Thursday, August 29, 2013

Intergalactic Champion

Intergalactic Champion...never has there been a title that I would rather don. Intense doesn't even begin to describe the 2nd annual Whomporama Intergalactic Championships of Bodysurfing in Carolina Beach. To say that last Saturday was an intense roller coaster both emotionally and physically would be an understatement. It was also the most fun I've ever had in a contest!  

The Scene: Surf rock and reggae blaring through the PA all day, interspersed with occasional bursts from an 8 year old little girl screaming "Whomporama!!" and "Keep the beach clean!!" in her most lovely shrill frequencies kept everyone at attention. It was not quite as frequent as the unaware swimmers drifting into the already compressed contest site, followed by head judge Peyton Chitty waving them in from the 6 knot longshore current and occasional rip currents pulling them conveniently straight out into the lineup. This continued throughout the day, despite beach marshall and contest director Alex Torres "warning" them about the dangerous bodysurfers. 
Gray cool NE winds greeted us in the morning along with drifty wedging shorebreak. The first round was wrought with destruction. Plenty of whomping, and I think I even saw a dislocated shoulder. I picked up a couple raspberries myself. The sun eventually came out though turning up the heat, and the tide dropped providing more challenge for us torpedo people (ref. "Come Hell or High Water: The Plight of the Torpedo People). I first realized that to pull away from the competition after losing the double elimination first round, I would have risk swimming way out in round two and milk one in from the outside to the sand. My friend Kevin Murphy had the same idea, but gave up half way into the heat after not catching anything. I lucked out though and patience paid off as I kicked myself in until my nose scraped the beach. 
The heats that followed were wrought with fierce competition to get the longest wave, the best line, and the most maneuvers. By the finals the four of us left looked like we had been marooned at sea for 48 hours. Sunburned, bloodshot eyes, noodle arms/legs, salt encrusted hair, and a blank stare out to sea. After running out of water earlier in the day I resorted to robbing nearby coolers of melted ice water. With one banana and a hand full of granola left I, along with my competition, walked slowly down to the water, as opposed to the usual sprint, at the final countdown. Reserving all my energy for those 3 waves to the beach that I knew I would need I swam out slowly way up current from the flagged off contest zone. The whole heat was kind of a blur of frothing, sprinting down the beach, and fending off full body cramping. 
In the end it felt like we all won based on the fact that we even survived all 5 heats. No one could say who won because it was so close. My wife had left hours ago as she reached her solar intake capacity for the year, and I had little energy left to be motivated to do anything except go home and cook dinner for her for even coming down in the first place. 

The bittersweet theme for me throughout the whole thing though was learning of my grandmother's passing. My dad and I had driven 19 hours straight out to visit her a couple of weeks ago because things weren't looking great. We had such a good time though talking, telling stories, laughing, trying to sneak her out of that dreaded hospital where she had spent the past 2 weeks. Once we had gotten her home where she was happy and comfortable, I noticed her energy level drop, but in a peaceful sort of way. She spoke of wanting to pass without the pain. Her desire was to simply lay on her side and fall into that eternal sleep we're all destined for...That morning after losing my first heat I got a call from my dad that she had been taken off any type of support and the doctors had given her about 24 hours. I distinctly remember during the final swimming out and looking back up halfway out and watching the sun dip down behind the clouds, which had resettled over the sky. A brilliant palette of oranges mixed with the grays and blues. I stood awkwardly in my flippers on that shallow sandbar silently saying goodbye with a hand full of tears. After it passed, the blur of the final ensued and I walked up to my bag to find the voicemail from my mom... 
It wasn't until late that night (9pm) when I was passing into an exhausted sleep that I got a text from my friend Meg that read "Hell yeah whomp champ J sun Andre!!!!!!! You are a badass sir! You're the intergalactic champ!!! Alien whompers got nothing on you!" I won!...the Whomporama Intergalactic Championships...WHAT?! No way! I cheered as much as one can in semi-delirious, half asleep, half super stoked state. A couple of days later I received my killer customized SLYDE handboard trophy and now have my sights set on hurricane season and the intense amount of whomping that will inevitably be occuring!
Thanks again to everyone for making it such an awesome day and for creating such an awesome community. Michael Sing for his awesome photography! Peyton, Alex, Ethan & Meg, Sean & Jess and the Surfrider crew! Ben and Keira, Kevin, James, Walt, Eric, Tweed, all the groms rockin the speedos, the Wilcox family, and of course my lovely wife Jada for her undying support of my adventures and ridiculousness! Thanks also to Jeff and South End Surf Shop, West wetsuits, Smith Optics, Dakine, and The North Face for your support and friendship!

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