I was a bit sore when I headed out to Rodeo Beach/Ft. Cronkite for my second day of surfing.  Nothing hurt, exactly, but my muscles felt heavy.  Rodeo Beach is also ridiculously close to the city, a mere two exits from the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I exited onto Alexander Avenue, hung on until I hit Bunker Avenue, and pulled into the cul-de-sac where I would spend the next few hours.

I had been to this beach years before, bedecked in jeans and a sweatshirt.  I remember wistfully watching the surfers on the northern cove of the beach, which abutted the craggy rocks this part of California is so famous for.  Less than two dozen surfers were fighting over not much wave action.

Unlike Pacifica, which attracts true beginners because of its proximity to the city, this beach is strictly intermediate and above.  As I paddled out on my foam-core Sunspot, I felt like a sixteen year-old driving my Yugo up to a Porsche convention.  Not wanting anyone to ding my Yugo, I veered to the very southern tip of where the waves seemed to be cresting.  I was yards away from anyone else and safe from incurring anyone’s wrath.  The ridicule, however, was a different story.

Undeterred, I carved out my own little section of the ocean.  The waves were fast, and I had trouble paddling quickly enough to keep up with them and pop-up.  Plus, there was an undertow.  Now even though I grew up on the coast of New England I still have no idea what causes an undertow.  I just know what it feels like:  it feels like someone is trying to pull you under by your toes.  Seriously.  At one point the undertow sent my surfboard into my right thigh.  Pain.

After about a frustrating hour, I drove the Yugo north along the shore, telling myself that I earned the right to get in someone’s way if need be.  The waves were better.  Much better:  more consistent and just big enough for the five of us hovering there.  I caught a few waves but for some reason had trouble maintaining my balance once I popped-up. 

Ninety minutes later I was out of the water.  A photographer sat next to me, and we both watched the surfers sitting, waiting, and hoping.  At one point he pointed his camera at me, point blank, and I stiffened.  He could have asked.

By this time, the waves had dissipated, probably brought on by the high tides.  I’m not exactly sure why the surf is better during low tide, but when I find out I’ll post it here.  If I’m wrong about this, please correct me in the comments section.

I peeled off my wet suit and booties, chugged some water, and changed into my clothes.  Luckily I brought my supafly Patagonia water shorts that I had bought for my whitewater kayaking trip in the Berkshires earlier that summer (not ready to write about that one yet).  They dried immediately, and I set off for a short hike along the coast.

The wind whipped through my clothes, made me cold, and eventually turned me back toward the beach.  But the view from those hills.  Look down and the ocean and its unforgiving rocks threatened you.  Look far offshore at the oil tankers.  Look behind at the steep hills covered by some kind of red flora and succulents instead of grass.  I’m not used to this kind of topography and it overwhelmed me.

I washed my board, wetsuit, and booties at the showers at Ft. Cronkite, checked out the surfing scene (replete with Betties), and headed home, where I passed out.

Back up and read about Day 1 of SheSpoke’s surfing adventure in the San Francisco area.

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