Peace on earth — and in the ocean. Photo by Chris Ahrens
Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surfing for Christmas

I love Christmas. The appearance and scent of a perfectly symmetrical pine tree in the front room is surreal. Presents beneath that tree — some for me, some from me — makes me grateful. The sight of a poor shopper digging deep into a coin purse to buy a gift for a loved one is forever touching. Huddled up at church, if that’s how you celebrate the season, crowns the day for believers. For those not buying the baby in a manger story, there are other ways to make the season bright.

Children everywhere lie awake Christmas Eve, wondering what gifts they will receive. For those with families near home, there will be tasty meals at the beginning and end of the day.

These are some of the reasons I love Christmas. Another, perhaps more selfish reason, is that I’ve had a lot of great surf sessions on Christmas mornings. While riding waves on Dec. 25 is no longer unique in the surf culture, as young surfers with freshly printed driver licenses, we usually found the lineup empty on Christmas morning in the mid ‘60s.

For years one of our favorite yuletide destinations was Palos Verdes Cove. There, playful waves awaited us in a picturesque rocky inlet. I don’t recall ever seeing another surfer there at that time. Still, my memory of those days is over half a century old, so I could be wrong about this.

My parents never did give us much for Christmas — just everything they had. Poverty was a recurrent theme in our home, so a new surfboard was out of the question. It wasn’t like years earlier when we asked for Davey Crockett caps. Without the funds to buy them, Mom made them from the fur coat she had been gifted by a suitor decades earlier.

By my early teens, I had purchased a decent surfboard with my paper route money. My younger brother, Dave, however, didn’t own a board yet, and he desperately wanted one. Dad located an old Hobie for $35. He took me to see it, and while it was in pretty rough shape, I suggested he buy it for Dave. He bought it and had it refinished fire engine red.

I don’t recall what I received from my parents that Christmas morning in 1962, but I’ll never forget Dave’s beaming face as he tore the bow from his new board and ran his hands over it as if to be sure it was real. After breakfast, Dad loaded our boards into the family station wagon and whisked the entire family away to Newport Beach, where the surf was 3 to 4 feet, blown clean by a stiff offshore wind. Dave and I traded waves for hours that morning, watching shore to see the smoke from Dad’s pipe drifting toward us, and the little waves we rode.

I know this all sounds a little Hallmark, but Christmas can do that to the more sentimental among us.

Sadly, peace on earth is beyond the control of the average surfer, so I’m wishing for something more easily attained: peace in the lineup. If there are good waves Christmas morning, they certainly won’t be empty. Still, we don’t have to fight over them. None of them belong to us, so it should be no problem giving some of them away. Anyway, here’s wishing all of you a glassy Christmas and an offshore New Year.

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