Monday, July 23, 2007

Bodysurfing, Volume 2

The assumption here is that you are standing in four feet of water somewhere off the shore of a northeastern American beach. It would be low tide.

(Of course it's low tide. Were it high, the water would be too deep to stand in and the wave, once it picked you up, would ram you vertically into the sand at the water's edge, the way those machines insert, then hammer pilings into the ground.)

As noted earlier, you can feel the pull of the wave without seeing it. I mean, if you stared out at the ocean, you'd see it, but you're staring at the shore. You can feel the water pulling you seaward, even as you dig your feet in the sand and lean against the flow. You're reminded briefly of that Hamlet soliloquy, but you shake it off. You half-swim, half-walk--really only holding position--towards shore as the wave approaches. You can do this because the water's getting shallower as the wave evacuates the area before it.

At the appropriate moment you spring forward as hard as you can. You can kick and paddle a couple of times, but if you need to paddle any more than that you've probably missed the wave anyway. When we say paddle we are, of course, referring to the Australian Crawl. After about the third stroke you reach out with both hands, pull them down and back hard (this is now more like the Butterfly stroke), then fold them flat against your side, arch your back, open your eyes (if you've shut them), and feel the wave lift you up.

There is a moment when you are about two-thirds up the face of the wave, rising quickly, your head and shoulders protruding, completely free of the water.

This is the moment for which you have paid the big bucks. Despite the No Fear decal on the windshield of your Volkswagon you realize you are scared to death. You whisper, sotto voce, the words "Oh shit."

Life is good.

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