Apr 21, 2017 1:08 PM GMT
NYT: So why paddle out under the stars? Elbow room, mainly.
“These days on a full moon, you can still paddle out to a crowd. On other nights, it’s like stepping into a time in California pre-‘Gidget,’” said Igel, referring to the 1959 movie about a teenage girl’s infatuation with surf culture that helped kick-start a boom in the sport.
Estimates of the number of surfers worldwide vary greatly — the International Surfing Association says it is 35 million — but forecasts indicate that the sport is growing. More surfers means more traffic on the water as they wait for waves, continually battling for position, given that the surfer closest to the curl gets the wave. Crowding also strains surf etiquette, which calls for only one rider per wave (or two on a two-way peak).
So Igel agreed to an interview, as well as a request to shadow him in the water, on one condition: no naming the precise spot he frequents, somewhere between Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and the curving La Jolla coastline 40 miles to the south.
Before hitting the darkened seas, Igel strapped on a helmet that was crusty from all the exposure to salt water, snapped a selfie and texted the picture to his wife to try to put her mind at ease. It does not always work, he said.
Duct-taped to the helmet were orange and purple glow sticks, a longtime night surfer accessory that alerts riders streaking across a wave to paddlers in their path.
Glow sticks can seem primitive next to the LED technology employed by pro surfers in video and social media clips in recent years. The most famous night ride to date took place in 2011: The Australian big-wave surfer Mark Visser — equipped with a buoyancy vest and a board with specially engineered LED lights — surfed 30-footers at the Hawaiian break Jaws.
“It started off as, ‘This is the most terrifying thing,’ but once I settled down and was able to really feel what was happening and be in the moment, it was the most amazing experience,” said Visser, noting that his death-defying stunt had required four years of preparation.