surf sessions #42, #43, #44, #45, #46, #47, #48

#42, Moonstone: That was two weeks ago, after a three-week dry interval. Kaylee joined Nick and me for the first time in a long time. Being in the water felt great. Watching Kaylee recapture the pleasure of sliding down a wave was heaven. I always wish, when wishes are called for, that my children stay happy and healthy and outlive me. If I had a second wish, it would be to witness more often my children fully engaged and finding pleasure in the world.

#43, Camel: Classic Camel, as in nice waves, but not enough of them to compensate for the crowd. Nick had fun on the inside; I caught a few on the outside that made the paddle out worthwhile, but ultimately neither of us could compete with the crew of longboarders, leaving us mostly happy, slightly unsatisfied.

#44, Moonstone: Small, mushy, better than not surfing, couple long-ish rights. Nick and I again. He’s working on his cutbacks. I’m working on getting to my feet in one smooth motion (see: K, B) instead of like a granny working her way off the couch after falling asleep to her favorite game show program. And on going left. Despite the number of times – hundreds – that I’ve gone left, once I’m out of practice, backside becomes a mystery all over again. “Point where you want to go” – the old advice comes back. So I swing my arm around, aim my hand toward the house below Sixth Avenue and miraculously my board follows.

#45, Moonstone: Nick and I arrived late, around sundown. I would not have paddled out if he hadn’t been determined for us to surf. Was it worth pulling on the wet wetsuit, paddling into the dimming, increasingly shrouded junky surf? Sure, in the sense that I made my kid happy. But the one other person out went in soon after – and then the gray, lonely dusk triggered scary thoughts in my mind, ones I couldn’t shake. “We have to go in!” I hollered at Nick. I used the encroaching darkness as an excuse. After all, the shark heebie-jeebies didn’t need to be shared.

#46: Hallelujah! Oh my god, this is why I love to surf! Sure, the waves could’ve been a little steeper, little faster, little bigger, but as they were was plenty good enough for ride after ride of peaky, peeling pleasure. As sensual as eating a sun-warmed backyard tomato after subsisting on underripe grocery store ones. “I LOVE THIS!” replayed in my head with every long left that I suddenly remembered how to catch, how to ride. And only my son and three friends out.

#47: Buoyed by the experience of the night before, we promised another surfer friend a great time, thinking the different time of day would only improve the near-perfection we’d experienced. Not so much. Lessons (re-)learned: Never make guarantees about the ocean; Never forget how tide and direction can completely change a break.

#48: Lessons remembered, Nick and I timed our outing to mirror the session before the last one. On a whim – and because the waves were a little small and mushy – he took out the longboard.

I am never letting that happen again. Darn kid caught five waves (or more) for every one I caught on my 7’5″ funboard. (Who was having more fun, I ask?) I am always stoked for the kids to catch waves, but it seemed wrong that I should spend all that time paddling while he was on wave after wave. He was stoked on the novelty, though, which, of course, infected me with amusement. When the break really turned on for a while, he made some rather impressive overhead drops on the thing – not bad for a kid used to three feet less of board and quite a kick to watch.

Besides, although I caught fewer waves, every single one made me smile, reminded me that when the conditions come together and I’m in the right place at the right time, surfing is just about the most fun thing in the whole world. GodAll the less stellar sessions serve to prepare me to be in that place, at that time.

One distraction. At one point, I noticed a guy tugging on a rope caught on the rocks, then rolling up his pant legs as if he was going to clamber down into the water. That seemed like a bad idea: even in small surf, the currents tug; even at a relatively balmy 56 degrees, the Pacific is still too cold for unprotected flesh; a groping hand or slipping foot can catch between the rocks. So I paddled over to help. But whatever the rope had caught on was too deep for me to reach and the rope stuck too fast for any hopes of wrenching it free. My “help” didn’t really result in much beyond keeping the guy out of the water.

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