Monday, June 21, 2010

Saltwater on the Brain

Saturday morning I was dying to get out, but I didn't make it to the beach until late afternoon. The sun was starting to go down and I was having some doubts. Even after Brian and I packed the kids into the surf wagon and drove west, it felt like it wasn't going to happen.

Arriving at the beach, I was not encouraged. Wind was whipping every which way and the beach was one set of crumbly whitecaps after another. The surf did not look kind, or blissful or welcoming. There was no one else in, and I felt like a fool, both stupid and courageous, as I pulled on my wet suit while every one else walked past me: leaving the beach.

I stood at the edge of the water, board under one arm. I stared out at the horizon. I imagined I looked as if I was constructing a strategy for riding in the stormy peaks, but really I was thinking "Oh shit." I walked in.

As soon as I did, it felt good to be enveloped by the swooshing tide. I wondered where this wet suit had been all my life and how I could have gone this long without it.

I also thought that waves without a board are like peanut butter without jelly, shoes without laces, me without you. Sex without the lube. I've been body surfing my whole life, from New Jersey to Puerto Rico to Florida to L.A., and I've just been wasting my time. Waves without a board! There's no way to engage, no way to use one's feel for the timing, the size or the rhythm of the swells. I may have been wasting my time - but no longer!

I paddled in - a salmon upstream. Ridiculous. Waves pummeled my face, some I swam over, some I dove under. Wave after wave after wave after wave, few really deserving of the name "wave" since they were really just the water's natural reaction to all that wind.

Fortunately, there was one other surfer south of me. He wasn't paddling. Instead he stood chest high in his short sleeved spring suit watching the water. Whenever he saw a wave he liked coming his way, he would turn around and catch it . Thanks to that guy's example, I saved myself a lot of breath and effort and stopped trying to swim against the tide. And I caught two waves.

The first one left me with a runaway smile so wide across my face, I couldn't stop it even when I tried. The second one... Well, without even time to consider popping up, the force of the water shot me forward across the top of my board like a freakin' torpedo and, whoosh, I was under.

It was dark and still and perfectly calm. I was under so long, I had time to be surprised at how blissful I felt. Everything was perfectly slow and I hadn't a fear in the world. Every wipe-out should be like this, I thought, and decided to come up for air.

Not long after that, I came ashore. I hadn't been in long. But I got extra points for having gone in at all. When I got out, my head was full of saltwater. But the runaway smile was still there.

Afterwards, one of the best parts was peeling off my suit and putting my board back on the rack. I felt like a surfer and as if no one who walked by could know that I hadn't known what the hell I was doing and that this was only my fourth "first time ever."

It was great. And I've still got the saltwater in my head as a congested souvenir.

p.s. as soon as I get my camera back up and running, I promise, KT, there WILL be pictures.

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