It was a morning like no other. A morning to die for.
Vast neon coral fingers reached across the sky from the east, trailing a pale blue curtain of sky above a band of a most delicate quivering yellow, the sea below a pulsating turquoise corduroy of perfect waves marching shoreward, symmetric curls pitching forward, spray from a light offshore breeze spinning cartwheels off the crests. Warm water, translucent, pristine, the ocean floor refracted in glassy faces. Nobody in the water. A morning to live for.
If this was California, there would be 217 yahoos chasing every peak with their elbows in each other’s throats on the take-off. That’s what city living will do to you.
It’s not as if young, excited — usually male — skiers are any less aggro than their surfing counterparts. You just don’t have to hang around them to get the goods.
This morning was like seeing the Kids’ Hill, with two feet of fresh, fluffy snow begging to be caressed, and NOBODY skiing it. And the terrain above — Cay’s Paw, Jaws, The Stairs — untouched, a ghost world of perfection.
The Endless Summer? It lives. Where? Can’t tell ya that, blood. This is the kind of place you must find on your own. The kind of thing you have to earn. And when you get there, it’s good to know where the gaps in the reef are, because that’s where you’ll get in and get out unscathed at half-tide or lower, unless the swell is big enough to flood the shallows.
You know when you stay on a wave too long, working it — this is the Atlantic; you gotta milk the cow for all it’s worth — and then you’re on the razor limestone going way too fast and instinctually improvising a graceful and un-bloody extrication? Starfish, arms and legs splayed, flinging yourself like a Frisbee to saucer in and stay on top as much as possible, feeling your back graze the reef, fire coral and urchins be damned? Doesn’t that make you feel alive?
And you better get your butt on the board tout suite and start paddling with purpose, because there’s another set coming. No Man’s Land is a land for no man. Red zone = dead zone.
Sure beats following the news, at any rate, a bunch of puffy roosters running their various countries into the ditch. Our guy rumbles from one train wreck to the next, carnage in his wake. What a hoser. Leggo o’ my ego.
No time for hosers, cuz we the champions. Of the world.
Hey, is that a shark? So damn sharky around here. People tell you it’s good, means the system is intact and healthy, but it’s still a little unnerving when they’re underneath you.
Tim, local jefe — a joy to watch, a maestro, a slasher — gets out of the water at irregular times, riding a wave all the way in sometimes when he doesn’t need to, and walking back up the beach before paddling back out, so that any bulls on the prowl, territorial as they are, won’t get clued in to his pattern.
A saving grace is that my eyesight is crummy, so a lot of what’s down there goes unnoticed, and I’m usually so busy trying not to screw things up that there’s no time to worry about other stuff. Certainly not hosers.
It’s not a shark, just a swimmy-looking dark rock, or piece of reef. Sure looks sharky, though, the way its tail waves back and forth. But look outside: Here comes a set of Merry Men, rolling humps of early-morning silver and gold. Not gonna get suckered onto the first face; the crest of the next looks second-best. Number three? The one for me.
Yesterday there were 13 rainbows, one for each of the storm cells, sun showers, that rolled through. Some of them were floating rainbows, joining neither island nor ocean, just hovering, arching cloud to cloud, sky dancing, glimpsed peripherally while hurrying to cover tools with blue tarps. Others stretched to the horizon, where container ships appear and disappear, large drifting buildings carrying this and that to people far away.
Where the Sea Spray Resort used to be, now a jumble of twisted docks, broken trees and splintered lumber, beach cottages list, walls ripped off by a giant hand, revealing former lives: rust-stained rugs, ripped blankets and curtains, cracked ceramic coffee mugs. An upright bottle of Martini and Rossi Dry Vermouth sitting next to a white plastic egg timer, the wind-up type. An inevitable ragged teddy bear.
Large boats are strewn in a jumble along the dune like toys in a sandbox, morning glory vines already growing up the sides of their hulls. The motor yacht Pocahontas is perfectly balanced on her side in the road. Buster and Donnie IX are belly-up to the sky. Each weighs sixty tons if a pound.
You can tell in which half of the storm different houses got wrecked by the debris patterns. The trees left standing reach spiky limbs at odd angles, arranged by the wind. Now, though, leaves grow on their trunks, which look furry. And for the first time anyone can remember since the storm, birdsong is heard, warblers and mockingbirds; they are returning. In the evening, beneath an orange blanket of cloud, two blackbirds preen in a chicken toe across the dirt lane.
One more ride, then, racing down a shining, heaving sidewalk, being lifted, lowered and pushed by the engine of the ocean, the best church in the world, before getting back to picking up the pieces. Now, doesn’t that make you feel a whole lot better?
Sean can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.