“If everybody had an ocean . . .” the Beach Boys sang in my headphones, “. . . across the ‘You-Es-Ay’/Then everybody’d be surfin’/like Cali-forn-I-ay!”
I glanced up from the wedge of spruce I’d been splitting, and surveyed the water in front of me. Big waves crashed against the rocks, sending an occasional salt spray shower over me and my work. Chill wind whipped the trees behind me as another rain squall rolled up Lynn Canal, darkening the sky. There’d be no surfing in this particular part of the “You-Es-Ay” today. I’d seen people surf waves this size, from Sitka, Alaska to Redondo Beach, California, but none of those rides ended against rock faces like these. Haines does, in fact, attract surfers, but not on beaches like mine. In fact, we even have our own surf shop in town.
As my friend’s wedding approaches, I’ve become nostalgic. The selections on my MP3 player reflect that more or less perfectly. As I rested on my ax a moment, inexpertly judging the breakers and listening to the song, an “oldie” when I was a teen, I suddenly remembered that I had planned, once upon a time, to become a surfer. In my senior year of high school I intended to apply to U.C. San Diego to learn how to surf. I could have pursued much the same degree I chose at the college I eventually attended, with as good, or perhaps better opportunities, plus learn to catch a choice wave.
It’s hard then, not to speculate on where or what I might be now had I realized that plan. I wonder if it would have, or could have led back to this particular beach, working to split this tree to ensure my family’s well-being in the coming winter. Maybe I’d be building my own surfboards instead of sailboats. Certainly, I wouldn’t be preparing to attend this particular wedding. As for the rest, it’s hard to say.
All I know is that I wouldn’t trade that life for this one. Not for anything.