#53: Surfed alone. Overhead, semi-juicy, roiling gray water under a matching gray sky. Couldn’t shake the shark heebie-jeebies. My nervousness threw off my timing; I tumbled off the top of a wave, colliding with my board on the way down. My fin slammed into my ankle so hard that I pulled my leg up and pushed my bootie down to make sure it hadn’t sliced through my skin. No blood, just the promise of bruised skin to match my ego. I stayed out long enough to catch another couple waves in hopes of redeeming myself, but really, I was relieved to paddle in and limp up the beach to safety. Some days are just not good days.

#54: However, some days are good days! After an all-day work meeting, my coworked and I returned to Ocean Beach and the sight of a glassy ocean serving up head-high rights and lefts as if auditioning for a postcard. We raced into our suits, out over the dunes and into the line-up. Luckily, peaks abounded. Pelicans glided across a rising swell as the sun dipped into the Pacific, sky pink and orange. Everything glowed.

Post-surf view from the house. Yes, it's a killer location.

#55: One more session before hitting the road home. The swell had picked up slightly, an occasional overhead set walling through, but the sky remained clear, the waves retained the same lovely shape as the evening prior and this time, in addition to the pelicans, dolphins abounded. I struggled to get through the whitewater this time, unable at first to find the channel I’d navigated earlier. A set landed on my head and tore my board from my hands, purpling my fingers in the process. Digits stinging, I wondered if I should persevere or call it quits and just go home.  But the pretty waves enticed. I shook off the frustration, paddled hard, mentally shouting encouragement as I strove for the outside. It was probably not that dramatic to anyone watching. Made it.

And then the rights! All summer the waves have been left, left, left and finally, a playground of rights stretching out under the sunny, windless sky. I caught one, then another. The second lasted and lasted, so much time to think and not-think, to deliberately cruise up to the lip, turn, slide back down, repeat, dissolve into happiness. The wave kept going and I fought my instinct to ride it to the end — I didn’t want to end up caught back inside fighting to get to the lineup, so I kicked out, the joy evident in the grin I couldn’t contain. I’d left my coworker blocks behind. I waved, gave a thumps up and aimed for the outside, alone in this stretch of ocean.

A swell rose up about 50 feet in front of me. Within the wave, a dolphin, silhouetted. Before I finished saying, “Wow,” the dolphin burst from the wave, leaping and twisting through the air. Then swam back up into the wave and leapt, twisted, dove again. And again! Three times — by the third, the dolphin was only about 20 feet away. An awareness that I’d just seen something I’d remember my whole life left me awed. To witness such magic thrilled and humbled and thrilled me again. “Did you see that?” I hollered at Paul when I reached him. “Hard to miss!” he responded.

I left a little of my heart in San Francisco!

I replayed the scene over and over, not wanting to lose the smallest detail, and held on to the giddiness all the way home.