I stood on Rehobeth Beach in Delaware and licked my chops. Nasty waves were roiling out there, churned up by a hurricane in the Atlantic. Not often do waves like these bomb eastern shores - five-foot swells that take shape 100-150 feet out, rise to a foaming head and then crash with a roar. The shoreline at Rehobeth Beach drops off fast. Storm waves don’t gently roll in, all you need to do is listen to them. I’m a lifelong failed surfer (couldn’t figure out how to stand on the board) relegated to a gung ho body surfer. These five-footers looked like fun.
Wrong. I left my wife behind in her beach chair (“You’re not going in, are you? They’ve been warning people all week on Action News about the ripe tides and rough waves.”) Soon I was out where the swells formed, harmless looking green-gray humps that quickly rose to a gurgling white crest. The first five-footer I dived on to ride was churning and swirling. I stretched with arms out and hands touching. Then I had a belated stroke of insight: these aren’t body surfing waves. Then off the cliff I went.
As the crest broke I shot inside an underwater washing machine, the force of the wave turning me upside down, right-side up. A whole lotta shakin’ going on in three feet of water. I surfaced, too weak in the knees to fully stand, in time to be clobbered by the next wave.
My adrenalin was juiced. Where’s the next bad boy, I wondered, looking to the horizon. I caught another foaming little monster, tried body surfing again, rode high on the crest for a moment, and plunged back into that washing machine. This time I tucked into a ball, easier to bounce off the ocean floor. At least I didn’t feel like my arms were being ripped from my shoulders. Amazing power packed in a five-foot wave.