It was an early Saturday morning in the waning days of November. Being late November the air had a bit of a bite in it. The sun peaked in and out of the high cloud cover when I woke up early as I usually do and gave my black shepherd Storm a quick walk before trekking back to put the coffee on.  I started scanning the internet for the usuals:  Surfline, Windy, and the weather.  The old buoy I usually relied on was offline (again) so I wasn’t able to get a clear read on the wave height. 

I’d been keeping an eye on a recent swell coming up the Juan de Fuca.  It didn’t seem like anything special really, but then you never know with all the angles in the strait how the swell will truly react once it arrived. It was a northwest swell which usually bodes well for the strait, and there was that 16 second period which was another positive for what I had in mind. I’d gone to the local watering hole a number of times already this fall because of promising swells and it had come up snake eyes every time.  With Surfline promising 6-8 feet, it really was a roll of the dice to see if this swell would wrap around the headlands like it needed to in order to work.  

Miranda must have seen my procrastination already with the humming and hawing.  “Get your gear and get outta here!  What’s the worst that can happen? It’s a beautiful day - at least you’ll get some fresh air”.  Almost in a silly, begrudging way I slowly started the process of getting ready.  The tide wasn’t going to be optimal for a couple hours anyways. I had plenty of time to make the drive.   

She was right. It was a beautiful day.  The road slowly shifted to being tree-lined by the forest and the houses faded away. I enjoyed the wonderful nuances of the evergreen filtered light as I raced past the stands of fir and hemlock.  

I gathered my equipment and headed out through the trail down to the break.  It's a neat spot. As you descend, you pass giant Sitka Spruce and Red Cedars.  You can hear the ocean and, if it’s good, you can hear the unmistakable crack of the waves on the shores below. This day, it didn’t sound bad. The final corner tells the tale.  If the swell is working you’re gonna be able to tell.  It was working. Surfers were doing their best to tame her, but she’s a tricky old wave.  The takeoff is steep and if you hesitate at all it’ll snap shut on you before you can pull into where you need to be. Taking off deep is essential.  There’s not many around here that even bother trying to get into her jade laden barrels, or for that matter know how to do it.

I headed for my usual spot, looking out at how the break was working. I pulled on my suit and tried to dial in my camera settings for the bright November skies.  My housing didn’t allow me to change settings once in the water so I wanted to get it right. I did the arduous back kick out. Not too bad this time. I managed to time the set right and really didn’t have to duck dive to get to the lineup.  

Once out in the lineup, it immediately became clear to me that one surfer knew how to handle this wave. Michael Darling had come out and was having his way with the swell.   It was easy to focus on his surfing and within a couple sets he pulled into a perfect Juan de Fuca barrel rolling it’s way through the old growth. I knew I’d gotten what I came for:  the shot I wanted.  I was more than stoked.  What a perfect afternoon.  

I stayed on for a good amount of time longer just for the fun of it, putting off the kick back in as long as I could. There’s a rip here and timing a lull is difficult because eventually if you don’t break the wash quick enough, you risk getting a healthy shore pound. This time it worked out.  I got to my log and immediately checked my playback.  There it was, exactly the shot that I’d been hoping for. There was even a collection of shots exposed just the way I’d planned with the velvet green colors and soft light.   Michael came out shortly after.  I said hi to him and Em Baxter who had been out shooting video of his session.   

It’s not warm on Vancouver Island in November by the ocean, temperatures regularly hovering just above freezing on clearer days.  I quickly changed out of my suit, threw it in my dry bag and started back on the trail to the car.  It was a good drive home.