The sand was cold. Like make your toes numb kind of cold. The air was chilly too. You could tell it was fall or that summer’s run of warm nights had at least come to an end. That’s kind of how the day started. We were walking toward the ocean. Mother Ocean. It was quiet, the air was clear and the bright sun was beginning to shake the coast from its slumber. God, I love Sundays…
It’s dark when I wake up. I don’t mind getting up so early, but it isn’t easy to leave the comfort of my bed. Well, it’s not easy to leave my wife, who sleeps soundly next to me. Usually the room is cool, our bed is warm and the room is dark. Is there really any place I’d rather be? No, but the ocean calls. And one day a week I can’t resist her call. She is a mistress, for sure. Mother Ocean.
I traveled through the waning darkness. As I said, the air was clear, so clear that I could see the lights of a big city thirty miles away as I made my way closer to the water. The stars were bright and the moon was a mere shadow of itself. It was almost as if time had stood still just for me.
There is always a period of time between rising in the morning and making the walk through the sand. It’s filled with routine. And though many times in our lives routine is a dirty word that distracts us from what we’d rather be doing, on Sunday mornings I’m content with the routine. It is the necessary tax that precedes my expectation. My time in the ocean is pure selfish “me time”, and to complain about the routine would be to belittle the salt water therapy.
This past Sunday the sand was cold. And quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of surf. The forecast had been for 2-3’ surf that was expected to lessen as the day wore on. I take whatever Mother Nature gives, and so my mind was happily absent of expectation during the walk out. Which is the very reason I left my camera behind.
The week before I had taken my GoPro Hero camera into the water for the first time. I had taken in it on hikes, and even on our micro-adventure to San Francisco, but I had yet to get a waterproof housing for it that would allow me to take it surfing with me. A week before I had “field tested” the new equipment, and even captured a shot or two worth posting. This past Sunday, I chose to leave it behind due to small surf.
Depending on the surf, and what life has planned for us on Sundays, Brett and I generally spend about three hours in the water each weekend. It isn’t as much as I’d like, but as I’ve said before…I’ll take what I can get. Each moment in the water is an experience that I’ve tried to explain before, and though I consider myself a talented writer I feel I’ve failed miserably each time to convey the emotion and the energy and the spirit of being out there.
That epic failure is one reason I’ve been interested in documenting my time out there in pictures. At the very least you all will get a chance to see me looking like a drenched cat with the goofiest of all grins on my face. If I’m really lucky, maybe I’d get the shot that touched something deep inside you and gave you the sense you were out there with me, floating upon the surface of the water and feeling the pulsing energy of the waves that originated from half way around the world. Maybe I’d get lucky to capture something really special. Maybe…If I’d had my camera with me. But Sunday, I missed that opportunity.
Or did I?
Even though the sand had been cold to our feet, the water felt warm. The sun was now full in the sky, and with the glassy conditions of the water it reflected into our faces as if off of a mirror. I had been looking west when the surface of the water broke about four feet from me and a sound burst through that was both glorious and startling. The dolphins had arrived.
That first breach for air did startle me. I’m not one to be paranoid while surfing in the ocean, but when noises burst through the water suddenly and you know immediately it isn’t human it kind of makes you pucker a bit. Not a complete slasher movie wail down the hallway kind of pucker, but you get the point.
As quickly as it startled me I realized what it was, and I looked through the clear water to witness the creature effortlessly glide beneath me. Before I knew it, I was surrounded.
I estimate the pod to be about thirty or so dolphins. For a solid three or four minutes they breached all around me, the amazing sound of exhalation filled the air, their beautifully different dorsal fins sliced the surface of the ocean before slowly slipping back into the deep. I don’t know if it is a change in the ecology or that they felt comfortable in such numbers, but my presence among them was not a threat in any way. At one point a dolphin came up for air so close that the ripple of water created by the breach rocked me and my board. Had I less respect for such a wondrous creature I could have reached out and touched it. But to merely be such a close witness to their migration was an honor. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and dreamt I was one of them.
It seemed like an eternity that they swam among me, but it wasn’t long before I could sense they were almost all gone. The imagined silence gave way to the patterned crashing of the waves and my seemingly out of body experience was broken up with the sound of my friend’s voice.
“Where is your camera?!”
We both laughed. Had this same migration happened a week prior I would have caught the entire event on film. We joked about Murphy’s Law, about missed opportunities. We joked, but as we sat up on our boards and watched as the last of the dolphins disappeared from our sight we knew. We knew then as I know now…
I know the memory of the dolphins will last a lifetime. I know that memory won’t be clouded with the image of peeking around a pointed camera to witness what I did. It is pure, captured with my own two eyes. Free from distraction or even purpose.
The spiritual moment I had won’t stop me from taking my camera into the water with me. I won’t be afraid to ruin any pure moment I have. But it is nice to have those moments every now and again. To remind me that getting out there and experiencing this life is the important thing. And if I “miss” an opportunity, then maybe I’ll just have to go back out there and capture another one.