Sport > I fought the wall and the wall...

I fought the wall and the wall...

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: March 7, 2010

..lost.

But I'll get to that part in a bit. This was intended to be a very short story about a small dog. And that is how it will start. The dog is Kia, a Lhaso that belongs to my oldest. By 'belongs' I mean in every sense. When my daughter leaves Kia behind, the poor animal goes through a couple hours of intense separation anxiety. My daughter tries to distract the dog with treats as she sneaks off to school, but it doesn't work. The dog is on to her.

This brings up more disturbing issues, the more I think about it. A dog with emotional and psychological problems? It's hard not to get too carried away by the issues that roll out of that. Where is the line between people and animals. And if the dog has these negative issues are there some hidden skills here that I'm missing? I don't know. But Kia is a good dog and I hate to see her in pain.

Yesterday I remembered that Kia really liked car rides. I mean really liked. So I took her to the food store and she was fine the whole time. It was a cool, overcast day, so there was no risk leaving her in the car. It was the perfect fix.

So this morning I woke up to the remnants of yet another storm that is hitting the area formerly known as sunny Southern California. I pull up the webcam of Scripps pier and see that even in the rain, there are a handful of surfers out there at 7:30. My daughter is leaving for class at 8 or so...I look at the dog and figure, whats to lose? I'll drive the dog to the beach and we'll eliminate the anxiety if nothing else. I've never surfed in the rain before, but the wind is from a good direction and I figure, why not?

Well, there were probably a 100 good answers to that rhetorical question, but I didn't bother to catalogue them. I just got in the car with my board, wetsuit and dog-in-law and headed to the beach.

On the way I'm thinking about one thought. Nothing external to a person ever changes their life. A lottery win, a promotion, a new pair of sneakers. Whatever it is, it doesn't really change things. The only thing that changes one's life is to become a better person yourself. Then a rash of good things may then happen. Or maybe the things that happen just look better because you are a better person. I clearly don't have all the details worked out on this theory. But that aside, I'm sure it's correct, because as my brother mentioned recently, I have faultless logic.

One of the good things I did recently was to send out links to a webcam. This cam was on Scripps pier and it showed the area I surf fairly clearly. I normally surf to the south, but I made the 10 minute walk up to the pier to find the camera and wave to family and friends. When I got up there another random thought occurred. I'd never been North of the pier. Farther to the north is another beach called Black's Beach. That is supposed to be the best break around, but its only for advanced surfers. Also, since its a nude beach, its one of the few places where a surfer can hang 11.

I had no plans of doing that anytime soon. I was clad as usual in my wetsuit, booties, gloves and thanks to the rain, a silicon swim cap. I needed every bit of that to stay warm in 58 degree water with 57 degree air temps. Nonetheless, I pass the pier to see what is on the other side. Turns out, its waves. There are only three other guys out here when I show and so I try my luck inside. I find a few waves and am having fun, but eventually I wander out a little farther and by then the surf is really kicking up. There are maybe 12 guys north of the pier now. And two of them find nirvana.

The waves suddenly became tubular. These are the barrels that you see on surfing films. I'd never seen one south of the pier, but here I see a long haired rasta looking guy come shooting out of a tube and let a whoop. Then he turns and sees the next guy get a tighter ride in an even better barrel and he lets out an even louder whoop. There wasn't any "ah geez, I jumped one wave too soon" This guy was just as pumped for the other surfer as he was for himself.

As for me, I've got a 50 yard line seat for what looks like the superbowl of surfing. And my only admission was to put on a wetsuit and paddle out. Some days, life rolls this way. I rode quite a few waves north of the pier then the waves shifted direction. Getting driven into a pier piling was not appealing. I did pick my way through the starfish encrusted pilings without getting pummeled. I was now south of the pier and wow, 150 surfers were outside now. For once I was where I was supposed to be, where the actual waves were. I caught a few moderate waves here. I really was having to dodge the other surfers as I'd never been in anything close to this much traffic. And just to point out what I cold water wimp I was, there was one female there surfing in only a bikini. But I did not envy her that layer of subcutaneous fat. I just don't do envy. I do wish I had actually invented neoprene. It's like my favorite thing.

So after splashing about in a herd of surfers, I decide to head all the way outside. But I get out there and it's clear I'm still a rook and I don't want to get in the way of the real surfers who are just tearing up the waves. So I start to head back to my car by paddling south. As I'm paddling, I see what might be a wave. It;s a big un. Might even be Dave the Wave. I'm not sure, but I point towards shore and start to paddle as I'm well clear of the other surfers now.

Of the course the reason I'm clear of the crowd is that this section of the beach is "closed out". No tubes or curl here that you can outrun. This is a wall that tumbles over. I start paddling and see I'm about 6 foot up. To date, 4 foot up is the most I've been up on a wave. I have something go through my head, possibly a thought that this might not be the best idea I've had all day. My history with walls and larger waves is consistent. Consistently bad. In generally the only question is how long I'll be held under water and how far I'll be drug.

But here is what happened. I adopted the now legendary family attitude that goes something like this-WTF? I'm here to surf, so let's see what happens. I make it up to kneeling before the wall crashes on my back and legs. I have a rail in each hand and I'm holding on as the board is kicking about 30 degrees off center from one side to the other. I drop from 6 feet to 3 feet above the water and I'm struck by a startling revelation. I'm not underwater!

I stand up and ride the last three feet down to the base of the wave. Now my arms are out in a warrior two pose and my hips are swiveling and the board is turning and I'm trying to figure out just who it is on top this surf board. Because its no version of me that I knew from the past.

I ride that bad boy, by now I know its Dave, I ride Dave almost all the way to the shore. This is so far my best ride ever, that nothing even comes close. I look back and verify that there is not another surfer 100 yards north or south of me. I wasn't looking for witnesses mind you. I was looking to verify that what I just did really was that stupid.

It was. And I know I'm a better person for doing it. I know because when I got back to my car, Kia told me so.

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