The sun raised its head over a cold California coast. This sun was a special sun. It was the first sun of the year. There was to be a special gathering at the beach. It is what is called a “paddle-out.” Cars slowly gathered at the beach. The people inside the cars exited and came to the shore. No one talked, all they did was look at the horizon, which was light red from the coming sun. The waves were so big it was hard to see the horizon at times. All of them were bundled up, trying to protect themselves from the piercing cold. Every part of their body that was not bundled up was already turning blue.
Soon an old Ford pickup truck parked with the back facing the ocean. The paint on this vehicle was chipping and there were many marks of rust on it. It was filled with wood. Three people got out of the pickup and unhitched the back, exposing the wood. The wood was twisted and knotted so bad it was terrible. Two teenagers came forward and started unloading the wood. They brought it over to a stone fireplace. The three men came into the crowd. Thankful nods went their way but still no one talked, almost as if they were in a trance. Soon a car pulled up with surfboards on the rack. The driver emerged from the car and started untying the boards. Once he was done he set the three boards by the pickup truck. The three men came forward and changed into their trunks but nothing else. They started to wax their boards, and even though they shivered and were cold to the bone they never put on anything except for their trunks. The group stood motionless, just looking at the horizon. Once the three men were done waxing their boards they walked, with their boards on their shoulder, to the shore and started whispering to each other. Then they stood motionless until the shore break calmed for a little bit and then they sprang into the water and started paddling furiously. The crowd on the beach watched them, still not talking.
When the men were outside they sat there, millions of good waves passing under them. Then one set came with three waves in it. These waves weren’t good, these waves were spectacular. The waves so clear and crisp. Each one of them chose their own wave. They glided over the waves, no cutbacks, no nose-riding, nothing but gliding. They all rode in and as the last one exited the water something happened. The crowd cheered, the first sound they made all morning. Soon the festivities began. People got coffee and hot cocoa. People were yelling “Hey John” and such.
Later a spectator of the event asked one of the teenagers who started the fire, “What was the deal with that?” and the teenager said, “It’s a tradition.”