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Beach Grit

Confession: “I rode a fish all fishy!”

Jen See

by Jen See

"But suddenly, my arms were above my head and I had no idea how they got there."

Yesterday I drank coffee with Chas, or rather, he drank tea meticulously steeped by a cheerful barista and I drank espresso brewed ristretto and a small glass of mineral water.

He did not wear the ectomorph pants, which was disappointing, but he did wear the YSL moccasins (ed. note: They are Louis Vuitton) which looked sinfully comfortable. Surely, there are laws against such things. I wore Volcom, Amuse, and Reef flip flops, because I am nothing if not a caricature of myself.

We sat in the Southern California shade in our ripped jeans and talked predictably of writing and surfboards. Beautiful west swell lines wrapped around the reefs just beyond our peripheral vision. It was postcard California.

I said I’d surfed Swamis the previous day. I rode my fish (sorry, not sorry DR!) which is blue and terribly cute with its fancy wood fins. One of the fins has a tiny chip after a bad decision at low-tide Malibu. In truth, I’m not terribly good at surfing the fish. My frail girlish frame can’t sink any part of it and it skims along the surface of things with a mind of its own.

As the smart stalkers among you already know (hi), I live in Santa Barbara. We surf point breaks, generally. When I first started surfing Rincon, it was something of a mystery to me. Oh, I could see that long line of water stretching to infinity. It felt like I had all the time in the world, and yet, never enough. I consistently blew sections, flapping like a flightless bird, falling behind, falling ahead, falling.

One of the most generous people I’ve ever met in a lineup, Kim Mearig one day told me that the secret to the thing is just to get down the line. Just get down the line. The advice sounded so obvious as to be useless. Well, duh. If I could get down the line, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But eventually, I came to understand. She meant that you have to learn to let the wave do the work for you. The speed you need, it’s right there in front of you. The wave will always tell us what to do, if only we can read the story it’s writing for us. Maybe someday if I do this thing long enough, I’ll achieve that rare effortless grace of someone like Kim. Probably not, but there’s joy in the trying.

So there I was at Swamis, sliding along, drawing lazy fish loops. I’d scooped up an in-betweener under the longboarders who’d been drawn outside by a set. This is my signature move and I use it relentlessly. A section popped up and I could see there wasn’t much left to this thing. I told my fish to go up, which it obediently did. I was hoping to eek out just enough speed for one more turn before it all ended.

And then I was up there, skimming along the top of the wave. I felt good up there, riding my cute blue fish with the fancy fins. But suddenly, my arms were above my head and I had no idea how they got there. It was as though they weren’t even attached to my body anymore.

I also felt a weird urge to cross step which was super scary. I firmly reminded myself that I am neither Mason Ho nor Ryan Burch and my feet need to stay the fuck where they belonged.

I looked around furtively, hoping that no one had noticed. But I couldn’t help but think someone up there on the cliff was wondering what the hell was up with the weirdo chick on the fish. What is she doing with her arms. Why are they up in the air like that. I have no answer to these questions.

I thought I was the only one who’d experienced this bizarre arm thing, but then Chas admitted that it had happened to him. We vowed to create a support group for people like us. Hello, I once lost control of my arms while surfing a fish. I don’t know how it happened.

There was more talk about surfing and some writerly trash talk. Throwing shade in the shade. Then the coffee was gone, the tea drained, and it was time to go.

I took a long, lingering look at those magic green lines. Then, dreaming of Rincon at sunset, I drove north toward home.