#32: Moonstone. Saturday, Aug. 23 (yes, I am behind). The bar continues to hold, providing waist-high rights and lefts even on tiny swell. I dropped K at horseback, sped to the beach, surfed sans leash* for an hour, dashed to the car, changed, arrived only four minutes late to pick her up. All Saturday mornings should work out so well.

*We have four boards, three leashes – one was left at the beach at some point – so when we family surf, I’m the one who goes without. Which is fine. Usually. Surfing without a leash creates both a greater sense of freedom because you can paddle faster and are not anchored to anything, and a more pronounced sense of responsibility because you can’t just chuck your board if you’re caught inside – and you have to know what you’re doing when you take off, so ultimately, it makes for better surfing.

#33. South Beach. You never know, going to Crescent City. The time and gas investment demands one has fun, but no matter how promising the conditions read online, the odds of getting skunked repeatedly prove high. On the best days, it’s the NorCal version of SoCal – pretty, easy, playful, warm. On small days, you can surf down by the restaurant; on big days, you park closer to the jetty and pick your size.

More often, the waves close out, the wind blows onshore, the fog rolls in and suddenly Moonstone seems like the most primo spot ever and you’re wondering why the hell you drove 80 miles one way to surf substandard swell.

We hit it on a good day. True, the wind was onshore (the tendency of South Beach to buck all NW wind forecast and cultivate south winds continuously is utterly freakish) when we arrived, but within 30 minutes it clocked around offshore. We’d driven through drizzle, fog and gray skies the whole way and expected more of the same. Fate favored us, however, as we crested the hill: Crescent City met us with an expanse of blue that promised to last all day. Sunshine glinted off pretty peaks from one end of South Beach to the other.

Kaylee caught waves on the longboard, Nick struggled a bit with the shortboard he’s trying to get used to – I was worried about the paddling factor, but he made it outside okay, caught a few waves – Bobby used the 7’5″ and I spent two hours cruising around on my beloved 7’6″ funboard BK shaped for me. Conditions were perfect for that board: not steep enough to send me pearling, but not so slow I was wishing for a longboard. Once again, I spent a session leashless.

Sitting in the line-up, ocean sparkling, Kaylee sweeping around on a bottom turn, Nick gamely angling for a wave most likely too steep to make but recovering from the wipeout with a smile… too far away from home to worry about work or laundry or the chores left undone in the yard… joy suffused every bit of who I am.

All went well until that fateful last wave (aren’t last waves always fateful?), the “one more” I just had to get. I’d paddled over in front of the hotel, where this beautiful left kept powering through, spray arcing into rainbows as it peeled toward me. But, I misjudged, and wound up caught inside a set, pushed all the way to shore. So I walked around, paddled back out, found myself just in place for a pretty right – even better. Except the offshore wind had picked up enough that it caught the nose of my board, kept me hovering when I should’ve been dropping. The wave pitched underneath me as I leaned all my weight forward, trying to slide down the face. Instead, I fell down the elevator shaft, lost my board and had to swim (and swim and swim) almost to the beach before grasping it. Oh, the comforting feel of fiberglass and wax! Thus ended my session.

Totally fun. Then, at the traditional Los Campadres stop, I scored four free games on the pinball machine.

Other than the sunburn (the one thing I forgot to switch out of the truck was sunscreen – argh!), just about a perfect day.