#43: Another friend wants to learn to surf. She’s 23 and infused with the easy beauty of youth. Also, an athleticism I’ve always lacked at every age. She already snowboards and skateboards; surfing rounds out the holy trinity of board sports.
We meet at Moonstone under a gray sky. Waves roll sloppily toward shore. The quality of the swell doesn’t matter much, as she’ll just be in the whitewater. All we need is momentum. It’s just us and the surf camp. They go north, we go straight out after practicing popups in the sand. My knees hurt. My muscles refuse to stretch enough to allow me some grace. I’m all tight rubber bands and rusty gears.
We fight out through the whitewater. The water floods through the holes in my wetsuit: knees, waist, chest. Spray hits my face. I taste the salt.
She’s on my 8’0″ Taylor, a cruiser, still relatively unscathed from heavy use all summer. I’m attached to the 9’2″ we just had repaired. I help her position herself for the next crashing wave. The foam – or rather, the energy behind it – should push her forward so she can try to stand up. It does. She does. Try. Meanwhile, my board, the one I pushed away so I could help her, also catches the whitewater and is flung directly into the back of my head. I sink into the frigid ocean, hoping the cold water will numb the pain. It works, sort of.
We play for an hour. I catch whitewater that reforms into knee-high waves, think of it as a chance to practice. I always need to practice. She catches whitewater and attempts to stand – makes it near the end. I cheer. The sideshore current sweeps us halfway to Clam Beach before we exit. She’s happy. I tried to warn her: Surfing is a stupid sport. Fickle conditions, too much driving around, the amount of time invested ridiculous, all to spend a few seconds standing up on a wave. But she’s happy. I feel responsible.
#44: I fall on my first wave when my leash tangles around my ankle. Embarrassed, I paddle around, catch another and manage to stay upright. A few too many people are out, jostling for position in a take-off zone so precise that being too far over by six inches either way will leave you unable to catch the peaky chest-high lefts coming through. Luckily some of the people are friends and the others, good practitioners of surf etiquette. It’s too lovely in the sunshine for competition. People share. I’m on the Taylor, 8’0″, catching enough, but not nearly as many as Nick, who’s on the 9’2″ we recently had repaired. We surf till sunset, then surf some more. By the time we leave, the beach is dark. My heart is light.
#45: Bobby and I find ourselves momentarily the only people at the break – and then a trio of teenagers we know pulls up. Perfect. I’m happy surfing alone, but he prefers at least a few other people around. I paddle out on this retro BK board a friend has gifted Bobby. It’s 7’4″ (I think), wide nose pulling back into a single-fin pintail. Totally different than anything I’ve been riding. I’m worried I’ll fall off and tell the teens not to laugh at me when I do. I’m the first one out on the empty peak. The board paddles like a dream – all that thickness in front makes it especially girl-friendly. I hate to use gender clichés, but guys typically have a third more upper-body strength with the concurrent advantage in paddling, so I’m a fan of all boards that help me compensate. (I also work out a lot for the same reason and had spent an hour at Praxisearlier, doing pull-ups and push-ups and other strength-building moves, so my worn-out muscles really appreciated the ease with which the board cut through the water.)
The swell peaked up. I paddled under it, felt the wave lift me. The board slid right into place. I landed on my feet and zipped left, grinning at making the wave and not falling. Sunshine sparkled off the ocean all around. Unicorns pranced on the beach. An angel got her wings.
Sometimes I stalled accidentally, my weight not forward enough, something – it’s a wildly different feel on that board compared to the longboard I’ve been riding all summer. A couple times I landed correctly, found myself doing a cutback, making a fast turn and laughing at how much fun I was having. “Oh, yeah! That’s what turning feels like!”
The sun dropped. The sky turned orange, pink, aquamarine. The ocean glassed off even more, reflected the colors back in swirls of blue. Pelicans glided overhead. A sweet little summer dream of a session.