The guy from state parks didn’t show up until around 6:10. I was the only one waiting at the entrance. There were two guys already in the water. Their cars were parked on the 101 up at the top of the hill where the parking spots started. If you wanted to be in the water before six, you had to park up there. At this time of year, you could be in as early as five or quarter-past.

I was in no hurry but I was glad to be there at that hour and with only those two others out. I stripped out of my shirt and flip flops, locked up the car and launched into the water in my shorts. It wasn’t great: stomach-high, maybe, chest-high on the sets. But it was clean. And it was just us three and the peaks were spread out enough that we each had all the waves we wanted. I sat outside a bit hoping for the bigger waves and was rewarded with a couple of decent rides. And just before it was time to go, those two guys bailed. I was alone in the early morning surf — and two gorgeous sets rolled through. I caught a wave in each set. My board sliced through the obsidian surface, white foam spraying from beneath the rails. I carved a couple of broad, looping turns, the spray now arcing out over the back of the wave in a great curve. At the end of the second ride, I flopped to my belly and rode prone to the beach, where three guys were putting on wetsuits to head out.

And then I went to work.

Eleven hours later I was back: same parking lot, same shorts, sunnier skies and a lot more people. But they were mostly bunched up near the shorebreak, where they could launch their skateboard moves and hurry back to try them again on the next little ramp. A couple of people were out on the reef, where occasional peaks would rear up out of the slate sea and offer up short speed runs. Every so often, though, a set would roll through that sent people scurrying for the shoulders. I paddled out there.

And I waited. But because there were so few people out there, when those sets rolled in, I was free to choose. And with the tide dropping ever so slightly, I was able to make it all the way through to the shorebreak, where the skateboarders had to watch as I rode past. No, I wasn’t as good as they were, but I still managed to throw some spray and carve some turns. And on that inside section there would be one, final move, an ecstatic toss off the very top of the breaking wave.

It was the perfect way to frame a workday.

To top it off, after returning home this evening, I finished the book I was reading. There was the melancholy sadness that came from knowing I wouldn’t be spending any more time with engrossing characters and unpredictable plot lines, but there was also the satisfied happiness that came from knowing whether or not the protagonist would get out of yet another jam and save the day. And, spoiler alert: the lead, in both my stories, triumphed once again (as I suspected he would) and lived happily ever after.

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