Senior Editor

The Inertia

Surfing on the North Shore is different from surfing anywhere else. That famous Hawaiian Juice is a real thing, and it’ll surprise you. Conditions can change in the blink of an eye, going from playful little runners to a horizon blacked out by an incoming monster set. Having grown up sipping that juice, Nate Florence knows it all too well and he’s used to it. Still, though, even someone with that juice running through their veins can be taken by surprise. And late in March, when one of the final real swells of the winter season hit the 7 Mile Miracle, conditions were weird, to say the least.

“What we got on the menu is a long period northwest swell,” Florence said. “It’s super strange. Right now, it’s three feet at 20 seconds, so a giant period. Whenever this happens in Hawaii, it causes the swell to rise really doubled up.”

Aside from being taken by surprise by those sets, a few things happen when the period is that long.

“It’s overtaking the swell ahead of it,” Florence explained. “There are long lulls; it’ll look calm and flat. It’ll look like 2-4 foot Pipe. A 45-minute lull will trick you and get you out there and then a 10-foot mutated double up will roll in. Full steam roll set. Rip current goes from zero to 10. Back wash, so dangerous. So many people have been caught by that trick over the years.”

If you’re not attuned to how quickly things can change on a day like the one above, it’s easy to find yourself in a hairy spot. From personal experience, I’ve found myself paddling for the horizon, dodging waves far above my comfort level, attempting to get out the back to avoid being in the impact zone.

Eventually, I’ve found myself seemingly in the middle of the ocean, completely gassed from paddling for what feels like hours, shoulders aching and lungs burning, as yet another enormous waves feathers 100 yards ahead of me. It’s fun in a way, but also unnerving. The wave you finally decided to spin and go on is probably way too big if you’re in the position I was, but you’ll either get the ride of your life or get absolutely pounded and wind up on the sand, exhilarated and just a little bit more comfortable for the next time. That’s how surfing goes, right?


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