Excerpt from Pacific Offering
Twilight faded and stars pulsed through a thin veneer of cirrus coating the upper atmosphere like a silk sheet. The moon rose in the east. Beck needed a distraction from his misery. He studied the ocean. A streak of whitewater peeled along the Baja point in perfect symmetry. He rose and grabbed his surfboard and walked toward the ocean in the moonlight.
The water felt chilly in the cooling night air. The channel was narrow and surging and tough to negotiate. A small set pushed through. Beck was blindsided by whitewash and forced into the reef. He scraped against rock and barnacle and flailed for a moment before scrambling back into the channel. He weathered three more waves without further damage. The water calmed and he paddled through the channel in search of open water. In the poor light he got lost amidst the network of reef and ocean. After five minutes of struggle, he exited the maze into deeper water and reached the lineup.
He felt drunk and hazy. Camps strewn along the point looked strange and distant. The dark ocean reflected moonlight in a narrow golden swath. Contrast was low and waves hard to see until they were nearly breaking. They required quick reaction but his reflexes were sluggish.
A wave emerged from the darkness. He spun toward shore and paddled. As the wave picked up speed he hopped to his feet and dropped down the face. His clumsiness faded and he entered muscle memory and raced down the line. The wave broke along the reef and he carved fast and clean until dry reef emerged straight ahead. He quickly exited the wave and paddled back outside.
Sets became more frequent and he surfed the faint Pacific pulse. He wondered if this was the beginning of the predicted swell. The thought induced excitement and dread, the challenge of a lifetime. No way to avoid it and still maintain that brutal currency of respect among his peers, and, more importantly, for himself. It was just one of those rare things that drew unequivocal lines in the sand. And which side of the line was he on? He didn’t know, but he’d find out soon enough.
The moon climbed higher and appeared smaller and whiter and more oblong as it rose. The waves came and he settled into an ocean trance, a perfect rhythm. Clouds thickened from the southwest and moved inland. Sheet-like cirrostratus coated the night sky, the ice crystals forming a halo around the moon before low-level clouds appeared and blotted out the light. He floated in darkness and decided to head in before the night went black.
He scanned the ocean for hints of a set. Nothing came. His body began to stiffen from lack of movement. Paranoia crept in as he peered into the black water, toes dangling like appetizers for toothy creatures prowling the depths. The night session’s quiet tranquility took on something more ominous and downright spooky.
A wave appeared. Beck caught it and slid down the line, straining to see. The wave wrapped inside, picked up speed, and broke over dry reef. He froze, unsure if he should exit over the back or straighten out toward the beach. His indecision lasted a moment too long. The wave broke on his chest and catapulted him forward.
As Beck lunged headfirst into the reef, the last thing he thought was how black the water looked in the faltering moonlight.