Dawn patrol. 37 degrees at 5:30am. Wind chill a few degrees colder. Coffee. Numerous layers of clothing. Out the door with towel, fins and…damn it! Forgot to rinse and dry the wetsuit after last evening’s session.
The wetsuit is sandy and it’s wet and very cold
Pull up to the spot, too dark to see, but can feel and hear a building swell. Stand in the biting, offshore wind with the boys. Chugging coffee. Cracking jokes. Try to hide from the wind. Retain some body heat.
We’re out there, but first…the worst moment of the day. The wind has already entered the layers of clothing. But now it’s time to strip off those layers. And enter a sandy, wet, cold wetsuit. Ugh.
It is an important ritual. The hardship. The adversity. You want waves? Well suffer a bit first. Barefeet already becoming numb on the pavement. One leg in the wetsuit…righteous discomfort. Both legs in and try to focus on the impending waves. Revealing more skin to the wind as the top layers come off. Its cold and uncomfortable but it is Ocean time.
Lock up the truck, grab the fins and sprint down to the beach. Shivering and hooting. No time to waste, first light is approaching. Zip up and splash……..Wooooo! “Is the water colder than last night?” “It feels colder than last night.” Little pin pricks all over as water climbs inside the wetsuit.
Swimming hard, rows of whitewater stack up. Under the first, under the second….
Ice cream headache.
Under the third, still zinging. Slightly disoriented but still swimming. During a lull, the brain thaws.
Wits regained, a solid waves approaches. Swim to find the spot and take off. The barrel is round and the glide is real. A sense of warmth washes over. The warmth of a fun ride and vigorous swimming. And possibly some urine.
After a couple hours: feet turn to immobilized stumps inside the fins. Slurred speech as the jaw and tongue freeze. Continuous chills and shivers shoot through the body. Walking up the beach after the session without feeling numb feet. A chill in the body that can last throughout the day.
But there is something special about putting on that wet wetsuit. It represents passion and dedication. The hardship presents miniature Ernest Shackleton moments. Certainly would’ve been easier and far more comfortable to stay in bed. But the fun of riding waves with friends and getting barreled and laughing at each other’s slurred words makes it all beyond worthwhile.