Winter blew in. Her cold air meeting with the Gulf’s warmth, forming fog in protest. It sends a chill down into our bones. We walk with bare feet on sand so cold. Wetsuits are stretched on and they still don’t keep out the icy waters. You wade out gradually, feet numbing, cold water seeping into the seams. Your body warms the salty sea trapped between neoprene and skin….for a bit. It is not really the cold that brings a surfer in, shivering. Okay, well, technically it is, but what truly brings us in is the numbness. Bone chilling numbness…when you can’t feel your hands, your face or your feet.
The waves are good so we stay out as long as possible; huddling down into the icy water to escape the wind and keep warm. We paddle to get the feeling back into our hands and have regret when it does; pain flashing. Finally, even with a nice set rolling in, there is a realization that the point of being “cold” has passed. The body is now frozen. You catch the next wave and ride it to the shore.
Running up the beach on ghost feet and reaching back with stone hands to try and grasp the zipper to undo a wetsuit is comical. Fingers are defiant to the grasp signal coming from the brain; they feel like chunks of wood. At the car the heater can not be turned on fast enough (if you can move your fingers to do it), and the struggle to remove a skin tight wetsuit, without the use of fingers, begins. When the shivering starts, you might as well give up.
Once the blood runs warm in your limbs again, you get that winter surfers glow…..flushed cheeks, salty skin, and hands that are a bit icy to the touch for hours. It makes a warm cup of anything that much tastier. After you are warm, you don’t regret it at all (emphasis on AFTER). You remember fun waves that were good enough to challenge you to get outside your comfort zone.
My threshold for cold is when the air temps dip below 50 and the water temp below 60. And the only way I will tolerate that is if the sun is out and shining bright. I am aware it is not really cold by some standards. I have surfed in much colder conditions, but I can’t say I liked it. I hate to admit it, but I am a fair weather surfer. There, I said it. I just can’t get out in the really cold stuff and enjoy myself. In my head, surfing should not be a sufferfest.
Today the water temperature is 58.8 degrees and the air hovers at 43. It is raining off and on. No sun at all. A cold wind is blowing.
We are home, warm and dry; dreaming of warmer days to come.