Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ankle High And Sharky in San Onofre

The bluffs

There are few things you don't do when you're out on the water. One of them is bleed, if you can at all help it, and another is talk on and on about sharks. They're out there whether you talk of them or not, and, as any Mexican fisherman will tell you, talking about the "man in the grey suit" is just asking for trouble. Best to enjoy the day and keep your mind on the matter at hand, in this case, catching waves. Even small waves demand a little respect.

John-O goes left.

So there we were, my friends, Slatty and John-O, enjoying a perfectly good sunset session in small-ish surf, when they started going and on about a video they'd recently seen, shot precisely where we were surfing. In the video, a paddle-boarder dunks his paddle-mounted camera one foot down into the jade waters off San Onofre, and past him swims a young, 1o foot great white shark. A "juvenile", they call it. Having once been a juvenile myself, I know what havoc they can wreak. Add the teeth, and you've got a potential situation on your hands. Anyway, the video yields a sobering moment, due largely to the fact that the scene above water is sunny and idyllic, much like the day we were now enjoying. Until then.

A pod of Bottlenose Dolphin in natures petting zoo

"You shouldn't be talking about this shit. You're gonna curse us," I said, and paddled off, focusing on the choppy swell approaching, hoping one would deliver me from the bad ju-ju of shark talk. Of course, I didn't get a wave, they did. Both of them gliding out of sight all the way to shore. And the sun was sinking like a stone, lower and lower, my only thought, "Sharks feed at dusk."

Slatty slides right

So, as darkness beat the sun to a salmon-pink sliver, I thought back over this humble day of surfing, our arrival at the bluff and subsequent trek down the steep trail at 7 am...

John-O and Slatty, eye-balling from above

....a small handful of surfers spread out along the line-up, the cobble beach breaks lighting up with waist high peelers in all directions. Paradise. Not perfect conditions, but paradise, none-the-less.

Dirt Stairway to Heaven

"If this is how I go", I reckoned, "it's still better than most."

Just then, a little wind-blown bump reared up from the west, and lifted my trusty 9'6" through the gloom to shore, where the two Johns were waiting, boards under their arms. Limping over the cobbles, smiling stupidly, I raised my fist, claiming the dribbling 2 foot wave that had borne me home. Slatty, unimpressed, glanced over my shoulder and said, "Did you see the shark?"

"You're full of shit," I barked.

"Nope. Seriously. Dorsal about 8 inches high. Shot right past me, out toward you. Not too big, but big enough."

We all turned toward the sea, blue black dark.

The world is created in words, someone said, and I rest my case.

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