As I paddled out, my warm breath oozed from my mouth in a cloud of white smoke over the cold ocean surface. Rain fell from above. A sewage-y stench loomed over the south L.A. water.
But stronger than the threat of hepatitis or some other ungodly microbe crawling its way through my urethra and into my bloodstream, there was the wave. Nobody else was out, although this sleepy, inconsistent surf spot was experiencing what was likely the best day of the year.
Large, hollow peaks crashed only a few feet in front of a dilapidated jetty. If you didn’t make the drop, you were toast. And if you did, you were greeted by a reeling wall crashing violently into the shorebreak. One wave, in particular, perked my sense of danger. I grabbed my rail, backside, drew a high line, and held on. The barrel was boxy, pitching far and wide around my body. When it became clear that there was no exit in sight, I dove headfirst into the closeout – a mere foot of water protecting my frame from the hard sand below. My board danced wildly beneath the whitewater. At one point the fins poked their way towards my face, but in the fetal position I had adopted, my hands were there to block the attack.
It was then, that I wondered – was this worth it? Was flirting with disaster worth the threat of bodily harm? Worth the possibility of unrecognized glory? No friends or fellow surfers to share my splendor with? Nope, just my own psyche.
I peered to the beach, in vain, checking if anyone saw my harrowing ride. Nobody but a few pelicans. Planes from LAX thrusted overhead, the passengers seeing a single speck below in the wild, tumultuous sea.