There’s nothing I like better than pulling off my shirt after a day at the beach. My arms ache from surfing, my back too. My eyes are heavy and my body feels good. My shirt peels off my salty, sunned and rough skin, and there’s a pleasant smell of salt and surf wax. I breathe in and remember the day, a day well spent, a day at the beach.
I’ve been surfing since I was 13, first hitting the waves on my brother’s Doyle soft board over Easter in the cold waters of Will Rogers State Beach in Los Angeles.
I was hooked from the start.
I read books on how to surf, practiced standing up on my parents’ bed and soon bought my own board, a seven-foot-something yellow single fin. I started making the trip to the beach by bus, skateboard or by nagging my dad to take my brother and me.
That was the start of a surfing life that has taken me up and down the California coast and to Baja and then Hawaii, Europe and South America. Often I hit the beach humming a song by Red Cross (now Redd Kross) with the lyrics: “We go to the beach because it’s fun.”
Simply put. But that’s what surfing and going to the beach is about for me: simple fun.
I still surf at 44, primarily in Pinamar, where many of the stories of Pine Tree Paradise are set. This is Argentina, a country not well known for surfing. Better waves can be had in neighboring Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and even Uruguay.
But the swells do come and I try to be there.
My wife and children know of my addiction, of my itch for surfing. I can withstand hitting the waves to take my children into the ocean to learn how to stand up. But my attention is on the surf beyond, and soon comes my declaration: “I’ve got to go surfing.”
So I go and surf, and these past two weeks I have been giddy. These are the first days of summer and more days will be had. The trouble is that my arms are still weak for paddling after spending months out of the water in Buenos Aires, where we live the rest of the year. Soon my arms turn to spaghetti after paddling in the surf. But not after an hour or more of good waves that put a smile on my face so that I glide through the rest of the day, contented and wanting to build sandcastles, take the kids back in the water and run into the sand dunes.
I’ve had my fill; the itch is gone.
At home, I help my youngest daughter, who is four, to have a bath.
She too is happy after a day at the beach. And even more so now that her brother and sister are out with friends. This means that she has the full rein of the house so she can splay out on the sofa watching whatever she wants on TV.
And she tells me her plans for life: “When I grow up, I want to have a baby just like Mummy.”
“And I want to have boobies just like Daddy.”
My face sinks.
The youngest runs downstairs and I think about her comment, about my body, about too much work, about not enough surfing, about living so far from the beach. And my thoughts lead to a solution: I must spend even more time surfing this summer. My body needs it, so too my mind and my life.
I smile at the thought.