I hadn’t surfed for a week and a half before this morning. I had to prioritize other appointments last Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, my standing surf times.

Today, I was going to surf in West Marin, with an instructor a friend knows out there. The instructor canceled this morning, and since I store Margo Linda Beast in Pacifica, I went to Linda Mar.

It was my first time surfing alone, apart from July 4th Weekend, when I was in Cayucos and realized I’d never looked behind me to see what size waves I had been surfing. On that occasion, I stayed only a half hour and didn’t try for any waves.

I didn’t try for any waves today, either. I lined up for them, but I was never in quite the right place. I steered clear of the spot where most people were lined up, which kept me safe from wayward boards … but when the waves came, they immediately closed out on the stretch where I was waiting, remaining more open where the crowds were gathered.

But I stayed out for an hour, my usual session time. I was amazed at how many things I knew how to do on the water, compared to that one other time I tried surfing alone in July. My paddle-out was smooth, and I’m more skilled at turning my board around from a seated position than I was then. Slowly, surely, I’m making progress.

I didn’t see things going well for anyone around me, either: no long rides and many failed pop-up attempts. So as far as I could tell, it wasn’t a great day out there, at least in that spot.

While I was paddling around, a fellow student from a couple past lessons with Alvaro recognized me and greeted me. When I left the water, I was walking the path to Traveler and saw Alvaro leaving the water with a student.

When I told him I’d just tried surfing alone, he said, “That’s good! You went out by yourself!” I told him it hadn’t gone too well.

“Where were you?” he asked.

I told him I’d been lined up with Taco Hell when I started, but that currents had carried me toward the orange building near the Crespi side.

“No, Katie, you had to be over there,” he said, pointing to the other side—the crowded spot I’d avoided. “That’s why it wasn’t good today. But that’s so cool that you went by yourself!”
I told him I’d almost texted him this morning when I found out last minute I would be going to Pacifica. I said I’m glad I tried going out by myself but that I’d be texting him soon for another lesson.

When I got to Traveler, a fellow member, who had zipped up my wetsuit for me on my way out, asked, “How was it?”

“It was OK,” I said. “Today was my first day going out alone.”

“Congratulations!” she said, beaming.

“The waves weren’t great. They kept closing out,” I said.

“Well, this is a close-out beach,” she replied. “It takes time. That’s why we keep going out there.”

After hosing down my board at Traveler, I tried the showers there for the first time. The shower was hot and had good hair and body wash products. I was able to rinse off all the gear I usually hose off at home, changing into dry clothes afterward.

Leaving the beach clean and dry was a dream, and while I don’t mind peeling off my wetsuit in the parking lot (everybody does it), it was nice to change clothes in the Traveler locker room, a decidedly more civilized environment. I sat on the heated bench afterward and decided to spend more time there in the future.

Here is the photo I took of Traveler’s board lockers today. Margo Linda Beast is back there, the large plant slightly obscuring her from view … but you can see her two twin sisters in other lockers in plain sight.

The world feels a little upside down when I don’t surf. It was wonderful to be back out there today and run into some Pacifica regulars.

Surf’s up!

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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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