I’m sitting next to Monty which is not his name. In earlier years, on a surf trip to Costa Rica, he was frothing to go to “Montypalo”. “Montypalo guys…we’ve got to go to Montypalo!” he repeated it enough times to earn the pseudonym of Monty. He is sunburned, as am I. Our receding hairlines are not assets in the tropical sun. The sun will find any spot you can miss with sunscreen and it has found our recesses. My tongue is pickled with salt water as are my fingers. Monty’s are the same. I slur slightly because of my pickled state as we, Monty and I, make mindless chit-chat. A set, 15 days old, descends on the outer reefs. White water reflects a mile out to sea as we casually paddle using one arm only, the one stroke motor I call it. It takes one minute and seventeen seconds for the first waves of the set to start standing up on the sand bar we sit upon. I can look down and see my shadow on the sand 8 feet under me, under the water, where this beautiful unseen sand bar shapes these stellar waves that have traveled 9000 miles from New Zealand to be here, with me and Monty, just he and I. The set matures and we paddle over what seem to be perfect waves while looking for something a fraction more perfect. It’s just he and I. The winds are light and feather the cresting lips just enough to give off a cooling spray, but it’s not enough of a blow to make much more than a little texture on the otherwise smooth ocean, save for the swells relentless march. The boat bobs in the distance just far enough away to make the Canon 400mm lens more than effective. Marvin, the trigger man is ready, he waits for our cue. More perfection passes under us, we’re picky because we can be, because it’s just he and I, Monty and me. A dark line growing in size and morphing in shape approaches and it has “the look”. There’s a sixth sense that helps you choose one perfect wave from another perfect wave. It’s a skill honed over years of watching and waiting and making many mistakes. This wave has “the look”, my spidey sense tells me so. “Do you want this one?” I ask Monty, I’m happy to share because it’s just he and I. “No man, you take it”…I spin around and paddle. I don’t have to paddle hard, I’m in the spot, the wave would have taken me even if I didn’t want it, but I do, want it, that is. My surf board accelerates and I lean to the left turning the board down the line as I pull my legs up under my body and press down with my feet. The board drops away and I accelerate. As my legs extend I aim just slightly angularly up the wave and suck my legs back up under me again until I reach the point where the wave goes just past vertical, then I turn, just slightly again and again press down, I accelerate more. Akin to swinging your legs to get higher on the swing, I pump to get more speed, you can never have enough speed, only too little. I’m unable to think, time is still, I know whats going to happen as the wave steepens and bends in all three axis. I am living trigonometry, I am hydrodynamics on display, the shutter of the Cannon 400mm fires at 9 frames per second. The steep part of the wave, where I need to be, moves down toward the trough as I aim down to trim myself into it. I squat as the lip starts to throw and I duck my head to make sure I’m under it, lest I ruin this otherwise perfect moment. The sound changes once inside the wave. Children at the water park hear the same echo as they wind down the snaking tubes of the water slides, coddled at the bottom by the splash pool. My ears echo now as the opening to my water slide moves away from me. There’s no exit now except down and so I go, down the tube, toward the splash pool at the end. It’s just me now, Monty and Matapalo are not on my mind, only the exit vacillating closer, then farther away, then closer again. Sand stings my eyes, thrown by the wave vomiting behind me. I can’t tell the difference between the sting of sand or the sting of water, they hurt equally nice as the sun once again shines down on me. I angle up, toward the feathering lip and feel weightless as I fly up and over and down again the back of the wave. Perfection meets my eyes, another water slide, this one has Monty in it and he’s far from Matapalo. Who wants to go there anyway? This is freight trains, this is our water park and for the moment it belongs to us, just he an I.
Epilogue: I don’t always try to get to artsy in my writing, but today we had a “moment”. Yeah, Monty and I were there alone for a bit, but then a couple other guys joined us and we were happy to have them. Chris Kokotos, also know as Koko, or since I’ve met him Koko-Loko was there too. As was Darren Ott…who got the lucky nickname of D-Rot;-) It was just one of those days when 5 stars wasn’t enough of a scale to measure the perfect moment we all got to share. Just some guys getting some waves, hooting because we couldn’t help it, and getting barreled for the same reason.