Wow, even given the conditions — head-and-a-half sets, sunshine, little wind, Sunday afternoon — I didn’t expect to pull up in such a parking lot of  vehicles at the beach. The back road looked like a weekend at the mall, the water like a soccer crowd about to erupt. We scoped out a peak up the beach, figured we’d paddle past the knot of surfers already battling for waves and find a little fun that way.

My two friends did exactly that. I ended up remembering as I was paddling out that I’d tweaked my shoulder something awful a couple days before. I thought the injury had disappeared, but a few strokes in, the muscle disagreed. So I paced myself, drifting into position for the rights. Figured I’d warm up, pick off a couple corners, say hey to the folks I knew. Sure were a lot of people I didn’t recognize, too. I haven’t surfed in a crowd like that at that spot for a long time. Must not have been working anywhere else, so they all came down and overran the place.

Paddled and missed a couple waves, which inspired me to commit to catching at least one good one to make up for not getting ones I felt I should have. Between my shoulder hurting and having to wear gloves (the water had dropped to 48 degrees), my paddling wasn’t as powerful as I needed it to be to get in early. So I would have to take off later.

Another chance came: an overhead, steep right. Folks nearby hooted at me. Pressure on. I made the drop, yay!, but before I could get much further, I hit a bump and, center of gravity way too high, I was bucked right off.

OK, wave number two. Also a right. Set wave, even, coming in at least head-and-a-half, nice size. Paddled, dropped, stood, weaved around someone’s head, looked at the field of obstacles, concluded I would not be able to, as they say, “thread the needle,” but would likely plow into or over someone… and bailed. Thus discouraged and in a fair amount of pain at this point, I channelled back around and waited (and waited) for a left to get me to shore. One finally arrived in the form of a half-assed close-out.

While I was hanging out in the  line-up, some guy started yelling at another guy, “You fucking maggot, go home!” and more along those lines. The yellee appeared to shrug it off, incensing the yeller further. This went on for several sets. Look, I don’t like a crowd either and I also understand the impulse to freak out in reaction to a sketchy situation, but spending that much time and energy following someone around to keep screaming at them? Just diminishes the scene for everyone else.

So, not the most fun I’ve ever had out there. On the upside: a good reminder of how much nicer it usually is; still caught a couple rights slightly outside of my comfort zone; saw some people I like; time in the water is not time wasted.