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Waterspot: When in doubt, paddle out

“The worst day of surfing is better than the best day of work.”

—’80s bumper sticker

I basically agree with the above statement, except when it comes to writing this column, which, I assure you, is nearly always pure joy. Even then, it can’t match the best days of surfing. Then again, nothing can. Only a surfer knows the feeling, right?

Now, about those “bad” days. You know, when the surf is one foot and blown to bits and everyone at home is waiting for the waves to get good. The days you have to force yourself to put on a cold, sandy wetsuit and drag yourself into the surf.

Those are the days when you sift through the seaweed and the garbage, and, occasionally, locate a few worthy nuggets. Those days!

Oddly, some of those days have created some of my best surfing memories. I recall one time in particular, paddling out into the worst possible Beacon’s and locating some little runners ripping over the north reef.

Days like that are comparable to finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk, rather than where you would expect to find it, in your wallet. Perhaps the greatest part of joy is surprise.

My longtime friend Jesse Timm discovered that after a recent bout with life that knocked him out of the water for a while. On top of getting COVID-19, family matters piled on and left our friend hurting.

We’ve all been there and so we know it can be tough wiggling free of the emotional damage done by psychic hurricanes, where everything is ripped from the foundations, and nothing is left but the spark of will that quietly dares you to rebuild.

In a recent Facebook post, Jesse reveals that he’d been out of the water for months when he drove to La Jolla Shores to see waves equal to those that pour into the gutter after a rainstorm.

He didn’t say so, but I am certain he wrestled with the idea of staying put, thinking of every possible excuse to stay dry in the car. The dishes need doing. The car needs repair. My favorite show is about to start. You know the drill.

Pushing through the doubts, Jesse joylessly lugged his board down to the water and forced himself to paddle out. Then, magic happened. No, the sky did not open and there were no new revelations. Just an old one — one that says that surfing is not about waves, but a connection with something greater than ourselves.

For Jesse it was like seeing again for the first time, the wonder of the largest body of water in the world, pulsing in your direction and offering you a free ride above the crabs and the worms and the fish. If a dolphin jumps, a whale breaches, a rainbow appears or you make a new friend, that’s just a bonus. You just rode a band of energy that traveled up to thousands of miles to be harnessed by you before it dies alone in the sand.

For the secular among us, it’s the equivalent of being born again. For the religious, it is all the evidence we need of a loving creator who thought it good to breathe a little band of energy to restart a child’s wondrous life.