Locals, barrels, karma, modesty and respect

Girmantas | Surfing | October 29, 2015

From Nazaré to WSL Portugal to Asturian beaches – Atlantic low pressure system light up the entire Western Europe with the first winter season swell. While magazines interviewed big wave surfers getting ready for the season, we’ve decided to meet the big swell in big spots. While Rodiles and El Mongol are infamous for localism, it was the last day for Algimantas and Domas, thus we couldn’t miss a chance to feel true vibe of Asturias.


We went to Rodiles on a low tide and immediately saw a bunch of locals paddling close together. The first set came through and the first waves uncovered it’s perfect shape. Mikas immediately refused to go out and fight for a wave, while Domas smirked at lefthand barreling wave and grabbed a photo camera instead. In the meantime Algimantas, Marius and me got ourselves into wetsuits and paddled out.


Last year conditions were much more solid, there was less locals and the ones that stayed around were much more friendly. This time Marius got shouted at just as he paddled out, while Algis received his share just by taking a look at the wave and by no means disturbing anyone. There wasn’t much left for me, except for trying to not escalate the conflict and sneak a wave or two from down under.


The waves looked really sweet, but it was too tight in the lineup to get anything from the locals. And a few of them were really good at it, getting covered for a second or three. Paddling around for some time we unintentionally got closer to the bunch that immediately ended by one of the most aggressive ones (not the best surfer in the lineup by any means!) clearly declaring his intentions by pushing Marius board towards the shore.


The next stop on our schedule – El Mongol. The break we can see through our window. The wave that we scored the best righthanders last year. We were pretty hungry and the tide seemed a little low, thus we went to have some lunch. And that was our mistake. The tide started pumping in and by the time we got to the lineup, there was a handful of locals already. While the setup and surfers were a little more friendly than Rodiles, some aggressive ones kept their position on top of the point.


Marius, again, was the one to be the first one to attract the attention. This time, however, he decided to use different tactics and while four-five locals surrounded him and was shouting things that he clearly did not understand, Marius kept his cool and in a calm tone tried to understand what do they want. They all agreed that only locals can surf on the point and others should go to the inside for the smaller waves and Marius had to paddle away from the guys. Few minutes later a nice set came through and the big guy didn’t catch a single wave. Marius, smiling ear-to-ear, yelled out “Karma”. The big guy took it as an insult at first, but when he understood what was told, immediately refused to acknowledge that and blatantly replied that he does not care.


And here the fun part started. Other guy from the point asked me where are we from and was genuinely surprised after he heard Lithuania. He yelled that to the big guy and to his “Aaa Lituania!”, Marius replied “Yes, basketball!” with a mean smashing of his fist to the palm. We all laughed out loud and the atmosphere has changed drastically. Not a single local glowered at us that day anymore. The big guy, in the meantime, caught a wave and paddled by to introduce himself, say sorry and shake a hand. That was nice gesture, especially since he have got to put some extra effort in paddling to each one of us, scattered around the lineup. We were left puzzled, what has Lithuania done to surfing world and from whom are they protecting their spots? Karma.


And to be honest – we were being modest! We’re the guests here and on top of that nature usually helps to put all ambitions aside. Localism is a strange phenomenon nevertheless, nobody owns the ocean, do they?! Unfortunately there’s not much logic in all of this. On the other hand, fights over the waves have reached shootings already. Anyway, we’ve also received our chance to feel humbled.


Locals started to paddle in and we were happy that the lineup cleared up a little, caught a wave or a drop ourselves. What we didn’t take into account – the tide was pretty high tonight and with that high tide we received probably the biggest set of the day while on the inside. Marius and Mikas was a little further out while I was paddling back out after unsuccessful drop. I had to meet the wave in the worst possible position. I dove under the wave and immediately felt how my board leash slipped off of my ankle.


“Shit, the board is gone! How will I paddle back in? High tide will bring the board over the rocks! Where do I come in without a board? The board probably will be smashed to the wall! Where’s Marius and Mikas, are they safe, will they be able to assist me? Shit my second board is also broken! How will I surf for the rest of the trip?”, all these thoughts passed my mind before coming out of the water. I dove under the second and third waves of the set, paddled towards Mikas and grabbed his board tail for a moment to figure everything out.


