Something about Spring-even the barely perceptible variety of it in Lower California-makes me think of the few years I spent in New York; specifically my occasional ventures out to the east end of Long Island. The arrival of warm air in the City, usually some time in early May, spells hope, freedom, and a good excuse to blow off responsibilities of any kind and get outside. It can also means fun waves; late season low pressure systems in the North Atlantic, or early tropical depressions flair up sending New York and New England fine swell on occasion. