Six days have passed since I last shrugged neoprene over my shoulders and launched into the ocean. Unlike today, the swell measured a perfectly reasonable 6 at 12, breaking overhead, then peeling right and left with steady precision. From the channel, I counted 20 others paddling – everyone was paddling. If not for a wave, then to keep from being pulled up the beach or out to sea. The current provides an easy path from sand to line-up, but remains relentless once you’re there.

A set came to me quickly – I turned, paddled, wishing for more confidence, hoping commitment would make up for the lack. The wave caught me, but in my haste to make the drop, I stood too quickly. My board teetered at the top of the lip, then slipped back as the wave went on without me. My failure resonated through me as I paddled back, avoiding eye contact. Another try found me on a left, nothing special to watch, just confirmation that I could do this after all. I continued catching lefts while rights eluded me, offshore wind picking up strength as the session wore on. I couldn’t fight it, couldn’t get my board down the wave’s face before being gusted off, like a shoo’ed fly, until the end, when I waited till the wave was nearly tipping over me, then flung myself into it, preferring wiping out to missing out. But neither happened. Instead, I found myself flying along, board underfoot, shoulder lifting, a lovely bow on this present of a day.