Oh, how I’ve missed days like this. To an onlooker, the surf appears junky, blown out, a complete waste of time. But if you know the ways of a spot and the sandbar’s set up right, fun times await.
Just a few of us out – the smart crowd saw the north winds and went straight to Camel. I almost joined them. But a look at the clock and a yearning to stay local suggested heading south would do. MD agreed, so we met up in the parking lot, drove out a ways down the back road and suited up without even looking.
Now, I never dress in the parking lot; I always haul my gear out and change there. But I used to be real good about walking out, dropping my stuff and pulling on my suit as I was looking – as opposed to setting my stuff down and then deciding whether conditions warranted going out.
“Paddle out and look at it” – that’s one for the Top 10 Best Bits of Surf Advice I’ve Received.
Unless you’re facing waves clearly too large or too small, odds are paddling out will be better than not. At the very least, the ocean’ll wash away all the extraneous worries and you’ll get some exercise. At best, the waves will surprise and provide a better playground than expected.
Besides, it wasn’t that windy.
A couple other surfers, a gazillion birds and a squad of distant sea lions kept us company. Yes, the wind laid a certain amount of chop on the water’s surface – riding down the face felt more like bumping down a flight of stairs at times – but the peak came in consistently, the size was head-high at the takeoff and shoulder-high by the bottom turn, the swell contained enough energy to make catching waves easy, but not so much that wiping out hurt. I did wipe out a bunch, too; when I haven’t gone left in a while, I sometimes forget how.
“Point where you want to go” – more Best Advice.
When you point, your body follows, your weight shifts, the board pivots accordingly and you find yourself flying down the face ahead of the whitewater. Better than a roller coaster. The first time I trimmed, I went left, which is backside (typically more difficult) for me. I’d been standing up and going forward, toward shore, for weeks, but finally all the variables synchronized, propelling me down a thigh-high green slope like a hot knife through butter. Down the wave face and straight into addiction. In simplest terms, that’s why I surf – to relive that moment. The context changes – if waves came to order, mine would be a little over head-high now – and the goals – to surf bigger, hollower waves, to prove capable of paddling out into more challenging breaks – expand, but really, I just want that sensation of sliding along the green, fast and beautiful, startled into a moment of pure pleasure.
But back to going left. Despite my initial experience, it’s not the direction I most naturally default to. I’ve fallen off as many lefts as I’ve made. This session started out with klutzy mistake after klutzy mistake. But then, emboldened by the nondestructiveness of the surf, I took off a bit late, made the drop, swung my arm around – but in one smooth fluid motion – and there I was. Right back in heaven.