UPDATED WITH GORY PHOTO! surf sessions #18, #19, #20, #21 (in which a broken nose triumphs over a flat tire and I cross over the rocks)

Low, low tide

Falling behind on writing about the ocean because I’ve been in the ocean and near the ocean and busy working to protect the ocean seems like something I can live with.

That said, here goes:

#18: Sometimes you go out because you’re there. If you discover a shoulder or two along the way, you made the right call.

#19: A few places remain on my Humboldt County to-surf list. After this session, that list is shorter by one. A friend collected me on his way out, gave me tips on getting in and out on the rocks, then lunged toward the water, drawn to the waves like a sailor to a siren’s song. Couldn’t blame him — those peeling rights and lefts, glassy and smooth and overhead, have been seducing me for years. I’m too leery of slipping to scamper over the seaweed-covered jetty, but moving more slowly signified no less longing.

I timed my glide into the water decently — didn’t land on any rocks or get shoved back into them by an oncoming wave — but I did forget to hold my leash in my hand, a faux pas my friend pointed out. Right. I should’ve known that. And then we were paddling, him to the far side, where the sets focused bigger and steeper, me behind him until I decided I should stick with the smaller rights. Out of my comfort zone, I sought the familiar first.

Over the next hour, a half-dozen guys clambered over the rocks to join us. Only one guy had been out when my friend, his son and I joined the scene. That guy had the waves dialed. He was in exactly the right spot each time, nailed the drop, squeezed maximum potential from each ride. The army dredge ship floated out the channel, dwarfing everything in its path. Some fishing ships blasted in, nearly skipping like stones across the waves.

I paddled for three, four waves with no luck. Making these required brute strength and a willingness to take off near vertical. Not my strong points. My arms already ached from all the paddling required to stay in place. But finally one loomed up near me, not too steep, not too soft. “Paddle hard!” guy numero uno hollered. So I did.

And I caught it! A baby left, barely overhead and petered out a few seconds after I bottom-turned, but still! I’d caught a wave. Before the session ended, I caught another, a right this time. Again, nothing spectacular, but so often people get completely skunked out there — two waves, minimal as they might be, were still something.

Lest I start thinking I knew what I was doing out there, the whole getting-out part still loomed. Finding the right rock wasn’t difficult — my friend had described it to me, pointed out the location. There it was, stretched flat along the water’s surface, oncoming waves covering it up, receding water revealing it again. Keeping my balance as the ocean did its back-and-forth challenged me, especially with an armful of board. I ended up with a bruised hand and a couple dings — indecisive about which to prioritize, me or the 7’6″, we both got hurt.

But I survived. And the stoke continued for days.

#20: Classic stupid fun. Shockingly warm, sunny and still morning session during which the break performed as if someone had dropped a couple quarters in the wave machine. I got out grinning… and then saw the flat tire cock-eyeing my truck in the sand.

I spent about five minutes wallowing in self-pity, stressing about the meeting I needed to get ready for and contemplating various solutions to this problem (with the help of friends nearby). I would have likely felt sorry for myself for even longer if I hadn’t noticed another friend coming in from the surf with a woozy-looking step in her stride. The guy nearest her on the beach dropped his board and ran to grab hers. I stopped mid-conversation and raced to help. Blood covered her face. The bridge of her nose splayed open. Her nose itself looked alarmingly off-center.

What’s a little blood?

Things progressed quickly. We provided her with a towel, then a bandage (I have two friends who always show up just in time to provide first aid supplies to the injured), then a consultation with a surfer nurse on the beach, then a ride to the doctor’s. Team effort. Go, team! The follow-up story: broken nose and five stitches. She’s a badass, though, even grinned for a photo. (Granted, while still in a bit of shock.)

And then I dealt with the truck, again with help from friends, then, ultimately AAA. (Flashes of those horrible “My AAA story” commercials skipping across my brain.) An unfortunate expenditure of cash and a great inconvenience to the start of my day, but hey, better a busted tire than a broken nose.

#21: Short, small, sweet. Not so sunny, but windless and fun, low tide exposing nearly half the length of the break. The kind of day you can ride a longboard for hours. Well, you could, if you had no job to get to. I took my boss and my coworker with me. No one complained about being late.

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