Famous Witches Rock

We pulled into Witch’s that evening, and just to be here…. I mean it was a cool experience.  To be in a place that you’ve seen only in movies and videos for the past 8 years.  Watching Wingnut and Robert August slash through the jungle, paddle across the lagoon with crocodiles, and finally emerge to find that perfect right.  Witch’s Rock standing guard in the background.  I mean every surfer who’s ever gotten up before sunrise to beat the crowds has dreamed about this place.  I had goosebumps as we pulled up next to the rock in the boat, and eagerly scanned the break to find….. small waist-high weak-kneed junk a lake could poop out.
 
Oh well, you can’t control the ocean.  I was still happy to be here, and Big John lent me his Big longboard (all 12 feet of it) which could probably catch a ripple from a pebble.  After surfing a 6’4" the past month it felt like I was riding a Blue Whale atop this aircraft carrier.  Even though it wasn’t as good as the movies (hey c’mon is it ever?) it was still sweet to be there, catching waves as the sun set behind Witch’s, out here in splendid isolation all by myself.  That evening we had a big feed of home-made burgers that I probably couldn’t have improved on back on the grill in Hermosa.  Over a couple beers, I asked if it was true about the crocs in the water.  He said oh yeah sure, he saw a few now and then.  Ummm…you ever ask a question and then wish you hadn’t?  Soon it was time to turn in and drift asleep on the mercifully insect-free, cool ocean.  I dreamt of green shapes coming up under my board and biting off my legs.
 
The next morning after a quick (and small) AM session John said we could try to cruise around the point to Ollie’s.  I didn’t know much about Ollie’s except that it was supposed to be another good right.  Some said better than Witch’s.  Well, at this point anything would be better so we raised anchor and cruised out.  I plugged in the ipod, found a good spot up top with the breeze, and went to work on getting in a good nap.  Suddenly, I hear a couple shouts, and then hear "Fish! Fish!"  John happened to have a pretty impressive tackle kit, and loved catching tasty fresh sushi while cruising from one break to the next.  We reeled it in and Juan gaffed a decent black tuna.  Not sushi but it would make for some killer tacos later.
 
Later on from up top I noticed something in the water.  I looked closer and I saw lightning fast giant fish swimming all around, in front of, then behind, then beside the boat.  I got down to the main deck and leaned over.  They were little dolphins!  I wedged myself into the front of the boat, where its bow hung over the water and I could stare all around.  The dolphins noticed me and came up to the front, surfing the boat wake.  Just playing.  A smaller one cruised easily just below me, turning his body to look at me directly with one of his eyes.  We maintained eye contact for what seemed like quite a long moment.  Who was studying who?  Then they got tired of us and zipped off.  What were they thinking, seeing me seeing them?  Do they think in ways we could understand?  Something about that direct eye contact was powerful and had left me wondering.  But in my lifetime we’ll probably never know, what it means to be think as a dolphin.
 
Big John catches some Dorado sushi
A little later and John called me down to take a look at another semi-secret break.  He explained how it was thick and bowly, like a miny Teahupo’o.  Just the mention of that gnarly wave (the heaviest in the world they say) put a lump in my throat.  We watched a set come in, and I could see how the wave broke near some rocks, then the face curved inward as the wave sucked up.  Yeah it was a big thick lip, but I had to admit it was make-able if it was just a bit bigger.  After looking at all the rocks onshore, when he suggested we continue on to Ollie’s I said "sure, uh, no prob".  Yeeeaah….I would prefer to tackle this beast later when I had some more waves under my belt.
 
We continued on around the bend into a wide bay, and headed for the far corner.  I could see even from far away a wave breaking a long way along the shore.  John confirmed it was Ollie’s but wasn’t sure how big it was.  I kept my hopes in check, I mean Ollie’s and Witch’s pretty much catch the same swell and it hadn’t been working at Witch’s too well.  We finally pulled up and dropped anchor… and waited.
 
Surf Porn at Ollie’s Point
A set came in, and I watched the first wave break near some rocks.  It kept breaking along the shore.  And kept breaking.  And kept breaking.  Then it broke some more.  Finally after about 200 yards it closed out on a sandy beach.  Each wave in the set did the same magical performance, breaking for a full couple of football fields.  It was a machine.
 
The wind was whipping, but it was offshore and the howling spray from the rooster tails meant that if you made the blinding mist-in-your-face drop it was hollow barrel nirvana.  I think I had to reach down and pull my jaw up from the bottom of the boat.  We didn’t say a word, I just sprinted to work on waxing up a board, slathering on sunscreen and cramming on a rashguard.  Juan got the dingy going and in less than a minute we were motoring over to the takeoff.
 
