The July ocean looked bored. I sat in my car and squinted down the beach for whitewater, for any sign of surf. Next to me in a truck with no hubcaps a man missing a tooth–one of the important teeth up front–grinned at me. He knew not of my plight.
I’d surfed only once in the passed two weeks. I was starting to feel unhinged. Today was the day, no matter how bored the ocean looked.
I stepped on my driver’s seat and hoisted myself up so I could reach the yellowed longboard strapped to the top of my car. It had long been in the custody of my brother who, it appeared, had chucked the poor thing in his overgrown backyard. The deck of the board was covered in a layer of old dry grass that stuck to the dirty wax like a child’s art project. I went to put in the fin and saw that the screw, the screw that should never not be there, was not there.
Back in my car, I texted my brother something mean. My fingers jabbed at the screen. This was no small infraction. One does not interfere with another’s will to surf. This is not how we were raised.
The tide rising, I needed to act. I sped off in search of a tiny screw I felt sure I would not find. I went to both stores and was twice met with confusion. This town, which contains none of the things necessary to be a town, does have a surf shop. I stomped into the tiny store, my desperation apparent. The owner, a man I grew up next door to, understood the gravity. He ducked behind the counter and came up holding the one and only screw in the shop. I went for my wallet but he waved me off.
The ocean was a mermaid’s tail; dark aqua shimmering gray beneath the low fog. I paddled the old board all the way across the small cove because my opportunities for ceremony are few. I peered into the familiar dark water and forgave my brother. A grom is a grom.
The waves were tiny but the water was not cold. Pelicans bobbed in the mist like toy boats in a pond. I was alone save for those bobbing birds. I stroked the big board into the small waves, my fin sliding inches above the rocks, and kicked out of each wave a little less frantic. When it’s that small every wave feels like a gift.
I trudged back through the soft sand with the board resting on my head. The man with the missing tooth was gone. In his place stood a semi circle of people holding cans of cheap beer. They nodded at me and I nodded back, the derelict guardians of an overlooked paradise.