I stumbled out of bed at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, washed my face. Changed into a ‘kini. Pulled on cutoff jean shorts. Listened to early morning political discussions while I drove to the island. I grabbed three coffees from Wawa and grabbed two friends from up the street. We checked a spot just to the north and headed for the inlet. Somehow, we found parking. The lineup was a madhouse. Mad people, mad waves. Pulsing, beautiful, large. The skilled, the swell-deprived junkies blocked and dropped in on each other as the unskilled allowed their boards to drag them over the falls on top of their fellow watermen. And women. There were two of us out there. A minuscule percentage.
I managed the paddle out easily, navigated the clean-up sets without incidence, stayed sufficiently out of the way. I sacrificed noteworthy rides for peace of mind. Dot suffered sets on the head and aggro challengers, a board to the mouth. She situated herself amidst the action. Not interested in staying out of your way, sir.
After an hour and a half, I aimed for the beach, only to be tossed around and crushed to the bottom by menacing shorebreak. I clawed my way onto the sand and sat down with a not-so-small effort to refrain from embarrassing collapse. I told myself I’d wait for Leslie to pass before paddling out again.
I stumbled out of bed at 5:32 a.m. on Thursday. The swell had dropped, I heard. I brushed my teeth, tied my bikini, wanted so badly to wear a sweater, but the air was hot and heavy. I drove over to the island, was picked up by a friend. We picked up lattes. Checked spot, spot, spot. Back to the inlet. It wasn’t as insane as the day before. The crowd was smaller, the waves were smaller. A little bit. Another facile paddle-out. Another uneventful and frustrating two hours. For me; not for Dot. When I called it quits, the tide and the swell were on the rise. I again failed to make a graceful exit and my board beat me to the beach. At least this time, I avoided the hold-downs. I turned around and was astonished at the steadily overhead waves peeling off the jetty. Almost every one bucked its rider, and almost every wipeout made me cringe. I turned and asked the guy next to me if he’d been out yet. He responded, “I think I’ve been watching for too long.” The water was clear, teal, and warm. The wind was light and offshore. The faces were clean. It looked a lot like somewhere that’s comfortable in the pages of surf mags, but it was New Jersey. Not so dirty atm.
I stumbled out of bed at 5:01 a.m. on Monday. And then stumbled back into bed. And slept for three more hours. Five feet at 13 seconds. Offshore wind. This was a day on which I’d gladly stand on terra firma with a camera in my hands. So, 5:01 a.m. seemed superfluous. I don’t know. I drove over to the pier. The south side was firing. The north side, not so much. The inlet could be all-time. The inlet was weak. I should have worn a sweater. North-by-northwest winds, 5-foot turned 1.5-foot. Six guys in the water. I doubled back. There were bombs in the south. But no one was out. Yes, it was shifty. Yes, it was risky. It wasn’t unrideable. For someone other than myself. But it wasn’t ideal. It still looked pretty magnificent.