OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the beach? The smell of it, the beautiful rolling waves, the way you can shout as loud as you want, the sand, the water, everything.

At The Beach

It gets hot in California. I mean, Death Valley is in California. We occasionally get temperatures in the triple digits. Don’t get me wrong, our weather is lovely, with just enough humidity not to turn your mouth into a desert but not so much your clothes stick to you, and we usually hover in the eighties during the summer and sixties during the winter. But. Sometimes it gets really, really hot, and at that point you’re dying for some nice cool water to dunk yourself in and never come out.

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I really hate pools. There’s nothing to do in pools. You swim back and forth, you dive, you have contests over how long you can hold your breath, but eventually you always end up sitting in the pool just to keep cool (I did a rhyme haha) and staring listlessly at your own prune-y fingers.

The ocean, though, is a battle. You run, splashing, into the water, and get socked in the thighs with an unexpected wave of icy coldness, at which point you run, splashing, out of the water, spend thirty seconds repeating “COLD COLD COLD” until you forget how cold it was and run back, and eventually work up the nerve to get your hair wet. And then, of course, as soon as you do that you stop being cold and can actually have a good time.

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Those of us lucky enough to have boogie boards (Isn’t that just the best name ever?) can ride the waves with a degree of comfort and speed, paddling furiously away from waves about to crash on our heads and surfing gleefully over the tops of others. Inevitably, you will swallow water, scrape your knees, spend fifteen minutes without catching any good waves, and get something grainy stuck in your eye. However, you will also catch one or two or three or more waves that send you rocketing over the surface of the water, laughing, screaming, and holding on tight.

Those of us not lucky enough to have boogie boards have a couple of options: Bodyboard, which is like boardless boogie boarding but slower, less efficient, and with a higher possibility of getting slammed underwater for a long period of time, or dive and swim. Diving is fun, and an essential skill when going deeper than about three feet of water. Basically, you see a wave coming, you dive under the water, feel the force of the wave rumble across your back, and then pop up for air. Very useful when there’s a six foot wave curling over your head and about to crash, or when a forceful tide of white water is coming at you and you have no desire to boogie board. Also fun if you are very hot and want to get soaked to the bone.

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If you want to just swim in the ocean, there’s usually a zone where all of the big waves that the surfers ride have already crashed and extinguished themselves, and the smaller waves closer to shore are just starting to form. It’s bumpy, but you don’t have to worry about waves crashing on your head, and you can swim underwater and do backstroke and jump over little waves pretending to be a dolphin until you tire yourself out.

The ocean is exhausting. You run in, you tumble out, working furiously against the current, you run in again, you spend long periods of time holding your breath, it’s exhausting. Somehow, though, I’m always surprised when I coast to the shore and discover I’m out of breath. Ten deep breaths. In, out, in out, ten times, and then I run back in. There’s a reason why you don’t see any out-of-shape surfers. (Or do you? I haven’t, really, not necessarily hugely muscled but not out of shape.)

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Personally, I recommend the beaches in Encinitas. Great sand, great waves, occasionally the water glows at night because of bioluminescent algae. (I was very proud of knowing how to spell bioluminescent when I was nine, incidentally.) It’s all gorgeous.

It’s always been weird to me that there are people who have never seen the sea. And not even people who have been locked up their entire lives, normal people, highly successful people, who have never seen the ocean. It boggled my mind at seven. The ocean has always been a huge part of my everyday life. There’s probably a metaphor or something in there, some deep meaningful relationship between my life and the ocean. Whatever. I’ll let you figure that out.

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