We started paddling towards the shore and saw how the big set is washing towards four meter wall at the beach. Water splashes another four above the pavement. Local surfer, who obviously came out minutes ago only for the big ones, told us to be aware of the currents and advised paddling towards the bay with the current and come in to the shore there. I’ve weighed pros and cons, but it was already obvious that paddling together isn’t really working neither for me, nor for Mikas. I caught my breath and paddled away, against the current, straight to the shore. Looking around for my board with a little hope I’ve worked my way towards the closest stair, while Marius and Mikas decided to see how it goes for me and let another big set go through.


Diving under the big ones and bodysurfing the foam I’ve got closer to the wall. But the water currents were insane here! Huge amount of water moving all over the place, backwash of the wall pulls you back to the ocean, set waves pushes you towards the shore. While paddling frantically I realized that the bottom should be pretty close. Reach my foot out – it’s there, just a little deep. Another few strokes and I set my foot on the bottom. I hold up to the wave without giving an inch and notice a big rock, towards the wall. I figure, if I reach the rock, I can hang on to it for as long as I need to. A gap between the waves, several energetic strokes and I have my hands wraped around the rock. I look back and a big set wave breaks right in front of me. Just as the wave passes and the water starts going out I paddle-run to the stairs and grab a handrail. I’m on the shore. Three Spanish guys run to me to see if I’m ok and offer help. I climb up the stairs, turn around and see my board.

I had a feeling immediately, that there’s only half of it and it was confirmed seconds later. Backwash wave caught my board nose and  throwing it at the set wave launched the unfortunate nose four meters up the air. Just like here: https://instagram.com/p/qNWDP9kxse/. Check. Asturias didn’t disappoint this year at all. But I don’t care about the nose, where’s the tail? Fins, pad, leash – half the board price is there! Walking towards the bay I notice my board tail. Several locals watched my struggle from the beach, a few handshakes, jokes and I keep moving after my board parts. I run quickly down the stairs and recover the nose in between the waves. A few minutes later the tail sits on the sand right by the wall. The only problem – there’s a meter and half deep water moving in all directions between me and the tail. I couldn’t time the waves and run to the board, before the wave catches it and the current takes it away. Bye Bye.

One time is never enough

In the meantime, Mikas and Marius didn’t make it my way. On the other hand, I bet they didn’t really want either. Following the current they made it halfway to the bay, towards city center. I figured, I could follow my board at least until I meet them and then decide what to do. A big set comes through and puts the entire bay on lock-down. Huge walls of water starts closing out as I watch the two paddling stroke after stroke, third and the fourth straight up the hill. Oh, there might be some other board parts as well! Hope they’ll make it OK. They duck-dove under the wave and luckily appeared on the other side, I sighed. I bet they did so as well. By then a wave catches my board and I watch it being thrown with multi-ton power to the wall right at my feet. Fins first, of course. Spray goes up double over my head and without a single drop falling on me goes back to the ocean. Here goes my hopes for the fins.

I loose Marius and Mikas behind the corner, because my board gets really close to the wall and starts moving fast towards the shore. I run ahead and take the stairs down to meet the board. A wave brings it as close as 15 meters and I start wondering: should I go now or maybe I should wait for it to get closer? It seemed like a gap between the waves and the currents might catch the tail again. Oh what a hell, I’m in the water, few strokes and I have it in my hands. And I immediately realize that while everything up until now was clear and organized, this was my first big mistake of the day. The current starts pulling me away from the stairs and out from the wall. I put the board under my chest and start working hard against the current. With a little foam I get closer to the stairs but miss the handrail just on the outside. “I should’ve put my leash on first”, goes through my mind as I scrape on the wall and somehow reach for the handrail, with my board in the other hand. For the second time today, I made it, I’m on the shore. I come up and see Marius and Mikas walking behind another corner in a city backdrop. All good. Everybody made it safe.


Just like in a joke – you want some respect in a cell? Kick the biggest, meanest guys ass. Almost the same in the water. You have to shut the meanest in the lineup, or catch the best wave, drop, washer or some other crazy thing. Last year it was some elevator drops in Rodiles that helped to gain some space in the lineup, this year we made some friends due to Marius cool and calm attitude. The next day I met a couple surfers who have been in the water with us, each one of them greeted with respect and asked how did it work out with my board and how my friends made it to the shore.

And for the locals – don’t forget about karma.

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