It was early L.A. time when I woke up. I had not adjusted to the time change very well. When 5 a.m. rolled around it felt like 9 a.m. to me and I couldn’t stay in bed. The night before, Josh and I had walked down to the beach a couple blocks away and tried to figure out where our surf lesson might be the next morning. We walked out on the Pier and watched fog rolling in and then we wandered around downtown Santa Monica.
We wandered in to a couple surf shops looking for wax and a wet suit. I was searching for a ridiculous deal on a thick wet suit I could bring back home. The guy at the big surf shop assured me I’d never need a suit that thick for surfing. I explained the frigid North Atlantic. A look came in his eyes like the look of the luggage salesman in Joe Vs. The Volcano when Joe explains his journey.
Luggage Salesman: Have you thought much about luggage, Mr. Banks?
Joe Banks: No.
Luggage Salesman: It’s the central preoccupation of my life.
. . .
He took me and Josh over to a mannequin in a wet suit wearing a belt pack. “This,” he said running his hand down the side of the model, “Is a heated suit. It’s warmed by this battery pack attached to this belt. Heat travels down all these lines…”
I said, “Electricity. In water. Nothing could go wrong there…”
“It’s a waterproof system and has been tested, you can’t be shocked.”
I asked the price and he looked hurt that I’d asked. He pulled the tag around where I could see it. For that price I could fly down a few times a year to water warm enough to never need a wetsuit. Josh bought some wax for a skim board and we left in search of food.
For a few years now, ever since an episode of the Office, Josh and I had talked about going to a Benihanas and that night we found one only a couple blocks from our hotel. We ate some very tasty Chinese, saw an onion ring volcano and watched shrimp tails get flipped up into a hat. Food and a floor show. Good times.
Now it was around 7 a.m. I woke Josh up. Two goals for the morning and neither one had to do with the Consulate. First, breakfast at an IHOP. It was a classic American experience I wanted Josh to have in his memory bank and I thought loading up on some carbs would be good for what came next: surf lesson.
From the IHOP Josh used a map from the hotel to navigate while I drove. We were both surprised to find ourselves at the right parking lot at the right time at the right beach. We stored our gear in the car and headed out onto the beach. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The air smelled fresh, the breeze was cooling us off and the surf was crashing against the shore. Perfect. The only thing that would’ve improved the day would have been for Jack Johnson to be walking by with his guitar while we waited for our surf instructor to show up. But he didn’t. And neither did our surf instructor.
After waiting and waiting I called the emergency number and found out I was working off of some old instructions. The site we were supposed to be at was actually up the beach closer to the pier. I didn’t think moving the car was a good idea when we could see the lifeguard station we were supposed to be at straight down the beach so I opted to hoof it.
You know how some objects in the mirror may appear smaller than they really are? Well, on Santa Monica beach, some lifeguard stations may appear closer than they really are. It got to the point I was telling Josh to just run ahead of me and save himself. The Sun was really up now and I was sweating and panting as I jog/ran up the beach. I looked over at Josh to see how he was holding up. He wasn’t sweating, breathing hard or even running, he was just taking bigger steps. To his credit, he wouldn’t abandon me for the siren call of the surf.
And then finally, we were there. Our surf instructor had given up on us and headed out into the water. We found our two blue boards and two wetsuits and a sign for Surf L.A. that we’d signed on with. This was it. They had guaranteed us that we’d get up by the end of our first lesson. Josh and I stripped down to our mankinis and starting pulling on our wetsuits. Having surfed before I’d learned the ins and outs of putting on a wetsuit. (You can read about my first attempt here.) As I pulled my wetsuit on I warned Josh not to make the newb mistake of putting your suit on backwards. “Zipper goes in the back!” I sagely explained. Just as I was telling that to Josh the instructor walked up, introduced himself and shook both of our hands. He was looking me over as I struggled to reach the zipper, which was correctly located on my back. “Good job on the wetsuits,” he said, “um, yours…” he looked at me the way people tend to look at ‘special’ people, “yours is on inside out though.”
…to be continued…