We rolled out of our crisp hotel bed to the backdrop of a bright and beaming Santa Monica sunrise, scrambling to get dressed and out the door so we could get to our surfing lesson on time. Catherine and I grabbed two hotel coffees to-go. A bagel or two, then headed straight for the water.
Our surf instructor was exactly what you would expect: slender, dirty-blonde, shaggy hair, scruffy, and unkempt. In my mind, he was actually just Patrick Swayze from Point Break, wetsuit peeled down to his waist, exposing a ridiculously tanned torso. Yes, this guy was the physical embodiment of California. Brah.
After parking the car, we walked up to a trailer parked adjacent the beach, changed into our rental wetsuits and got sized up for our surfboards. It was approaching 8 o’clock, the morning dew still glistening on the grass, but the sun was rising, and the sand was starting to get hot.
As we began trudging through the sand to the water, the instructor asked if I was sure that I wanted to wear my glasses.
“I’m sure”, I said.
What a fucking idiot: me.
Note: I’ve been wearing glasses since I was two years old, maybe even one; in my mind, I was still bathed in vaginal fluid when I donned my first pair of bronze-colored bifocals, but my memory from those days is a tad blurry, so it’s hard to recall. What with the fluid and all.The point is, I am functionally blind without them, and only take them off in the shower and when I’m sleeping, or when they slide off when I’m getting down. Even when I go for a swim, the glasses stay on.
What could possibly go wrong?
“It’s just a little water,” I thought.
“I probably won’t even get my hair wet.”
Our instructor (let’s call him Jeff) gave us a preliminary lesson on the sand, demonstrating how to paddle, sit on the board, and pop up onto our feet to catch a wave. I felt pretty good about my form and presentation on the sand.
“Yeah, this is alright” I said to myself proudly, sizing up my form, feeling like a natural. I was a skateboarder for most of my youth after all, so in my mind, surfing should have been second nature.
We set our boards in the shallow, breaking waves and paddled out. The sun felt great on my day-glow, vampire skin, and I was learning something new while enjoying the cool waves of the Pacific Ocean. I drove all the way across the country, and here I was on the other side, taking surf lessons in Santa Monica with a beautiful girl who I didn’t really know that well, or have anything in common with. Only weeks beforehand we were sitting on her couch in Virginia, eating hummus and sipping cold-brew coffee, creating the itinerary for the trip. Taking surf lessons was scrawled under the California section, and lo and behold, here we were, making those dreams a reality.
“This…”, I thought to myself as I continued to traverse the waves, paddling further from shore, “This is going to be a memory I’ll look back on for the rest of my life.”
No sooner than I conceived of such a sentimental thought, much less completed it, I was pummeled by a — BLASTED in the face by what felt like a love tap from Old Faithful — sending me deep underwater; confused and disoriented, churning around in the salty undertow. After surfacing from the violent washing machine, I popped my head out of the water and gasped for air. Then I immediately pressed my palm to my face to make sure my glasses hadn’t… fallen… off.
My glasses are gone.
Egads, my vision is gone!
Panic setting in.
“Guys, my glasses are gone!” I shouted, as if it was some grand surprise that I never saw coming.
Jeff hit me with the “I told you so” speech, but I wasn’t having it.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?” I asked with trembling desperation in my voice.
“I mean, they might wash up on the shore, but there’s not much we can do about it now. Let’s just continue with the lesson, ok.”
*Sigh* Ok, Jeff.
I put my desperation on the back burner and trudged on, praying that they would wash up on shore by the time we were finished. No dice. They were the ocean’s property now. Nature is a cruel bitch. One day, maybe weeks from now, maybe months, someone will stumble upon a sensible pair of tortoise shell Ray Bans, put them on and say, “what the fuck is this shit?!! I can’t see a damn thing!”. Then he would either use them as the pair of goggles for his fraternity’s drunk driving awareness event, or just pop out the lenses and turn them into sunglasses or something. Or maybe he just found his new lensless, personality glasses. His name would be Thad.
Lost glasses aside, surfing was a fantastic experience. Humbling, for sure. The amount of control and physical finesse required to pop up on the board and ride a wave is surprisingly difficult. First you have to paddle out far enough to catch a decent wave, all the while paddling over or under crashing waves without getting pulled underwater. Then you plant your butt on the board and try to pick the right wave. Once you’ve picked a winner, you have to turn around and start paddling like you’re about to be eaten by a shark. Once you get that lift from the wave, you have to stay balanced, maintain the correct angle and direction, and then — only then — do you have a momentary window to pop up and ride the wave on your trajectory to the shore.
By the time we walked out of the water, Catherine and I were thoroughly beat. I had no idea how draining paddling and sitting on a surfboard could be, but learning how to surf was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to get back in the water and try again. It sucks that I lost my glasses though.
And that suckage painted the rest of my road trip an awful shade of embarrassment and awkwardness, plus it was just really hard to see.