I am in the water. Alone. Facing into the setting sun. One of the joys of surfing is the wait; sitting on my board in the swell.
There is a wave. I am momentarily blinded by the sun's rays but I can feel the pull on my legs and know the power of it. It's big. Bigger than I am comfortable with. There isn't enough time to paddle into the sun and past the wave, avoiding it. It's coming for me and I am alone.
I turn my board into the twilight and, glancing back over one shoulder, start paddling to shore. I paddle hard, harder than I've ever paddled. I dig in with both arms and feel the wave lift me. Pressing up with my arms, I pull my legs beneath me and spring to my feet. Crouch. Grab the inner rail of the board. I am flying.
I creep up the board to compensate. I am aware of the power of the ocean, the sun painting the foam before me, the beach almost black. This is more wave than I have ever ridden. This is more than I can handle.
Don't think. Just feel. Feel the water, the heat of the sun, the solidity of the board. Breathe. There is a moment of tranquility and I am filled with a sense of exhilaration. This is freedom!
It vanishes suddenly. I feel myself floating. There is no wave. I step back and crouch down, reconnecting with the water and slide down the wave's face. It is bigger than I am.
At the bottom of the wave I turn back into it, try and cut up and over, try to keep standing. This is too much wave and I am insignificant. I am nothing.
Back up the face, white water chasing me. It breaks to the right, and as I surf goofy-footed my back is to it. I can't fully see the monster. At the top of the wave I turn back down, aim my board, head down, breathe a sigh. I am okay. I can ride this.
That is when my board disappears. That is when I see my feet before my face and realize they are not under me where they should be. I have barely enough time to thrust my body away from where my board should be and twist backwards into the deepest part of the wave. Instinctively my arms cover my head. I feel the impact of the board, the violence of the wave, the water churning. I don't know which way is up.
The ocean surrounds me, presses me down, compacts me. My lungs scream with heat but I don't open my mouth. Try to stay calm. I struggle to reach my left ankle and fumble for the leash that is attached to my surfboard. Follow it hand over hand. The board floats. That is up. Find the board. Hand over hand.
My head breaks the surface and I take great gulps of air. My hair has come loose from its braid and is plastered to my face, obscuring my vision. But I don't need to see. The wave has passed. Another comes.
I scramble quickly onto my board and lie on my belly. Hanging on, I let the white water push me to the shore.
On the beach. Darkness. Moonlight. Vague phosphorescence. Crash of waves. All I hear is my heart, in my ears, in my chest. My whole body throbs. I can feel the dull ache of what will later be horrific bruises on my forearms, from where the board hit.
Today, I felt that same intensity in my heart, the same rhythm as the drum. It fills me. And I remember the water. The moment in the darkness, not knowing surface from ocean floor. The moment of choice.
The drums bring the water and I feel Robin, diving down.