What happens when the bitey fish swims by?
There was a shark in the line-up today.
I didn’t actually see it, mind you. But the four guys sitting at the top of the point came in to the beach in a hurry. One of them made the international sign of oh hey, we saw something big out there, with his hands. I figured I’d go find out what was up. I didn’t want to be the only one sitting out there, dangling my feet into the depths.
Here whitey, whitey, come and get ittttt.
You are probably braver than I am. You’d probably all just sit out there like, whatever. And keep catching waves and making turns and generally looking rad. I have trouble looking rad when there are bitey fish around.
My approach to sharks on the whole is to pretend they don’t exist. Like, la la la, what even is a shark. I’ve definitely been places where they like to hang out, but what I can’t see doesn’t matter, is what I always say. I just fixate on the crabs and it’s totally fine.
But the dudes were convinced it was eight feet, which is a lot of bitey fish to ignore. It’s unusual, but not out of the question for an eight footer to be loafing around the joint. There’ve been a few verified sightings over the winter.
Then there’s the apocalyptic run-off, which the big fish apparently enjoy. Mmm, pollution and bacteria, nom nom nom. I’ve personally progressed to the point of ignoring the water quality reports altogether. Fecal coliform? Whatevs. I’m sure it’s totally fine.
An editor made me write a story once about the dangers of surfing in run-off. I felt like maybe he knew me a little too well. I learned about all the gross bacteria out there. Actual MD’s told me all about it. I tried to behave! But all that’s ended now. I’ve managed to mostly forget all the stuff they told me, which is an internet writer’s best talent. What? I wrote that? No way.
So after the shark thing, I wandered down the beach and paddled out again where there were a few more humans. Herd instinct, you know. I knew I could count on the longboarders to sit halfway out to sea, so that any big fish would check them out first.
If I have to surf with longboards, I might as well put them to work. Y’all sit out there and distract the sharks! I’ll just do some surfing right here. No, you’re good! You’re not missing anything. Just surfing.
I was trying to surf my dumb shortboard, finally. It’s been a shit winter around here. Anyone in the audience who lives here in California, south of Point Conception is nodding along with me, right now. I’m pretty sure we could count the number of good days this winter on one hand. It’s been flat. The flattest.
Over the weekend, we sat in the lineup and stared at the horizon. And stared. And stared some more. A passing whale farted. The entire lineup paddled like it was the dying seconds of a Pipe Masters (RIP) heat. That’s pretty much been the winter right there. Little wonder I can barely remember what my shortboard looks like. It’s white I think? Also, thin. I think it has some fins on it, maybe.
But today there was windswell and the buoy numbers were actually in double-digits. It was astonishing! So I grabbed my do-everything shortboard, designed for not quite awesome surf. It is white and thin and beautiful. It has blue fins, which I’m pretty sure make it faster. Also, yes, I did partly choose them for the color, because why the hell not.
The surf was shit-slop windswell that looked better than it was. Also it was freezing and upwelled. The shark was probably the highlight of the whole thing. It certainly wasn’t my surfing.
But I have broken up with my soft top at last. It’s over between us. It was fun, but it wasn’t really meant to last. From now on, it’s foam and fiber glass only. And three fins! I am again enamored of three fins. Oh I hear you taunting me. You’re saying I’ll be back, begging for some of that sweet soft top love as soon as the next flat spell comes around.
Nope. It’s not going to happen. I’m standing firm.
Fuck, maybe I’ll buy a midlength.