Boys to Women

Currently chasing waves along the north coast of Panama,
Captain Liz recounts a pre-turkey day
Surfing Magazine
photo shoot in Costa Rica, spreads the word about massive
biodiesel super boats, and admits that she actually misses the
surf-starved shores of Santa Barbara.

The boatload of boys and I awaited the swell’s arrival at
Witch’s Rock (pictured below), enjoying small peeling a-frames and
clear water. That night we feasted on the last of the dorado we’d
caught, but soon afterwards I snuck away with a handful of
chocolate and a pillow and roosted on the foredeck. Between the
silhouette of the Rock and Orion overhead, I forgot about the pain
in my ears from both the infection and the male-oriented
conversations.

The next morning the swell came up and Dan Jenkins and I worked
the inside rights for some photos. I’ve learned that the world
behind surf photos isn’t always as glamorous as it appears on the
shiny pages of magazines. witches%20rock.JPG There are so many elements that have to
come together to make the photo good: the waves have to be on, then
the sun and light need to be right, and there’s usually a crowd
factor. Then I have to catch the wave and do something worth
photographing without making a stupid face. The photographer has to
have the camera on the right settings, have the person in focus, be
in the right place, and push the shutter at the right moment.

I liked working with Dan, though; he was positive and
encouraging and always trying to shoo away the surfers around us.
It’s a big open beachbreak, but Seth and Jean-Luc seemed
magnetically pulled towards the camera. While Seth stood tall in
closeout lefts, secretly hoping for the camera to swing his way (in
a belated attempt to launch his professional surfing career, I
thought, hee-hee!), I was instructed only to go right due to the
lighting.

As life keeps reminding me, it’s not always possible to control
the moment. Once in a while, things turn out in your favor, but
it’s just as often the other way around. On the second evening at
Witch’s Rock, Dan and I went out for a session in an attempt to
capture the twilight moment. It seemed like everything was falling
into place: the waves were decent enough, no one was out, and the
sunset, oh the sunset. It was heaven trickling down through the
clouds, quite possibly the most beautiful end to a day I’d ever
seen.

As I drooled over the deep reds and oranges, Dan reminded me
that there was purpose behind this sunset. But, as nature would
have it, the sunset demanded our full attention. As the minutes
passed, I scrambled to catch anything that came my way. I mean
anything. But nope, it wouldn’t let us have it. “Watch this sunset
reverently”, the sky seemed to say. Frustrated by the lack of waves
Dan, yelled from the inside, “Go! Catch anything!.Just stand
up!”

As I scrambled for a shoulder or lump to paddle for, the setting
sun laughed down at us. Although I realized our fate, I made a true
effort to catch anything I could. It was impossible. It felt like
the last 30 seconds of a heat, when I’d try with all my mind power
to vibe a ridable wave into existence. So as the embers in the sky
cooled to ashes, I laughed and sighed. It seemed to be a continuous
paradox of photography: to be fully present in the moment or
focused on capturing it with a camera. Sometimes life coughs up a
moment only to be treasured by those present, and, like this one,
stubbornly chooses not to be carried on into the future in the form
of pixels or film strips.

All in all, the first all-boys trip on Swell went
smoothly, ending the following afternoon with the two more
blessings from nature: a perfect wind to carry us back to Tamarindo
and a plump tuna that stuffed us with fresh sashimi. The days of
October were flying by, and although Guanacaste had given us dry
weather, little lightning, and plenty of sunshine, I had promised
to meet a group of Patagonia’s finest female longboarders all the
way at the other end of the country, 200 miles to the south at the
tip of the Osa peninsula. Thus, despite having hardly recovered
from both my ear infection and energy demands of the trip with the
boys, it was time to get going.

We headed out the following afternoon on an overnight mission to
melt some miles. The first 10 hours of the passage were smooth and
satisfying. The current seemed to be with us, the wind was light
but in our favor, and we had no collisions with logs or close
encounters with large ships. That is until Seth woke me around 3
a.m. for my next watch.

Two dark lumps of clouds loomed ominously ahead to both port and
starboard. The next thing I knew I was getting spanked by 20-knot
headwinds and a sloppy five-foot chop. Swell‘s luck at
Cabo Blanco had failed again. As I reefed and tacked and fought the
winds into daylight, Seth somehow managed to stay asleep. clark%20stormy%20sunset.JPG Finally a wave washed over the bow and
down the forward hatch. Not only did he get a rude and salty
awakening, but the water drenched the bed, pillows, and half my
wardrobe too. My sacred area always a clean, dry escape from the
elements-had been defaced by the sea. The battle persisted into
midday. I cursed the winds and kept my eye on our destination.

