Sunday, September 18, 2016

Good Friday And The Lesson In Humility

Friday, the 16th day of September in 2016 was predicted to be a very good surf day on the east coast of Florida. If Florida has anything to boast about, it would be the largest surf shop and the great number of days you can surf without a wetsuit. It would not be about the quality of waves. So, when a tropical storm forms in the Atlantic and passed by the state just the right distance from the coastline, the surf forecasters were in a frenzy.
This year I knew Good Friday was coming almost a week in advance, and had everything ready, or so I thought. GoPro charged, wristband remote charged, extra leash, lotion, first-aid kit, I was really prepared. I packed my board and headed to the beach with Sam, checking the surf cams on my phone. It looked glassy at the pier, so I knew my new, short SUP surfing board would get it's first day to shine. The board is great for everything but one: standing up between waves when it's bumpy. The first two occasions I had to try the board had been semi-choppy and I struggled like a greenhorn just to stand up while paddling in the ocean. Good Friday was going to change all that. The prediction was for head high waves with light wind. Picture Perfect and I was going to capture all of it.
I need to be clear about one surfers, a day like this is not like a bigger bowl of ice cream, I mean it's not more of something that you like, it's more like the hunter facing a grizzly bear with a pistol, a lot of us aren't sure how we are going to handle it and we don't get many occasions to find out.
As we got our boards ready for this epic day, I found that the mount on my board was missing the nut that holds the camera photos of this day were ever going to exist. Looking back, that may actually have been a good thing.

On this particular day, a few surfers were having the time of their lives, some stayed on the beach and watched, and a great many paddled out and sat there watching the waves go by. Mostly it was older guys that could get off work on a Friday, a few really good paddleboarders getting the stink-eye from the surfers, and the infrequent girl in a bikini, looking like this was just another summer day.
Sam brought the right surfboard and was having fun on a 9' performance longboard. In spite of the surf cams, the ocean had a cross chop on it and the wind was at times holding the waves up, and at others closing them down fast. I paddled out fast, but not fast enough and spent about 15 minutes with my new board in the impact zone before I got things going and got out to join the lineup with my newfound surfer buddies. After assessing their looks at me, I quickly moved north where I couldn't steal all of their waves. It was during this time I began to realize that I had brought the wrong board and could barely stand up at all. After I had fallen in 3 times for no apparent reason, most of the surfers had crossed me off as any kind of threat to their quota of waves they were going to catch that day. It got to the point that one of the paddleboarders headed my way to see what in the world this old guy was doing out here when he was clearly not able.
It was at then I learned something new. I merely sat on my board until I saw a large set coming and stood up and quickly took off on one before I fell off my board. That effort seemed to instill some respect from the other surfers, or at least fear of where my board might go when I fell off.
I was out there for about 3 hours, and it seemed plenty long enough, and for some strange reason, my last few waves were the best ones. The thing you remember about a day like this is not the ride, or the number of good rides, it is the tingling down your neck when you take off on a big wave thinking...what I have just done?

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