Jumping out of boat into the ocean used to freak me out back in Bali the first time I did it.  I mean, back home you have to work your way out to a break, you get hit on the head a few times, get the juices going and by the time you get to the lineup you are usually warmed up.  But jumping out of a boat directly into the lineup is like cheating.  You are still cold, you haven’t ducked any waves yet, you don’t know what you are getting into.  Lots of times you only see the back of the wave and don’t really know how big the face is.  Its just unnatural.  However, by now I had done it a few times and it wasn’t huge today.  And I reminded myself I’d done barrels over coral reef in Indo, over sharp shallow lava rock in Jbay, and both of those experiences were way bigger and gnarlier.  So by the time the first set came through I was ready to go for it.
 
But even so, the first time you try and catch a wave in a strange place is always a little scary.  You don’t know exactly how the wave will break, you don’t know what’s on the bottom, what critters are in the water, what the currents will do.  So I half-assed my first one and missed it.  And then the 2nd.  Finally I said f-it and paddled hard to catch the 3rd.  As I started to drop in, the wave started to feather and the strong wind blew right up the face.  If you’ve dropped in an offshore windy day you’ll know this feeling, but I could barely see with all the spray and mist in my eyes.  Its mostly surfing by feel at this point.  But I knew I had this one, as that familiar feeling of angling, dropping, and quick acceleration all came together at once.  It was bigger than it looked, as it always seems to be on hollow point breaks.  I felt the wave rising over my head behind me, curling into a tube, and at the bottom I turned and grabbed my rail to setup for the barrel.  But I hadn’t done a backside barrel since Indo and I had the wrong angle and not enough speed.  I watched helplessly as the wave in front of me rose up into a wall and then slammed into my head, flicking me from the board like a little fly.
 
The worst part about barrels is that even medium-sized ones, ones you can’t even fully stand-up in, have a ton of power as they slam into the water below.  After getting hammered, then going through the rinse and tumble cycle, I came up in the foam only to find myself standing up in 2 feet of water.  Holy crap it was shallow.  But to my surprise I found my feet on sand.  The whole bottom was frickin’ sand.  Oh man how cool was that?!  Here I was, on a perfect machine-like barreling right, all to myself, in warm-water, and the bottom was f-ing sand!!  I waited for the set to finish, watching the empty green barrels roll by one after another, then paddled back out to the lineup with a shit-eating grin on my face.
 
After awhile Big John came out on his carrier and for the next hour we traded wave after wave.  I was getting the hang of it, getting little barrels, riding the face, and then dipping back in.  It was incredible being on such a long wave in warm water with no coral below you and no crowd.  After the drop you had to pump once or twice to get up speed, then tuck in.  If you made it you had a little face, and then if the wave was just right you’d get a 2nd barrel at the end right before having to shoot into the air before the final closeout.  I loved that part…you could get quite a bit of speed and just get launched.  After awhile some more guys showed up, but they were mostly kooks that weren’t seriously challenging for waves.  Which meant more for me.
 
However, this one dude showed up on his own board he’d made here in Costa Rica.  A local.  And watching him score barrels and waves was almost more fun than me riding my own.  He’d drop in late, pull a crisp bottom turn, pump hard and setup deep inside with loads of speed.  Paddling back out, I had a great view watching him just get slotted.  The guys who saw it would just hoot, I mean you can’t help but get stoked watching someone get it so good, seeing that just fires you up to get some yourself.
 
After an awesome fish taco lunch (fresh as you can get baby) it was straight back in the water.  I surfed, surfed, and then surfed some more.  John and I had our Motel 6 parked right there, so as one boat and then another sped off back to shore, we yelled "see ya later, sorry you couldn’t stay!" then just laugh.  Soon it was just me again, like it had been that morning.  I was tired but this was too good.
 Fiery skies on the way back home

I stayed until it was almost getting dark, getting every wave I wanted.  Being by myself again, with dusk setting in, I started to get a little nervous.  John had told me another story of shooting video at this place.  Once they got back home and looked at the video, they found something odd in the lineup.  This little grom was surfing the wave, and remembered seeing some weird rock.  Ha.  Wazzunt no rock, wazza croc bruddah.  So, when I saw a bunch of fish jumping right near me, and then a small dorsal fin pop out of the water and then another dorsal fin, I freaked out.  I pulled my legs onto the board for a minute, looking to see where the sharks had gone.  They were probably small but I wasn’t taking any chances.  F- this.  At least with another person in the lineup you chances of getting bit drop to 50%.  I was outta here.  Exhausted, but with the adrenalin from the day still in me, I finally called it a day limped back to the boat.  I had been in the water for 9 hours.  Now that’s a session.  A perfect day.
 
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