Onshore Surf Rage

It started off a sublime day. Sunny, cloudless skies, consistent chest-high surf, stomach satiated by a stellar Swami’s black-bean burrito. A pretty lady friend of mine, Lisa, picked me up in her hippie-heaven cruising vessel, a VW camper, stocked with our boards and post-session cervezas.

It seemed proper planetary alignments were in order, ensuring that this was to be a fun day. Although Pipes was crowded and inconsistent, the inside sections looked more tantalizing than any amusement park ride ever could.

Too bad today turned out to be my first experience with surf rage.

Driving down the 101, I noticed a rare weekend parking spot next to the campground. Lisa adeptly parallel parked into the spot, leaving about two feet in between the VW’s front bumper and a Jeep Cherokee.

Before I even opened my door, a man yelled, “Hey, why’d you park so f***in’ close?”

Granted, the next several moments seem like a blur, but I remember getting out of the car and observing the curmudgeon. He was about mid-40ish, had a blue booger-sized stud in his ear and sported a dark beard with hints of gray. His eyes were piercing bluish-green. His physique was stocky. He looked like an alcoholic who woke up to the news that the Bush Administration just brought back Prohibition.

“G-d damn it!” he yelled, peering at Lisa and using his peripheral vision to make sure I wasn’t going to get in his face.

“Take it easy man,” I said. “We didn’t know you had a 10-foot log with you.”

Unfortunately, the curmudgeon, actually, let’s call him what he is-an asshole-chose the path of not taking it easy. He took his sopping wetsuit, walked over to the driver side of the VW and flung it on the windshield.

In what seemed like a nanosecond, I processed several thoughts. I thought about which street-fighting kung fu technique I would use against this disturbed longboarder. A palm strike to the eye socket? A finger thrust into the larynx or eyeball? A swift kick to the solar plexus? But if I reacted with violence, I would lower myself to his level. Although I revere Bruce Lee’s dedication, intensity and skill, ultimately it’s Gandhi’s actions I want to emulate (except the fasting).

I thought to myself, ok, so big deal, the worst thing that happened so far is Lisa’s windshield is soaked. My thoughts then turned to Lisa. Should I be chivalrous and at least give the guy a slap to the face and defend Lisa’s honor?

By the time I finished high school, I had been in about a dozen fights, but I haven’t been in one in about a dozen years and don’t plan on being in one ever again. Before I got into a fight, my body would amp up with so much adrenaline that I couldn’t think clearly. This time, for the first time in my life it was different. Maybe all those times going to the SRF gardens paid off. I remained calm and totally alert during this altercation. Still, my fingers were locked and loaded, ready to thrust and blind if necessary.

Yet somehow, in the inner recess of my soul, I knew no violence would take place today. This was a spiritual test.

I was still a good 10-feet away from the surf rager. I approached him and for the first time he looked me in the eyes and said to me, “What are you looking at?”

“A pathetic, sad soul,” I thought to myself. What seemed like a dozen wise-cracks triggered my neurotransmitters, but if I was to really teach this guy a lesson, sarcasm wasn’t the right path.

He diverted his attention away from me and back to Lisa. It was then I noticed that Lisa possessed more rage than the curmudgeon. Her lower lip shut tightly against the upper, creating vice-like tension in her jaw muscles. Her eyes seemed ready to pop out of their sockets.

She approached his Jeep and reached for his board, which was by now placed on the roof. (What a jerk this guy is for complaining that we parked too close when all he had to do was put the board on top of his car.)

“I’m going to take your board and throw it in the middle of the street,” Lisa yelled.

The diplomatic side of me took over.

“Lisa, forget it. This guy’s not worth it. He’s got issues. Let’s go somewhere else.”

I eventually coaxed Lisa back into her VW.

As Lisa pulled out of our spot, I rolled down my window, looked right in the eyes of our troubled surf brother who was peeling off his wetsuit. I said to him, “I feel real sorry for you.”

In case any pre-teens are reading this, I’ll leave his reply to the imagination. (If curiosity is getting the better of you, his reply was two words, one starting with an “F”.)

If Jesus was a surfer (I guess in a way he was) and was around today and had been in my situation, perhaps he would have touched the man in such a way that the grumpy salty dog would have broken down in tears and told him the issues that were really bothering him.

I, however, am not Jesus. Still, if Jesus is/was the only person who could have transformed the angry guy, I at least helped Lisa see a new light when dealing with confrontational circumstances.

“How did you remain so calm?” she asked me.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play back the incident 100 times in my head throughout the day, even when we were catching fun yet meager beachbreak. I imagined giving the guy a pummeling, but ultimately I was pleased that I was chosen as a spiritual vehicle for Lisa to learn how to control her rage.

Lisa started surfing when she lived in the Bay Area, a place where VW van-driving surfers are treated with brotherly love. I told Lisa not to let one guy spoil her image of Encinitas.

I’m not sure if my actions sparked change for the better in the guy. Hopefully, I was a catalyst. If not, I’m glad I was for Lisa. And if she didn’t calm down at first, hopefully those post-session Coronas helped her chill out.

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