Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reading the Waves

I was at the beach yesterday, standing waist-deep in the water and watching the surf roll in.  I had my eyes trained a hundred yards out, reading the waves and waiting for the best one so I could body-surf back to shore.

As each wave approached I evaluated it.  How big was it?  When was it going to break?  These were my two most important criteria.  If it broke too early, it would be ideal for someone a little further out, but I wouldn't get the same push from it.  If it broke too late those closer to shore would get a great ride but I would be left behind, floating in its wake.  The small waves were great for the kids, but I wanted a big wave. 

Some of the big waves broke at the right distance, but I didn't ride them.  You see, a wave doesn't span the whole beach; one wave is roughly twenty yards wide.  It has an arc, and it breaks best in the center.  If you are too far to the side it breaks later and smaller.  Some waves had a perfect arc for the people to my left or right, they just weren't right for me, so I let them pass on by.

I looked out into the ocean and kept reading.  Earlier in the day I had read the waves from afar - I used the tide clock.  The peak of low tide was the perfect time to go for a run, the long expanse of hard-packed sand made for an ideal track.  But at high tide, there was no room to run.  As the ocean pushed its way on shore the waves got bigger, and the beach, in turn, got smaller. 

I kept reading the waves.  A big one came at me.  It had a perfect arc, was just the right size, and I was right in front of the break point.  I turned and swam and water bubbled around me as the wave pushed me.  I accelerated until my belly scraped the sand and drug me to a halt.  I stood and looked back toward the ocean.  More big waves on the way.  I ran back out and caught three more good rides before the surf settled back down.  Then I waited for the next round.  A few minutes the big waves returned.  The waves come in waves, you know.

My kids played in the waves, too.  My older son was on his boogie board.  He wanted to ride the bigger waves.  He could stay on the board but he needed help getting started, so I held him steady and launched him out on some huge waves.  My younger son couldn't hold on to the board on those waves, though.  He kept flipping over.  I let him climb onto my back and he held onto my neck and rode the biggest waves with me, and I launched him solo onto some smaller waves.  

I think back on all the waves I didn't ride.  They weren't bad waves, they just weren't right for me for where I was at that moment in time.  I could have moved up or back or left or right, and I could have enjoyed the other waves, but then I would have missed the waves I did ride.

And I'm going back to the beach tomorrow.  I'm sure I'll ride more waves.  I might build a sand castle, and then sit back watch the advancing waves slowly knock it down.  That's a long, slow read.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Rick, I'm glad you're enjoying the ocean. This is a mighty fine post on flowing with nature, going with it, not against it.

Elaine AM Smith said...

WOW! This sounds like so much fun. I do falling off and over waves.:)
I noticed this phrase in your post. Now, where have I heard this phrase, or one very like it, before? Quite the analogy, for any passing agents ;)

I think back on all the waves I didn't ride. They weren't bad waves, they just weren't right for me for where I was at that moment in time.

scott g.f.bailey said...

This is a really cool piece of writing. I like it a lot.

Anita said...

I love this. I wish my family was there with yours.

Rick Daley said...

Tricia- I love the water, and I'm happy that both of my sons do too. I've even got my wife working on her swimming, it's been a great vacation.

Elaine- The whole post is riddled with analogies and metaphors. But at the same time, it's really about the waves and the beach. I loves me some double entendre.

Scott- Thanks, I value your opinion!

Anita- It's been one of the best family vacations we've taken to date (not to rub it in...)

Rich said...

Rick, this time you picked the best week! We have had little sun, plenty of heavy rain, so mark HHI to return the week before the boys head to school.