#44, #45, #46: These were all variations on the same theme. Small height, long interval swell – it must be fall! – provided clean, head-high waves all over. Parking areas along the spit overflowed with surfers anxious to get out and get some. I surfed various beach breaks to the same effect; fun, but not memorable. I caught waves, but the ones I found myself on tended to mush out or close out, making rides short and paddling back out long. I was reminded how lazy I am about fighting through whitewater to get to the outside. Spoiled by usually having a channel, that’s for sure.

#47: Found a channel – and some juicy overhead waves. Still glassy; we’re exhilarated by the lack of any wind but south. I’d been cleaning and organizing the house all day, watching the sunshine light up the outside world, felt the air grow balmy and my impatience to get out similarly expand. At last I found myself on the beach, tugging on a wetsuit as clouds gathered above. There goes the sun…. Paddled out, managing to navigate my way through the exploding whitewater and find myself far off the beach nodding at the couple other people in the lineup. Caught a wave, caught a wave; happiness surged through me. And then the fog rolled in.

Maybe “rolled” isn’t the right word. Fell? Flooded? Burst? Imagining fog behaving aggressively doesn’t come easy when you haven’t experienced that world-tilt of things being clear one moment and completely hidden the next. I could no longer see the beach. I couldn’t see the other surfers. All I could see was the span of ocean immediately encircling me, water gray blending into air gray and bringing thoughts of “the man in the gray suit” to mind. It’s fall, after all. Sunset about a half hour away. “I should probably go in,” popped into my brain. I held out for a wave, caught a perfectly pleasant overhead right that carried me through the mist and closer to shore. Another few minutes of paddling and the line of sand solidified. Now all I had to was find my truck. With the fog so thick, I had no landmarks, much less a clear line of sight.

“There’s a truck here somewhere, I just know it!”

Then I spotted a particularly large chunk of driftwood to my right. I remembered seeing it as I’d paddled out. So I started up the beach in that direction. Eventually a truck-shaped object manifested. Closer inspection revealed it was indeed my Tacoma. Relieved, I tugged off my wetsuit and pulled on my clothes. Normally I don’t think much about changing, but being unable to see who (or what! – cue spooky music) was out there unnerved me. When another, invisible, truck suddenly came alive, headlights cutting through the darkening haze, I gasped and moved faster. Exiting the beach involved moving at a crawl until the foghorn’s light allowed me to find the road out.

#48: Returned to the same spot, now with less fog and bigger waves. I had to paddle out from the side, way from the side, to get to the peak. Which I actually didn’t get to, at least not the peak with a dozen guys on it, because along the way, a set rolled in and I found myself in position for a relatively bomber right, a few feet overhead and moving like a freight train. I paddled for it, made the drop and experienced a moment of “Woohoo!” before the lip fell down on my head, sending me tumbling underwater for several beats.

Washed too far inside to get back out easily meant paddling around the long way again – and proving how completely ridiculous surfing is if you consider the ratio of effort to reward around here. But there I was, aiming for the peak, when another set came. I sat up, whirled around, then second-guessed myself and failed to take off; I’d been unsure about whether or not the swell would break inside or outside of where I sat. In immediate hindsight, I realized, I should’ve gone. Mad at myself for not going, I resolved to paddle for the next wave no matter how sizey or how steep. Given that the swell was running 5 at 17, I faced waves that were maybe 8 feet on the face with a lot of power behind them. It wasn’t the size, it was the size and how hard the water was coming at me that made me hesitate. But determination won out. Set came, I steeled myself, paddled hard, found myself sliding down the face – and then I did that thing I do when I’m worried about making the drop: I stood up too fast, too tall. My board dropped away from my feet as the wave pitched. I elevator-dropped behind it. Once again I was spun around and came up for air far closer to the shore. But I’d gone for it and I recognized my mistake, so the wipeout left me feeling weirdly more confident.

The sun was setting, though, so I called it a day. Another experience to file away and then recall for next time.

Looking forward to next time.