Being a good sport about my lack of surfing had stopped abruptly Sunday morning. I found myself rowing on the bay – a commitment from weeks prior – on a sunny morning that in all likelihood offered glassy, head-high, ultra-clean waves. This was one of those situations where my attempt at handling disappointment gracefully failed; not only was I stressed about the time I was taking from deadline, but the knowledge that I was over here instead of out there was killing me. At least when I announced my anxiety-ridden state, I had the manners to only mention the deadline concern and not the surfing; complaining was rude in any case, as all the conditions combining for the surf also made for a beautiful morning on the bay. The bridge framed the mountains, the water glistened in the sunshine, broken only by the occasional seabird scooting across the surface, a heron perched on a piling…

Rowing was fun, too. I can see the appeal: the beauty of the bay, the soothing rhythm of the oars, the full-body engagement. If I didn’t already have enough physical commitments – surfing, biking, walking, HealthSPORT – I’d consider joining. The rowing club certainly lucked out – the warm, sunny, clear, still day must’ve helped their recruiting efforts.

So on Monday, my hunger and determination to surf demanded that everything else wait until I’d had my fix. Fortunately, all concerned cooperated. The girls made it to school in a timely fashion; Nick was a good sport about going to the beach with me. I aimed for the Jetty, where my heart lies, but figured I’d surf closer to home if possible so we could get on the road sooner. No one out at Power Poles, but the crowd was gathering at Bay Street. Just as Nick and I (and Sandy) pulled up, a gorgeous head-high wave broke and peeled right and left, a surfer on either side. Certainly appealing, but with an easy dozen guys in the water and more on the way, I hesitated. On the one hand, the truism, “Surf the waves you see,” is a cliché for a good reason – a person can easily drive around indecisive, wasting the day in a search for an ever-better peak. On the other, I hadn’t surfed for a month (a month!), felt insecure and probably wouldn’t score many waves with that many people out. Plus, the offshore meant the smoke bent over from the pulp mill stacks, flavoring the air with that weird, metallic taste. I know it’s not toxic any more (can’t imagine how bad things were prior to the lawsuit), but between the less-than-fresh air and the trash strewing the beach, the Bay Street surf experience is always somewhat marred. I decided to pass.

When Nick and I reached the Jetty, I thought, “What a mistake.” Nick looked doubtful and suggested we go back to Bay Street. The problem? The waves were fewer and smaller. Much smaller. And fewer. But only a few surfers floated in the water, begging the classic dilemma: which is more likely to be fulfilling – surfing better waves in a crowd or surfing a less-stellar peak with just a few people? I chose option number two, sighed and suited up. Nick and Sandy hung out on the Jetty. We went over the safety rules, then off I went.

Ah… to be paddling by the rocks. Felt like coming home. I’ve gone that route hundreds of times by now (you’d think I’d be a better surfer!) in situations from mild to terrifying. Sometimes, like Monday, the Jetty channel is comforting in its familiarity; sometimes I’ve found myself rocketing out to see, a bigger swell increasing the current’s strength, reminded of how helpless I ultimately am in the ocean. This session, though, the place was a lake, no threat at all. (OK, the shark factor still existed, but no sense in even thinking about that one.)

Only two guys in the line-up. A longboarder and a shortboarder, both friendly. I was on the 7’5″, as my BK needs repair before hitting the water again. Waves came, only about waist-to-chest-high, but I paddled into a right, popped up and found myself sliding down the face, enough energy in the water to provide some speed and the wave breaking clean clean clean not sectioning at all. I must’ve grinned the whole way back into the channel. Sometimes when I haven’t surfed for a while, my timing is off, my pop up awkward, but this day, everything clicked right into place. I didn’t score many waves, as the sets were few and far between with the tide killing them off after a while, but every wave I managed to catch was as fine and fun as the first.

Later, on the way to SF, I stopped at the Co-op. A woman I know works in the deli. When she saw me, she said, “You are really glowing today!” And I was.