Art collage by Jon Jensen Story by Monique Cole
This story first ran in W.i.g. Magazine in 1999.
The full moon rides high, pulling the tides, pulling me to the sea where it is reflected. Tonight the Pacific Ocean is anything but peaceful-it’s raging with glassy, six-foot barrels that collect the mercury moonshine in their troughs. I run down the beach to Rocky Point and listen. Mingled with the crashes of surf on reef are hoots of two, maybe three surfers. Their company dispels my fears of sharks and hungry coral heads that only jut above the surface when a wave sucks the water away-and then it’s too late. Just the right amount of people to prove the ‘safety in numbers’ theory and create camaraderie without fighting over waves. The uncreative masses don’t think about going out after dark.
Running back to my house, I grab board, fins, bikini, shorts. Don’t need a wetsuit, even at night-God, I love Hawaii.
lunatic n. [fr. LL lunaticus, fr. L luna; fr. the belief that lunacy fluctuated with the phases of the moon] 13c 1. Wildly foolish.
As I paddle out, with each wave I crest bigger than the former, my heart pounds at the tempo a bit faster than the earth-shaking crashes of waves on reef. Fear blends with thrill. I say hello to the silhouettes of fellow surfers, stop and sit up on my board. Squinting at the horizon, I feel like my Uncle Peter, who still surfs big waves (only big waves) though he’s half-blind and well over 60. My usually technicolor world of greens and blues has been muted to shades of gray. I never knew there were so many flavors of gray.
If your eyes are almost at the same level as the horizon and the normally straight line becomes bumpy, then you know a wave is on the way. The horizon gets bumpy, the bump gets bigger and bigger. Is it gonna break?…Is it gonna break?…it’s breaking…it broke…on me. Bad timing puts me in the soup, over and over I turn like soggy laundry. No time to reclaim my wayward shorts, I duck-dive under wave after wave until the set is over.
My attempt was a failure, so I try again. I pull my shorts on and paddle back out hooting at the white trails I see flowing behind phantom surfers. Everyone’s grinning. I can’t see, but I know.
lunatic fringe n (1913): the members of a usu. political or social movement espousing extreme, eccentric, or fanatical views.
The forces tonight are overwhelming. The moon at full strength changes the tides and makes everyone looney. And there’s the forward momentum of the wave as it marches toward shore. Not to mention gravity pulling my body down the wave’s face, and pounding the crest of the wave into the reef that quakes with the force. And the metamorphosis of the breaking wave; it’s shape and slope constantly altering, tracing the contours of the ocean floor.
Back in the lineup the silvery light catches one ripple more than the rest. This time, I paddle toward the horizon first and forget about trying to see, turning on and tuning into my other senses. A pull, something rises under me-lifting and thrusting my body forward-I turn 180 degrees to face the shore. Paddling forward, my breath and heart skip and I push my weight slightly forward. Then I’m airborne for an eternal moment. Every square inch of my skin calculates the slope, height, and force of the wave. I make my bottom turn-pushing the length of my body and board, which have become one, into the wave’s wall. The wave curls around me; I’m enveloped in a cool cave through which I can only see a teardrop of moonlight on water. All other sounds are shut out and all I can hear is the whirling voice of the wave’s throat. Then, a quick breath as the wave spits me back out into my photo-negative world.