"I have a deep fear of the 405, so I could not stop to surf, even though Zuma looked surprisingly inviting. I kept driving, but not without a wistful view in the rearview."
Last week, I hopped in a rented white Jeep, slid onto the 101, and headed south. I drove past Rincon, where the tide was too high.
I followed the maze of freeway construction toward Ventura. They’re remaking the 101. When it ends, no one seems to know. Keep left. Merge right. No outlet. Do not enter.
Looking over my shoulder, I could see the ant farm swarming small peaks at Emma Wood.
We really should rename the place to Dane’s. What’s Emma Wood ever done for us, anyway?
I always wonder who names surf spots and which name after what must be so many tries finally sticks. I always imagine Hobson as the drunk in the parking lot, the guy who sat there every day, beer in hand, telling stories about that one day over and over. Hobson was probably the rich guy who owned all the land for miles around, but I like my version better.
I was on my way to do a launch party for a guide book to Southern California surfing that I helped write with the crew at Wildsam. Yes, I helped write a guidebook. I definitely gave away all the secret spots, because if it has a parking lot and a bathroom, it’s definitely a secret spot.
I have a deep and abiding fear of the 405, so I could not stop to surf, even though the north end of Zuma looked surprisingly inviting. I kept driving, but not without a wistful view in the rearview.
In fact, the 405 was mostly behaving, if rolling 80 mph with all your closest friends is behaving. If you don’t have to slam on the brakes and send your boards flying through the front window, did you even drive the 405?
I bounced off the freeway at Bolsa Chica and headed to the beach in search of a bathroom. I did not know there was a $15 day use fee at Bolsa Chica State Beach. You live and learn in this life, and sometimes you pay $15 to use the bathroom.
The tide is too high, the wind is too much — surfing likes to make it hard. I got to Huntington with time to surf, but the wind got there, too. I sat on a bench with a Spindrift and watched someone launch over the falls on a walled up set. A couple of guys scrapped around a tiny inside peak.
Maybe I should surf, I said to no one in particular.
Then I thought about pulling on my suit, and walking across the long stretch of sand. I thought about going over the falls on the closeouts, and the meager insiders on offer.
Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never.
Later that night I sat around with some newfound friends and talked about surfing. Thanks to the Covid years, I forgot how to talk about things in front of people, so that was exciting. I probably sounded just as dumb as I do here. It’s good to stay on brand.
The subject turned to surf films. Five Summer Stories. Sprout. Punk and airs, I said. I just want to watch some airs.
The next day, sitting on the 405 again, I thought about my favorite surf films. Do I even have any?
I was struggle-bussing to Venice for coffee, and I was not making all that much progress. The slow crawl through Carson left me with plenty of time to think, though not many brain cells to do it.
I tried to make a list: Trilogy, Lost Atlas, Psychic Migrations, and Leave a Message. But surely, I missed something. The lack brain cells, you know.
I drank an amazing espresso at Alana’s on Venice Boulevard, a crowded joint with a patio out back. Like a tourist, I cruised Abbot Kinney. Then suddenly, I was back out at the beach in Santa Monica.
After stopping for a sandwich in Malibu, I tried to get back in the white Jeep. There was a woman sitting in the front seat, talking on the phone. I had opened the car to the wrong white Jeep. What if this was my car, I wondered. What if I was this woman talking on the phone? I wonder if we could be friends.
Eventually, I found my own white Jeep, the one with the surfboards and the melting wax in the back.
Maybe I can make it to Rincon before sunset.
Maybe this time the tide will be right and the wind won’t be on it.
I drove past Rincon without even stopping, and made it home without ever taking my boards out of the back.
So much of surfing is all the time in between. Driving around California with boards in the back of the car totally counts as surfing.
Go on, change my mind.