I arrived at my parents’ beach house around eight wearing slippers, my monkey pajamas and a red fleece robe. I had basically decided that today I would take a day off from surfing, sure that the howling wind and consistent rain from the day before would have left the ocean with some serious re-organizing to do.
I was wrong. Offshore winds from the east had helped the ocean put itself back together. I watched from the cliff as big grey peaks came in all over the beach and broke in a very rideable fashion with the white water gracefully chasing the waves' grey faces in both directions. It must have been at least six to eight feet. No one was out for what seemed like miles. But why? I thought to myself. The waves looked nice enough and even though the water was probably slightly polluted from the rain, that never stopped die hard surfers from getting their fix.
Watching the waves my mind became divided; Half of me wanted to go home and get work done, avoiding a pain in the arms paddle and the frozen headache, but the other half of me wanted to take on those daunting waves alone. I felt almost as though the ocean was calling me to see what I was made out of and I knew I wasn’t going to walk away from that. I made my way through my parents' yard to my bike to get my wetsuit, hood and board. I felt surprised by my strong feelings to confront these daunting waves as my early days of surfing had been filled with fear of riding waves just like them, especially alone.
I couldn’t stop my legs now, though. They listened to my heart. They knew this was a rare moment where the perfect challenge had arrived right in front of them.
When I entered the neighborhood beach parking lot I had to make my way past groups of men standing around, coffees in hand, discussing the surf. They looked at me like I had my wetsuit on backwards, studying my body, face and board like I was out of place. Their conversations slowed as I made my way through them. Whether I was going to flail or shred, it was clear now that it would be public knowledge.
I made my way down the dirt beach path and ran right into the ocean. The recent dredging of a nearby creek left the water looking like dishwater and smelling like the bottom of a pond. It took me about seven minutes to paddle out to the outside.
A rideable wave came to me and I didn’t hesitate in taking it. I paddled two strokes and dropped onto the steep wave face. It always seems as though time slows down when you ride waves that scare you, but I couldn’t have been riding for more than three seconds before the whole thing exploded and blocked the path in front of me. I paddled back out again. This time it seemed to take me a little longer. The freezing, grey, smelly water washed inside my hood and made my face feel like it had been dipped in ice cream. I made it to the outside and waited for another ten minutes before the next decent wave came to me. It was a right. I dropped in realizing this wave was breaking rapidly and I would have to make up my mind quickly about what I was going to do with the section ahead of me. I could straighten out and allow the explosion of water to occur behind me, or I could pump up the face and ride on top of the impending explosion. The decision wasn’t hard. I didn’t come out here to play it safe, I came out today for the challenge. Using the speed I had from the steep drop I did a quick bottom turn and then made my way up the wave’s formidable face. I did a top turn before the lip could catch me and then rode out in front of the white wash with a content feeling jumping around in my heart. When my feet hit the sand I felt like laughing.
I came up to the parking lot and made my way through the men still congregating near the path.
“How was it?” one with a green hoody asked.
“Umm. It was…It was challenging” I finally replied with a smile.When I returned home I hung up my wetsuit more carefully than usual. This apparel carried more value now. It had been my suit on a day when I accepted a challenge from the sea.