It's Always Best To Go


            My day began at six as I awoke in my cabin with question whether or not to head west. After listening to my NOAA weather radio for a round of updates, I decided to follow through and push for the horizon. Later in the day, I knew I’d made the right choice and said it aloud while I sat in a crystalline blue bowl.

            The drive west was lit by a waning full moon above the highway and glistening frost turning into snow the farther west I went. It was beautiful. I watched the first light caressing the peaks surrounding the lake burn orange — but much softer than the sound of the word lie upon the cliffs and snowfields. The water had little to no disturbances beyond the occasional family of ducks waking the indigo. Past the lake, a winter wonderland unfolded while birch and willow branches lined with prismatic, faceted ice glistened and shined with each flash of early morning moon.
            As I neared the coast the day seemed to begin. The coffee had taken effect and shuffle on my phone hit a solid hour of homeruns — I sang loud, and laughed louder. I made it to the beach lookout where I observed clean rather small lines and a wonderfully low tide. Windless. Flawless. Heaven. You’re twisting my melon man. I flipped a U and headed for the trail knowing that things were lined up just as I had suspected the previous Monday when I first started to monitor the forecast.

            Arriving at the beach sweaty from hiking in with one layer to many, I saw that it was rather small where I stood, though the far side had yet to appear from around the driftwood bend. At this point, I'm walking camera bag in one hand board in the other down my favorite beach on what felt like a 60° sunny January day — glassy with a light off-shore and not a soul around. I was happy as a clam regardless of what the wave situation was soon to bring.
            When I got to the rock to drop my bag and watch my peak throbbing, the golden morning mist ventured down the bluffs and through the evergreens kissing my favorite thing in the world — un-ridden lefts. The color sailed out to sea and I smiled as I may have said to myself “I’ve done it.” After setting up my tripod, I grabbed a beer and my intervalometer, suited halfway and stuffed the goods in the top roll of my wetsuit as I set stride for the joyous walk down the beach.
            Stepping down my favorite beach bare-chested in the mid-January sun I had a flashback to one of the best times of my life, walking down the unbearably hot sand on Playa Avellana with nothing more than a sun hat and board ready to plunge 80° water for some very inviting lines breaking off the lava reef. I recognized this to be an obvious sign that I had won the lottery again, I knew this was one of the best days of my life — enjoy every minute. It was a northwesterner’s dream unfolding.

            Setting up my tripod in front of the break I felt like I was being less pure in my approach to surfing; however, it later proved only to distract or take hold of the mind when and only when the tide was getting close to wiping out my camera. I put her on ten second intervals and paddled out.
            The water was a sheet of glass, with only enough offshore breath to comb the spray back in a uniform archway into the next dimension of satisfaction. The swells weren't all flawless but many were. I caught the tail end of the low tide, and gladly so; the waves goes awash as the sea fills the beach.
            I'm addicted to the moment of silence followed by thunder while being drawn between the face and backside of a wave. Slowly stroking out in tempo to reach the deep blue wall in time to watch it change hues into turquoise. Then I'm beneath, it’s slow motion — another time zone — met with a perpetual echo of the greeting between lip and face. Silence, then surface like a seal, exhaling a fine mist bleached by the sun. Water dripping from mustache the tongue, beard to board, tasting the sea and leaving that time zone, I come to from the magical underworld. Passing through a liquid wall of ancient energy may be the most sacred of moments in my life.


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            Six o'clock has rolled around. The temp has dropped, and my Bic pen feels like it's dragging a lead ball as the ink has thickened. I dip it in the fire momentarily and it flows like a river once again. It is no longer 60° and sunny but probably in the 30s and starry with a horizon haze. Earlier, I monitored the falling tide as I woke from intermittent naps. Still no throbbing lines, tide on the move… Still nothing connecting, tide drains farther… Eventually, it neared sunset and I decided to gather some firewood and wait for the morning low. The surf is always better in the morning — this goes for damn near anywhere.
            I made a lentil soup for dinner, or rather dumped it from its box and plunged it into my stove. It really tasted like shit at first but between the slices of pepper jack cheese and its aftertaste of a roasted garlic game changer, I decided it wasn't half bad and scraped my pot clean with the help of a Surito tortilla that I cooked on a log. It's pretty peaceful out here — what a different perspective camping alone. All day I’ve been very much so in my own head with no confliction, compromises, distractions or anything else that comes along with camping (or traveling for that matter) with another being. The road is smooth, unadulterated, and silent. Time seems to expand and contract, and I notice every minute of it.
            I drank coconut porters and standard IPAs next to a one-man-sized fire beneath the January full moon. Buzzing with hops and contentedness it became apparent that I had become damn good at camping and enjoying the little things. The night sky sang as the fire crackled, the sea was building, and I could feel it in the sand as the sets met the bars.

            In the morning, I swung awake from my hammock, peered through my 70-200 with the doubler and watched down the line into the sand bar as the building swell shook the stack. There was ice on my board — the night brought me deep chills that carried through the day. At one point around 2 a.m., I woke to a moonlit beach so bright I attempted a time-lapse of a sea stack haunted by the new-coming swell. As I adjusted the lens a massive raccoon or possum trucked down the beach below and a night heron landed in the reflection of the moon to fish. I watched the hunt till weighted eyelids fell. Paddling out after a cup of coffee, the hands and toes never gained feeling beyond the all-inclusive winter ache. There was a lot of water moving in all directions but I managed to find a rip that I rode out toward the nearly imaginary peak I watched throughout the morning routine. There were three identifiable swells I was able to differentiate through the mix-matched madness. The direction needed for my peak to connect, without walling up clear to Alaska and closing out all hope, was so far and few between that by the time one came around I had been taken from the takeoff zone and relocated elsewhere. I decided to give up on the picky little swatch of sand creating these one-in-every-fifteen-minute behemoth, dredging lefts and paddle a hundred yards or so down-beach to my old standby.

            Throughout several hours of getting pitched on double overhead backwash-laced faces and two-turn closeouts, I managed to scrape up a handful of memorable, rocketing, adrenaline-driven lines along with some ear popping to-depth driven throttling hold-downs. By the time I said enough is enough, noodle-armed and half as buoyant, the water had risen along with the wind and there really wasn’t much of anything to paddle for anyway. The weekend’s mission had all in all been fulfilled; in fact, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

            Using the last of my time to relax, I got out of my suit, snacked, and lay down for a couple-hour nap swaying in the hammock — tune it down to zero for a minute before I’m back to work for the week. A feeling of worldly connectedness and satisfaction accompanied me as I made my way off cloud nine and back to my rig for the drive home.

            As I sat down in my cabin, plugged the camera in for some uploading, and reflected on the weekend’s experience I thought to myself… It’s always best to go.