By Wednesday midday, a cold had settled into my head, turning my voice hoarse and my nose runny. This coincided with the onset of Swine Flu panic. That, and a general preference for sick people to stay the hell away prompted my boss to discourage me from coming in to work. So I cancelled all the day’s appointments, drank a dozen mugs of tea, dosed myself with garlic and vitamin C, and took Nick for a surf out front.

He’s been wanting to paddle out our beach for months, but I’ve waited to make sure he’s skilled and strong enough, given the distance from help, lack of crowd and general safety factors. The swell remained glassy and about head-high – one of those days it was fun all over – but shifty and with a lot of whitewater to get through. Unfortunately, Nick forgot his leash, so I had to give him mine. I like surfing without a leash, but not when fighting shorepound and hollower waves than I’m used to. We maneuvered through the impact zone, arrived outside, where two neighbors picked off waves like ripe apples on a tree. My first wave was beautiful, a long peeling right back into what passed for a channel. Nick scored again and again.

My subsequent waves resulted in wipeouts, that resulted in spinning underwater, losing my board and swimming as cold water flushed through my wetsuit. Hard to warm back up after that. At one point, I paddled into what seemed like a rather mushy wave, only to have it suddenly stand up and pitch forward – I hugged my board to my chest as I went over the falls, but let go when it smacked me upside the head and boxed my ear.

The good news is, all the time spent tumbling around in the waves flushed so much salt water through my nose that I had a few post-surf hours totally clear. Who needs a Neti pot when the ocean will do the trick? Of course, my ear still hurts. But once again, watching Nick – especially on this one right, when the sun lit him up from behind and I first mistook his graceful silhouette for that of our soul-surfing neighbor – was the happiest take-away of the session.