#7: The description “fun” pops up often when I’m describing my life. As a reply to, “How was the surf?” Or, “How was the party?” or “How was the show?” or “How was your weekend with your people?” Generic shorthand for saying, “I prefer doing stuff to not and appreciate all opportunities, so the range of acceptable ways to pass the time is relatively broad in my book and therefore I enjoyed myself.”
But Friday’s session redefined “fun” in the same way that “awesome” means more when in the throes of actual awe. Sunny, warm, light offshore breeze, head-high to slightly over on the sets, steep enough to catch easily, but not so pitching to make taking off late a risk. Rights. Rights! I love those rights. Love! I couldn’t stop catching waves any more than I could stop grinning — I had the takeoff spot dialed in early and often, and each time I channeled back out, another wave would roll up and offer itself to me.
So good stuff happened. Almost as amazing, bad stuff didn’t. I made every wave I dropped into, never found myself caught inside, and when I finally had to exit, a left came along within moments to take me to shore. Plus, even when the longboard crowd shift-changed into the shortboard crowd, the number of people in the water stayed minimal. And the people themselves stayed nice. (I was on my 7’5″, so fit nicely in between.)
(Finding such satisfaction on such cheery little waves contrasts greatly with the monster surf experiences related in The Wave, which I am currently reading!)
The bliss lingered for hours. If one of my enemies had come to me that day, I would’ve forgiven her everything. All that ocean energy launched me into a different plane of existence, one where love and living in the moment were the only options and all the chatter fell away.
That is where I want to be.
#8: I thought about quitting surfing after the glorious day before. Stop while I’m ahead and all that. But Saturday, I pulled up to the beach, scoped the scene while the winds howled so hard, my truck rattled with the gusts. Smaller, colder, windier, even fewer people, but still those rights invited…. I suited up. Of course I fell off a wave early on (I blame switching back up to the 8’0″ longboard and being unable to turn) and almost immediately after found myself caught inside a set.
I clambered back on my board, grimaced against the wind and made my way around again. The board’s heft overpowered the wind’s push, and I found a groove similar to the previous day’s — only with the added feature of paddling constantly to stay lined up between sets. If the current wasn’t sucking me toward shore, the wind was blowing me up the beach. Couple guys out, super mellow vibe, all of us shaking our heads over the wind. Set of the day came in, maybe head high. Took off later than I like to on the longboard — I cannot maneuver it as well — had a moment of imbalance, corrected, leaning hard into the wave on the bottom turn, slick blue shoulder and blowing foam roaring up on my right, the promise of a few long seconds of fun fulfilled.
#9: The swell had picked up and the wind backed off, so I was hoping for a bigger and better sunny session before the storm. So had everyone else. Toyotas lined the beach, their owners lined the dunes, dogs cavorted in every direction. Two guys out, both of whom came in during the time it took my friend and I to walk out for a better look. We stood and gabbed and tried to see a reason for paddling out among the waves breaking next to us.
Eventually one of the surfers who’d been out walked over to say hey. This guy, besides being one of Humboldt’s best surfers, always appears to be finding satisfaction while surfing, probably because he’s so dialed in to the local ocean that being on the best waves is second nature. But he was not happy. Over it before he’d even reached the outside. Fine if you like closeouts. Bah. But the sun was warm on my back and the day lovely despite the swell’s fugly, so I ended up chatting longer. Watched a competent teenager hop off the rocks and paddle out into the near double-O sets. We thought he’d get schooled, but he did good, somehow picking off a sweet right, then later making a late, big drop on another wave, whitewater exploding behind — at which point, he called it and rode in.
Another taker. We watched a set stomp in and start breaking way outside, too far for him to scratch over. He tried to dive under as the pile of water reared up and collapsed into a wall of close-out. He disappeared into the whitewater, his board tombstoned for a second, then flew through the air, landing in front of the wave, which flung it toward shore. We kept an eye on him as he swam toward shore, relieved at the good time he made. But he didn’t see his board, which was making its way to the channel. “Over here!” we hollered. “Over here!” Finally he caught sight of it — we were worried the current would carry it faster than it would carry him, but he made it, yay! and climbed aboard.
Then he caught a leashless left, rode it conservatively and dropped to his belly before losing his board could happen. I would’ve bellied in to play it safe; quite impressed on how he finished out with style.
Eventually I stopped conversing, went home, made crepes. But the buoy numbers kept distracting me. Maybe once the tide dropped? A little wind? I ended up back out at the low tide. Looked much better, but still near double-overhead on the sets. The rights looked easier, but had lost their pretty shape. Compelled to keep up my streak, make the most of opportunity while I could, but unsure if I’d do anything but get my ass kicked. I didn’t have much time to decide.
“You going to go?” came a voice. That did it. “Yeah, I’m here, sun’s out, might as well get in the water,” went my instinctive reply.
I suited up, including gloves because the water’s been so cold it makes the little bones in my hands ache. Paddled out on the 7’8″ gun. Way out. Really breaking far out there. Tried to find the right, managed to pick off a smaller, inside one. Always good to get something right away when I feel nervous. Found another one, bigger this time, maybe head-and-a-half, flew down the slope into the mess low tide had created — I crested over knee-high waves bouncing off the rocks back at me. Ridiculous. That and the current sent me over to the lefts, where I failed to time things correctly, missed the waves I should’ve taken off on, paddled for waves I couldn’t catch and ended up inside set. At which point I said, done, and found something inside to ride in. So not amazing or even particularly rewarding, but I’m glad I went out. Exercise and practice in navigating bigger days. Next time I’ll find that wave that makes it worth it.