It feels like the first week of school. New boards, new outfits. How was your summer? Go anywhere good?
The other day, I saw the Barbie Wavestorm for the very first time. It was just out there in the ocean, riding waves like it was meant to be.
I wasn’t even at Malibu, where I might expect to see such a Barbie Wavestorm in its natural habitat. I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn that the Barbie Wavestorm is very pink.
The whole thing felt like a portent of some kind, though I’m not at all sure what it was trying to tell me. Reading the signs is not my strong suit. El Niño is coming. The typhoon is recurving. The moon briefly and incompletely eclipsed the sun.
If there’s meaning in the chaos, I haven’t found it yet.
A few weeks ago now, I walked down the trail at Rincon for the first time this fall. The warm, dry days feel magical after the summer’s relentless marine layer, and the waves sparkle under the dropping sun angle. Winter’s coming. But first, there’s these bright, golden days to savor.
Got any wax? A guy with a board of indeterminate age stops on his walk up the cobbles. I toss him a bar. He rubs wax on the deck in a desultory kind of way, and tosses what’s left of the block back to me. It’s covered in sand. Of course, it is. A pair of loose boards bump against the rocks on the inside. The sun’s out and all the characters are here.
A man wearing a spring suit, exuberant with tattoos, rides an 88 on his butt a long way down the line. No one drops in on him. They just sit back and let it happen. He walks back up the beach, carrying his board with its helpful carrying handle. Apparently, paddling isn’t cool now. Surfing has become its own worst enemy. Maybe it always was.
It feels like the first week of school. New boards, new outfits. How was your summer? Go anywhere good? There’s novelty in being here after the long summer. It all wears off far too quickly.
Good waves are coming. That’s the lie the forecasts tell us. Anticipation feels so sweet, but I’ll confess that I’ve run straight past it to impatience. At the coffee shop where I’m supposed to be writing, I daydream about riding waves like a kid stuck in school. Some things don’t really ever change.
At a nearby table, a girl eats Cup Noodles. I picture Trestles and millionaire pro surfers with their entourages. I imagine a Sprinter stocked with Cup Noodles. The joke fails. An avocado sponsor or a sourdough starter, now that’s synergy.
I paddle into a mirror one afternoon. The water shines with promise and small waves crease the surface. A rabid crew has descended on it like seagulls on a bag of chips. Hassle and shove, gotta get your share. A dude tells me how he and a friend are heading to Santa Cruz to get some real waves over the coming weekend. I wish him luck.
In the dry days of fall, I can’t imagine he’s the only one with that idea. The sun sets in a golden fury.
Another day, more windswell. It looks much better than it surfs. I run into a friend and we laugh at how bad it is. Rails sink into quicksand. We stand frozen, boards stalled, in the most ridiculous positions. Oh yeah, you think you can surf? There’s a lot of talk about he tide and boards, a sure sign the waves are bad.
A guy on a fish relentlessly snakes everyone. Angry words fly his way, but he doesn’t seem to care. He’s on his own mission, living his best life. I hear him tell his friend about his house nearby. He lives here, you know. He can do what he wants. I’ve never seen him before, but I’m not about to argue.
The forecasts taunt us, and the clock ticks down on the winter’s first swell. Are you ready? The lineup vibrates with anxiety. Gotta practice. Gotta get ready. Just one more — as though a few waves on a mediocre day will transform their surfing forever.
I admire the optimism. I scoop up a neglected corner. When I stand up, my leash coils like a snake under my backfoot. It’s all going according to plan.
Later I sit on the curb in the sun and eat ice cream dipped chocolate. Ice cream understands. Who needs surfing, anyway. A dog sits in the driver’s seat of a VW van. He’s ready to go. Where is everyone?
In the afternoon glimmer, I surf the incoming tide. My leash miraculously stays out of the way where it belongs. There’s no hype today, no striving, just a few little peaks. I turn on a cute section and then find another. Dance like no one’s watching, because in truth, no one is.
The sun falls. I tuck my board under my arm and walk down the point. Fall’s deep shadows stretch across the trail. A warm wind funnels through the canyon and carries away our secrets. Sunken rails and tangled leashes, they’re all forgotten now. I drive home in the fading light, windows open to the fast-cooling breeze.
Maybe this surfing thing is alright after all.