BY BASIL “CHIP” TYDINGS
For me, the search for magic and mysticism has always led me to Assateague Island. The waters washing over the sand bring healing when my soul grows weary. Hardly a day goes by when I am back in the Midwest going through my daily routine and my train of thought does not roll by that seashore. It is being on the ocean at Assateague when I feel closest to my Creator, my God. There I am able to shed the burdens that weigh me down with worry and clutter my vision. There I find clarity. I can narrow my focus on the path that was intended for my life so my next steps are in order and correct. When I planned my latest trip to come back east all I thought about was finding time in the schedule to make the hour and a half drive from Oxford to Assateague Island. Summer 2014 has been full of surprises and I needed a day at the beach. I checked Swell Info hoping for waves but good waves are never a necessity to have a great day at Assateague. Good waves are a luxury. Some salt water therapy was all I was after. Luckily enough there was that and much more. I had my day at the beach planned; then throw in some offshore swell rolling in from Hurricane Bertha, very light winds, and a few friends and you would title said day Paradise Found. Yes, I did find some clarity and my soul was soothed but I had one heck of a good time as well!!
Tuesday night I was nervous! I had not held a paddle in my hand for months and the forecast called for clean stomach to chest-high swells with occasional shoulder high sets. It sounded like a little much for my first day back surfing. I was going to take the JM paddleboard down with me to get out on the ocean and re-introduce myself to the power of Mother Nature but knowing that some good friends were going to be ditching responsibilities in order to take advantage of August swell also helped soothe the fear factor. I took great comfort in the fact that someone would be there to call my wife in case anything happened!
Upon arrival, it appeared that the forecast for Wednesday morning had been a little generous. The ocean was still glassy but the swell had dropped out a bit. (I can’t say I was disappointed, more like relieved!) I took the JM paddleboard out for a little stretch paddle through the surf and tried to catch some waves but was falling a bit short every time, sliding right off the side like a drunken seal. If this was how my day was going to go it was going to be a short one!
Note to kook self #1: DO NOT lather your stomach and chest with sun block if you plan to be lying down on your stomach and trying to paddle into waves…
It had been a while for sure…
Most of my pre-planning was done with Bryan Barton so when I came off the water the first time he was just pulling into the south end lot. This was perfect timing because he was kind enough to bring along an extra board for me to use. After a good warm up of swimming around and pulling myself back on the paddleboard several times, combined with the fact that the deck of the paddleboard was covered in Coppertone, I was ready to switch over to the stand-up vibe for a bit. Bryan handed off an Infinity Wide Aquatic, while he unpacked his custom Infinity Carver, and we headed out to the lineup.
If you were out in the surf at Assateague yesterday and complained about anything you should punch yourself in the face. What a day it was! Even though the ocean was crowded there were plenty of breaks to choose from to avoid a lot of congestion. When riding a wave you still had to keep an eye out but as long as you weren’t a wave snob you could find some worry-free spots and glide all the way to the beach without having to avoid a surfer or a boogie boarder or one of your buddies.
And there seemed to be plenty of harmony among us all trying to get our fill of waves. I didn’t hear any of the yelling you occasionally read about when the surf gets crowded and all are scrambling about on a mix of various crafts. No one was rolling around on the beach fighting; everyone looked happy enjoying the gift of August swell. A surfer and I met in the middle of one wave and we both peeled off. I tried to wave him on to continue because he had much better form. When we saw each other he was trying to give me the wave. I was waiting for the roll of the eyes but all we did was smile, nod hello, and share a laugh.
It was hard to beat being out on the ocean on the morning of August 6, 2014. The best part of the day was sharing all the fun with good friends. It was great seeing Ron, Brian M., Bryan B., Jeff, Brad L., and Matt from Endless Wave out in the surf. I even ran into some folks from Oxford I had not seen in ten years. A good day at Assateague is special but being able to share the fun with friends out in the lineup makes it all the more so. The only bummer about yesterday was driving home and not being able to see my wife and my mongrels.
For those who missed out and adhered to their responsibilities just know that there will be more days like this. All summer I have been seeing a lot of great pics and videos of my friends paddling. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit stewed from jealousy. After yesterday I think we can all be friends again! Now I can’t wait to get back in September when those swirly things that come up from the southern Atlantic might push some more swell Assateague’s way. There might even be some fun to be had this Saturday morning!
One more time I just need to thank Bryan Barton for bringing me a board to use. Anyone who knows me knows how hard on gear I can be. Bryan not only let me use his Infinity Wide Aquatic but he let me spend a lot of the day on his custom Infinity Carver as well! That guy showed me some serious trust. I was nervous as hell on that board! After spending most of the summer on my knees and belly it was a special treat to stand up and paddle once again. I had such a great time riding the Infinity boards. They were very forgiving and very stable for someone who had not held a paddle since May. I had one of the best sessions ever on those Infinity SUPs! Until I am able to bust up my own gear, Bryan, what are you doing this Saturday morning?