By Dian Sousa
SIX-THIRTY AT NIGHT. Sunday night. Giant apricot sun behind low fog. Clean, glassy 3- to 4-foot swell. Heaven has arrived. We all move down to the sea. Martie, Mark, Johnny, Haley, and I. We’re a nursery rhyme in the making, a stoked new family, a nuclear, board-swapping tribe, a cheap, easy, preapproved national holiday. No turkey, no napkins; just silky corduroy sets lining up on the horizon.
Martie, an ex-gymnast and local Twister champion, always gets her wet suit on first while I’m still showing the surrounding homeowners my butt.
“Wayne, are you watching CNN?”
Tonight, though, there’s no lag. I’m right behind her.
6:40. The five of us are lined up outside. The Renn and Stimpy song is stuck in my head. “Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.” Here we go. The first wave I paddle for is a sweet little waist-high peeler. I catch it and go right. I do the wide, spread-eagle arm pose that’s the closest thing I can imagine to flying without wing implants. Also, because I am in the ocean and therefore in mystic philosopher mode, I see the spread eagle as a metaphor for stretching out your arms and feeling what needs to be felt.
I feel like screaming, “I am the all-exalted, unparalleled queen of the sea.” I don’t, though, because the last time I said that I got sucked over the falls backwards and then pounded by a shore break. Ocean-going ego-control lesson No. 1: Never approach the sea with anything but awe and caution. As world champion surfer Tom Curren says, “It plays for keeps.” Just say “Thank you.”
If I didn’t surf, I’d be either a concealed-weapons expert or a pro-bowler; something that engages my naturally playful malevolence or my closet desire to wear ugly pants and knock things down. Fortunately, however, for me and for everyone I come in contact with, I’ve admitted myself, voluntarily, to a strict regime of surfing psychotherapy. Two to five sessions a week of negative-ion bombardment help me work out most of my anti-social instincts.
If it is a particularly great session, I not only become a nicer mother, wife, lover, friend, voter, shopper, pet owner, dishwasher, and driver, I also become a humanitarian, a mystic philosopher in love with everything. Washing my hair in the cold water of eternity. Dropping in quoting Dante, “It is that sea/ to which all moves . . .”
6:50. Mark, Martie, and I paddle on the same wave. We’re so close together, from shore we must look like some kind of quick-moving neoprene paté. Mark is on his new 10-foot classic single fin, so he’s up and on the face first. Go right, young man, go right. Martie is on a 9-foot and I’m on an 8-foot fun shape that I love with all my heart and plan on marrying at the end of August.
7:15. The water is silver on top and dark underneath. Mercury and onyx. The low fog has lifted, the sun is setting, and the quality of the light is so holy and mesmerizing it would have made Einstein put down his calculations, paddle out, and rethink relativity. Everything I do and everything I believe is relative to surfing: Know where you are, don’t hesitate; sometimes you feel like the queen of Makaha, sometimes you feel like a nut.
7:20. Johnny, who surfs like the flowing-haired Christ incarnate walking on the water, snakes me. I am blessed.
7:23. I am still blessed and make the drop into a velvet, chest-high roller. I go left and then turn up the face and go right. I move from blessed to ecstatic. Haley has also caught the wave on the 9-foot Mike Armstrong with the Silver Surfer on the bottom. She goes flying left down the line, strong and smiling like some kind of benevolently vegan aikido goddess.
7:30. We’ve all lost count of how many waves we’ve caught. We’re giddy. We decide to swap boards. I get to try Mark’s 10-foot cruiser, and glide effortlessly onto the shoulder of a stretchy little wave. I stroll around the yacht-sized board, and put my arms behind my back. I enter into the time zone described by novelist Paul Bowles as “the perfect moment.”
8:05. The sun is out of sight. An ash. The perfect moment is making us tired. We’re all reciting our end phrases. “Just one more wave.” “That was epic.” “You won out there.” I just saw God.” “I just saw God get barreled.”
We come out of the water in a joyous, straggling line, like visionaries coming out of a vast, rollicking cathedral. Maybe that’s a bit much, but an excellent session like that, full of camaraderie and perfect little waves, always makes me feel that I’ve done something amazing, seen something wondrous. It makes me travel deeper than a normal psychotherapist ever could. Tonight I go in deep and come back with the idea that a great surf session, like making great music, like any other soulful thing a person does, always changes you just a little bit for the better.
Back at the car, Martie already has her wet suit off.
I’m just standing, frigid, in mine, looking at the ocean, trying to remember the rest of the line from Dante: “It is that sea/ to which all move, all that itself creates/ and Nature bears through all Eternity.”
Wayne sees my butt.
I see Eternity and I say, “Thank you.”
From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.