I have a recurring stress dream where I don’t make it to the surf before the sun sets. I flail my body around with semi-psychotic urgency for what seems like hours, but no matter how loudly I scream or quickly I drive I just can’t get in the water before last light. I’ve been having a version of this dream since I was a kid, and each time the heartbreak grips me as violently as the time before. Each time, I experience a little piece of death.
On Thursday I finished work and drove to pick up my friend in Berkeley. We’d worked all day and now surfing was what we had. Surfing could redeem what the day had taken from us. I was a caged animal. I was desperate for the water.
It should take 34 minutes to get to Ocean Beach from my house in Berkeley. To the dismay of anyone trying to get anywhere, Thursday was 4/20: a holiday in these parts. An entire metropolis full of pot-lovers rejoicing in a traffic-inducing haze stood between us and the ocean.
This is mostly a story about traffic, not surfing.
Made brash by our hunger for waves, we took the long way—a mile less than twice as far—because we had to keep moving and the Bay Bridge was chaos like cold molasses. We took the Richmond to the Golden Gate, crossing two bridges instead of one. We passed people napping in pea green parks. The city was stoned and we were racing the sun.
We made it to a shark gray ocean with light to burn. We sprinted out of my car and across the highway at Judah and over the cold dunes and onto the wet sand where the tide had recently been. We threw our bodies down the faces of waves, pretending to know anything about anything. The peaks were shifty and and the current was strong but we made it. We beat the sun. We reclaimed the stolen day.
Eventually, all of the light did go away. Sopping wet and shivering on the big dark beach, I felt a certain kind of good. One that I want to tell everyone about but which I am able to tell no one.