it was my bad timing that always kept me riding mushy post-break swells.
My first face ride came in the spring of 1995 at Bob Hall Pier in Corpus Christi, Texas. The surf was a nice 4-6 feet, the highest it had been since I had begun learning to surf almost a month earlier. I was using a 7′ 6″ Wave Crest on loan from a friend.
I began paddling out into a cloudy, green and choppy ocean. After taking a pounding in the shore break, I decided to hold my position and rest while I waited for a good swell.
It wasn’t long before a nice one started to take shape. Using the pier as a visual reference point, I lined up my board and began paddling as if being chased by a shark. My arms were flailing furiously as the wave began pulling me up.
I thought I was going to miss it and slip over the top. At what seemed like the last second I began to feel a surge of forward motion.
Grabbing the rails of the board, I planted my feet. Everything grew silent for a split-second. Looking down, I thought I was about to get slammed onto the water’s surface 4 feet below the nose of my board.
That’s when the slight sensation of falling took over. I quickly leaned into the wave and, since I’m right-handed, broke quickly to the right. This was also when the split second of silence ended with the crash of the wave as it began peeling behind me.
As luck would have it, the wave was also peeling to the right nice and clean. Off I went like a rocket, carving up and down the face of the wave uncontrollably as I tried to maintain my balance. I rode it as far as it would carry me, milking the dying swell for everything it had left.
I realized many things after riding that wave. I realized what it was to ride the face of a wave. I realized the true potential of the surf on the Texas coast. Most importantly, I realized from that point on that I would always be a surfer.
You won’t necessarily remember the first swell you catch but you will definitely remember the first time you carved the face of a wave.