It’s still dark out when the alarm on my watch beeps into existence, bringing me along with it. I move fast. I’m up and dressed before my mind can mount a counterattack. A fait accompli!
Downstairs I brew up a mug of organic coffee —black, no sugar. I sit down with a bowl of maple pecan granola piled high with blueberries and banana slices. Nothing stirs. Everything quiet.
I pack the car and drive off towards the Santa Cruz mountains. My body remembers all the curves along this highway. How many happy Saturdays and Sundays were spent in the backseat with my brother on our way to the beach? I can still remember the taste of the Starburst candies Mom would bring to keep us from punching each other on the way. Those rides were never short enough.
One time, on my 6th birthday, Mom surprised me on our way to school. My friends, she told me, were going to the beach instead and maybe we could go too? I didn’t believe we could. She had to convince me we could really just skip school and go. It was the best birthday ever. Even though my brother kicked sand on all the cupcakes.
The last foggy specters of night still linger among the tops of the Douglas Firs as I begin the descent toward the Pacific Ocean. When I arrive I check my usual surf spots before stopping to watch the sun begin its daily march across the sky. Distant layers of bumpy blue mountains appear on the horizon. Do I look blue to the mountains too?
Before long I feel the familiar, buoyant pressure of my surfboard beneath my body as we bob over the waves together. The sky is beginning to shed its moody violets and indigos for brighter tones. A jolt of joy —or is it gratitude?— bursts out from my heart in one hundred different directions. Can you believe some people go their whole lives without seeing the ocean?
The current is strong — surprisingly so. Unbothered, a sea otter floats on her back beyond the break. The air smells like seaweed and sea salt. I love it. Two pelicans glide by effortlessly, riding along the crest of a wave just inches above the surface. What that must feel like!
When I see my wave I paddle out to greet it. I feel its pull as the fins of my board dig in, pushing me forward. Without thinking, I jump to my feet clumsily. I feel as if I were in slow motion. The wave does’t feel the same way and it throws me off instantly. Before I know it, I’m buried underneath it. A fait accompli!
I swim to the surface and begin to paddle back out. The sea seems angry now. The water bubbles and swirls around me. More waves crash violently in front of me, one after another. Try as I might, I’m going backwards. It only takes twenty more minutes for the sea to chew me up and spit me out. I walk up the beach with a brain freeze. Fine, you win for now.
I sit on a bench and watch the waves break a while longer. From here the waves sound soothing and peaceful. I watch a seal dive under the same waves that had pummeled me into submission. Another surfer arrives and we chat about the surf. How was it? Oh, there were some fun ones.
I pack up and drive home. A gentle feeling of wellbeing still hums softly throughout my body. It had been seven months since I last surfed and it had showed. I didn’t catch a single wave.
But boy, how good it feels to be a surfer again!