I surf with more passion than I’ve ever felt before, but I’d certainly not consider myself good. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered, walls of water like moving mountains, foamy white water like a powerful avalanche, a board which goes from your greatest ally to greatest enemy the moment it is freed from your hands and feet. Is the feeling of a wave worth the pain of falling? Often, yeah it is, small waves, no biggie, a couple seconds of being underwater (burr), and then you paddle back out and try again. But when the waves become giants and the board a brute force weapon, that fall feels like life or death. I remember going out on a day with waves far beyond my skill set, Goliath and Polyphemus in the flesh. Before even paddling for a wave a set came in, the first wave blocked the sun as it groaned past me, the second feathered as I crested its peak desperately paddling to the outside, and the third I was not so lucky. The avalanche hit me, immediately tearing the board from my hands, the wave now groaning on top of me thrashing my body like a ragdoll in a washing machine. My last thought was “I really don’t want to die”, and then, it was over. The wave passed and adrenaline pulled out beyond the impact zone. So what pushes me to surf in water like this, maybe I just like the adrenaline but I think it’s because putting myself in places beyond my skill set and comfort, where I am deeply imperfect, has shaped who I am.
Then on friday
as the sun set I tore down highway 1
by hearst castle
frantically searching for a place to get in the water
and even as the sun dipped under the saddles I sped through
I could feel I could find it
and I did
I changed quickly and jogged past multiple signs which thoughtfully informed that this area was the elephant seal’s area not the humans area, I wasn’t wearing my glasses and it was not very bright so I only saw them as I was leaving
but I saw surfers in the water and the break looked nice enough so I ran through the grass towards the beach 100 yards off
where the grass stopped the seals started
some small but others enormous
big black bodies
and the screaming
but nothing could pierce the orange and purple sky
I darted through a maze of them
(entirely honestly I don’t know where the courage to do this came from)
I sprinted the last 20 feet to the water, threw my board down and paddled hard past the break to arrive at the silent surfers
I was a mess of limbs and heavy breathing but their boards just made small sounds when they breached the swaying surface and i settled into the salt and the sea
it was a pitchy little close out but occasionally the ocean would toss in this fast pulling right that could pick you up at the rocky point and deposit you on the other side of the cove in just seconds, forcing you to take a deep breath while you paddle back past the seals and the sand
I told this guy that I had been looking to get in the water before sunset and I thanked him for sharing his spot with me
“I’ve come here every day for a couple weeks hoping this spot would be breaking”
“oh yeah?” I said, moving closer by kicking underneath my board
“It opens up only a couple times a year, it needs just the right swell direction, if the waves are too big it washes out, and if it’s too small it doesn’t break, oh and the wind blows it out almost every day on top of that.”
A wave came and he tore off down the line
I watched the sun set from the water
splashed the cold water on my face.
And When i got back to the car I wrote
I wrote for him,
To her we are all just bodies
Blubbery and black
She pulls and pulls
The heat from our soles
But occasionally she opens up
And gives back
as he got in his truck I ripped out the page in my journal and handed it to him
it was bitter and cold
in the great green pacific.
and the warmth crawled out from my bones
as the words in my head slowed their swirling.
instead of going with them,
there I would sit
socks in the sand
I kept high and dry
Always away from that wet;
I hadn’t yet felt it’s unavoidable pull
that siren’s song.
I hadn’t let the cold seep in,
I hadn’t plunged into the ocean,
But I would.
The ocean begs for our attention
it begs for big words
and soft sounds
a deft touch
and a guiding glance
to make sure
who sit in stony silence
will be kept in time
by the rising and falling of
the great green pacific
This week I went surfing at 5 am for the very first time. I got up at 4.30 am and got ready. I got dressed, grabbed the wetsuit, grabbed my bag and waited for the van to pick me up. It was freezing outside but I was so incredibly excited. I always wanted to go to the beach before the sunrise and swim and surf while watching the sun rise. As soon as we arrived at the beach we put our wetsuits on, grabbed our boards and headed to the beach.
I was barefoot and we had to walk a little distance to the beach on concrete and my feet were completely frozen and in pain from walking on the hard and sharp concrete. I finally stepped on sand and immediately ran towards the water. I stayed in the more shallow spot first to just practice a bit before my teacher called me over to try some bigger waves.
After many failed attempts I finally managed to stand up for just a second before I fell but it was still amazing. The sunrise was absolutely beautiful and there were many seals just swimming around us. One of them popped its head up right next to me and looked at me curiously before it dove back down.
It was my first time being at the beach before sunrise and it was a long dream of mine that I was finally able to fulfill.
Last week was my first trip to the beach since coming out of quarantine. I had been looking forward to it the whole week and then it was finally time to leave. We packed our surfboards and wetsuits and made our way to the beach.
It was a hot day, the sun was shining and the mood was good. We sang songs in the car all the way to the beach and when we arrived we immediately grabbed our stuff and ran down to the beach. Feeling the sand between my feet and the sun on my shoulders felt so good. I hadn’t been to the beach in 6 months and it felt so good to be back. My friend and I looked at each other and just started running towards the water like two little kids. The water was cold but also warm, just perfect. We swam for a few minutes before we decided it was time to get on the surfboards and attempt to surf.
Well, we definitely miscalculated how big some of the waves were and just got slammed to the ocean floor. It was a struggle getting out in the water again as the waves just came crushing in, taking you and your board with them. When we finally made it out we waited for a wave that was small enough for us, as we have never really surfed in our lives. We kept trying and trying and every yet so tiny success was enough to keep us motivated.
We ended up being in the water for 3 hours trying to stand up on our board. At one point we were so exhausted we didn’t even have the strength to push ourselves up anymore. The sun started setting, creating a beautiful bright orange color that reflected from the ocean. It was time to go, and our teachers called us back in to pack our stuff and head back to the van.
I will go back to the beach again tomorrow and I will not give up until I stand on the board surfing down the line, even of it will take me weeks to accomplish it.
Picture credit to author