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A short one this week.
I wrote this in September right after Hurricane Larry. I spent the morning trying to trim and re-write it into a spot where it felt OK to share.
Here it is.
I spent a chunk hours in the water this week as Hurricane Larry sent long period swell to all the nooks and crannies of the East Coast. Places that are rarely surfable were throwing some of the glassiest head high waves I’ve ever seen. Long period is a mesmerizing thing. To think that a hurricane sitting hundreds of miles out to sea can send tightly clustered sets of waves separated by 8-15 minutes in beautiful uniform patterns is enough to make me want to believe in God.
I found a spot that was unmolested by crowds over a two day period. I spent a lot of time in the water surfing the best waves I’d ever seen, alone. How could this happen in a region with thousands of surfers? Where was everyone?
After anxiously pulling on my wetsuit and shoving a board under my arm, I speed walked down a skinny path lined with cat-tail to a patch of sand where I was planning a dangerous ocean entry. As I walked, I noticed a guy take off on a beautiful outside bomb. He struggled to pop up and never found his footing. He dove head first into the face of the wave. He resurfaced in the foam soup and took the next couple waves on the head as he struggled back onto his board. I was thrilled to see that he was OK. As I worked my way down the path, I saw him eyeball an incoming peak. He turned around and made a few deep digging paddles. He was in the perfect spot. He labored to his feet. He surfed beautifully during a 20 second ride that ended with him safely in the channel.
As I got to my spot, I settled in to watch a couple more sets. The mystery charger was coming out of the water. He looked to be around 60 years old (I didn’t ask). He can hardly form words he’s so high on a cocktail of adrenaline, fear, relief, salt, wind, and sun.
He sits down and the words spill out.
“I’ve surfed this spot….(huffing an puffing)… for 40 years….(more puffing)… on great days just like this. I haven’t surfed….in over a year. I just finished rehab……after major back surgery. I wasn’t sure I could pop up anymore. That one wave was enough. I can go home and tell my wife that I’ve still got it.”
I got the sense that if someone snatched the life from his body at the moment, this wouldn’t be a bad time for him to go. “Amazing ride,” I said, “I saw the whole thing.”
His eyes locked mine. He had salt water leaking from his nose and droplets flicking off his eyelashes.
“I’m just going to sit here…(huff, puff)…catch my breath and watch, If I see you get a few fun ones, I may paddle back out to join you,” my new friend said.
I get in and sprint paddle out to the takeoff zone. There are metric tons of water moving underneath me. Mother nature is checking in to let me know that she’s still undefeated. Maybe even doing that move where you mimic the championship belt around your waist.
I see the dark corduroy lines of a set approaching and get myself into position. I’m on a big floaty board. A board I’m so comfy on it feels like an extension of my body. I get one of the better waves of my life and kick out the side. I hear a little whistle from the beach. From the lineup, I keep an eye on my buddy. He’s lying on a volkwagen sized flat boulder holding his head and staring at the sky. About 8 minutes later, without a word or a wave, he tucks his board under his arm and walks off into the sunset.