I find that the thrill of the unexpected is one of the most satisfying motivations for continuing to search.........that is the reason I never hesitate to drive to wherever may have the best conditions on the BIG LAKE!!
I decided to head over to ST JOE on Sunday afternoon. The South buoy was pumping near 30 and MC was reading 31 to 38, both a bit NW; I figured by waiting a bit the waves would build and eventually it would turn N....the rocks ashakin' and Little Wing acrankin', I drove on through the rain, past the Casino, on through Miller, leaving MC behind, and pulling into SILVER BEACH. I had stopped at the roadside lakebluff park on the Bluestar Hwy that offered the first view of Ol Mother Michigan, and was stoked at the ruffled surface of the lake, and the continuous lines of waves that bordered the shore!!! As I pulled into the parking lot with the sand streaming through it, and looked out over the pumping waves, I noticed a lone Caution kite in the air, it was TG; it was on like Donkey Kong!!!!!!!!!
I took my 9m and my 7m to the beach in a hurried frenzy and knew instantly that it was a 7m day. As I pumped up my kite, I let out a few wails for TG as he was boosting as BIG as I had ever seen him throw 'em; just skying off the 8 to 10 foot ramps. There were waves peeling 5 to 6 deep all the way down the beach, thick and barreling as they hit the lower section at Silver.....I rushed to the car and suited up, enjoying the cooling temp of my WET wetsuit as I pulled on the hood. There is something quite exhilirating about the feel of a cold suit that seems to acclimate me to the conditions I am about to step into...the air was a steady 42!!
I took a few deep breaths as my 7m popped off the beach with authority, and hummed a line or two of Little Wing as I made my way past the thumping shorebreak to the hoots and hollers of my buddy as he turned off an inside wave. I was lit, and easily lifted over the foam of the crashing waves, and headed out to tag the first wave of the day. I passed up a few overhead offerings and settled on one a bit bigger with nice shape to it. After turning on it, I headed to shore and positioned myself a little upwind of the peak, waited for it to jack-up, and screamed down the face laying into a nice drawn-out bottom turn, dragging my back hand on the slightly rippled surface of the wave, cutback off the top and headed down the line for a few more turns before kicking out as it began to double up and crash. Yep, it was on like DONKEY KONG!!
Slightly side-on, filled in, steady, and an endless amount of waves to choose from.......to boot, I had a buddy to share in the MAGIC; I must say it was all I could ever ask of Lake Michigan.........well, just like on Christmas morning, when the first present you unwrap is a spectacular gift, and you know that even bigger and better gifts are just waiting for you....I knew that this was gonna be one of those Special Sessions. I watched as TG disappeared in and out of the increasingly bigger sets, as the wind slowly turned more North...we tagged wave after wave; TG launching bigger and bigger, my bottom turns getting tighter and tighter....the waves that had been sectioned out, but never closing out, began to join into one long wave that broke further and further out, slowly creeping towards the end of the South side of the jetty, ever closer to the red and white lighthouse that sits at the end. I had heard stories for years from Matt Mulligan about the incredible waves that would break in the fall at Silver, aided by the colder temps and perfect wave-forming variables; of waves that would form and break from the jetty's end all the way to the pavillion and on past, all the way to the end of Silver to where the beach ends and the rocks line the shore, 1 WAVE, all the way from the lighthouse to the beach!! Lo and behold I saw this starting to happen as TG and I continued to tag the set waves.....3 bottom turns turned into 5, 5 into 7, 7 into 9....9 bottom turns on Set Waves at Silver Beach; picking the right waves became the key, became the necessity, as the conditions became "seriously" bigger and bigger"!!
TG and I had worked our way into a noticable pattern of catching the bigger sets next to the jetty, when I saw his kite go down on a wave starting to form on the outside, BOOM!!, he took one on the head as his kite was on the water....but he kept his lines tight, the kite didn't roll, the next wave moved over to spare him another pummeling and up came the Caution....relieved, I had come in to grab his board and drop it off to him, but it had caught the right current and headed towards him, he was able to retrieve it himself, got on and headed in. He had been kiting for over 3 hours, and exhausted, he was calling it a day. I followed him in and helped him land his kite, as the wind was so strong and steady, with the sand aflyin' that his kite just refused to "sit down". I headed back out to waves that had increased to 10 to 12 and were still building!! I was stoked, it was the best I had ever seen TG kite...what a thrill to share it with him.
On Maui, we had a saying about the "elephants marching"; this refers to the feeling one gets when the waves increase to a size that alarms you, waves with faces as big as houses, ones that when they begin to break you can drive an 18 wheeler through; a feeling where the stomach churns, where you feel as though there are elephants marching around inside you.....well, the elephants were marching, and I could hear there trumpeting calls with the tune of Little Wing in the background. When it gets that big, I invariably begin to talk to myself; at times to whisper reminders to myself, at times to actually shout commands to myself...."pick the right wave", "Start your bottom turn, Go, Go", "Kick out, KICK OUT", "not this one, the next one"...the breathing must remain steady and calm, sometimes I go further to the inside after a waveride and sit on the sand to steady myself, I know I must not stay over-excited at this point....as INTENSLY MAGNIFICENT as the RUSH is, I know I must steady myself and my breath......each wave ride was getting more demanding, the wind turning NNE and getting a bit lighter for my 7m, the wave faces becoming as SMOOTH as I had EVER seen ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. The waves now 12 to 16 and jacking up quickly, and getting heavier and heavier...bottom turn (1), fade, set it up, "GO, NOW", set the rail on the waveface (3), traverse, down the line, lay it down (5), "UP THE FACE, YOU IDIOT", huge roundhouse right below the throwing wave (7), "NOW, NOW!!!", fade-fade, doubling up on the inside, "GO, GO", off the top, "FASTER", screaming along the top spray flying, "ONE MORE" (9), floating the section, back onto the face, all the way to the beach, "WHEW".....best ride I ever had....On Lake Michigan.....not a Gulf of Mexico wave, not a Pacific Coast wave, not an Island of Maui Wave.....a Spectacular, Silver Beach offering; an Ol Mother Michigan gift, a BIG LAKE murmur, a LAKE MICHIGAN WAVE!!!
Yeah, you're right Mulligan....the godfather spoke, and I stored it away......"you know West, the best wave on the Lake is down at St Joe in the Fall, at Silver when the Northerlies pump and the waves build....they will break all the way from the lighthouse to the beach, the end of the beach....thick, standing up, peeling...one wave.....ONE WAVE!!!!! Thanks buddy.......I always knew, but now I KNOW!!!
As I was driving over I expected to ride a bit, but I never expected the conditions I found at Silver, and am still quite flabbergasted that it could have even been half that INCREDIBLE, but that's part of the MAGIC and MYSTERY of driving around the BIG LAKE.....you just never know until you GO!!!!!!!!!!!!
That's the thrilling part about it..................