Surf session #14

Fourteen? That’s how many times I’ve surfed? Pathetic. I recently read some Surfer mag article that defined “active” surfers as ones who surf at least eight times a year. Eight?! That’s ridiculous. I guess if you own a surf shop or surf company, all you need is folks to buy all the gear; how often they use it doesn’t concern you, other than the faster they wear out a wetsuit/booties/gloves/board, the sooner they’ll be back.

And I understand some people think identifying as something is OK, even if you don’t actually do it. I hear that a lot, usually along the lines of, “I’m still a writer, even if I don’t write.” Well, that’s bullshit.

Didn’t these people ever hear the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words”? Or maybe the one about walking the talk? Because I don’t care how much someone talks about doing something, a world of difference exists in between the talking and the doing. Maybe I take this personally because I’m someone who longs to identify as a surfer, as a writer, but feels like I fail to do either enough to warrant assuming that identity. Sure, I know about surfing; I can write. But to claim that’s who I am feels fake. “What have you done lately?” is the question always lingering at the back of my mind. If my answer is “nothing,” then the answer to the similiar question of, “What kind of surfer/writer are you?” has to be, “Not much.”

Fourteen sessions out of 121 days? Not much of one at all.

But I remain optimistic that I could assume that mantle some day. Here I am, writing. And I surfed today. Asked Bobby to please please please take the kids to school so I could surf in the morning; I promised to take the kids to practice in the afternoon so he could have a chance. All’s fair, right? I left home a little late, just before 7 a.m., but the tide/swell combination made for too-small waves until about 8 a.m. I’d parked at the Jetty lot, walked out lugging my board, backpack on, while two guys followed me, talking about how “sick!” this was and how “sick!” that was. Dude. Stretching my eyes to the horizon, I met only with disappointment. The swell was too small, too west… although I could see where a left wanted to work. Bill H. and Bob S. were looking. Russell’d been out at Bunkers for 45 minutes and only caught one wave, they said. Bob S. left. Brock drove by, said nah, I’m going to work. He said Camel was fun yesterday, only four people out when he was there. (The “sick” dudes had said as much.) Glen and Karl arrived. I stood around b.s.ing and waiting for the surf to improve. We all walked out on the jetty – always a better vantage point. Glen said, “Let’s go.” No one committed. I worried about the time; having to be in Ferndale at 9:45 a.m. was non-negotiable.

While we hemmed and hawed, two guys ran out from the dunes, fully suited up, boards in hand, and charged in. Within moments, one had caught that promising left. “Huh,” we said. “Let’s surf!” By the time the rest of us had struggled into our wetsuits, guy #1 had caught several more waves, causing me to think, what the hell was I waiting for? Paddled out. Cold, cold, cold. My fingers hurt. A pair of seals bobbed up, watched with their sad, sad eyes. Catching a wave took awhile. With the 7’5″, I needed something at least chest-high. A set came. Bill graciously let me have the wave – no wonder, as my takeoff was late enough. Not sure if he would’ve made it taking off even further inside. I stood up a half-second too fast – take that extra stroke, BK always says – and wondered for another half-second if I would make the wave or wipe out or get left behind. I leaned forward and fell down the face, landing on my feet and surprisingly in place. A small late drop, but a fun one nonetheless. I remembered how much I like making those late takeoffs. Unfortunately, being a left and backside to me, I didn’t make the corner fast enough.

Did I mention the offshore breeze? The glassiness? It was beautiful.

After the whitewater knocked me down, I paddled back around. Once again, a set came, chest-high, maybe a bit bigger. I was in position. I paddled at more of an angle this time, caught the wave, popped up, slid down the face, worked the board up and dropped back down, maneuvered into a faster position, flew down the face – grinning like a dork the whole time, I’m sure.

Silly that one small wave can inspire such glee – and yet, it does. Fast and fun and suddenly nothing else exists but me and that wave.

For once, I was smart enough to call it quits, paddled in, walked back to my car in time to make it to KSLG on time. (Barely.)

I thought, as I walked back, about that moment on the wave, that rush of the late drop. I feel that on those little bitty waves – no wonder the bigger ones become even more addicting. What would I risk to have that feeling on a regular basis?

A lot.

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