Is someone casting dark spells on BeachGrit writers?
(Ed. note: In my rusty memory Rory Parker was always hurting himself and having surgery. Our Michael Kocher was killed by policemen. Now poor Michael Ciaramella is laid low. Do you believe in the supernatural? Could there possibly be a BeachGrit curse? And if yes, who conjured this dark force?)
The goal was to arrive at Marbella, a surf break forty-five minutes from our Playa Negra domicile, by first light. That meant a 4:45 wake-up and 5:15 departure.
A night of Cacique (a sugar cane liquor) and Snappa (a terrible drinking game) put us slightly behind schedule. Costa Rica will do that to you.
After an hour of waking up, then re-waking up my debilitated pals, the truck was packed and we were off.
To cut time, we took a local shortcut — one that involved weaving through cattle, romping over potholes and crossing a small river. The only obstacle we hadn’t accounted for was a fallen tree blocking our path.
By the time we’d encountered the natural roadblock, we were too far into the shortcut to head back. Fifteen minutes to Marbella through the tree, an hour if we were to turn around.
Our Nissan Navara fit just under the main trunk, but one of the core branches — a solid two feet in diameter and thirty in length — was directly in our path.
After short deliberation, a decision was made. We would move the thousand-pound piece of lumber in order to clear a path for our vehicle.
We got low, counted down from three and, PUUUUUSH!
A new idea; Two of us would lift while the others would drive the trunk forward with all of their body weight.
It worked, if slightly.
Each countdown resulted in an inch, maybe two inches of progress. A couple times when we lifted, the tree would swing back and we’d lose six inches all at once. Twenty minutes later, muddied and scraped from neck to heel, we’d moved the tree just enough to slip our 4×4 through the gap.
We laughed. We cried. We mocked the petty piece of lumber and were swiftly on our way.
As far as I was concerned, the day was already a success. A surf session would be great to wash off the dirt and sweat, but this tree endeavor had already achieved my daily entertainment quota.
With the morning commute behind us, we arrived at Playa Marbella to find clean, chest-high wedges breaking up and down the beach. Mesmerized by the sight, we pointed and squawked like amateur birdwatchers. Within minutes our feet were clean of mud and coated instead with Mr. Zog’s white goo.
The session went how sessions go — some good waves, some bad waves, always clinging to the hope that something bigger or better was looming out the back. Nearly three hours into my surf, about the time you’d start looking for a wave in, I found the lump I’d spent all day searching for.
Head high on take off, with a valley in the center and another hump forming down the line — the wave implored me to soar. If not implored me, then taunted me, in a ‘you won’t hit this, you pussy’ kind of way.
My friends were watching from out the back. I had no choice.
Launching off the lip, I felt my feet disconnect from the board momentarily, before regaining traction a foot closer to the nose. The air wasn’t exceptionally high, but I covered a decent amount ground and was set to land at the point of impact.
The initial landing was soft enough, but with the weight of the explosion from the crashing swell, I figured I’d be engulfed by whitewater and bucked from my board.
Turns out I was half right.
Rather than being overtaken by fluffy clouds and kindly deposited into the abyss, the explosion sent the nose of my board skyward, taking my front foot along with it. This pushed my front knee inward, toward the deck of my surfboard — a maneuver well outside my range of motion. I felt the sensations of a pop, then pain, then despair, in that order.
Still underwater, I knew something bad had happened. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to come up — not in a suicidal way, it’s just that breaching the surface meant facing the reality of a blown surf trip, if not something much worse.
I was able to hobble back to the car, but by the time we’d arrived home, I couldn’t put an ounce of my weight on my left foot. I couldn’t even straighten my leg.
My initial plan was to wait it out, to see if my knee would improve on its own. I spent the next 36 hours laid up in bed, occasionally hopping around the house to piss or get an ice pack. It didn’t help one bit, and I feared my knee could get worse without proper treatment.
The next day I saw an orthopedic surgeon (travel insurance FTW) who put me through X-rays and and MRI. Results showed a bone bruise, a sprained MCL and a nearly-severed ACL.
Might need surgery, he told me, might not. Said I should rehab it for a week then see a specialist in the States.
I’ve learned that surgery would put me out of the water for four months, but I wouldn’t be at 100% for at least seven.
If no surgery, it’s anyone’s guess how long the recovery will take, but it’ll be at least a few months until my knee is strong enough to withstand legitimate athletic activity.
So, that’s my current reality. No more surfing, no more traveling, no more bees, and definitely no Namibia for the foreseeable future.
Oh, and to top it all off, I have to move all my shit into a new house by the end of this month.
And to think a tree was once my biggest problem.