Thank God for the time change. If it would’ve just kept getting darker and colder every morning, it probably would’ve broken up the surf crew. Last Monday the first Santa Ana winds blew in, whipping the sea into a frenzy and tearing up the Southland. The popup camper that I’m sleeping in was rocking so hard, I was sure it was going to buckle. Then that night it got really cold. Just like that, at the snap of a finger, winter had suddenly arrived.
On Wednesday I paddled out to show off my new wetsuit, a 4/3 O’Neil I’d had to dig deep and spend some money on at Huntington Surf and Sport. I was hoping that the wetsuit I’d bought last year would’ve had a longer life span than just eight months, but then was advised, way too late, that you should never dry them in the sun. Classic kook move. About a month ago a small hole appeared and a few weeks later it was as shredded as one of the Hulk’s shirts. I was carrying so much seawater around in the pantlegs every time I got out of the ocean that I could’ve shown up at the Halloween party as the Nutty Professor.
No one was out on Wednesday and the waves were barely breaking. The next few days were strangely calm as well, and it wasn’t until Sunday that I saw a few of the guys from the crew, sitting about twenty yards from shore, trying to ride the shore-break. Boone smiled when he saw me coming and then got pearled in about three feet of water, his feet and ass tumbling over his head. That was awesome. Most of us go out there and get destroyed every morning and it is just the greatest thing in the world. At least we’re no longer annihilating ourselves with poison.
This morning when I showed up at Tower 11, I recognized Christian, Doc, and Jake, in the lineup right away. They’re all good surfers. I am not a good surfer, but at least I’m improving. In my past life, on the Lower Plane, if there was ever a morning where I was up at six o’clock, it was usually because I was at 7/11, asking someone at the cash register to open the beer cooler. Now I have a lot of time on my hands and all this restless energy that needs to be put into something.
Big Wave Dave. At first, they called me that in sport. Lately, there’s been a few days where it has begun to feel prophetic. I was always charging after the big things in life, always full of gusto, always wiping out, always getting demolished in spectacular fashion. If that has extended itself to surfing, then so be it. I tell the guys they need to start spreading that name on social media or put posters up around the pier that have my picture and say Big Wave Dave. No one will ever take me seriously if I go around calling myself that. Nicknames are like trophies. You can’t give yourself one. They need to be bestowed by someone else.
There were waves enough to go around this morning, and then there wasn’t time to change before the meeting started up, so I kept my wetsuit on, and sat on a folded towel on the outskirts of the circle. The weekends have started to draw some big crowds, but this morning there were a lot of the same faces that were there to welcome me the first day I showed up and just plopped down in the sand, not having slept at all the night before, trembling and nearly hallucinating, not sure where I was, or even who I was anymore, just knowing that I couldn’t go on. That was nearly five months ago, so obviously I have gone on, but I never would’ve made it this far if I hadn’t stumbled across the magic circle. How I got there and where I go from here is the tale that is yet to be told. The only way to tell it is to make it through another day, so that’s what I intend to do.