We tacked all the way up into Herradura bay, the closest place
that offered shelter. Just before dark we pulled past the breakwall
of the swanky Los Suenos Marina and tied up to the fuel dock.
Neither of us had really eaten or slept, so as the man at the dock
drizzled diesel into my tank, I staggered over to the marina office
to inquire about slips.

As I approached the glass doors to the office my reflection
stopped me. My hair was wind-whipped and had launched skyward,
looking like backwash when it hits an incoming wave. My shirt was
inside-out and crusted with salt and my trunks hung low and rumpled
from my hips. The “marlin thumpers” and their groomed women stared
and then looked past me like people tend to do when they see
someone with a painful handicap.

I didn’t care. I was about to pass out. I pulled open the door
and slid past my frightening reflection, greeting the lady behind
the counter with my warmest, “Buenas tardes”. She saw the desperate
look in my eye, but could do nothing to change the $140 per night
slip fee. “And we’re going to have to come down and measure your
boat to make sure it’s 40 feet,” she added.

“Thanks anyway,” I mumbled and pushed back out into the thick
humidity. I snuck into the marina showers on my way back and stood,
fully clothed under the fresh water before pulling Swell
back out past the rows of spotless power yachts. As quickly as my
35-pound Bruce anchor hit the sand, I hit my soggy pillow.

The roll in the anchorage worsened progressively through the
night. With the pile of wet clothes and bedding, the disaster in
the cabin, and grime still lingering from the “boys trip,” we woke
up and decided that a day at the dock was worth whatever the price.
So for the second time, I swung open that glass door (this time
avoiding eye contact with myself) and firmly requested a slip. Dan
had planned to meet us here, and he appeared magically with his
charge card and paid for the night at the dock so that we could
spend the following morning at a nearby reef. Seth decided to catch
a bus south to visit friends in Dominical for a few days while I
took some time clean and repair Swell for the next
southern haul.

I sprinted down the splinterless teak docks, re-energized by the
thought of 24 free hours there. Immediately I sprung into cleaning,
reorganizing, and repairing. By mid-morning the thick clouds parted
and the sun threw its tropical heat onto the cushions, bedding, and
pillows I had spread across “my” dock. By early afternoon, I had
completely taken over. My laundry line was strung from pillar to
pillar, my tunes floated up from the cockpit, and I dashed between
bucket laundry, fixing my headsail, deep-cleaning the stove, and
scrubbing Swell inside and out.

I nearly choked on a mouthful of tomato and cheese when a
uniformed man knocked on the hull. I got it down, wiped the sweat
from my eyes, and faced authority. He handed over a thick, stapled
packet that read “LOS SUENOS MARINA, RULES AND REGULATIONS” in bold
black print and motioned toward my colorful laundry line and the
dock that looked like I was hosting a 5th grade slumber party. He
requested, with a smile, that I remove the articles. I agreed to
comply immediately, smugly knowing that they were almost dry
anyway.

Just as my dock circus wound down, yet another commenced. A
spaceship-turned-watercraft entered the marina and my spectacle was
soon forgotten. Earthrace tied to the fuel dock across the
way. The words “100% Biodeisel” caught my eye, but I was too busy
to join in the gawking. My hours of daylight at the dock were
dwindling. I then heard, “Liz!” from the deck of the sleek silver
boat. We shouted back and forth and although we’d never met, the
girl said that she worked aboard Santa Barbara harbor’s Sunset
Kidd
.

I launched the longboard and paddled over to meet Mary Childs,
who gave me a tour of the Earthrace and explained that she
was temporary crew, helping get the craft to Florida before it
started on its race to be the fastest motorcraft to encircle the
globe, without the use of fossil fuels! The idea was to promote the
use of biodeisel and alternative energy sources.

I loved it! What a treat to behold this conglomeration of
environmental ingenuity and design technology, and to meet its crew
of earth-minded ambassadors, especially Mary. It was all too
coincidental that on their one-night stop in Central America, I
happened to be tied up less than 50 feet away. clark%20earthrace.JPG She was learning to sail with one of my
favorite sailors, Captain Kyle, as crew on their sunset and
whale-watching tours in Santa Barbara. I joined Mary and the crew
of Earthrace for dinner that evening and relished in
memories of my friends in the S.B. harbor with her. I miss that
place so much!

Tune in next week as the Swell does it’s thing in
and around the Osa Peninsula and three members of the Patagonia
women’s surf team come aboard for some warm-water wave-sliding
fun.

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