Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bali Surfing

The colors are brighter, as they usually are in a dream. The water is bluer, and the horizon is rippling with steadily marching clones of the perfect wave. Through the ethereal water that moves more like a fog than an ocean, the corral is stretching toward my feet, and tiny jewel fish take refuge in the shade below my surfboard. In the dream, I’m riding a fluorescent green board, and wave after wave wraps around me, carrying me all the way to a beach covered in seashells and coral. It’s a dream that I struggle to keep myself from waking from. It’s the inevitable grumble of my fully awake stomach that finally rattles me out of bed.

I walk the quarter mile to the beach and check the swell with a fresh cup of coffee. The swell has risen, and although not the ribbed ocean from my dreams, waves twice my hight stretch to the distant horizon. Nobody is out, and I grab my board and run down the beach to the most manageable peak. With a quick stretch to wake up my muscles, I slip into the water, letting the rip tide drag me beyond the peaks quickly.

My first wave comes, and I turn to face the shore. Less than halfway into the wave, I get thrown in front, into the teeth of the ocean, where water gnaws away at a retreating shoreline. Thrown over myself again and again, I watch the light change directions around me, and try to keep track of which way is up. By the time it’s done, I am standing somewhere between where the sand is churned up in the wave and where it makes up the solid floor of the ocean, and this time, I’m not in the rip-tide, so the paddle out takes twice as long.

Again and again, I’m thrown into the churning white-water, and it seems impossible to get my board into the wave before it pitches over. Demoralized I head for the beach and with my head down, I walk back to my hotel to rinse of the salt and the memories.

That afternoon, I walk through Kuta, and stop into one of the back alley surf shops where other travelers have sold their boards desperate for cash or just demoralized like I was. There, sandwiched between a pair of old beat up boards, a sliver of fluorescent green catches my eye. Curiosity couldn’t possibly describe what I felt, but that is the closest word I can think of. I pull it off the shelf, and right there in front of me is the board from my dream. Hardly a pressure ding in it’s smooth glassy surface. And it’s cheap.

Before I know it, I’m standing up on a set wave, gliding over the coral and under the waves pitching teeth, caressed by the ocean. The colors are brighter, as they usually are in a dream. The water is bluer and the coral waves at me as I surf by, and in the half-speed world that comes around during these moments, the water moves more like a fog than an ocean.

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