I know this blog hasn’t been very much about surfing. I’ve considered changing the name to avoid turning up in surfing searches (searching surfs?) and disappointing. But even if I don’t write much about it, I think about it a lot. I even try and go. Yesterday I went. The waves were garbage and beautiful and small and frequent and too frequent and coming from too many directions at once. The wind was really high, I almost blew over trying to get the board from the beach to the water. I dropped it in the water and it blew into my shin, it still hurts. The tide was low, I lay down in the shallows and paddled, my hands hit the sand, a wave pushed the board, I tried to stand, shilly shally, I stepped off. Paddling further out, no one around, nothing to be embarrassed about, the wind perhaps, lifting the board, throwing it over each low wave, further, still too shallow, shilly shally.
Some boys entered the surf with boogie boards, they yelled to me: Are you Paul? Yes, I called back. I could see a puffy coat holding Shanti and shouting into a cell phone above the wind and blowing sand. Was that Debbie Marion, my erstwhile bookkeeper? Why was she yelling into the phone, she must have thought Shanti was loose on the beach. Shanti was loose on the beach. Its her form of exercise, she runs around chasing dogs and kids and looking for me and getting petted and being wondered about, is she stray? is she loose? does she have an owner? is it that guy struggling with that long board in the wind, are you Paul?
I got home later and heard the windblown garbled message on the machine: Ts ‘ebbie ‘arion, ee hav Shanti at ‘urfer’s Bea. . . I erased it. Another down coat appeared on the beach, this mom I knew from Bodhi’s school. Her daughter was in a pink bathing suit with an orange foam life belt thingie, trying to use it as a kind of boogie board. I said hello. She hadn’t recognized me cause of my head cowel, my bearded face poking pointy out of the one non-rubberized moment in my ensemble. Oh, I didn’t recognize you. I yelled to the girl, addressed her by name, applauded her for getting wet in the freezing water. She mentioned her sad fake boogie board and made some more attempts. I had downgraded to a boogie board myself, the long board just getting stupid there. After a while, I offered her my ‘real’ boogie board and we swapped for the orange thingie. I gave her some simple instruction and wondered if I should teach kids to boogie board. I’ve gotten pretty good at that anyway.
Mexico was a revelation. In the super-crowded water at Sayulita during Semana Santa, surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of Mexicans. Waves really good, too crowded to try long boarding, just amazing boogie woogie. The waves would rise up and a hue and cry would build among the kids, a whoo-hoo like in a rock concert begging for an encore, and delight in all the faces, and monster-movie fear. Then it came to me and I jumped up on the front and ripped side to side, steering like Loren taught me and grinding up to the bitter end, hard pebbly sand in my rash shirt, bewildered toddlers at water’s edge. Funny gringo.