surf session #36: dawn patrol magic

Morning.

(Note: on a morning such as yesterday’s, not having a good enough camera to capture the beauty embarrasses me. Even if I wrote 1,000 words instead of the 600 below, I’d come nowhere near what one good picture would do.)

Summer is disappearing and I’m not done with it. I love the long days, rising with the sun for dawn patrol, back to the beach to watch it dip below the horizon 14, 15 hours later. This year, though, too much insomnia has altered my pattern. I still roll out of bed on the early side, but not early enough to escape into that magic time before the rest of the world wakes up. It’s amazing what you can get done while others are sleeping.

But yesterday, inspired by the full moon and the forecast, I kicked myself out from under the covers pre-sunrise, lugged the longboard and a shorter funboard to the truck, chucked my wetsuit into the cab so I could warm it with the floor heater during the drive out.

The sky had remained clear. I’d expected the usual summer coastal fog to  obscure the moon, had worried it would shroud the waves, but the moon glowed in crystal detail, hovering in the southern portion of the sky; the only fog was the mist curling out of the valleys across the bay. The sky above the hills eased from indigo to lavender to that yellow-green-blue I have no name for, the color that announces the sun’s imminent arrival or departure.

I four-wheeled out to find no surfers, just a few fishermen casting off the rocks, half the beach exposed from the minus tide and a teensy left that I theorized might be bigger than it appeared. Because these things usually are. Suited up. Pulled out the longboard. The sun cracked the horizon as I reached the water.

The waves wedged in, a chest-high set zipping through as I paddled along the channel, breaking close to hollow, exactly consistent. Sea stars and mussels blanketed the rocks. Seagulls eyed me as I passed. A lone pelican glided above, illustrating how grace is supposed to be done.

Another set arrived as I reached the line-up. The line-up being me, where I happened to stop paddling. Except I paddled again, this time in front of a peaking swell that swept me into it, carried me along as it broke, held up as I glided all the way to the beach. Return, repeat. The waves curled up around shoulder-high at the peak, not big, but juicy enough to make the ride fast, fun. They peeled with precision, a blue path into the gold brilliance of the eastern sky.

Porpoises broke the surface just beyond the playground. Another surfer joined me for a while. The waves between sets came in only waist-high, often too mushy, but occasionally standing up enough for a little fun while waiting.

Some of the set waves peaked up fast and too steep for me to make on the longboard — emphasis on me — certainly more skilled surfers would’ve found making the later drops as easy as stepping out of one’s car onto solid ground. The ocean was offering up solutions not problems and eventually I dialed in my spot on the board, my angle of takeoff, how to compensate for having more board than I needed at times. Redeemed, I stayed out as the other guy left, caught my best wave of the day, then paddled back for one more and that one more turned out to be my best wave of the day.

I drove away vowing to never again complain about anything, because life is way too magical to wallow in the mundane. I will try to hold on to that feeling.

As I left, I passed four cars heading out. I’m so glad I got up early.

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