A Surf Trip with BioLite
Well, that is that, and this is this.
You tell me what you saw, and I’ll tell you what you missed
When the ocean met the sky.
--Modest Mouse, “The Ocean Breathes Salty”
This is a story about surfing.
And I guess it starts at about six in the morning, when you wake up, and your body hurts, and your mind is crooked, and your legs are short. When the cracks of dawn’s light haven’t even touched that wall of gray against the morning sky, and every bone tells you to leave it alone. When you stick the contact lenses into your eyeballs and splash the cold water from the bathroom faucet against your face.
Wake up. And load the truck.
The hard wood is cold on your bare feet, but you walk with purpose. Grab the cooler. Over to the freezer. Fill with ice. Open the fridge. Pull the fish. Pull the veggies. Pull the beer. You yawn, and you try to remember why, at some point in your life, you thought this plan was a good idea. Right now, bed sounds like the good idea. But you smile to yourself. Too late.
And now the truck is loaded. You’ve got the cooler. You’ve got the wet suits. The surf boards. The wax. The towels. The Camp Stove. The stale musk of salt and latex in your nostrils, and now the slam of the tailgate and the chime of the key in the ignition, and you’re off to church.
Your hand catches the morning drizzle when you lean your arm out the passenger window. You look up at the still-gray sky and think to yourself, It’s gonna be a wet one.
“It’s gonna be a wet one,” you say. The truck rambles west down US-26. You stop for coffee, because you’ve gotta have coffee, and then it’s back to the road.
The surf break sits about an hour and a half from Portland, and it’s here that you’ve worked so hard to be. And while the world, it seems, rolls back into their covers, your truck pulls up and parks, and you hop out, and you stretch your legs, and you squint in the morning sun that’s just started to break the clouds, and you feel warm.
Then it’s out with the backpacks, and it’s up with the surf boards, and at last, our boots touch sand, and you focus. You feel nothing. Hungry, maybe. But mostly nothing. And you stare across the vast Pacific, and it churns and it gyrates in its rhythm: Wave. Crash. Wave. Crash. Wave. Crash. And then you become Mel Gibson at the end of 1995 film classic Braveheart.
And you dash into the water.
And—I don’t know, maybe a million?—pieces have been written about surfing, and about finding the wave, and about braving the waters. About Sex Wax, and reading the break, and tasting salt and suds when you get pitted, and that’s all well and good. But I wanted to write not about surfing. I wanted to write about everything but. And it’s funny, but if you take the surfing out of a surf day, it turns out it’s still a great day. It turns out it’s the people that make it great. And the adventure. And…
You’re hungry when you leave those waves and stamp back up the shore. But you’re here with two of your best friends, and you all knew you’d be hungry. That’s what the salmon’s for. It’s been on ice in the cooler, where it’s stayed fresh all day, and your camp stove just happens to be a BioLite Camp Stove 2, and it’s got a grill attachment, and it burns wood, and you guys fire that sucker up, right there on the beach. And you’re all together, now, and you watch that dying sun. And you’re young, and it’s summer, and you’re in the most magic of places.
And pretty soon, that little grill is nice and hot, and you throw those fillets on the grate, and they hiss as they touch the hot metal. And while they cook, you talk. About life. About surfing. About God. About sex. About love. About art. About philosophy. About surfing. And pretty soon, your dinner’s ready. And you stop talking for a moment, while everyone bites into their grilled fish on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The same ocean that took you home today. And that water is beautiful, and that salmon is delicious. Man, oh man, is that salmon delicious.
And you stay, and you laugh until the sun is long gone from the sky. There on that beach. And you kind of remember something about hating life that morning when the alarm went off, but that seems so silly and foreign now that you chase it right off with a bite of the last of the prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus that Jon saw in the BioLite cookbook and insisted you all had to make, and you’ll admit—to yourself, never to Jon—that you’re glad he did. And tonight, you’ll dream of waves and salt and sand. And cliffs and coastal birds and the green Oregon shores. And you’ll dream of the truth you found in that tiny splash of the endless Pacific.
And then tomorrow’s a new day.
The Beans and Rice