09 February 2014

The Crystal Pier Dawn Patrollers

When we first moved to San Diego a year ago, I surfed mainly at Tourmaline, my closest break. It's a usually mellow and always crowded spot favored by novices and longboarders, with sometimes shortboardable waves to be found in front of the Pumphouse. We'd go for walks along Pacific Beach and out on to Crystal Pier, where I'd watch shortboarders - all guys - playing on fun lefts. But I felt too intimidated to join them, so I kept going back to the mushy and packed peaks of Tourmaline.

One day I decided to surf near (but not at) the pier, on a small swell at the crack of dawn so there were few people out. The waves were better for shortboarding; steeper and more challenging than Tourmo. And I could surf them well enough on my 6'2" Ward Coffey shortboard, "Rocket". I wasn't dazzling like some of the best shortboarders there, but I also wasn't being a kook. Over several more dawn sessions, I dared to draw closer to the main peak next to the pilings, and found to my surprise that the guys surfing there were not at all aggro as I'd assumed. To the contrary, they were friendly and talkative. Once I'd demonstrated that I could ride, they welcomed me into the informal club of Crystal Pier dawn patrollers. Not that they cut me a lot of slack, however; they're willing to share, but still expect me to surf with commitment and respect. And it's not all shortboarders, but a mixed crew that sometimes includes other watercraft. They are all guys though; since the pier became my home break, I don't remember ever seeing another girl surfing there at dawn, except for friends I brought myself.

Since I stopped having to be at work by a certain time, I've been relaxing in the mornings and surfing second shift. That's just too crowded on weekends though, so I decided to get my ass to the beach earlier today and ended up surfing with the crew again.
David was already out on his bodyboard, sole occupant of the pier peak, although spots to the north were already filling up. We were soon joined by Howard, an old guy who surfs leashless and rarely looses his longboard, and Brian with his curly long brown hair, also on a longboard today. For a while I was thinking I should've brought my fish instead of my 5'4" Firewire shortboard. Then the waves turned on and I got a bunch of fun rides while sitting on the inside, capturing the smaller ones the longboarders let through. We chatted through the lulls, cheered each other's waves, and engaged in friendly ribbing when a ride went bad. It was nice to share such aloha.

The vibe changed when the crew went in and strangers paddled over to fill the gap. I kept thinking "just one more" but then "that one wasn't good enough to end on". Today was the first time since my unfortunate encounter with that doctor and his needles that I was able to surf until I was physically tired, instead of stopping because my back hurt. I've been doing the exercises in Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain, and I think they're helping. Although my back isn't quite where it was before the procedure, it's getting there. So when I finally got a decent enough wave in, I was tired but happy.

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