I could feel the thunder rumbling in the tires of my car. It was raining so hard that everyone was pulled to the side of the Parkway, which was, incidentally, flooded. I was still in New Jersey: 8 hours to go.
The weather turned 8 hours into 10, and then continued battering us, even after we reached Maine. Luckily, Maine offers lots of great outlet shopping and waffle cones of Ben & Jerry’s. (Two scoops: Chocolate Therapy and Coconut Seven Layer Bar.) Maine also happens to be home to many scenic, rushing rivers and precarious lookouts. (These are still there in the rain. And less crowded, though probably more dangerous.) When it’s not raining, evenings in Maine bring thousands of stars, and for my family, Scrabble tournaments. We supplement our wits with Shipyard and Smuttynose and Magic Hat and Sea Dog. On day four, the sun decided to join us for our trip on the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington. Peaking at 6,288 feet, which isn’t even that high, Mt. Washington is infamous for its extremely fickle and hazardous weather. Partly due to my parents’ impeccable meterological judgment and partly due to sheer luck, it was brilliantly sunny and cloudless at the top.
The next morning, shortboard and wetsuit stowed above leveled back seats, I headed to the coast. This summer, I’ve been trying to branch out and I was determined to surf Vacationland because I’m up there a lot and, well, the waves looked fun.
After finding parking that I’m 100% sure was illegal (on the grass, on the side of a dirt road) I wiggled out of my clothes and into my bikini as discreetly as possible. I walked up a hill, crossed a street, descended a staircase, and found myself on hard, grey sand. The sets were small, but they were there. The water was somewhere in the 60s. At home, I’d probably tough it out, but since I had my wetsuit on hand, and HADN’T HAD A CHANCE TO USE IT YET (ordered it in April, had tonsillitis, water got warm fast, blah blah blah) I suited up. Definitely not getting paid to say this, but Rip Curl’s G Bomb is worth its intimidating price tag. It’s the first wetsuit I’ve been able to wear comfortably. EVER.
Anyway, maybe I’m just used to dirty Jerz’s sand soup, but the ocean was surprisingly clear. And there was a lot of seaweed loitering on its floor. Seaweed that sometimes was shaped like large fish. Other times, there were fleeting shadows. Every time I looked back at the beach, I felt like I was in the set of Jaws. Damn it, New England, why do you have to be so distinctly
The handfull of other surfers, who were on longboards (and weirdly, mostly ladies?), were sitting on the inside. All of the good waves were breaking on the outside.
Later, my mom said, “Maybe there’s a reason why they all sit so close. Maybe if you sit on the outside a shark will get you?”
The waves were a little weak, but that made the paddle easy. There were waist-high wedges of both left and right persuasions–plenty to keep me busy for a couple of hours. It was just as much fun as I had anticipated after the last time I was up there (without my board) and witnessed frigid, well-spaced lines approaching the beach. No, I’m not gonna tell you where I was.
Post surf, I pulled jeans over my sandy feet, undoubtedly filling them with bajillion stray grains. I tossed my sopping wetsuit in the back of the FJ. It felt a lot like fall. My second fall of 2011. Get out your sweaters and your thrusters, kids, ’cause our favorite season is almost upon us.