Stupid knees. I felt like an old lady last week, twinges turning sharp under my kneecaps while doing squats, lunges, sprints. Ceci, my trainer at Praxis, nudged me through a series of exercises designed to highlight what’s wrong where. Shoulders tight – disturbing as I spend what feels like a lot of time stretching my shoulders in hopes of avoiding the surgery that seems inevitable for NorCal surfers – some muscle that runs from my abs to my back, tender. I feel so good, so strong, well, except for the knee thing. Aches and pains threaten to undermine my sense of self. I am unwilling to cave to physical limitations. Instead, a combination of stretching, ibuprofen, arnica and sports gel over the weekend led me back to the gym on Monday and into the ocean this morning. I didn’t care what it looked like; I needed to be in the water.

Summer's end is not so far.

#41: So, there I was, sublimating any pain that might suggest I am less than in optimal (ha) physical condition, hemming and hawing about putting my wetsuit on, when I looked in the back of the truck and discovered I’d done something I’d never done before: driven off without my wetsuit. ACK. This, after sitting ensconced in my truck cab, texting friends, answering emails, watching mini-lefts and trying to motivate. I knew I belonged in the water. Why I hesitated, I can only blame on laziness.

Thus invested, I drove home, grabbed my tub, returned to the beach. Suited up, paddled out – solo now, the two guys in the water having vacated as I parked. Couple three guys leaning on trucks talking story watching. I normally kook out with spectators or cameras, but this time, I made the waves. Waist-high and slow as they were. I didn’t care, just happy to not fall over. Again and again, baby swells peaking up into passably fun waves. Worked on bottom turns, staying low, to various degrees of success. Stayed out, cursing the gloves that felt like water balloons, but needing them to secure my bandaged thumb – I’d sliced into it cutting cauliflower the night before. This clumsiness did not carry over, thankfully, although I confess, I still lack in grace.

Another woman paddled out, then another guy. Still enough waves like clockwork making it easy to share. Water iced through my suit as I splashed off my board upon ending a wave. Bobbing birds startled me when glimpsed in the periphery, black shadows triggering instinctual fear. I shook it off. The morning demanded little, gave much. I would’ve stayed out longer, but my leash tie broke, leaving me suddenly adrift, swimming, shackled but unanchored. I stroked into a wave, managed to catch my board before the current circled it back out to sea.

All this north wind disguises the fact that fall is not far away. The bar will abruptly move higher, more skilled surfers materializing from nowhere, bomber sets and hollow waves demanding ever-greater competence. August is critical. No time to slack.