I am a surfer. I like to say that because it sounds really impressive. In reality, I own a surfboard, and I am really good at paddling around on it. It turns out that standing up on it takes some practice. I am still practicing.
When I lived in Virginia, we were about 20 minutes from the beach. It was easy to drive out and have a good paddling session every once in a while. I knew several guys who were actual surfers, and I kept bugging them to go with me. One of those guys was a guy I worked with at a local landscaping company. He never went surfing with me. I understood. He had a lot on his plate. He was a father of two young kids, he had a paper route that he would run before coming to work at the landscaping job, and he was a serious pothead. He was also the only one of us licensed to drive the truck that we used during the day. More than once we were on the highway cruising along at 65 miles an hour and I would see brake lights ahead. Then I would realize we weren’t slowing down. It would go something like.
Then he would wake up and hit the brakes and say, “sorry man”.
The other guy worked for UPS, and when you picture a surfer, he was totally that guy. He did go surfing with me once. While we were paddling around I asked him if he ever saw sharks when he was on the water. He said, “I don’t really see them, but they hit my legs once in a while. No big deal.”
Most of the time, I would end up going out by myself. My favorite place to go was a beach called Sandbridge. It was south of the main tourist beaches in Virginia beach, not too far from North Carolina. It was never crowded down there. In fact, it was downright lonely sometimes. Once, I was the only person in the water. It was late afternoon and the weather was good. The only other person I could see was a guy fishing off a pier about two hundred yards away. I had been paddling around for about an hour. The waves were kind of mushy, but it was nice to be out there. When a you talk to a surfer and they start to yammer on,,,,, “you know it’s like, when your’e out on the water, you just, like, forget about your problems, and, it’s like, spiritual man, you feel the energy of the ocean and the wave breaks over you like kpshoooooooow crssshhhhhhhh….”, yeah, well they’re mostly right about all of that. Everyone should try it once. Anyway, I was about to call it a day. The current had dragged me down the beach about a hundred yards, so I started to paddle back down toward the pier. There I was minding my own business, and I looked back over my shoulder, and I saw a fin moving though the water. Pure panic. I didn’t yell, I just started to paddle like I was about to die. I read a book about the surfing once. In it, they reminded you that the further from the beach you went, the further down the food chain you dropped. I was about 150 yards from the beach. It might as well have been a mile. Adrenaline had been dumped into my system and my arms were moving like Scooby and Shaggy’s legs. I looked back and couldn’t locate the fin. I looked toward the beach and it looked like I had not moved in the water at all. So, I did what any sensible person would do. I gave up and decided that I was probably going to be eaten. I couldn’t keep on paddling like this, so I stopped and looked around, trying to figure out which direction the attack would come from and which limb I was going to lose first. Then I saw the fin again. The dolphin had passed behind me and was already moving away. Yeah,,,, the dolphin. I’m sure he enjoys telling this story to all his dolphin friends. “Man you should’ve seen that guy paddle”.