The Cold Cove


It is nearly midnight and I am nowhere near tired. The bed looks inviting. Almost as inviting as the blonde in it, but I cannot rest with either. Not yet. I have a big day ahead of me tomorrow, and I can feel the anticipation as butterflies fill my stomach and ants crawl up and down my legs.

I wonder if everything is ready.

Wetsuit? Check. Towel? Check. PB&J? Check. Water? Check. Board? Check. Booties? Shit, where are my booties? Closet? No. Bathroom? No. Shit! Where are my booties? In the car? No. In Morgan’s truck? No. Oh. They have to be in my bag. Nope. Shit! Where are my fuc…oh. I remember. They are on the porch drying after last month’s surf – yes, it has been a month – but they are still soaked. Hmf, Portland. Wax? Check. Rain boots? Check. Phone, wallet, keys? Check, check, check.

Ok, all right, ok. Everything is ready. Everything is good. Everything is a go. Right? Yes. Ok. Now what? Logic would say that it is time for bed. After all, the alarm clock is set for five, which, thanks to my positive anxiety about tomorrow, is now a mere six and a half hours away. I better watch a video to get me psyched. Better yet, a stormy, dark, cold-water video as it will relate to my locale. The screen comes to life as barrels are ridden, waves are slaughtered, fins are free, airs are landed and spray is thrown. The remote comes in handy as I slow down the parts I want to analyze. Body positioning, shoulder placement, stance, weight distribution, are not simply important. They are crucial, critical, vital. Studying every minute detail of this maneuver will transfer to my own experience. Tomorrow’s experience. Yes, tomorrow will be the day I lay down power carves and brutal hacks. Tomorrow will be the day I weasel my way through a hopeless barrel. Tomorrow is the day. The movie is over. Normally I would watch the bonus features, but I know this DVD well and the extras are sub par. Now what? Five and a half hours. Bed. It is officially time for bed.

As I pull back the covers, I get a glimpse of my lover’s flesh. It looks warm, so I spoon. After a few minutes I realize that my right arm is going numb so I do a complete one-eighty, now lying on my left side. A few more minutes pass and I curse the shoulder impengement that has made sleeping on this side a nightmare for the last two years. I think everything will be fine once I get to my stomach, but I am wrong. Feeling my own heart beat trips me out. So, I do another one-eighty, onto my back, and beg for slumber.

In layman’s terms, feet and seconds are used to measure open-ocean and near-shore swells. Buoys in the ocean rise and fall to determine the height of the swell and they measure the time between waves to establish the wave period. The result looks something like this: 4ft @ 10 seconds. The bigger the two numbers, the bigger the waves, and vice versa. Tomorrow’s swell is predicted to be 6ft @ 14 seconds, a damn fine combination for a mediocre wave rider like myself. A damn fine combination. It is this forecast that is keeping me up. Four and a half hours. Sleep. Please, let me fall asleep. I do what I normally do when preparing for a bit of shut-eye: visualize getting barreled. And it works. Sleep. Thank you.

The reggae starts playing, “Earlay, earlay...” and I am bewildered. What? Already? Snooze. “Early, early, Sunday…” Snooze. “Early, early, Sunday mornin’ i’twas a beeg ganja smug-o-li-in.” Ok, ok, I am up. 6ft @ 14 seconds.

The sky is starless and the hardwood beneath my feet is bone-chilling as I stumble around the bedroom. The clothes I plan on wearing are set out in the order that I put them on: undies, socks, jeans, t-shirt, hoodie, beanie. Warmth is a welcome sensation and it comes just as soon as I am clothed. Next on the to-do list is fill my belly. Sometime before bed last night I blended a smoothie, as I knew it would come in ultra handy this morning. And it does. I gather three cups and pour one for myself, one for Morgan, and one for the blonde. After my first sip I start chugging. It is delicious, quite possibly the greatest smoothie I have ever made. My body thanks me as the nutritious concoction descends into my stomach. With the beverage finished, I grab my tools for the day and hit the road. Morgan, my most reliable surfing comrade, is waiting patiently on his doorsteps as I pull up. With both boards and both bodies in the car, we head west.

