One early morning an ordinary young boy arose from a deep slumber from the sound of waves crashing at his ears. At first this startled the young kid but then it soothed his tired bones and then once the brightness of the morning sun struck his nose peering through the translucent curtains he became excited and awake.
He recalled that the beach house that his medium sized American family had rented had a surf board planted in the yard with no one to claim it. So he straddled the over sized beach cruzer with giant wheels and awkwardly bulky pedals, clumsily grabbed the surfboard with one arm and was determined to ride one of those waves that so rudely woke him.
Off he went riding down the crowded summer street navigating around the spotty sand puddles and parked cars. Not many people where out at this time, he had no idea what time it was could be 6am for all he knew. He didn’t care though all he knew was that he was going to show everyone watching that he could ride a wave!
As he rounded the corner of the street that lines up perpendicular to the boardwalk, the warm salt air filled his lungs and seemed relaxing and reassuring that this was his destiny. He climbed the wood ramp pushing his over-sized bike up the hill to reach the top of the boardwalk.
He finally peered past the hazy fog and to the water. The waves were the biggest he had ever seen in person. Mind you this kid grew up hanging out in skate shops watching gnarly surf footage. The guys on the tapes always made it seem so effortless and simple. ‘If these guys can ride waves twice this size why can I?’ He thought.
Ditching the bike on the boardwalk he switched the board to the opposite arm as he could no longer feel his fingers in his right arm. As he ran to the water he thought of how his older brother would have loved to experience these epic waves with him and how his two older sisters would be so proud to see him dive head first into this beautiful wonder.
As he approached the warm air seemed to turn cold and damp. His feet sunk in the sand near the 7th street Jetty. There were a couple of guys out there riding these massive waves only aiding to his excitement. He decided to press on even though the other guys where dressed in full wetsuits he thought maybe they just got out even earlier then him and need the extra warmth. Nothing was going to stop him, no cold, no rip, he was going to ride a wave.
The blissful thinking seemed to disappear as quick as the morning fog. As the fog rolled away the young guy could now see the magnitude of these massive waves. He was now waist high in the water, his swim trunks fully submerged in the icy cold June water. He had never really taken a real surfboard into the ocean before. He was only 10 years old and had really only ever rode small fun waves in late august on a sponge board laying down.
He started to get nervous but convinced himself that Laird Hamilton didn’t get to ride waves as big as the Eiffel Tower by getting nervous. Besides these waves where barely anything compared to the ones he had seen Laird conquer.
His feet were still planted on the ground, water now about chest high and the waves are starting to roll in pretty heavy. He’s having to jump with each wave that pushes through leaving the safety of this foot planted on the ground.
Before he realizes it he’s completely out of breath and laying on the board like dead octopus with appendages spread in every direction. He’s starting to think maybe he would have been better off laying in his bed and just dreaming about riding the waves. The water is much colder then he imagined and the wind feels icy on his wet bare skin.
As he tries to catch his breath he hears someone off in the distance yell “Watch out!!” and as he looks up he realizes that the sound isn’t so far after all. It’s a big guy on a way bigger board than his shredding a gnarly giant. He’s excited at first but realizes that this suited shredder is headed right for him on a wave that looks to be 8 foot high. He has no choice but to dive into the icy water and hope the leash attached to his foot stays connected.
As the wave passes he feels himself being pulled back to the land underwater. The leash that he thought was a safety mechanism seems to be dragging him under not allowing him to surface for air. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity in his fragile mind he gasps for a breath wiping snot and salty water from his face. The surfer that nearly collided with him is already back on his belly paddling past in search of another ride. As he passes the suited ambassador says.
“Are you okay kid? You really ought to go back to the shore! You’re gonna get killed out here.”
The young wannabe surfer has decided he should listen to the guy, he probably knows best. So he makes an attempt to feel for the earth below his sunken feet. He holds his breath and pushes his body underwater in search of something soft and familiar on which to plant his feet. Instead he is shocked to feel something hard and jagged. ‘It’s the jetty!’ he feels himself scream inside his head with no one to hear except his own fear as a witness. He quickly paddles back up for air and realizes that he is only a few feet from the rocks that he was 50 yards from when he dove in initially.
Even more disoriented then before he doesn’t have anytime to think about a strategy to get out because an even bigger wave is approaching looking like it’s going to throw him into the rocks and end his innocent life like a rag doll in the mouth of the Beast from the Sandlot. In sheer panic he disconnects the leash from his ankle which seems to be pulling him closer and closer to the rocks. The board is toast as far as he can tell the Beast has gotten it and chopped it up into bits like stolen signed Babe Ruth baseball. He barely has time to flail his arms to gain anyone’s attention on the beach before the next huge beast comes crashing on his head.
Finally he thinks of Smalls and how much courage he had to jump that fence and retrieve that ball despite the impending doom. Forget trying to get help he was determined to do this Smalls way. He pushes back down to the rocky bottom, pushing his fragile foot against the sharp rock toward the direction of the stable ground. Finally a gasp of air and the water seems warmer and shallower. He is maybe only one foot from the Beast of the Jetty but at least he is making some ground. Another plunge under to find the unstable rocky bottom to put another cut in his foot in hopes of saving himself from rag doll trauma. This time it’s soft sand and the surface is not far from the tip of his fingers. He can almost see the light peering through the murky waters. Then before he knows it a life guard is pulling his tired but strangely energized body from the chaos of the ocean. A stranger has his borrowed board in hand and oddly enough it’s barely damaged. The young boy staggers to gain footing like an astronaut who has been absent of gravity for months. The life guard helps him to lay down and gain his breath.
The last thing the boy remembers of the beach is how small the waves looked when he shamefully walked off the beach that day.
As he climbed the over-sized bike those awkwardly large peddles now seemed dangerous to this sliced up feet. Besides a couple dings and dents on the board, a few scrapes on the bottom of his youthful feet. This boy was still determined that one day, maybe not today,
“I’m gonna ride a wave.”
© Joseph Sheehan
Categorized in: Personal
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