A few years ago an historically huge swell hit the Bay Area. It was too massive for us to surf anywhere but Britt and I wanted to witness it. We drove along the coast oohing and aahing as giant mountains of water collapsed and rolled over on themselves, exploding into the shallower water inside. Highway One dropped us into Pacifica and we could see waves that were so big they were crashing onto the top of the pier, enveloping it and then rushing back into the sea.
We pulled into a rocky cove to watch the giant corduroy lines of waves break off the point outside of the cliff. As we were watching the waves I noticed a regular looking, middle aged guy with a bit of a belly quietly changing into his wetsuit. He looked like a weekend warrior who didn’t know enough to know his limits.
“Oh my gosh.” I nudged Britt “That guy’s going out.”
Britt looked over at him and screwed up his face with concern.
Calmly and without fan fair we watched the middle age guy squeeze into his wetsuit, grab his board and head down to the beach. He did a few stretches, loosening up the ol’ back, trying to touch his toes and then waded into the water and waited for a lull in the sets. When there was a break, he slid onto his board and expertly paddled out in the swift current that runs along the rocky cliff.
He got out easily and positioned himself in the calm waters outside the waves.
A big set wave came rising out of the ocean.
“Shit.” I said.
The man stayed where he was, waiting for it, and then, just when you thought he had waited too long, he turned his board and paddle for it with deep strong strokes. The wave accelerated him forward and he gracefully dropped into the monster and cranked his board into the wall of water and locked into it. He rode the wave gloriously, shooting out the back of it at the end.
“Holy shit.” Britt said. We exchanged wide eyed looks.
He paddled back out and grabbed a few more, just as effortlessly, before he returned to shore. He stood in the knee high water inside to wrap his leash around his board before walking back to his car. He never said a word to anyone, or looked around to see if anyone noticed how fucking rad he was. He just changed back into his dad clothes, got into his car and left.
“That was awesome.” I said to Britt. “You just never know do you?”
“Ya,” he said. “ You’d never think that guy could do that.”
I always think back on that guy when I feel insecure or I’m about to judge someone. You just never know what possibilities lie inside of people. As I get older I’m starting to realize the world assumes that only the youth can inspire awe in people with acts of powerful bravery. But I’m realizing that what I find most inspiring are regular people. The ones that aren’t gaining fame or fortune for their abilities and courage but they go out and charge anyway.
There is no proof that that guy surfed those waves that no one else would that day. No video or photos of it posted on YouTube. But I’ll never forget it. And I am inspired by him, even though he’ll never know it.