“I can’t believe how fun this is”! I profusely stammered to my best friend, Will.
He had just drove down from the bay area for a quick summer trip to get some much needed sun and surf. His timing, for as long as I’ve known him, has been notoriously awful when it comes to surf. For instance, during the our epic Code Red swell, as it’s come to be known, he left for New York on business the day before it hit the west coast. I secretly and superstitiously looked forward to visits from Will, believing that as soon as he left the ocean would somehow know that he was gone and the surf would mysteriously be on the pump the moment he was back on the road home.
As per usual the surf for the week he was visiting was forecasted to be one to two feet from the south with our May grey transitioning seamlessly into June gloom. The summer had been pretty dismal thus far for surf and I hadn’t surfed in weeks. Due to Will’s streak for being skunked and his down right hatred of Southern California summer crowds, he has veered towards bodysurfing in the last decade, always having his trusty black and yellow viper fins in the trunk of his car.
The night before arriving, as he was driving across the grapevine, we discussed over the phone our plans to meet up the next morning for a surf. With the accuracy of surf forecasting we both knew to have low expectations. When I picked him up the following morning I made sure to toss in my DaFin fins in the likely event that the surf wouldn’t cooperate. Will was in a fantastic mood, as always on our drive to check the surf at our favorite reefs. We caught up, talked story of surf we’d scored over the winter, gave each other shit about gaining more weight since the last time we saw each other and counted our blessings that we were heading to the beach on a weekday in the summer to surf, reminiscent of our younger school days.
We pulled up to a great little reef that bends the waves north and slightly perpendicular to the beach on a south, but with three guys already out and long lulls between sets Will was hemming and hawing. Will convinced me to drive three coves north to a reef that only properly breaks at six feet with a very narrow swell window and on a medium to high tide. The shelf of the reef rises drastically from deep water that makes takeoffs super steep and extra hollow. When it’s on it is an experts only wave that has put the fear of God in me and quickly reminded me of my inadequacy to surf steep, heavy reef breaks.
The only factor going for us today was that the tide was rising from an already highish low tide. No one was out because of its unimpressive size which Will was immediately keen to point out. We watched the first wave of a set hit the triangle shaped reef, forming a short hollow tube on takeoff followed by a foam ball that pushed through the second section before losing steam in the depth of the channel. The second wave had a warble to it and broke in a uniform line from the peak to the second section in a closeout. My mind was moving to a good place to wolf down a three egg omelette and my third cup of coffee. My aspirations of a chiseled physique would have to wait till another lifetime. Just as I was about to turn and go, a third wave approached from the south. Like the first wave, it barreled from the start but continued to barrel through the next section and a tiny fish fart of spray escaped from the end as the wave died.
Will threw his hands in the air and triumphantly howled as if we’d just witnessed a ten foot wave at Teahupoo spits it’s guts out from a boat in the channel.
“WE’RE OUT THERE BUSTO”!
“On what?! That wave was barely two feet”!
“We’re whomping cuz”!
Happy to be going in the ocean with my best friend who I don’t get to see often, I reluctantly shed my shirt, grabbed my fins and followed Will. Swimming under my first white wash in trunks with eel grass tickling my torso erased all worries and responsibilities tied to my life on land. During the five minute swim to the peak the sun had already begun to melt away the marine layer and I felt foolish for wanting to give up so easily on the surf.
For the next two hours Will put on a bodysurfing clinic, making impossible drops by spreading arms and rotating to his back to stay close to the face of the wave. He stiffened his entire body, put his arms at his sides and planed on his chest gain speed and make the second section. Under water takeoffs, mid-face takeoffs as the wave was already pitching over his head, spinners, no paddle takeoffs all done effortlessly, perfectly and stylishly. He even answered the call of friendship by going on waves he shouldn’t have but did anyway because I called him into them with hoots and whistles. We laughed hysterically, high fived and hugged after our best rides.
Eventually the tide flooded the reef and the meager swell couldn’t compete with the force of nature. We swam in past the sea dog posse locals posted up on the rocks who barked and stared us down until he hit the sandy beach. Like all our good sessions before we relived our best rides again over award winning salmon fish tacos and cold craft beer before returning to the reality of our jobs, bills, and family. On our drive home I was still in disbelief over what we just experienced. I began to wonder how many sessions I have missed over the years because I thought I didn’t have the right craft, or swell or conditions to go out. Will taught me the only craft I needed to have fun in the ocean was always with me…because it was me.
Turns out Will’s departure didn’t bring surf as I’d hoped. Actually it got worse but the memory of that day and revelation that fun surf is just a pair of fins away, I’ve been doing just fine.