#2. I’m not planning to make a habit out of writing in second person, but for the sake of making these surf-related posts somewhat less repetitive, let me try to tell you what it would have been like if you were there.
You haven’t surfed in weeks and before that hadn’t surfed in weeks. You’ve drifted into starting the day checking Facebook instead of the buoys. You walk past your surfboards on the porch daily and feel almost as guilty as when the unwalked dog would quiver as you were leaving. “Are you going to take me? Are you? Are you?” But no, you were only going to the car, not the beach for the dog, not the beach for yourself. Just to work or the grocery store or the gym. You should sell it all, you’d mutter. Give it to someone who actually surfed. A surfer. Not like you, some chick who owns some boards and never uses them.
But the holidays passed, you survived, and the swell, someone said, was a nice, fun-size. Also you need to take your teenage son out, give him something constructive, physical, outdoorsy to do with his time. “We’re going surfing after school,” you tell him. And then you make it happen.
But first, you get hung up at work, complications on a phone call. He’s loitering in your office reading Savage Henry magazines. You’ve got to get out of there and into the waning day. Blue skies all week, so calm the bay remains glass, even into the afternoon. You finish, drive home, long shadows stretching across the cow pastures, the dunes, your driveway. You throw the longboards in the truck — you’re both out of practice and 5 at 7 sounds like it’ll be fairly small and maybe mushy — wetsuits, booties, gloves — the water temp’s hovering around 49 degree you noticed when you looked at the buoy earlier.
You can’t see the sun as you motor down the peninsula. It’s still winter-south and too low in the sky. You power out the back road, not needing 4WD and park below the fog horn. It sounds every couple seconds, blaring over your head as you and your son race to the top of the dunes to scout the waves. The sun has set. You see surfers. Conditions appear a little on the junky side, but there are waves and people on them and no time to wonder. The two of you suit up, traverse the sand, plunge in. New booties and gloves — you’re toasty, even in the 49 degree water and 40 degree air.
You step toward the rocks until you’re waist-deep, then slide on your board and paddle for the channel. The rip current pulls you out. You’ve passed these rocks hundreds of times. You love this place, but you never confuse the ocean with something sentimental. You love it, but it doesn’t give a fuck about you. You don’t mind at all. It doesn’t need to. It just is. This beautiful, terrifying, roiling, mysterious, populated-with-bizarro-creatures entity that covers 70 percent of our planet — we’ve polluted it, trashed it, exploited it, celebrated it and here it is, feeling like home even as you know you’re completely out of your element. A broken leash or great white would remind you of that, you think, and then you’ve reached the line-up and shake the philosophy and the bad memories right out of your head.
The sky darkens in the east, glows yellow-green along the horizon, stretches orange and pink from east to west, all of it softly morphing from one color to the next so imperceptibly, so gently, you feel your breath stop, just for a moment.
A wave comes, you go. And like that, you’re up. It closes out, you falter, fall, climb back on, paddle around. You want five waves, you told your son. Four rights and then a bigger left in. Another waves comes almost immediately. This one’s a left, so you change your plan. The left peels and peels and peels some more. You slide up to the top of the wave, drop back down, repeat. It continues. You’re grinning, you’re flying. This is the wave that made it worth it.
And then two more fast steep rights. The first one, you catch yourself bending at the waist to not fall, 90 degrees of kookdom. The second, you bend at the knees – what a difference a proper stance makes.
The horizon is still orange, but darkness is settling in. You wave at your kid, “We need to go in soon!” He agrees. The last wave curse kicks in. You sit. You shiver. You worry about the night coming on fast. You paddle back into position – the current pulls you north again. Finally, a set. Your son catches a left. You follow on one of your own. It goes and goes and then goes right. You make it almost to shore, ocean so shallow that when you jump off your board, you’re only knee-deep.
The last bit of sunlight wanes as you pass out the gate. The magic lingers.
#3: Fun morning session under a blue sky.
#4: Fun morning session in dense fog.