As usual, the drive is fairly uneventful. We listen to music, watch night turn to dawn, and, of course, discuss all aspects of wave riding. I tell Morgan that today is the day for hardcore, balls out, absolute disregard for self, surfing. He agrees, as he always does, though we both know this type of comment as an exaggerated inside joke. The maneuvers found in surf videos are far from our ability, but we like to speak like they are not. We arrive at Highway 1 as the sun emerges over the coastal range. The sunrise is beautiful, like it always is in this part of the world. We decide to head north, get gas, and scope out a notable point break. One of the two works out for us and it is not the wave. With a full tank we head south to meet up with our sole local buddy, Nick. Nick is one of those dudes that is more than welcoming – just an all around great human being that we always looking forward to sharing waves with. The three of us rendezvous at a wide-open beach break on the northern coast. Besides the offshore wind, this beach offers little stoke. Hesitantly, we head to our safe haven, our home away from home, and the little southwest-facing cove that, more often than not, has a few peaks available.

The parking lot looks sparse, and we relish in that. After all, the less people, the better. With the cars parked, we throw on our packs, grab our boards and plunge into a thick old growth forest that lines the trail to water’s edge. We chit chat about the weather and make small talk, acting like our minds are on different paths, when really, we are all thinking the exact same thing: 6ft @ 14 seconds. The half-mile walk goes by quick, as it typically does. We reach the bluff to see a much more promising sight than we had imagined. Shoulder high lines roll into the cove and a light east wind grooms the rollers into shapely, shreddable waves. Our pace quickens. Once on the beach, I find a spot to change and post a personal best in the “putting on my wetsuit” event. Remember, it has been a month since my last surf. With my entire body, minus my face and hands, covered in neoprene, I am ready to head out.

The water feels cold, much colder than the hardwood did this morning. This is truly a bone-chilling endeavor, but it is the last thing I care about. What I do care about is the little chest-high wave heading my direction. Right? Left? Right. It turns out to be crumbly and small, but it is so good to feel the power of the ocean under my feet for the first time in over a month. In between sets I marvel in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. A waterfall at the north end, a sheer cliff at the south, and both ends protrude into the sea with beautiful, rocky headlands. This is home and I feel so fortunate that it is. Nick and Mo are out soon and the waves are a consistent chest high. A left shows itself on the horizon and it is all mine. The drop is fun and I get excited when I see the wave walling up down the line. The steep face offers numerous backside top turns and a fun cutback into the froth at the end. It feels so good. The boys and I trade off waves and split peaks for nearly three hours. I have lost all feeling in my thumb and pinky finger and my toes feel as though I have stepped on a sea porcupine. It must be time to get out. Surfing forces you to live in the present. There is only now; no future, no past. This, to me, is the healthiest mindset one can have. I emerge from the water a new person, at least for now. The ordinary day-to-day worries are far from my mind. No job, no biggie. No money, no biggie. At least not right now. Right now all that matters is that I just spent three hours in decent surf…and getting out of this wetsuit. The latter of the two proves to be most difficult with a total of six functioning fingers. If putting the wetsuit on was a personal best, this is definitely a personal worst. Fifteen minutes later I am clothed, dry, and freezing cold. The porcupine quills have turned into the most painful sensation my feet have ever known and my pinky finger will not communicate with my brain. Oh well, the surf was fun.

The walk up the trail is quick. Morgan and I say farewell to our local friend and are soon on the road towards the City of Roses. I always feel like this when leaving the beach. Like what, you ask? I wish I could answer that. It is not sadness and it is not regret, though it feels like a mixture of the two. It must be some weird form of excitement for my next venture west. I bury it deep in the pit of my stomach and start thinking about the past and the future. Should I still be in Hawaii? Will I ever live a stones throw from Mother Ocean? When will I surf next? Is Baja in the cards for the summer? Do you need a wetsuit in Peru? How much is a ticket to Iceland? Is Portugal good this time of year? Can you leave the Mentawais without getting barreled? Could Chris shape me a board for Indo? How much is a boat trip? Is Nicaragua always offshore? I wonder what the forecast looks like for next week, and so on and so forth. It consumes me. It is I and I am it, one in the same. Wrap your head around that.

Again, the drive is uneventful and the reality of our situation becomes all too obvious as traffic bottlenecks through the tunnel. We are home. I drop Morgan off and am soon navigating traffic across the bridge, eager to hop in the shower.

Nighttime comes quick and as I get ready for bed, I feel a little something in my stomach. It is warm and tingly and I have a hard time discerning what it is. Whatever, I think to myself, it will go away. I floss and brush my teeth, wash my face, pull back the covers and it is still there. Then it hits me: Tomorrow’s forecast if 5ft @ 13 seconds. All of a sudden, I am nowhere near tired. I wonder if everything is ready.

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