Surf travel stories are the glue that holds us all together.
(Colin Wiseman is content director for the world’s last snowboard magazine)
I was two paddles deep, looking over the edge, when her tanned little legs blasted my face with salt spray. I pulled back and watched her disappear down the line, find the lip, disappear again.
“I just got burned by a 13-year-old girl,” I muttered.
No one was listening. And if they were, they didn’t care.
It was a clean, clear morning with overhead waves—heavy for a low-intermediate surfer like me. A light offshore breeze. Idyllic. A long period swell rolled off open ocean and jacked up into peeling walls and thumping closeouts over the cobbled bottom, with the occasional barrel on the inside. Far removed from the beginner free-for-all of Cerritos, this was a spot worth some respect, with a small local crew equal parts Mexican and expat.
They mostly seemed nice. Except for this princess of the Baja. I’d been sitting in the perfect position when she appeared from the inside, spun, and kicked water up my zinc-stained nostrils.
The worst kind of burn.
There were five or six folks in the water at this quiet break near Todos Santos, and all seemed down to share. Except this one dude sitting out the back. He eyed me as the girl paddled back out. She sat close to him and spoke, unsmiling. That must be dad. Fuckin’ dad.
I fumed and ran scenarios of what would have happened if I’d kept paddling. Would I have met dad on the beach? Bowled over a 90-pound teenage girl for a wave? Had dad had spotted me swimming down the line earlier and told her to go burn the gringo photographer? Fuckin’ dad. Must be dad’s fault.
On the next set, she dropped in momentarily, then kicked out. Either this girl ran the break or there was something I didn’t know. Maybe it was the kooky hat I wore to keep my pale PNW sniffer hidden from the blistering sun, a dead giveaway of foreign affiliation.
I found a few more shoulders and went in. My friend Devon was already on the beach. He’d been here a few weeks, rents a house nearby for a month every fall. I’ve been joining him for a week or two for the past five years, working my way up to this wave, finally starting to feel it a bit.
“I got burned by a 13-year-old girl,” I told him.
“Oh her? They live here. They’re from France. They used to live in a bus, moved here so they could have a house and she could work on her surfing.”
Apparently, she’s got CT dreams, and so does dad. Devon’s the kind of guy who talks to everyone. He’s got his own 13-year-old daughter with a competitive drive in snowboarding. He seemed to be proud of this little drop-in artist.
“She does surf pretty well,” I admitted, watching her draw backside lines, catching three times as many waves as anyone else. “Still doesn’t mean she should drop in like that.”
When we left for breakfast she was still out there, hammering away at the lip like a metronome.
A week later, I paddled out at Cerritos. The most popular break in the area, with drive-up access, board rentals and an easy rip out the back, it’s usually packed with sunburned gringos on foamies wearing sunglasses. But this day it was big, unruly, only a few people out. I was with my friend Barry, usually a longboarder, who decided his fish was more appropriate for the day.
We fought our way through a closed out inside bar, took position, and waited. A set came my way. I dropped, heading left. And there she was again, skimming down the line in front of me. But she kicked out. When I reached the end of my ride and paddled past, she held up her hand.
“Sorry,” she said with a smile.
I waved back. “No worries.”
Maybe there’s hope for the expat youth after all. Or maybe she was just taking pity on me.