It’s mid-January at Rambling Harbor, and it seems as if the sun has not shown in months. We rejoice if the temperatures break the freezing mark. Me, I’ve been playing surfing music, Jimmy Buffett and any other tropical tunes I can think of. A mile from my home is the part of the beach that has the best waves, and even on a 10-degree day, with colder wind chill, you will still see some lonely soul either waiting for a wave, or just waiting, and I start reminiscing.
The dark night is a lonely time, and I hate it. My favorite time to be on the ocean was always the evening, and I would sit next to the calm sea, sun fading behind me. I would sit waiting for the ocean to erupt into a massive, raging wall of water that would be so demanding of my body and mind that I would have no time to feel alone or dread the night, and I would ride it. Ignoring it was not an option, and dying was always a possibility.
Many times my best surfing was when the ocean was calm. I would go out when the likelihood of good waves did not exist. I wanted the calmness. I could surf the universe in my mind, the dreams, the fears, and the unknown—sit on the water and barrel through the clouds in the sky. The ocean was and always will be the expression of the mysterious, especially at night. I wanted the depths of the darkness to talk to me, the ocean, the endless unknown ocean, where I could hear the splash of life. A porpoise? A fish? A shark? I knew there were no answers to the night sounds of the waters around me. I would feel a stir beneath my feet, a few small fish or a squid or maybe something larger out for an evening meal. The ocean scared me and yet lured me back again and again, especially at dusk. As the night grew darker, the ocean and its hidden mysteries grew deeper, more daring, daring me to stay a minute longer and wait to see what danger there might be. To me, life was made solid, tangible, won or lost on a quick ride. Like the mysteries of life, as I sat there alone, I could absorb the loss of certainty, almost touch it, hold it, and I could sink or swim, no longer a metaphor but a fact. If a wave came I could rise or fall, retaining some control, always a choice I liked.
What about the actual surfing? In those days most surfboards were made of Koa, a wood found in Hawaii. The original boards, called papahe'enalu in the native language, measured from 8 feet to 15 feet long and were very heavy. There is nothing like the feeling of a tube ride, hearing only the roar of the ocean as the wave breaks over your head, alone, against one of the mightiest forces ever created. You cannot control it. The best you can hope for is to ride the waves to the safety of land. Sometimes they will spin you around like a piece of cloth in a giant washer and slam your body against the bottom, knocking the breath out of you. You know at that instant that in some small way you have come face-to-face with death, but you rise to the top and let the rest of the wave carry you home.
There’s more on the safe shores of Rambling Harbor. Join me there.