I met Rico Moore when he lived in the Pacific Northwest. “Would Rico go?” is the phrase other who knew him might use on another day that is ‘almost,’ almost big enough, almost clean enough; some days even I would turn down. Rico has, obvious by his story, a lot of enthusiasm. When he broke a fin on a rock the waves wouldn’t clear, he made another of wood. Not a good fin; almost embarrassing, even; but his stoke was impressive. I know Rico moved to Maine or somewhere, but I’m still not sure where Fortune Point is. My guess is there are Fortune Points here and there, inside the harbor, around the point, in our dreams; always magical, certainly rare. Here’s Rico’s story:
“Surfing Fortune Point ”
by Rico Moore
The wind had been blowing at gale force for hours; and from the right direction. Derin and I knew the growing windswell would wrap around a favorite point of ours, creating a long right-hander, with a quick first drop, a wave that could wrap one hundred yards or so around the point. If you were lucky, or good, as Derin is, you could ride up and down this wave, get tubed, possibly, and end up around the corner in the bay, your head spinning with a view full of trees and sky.
The conditions have to be perfectly aligned for this spot to work, so it is rarely ‘on.’ It’s remote location keeps the people who watch it few. The tide has to be incoming, fully filled-in, and the wind has to have been blowing for twenty plus knots, over a long enough fetch, hopefully with a backing ocean swell.
So, rare; so rare. And secret. I can’t reveal where it is. I can say I surfed in the Pacific Northwest, then moved to New England; northern coasts with deep bays. If you’ve had dreams where almost perfect waves break off headlands into pristine coves, you may have imagined Fortune Point. I’m in Colorado now, but, in my dreams…
I was always excited at the prospect of catching waves at the Point. I’d watch the marine forecast. If there was a chance of gale force winds, I’d check the tide. If the winds and the tide coincided, I’d watch the buoys on my cell phone all day long—whether at work or at home, sometimes taking a run from my house down the trail, through the evergreens, to the beach that led to the point. I would sit there and watch the little rollers, trying to sense if they’d shape up into anything surfable as the tide filled in. I’d communicate to Derin by text.
A session at the point is a rare and fine thing. More often than not, something would be just slightly off, another ‘almost’, and we’d call it off for lack of rideable waves. The conditions on one particular evening, though, were shaping up to be perfect; building, each set a little bigger, a little farther off the rocks. I ran as fast as I could back up the hill to my house, texting Derin to let him know the status.
“Winds coming up. 35 kt,” he responded.
“The point is rolling!”
I didn’t wait for another response, knowing that Derin would be in his car in no time. He was probably just finishing up a home-cooked meal with his wife and daughter. I boiled water for a cup of nice, hot tea, grabbed my gear and threw it into the car, lashed my board to the roof rack, and crammed down a peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich as I drove as fast as was legal down to the point. Derin’s little truck was there, his dad’s old longboard roped on the welded roof rack. A big smile on his face, we locked hands and shared the stoke. He hadn’t been to check the surf, but we could both hear the waves thundering as the wind howled in the parking lot. “You’d better suit up!” I laughingly shouted.
It was a great sight, reassuring even, to see Derin’s truck in the dirt lot. Derin was always on it. He lived close to the breaks, like me, and was always on his phone checking buoys, tides and winds. He would run around the trails of the forested bays and headlands, feeling winds and looking for any signs of incoming swell, maybe seeing an eagle or an owl. Derin was one of the first people to introduce me to surfing these spots and he shared without holding back. He was a surfer in the sense of sharing a good session with a friend.
Over the year I lived in that area, Derin and I had more memorable surfing experiences than I can recount. When the point was on, we were extra stoked because no one else watched it like we did or even knew about it. That evening, we suited up as quick as we could. He wasn’t sure, I think, if I was just kooking-out on the conditions when they really weren’t that good. I’d been known to paddle out into anything for the hope of even the littlest ride. Missing what I described as, and what might actually be a nice wave at the point, however, wasn’t worth questioning. Missing waves by taking the long walk to check it wasn’t going to happen. We were going, it just had to be on.
I had to layer up with merino wool long johns beneath my wetsuit, which was too thin and full of holes and rips. After each session, I’d take to it with sealant and patches, trying to make the next session one in which the inside of my suit was dry(er), and I could stay out for another couple of waves. I also had a hood that attached to a wool-lined chest piece that went underneath my wetsuit. Of course, booties and gloves were a must in forty-eight degree water and putting all that on took precious time.
The waves were rolling in and we knew it. I was so excited that my heart was pounding and I fell down with my leg stuck in my wetsuit. That happened a lot. Finally, after struggling and finally suiting up, I followed Derin down the trail to the rocky point. We stood there and tried to get a sense for what we were in for.
When the point was working, the wind, out of control and sideways on the ocean-exposed side, was ripping almost offshore. Waves would hit the corner of the point, bend and stretch, and clean up into peaks and long-shouldered walls as the shallower rocky-bottomed water stood them up from the deep. The slight bluff kept the break slightly sheltered from the still-howling winds. They could roll in wild and, wrapping over several little sections, come to look nearly perfect.
We jumped in between sets and paddled out from the point up the line where the current was moving out and around the point. The deeper water made the waves more manageable to get over and through. Once in position, we’d float and bob in the swell, feeling the pulse of the wind in the waves and the whole sea beneath us. There wasn’t usually a whole lot to talk about, and if we did, any conversation was easily cut off by a rideable wave. The real conversation going on seemed to be the waves themselves, and the fact that we were sharing them.
