Monday, August 04, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
It is cold in
”It’s 41 degrees*!” announced an older gentleman, as he noisily entered the coffee shop. “Winter has arrived!” he declared happily. I recognized him. I think he lives at the top of my street and is always wearing a trilby. Almost four years here, and I still don’t know everyone on the street.
“It’s 41 degrees,” I muttered to Thomas, a work colleague and sometime surf buddy as he hauled his board onto the roof rack. He shrugged. “It’ll warm up when the sun comes up. At this time of year the water is the same temperature all day anyhow.” I shuddered; up to yesterday, it had been almost a year since I braved the chilly NorCal breakers where even in the summer you need a wetsuit. Thomas was wearing a tee shirt. Only on the coldest days have I ever seen him in anything heavier. His tanned face betrays how regularly he surfs, though given how early he hits the beach, it was hard to understand how he got so brown. Dawn Patrol, he calls it. He often hits Lindamar beach in
The car dips down the steep hill on Highway One just above
The parking lot is almost full. Everyone is getting in a surf before the gluttony that is Thanksgiving. We quickly change, shivering despite the bright sunshine. A quick stretch and it’s into the water. I paddle into the first wave as it breaks, sending freezing water rushing over me and straight down the back of my wetsuit. Ok, I’m awake now. The white water isn’t that heavy, so after a few duck dives, I find myself on the outside. It’s a gorgeous morning, I gaze back briefly at the beach and the surrounding mountains, the sun seems warm after the cold paddle out, and I spend a few minutes resting and soaking up the warmth, listening to the cackle of a few seagulls arguing nearby. A seal breaks water, and swims curiously past. You can feel the surfers tense up. Seals are cute, but they are also shark food, and we are in the middle of what is delightfully known as “The Red Triangle" (aka a Great White breeding ground).
Quickly, I catch a small ripping wave, a short few thrilling seconds, but enough to give a boost to my confidence. I had surfed yesterday for the first time in a year, and didn’t catch anything, I was rusty, my timing a half second off. I kept having to yield to another surfer on every wave I went for (basic surfing etiquette, when more than one persons goes for a wave, the first one up, nearest the wave’s breaking shoulder, owns it).
The waves aren’t big, hip high, with a shoulder high swell hitting every so often. However, they are breaking steeply on the sandbars and I have a long board, so it is going to be hard to catch the bigger ones. Suddenly, I’m further outside, with a sizable swell rolling toward me, and I’m alone, no competition. I turn towards the beach and paddle hard. The swell catches me just as it hits the sandbar and jacks up into a steep wave. Too late, I realize, it may drop out from underneath me, sending me free falling, head over arse, into the maw of the wave before it crashes, pummeling me into the ocean floor. But, I am committed at this stage, and as it catches me, I jump into a squatting position, grab the outside of my board to stabilize it, and turn hard right. My timing is perfect and I am right on the breaking shoulder. I straighten up and dash down the wave, while other surfers paddle furiously, both to get out of my way, and to avoid a hammering. I bottom turn in the shadow of a wall of water and swoop back up the wave face; hitting the lip before turning back down. Pushing my weight onto my front foot, I make the next section, and turn sharply left rushing towards the beach. It seems like an eternity, but for the next few seconds, I am caught perfectly in the curl of the wave, weightless, walking on water, even watching the sun glint off the emerald water and soaking the hillsides in an early morning glow. A few more short turns and the energy that probably started with wind thousands of miles away in the open ocean peters out, and I am left standing in the white water, exhilarated. I haven’t caught a wave that big in a long time. “Woo hoo” yells a neoprene hooded surfer nearby. “Dude, that was steep. I was sure you were going to get creamed, well done!” This is unusual. Surfers are a taciturn bunch, concentrating on incoming swells, adjusting position to catch a wave, or to avoid a pounding or a collision with some beginner, all of which doesn’t leave time for much conversation.
I paddle back out, and pull up beside Thomas. “Killer wave”, he says. “Biggest of the day, and no one fighting you for it. Nice Thanksgiving present!”
My arms are pleasantly tired as I drive home, and my mind is clear and relaxed. I am looking forward to the day’s festivities. We have a large group of friends coming over, and I need to get home to do some cooking. “Daddy, did you catch any waves?” my eldest shouts, as I open the door. “Oh yes I did,” I declare.
* 5 Degrees Centigrade
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Train I Ride
As I have mentioned before, many weekend nights can find me on the N, heading to some of my favorite hostileries. One of my favorite things is sitting on the N, listening to music while observing everyone observing everyone. It being
On a lot of days at
"Ocean Beach is the most hazardous and dangerous piece of shoreline associated with an urban environment in the whole United States."
Apparently over 10 people a year had drowed at