Surfing, really, has been the only sport in which I could be (take a quick pause here) competitive.
It was because I was an Adventist, one of very few at Fallbrook High, and because wrestling events did not take place on Friday nights (start of the Jewish and Adventist Sabbath), that I went out for the sport. This was right after I competed (take another breath) in Freshman Football, third string replacement lineman. Though I had running back size and short distance speed, I couldn’t catch for… couldn’t catch well. “Afraid of the ball” the coach said. “Only if it’s thrown at me” I said (to myself).
Basketball had too much running, and I never had ‘a shot.’ Oh, I could pass, play defense; hip check to some tall guy’s knees, but shoot for the basket. No, pass.
Swimming might have been a good fit, and I did go out, but, evidently, my breast stroke was ‘unconventional.’ I finally dropped out when the coach said wearing the bunhuggers would be required. [I backspaced several attempts at further explanation here, including any parsing of the word ‘modesty.’]
Not that Fallbrook High’s wrestling outfits, evidently purchased in the mid-fifties and sewn from some wool/cotton blend, were less embarrassingly ridiculous; particularly for junior varsity athletes, but were preferable to wearing gym shorts, any ‘accident’ during lunchtime exhibition matches met with titters from any groups of girls in the bleachers.
I must add that, at my best, I was a technically proficient wrestler. What I didn’t have (then) was the competitive (let’s say ‘killer’) instinct.
On this afternoon the Fallbrook Union High School wrestling team, with those of us on the J.V. wearing the retro, crotch-snapped, long-sleeved tops with matching red tights, was the visiting team, going against San Dieguito High (Encinitas, Leucadia, Cardiff). And we were losing too many matches.
Their team members all seemed to have huge upper bodies. “That’s from the surfing,” the coach said, “They have the big lats.”
“I surf,” I said.
In what would be one of my best results, I achieved a desperate and last second takedown, having pushed myself with some real belief that I was only behaving in such an (over) aggressive manner ‘for the team.’ With those points I scrapped to a draw.
“Sorry” I said to my opponent.
I wasn’t. I was elated; still feeling some aftereffects of victory as I sat in the bus, going over the hill from the school toward Highway 101, toward the railroad tracks, toward…
…toward Swamis. It was dusk. I could see the golden dome gleaming, shimmering glassy water beyond and extending toward a horizon line hidden in the same glow; and, in the midst of that brightness, there was one person sitting outside, board angled upward as if preparing to turn with an approaching sunset line, that line a subtle shadow.
And then the bus turned right, parallel to the tracks, heading home. The image was gone.
Not from my memory. Ten years later, when I lived in Encinitas, a place I’ve always thought was washed in magic, I tried to reproduce the image. I drove up and down that very hill. I got out of the car. No, you just can’t see the lineup, even on some astronomically huge day; not from there.
Now, almost forty years beyond that, I’m more unclear about the results of my attempt to see again what I thought I saw than that I did see something on an evening in 1965.
The solitary outside surfer slowly turns as the waters swell, rise. He drops the back of his board, springs forward, paddles; one stroke to even out, one toward shore. The wave lifts him. At the top, one last stroke and…
Maybe you should check it for yourself.
So, my current illustration is temporary, something to show my sister Melissa what I’m going for, only more…more intense; prettier, better, something to match the clear 48 year old memory.