Initiation Day

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric Byrnes

When I finished playing baseball, I came back to Half Moon Bay and started golfing and surfing everyday…

Troy Dooley is a buddy of mine who went to Serra High School then played football at UCLA. He grew up in HMB and was familiar with all the best surf breaks from Santa Cruz to San Francisco…

The hardest part of surfing is putting yourself in the right position to catch the right wave.  I followed Troy’s lead and he put me in positions to score some killer waves that took my surf game to the next level.

(Next level is all relative, and I guess when you start at the bottom, there is no where to go but up, but I at least felt like I shedded my “kook” status in the water…)

After several months of ripping it up on waist to head high waves, I got a call from Troy saying we were going to Montara Beach North end and it was “thumping.”

“Come on dude, thumping? You never use that word… How big is it?”

Troy responded by saying I can handle it and to meet his ass in the parking lot. When I showed up, Troy was there standing on the rocks with 4 or 5 other dudes checking out the surf. It looked like a scene out of Riding Giants with Greg Noll and the boys standing on the cliff checking out Waimea Bay hooting, hollering and pointing as each set ripped in…

I walked up onto the rocks and what I saw was both beautiful and frightening… Giant double overhead waves rolling in and creating an apex that allowed for a surfer to go both left or right on the wave. The wave then crashed with such a force that I felt like the rocks we were standing on were shaking. (Although it was probably just my knees getting wobbly from fear of what was to come…)

Troy introduced me to the crew who were lifelong Half Moon Bay surfers and have been known to charge some of the world’s gnarliest breaks including Mavericks, which is right in our own backyard. Montara definitely wasn’t Mavericks, but it was big enough to get a bunch of Mav surfers excited to charge the lineup.

As I felt a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat, one of the surfers turned to me and said two words that would forever change my life….

“Initiation Day.”

F*ck.

He was right though; I needed to step out of my comfort zone and get initiated into the next level…

This was my initiation to becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.

This was my initiation to pushing limits of what I thought I was capable of.

This was my initiation to the next chapter of my life…

Was it dangerous? Yes.

Was I overmatched? Yes.

Was I capable of handling myself in waves producing 20 foot faces?

No idea but we were about to find out…

I did my best to follow Dooley out to the lineup but got caught in the inside break. The white wash was so forceful that duck diving the waves were not an option. I rolled off my board and swam as low as I could beneath the waves but was still tossed around as if I was supplanted into a human washing machine…

45 minutes of intensive, laborious wave dodging and I finally found myself in the lineup just beyond the break. I was out of breath, my arms were spaghetti noodles, and simply put, I was just happy to be alive.  Then, a gigantic set rolled in and I paddled further out to let the waves pass. When I went over the third wave in the set, I looked down and it felt as if I was looking over the edge of a monstrous building. When I finally caught my breath and got feeling back in my arms, I realized I needed to figure out how the f*ck I was going to get back in…

As terrifying as it was with waves I had never experienced in my my life, in order to most safely and efficiently get back to shore, I was going to have to make the drop.

After a good 20 minutes sizing up the waves and building courage, a set came from the outside and I began paddling with complete and total commitment. I then felt the wave jack up beneath me and I was now staring down a steep water cliff. As soon as I felt the board stabilize, I popped up to my feet, and as much as I wanted to try to go right, I headed straight down the wave at what felt like 90 mph…

When I reached the bottom, I tossed my hands in the air as if I had just crested Mt. Everest…

I then felt my board slow up almost to a stand still and the enormous wave slammed down on my head, knocking me to the base of the ocean floor in what I would describe as the most pleasant beat down of my life…

As I came up, I found myself inside of the impact zone and then rode the whitewater of the next wave almost the entire way to shore. When I got back to the beach, I sat there for a good 30 minutes, starred at the waves I had just endured, and thanked God I was still alive…

We are all going to face Initiation Day, and most likely, it is not going to be pleasant; it is not supposed to be.

Our first thought will be to run as far away from it if at all possible and avoid it at all costs…

Ultimately though, our ability to get into to water, paddle out and make the drop will have a far greater impact on our lives than we can ever imagine…

And oh yea, it has absolutely nothing to do with surfing.

🤙EB