“Surf Check!” My optimistic chant was being met by low, grumpy groans from the backseat. Hours ago the whole car would laugh and peer out the windows for breaking waves, but the novelty had definitely worn off and the teenagers sat in the back wondering when their cells would pick up service. A quick veer off-road into the lightly gravelled pull-off, punctuated by a braking skid left my brother and I strolling for the ledge. Most of the turnouts have some ledge whether they plunge into a steep rocky death-trap or meander down a long low-grade hill. This one was a boring, accessible hill fading into Lake Pacific.
I know there is swell in the water. I know this stretch of coast bends in all directions, not a line in sight. Shrug, sprint, repeat. The realization hit me that we may not find a break. Furthermore, if I keep jerking the chain of my incredibly tolerant family I may face a mutiny. The late morning is slipping into early afternoon. The van rounds a familiar bend. Our panorama is book-ended by rock formations holding a cove. From the distance I can spot heads bobbing in the water and I’m chanting. The backseat reminds me to keep my eyes on the road.
From the closest turnout the break is obstructed, but we’re in no mood for hesitation. I’m half dancing into my 3:2. My brother, Matt, is pointing at rocks and asking relevant questions. We drag the family down the the beach, get the thumbs up and plunge into the water. I finally get to dance with a new partner, a new wave. There’s a familiarity you grow with your home wave. Like the sweetspot your body grooves into a well-worn couch, at your home break your body just knows where to be. However, there is something heady and challenging and just plain exciting about bodysurfing a new break.
My first swim out is like boxing, light on my feet, taking small jabs, feeling each other out. I’m eager. The first roller steams my way and I hitch a ride. She’s softer than I expected, but doesn’t fail to pay off at the end. The chill of northern water tingles the nervous system, sharpens the mind. I wade into a handful more. I’ve found the pocket and now we’re dancing. Matt and I trade high-fives and hoots. A couple of surfers ditch boards, strap on fins and tread near. Dirtbags in an Econoline could tell we were having too much fun. We were.
We’ve learned each other. The way she dumps to her right, sharp and sweet. The smooth middle section requiring no stall and no hands. Her sweeping, swinger sets that look bigger than they arrive. Lactic acid crept into the arches of our shoulders. I looked out to sea and turned to the the landscape. When I said goodbye she shined. Perma-smiles settled into our cheekbones and as we changed into dry clothes we basked in the glow of the cool northern air. Always looking to the horizon I’ll keep moving on to the countless coastal nooks waiting on a willing dance partner.