Camel/Wash Rock. This had to be one of my dumbest sessions ever. I dropped the girls off in Westhaven for horseback riding, then took a look at Camel with Nick. The sky stretched cloudlessly from one edge of the horizon to the other. Light north breeze. Two people out, one at Moonstone and one in front of the overlook. The tide was still up and would only be dropping to a 3.0. With the swell running 6 at 14, 7 at 13, the waves had enough power to make up for all the water, but not enough shape to instantly appeal. Besides, Nick needed breakfast. So we hit Beachcomber for a brownie and a steamer (some breakfast), then, because we’re there, check State Beach. I haven’t surfed State Beach very often – maybe three, four times ever – but I’m in the mood for something different than Camel. Sadly, not happening. 

Back to Camel. At this point, I have about 40 minutes before I have to pick up the girls. Factor time into wetsuit, time walking down and time walking up and time out of wetsuit, and that leaves maybe 20 minutes in the water. The population has increased to nine people by Camel proper, one person right off Wash Rock and four people a bit further south. If I don’t surf now, while the sun’s still out and the waves manageable, I know I’ll regret it; we’re expecting howling winds and massive windswell over the next few days. A quick text to the girls – fortunately we’d agreed earlier I could be late picking them up – followed by a rush to suit up. (I can’t be that late.)

Thunderheads peek above the south rim of world’s edge, and I wonder how quickly the storm will come.

Freezing. The days of hard blowing north wind have pushed an Alaskan chill deep into the water. The first flush of whitewater through my wetsuit makes me gasp. I stand forever, waiting for the set to pass so I can paddle out. My hands feel as if they’ve been plunged into ice. The sun shines on deceptively.I see A, who I haven’t seen since the Planning Commission meeting (we were there on matters unrelated). He’s a really solid shortboarder. I start off with confidence, but between my own lack of flow and the cold, uncurling my body into the curl of the wave doesn’t work out so well. A few head-high closeout rides and my hands ache as though arthritis has set in. The clouds have moved closer. The wind shifts.

A catches a wave in; I follow. For once, I’m out before I’m due. Granted, the chill. the closeouts and the now-south wind didn’t make for the best conditions. But my own stiffness, slowness, inability to gracefully complete a wave… those elements lend to great frustration. This year I’ve only surfed 69 times, but for seven years I’ve averaged at least that many sessions per year. Sure, the first couple were spent only in the tiniest, safest surf. And lots of sessions have been near useless. But I’ve had so many good sessions, so many times where I thought, “I’m getting it! Finally, I’m getting it!” Rides during which I knew what I was doing – nothing flashy, but at least smooth and in control. Waves from which I exited with purpose. If I was doing anything else 70 times a year, I’d probably have experienced steady improvement and excel at it by now. But surfing… it’s a horrible, terrible way to spend one’s time. Besides the endlessly changing conditions (especially around here), the ratio of work to reward is ridiculous. Hours upon hours of effort for mere seconds of bliss. 

Once again, the parallels to parenting cannot go unnoticed. I should’ve just got a dog and taken up disc golf.