Sixth Ave. A big day for Nick. He invited his buddy W out for a surf. Now, W’s dad has been surfing Humboldt for a long time, is quite good, and W himself is an all-around athletic star. The kid surfs better than me (not that hard to do) and can manage himself in well-overhead surf. He’s great fun to watch, not only because he’s so good, but because he’s always smiling and cheering other surfers on.

Having W around inspired Nick to paddle harder, take off later, take off on bigger waves, etc. We started off with Nick on a shortboard someone gave us a while back — a teeny little potato chip of a board — because his is still being repaired after the CCity collision. I paddled next to him on my 7’6″ BK funboard. The waves were breaking overhead on the outside. The rest of our group made it through the fog, past the impact zone and were catching waves in the mist while Nick struggled to get through the walls of whitewater on that little board. I hung with him, concerned about the amount of energy he was using up, both because of the diabetes and also because I didn’t want him to exhaust himself paddling. The shortboard’s lack of floatiness prevented him from being able to move through the lulls quickly enough; we’d make progress only to be shoved back by the next set of waves.

When I’m in this situation, I often turn around, go in, catch my breath on the beach and reexamine the situation. Sometimes I’ve drifted out of the channel and can’t see it until I’m back on shore. Sometimes I simply need that breather to give myself a pep talk. When Nick suggested going back to the beach to get his bearings, I was relieved. We turned around and let the whitewater push us in. His whole body shivered, so we checked his blood sugar. This is not easy to do with wet, sandy, shaking hands, but after a few tries, we managed to get enough blood on the strip to see that his level was fine. He was just cold.

The easiest thing to do was switch boards. Nick felt guilty for taking mine and disappointed that his shortboard daydreams hadn’t fared well in the cold reality of a swell-addled ocean. I reassured him, though, and we set off for attempt number two. This time, he cruised out easily; I couldn’t keep up. I weigh twice what Nick does and paddling on that shortboard felt more like swimming than paddling. I felt each stroke all the way into my shoulder socket. As Nick glided closer to the outside, I hollered for Bobby to keep an eye on him; so much time had passed, I now needed to pick up the girls from horseback riding.

I couldn’t even catch a wave on my belly using the shortboard. I felt like a whale on a skateboard. I did reach the shore though, arms ablaze with the effort, dropped the board, plodded through the soft sand to the car, drove up to Westhaven in my wetsuit, picked up the girls, took them to Murphy’s for food (I kept my wetsuit-clad self in the car while they ran in for chips and carrots), returned to Moonstone, trudged back through the sand, picked up the board and paddled for the outside once more.

Outside reached, I asked our friend who has been borrowing my old board if I could trade him since he was going in anyway. Of course he said yes; unfortunately some communication error occurred, and he went to shore with the board I wanted instead of swapping in the water. I went to the beach once again, caught up with him, dragged our ice chest and random beach gear away from the rising tide, and struck back out hoping to catch a least a couple waves after all this effort.

Despite teasing all morning, the sun never burned off the fog. This did nothing to deter the dozens and dozens of beachgoers (tourists?) blanketing the beach. I did get my couple waves, although they were rather anticlimactic by that time. Spent as I was, I reacted more along the lines of, “Well, that’s done,” than, “Whee!”

The coolest part was the second time I paddled out on the shortboard. Nick and W were paddling for the same wave, one at least a foot overhead to them. The face of the wave swept past my line of vision. I couldn’t see what was happening. Did Nick wipe out? Was he now getting tumbled around underwater, cold filling his ears, arms flailing for the surface? Why, no! His head went skimming by as the wave peeled, with W’s right behind. They rode that zippy right together two-thirds of the way to shore and paddled back grinning brighter than any sunshine could’ve made that moment for me.