After escaping work early today, I should have taken my dog for a walk, but I knew that I was going to be bringing her to a friend’s house for dinner, where she would get to play with her pug friend. That gave me a time window that’s unheard of at 4pm on a weekday. What to do?
The waves at Tourmaline Surf Park were reported to be “poor,” but sometimes that’s when they’re best. As paddled out I counted maybe 20 people in the water, spread over a mile of beach break, every inch of which appeared to have the same not-magnificent, but very much rideable waves. Sets rolled in every couple of minutes, and I finally broke my two-week slump, catching a few decent rides.
After the first of these, which was a quintessential beginner ride, straight out into the foam, it took me an hour or so to catch another. I slipped off the back of half a dozen before having a flash of inspiration, what you could call an intuitive wave: I remembered how it’s supposed to feel the moment you stand up and let gravity and physics carry you forward.
Right about that time, I noticed a guy my age on long board, riding more or less traditionally, paddling on his knees, and so forth. He caught everything that came his way, or at least tried for it, then paddled back out.
He was all over, sliding through waves like a porpoise while the rest of us smashed through them, sputtering and choking on foam. He paddled close enough to where I could see he wasn’t wearing a leash, then a moment later was 100 yards away, checking out the waves further up the shore. Off in the distance he was a caricature, lolling on his board with his chin on his hands, gazing into the water.
Watching someone that good tends to depress or motivate, and on this occasion it made me paddle harder and try for more waves. I saw one approaching, a black shelf against white clouds, and paddled quickly toward it, trying to head it off before it broke. When it was twenty feet away I spun toward shore and attacked the water, building speed to match the surge behind me. That was my best ride of the day.
Swimming back out I crested over a wave, exalted, punching through the lip just as it started to break. For a moment I wore a halo of spray and late afternoon setting sunlight. Later I watched the big neon grapefruit drop past the horizon just before heading to shore.