Derin would be nearer the shore, sometimes standing on a rock to keep the current from taking him out of position. As a wave came, he scoped the shoulder length, making sure it would carry all the way around the point. He waited, and at the exact right moment, dove off the rock in front of the wave, made a couple of paddle strokes to catch it, popped up and started pumping down the line, ducking in and out of the tube as he flew.
I got so carried away watching him so that I forgot to look out, to remembr why I was there in the first place. Then a wave came. With a little bit of foam on its face, it stood up slow and tall at the corner of the point, its shoulder bending and stretching way out into the channel. I got my body and board in position and made a couple of deep paddle strokes. As the wave came I kept it in view of my right eye and paddled to the speed of its rise. As I felt myself lift up, I made two deep strokes and felt the bottom of my board, for an instant, lock to the face of the wave. By now it was pointed, at an angle, down the face and I popped up and flew down, sliding as I went, making a deep bottom turn as I looked down the line at the wave as it rose.
The speed of the paddle and drop were such that the following moments slowed down. I felt like I was moving in slow motion, each aspect of the wave face rising and clearly visible—the point from which the wave rose from the sea a place to contemplate the mystery of how things came to be. The boils, the contours of the rocky bottom a few feet beneath me could be felt with each undulation in the face of the wave. Luckily, on this wave, I stayed with it—stayed with the way the wave was shaping as it rose and broke, curving with the contours of the point. It wrapped all the way around the point, and as I fell off my board after the wave crashed out, I let out a “Woop!” of sheer bliss.
Derin had seen the tail end of the ride as he paddled back up the channel to the point. I followed suit. A seal popped up in the channel, no doubt surfacing for air between fishing attempts. It floated with the waves, rising and checking us out. “It’s your friend,” I said to Derin. He looked and me and smiled. With a bright, full-toothed grin, he looked like a sated wolf. The seal rose up in the air above the water, gave one last glance and curled, nose first, into the depths of the channel.
The gray skies were mirrored in the deep undulations of the sea. The storm clouds broke open up, and the setting sun shone— the area beneath the clouds filled up like a hall. The waves kept getting bigger and more consistent; longer, cleaner. We would trade off, riding them to their end around the point, turn right around, paddling up the channel to the take off spot. The storm clouds above us moved at the speed of the wind.
The strangest thoughts would occur. “Regard Derin as a mountain,” as if he were a natural thing just like it, apparently floating way off, volcanic, above the distant clouds. Strange thoughts like this came sometimes when surfing; maybe from the deep, with the waves themselves. There is also a strange feeling of abandoning oneself to uselessness. What use is riding waves to anyone but the one making the connection, having the fun? Does the ripple effect? What is the use of bobbing around in the cold, dark sea, ducking through waves crushing driftwood on jagged boulders? We didn’t care. It brought us in touch with pulse of all life on earth—the water—in its most abundant form, the Ocean, connected us to reality in ways no other act could.
The dusk was definitely coming on, and the hall made by the passing storm opened up even more. It started to rain and a rainbow arched across the horizon—across the sea and the mountains. Then it got brighter and the bright white of a seagull stood out against the gray sky as the bird soared on the same winds, just above the turbulent sea. The salted sand bluffs rose up above the water, topped with deep, bright green evergreen and deciduous trees. The waves kept rolling.
There are several phenomenon that happen when surfing, or thinking about surfing on land—one was the strange fact that when you’re not in the ocean, you’re so excited to be in the ocean, on your board in the rolling sets. When you finally make it out there, you get all the waves you can, but a serene feeling washes over you again and again until there’s no excitement left—only the peace and calm bestowed by the rhythm of the water. I guess it could be argued that this feeling extends out into our families, friendships and places of work. Even when the waves aren’t happening, there is still the chance they will again soon.
It was definitely getting darker now—to that point when it might not be the best idea to keep surfing. But because times like this at the point were so rare, we stayed out as long as we possibly could. We’d come close to getting our fill, and the storm clouds were passing. The sky had slightly cleared to the southeast and the big fall moon was rising, harvest-style, from behind the jagged peaks. I’d just paddled back up the channel from a wave which I could barely see, feeling my way down the face and the line of the curl. I sat up on my board, rising and falling with each wave that came and went, breathing deep, in time with the sets.
A nice one came in, bending around the point like a bowstring drawn taught. I turned to Derin and said, “go for it.” He turned, got into position, and as the wave peaked, paddled to its speed, falling as the wave rose—simultaneously weightless as he shot down the line on his board, which was inscribed with the words, “Arrow.” As he rode, rising and falling with the wave to keep speed, I watched him. Like an arm, the wave wrapped around the contours of the shore, into the bay, and on it, rode a slight, black-suited being—arms like tree limbs, swaying in wind. At the end of the ride, his silhouette was lit up by the light of the rising moon. The wash of the waves bright from the reflected light of the setting sun. Lights in the distance reminded me we were not that far from civilization, from regular lives, people who saw all, or any, of this, from behind windows. Or just didn’t see it. The session was over, so I caught a good roller into the bay and paddled into shore where Derin was waiting.
We stood there in darkness as waves thundered past. Our bodies, spent from the session, were fully relaxed.
“I’d better get back. Tirzah’s makin’ dinner,” I said.
“Yep, I gotta work early.”
We each said our private goodbye or prayer to the sea and walked away. The walk on the sandy trail back to the lot was always mellow, waves crashing all around and our heads filled up with wind and waves. We did our best to burn the memories into our minds so we wouldn’t forget—so we’d have an image to remember of what we were so excited for—so when we got to surf Fortune Point again, there’d be a chain of waves across days, stretching from the past into the future. The further back it went, the further on it’d go.