Sixty surfers sat like giant black spiders, fangs bared, waiting to strike out and take one wave. Only one surfer could ride a wave at a time, which poisoned the air with the tense gas of ruthless competition. This was Trestles, a place where waves rolled like moonbeams into eternity Because of this phenomenon, Trestles attracted crowds of people like termites to a rotting log.
My first time at Trestles was like a race in wheel-spinning mud. Of the two to three waves I caught, I only rode one all the way in. It seemed like every time I paddled for a wave, I missed the wave by five feet—just three more paddles and I would have caught each one. I felt frustration like an icy hot pad— cold with glum depression and hot with frustrated aggravation. Like a pot of moldy mush, I slunk back out to the treacherous takeoff zone on my surfboard.
* * *
“ It’s firing,” Chance, my surf coach, gleefully shouted 1 through the telephone. “The set waves are rolling in like dinner courses at a five-star restaurant.”
“Really?” I asked anxiously.
I was a little nervous about going to Trestles again after my first disastrous experience. At the same time, I was excited to give the world-class waves another try.
“Yes, it’s two- to three-foot overhead, with an occasional four-foot.”
I have gotten used to this jargon. One “head” is usually considered about six feet. So in this case, we were talking about set waves with an eight- to nine-foot face and occasionally one with a ten-foot face, which is the front of the wave.
“I’ll pick you up after school,” Chance said cheerfully.
Excitement bored a tingly shivery hole in my stomach, and my hands started to sweat.
Chance and I stood on the beach getting ready to change while waves like charging elephants rolled through the mossy rock point. Salty mist filled my lungs with new hope.
“This is it,” he said as we began to paddle through the molten cloudy fluff.
As I sat in the lineup to wait for a wave, venomous glares from the salt-crusted spiders pierced me. Who is this newcomer? they asked with speculative beady eyes.
I tried to return their fierce stares, but failed and only managed a shivering glance.
“Whoa, that’s a big wave,” I exclaimed to Chance, pushing my electric-green board through the wall of blue gel.
“Shhh!” he replied with a cranky frown. “Don’t say that.”
“Why?” I asked, curious at the harshness in his normally calm and easygoing voice.
“I’ll tell you later, but don’t say that again.”
A wall of sea glass danced toward me, and I paddled eagerly toward it with a salivating smile to ride its treasures. Excitement rattled my bones. There was no one to steal it from me. I was in the right spot and had the right-of-way. My silver fingertips shattered the smooth glass wall with repeated strokes of eagerness and delight. With a push from bubbly nature herself, I glided down the face of the wave, my fins slicing the shimmering sea like silver knives through honey butter. Suddenly, the silence was shattered by the slicing of yet another board. My screaming smile suddenly shimmered and then was blown out. Frantically, I shouted and waved at the rider to get off of my wave, but he just ignored me and pretended I wasn’t even there. I tried to get next to him so that he would see me, but when I got close, he snapped a big turn and sprayed me in the face. Blinded by salty sea tears, I fell and smashed into the bottom of the sea.
* * *
“Hey, Gromulet!1 What’s up?!” Chance cheerfully asked me a few days later. “Trestles is going off. The swell’s picked up and it’s going to be perfect after school.”
“Can we go somewhere else?” I groaned. “Because last time I ended up at the bottom of the sea.”
“Nah. We’re going to Trestles. It’s just that last time you did everything wrong. You have to keep your mouth shut when you go out there because if you don’t they’re just going to take advantage of you. For example, if you say the waves are big, they will think that you are a novice and won’t let you catch any waves. Also, you have to strategize and get your spot in the pecking order. Right off the bat, catch a couple waves and do some good turns to let every one know that you mean business. Oh yeah—one reminder: whoever is the deepest2 has the right-of-way. So if you can manage to get the deepest every time, you’re gonna get all the waves.”
The next day at Trestles, I sat amongst the giant black spiders again. But this time, I was ready. When I was on the beach, I had told Chance, “If anyone wants to take my waves I say, ‘Bring on the heat.”
“That’s the right attitude buddy” Chance had said, grinning.
Paddling up the point, I wore my stoniest face and said nothing. When the first couple five- to six-foot waves rolled through, I was as ready as a rattlesnake. It was my turn to strike. I nimbly paddled to the deepest place possible and dug my fingernails into the rampaging wave. Then with one last blast of effort, I stood up and claimed my first wave for that day at Trestles. I dug my fins deep and threw huge sprays. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw the spiders staring their beady eyes at me. But this time it was not with a look of condescension, but with admiration and respect. My eyes shimmering with happiness, I paddled out hungry for a set wave. I waited and waited, letting many mediocre sets go by. Then the wave came. It was a rumbling twelve-foot monster. All of the waves before it had washed everyone else too far in to get in my way. So it was mine, all mine. With a few swift strokes and a squeal of delight I stood up on perfection itself. Silver drops of purity choked the air with the sizzling smell of satisfaction as I chiseled pictures into the canvas of dazzling droplets. Back and forth I swished, spraying clouds of frothy foam into the sun-bleached air. We talked very little, for our sunburnt smiles did all the talking as we walked up the trail and watched the evening sun melt sleepily into the snoring sea.
1 A gromulet, or grom, is a child surfer
2 The deepest part of the wave is closest to the breaking section