Art by Tom Swanson

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Time to leave the US.  July 4th.   Time always seems compressed in the run-up to departure.  But the trip to the airport was hassle-free and the first leg of the journey was too.  Thanks to Spirit Airlines, a ten hour layover in Houston’s Intercontinental Airport gave me ample opportunity to stretch my legs; you pay a price for cheap tickets.  The airport is huge and I literally walked for miles.  Much to my surprise, the choice of restaurants was good and I had the best airport food ever – including one meal at Cat Cora’s. I don’t know much about ‘The Iron Chef‘ is aside from it being a reality based tv show, but apparently this woman won it and she’s ridden the wave by opening a series of restaurants.  The service wasn’t amazing but the food is a must if you’re in the airport.  A quick flight put me into San Jose a little past 1 a.m. and, after getting my board and backpack,  I cleared customs and made my way out to the waiting taxistas.   Reservations at my normal hostel hadn’t seemed necessary because it’s so big… but 40 german kids had just shown up that day and it was full.  It was only 5 more hours until I needed to be back at the airport for a little flight across the gulf.  I asked if there was a couch.  The couches were mostly taken but there was one left. $5. I walked up to the second floor to wash off the day’s travel and there was a guy who’d rented a love seat: He laid belly up, neck cranked, and legs draping over the armrest from the knees down.

A backpack crammed with food and things for Tico friends

A backpack crammed with food and things for Tico friends

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random fire hose in the floor at DEN

July 8: Lonneke made quick work of showing up in Santa Teresa to visit.  On the day she was set to arrive, I was riding down the street when I saw another familiar face; a friend was riding in the opposite direction when I called out.  She’d gotten brown roots to her hair in the few months she’d been back home in Switzerland.  It was a complete shock to see her; she’d flown over to surprise an old boyfriend but it turned out he had other things going on.  I offered her a place to stay.  I’d come back and settled in to the new apartment, taking naps to catch up from the travel days but was ready for my first house guests.  So, now there were three of us and it felt like a home.

Sushi at Akiro was a treat I eagerly got back into the habit of eating.  Luckily, Lonneke can always be counted on when it comes to good food.   We ate sushi the night of her arrival and again the next, with Danny the sushimon whipping up special roles for us.  It’s rainy season; a storm kicked up as we finished and said goodbye to the sushimon.  A strong breeze feathered the rain as it was illuminated in the streetlights; despite coming down hard it looked beautiful and proved to be warm.   Ten minutes walk him through the rain

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housemade pickled ginger, a pile of wasabi and the new Mal Pais roll of avaocado, red snapper and mango

After a couple of nights crashing at the apartment Gioia had found a hostel nearby and would message Lonne and I for surf.  Waves were ok but paddle-outs were often long and hard.  We made the most of our time and surfed twice a day when it was good.  There was a nice kid out in the water from the East Coast and we’d chat in the line-up.  It was silly how uncrowded it was.  The days were mellow.

July 11:  The discovery of the sailor bowl.  Product C was on my route to another restaurant I frequented named Chop It.  I’d met the owner of Product C a few times and felt guilty for passing his place by.  Show love:  That’s what it comes down to; people in business deserve support if they’re creating a good product.  So, Dutch Lonne and I hit it up. I played it safe with fish tacos.  They were nice but Lonne scored.  Her dish, the Sailor Bowl was so good I ate part of hers when I finished my tacos, then ordered one for myself.  I was dieting; I’m almost always dieting.  This was more food than I should’ve had, but it life is short.  Mmmm, Sailor Bowl with creamy sailor sauce.  Although this was a bed of brown rice with a nice piece of fresh fish on it, the name reminded me of Dick’s in Seattle – an old school hamburger place that had 3 choices of burger and was always packed with people.  Whenever I was in Seattle to see friends, I rolled by Dicks’.  We’d say I could never get enough greasy Dick’s in me.  This sailor sauce became a little inside joke and the dish became my new addiction.  

July 12:  Power meeting for the website; nearly 2 hours of chatting online.  We’ve been getting quite a bit of surf and the sushi has been keeping me strong (at least that’s what I tell myself).   Chatting via some sort of messenger is weird.  Practical but weird.

