#62, South Beach: Sometimes when too many days, weeks pass between sessions, the very concept of donning a wetsuit and paddling out into the ocean seems unreal, more like a memory of a movie I watched or dream I had than an actual part of me. Crescent City is a good cure for that, low-stakes and user-friendly. Bobby, Nick and I played for a few hours in water so glassy I could see my feet. I regained my bearings; why do I ever do anything else when standing on a board being propelled by the ocean brings me such happiness?

#63, Camel Rock: Had checked Jetty earlier to find double-overhead death slabs. Watched for a while, gabbing with Tim Blume of The Mother Hips who had played a Surfrider benefit gig the night before. Sweet guy. Great show. Given that this day was my 40th birthday, I felt a little too in touch with my own mortality to fling myself out into the rolling mountains of 52-degree water. Hence, Camel Rock in the afternoon. Crowded. Crowded, crowded, crowded. But some okay non-threatening waves and in this case, my birthday increased my sense of entitlement, which meant I caught plenty. The last one lasted – a sweet, small right that sped up down the line. I made all the sections, dashing the hopes of guys poised to drop in, take over. Little victories, lasting pleasure.

#64: And then, just as I was feeling good, probably because I was feeling good, I blew what I thought would be my most memorable surf ever. The session in which I finally scored that stand-up barrel. The one in which I surmounted my fears and was duly rewarded. The waves were big, but not too big. Hollow, but I thought I could make the drop. Late afternoon sky intensifying lights and shadows, the slight offshore grooming good waves into perfect. And, oddly enough, a guy rocking the AC/DC karaoke out of the back of his pickup. I tugged wet neoprene on as he belted out “The Girl’s Got Rhythm” through a megaphone directed at the ocean. Dressed and psyched, I ran to water’s edge, slogged over to the channel, caught an easy ride out on the rip. My arms and shoulders emanated strength as I paddled. The plan was catch a couple small ones to warm up, then head into the fray for the more sizable offerings. I was ready. I caught a couple waves right off, nothing great, but enough to verify all parts worked: paddling, timing, popping up, turning, arms, legs, smile, everything in place. Great. Life was so sweet.

And then I got caught inside. Smashed. Creamed. Pummeled. Catching my breath, I paddled around, back outside. At least I thought it was outside. Was every set going to break farther out than the last? Apparently. Again, caught inside. My board slammed into my chest so hard my right pectoral muscle still protests if I reach too high or too far. I’m surprised my bra still fits. Even then, I sucked it up, determined to not end this session poorly. Alas, the ocean triumphed, again sending me spinning toward the beach, thoughts of success eradicated by the reality that I am a total and complete loser when it comes to surfing. I suck. This sucks. I am getting rid of all my stuff the second I get home. Stupid, stupid surfing. Except Nick likes it, so I can’t just quit. Great. This sucks. If I had any illusions about the ocean caring one way or another, I’d imagine a chunky diva lounging on her chaise, eating chocolates and laughing at my pathetic attempts at glory. Or a bad boyfriend, the sort who’d tease with promises of love, then take off on his motorcycle while you were in the café restroom. He’d stick you with the bill, too, of course. It’s awful to love something so much, to have the deepest, most meaningful parts of who you are desire something, be willing to work for it, only to be met with indifference and rejection.

Stupid, stupid surfing.