Selasa, 06 Desember 2011

Surfing the Giant Waves

When I was a young person surfing in California, all we could do is talk about the huge waves off Hawaii during the winter. Sure, we occasionally snagged twenty footers at Wind and Sea in La Jolla and to us they were giants.

Wind and Sea at La Jolla, California

We even made the trip to Northern California a few times and surfed large waves at places like Steamers Lane. The water was freezing, but we thought the waves were awesome.

Steamer Lane, California

We still kept dreaming of the really big winter waves at the North Shore of Maui, but unlike the stars who made surfing movies all over the world, we were sand bums, stuck close to home working as grocery clerks or gas station attendants. While the surfing stars rode new boards in exotic places, we were content to use hand-me-down boards that needed repairs on a weekly basis. We even rode homemade skateboards made out of plywood and caster wheels during the times the surf was dead or the wind was blowing from the west so hard that the waves crashed on the beach like tsunamis.

Even though we never surfed the giant ones, we still had a great time on the coast of California when you could build a fire and sleep in sleeping bags right on the beach while waiting for the first set of early morning waves that beckoned at first light. We barely took time to eat, but when we did, it was always the most tasty cheeseburgers and fries ever made. Small diners dotted the landscape from San Diego to San Francisco and the food was the best in the west. You can’t find food like that anymore and especially for a dollar, which included fries or onion rings!

Life moved on for me and thousands of other beach bums who ended up married and working at higher paying jobs to feed the family. Our boards hung on garage walls that were located inland because that was where the work was. Every year we rode the waves less and eventually the boards were sold in yard sales and replaced by construction tools. I even moved to Michigan due to construction advancement and surfing was just a distant memory.

I remarried in 1995 to a wonderful woman who had raised her children and was at the executive level for a large company. I was divorced and still working construction in Michigan. As it turned out, my wife loved to travel and we made our first trip together to France in 1996. The amazing thing was that after that trip, we started planning a trip to Hawaii. OMG, the surfing bug fired up big time and I thought I would die before the trip day arrived. I would like to add at this time that the Parisians were not rude to Americans during our trip to Paris. The bastards were rude to everyone, including themselves! Thank God there was no surfing there.

We finally arrived on the big island of Hawaii and I was dumbstruck with how beautiful it was and the ocean beckoned to me like the sirens in Homer's Odyssey. We have made three trips to Hawaii since and my favorite island is Maui. We found an older condo with a small surfing cove right next door. It was the perfect place to find my youth. I thought because I had been a construction worker for many years that surfing would still be easy. After all, it was like learning to ride a bike. Once learned, never forgotten, right? Wrong, and I mean with a capital W!

I thought my arms would fall off after paddling out beyond the small breakers, let alone giant ones. I made two trips out past the surf and after washing ashore and crashing like a beached whale the final time, I realized that Old Man Time had made me Old Man Surfer. My wife sat patiently on a blanket, smiling, while asking if I needed oxygen and a litter to get back to the condo. After resting while lying on the hot sand, I finally got up, dragging the board over to some grass for the last time as my surfing dream faded into oblivion. I dreaded taking the board back to the rental shop. I knew the young salesman was going to ask embarrassing questions of which I would be forced to lie about. As it turned out, wifey took the board back for me because I was too tired to make the trip downtown.

It has been eight years since our last trip to Maui and I doubt we will be able to go again. I hate airplanes and money is tight. I still ride my Harley and that gives me some solace. At least when I am riding my bike, I feel younger and memories always flood my mind about the early days. There is one thing about surfing that now scares the hell out of me, and this picture explains that fear without question!

Surf on, idiot,


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