Every coconut has three spots on it and one of the spots is soft.  You can puncture the soft hole and drain the water.  Throw the coconut against a wall and crack it for the meat.  Having a kitchen of my own means smoothies

Every coconut has three spots on it and one of the spots is soft. Puncture the hole and drain into a glass then throw the coconut against a wall to crack it open for the meat. Then it’s smoothie time

July 13: Lonne took off this afternoon at 1:45pm.  I gave her a #ProperDutchWaveOff.  When I’d left Santa Teresa 6 weeks ago, she showed up at my hostel at 7 in the morning just to send me off with well wishes.  It meant a lot.  Especially since I was feeling in the gutter with dengue fever.  Her goodbye left me a with good feeling for my past 3 months.  Today, after hosting her for several days, I got to return the vibe.  Her cab arrived and I walked her down, then made my way to the main road as her cab pulled up behind me.  She reached a hand out the window and we slapped palms and fist-pounded.  She was on her way to a silent retreat in Mexico for 10 days, then headed to CO where I’d said she could use my car.  My feeling was that she was onto the next epic chapter in her travels.  She had some trepidations but I knew the next few weeks would be amazing for her.  Many people who’ve never been to the US have a totally misguided impression of it or, at best, no clue.

Hours before, the morning had yielded a bounty of buttery waves.  Our initial attempt to paddle out had been scuttled.  Currents were a bitch and we returned to shore after 10 minutes of hard paddling.  Gioia had joined us and was trying without success too.  Moving down the beach, we tried to find a current to help carry us out.  A few minutes later, we were basically safe past the breaking waves.  Bigger sets moved in, breaking farther out and putting us quickly back to work.  Wewe got a little rest once we were safely outside again.   Lonne didn’t rest much though.  She was looking extremely fit and living up to the look:  A solid wave was headed for us and, to my surprise, she went for it and got it.  We scored.  I was on the big board and really got a feel for what it could do as I moved vertically up the face of an overhead wave and turned hard off the top; a lot of the 6’10 shred-sled came over the lip and carved an arc through the air as I sent buckets of spray flying.  The fin set up I’d put on it was all wrong according to the rules but when I did my part, it felt so right.  We got some sailor sauce in us for lunch.

A few people scattered across a 100 meter stretch for the afternoon session.  I took a chance by walking out the rocks on the north end of the beach and waiting until the water filled in a bit, then stepped down into a small pool and scrabbled out to deeper water before I was pushed into the rocks or hit one of the shallow ones below me.  I was the farthest north and had the area to myself.  The waves weren’t great but they were smooth.  It wasn’t the waves, it was the whole scene…  If you could see what I’ve seen – not with a gopro, not from the beach, but just from where I sit in the water. Water like liquid metal, moving and shifting facets of light across steely grey.  It surrounds you and is completely different than watching from shore.  I was thinking about all my friends and wishing, “if you could see what I see”.  You might give up your life in your country for it.  Coastline with jungle colored hills rising from the beach, ocean mist shrouding the ones in the distance.  Clouds and a hidden setting sun.  Colors from the sky coloring the water.  It reminds me that I could die happily, knowing that I’ve lived a full life already.  Pema Chodron : “…may all beings feel this joy”

A mockup had come from the  web designer I was working with.  The site’s landing page was looking dope. Daniel Patton of Patton Holdings busted out the look based on the previous night’s chat session and the elements were coming together.  I dissected his work based on some top sites and sent my feedback before eventually tuning out for the night.  

As I walked to my room for sleep, I thought, “goodnight, Santa Teresa.  Thank you for another sunset”

7/14:  The wipeout I’ve wondered about.  The decision for one more wave is stereotypical of many surfers regardless of the session i.e. you might be on fire and lusting for a last nugget or, the waves might have been mediocre and you want to snag something to salvage your time and send you off on a good note.  There I was at the end of a morning of mediocre waves when a good one came my way.  I paddled into position and stood up a little in front of the pocket where the wave curls over and the clean, unbroken shoulder extends out.  An open face.  It was a juicy one, peeling and grinding to the right.  The water was glassy and I was already going fast when I swooped up the face from a nice bottom turn.  It was apparent that I needed to race this wave so the lip didn’t crash over the top of me.  The face steepened in front of me and began to barrel.  Swooping up to mid-face then setting the board on rail, I aimed slightly down to gain speed and shoot into the barrel.  The face was about 9 or 10’ and the lip pitched over hard in front of me before I could steer my board for the beach.  Knocked backwards in a tuck, I was sucked up the face and into the barreling lip where my body stretched out to my full length.  If you’ve watched a pair of sneakers through the glass of a washing machine or dryer, that was the type of action I got.  My board was caught up in the same cycle and it bash me over and over, probably a couple of times/second.  Basically I kept getting sucked up the inside of a small barrel and dumped.  I’ve watched these barrels pass close by me and they churn mercilessly, always reminding me of a meatgrinder.  It was a little nightmarish – being pounded by something I couldn’t see.  It happened so fast that that I don’t think there was anything I could’ve done.   When I was released on pushed deep into churning water, the board’s leash must have been stretched;  The stretchy rope slingshotted the board back across the surface toward me and knocked me hard in the lip.  My body hurt all over but I couldn’t tell if it was anything serious.  Time to paddle in; so much for dreams of glory.

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