This evening, I took Margo Linda Beast, my new and first surfboard, out on the water for the first time. She was resplendent.

After buying her on Sunday, I asked my friends what I should name her. I loved many of the suggestions, so much so that I briefly considered renaming her on a quarterly basis. But this would entail regularly updating my Facebook world, and who needs that extra paperwork?

So I reflected on my favorites, then decided I could choose two: one for my board’s first name, the other, her surname. Her first name is Margo, named for Margo Oberg, who became the world’s first female professional surfer in 1975. I chose this name because I’m an easy mark for a feminist story, and while people presented the names of other feminists, my board feels like a “Margo.”

Thank you, Mary Wagstaff, for this name.

Her last name is Linda Beast. I surf at Pacifica’s Linda Mar Beach, and this board is indeed a force with which you must reckon. The name made me laugh every time I read it. Thank you, J Dylan Malot, for it.

And as Diane D’Angelo does with my first and last name in perpetuation of an inside joke, I’m always going to call my board Margo Linda Beast, never only Margo or any derivative.

I texted Margo Linda Beast’s photo to Alvaro on Sunday, and he replied in two texts: “niceee” and “put some wax on it”

Alvaro adds extra letters in his texts when he’s excited, so I already knew he liked Margo Linda Beast. But this evening, when I emerged from the footpath leading from Traveler Surf Club to Taco Hell, where Alvaro was waiting for me, his eyes widened and his mouth flew open when he saw her.

“Katie, that is a nice board,” he said. “It’s perfect for you.”

Even as surfers go, Alvaro is mellow, so allow me to translate for you: “YEAH, KATIE! I LOVE YOUR SURFBOARD!”

Then he grabbed my board wax.

“I watched a YouTube tutorial of a surfer waxing a board—” I began.

But it was too late: Alvaro was waxing away, looking every bit as excited as if the board were his own. So I let him prepare Margo Linda Beast for her inaugural ride, listening as he told me how to remove and reapply the wax when it gets dirty.

As we walked toward the water, he admonished me: “Katie, don’ practice popping up on this board on the beach,” his Peruvian accent dropping the “t.” “We can do that with my crappy student boards, but not this one. Don’ stand on this board, except in the water.”

“OK,” I said.

“Katie, when you get out of the ocean with this board, rinse it with fresh water so it stays nice.”

“OK,” I said.

“Katie, don’ leave this board out in the sun.”

“OK,” I said.

“And if you put it on the beach, cover it with towels.”

“OK,” I said.

“If you take care of this board,” Alvaro said, “It will last you many years.”

The thing is, surfing is the one aspect of my life where I let it all hang out and don’t worry much (well, after I’ve put on my surfing helmet and shark-repellent bracelet). As much as I appreciate Alvaro’s concern for Margo Linda Beast, I am never going to be as precious with that board as Alvaro wants me to be. Hell, I put her back in her Traveler locker tonight without rinsing her off, and that won’t be the last time.

Once we got out on the water, I told Alvaro my board’s name. “Heh heh, Linda Beast,” he giggled.

“Does your board have a name?” I asked, looking at the banana-colored number he’d brought to tonight’s session.

“No, I don’ like this board,” he replied. “It’s too yellow.” I asked whether he’d bought it online, and he said no, that someone had given it to him.

“Did you name your other boards?” I asked.

“No, I don’ name my boards, he replied. “But I talk to them sometimes.”

“What do you say to them?” I asked.

“I tell them how nice they look, and I tell them to be good,” he said, without a hint of a joke in his delivery.

With that, Alvaro’s holiday gift found its way onto my mental shopping list: There is a Traveler gift card in his near future.

On the water tonight, Alvaro and I met a woman surfing alone. He turned to me and said, “You could interview her for your book.” I told her about Sea Change, my forthcoming book featuring women and nonbinary people who surf, and she expressed great interest. She told me her email address. I promised to follow up and did so tonight.

Margo Linda Beast fits me so well. She’s not as wide as the learner boards I’ve been using, which will present a challenge as I continue learning to steady myself on the board, but it didn’t seem to make any difference tonight: I had the same triumphs and struggles as always, and the leaner width made her far easier to carry on land and navigate on the water. I was also more comfortable while paddling.

Since I go out to Linda Mar every Sunday morning and every Wednesday evening, and the waves last Wednesday and this past Sunday were flat, I had been out of the water for 1.5 weeks before tonight. I felt that. Like the waves, my life was a little flatter both days. And while the waves picked up on other days over this time period, I wasn’t out there, so I was a little compressed in general.

My free and joyful feelings while riding Margo Linda Beast tonight affirmed how good the ocean is for me.

Into every life a little Margo Linda Beast should fall. I’ve asked this before, and here it comes again: What brings you joy, pushes you beyond your comfort zone, and makes you feel free? Do more of that.

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About the Author: Katie Burke

Katie Burke
Katie Burke is an award-winning author, San Francisco attorney, journalist, and surfer. Her first book, Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, was critically acclaimed. Her next book, the forthcoming Sea Change: Women and Nonbinary People Reshaping Surfing Wave by Wave, is scheduled for publication in July 2023.

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