#40: I arrived in Ventura after shipping one daughter off to Italy at SFO and visiting another in Long Beach. As I’d driven from the Bay Area to the LBC, I’d passed by miles of perfect surf, unable to stop due to lack of time. Now I’d returned to slightly less ideal conditions, predominantly an offshore wind strong enough to muss my hair. But the sun shone and waves rolled in a-plenty, so I decided to suit up and paddle out. Wait. Strike that. It was 80 degrees out. No way was I tugging on a 5-4 wetsuit. Board shorts and bikini top, here we go.

The times I’ve surfed sans wetsuit are few: once in Leucadia and while in Taiwan. Taiwan was tropical, heavenly. Leucadia boasted warm air and brisk water. This session was like the latter; the water’s chill evaporated in the sunshine.

My board lacked wax, the result of an enthusiastic de-waxing moment I’d engaged in during one of Humboldt’s rare and freakishly hot days. I thought I’d layered enough new wax before paddling out, but without a wetsuit’s grip, my legs slipped when I sat up on the board. I hoped this wasn’t an indicator that I’d fall.

Success is not falling. That’s all I hope for in a session. If I make a pretty bottom turn or pull a bit of a floater or remember to stay low and tuck in, that’s the proverbial icing on the cake. Foam on the wave. Whatever.

I didn’t fall.

My hips and knees grew sore from lack of padding. I found myself caught inside a set, leaving me thoroughly soaked and vulnerable to the growing wind chill factor. But I also found myself on several rights, ranging from waist- to shoulder-high, maneuvering my board with bare feet toward the pier, palm trees and sunshine further evidence of the California dream.

#41: Dawn patrol. Amazing how many people are already in the water on a good SoCal break. At least 30. Before the sky had lightened. I wore my wetsuit this time, morning chill undoing my desire to keep trunking it. And I was warm. I could feel myself sweating, in fact. Perspiring while covered in neoprene reminds me of some old-fashioned weight loss method. Not that I lost any weight, but I did hope all the sweating would speed the purging of toxins ingested the night before. Caught some waves, wished for one that didn’t close out. The ocean served up. Unfortunately, the better waves offered had to make it past about a million longboarders before coming my way.

Look at the sky, I reminded myself. How pretty! What a treat to be here! The attempt at gratitude-channeling succeeded in taking the edge off my frustration with the crowd factor. Deep breath and a wave nearly to shore.

#42: Oh, to be able to channel enough bliss to stop resenting the number of people taking waves. I wasn’t in the mood to compete. I just wanted to catch a few waves in the sunshine. I didn’t understand the crowd. I couldn’t see a pattern, a line-up, any sense of turn-taking. Annoyance eclipsed the glittering scene. Faced with a choice of fighting for a (chest-high, mushy) wave or getting out and shifting energies to the pool with perhaps a Bloody Mary and definitely a good magazine, I opted for the latter.

#43: I’m going to have fun and appreciate the wonder of the world, damn it. Look at that moon setting in the west, ghost shadow lingering in the sky, hazy pastel rainbow stretched across the horizon, faded lavender blue green yellow poppy pink. Look at that tequila sunrise, gold-rimmed explosion of orange red emerging to the east. Feel the water, warm enough you don’t need booties, your toes submerged in the Pacific Ocean you love. Look at the ocean, spread out beach to horizon. Remember how it felt like coming home the first time you paddled out? So what if a million other people feel the same way? You can take your turn, strong strokes into the peak, twist right, bottom turn and back up top, slide down the face, nothing fancy, just that steady constant connection. Life is beautiful. You are lucky. The pier stands silhouetted against the mountains, palm trees lined up, the whole scene straight out of the California dream you still believe in.