Spring Sunday: The Last Wave
Sometimes, when spring rolls around, it seems as if skiers are just a bunch of wannabe surfers. I wonder if, during periods of low swell in Costa Rica, the sun-drenched locals hang out on the beach and talk about their upcoming ski trip, comparing the snow and terrain at different ski areas like we compare surf breaks as we ride the last lifts before the mountain closes. Is the longing for the opposite season’s freestyle sport reciprocal? Or is it just us winter folks needing to get out of the snow in April, only to come back to it later in April?
I have to imagine yes, as surfing is the yin to skiing’s yang; those enamored with gliding across water are probably also enamored with gliding across snow. I also wonder: Is our turf as intimidating for them as theirs is for me? Can they name where they’ve had their best and worst days, like I can?
I’ve caught waves on the beach breaks in Nosara and Hanalei Bay, and at Old Man’s in Cabo. But at each spot, I’ve spent more time getting pummeled by waves than actually surfing them. I’ve got bopped on the head by my board and my face smeared into the ocean’s sandy floor (luckily it was sandy). I’ve learned, from experience, what it means to pearl, only to reenter the crash zone and the ocean’s churn cycle (without even having caught a wave) before battling back to safety outside of the break.
Every now and then I get to stand up on a wave for 10 or 15 glorious seconds. On these days, I’m part of the club. I get to share the elated post-surf feeling with friends, technically referred to as “the stoke”. I get to talk about tides and use terms and descriptions like mushy, pearling, tunneling (although I’ve never done it), it’s a left and going down the line (something I’d later Google to make sure I’d know it if I ever did it). Most days though I’m still paying my dues, showing my respect; I’m learning who is in charge out there, definitely not me.
But this April, I went to Las Salidiatas, Mexico – a point break with a slow wave, making it easier to get up on. I was told it was a long left and if I rode it correctly, I could surf all the way into shore. I was excited, but skeptical. I had also heard the break at Nosara was a great place to learn, and I had felt close to death there. It made me wonder, “Was Meadows really as intimidating for beginner skiers as these waves were for me?” It seemed hard to fathom, but would make me much more sensitive to the needs of beginner skiers in the future.
Saliditas was everything promised. It was long and soft and at times mushy. Unlike the break at Nosara, it was forgiving, a little slower, allowing for more time to stand up, to find your balance on the board and skim across the water. I actually turned the board to stay in the green part of the wave, at times riding parallel to shore. I thought maybe I was going down the line.
At Las Saliditas, there were families in the water, old-school surfer moms and dads out with their kids. All ripping, chatting, sitting at ease on their boards casually looking to the horizon and paddling to position themselves to catch oncoming waves. It reminded me of my crew in Telluride, skiing with our kids on Gold Hill and Lift Nine. This was their mountain, their scene.
I asked a friend how long it would take to surf like them. He asked, “How long would it take to ski like you?” I chuckled. It would take my whole life, if I had started when I was three. I understood. I was a visitor, still a beginner (maybe an advanced beginner). For now, I would be as good as my last wave.
And in Saliditas, I rode the last wave all the way to shore.
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