It was getting dark, and the surf looked a bit ragged. Maybe it was best to soak in the glow of a cold winter sunset for a few minutes and make my way home. But wait. Wasn’t that someone taking off on a wave twice their height? I needed no encouragement. I ran to my car a few yards away and threw on my clammy wet wetsuit as quickly as I was able. There was still some light left — there was still a little time for a wave or two. Timing the sets right, I managed to get out without getting pommeled, which is always a good thing, especially when there’s any size to contend with (for those of you landlubbers, that means the ocean is angry at things that try to get into it and likes to hit them violently at times). It had been a long day of banging my head against the wall over where I should peddle my freelance story ideas, but that was gone now. Paddling frantically as I punched through the last wave of a sizeable set, I was free. For the time being, there was no more danger of being pommeled. I no longer had to worry about the late rent check, the pile of unpaid bills, and the scores of freelance queries that had gone out that month, unanswered. All I had to do was scan the orange and purple horizon for the long, dark lumps that indicated an incoming set.
There were a few that looked enticing, and I squinted to try to see them in the waning light. It was all too clear that most of them were massive. These waves could be neatly categorized into two varieties — the ones that looked tough but turned out to be nothing when I paddled to catch them, and the kind that didn’t look like anything until the massive black wall arched well over my head, threatening to crush me if I didn’t scratch towards the horizon for all I was worth. I tried and failed and tried and failed to catch a wave, and all the while it grew darker. Hanging my head forlornly, I noticed the glint of the crescent moon reflecting from the sheen of water spattered on the deck of my surfboard. Maybe, just maybe, if I concentrated more on the sheen than the black abyss that opened up every time a wave jacked up, I could get one. Again I paddled into a wave, its sheer size obscuring the silver shine of the moon. It was like jumping into the unknown. It was jumping into the unknown. Try as I might, I could not master my fear of that nebulous, although fleeting dark cave that appeared every time a wave moved into catching range.
Sitting out in the ocean whilst surfing — well, trying to surf — is one of those activities that invites all kinds of loopy self-directed philosophical thought. Why the hell was I so scared to drop the nose of my board into a black pit whose dimensions I could only guess? Taking a step further, why had I been, for years, too timid to try anything really, really new; unknowns of a different variety? I was always reading about adventurous souls conquering the wilds of places that other Westerners had scarcely dared tread upon. My Walter Mitty reflex kicked in, and I pictured myself walking through a jungle in, oh, I don’t know, Africa. The photographs taken and the stories published — by my own camera and pen, I might add — and the lectures given at prestigious universities after the conclusion of such trips were enough to keep me going for months. Long enough until the next adventure, when I would be surrounded by more jibberish-speaking natives and inquisitive young co-eds eager to learn how they too could one day be a great journalist.
The mental mirage melted, and I sighed. More likely, I thought, I would be relegated to the George Bailey existence from It’s a Wonderful Life, sticking around my own Bedford Falls until it was too late to leave. With friends, family, and the constant, if mundane entertainment offered by working at a local weekly, life wouldn’t be so bad. There would be squabbles over building heights, dog catcher elections, and any number of trivial things to keep me amused. Oh well, if I wanted to be half as good as the George Bailey character, I’d better start volunteering at a homeless shelter or something. Perhaps it would be better to be the town drunk instead. He always seems to be having a good time…
A small wave approached, and my absurd internal dialogue faded. I stroked once, twice, sliding into a chest high wave that scarcely had the power to propel me forward. It was now completely dark. “Whooo hoooo!” I shouted, realizing how ridiculous it was to be so excited about such a small wave. I smiled as I glided in toward the beach, nothing to guide my way but the light of the moon and the phosphorescent froth splashinf off of the sides of my board. What could be better than the last wave in, besides a burrito afterwards?
A note from the author: You may wonder where I’ve been. Why no blog entries? Why no photos? Then again, you may not care, may never have read my little yarns. Perhaps this is your first time, and you’ve been mildly coerced by one of my many facebook or email bombardments indicating that you should really, really read my blog. Well here it is. I’m back from the dead, having traveled all over California, Arizona, Northern Mexico, etc, in search of answers. I’m not quite sure what sort of answers, but I guess you’ll have to wait and see. More of my drivel is forthcoming, good citizens of Gnarnia!