#5: Finally the swell dropped to numbers suggesting fun and not simply the avoidance of being smashed. Also more of the sunshine we’ve had in abundance this winter. (That we’re already in March bewilders me; I am still waiting for January.) Only the slightest of breezes blew, allowing the sun’s warmth to offset the 48-degree water. Cars and trucks lined the spit from Samoa south — it was a Saturday, after all, and a beautiful one. The kind of conditions in which everyone surfs, especially after weeks of relentless heavy waves culling the herd. The shape of the waves mattered less than the fact that they were only head-high with the aforementioned sunshine glittering off the glassy ocean surface.
I paddled out, caring about nothing other than being in the ocean. The cold water shot through the holes in my gloves, the gap between my booties and wetsuit. The resultant sense of alive reminded me how sometimes it’s good to be cold. We forget how comfortable we are when we spend all day wrapped up in front of our computers, heaters running, wood stove blazing. This screen is not the real world. The grit of the sand, the ocean’s chill, the sound of a wave falling over and exploding into itself — those things that demand attention in a whole more immediate way than, “Hey, watch this funny YouTube video!,” those are what the world offers up to remind us of the physical part of our existence.
I fell in love all over again.
#5.5: This doesn’t really count, as all I did was paddle out, look at the oncoming set and say, “Uh, no.” Why was I there in the first place? Because my surfer friend who texted me to come surf does not believe in interpreting numbers the same way I do. I look at a 17-second interval and say, “Wow, that’s going to be pretty heavy, especially with a wave height of seven feet.” He says, “I walked out and looked at it and it only looks about head-high.” I think to myself, He probably only looked at it for two seconds, which means it was unlikely he saw an actual set. Also, the fact that fog hovering over the water obscured any view beyond 30 yards failed to bolster my confidence.
But he went out and I thought, as I often do, I never get better from standing on the beach and not surfing. So I tugged on my wetsuit and struck out in the mist. As the rip pulled me out, I watched dark shapes looming up on the horizon — as much of the horizon as I could see through the fog. Huh. That’s not head-high. I watched the few surfers already in the line-up scratch their way over the first double-over wave, then fail to catch the second one, then get walloped by the third. Not up for this. Shit. I glanced around for my friend, who was paddling over to the channel from the inside. He caught up to me.
“It got a lot bigger!” he said. I informed him that he should have watched longer. Because everyone loves a lecture, especially when being ripped out to a sea full of waves the size of houses. “Yeah, but on the upside, I think I caught the two biggest waves I’ve ever caught!”
I maneuvered to a spot where I hoped I could wait for an inside wave while simultaneously avoiding the sets. It was not a total success, as I failed to catch a wave, instead ending up rocketing in on a wall of whitewater. Oh sure, I wish I’d gone for something bigger, but I was tired from the day before and just not feeling up for the consequences of not making it. So, home I went.
#6: With numbers like that, not surfing is not an option. I drove out, suited up, caught 10 decent waves in an hour, chatted with the other two people out, zipped home. Life is good.