Sunday, December 7, 2008

I was in a San Jose, Costa Rica bookstore one May afternoon in 1994 when the rainy season began. The light turned a dull brass color and people began to whisper in muffled, panicky tones. An elderly woman latched onto my arm, gasped, and pointed outside to where a small crowd had gathered under the store's awning. They squinted up at the sky.
A moment later thunder cracked. Rain pounded the corrugated tin roof. A child cried out.
The lady attached to me squeezed her eyes shut and began chanting the Lord's Prayer. A father at the register wrapped his arms around his two children and drew them close, eyes darting in protective fear. Two young girls in school uniforms screamed in delight and ran into the street, dodging cars that swerved around them in drunken confusion.
This ritual, in infinite variation, repeated itself almost every day for the next six months. Every day the nation's capital witnessed the gathering clouds, the falling temperatures, the water. And every day people seemed amazed that this happened. They were caught without umbrellas or appropriate footwear. They held newspapers over their heads, shrieked as they jumped over puddles, looked at each other with expressions that said, "Can you believe this?"
I could. I checked the weather report, read the guidebook chapter titled The Rainy Season which highlighted the daily monsoonal pattern.
I questioned the sanity of an entire nation.
Then, on about the third straight week of rain, I understood.

To willfully choose surprise over mathematical certainty is a liberating act. To deny the powers of calculation, the smug forecasts of coiffed weathermen and women, feels damn good. It removes our faith from computer-based infrastructure, and places it back in the hands of what California poet Robinson Jeffers calls The wild God of the world.

I think of this day at the Costa Rican bookstore every fall when the first swell of consequence hits our coast. The sandbars light up, whitewater stretches to the horizon, and although every guy in the parking lot with a knit cap and a Thermos of coffee has been up tracking the swell on the buoys for half the night, then half the pre-dawn morning, there's still a sense of surprise in the air. Guys looking at each other and shaking their heads. "Who would have thought?" seems to be the excited question on everyone's mind. The wild God of the world had raised a hand overnight, and we could only marvel at his power.
And like the excited Ticos outside the bookstore, many of us are unprepared for the conditions. We question our equipment, damn ourselves for not ordering something with a little more foam back in September...

But there's always someone more prepared than the rest of us.
My buddy Jason predicted this day months ago, ordered a board in August, waxed it last night.
It's a 6'10 for when things heat up. I tried to convince him to go bigger--Jason's shoulders are so broad that he has to walk up most staircases sideways.
"Nope," he said. "6'10s my magic number. Every good wave I've ever had has been on a 6'10."
I recommended a 7'0, and we settled on a 6'10.125. That's as far as he wanted to push this thing.
And here it is--this guy's going to be paddling out on clean, overhead days at the middle of The Beach this winter as I stand around in the parking lot, newspaper on my head, wondering where all this rain is coming from...


Anonymous said...

Cool words.


HeadHighGlassy said...

Thanks, Push. Added you to my blogroll, finally. No idea why it took me this long...

Dawn Gray said...

you have a brilliant way with your post. dios te bendiga

Ivàn Osìo M. said...

And Happy New Year
From Canary Islands