Ok, I wasn’t really close to freezing to death. It’s called exaggerating, but in the more than two hours I spent in the water as part of the Surfing Ring of Honor there were definitely a couple times I uttered something about the possibility.
The details aren’t very exciting, so to keep it as short and sweet as possible, I was a very last-minute addition to the 511 surfers who paddled out past the Huntington Beach Pier, setting a new world record. With my highlighter yellow 2XL jersey and a handful of volunteers frantically reminding me to hurry I told myself, “Water’s been warm lately. Plus, this can’t take that long.” Opting to shave a couple minutes off my time by not slipping into a spring suit, I sprinted the five blocks from my car back to Main Street in boardshorts. Wrong choice.
Other than that, here are a handful of other observations from the world’s largest paddle out:
-It turns out setting a world record with 510 other surfers is both awesome and miserable.
-Awesome because you’re surrounded by 510 people celebrating something they love just as much as you do. Everybody smiles, shakas are thrown in abundance.
-Miserable because getting 511 surfers in the water to do any one thing besides surf takes some serious patience…and like I said, I was in trunks. Here’s why it all takes so long:
1. We didn’t just Braveheart it off the sand and into the surf. Everybody was organized by color on the beach (groups of 100) and from there, 25 people at a time were corraled up to the water. Of those 25, only five paddled out next to the pier at a time. It takes a minute or 60.
2. Some of the first surfers out didn’t feel like waiting for the other 500+. As expected, some of them jumped at the opportunity to catch some waves and put on a show while the rest of us stood on the beach. These guys were the lucky/smart ones.
3. Once we got out past the pier, we were told to paddle over to a giant color-coded swimming pool noodle thing. Great idea. Tough to execute.
4. Giant color-coded swimming pool noodle thing was actually supposed to be on the north side. Time for everybody to hook a section under their foot and paddle against the current.
5. Giant color-coded swimming pool noodle thing broke in transit. Now it’s just a free for all to get hundreds of drifting surfers north of the pier. P.S. I’m really cold now…
6. With giant color-coded swimming pool noodle thing out of the equation, everybody eventually decides it’s time to get organized. Surfers start collecting by color, but there are currently about 500 cooks in one floating kitchen.
7. That current. It sucks.
8. Two hours later, we’re grouped up and everybody grabs hands. Well, not everybody. But we’re trying.
9. FINALLY, all 511 surfers grab hands and it’s awesome. I’m still freezing, but it’s awesome.
-The Guinness World Records guy they send out to officiate should have special outfits for summer. He was standing in the sand head to toe in dress shoes, slacks, and a dark blue blazer with a Guinness patch/badge thing and a handheld counter. I’m thinking trunks and an aloha shirt under that blazer would be rad.
-As long as it took for this all to come together and for all the silly little speed bumps along the way, I’m sure plenty of people felt like throwing in the towel. The great part is that 511 stuck it out and hooted and splashed around the entire time.
-I’m not sure why this thought doesn’t cross my mind in the lineup more often, but it did on this day. “How many of these people right next to me are peeing in their wetsuit right now?”
-According to every chart I’ve dug up on Google now, hypothermia can start as early as two hours in water temps of around 60 degrees (F) with no wetsuit…so maybe I did almost die.
-Totally worth it.