Last night, Missed-it-Mike texted me and asked if I wanted to surf the following day.. He missed TWO phone calls from me and then texted me again to say maybe Friday. What a tease...
After having not surfed for a week and a half, due to a combination of lack of swell and a lingering injury, I was ready for some action. I knew the tide was going to be extremely high (close to 7').
Given the high tide, the reefs would be drowning, so I didn't even consider some of my favorite west-facing reefs. I bee-lined to 20th Street in Del Mar and parked the car in my usual spot.
While walking for the surf check, a guy got out of his car and put his feet on the ground. He was a double-amputee. I assumed he was military and a quick glance at his dash confirmed he was DoD-permitted. He was also wearing an Operation Rebound shirt.
We both arrived at the check spot next to the lifeguard tower at the same time. A set reared and my eyes bulged. He looked at me, I looked at him and I said, "I don't need to check it any more, I'm out there!". He laughed.
I threw on my suit and booties and walked up the sand. He'd left his metal legs leaning against the concrete sea wall. As I walked to the water, I saw him with his fish, dragging himself. He was on the wet sand, so I didn't offer to help.
We both paddled out and he took a couple of small but thick shorebreak waves to the head. I looked back to him to make sure he was cool and I heard him say, "That'll wake you up!". I hooted and smiled and made it out past the breakers.
I sat for a solid twenty minutes without seeing a rideable wave go by. I paddled in a ways. Nothing. A little more. Ni mierda...
Finally, a relative macker poured in and I caught it. It looked a lot steeper than it actually was and I set it up for it with that in mind. Unfortunately, my misread lead to me doing my all-too-common-on-high-tide-days front-foot flamingo. I was able to recover but there was just nothing there.
A HALF HOUR LATER (!) another wave came through that I was in excellent position for. It was a peak and its shoulder was lining up. I caught it and it had some steepness to it. I pumped as heftily as I could and kept an eye on the oncoming section. I cut down hard then back up, smacked it and threw TONS of spray (the offshore wind certainly helps). Halfway through the turn , I realized I was not going to recover as I'd failed to keep most of my weight over my board. I kicked my board out behind the wave (to lessen the chance of it coming down on me) and took my drubbing.
In my mind, I'd decided to bail. I sat on the inside for about ten minutes. I spotted a guy with closely shaved hair and a big scar from what could have been stitches. He looked at me and I said hello. He said something I couldn't hear, all I could make out was "board". I asked him to repeat himself and had the same result. So I did what I always do in this situation: I smiled broadly and said, "NICE!"
A wave came shortly thereafter. I had a hard time getting speed going and rather than my usual choke-up on the board strategy, I invoked the Huntington Hop. It worked well and I was able to get some speed going just in time to decisively life my board and smack the approaching wash. I did a fist-pump as a goof, claiming a maneuver that is rarely seriously claimed and fell backwards onto my face (yes, on purpose. No, I don't know why).
As I walked to the showers, I saw the double-amputee again and spoke to him. He couldn't have been older than twenty-two. He was super stoked to be out there and it will serve as a reminder to not let any excuses get in the way.