Allrightey mates, let me tell you a story about Thunderin' Tuesday and the wind that just wouldn't stop. It all started the evening before as we sat on the hillside at Port Sheldon and waited for the wind that never came. There was something in the air, that was as vague as it was evident.
The three of us stared down on a tranquil Lake Michigan, that was forecast to have about a 6 foot swell running down it's shoreline. Instead, we were looking at a lone whitecap or two, and a lake in a slumber. The wind proceeded to die altogether, so we sat back, opened up a Shorts and took in the delightfully calm afternoon.
As evening approached the clouds began to darken and dominate the sky...snuffing out the sun. With no rain evident, we decided to simply watch the Big Wheel turn. The lake was free of any wandering sheep, and the currents were beginning to take hold and swirl its' tranquil surface.
Suddenly a single shaft of sunlight shone a brilliant sunspot on the Big Lake about 3 miles from shore. Jimbo, Greg, and myself watched as this spot grew in size and intensity, slowly turning into a whirlwind of light that lasted for several minutes. We all acknowledged that it was a sight like none of us had ever witnessed. We didn't know what it meant, but we knew it meant something.....something that was as vague as it was evident.
The next day as I sat on the shoreline between St. Joe and South Haven, I knew exactly what it had meant. After riding the swells generated by a southwest wind that had kicked in round about midnight the night before, I knew exactly what it had meant. The wind had been blowing for 10 hours at 30 to 40 knots, the swell was running at 8 to 10 feet and building, and the sun was shining with a brilliance I have never experienced....blue skies so BLUE, that there will never be a more BLUE day....with a sun so yellow, it had to be the true color of sunshine. Sitting on the sand with the surf lapping at my board, sand blasting down the shoreline as side-shore as side-shore ever was.....I knew exactly what it had meant.
Big T, Blueberry Bob, and Todd G. joined Greg and I in St. Joe earlier Tuesday morning and we rigged up some small kites and headed out for South Haven at about 11. It was already classic at Tiscornia, and the day was just beginning. As we began our downwinder, you knew it was going to be something special, nothing vague at all about that feeling.
Jimbo was coming in from Kalamazoo and was going to be about 45 minutes behind and would have to play "catch up". It was so super smooth at Tisc, it was hard to even leave, but what lay ahead was pure MADNESS!! We began winding our way down the first several miles of the 23 mile trip, with smiles as big as Texas, beaming from our faces.
Within the first several miles of catching wave after wave with turn after turn, I realized it was going to be a day of 1001 bottom turns. My 7m was nicely powered and the wind was just going to pick up the entire way....I knew I would be drained at the end of this downwinder. There was no pacing though, every single wave that called my name bore a slash from my 130!!! Wave after wave, building to 10 to 12 feet by the time we hit mile 12.....and by then my 7m was LITTTTTTTTTTTT.
Shortly before hitting mile 12, I saw that yellow and red 9m REV headed like a "bat out of hell" down the coast. The cavalry was coming, and it was ALL Jimbo. He proceeded to smash the wavefaces, and do railgrabs from 30 ft up all the way down. As I sat on the shore and basked in the sunlight of Thunderin' Tuesday, and watched all my buddies just shredding up the BIG LAKE....I knew exactly what it had meant!
We gathered at mile 12, did some "fist bumps" and carried on like wayward mariners sometime "carry on". Now it was pumping, the waves were jumbled at times and smooth as silk at others. We would hang in places that offered a clean, smooth, big, peeling wave and cruise past sections that were not as SWEET. As we went down the coast, trailing each other, sometimes sharing sets, sometimes waves; we must have been quite the sight, with our different colored kites weaving through the BLUE.
By the time we got to the power plant, 6 miles or so from South Haven, there were no more small sets....it was just set after set of double head-high waves....at times you were able to get up to 8 turns on a wave, kick out, turn on the next set and carve up another 6. All the way down to South Haven. Sand dunes, rock cliffs, white beaches, forested hillsides.....all framed by BLUE, not a cloud in the sky all DAY....I knew exactly what it had meant.
I milked it for all I could at the power plant. Some of the nicest waves I have ever seen on Lake Michigan. By this time, it was Greg and I bringing up the rear; trying to use every bit of energy we had to just make it last a little longer. (A MAGIC moment is fleeting and one you just don't want to LET GO.......although as I write I realize it hasn't gone anywhere, it's still here, and I'm still there in the magical glow of the afternoon BLUE of Thunderin' Tuesday.)
As we approached the lighthouse in the distance, the beaches that had lined the coast for much of the way, gave way to a rocky shore lined with trees. The waves that were breaking on the outside were reforming into unbelievably clean 6 to 8 foot sets that were relentlessly pounding the shoreline. With Caution thrown to the wind, I went in with my head on a swivel and my board carving on a dime. The smoothest waves of the day awaited my arrival....I did not disappoint....board and wave became one as I simply melted into the moment....the magic moment. All the way to the jetty I sped, spray in my eyes, wind in my hair....heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside, heelside, toeside.....racing down the rocky shore, on through the BLUE day with the sun so yellow, it must be the color of pure SUNSHINE.
As I rounded the jetty, the rest of the crew sat next to the jetty on the sand with their kites surrounding them, with their "body language" saying ALL DONE!! I limped on in, to the sight of sand whipping along the beach in a 40 knot perfectly side-shore wind. SIDE-SHORE the entire 23 mile, 3 and a half hour stretch....always side-shore though the coast line turns along the way and the wind was forcast to go westerly. Sitting on the shore of South Haven remembering the sun's display from the day before in Port Sheldon....I knew exactly what it had meant. Enjoying a crisp, cold Oberon with Greg and the South Haven crew after an incredible downwinder, I knew exactly what it had meant.
As we ate a sandwich in the parking lot at North Beach and regained a little energy, we watched as the wind began turning due West. About to call it a day and head back to Chicago, I regained my senses, had Greg check the conditions at MC, and realized that by the time we got to MC, it would be absolutely CLASSIC. It was only 5:30, by the time we got to MC and rigged it would be 7:00....get an hour back and it's 6....we could ride till sunset and then some, I knew the wind was not going to back off, the waves were going to build, and it would be glassy....Jimbo followed and Greg and I hit the road, eating anything we could find in the lil' red Toyota truck. We had more riding to do, a calling to answer, more waves to rip.....onto MC we went, on through the BLUE day, with a wind that knew no end, and a day as yellow as pure SUNSHINE!!
That one was for you Henry....keep on keepin' on up there, and keep it real!! Study a bit, too.
PART II to follow.....MC till sunset on Thunderin' Tuesday, and till the reflections of the jetty's lights that shone off the wave face next to the jetty shone brightly....