I had no idea that summer was a verb until I started summering in Rhode Island. Now, each July, I roll up to the Ocean State to hold a camp at the same small private beach. I meet the nicest people, teach them how to ride waves, shoot a round at the pitch-n-putt, play tennis on fake grass, ride go karts, sip mixed drinks, read by the pool, eat fresh-caught seafood and fresh-dipped ice cream, and since there always seems to be swell, I surf. You see how that last part could cause a problem.
For the first time, I was looking forward to summering as much as I look forward to getting in the car and hearing that “Hey brother” song on the radio. Which is to say that the thought of summering without surfing made me want to veer off the Delaware Memorial Bridge and plunge to my death.
This year, the waves once again turned on for us. (Noooooo! Whyyyyyyyy?!) It was pushing head high, and one of the neighboring beachbreaks was thumping. I hadn’t seen a legitimate wave in months, so the sight of wedging peaks sent me into a wicked pisser. After almost 200 days of surflessness, I still experience those moments of, “Yes, I’m out there!” The flashes of stoke last less than a full second and are invariably followed by a more sobering thought, usually something like, “Aww, shit!”
Regardless, looking at the most inviting waves I’d seen all year, I felt a gravitational pull that was irresistable. I had to get in the water. It was suggested, possibly by my conscience, that I commandeer a board from the family quiver at the house I was staying in, or even a camp softie, and paddle out. That’s what any rational person would do. My rationality, as you know, is on sabbatical for 2014.
Then, another thought. At 400 miles from First Street, I could do it and no one would care. I could cheat and get away with it. I could come back home, pick up the whole non-surfing thing if I felt like it, and no one would know any different. Unfortunately, I suffer from Lincoln’s Syndrome, a rare condition akin to being bound by Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.
If only I had a GoPro, I lamented aloud to the groms and Surf Mom. “We have one,” she squealed. After a brief tutorial from Jack, the youngest of the bunch, I was waddling into the shorepound with swimfins and a pole cam, intent on making heroes of the lot of them.
If I said I had no desire to yank one of the kids off his board and indulge, I’d be lying. I wanted to catch a wave, but only to show the boys what they were missing by not taking off at the peak. Instead, I filmed them and swam under a couple hours worth of the sort of peaks that make me love to summer in this part of the world.
Somehow, without being propelled shoreward a single time, I left the water satiated. Treading water and dunking beneath waves isn’t surfing, but it’s way more satisfying than pedaling a bike around town with a seat halfway up my ass or sweating balls all over an elliptical machine. I’m heading back to Rhode Island in a couple weeks for another camp. There will be waves. I won’t surf. Summering, it turns out, is okay without it.