This past Saturday I met up with my borther-in-law, Seth, to go bodysurfing — Recently, I’ve had a particular affinity for bodysurfing. Whether it’s some type of normative influence, movies like “Come Hell or High Water” or Seth, who’s been womping around El Moro for some time now, I’ve been more keen lately to swap my surfboard for a pair of fins and a hand plane.
We planned to meet at El Moro, where this large cliff at the south end of the beach has this unique little elbow that pushes itself into the ocean, and, on a day like this past Saturday, gives the swell a little more personality.
Gradually, I made my way down the beach. My towel was wrapped around my head, my wetsuit draped over my shoulder and my fins dangled from my left hand. I imagine I looked like some poorly put together Christmas tree or something mobbing about down the beach.
The whole morning was very unassuming. It didn’t seem to have anything to hide. It was cold, grey and gusty. There were no towels, umbrellas or games sprawled out across the beach; there were no conversations, footprints or lifeguards on duty. The beach was empty.
The sand was alive, though, drifting quickly across the beach, and with great agility in thick ankle-high clouds. Every time a burst of wind came it sent those little grains of sand barreling across the beach and into my legs; it felt like miniature pellets exploding on my calves.
Looking out at sea, the ocean had this frank temperament to it as it rolled and swashed about. Each new wave brought with it an awesome explosion of sound and energy, before compressing into a ball of whitewater and fading away forever into the shore. Waves are awesome like that, right? They’re like great performers. They produce such inspirational, powerful and lively displays of greatness, and then they humbly and graciously fade behind the curtain, leaving your imagination to fill in the gaps.
I eventually caught up with Seth. We suited up, slipped on our fins and dove in.
Liberated from the canon of Adultness, Seth and I swam about for hours, hooting and hollering at one another as we slid into wave after wave. Like kids in some mind-blowing playground, our inventiveness ruled and our limitations seemed nonexistent. We used the sides of our bodies, contours of our hands and duck-like feet to maneuver about and celebrate each and every ride. And on the right wave, with the slightest dig of the hand and subtle turn of the body, we were able to create enough drag and pause to sneak in a barrel or two.
The ocean creates this amazing opportunity, for me, to just recharge.
When I plunge under the surface, stretching my lungs to discomfort, being squeezed by the pressure of new depths, I am able to revel in the solitude of the unfamiliar. Back above, each breath is more full and bottomless than the last. Friction, gravity and even time loosen up a bit. Flight becomes possible. From the ocean, I can look back at the shore from an alternative vantage point, and see all that matters to me with a new, fresh perspective and admiration.
When we finally came in, Seth and I just sat there on the sand, exhausted.
It’s during times like this, when we give ourselves license to break away from the commonplace, we get to see the familiar, the ordinary, in a completely novel and extraordinary way.
Whether it’s a hammock in the backyard, America’s righteous outdoors or some other magical world wonder, we all need a Neverland.
So get there; go for it.
Written by: Ian Elliott