Best Surf Destinations

Sea Spell

Once the awful swells have passed, the days begin to blur behind the distorted lens of sea travel. After two straight weeks at sea (three times as long as I’ve ever gone before), the sensation of timelessness is unlike any I have ever known. This expanse of blue seems infinite, and it feels as if time has no beginning or end. Landfall is still far away, meaning there’s no hurry to do anything, and no hour of the day holds any particular significance over another especially since I’ve stopped trying to contact Gaspar on the radio. Mom and I just sleep when we feel tired, eat when hungry, and move when the body demands.

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The trade winds blow with intense purpose nothing like the manic swirls of convection in Central American waters. In every direction our view is an endlessly dynamic canvas of blues and whites. All day long, innumerable indigo windswell peaks, driven by the force of the trades, push west across the sea surface. Whitewater toppling from their crests looks like the wind’s shoes sprinting west. Plump white tufts of clouds trot through the unbounded azure overhead. On and on and on. All of us headed west.

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The blue-water scene is so hypnotizing that my usual high-speed demeanor is lulled into a persistent lethargy. Without a reef to hit for a thousand miles in any direction and winds so reliable that the sails rarely fuss for attention, there isn’t motivation to fight it. I shuffle about in a peculiar haze. One afternoon, I intend to straighten up the cockpit, but instead find myself lying on the heap of cushions with my head partially over the rail, content to watch the purply-blue swirls of our wake radiate outward from the push of Swell’s hull.

Mom has hit a similar stride. Other than reeling in our next meal when the line squeals and beholding the sun’s colorful traverses of the horizon, we float through the days between conversation, sunbathing, a bit of cooking, and cuddling.

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Looking out over the seamless blue, there is absolutely no indication of our current place in history. I’m reading Melville’s Typee, and over one hundred and fifty years later, his description of this same ocean passage couldn’t more perfectly match our daily observations.

“Every now and then,” he writes, “a shoal of flying fish, scared from the waters under the bows, would leap into the air and fall like a shower of silver into the sea.” As I look up from the page toward the horizon, the fanatical little water-walkers shoot out all around us, right on cue.

A day later, I pick up Typee again while lying on the bunk in the main cabin, after finally tiring of watching the food hammock swing back and forth above me. In Melville’s next passage, he describes a “blatant languid spell” that cast a sort of “disinclination to do anything” over him and the crew during their twenty days through the trades. “Everyone seems to be under the influence of some narcotic,” he continues. “Reading was out of the question: take a blog in your hand and you were asleep in an instant.” That’s as far as I get before my eyelids fall like little anchors and Typee spreads across my forehead to block out the daylight.

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Vision in the Clouds

On day fourteen the full moon arrives. We watch her glorious golden roundness rise from the sea behind us as we savor cabbage salad, spaghetti, and the sunset. After dinner, Mom washes the dishes while I chart our position and make notes in the logblog. I kiss her good night as she heads for her bunk in the forward cabin, then grab my headphones and iPod, slip into my harness, and head out on deck to be with the moon.

As I sit leaning back on the mast, the night scene takes my breath away. The tall, puffy cumulus clouds look like statues in an evening sky gallery spotlighted by soft, silver moonlight. The sea is dressed for the occasion in stunning black sequins. The infinite sparkling moonbeams make it difficult to take my eyes off her. I’m underdressed in my underwear and inside-out T-shirt, so I let my hair down to feel a bit more elegant. The seascape before me is as clear as day, but without the harsh rays of the sun I can just keep staring. I turn on my star-gazing playlist and sway with Swell’s rhythmic downwind gallop. I haven’t heard from Gaspar in more than a week and have been troubled by his silence. Tonight I don’t want to think about him. The surrounding scene feels sacred, like visual poetry. I want to be present.

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Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata plays into my headphones. There’s glory all around me, and yet that damn Spaniard keeps creeping into my head. I feel so empty not having any news. I want to mentally swim in these glittering moonbeams, I want to give all my attention to Mom and Swell on this passage, but I constantly wonder where he is and why he hasn’t been in touch. Warm water wells in my eyes and I close my lids to push the tears out. There’s so much to be happy about, but I feel a chronic anxiousness. Am I enough for him? Maybe I’m not pretty enough. Maybe if I had bigger breasts or girlier clothes he would have written. I wipe my cheeks, take a deep breath, and look out over the mercury-coated sea.

Floating above I notice something extraordinary. I blink and rub my eyes, but it’s still there: The perfect figure of a woman sprawls across the sky in the clouds. This isn’t just the kind of cloud form where it looks like a rabbit for a moment and then quickly morphs into normal clouds again. This is different. She is perfect. Exquisite from her flowing hair, to her round chin to her petite ankles. Lying on her back with her arms folded behind her head, she stares peacefully up at the entire universe. Her naked body is as anatomically correct as if Michelangelo himself had sculpted her.

I shake my head and stand up. But she’s still there, floating over me as deliberately and undeniably as the moon. She smiles casually toward the heavens, bathing in the decadent moonlight. Am I really seeing a woman’s flawless form in the clouds? Will she mutate into a hamster or a bulldozer in a few more seconds? Will she leave as soon as I move to wake Mom?

I’m motionless I hardly breathe but she doesn’t go away. Minutes pass, then all at once, I understand why she is there. A clear notion emerges into the forefront of my thoughts.

“You are more than enough. You are divine as beautiful and grand and limitless as I. There is nothing to worry about. Be present. Be patient. Treasure this precious time with your mother for healing and growing.”

Emotion washes over me, and more hot, silent tears flow down my cheeks. As a tomboy growing up in a culture that values women mostly for their physical appearance, I have never felt beautiful enough or comfortable with my unique femininity. In fact, I associate femininity with weakness, so I have fostered only the traditionally masculine aspects in myself the ones that make me a good surfer, a capable captain, a problem-solver and go-getter. But I long to feel more balanced in my feminine skin. To be softer and more accepting of others and myself. To stop beating myself up for not looking like the women in beauty magazines. The cloud goddess has reassured me that it’s possible and that there is much more going on here on Earth than I understand. Am I somehow truly a divine part of it? All I can think to tell her is, “Thank you.” I repeat it a few times under my breath as she finally dissolves into the other clouds. Then run to grab my journal and sketch her form so that tomorrow I won’t wake and wonder if I had only dreamed her.

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