The Wildfire Session

By Jody W. Wood

I think it happens to everyone who surfs. Sometimes you just get tired of the crowd, have a few off sessions in a row, or maybe even feel like you are just flat out wasting your time sitting there bobbing around, and blowing the few waves you do get. I know it happens to me now and then. It had been a couple of years since I last felt that way, until just recently.

Thanks to my job here at South Coast and the fact that I live a block from the beach, I can surf almost every day of the year if I want to. And I usually get in the water a few times a week, at least. But, back in October I was going through a bit of a funk, both surfing and in my personal life. I’m inclined to believe they go hand in hand at times. Maybe you’re thinking too much about the rest of your life, or paddling out with the idea of blowing off some steam, and then you leave the session more frustrated than when you started. I did that for about two weeks straight. I couldn’t blame it on the surf. I watched other people getting good rides. I fell on a few waves I would normally make. Got hog-tied by my leash on a close-out set. Argued with some hot head who wanted to fight with everyone around. I just flat out got bummed on surfing. I remember walking home telling myself, “I’m going to take a break from surfing for a few weeks. It’s just not fun right now and I might as well be doing something that is rewarding, rather than frustrating.”

This was at the beginning of the week that San Diego County was being ravaged by wildfires. Nothing but bad news all day and all night. The streets and shops of Ocean Beach were packed with people temporarily displaced due to evacuations. Every kid in town was out of school and in the line-up. And I live for the winter days when the tourists have gone home, groms are in school, and there are ten people in the line-up instead of fifty.

Then the next morning, although I wasn’t really interested in getting in the water, I took my obligatory walk to get some coffee and check the surf. I couldn’t beleive what I saw. Santa Ana conditions, glassy, clean lines like we haven’t had in quite some time. Back at work, I realized I couldn’t pass up the chance to get back on track and get some good waves in on my lunch break.

Paddling out into what looked like a town meeting for a crowd, I was greeted with smiles and hellos from a gang of friends already soaking up the goods and hooting it up for each other. My first wave I took all the way to sand and was smiling ear to ear. The funk was lifted. I was back to surfing like I at least kind of know what I’m doing and having a great time with my buddies. Back to what it’s all about to begin with. I think we all do it time to time. Recapture that feeling, Remember why we love the ocean and why we commit so much time and engery to doing something we love. Because it’s unlike anything else in this world.

I remember thinking to myself, “So many people are dealing with the what might be the biggest losses of their entire lives, and I am so grateful to be out here in the water, doing what I love, and regaining perspective on my own life.”

I realized once more, no matter what’s going on with you, someone else probably has it a lot worse. Rather than dwelling on our own misfortunes, we should simply find a way to learn and grow from it. And, if the way we are lucky enough to do that is by having one of the best surf sessions of the year, then so be it. I’ll take that any day of the week.

Be respectful in the water and out.