Today I returned to Pacifica to surf LindaMar, which is just north of the NorCal surf shop on Route 1.  Route 1 is that famous California road that snakes through the headlands up to Oregon and down to Santa Barbara, making its majestic way through Big Sur.  Pacifica is ridiculously convenient from the city, about a 20-minute drive.

For fifteen bucks, I rented a 9″4′ Sunspot, a foam-core longboard with the buoyancy of styrofoam.  It’s a beginner board, and I’m loathe to buy one because once I learn how to surf I will graduate to fiberglass.  If your only experience with surfing is watching it on a screen, you have never seen one of these boards:  they are unwieldy and unsexy but are excellent for those of us just learning.  Besides being difficult to carry, the board acts like a sail when the wind is up, pushing you this way and that as you stumble to the water’s edge.  Forget the Baywatch images of lunging into the water after a running start–just getting to the water is a feat.

LindaMar is not exactly for beginners, although it is closest thing to San Francisco that resembles a beginner break.  Of the three times I’ve been there, the waves have never been over five feet.  But they’re fast.  In fact they are so fast that when you’re dragging along nine feet of styrofoam, you barely get a chance to paddle or wade out before the next wave crashes into you.  This can get tiring and frustrating.

And so it was on a Thursday evening around 5PM when I decided to try out LindaMar for my third time.  Besides coming at you fast, these waves seem to conspire against you, cresting at your waist or above, pushing you back towards the shore as you try to move out.  Once you get out, however, the options are numerous–just wait and the waves will present themselves to you.  In fact, one of the best things about this beach break is the amount of waves available–there’s no need to fight.  If you miss one great wave, just wait for the next one, which is only about five seconds behind.

I surfed for about 75 minutes and got up on the board four times.  The high-cresting waves and the all-too bouyant surfboard combined to make this a frustrating, exhausting experience.  A couple of elementary school kids and I were sharing the same wave set, and I was trying like hell to stay out of their way.  These tow-headed, tanned pre-pubescents were kicking my ass:  paddling faster than me (and hence catching more waves than me), turning like I can only dream about, and shooting me territorial looks that said, “Hey old lady, get out of the way.”  When they were done surfing they hopped on their bikes, surfboard in one hand and handlebars in the other, and bicycled their way to another, perhaps more challenging section of the beach.  It was like being on a ski mountain and watching kids with no poles ski figure-eights around you.

The lure of surfing is the surreal feeling one gets when one is floating on the ocean.  All the paddling and battling are forgotten once you manage to time the waves correctly, stay on the board as you try to stand up, and maintain your balance as the wave brings you to shore.  This I did exactly four times in 75 minutes, enough victory for me.