We pulled up to 9 Palms on the Southern tip of Baja, the hurricane was spinning just a few hundred miles off shore and the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees—which was a welcome reprieve from the June heat. As we drove the dirt road out from San Jose I could taste the anticipation, it was as hot and suspenseful as the jalipano chile that I had at the juice bar before we left town. The storm had pushed in clouds as far as the eye could see and every few miles there were red streaks of light that shot across the sky like a Jedi’s weapon.
One thing I love about surfing is that you are surrounded by uncontrollable elements, and nothing speaks more intimately to a seasoned surfer than an approaching hurricane. So much of our life is calculated and we are taught from childhood how to fit in, belong, follow the crowd, obey authority—all those things fall away once you throw yourself down a steep blue-green face without any idea of what will take place as the pit swallows your dreams and ambitions and turns them up-side-down.
When we first paddled out my bro got swept down the beach and he didn’t make it out, I popped out the back after battling several sweeping sets. I was out there alone, and it felt like I was in the womb of life, with turbulent waters swirling every which way and a current so strong that if I stopped paddling it would carry me down to the rock pile and I would get chewed up like a blender gone rogue. The clean-up sets tasted like a sour lemon, sometimes I liked it—but mostly I didn’t.
I felt alive. Endorphins raged through my body like a formula one race-car roaring and nothing else mattered in my life, not where I had been nor where I was going.
My buddy made a second attempt and made it out, I was glad to see him and I felt more at ease having a wing man while those sea mountains marched through the line-up and crashed on the point unleashing a sound that sounded like the Greek God Zeus’s laughter.
I long to get back to that place where fear and exhilaration dance on the shores of my life and I am grateful to surfing for taking me there again.