I woke up to steely wintertime drizzle over the urban landscape denser than Manhattan. The *ul*** bouy was at 3.2 meters, 12 seconds, and winds were southerly. Perfect.
I struggled with the zipper on the board bag--rusted and gummed by the pervasive moisture--while throwing together my gear. The scent of old incense from the family shrine mixed with the damp betel-nut bitterness of *a**a* and lingered around my head as I clattered down the dark slick tile and concrete staircase, 5 floors to the street. The air was in the 60's but the locals were all wrapped up in fur-lined parkas as if we were in Novograd this January.
With my boardbag leaning against the thin metal table, I plowed my way through a green-onion and pork fu steamed bun, some bitter soymilk, and a slightly salty breakfast soup. Man, these people eat healthy. No wonder they're so skinny. I paid for the food from the little breakfast shop and stumbled out to the bus stop where the 606 had just arrived. Shouldering my way aboard, I whacked as few people as possible with the boards as I set them down on my feet to make room for the press of bodies piling into the bus. Everyone else reached up overhead to grab the hanging handles in the bus that bump me in the chin. I smiled for a pair of highschoolers who were trying to inconspiciously take my picture.
After 30 jerky manual-transmission minutes, the bus vomited up pretty much the entire crowd at D***men station and a flood of humanity carries me along to the "red line". Helmeted security guards eyed my boardbag and then ignore me. Foreigners are vanishingly rare on the metro, and are often carrying around incomprehensible stuff. Some more pushing brought me and my gear aboard the subway, which sailed smoothly down spotless plastic-paneled tunnels like nothing you'll see in most US cities.
The enormous *a**e* main train station made me wish I had waited to eat. The ring of resturants on the second floor was a favorite destination. However, for once, I was going out in *a**e* to do something other than eat. The train to *u***g was much less crowded. I relaxed in comfort and stretched out as the misty bamboo-covered mountains rolled by.
I disembarked at *u***g station, under the same mist as was falling in the city. I humped my boardbag down quiet damp streets of 2-story concrete and prefab metal roofed shops with residences perched above. Walking through a narrow warren of pillbox-sized concrete single-story houses brought me to the ornate 3-story temple perched on the headland behind the jumble of concrete jacks that made up the breakwater and coastal armor.
*u***g was firing. From the big paved space between the temple and the water, I watched the whitewash growl up the rivermouth toward the sandy beach that stretched off into the mist. Out beyond the breakwater, the wave humped up in a gorgeous spray-topped A-frame with faces on the sets better than 10 feet. Winds were light offshore and the mist showed no signs of abating or turning into real rain. It was around noon and the air temperature had climbed into the mid-60's. The water was high-70's.
A springy is the dumbest-looking suit we ever wear. I mean, really; a short-sleeved, capri-pant-legged unitard? I pulled mine on, nonetheless. Whichever god occupied the temple behind me was probably laughing at this bizarre lao'wei. The long-whiskered dragons and crazy colored birds on the swooping rooflines surely were. I clambered out over the concrete jacks and jumped into the channel. The river water was chilly, but the current meant basically no paddling to get into position as I bobbed out past the breakwater. I watched a set come in. The tide was high and the sandbar was a little boggy, but *u***g is always mushy. The point is to catch it big and clean so as to destroy its acers of wave face realestate. With nobody else around, I paddled right up top and set up directly on the peak well outside. When the next set came through, I let it slide under me and looked back to the sad damp pile of boardbag I had left next to the temple. A fisherman had shown up and was rigging his reel.
I went on the second wave of the next set. Plenty of time to get into that clean soft shoulder, slow lazy pop-up to DK, then a sleigh ride down the face. Bottom turn and aim high, right back up the face to huck spray off the lip, then back down again. Big old roundhouses top to bottom, getting smaller and smaller as the wave grumbled down the line toward the beach and pedestrian bridge. Each ride was followed by a long paddle back across the cove between rivermouth and temple. Lefts were a quick drop into the river channel itself, and then nothing as the wave backed off in the deep water and just humped along the coastal armor. Very typical *u***g. Easy, soft, nice. Nothing epic, nothing exciting, but fun as heck. Lots of paddling, lots of riding. Very much like C-street, but a little less sectiony.
After a couple of hours, I took a break to go pick up a boba milk tea (from the drink shop) and a salmon riceball (from 7-11). *u***g is a one-convience-store town, which is saying something in a place where I've seen 4 such stores on a single corner. I hate to say it, but--sitting on the breakwater eating my riceball--I was actually getting a little bored watching that big mushball, and wishing for a little bit of a crowd to spice things up. I even checked the train timetable, considering calling it a day after just a few hours. But, remembering the hundreds of SoCal waves I've let go by because somebody else was already on it, I dutifully paddled back out and goofed around for another few hours.
The nice thing about *u***g is that there are beach showers. Nobody uses them in the "winter", but the water is left on. So I had a much less salty trek home than could've been. Fun. Different, if you've got the time. A lot of travel time compared to taking a personal vehicle.