Last week I made my first pilgrimage back to the surf since my son was born. Conditions were forecast to be large”maybe too large”but having gotten a green light from the family, I piled in a van with my surf buddies and hoped for the best. When we got to the break, the ocean looked seasick. Massive walls of whitewater tumbled in from the horizon and the inside was a mess. Yet, being optimistic and surf-starved, my friends and I scoured the water for workable shoulders. There were a few, but getting to those waves would require taking a pounding and submitting oneself to unpredictable storm currents.
A brave surfer nimbly negotiated the rocky entry into the churning sea in front of us. He had a long pintail gun under one arm and was wearing a helmet. As soon as he paddled past the inside shorebreak, he vanished from sight into the fog and froth. Then, one of my friends asked the million-dollar question: Do we go for it?
I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with the salty sea air. I imagined the feeling of cold water flushing through my wetsuit. I thought of the slippery boulders, the ice-cream headaches, the huge breakers holding me down as I tried to find the outside; the burning of my shoulders, arms and lungs from a lack of conditioning.
I thought of my new baby at home, waiting for me to come back and play with him.
“Let’s grab a beer and watch the waves,” I suggested. And that’s what we did. We talked trash, told stupid jokes, and planned our next session. It was a blast, and just what I needed, but the experience made me wonder: Would I have charged it if I didn’t have this newfound responsibility?