The International Writers Magazine: Regrets, I've had a few...
Rhythm of the Waves
night. After a party at a friends house where his band had
been jamming. Rock me baby. Swaying bodies. Amps turned up too
high for too long. Extended guitar solos. High G, top string,
fifteenth fret, bent to piercing effect. Kick drums. Rolling Tom
Toms. Feedback. Sweat. I had to step outside to let the
buzz wear off.
Dazed and confused.
This was Malibu, the cliffs of Point Dume. Summer. 1972. Warm, humid,
southern California summer nights. Stepping outside from the garage
where the band was set up, to the Pacific panorama out front was more
like spilling out from a beer mug onto a vast mirror. Reflected starlight.
Moonlight sparkle on the ocean. The horizon curving in the darkened
distance. A breath of sea air in the vibrating night. Welcome home.
She was the girlfriend of a friend. The Bass player back in the garage.
I felt a bit guilty. He was a friend, after all. But, come on, lets
be realistic. Longish dark brown hair. Eyelashes. Jeans. It was too
nice a night. Wouldnt you have invited her for a walk on the beach?
Peasant blouse billowing in the sea breeze. She too had spilled outside
for a breath of ocean air. She had moved further away from the pulse
and undercurrent, outward, across the lawn, into the night. I moved
into place beside her.
Lets go for a walk on the beach.
There was trail leading out toward the cliff. Footworn. Meandering across
the field, through yucca and anise, then flowing down over the edge
and taking a series of sharp switchbacks, winding sinuously over broken
steps of crumbling limestone to the beach below. The beach took an inside
radius along the cove from point north to point south. Walking it, if
one was to do it fast in ones mind, was like taking a sharp right
turn at the bottom of an eight foot wave.
At low tide, the ocean receded to uncover the reef. Kelp lay like wet
hair across mussel studded rocks. Sculpins hid in the tidepools. Abalone.
At low tide we surfed Big Dume Point, at the north end of the cove where
the trail cascaded out of the cliff. The waves formed quickly on the
reef and broke fast and held up, curling off to the right. We would
drop in quick, carve up and down the face a few times then kick out.
A furious paddle back out to do it again, and again, and again. When
the tide came in these waves got mushy so we would hike back along the
sand down to Little Dume, just south. Little Dume had several breaks.
We would spend our days walking back and forth along that half mile
cove, our boards under our arms, a towel draped over our shoulders.
A bar of wax, sand embedded. An avocado for lunch. Sunglasses. A Frisbee
for the off times when the waves werent up. That dull time between
high and low tide before we made our way back along the cove.
Next thing I knew we were sitting on that flat rock, she and I. You
may know the one I mean, down on Little Dume Beach, where the photographers
always set up their camera tripods to shoot the action. We had walked
along the white sand, around the inner radius of the cove, and now I
lay on my back on the white rock, my eyes closed to the vista of stars
above. I lay on the rock with her sitting beside me, long hair, windblown
in the night. But off in the distance I could hear the crashing, the
roar (its always called a roar), of the Outer Reef breaking in
The breeze off the ocean came in moving oscillations. The waves came
in sets of eight. The timing, the cadence of the break. Her hair fell
in waves, curling around her shoulders. My friends band had been
playing a rock and roll beat in waves of 4/4 timing. The ringing in
my ears came in waves of high pitched, sustained notes, backed and held
up by the thumping of the music. The delicate thrumming of a Monarch
butterflys wing. The earth, the tide, the sunrise and sunset,
the coastal fog in the mornings, the hush at late afternoon, just after
the windy, mid-day blow-out. The hush, the quiet. The stillness and
shhhhhh of the late afternoon and on into the evening and now into the
dark of late night. Quivering, shimmering meter. The sounds of the beach.
The sound of the waves.
Close your eyes a moment and listen to a wave in the distance. Hear
it? Shhhhh. Listen. Hear it? Yes, yes, there it is. There is a rhythm,
a tempo to the ocean. Off to my right the Outer Reef was breaking. As
the surge of water came upward over the continental slope, over the
reef, swells formed into large waves and broke over the Outer Reef.
Only the better of the local surfers took off regularly from these furious
peaks. After a moment, these waves receded and then re-formed and re-swelled
and began to break again. The sound of these waves was closer, louder,
and the waves re-formed, once again, and I could hear the chhh, chhh,
chhh, chhh. The spill of white water inside.
Water music. I could hear the waves at the outer reef. I could hear
the waves, closer in, breaking over the shallower bottom of the inner
reef. I could hear the breeze. I could almost hear the beat of her heart
in a syncopated pattern to my own. I concentrated and tried to hear
the movement of the water as a blue shark glided smoothly through the
kelp. I tried to hear the chuffing of a Grey Whale spouting out beyond
the breakers. The silent wing beat of a barn owl taking off from the
cliff above. The crash and smash of a cymbal up in my friends
garage as his band charged through their own version of Stairway To
Heaven. This is what its all about. There is almost nothing better.
If youre a surfer then youll know what I mean. Late take
off, cut back, head dip. Hang ten.
If youre a surfer, there is almost nothing better than standing
on a cliff on a bright summer morning, looking down onto the incoming
lines of the ocean rollers, watching as they build, shape, form into
crests and break in cylindrical glory. There is almost nothing better
than knowing that all you have to do is make your way down the trail,
enter the water and paddle out.
If youre a surfer, there is almost nothing better than sitting
on your board, as a set rolls in, a wave passes under you, you feel
your board rise with the surge, and the wave passes on and its
windy, Santa Ana Winds in the fall, and as the wave crests and breaks,
the wind blows the white water back and the spray rains down on you.
Salt water rain. You close your eyes and bend away from it, your legs
and back, your consciousness, alert to the next swell.
We would surf sometimes in a heavy fog. You couldnt see the wave
coming. You had to listen to the ocean. You had to feel through your
legs, your ass, through your heart. Paddle into a wave that you cant
see anyway, you might as well close your eyes and feel it. If youre
a surfer youll know what I mean.
High tide. Low tide. Point break. Beach break. Storm surf.
There is almost nothing better.
Every time I see a wave, a swell, a crash of white water, a lapping
of water against a shore, I picture a surfer taking off. He whips his
board around, goes prone, paddles, pushes, and hops to his feet. Its
like music. Its a physical experience. The measure of the ocean.
The swell, the push, the pull of the water, the tug of the moon on the
tides. The soft throb of a butterflys wings. The break. Curl.
Tube. The beat of the music. The rhythm, the pace, the stride. If youre
a surfer youll understand.
The next morning the surf was still up. My buddy, the bass player was
probably with her. I was anxious to paddle out over the incoming swells,
out into the fray, under a breaker, out into the area of sharks and
undulating kelp, to whip my board around, lay myself out, paddle, muscle
through water, and feel the wave take over. I love that moment, that
instant in time. That merging with the ocean. Then the board digs in,
fin slicing through moving water. I leap to my feet, let the board glide
to the bottom of the wave and crank my right heel into a hard bottom
turn. The board plows upward against the wall of moving water and
if youre a surfer. If you are a surfer and not a
know what I mean. That morning, I mentally kicked myself in the butt.
Wouldnt you? I could actually almost hear the beat of her heart.
Peasant blouse, loose in the nighttime drafts, under the vaulted sky,
and I spent those moments listening to the music of the water. I spent
those moments mentally surfing those waves. Well, if youre a surfer
The rhythm of the waves. The rhythm of the earth.
© Jeffrey Beyl
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