Sunday, September 18, 2011

Surfing in Oregon

It was supposed to be about 5' with 10 mph winds, and I guess it was, but you couldn't really tell what was going on because it was so rainy and crappy. My plan on Saturday was to get up early and go for a little surfy surf, and to spend the time on the outside working on dropping in because I'm a big girl like that since my Hawaii trip. But there hardly was an outside - the entire ocean looked like swirly whitecap soup, and the waves were rolling in every direction with about 2-3 seconds in between them. Total crap.

Naturally there wasn't a person in the water when I pulled up. I looked at the ocean long and hard; there was a long line of surfers all doing the same - we were up in the parking lot looking down on the cove. I haven't seen water like that since the middle of winter. It was pretty bad. I started weighing the frustration of turning around and driving home without so much as putting a toe in, versus the frustration of suiting up and sloshing around for a couple of hours and then driving home without having gotten anything. Ultimately, I decided that I had to try.

The last time I was in the water was in Hawaii. There the process went like this: grab a board, walk across the street, walk into the water, jump on your board and paddle. Here in Oregon, for me, surfing is this whole ritual. I load up my car the night before. I get up early, grab some food, and head out. It's an hour and a half drive (and it really is, now that I'm not speeding anymore) listening to mellow music, thinking about life, wondering how the session will go. I get to the cove and make the final decision. Then it's this long suiting up process - an extra layer underneath, stretching neoprene around every curve and angle, hair in three rubber bands. Especially that part - when I sit on the back of my CR-V in my bathing suit in the chilly wind and see people walk by in full winter gear, and I start to pull my wetsuit over my toes and up my calves, it feels so much like a meditation. There's some kind of wicked muscle memory there or something because every time I do that I drift away and go to my happy place. Or maybe I'm physically at my happy place, so the feeling is just a byproduct of being really alive and grateful.

Then it's board on head, and down the trail, and stash the backpack, and check the wax, and leash on ankle, and wade out into the water to see what happens next. I love every part of it. Yes, I can surf until I'm tired in Hawaii or Costa Rica in the time it takes me to just get to the ocean here. But I love surfing in Oregon.

While suiting up, a class of beginners went out, and I was glad because it's never good to be in the water alone, and no one who knew better would be going out that day. I thought I would be irritated by the temperature -- I got so cold last fall and winter, and I never use a hood -- but I did ok, even with the wind. There was a strong pull north, and I spent most of the time fighting to keep from drifting, or just trying to stand. But I got a couple of rides in, one pretty good one in particular, and that felt great.

It was such crap out there, but I was really happy to be in it. In the end, I decided what I always do - that I needed just one more good ride before I could leave. And then I spent the next 45 minutes moving around the cove looking for anything rideable that could qualify -- at one point I even just lay down on my board pointing toward the shore waiting for a gust of wind to push me in. But it didn't happen.

Eventually I got my wave, and it was white (they all were), but it was enough to give me a nice, long ride - my best of the day. I made my move, stood up, realized it was going to be a good one, and slowly put my arms up in the air in victory. Then I stood up straight so I wouldn't curve left so hard, took a few baby steps further forward and left the weight on my front foot (the "gas"), and looked up at the sky and trees and felt grateful. When it started to slow down and pumping didn't help, I fell backwards and grabbed at the leash on my ankle in one motion. "Good enough for me" I said out loud.

It was a really wonderful, crappy day surfing.

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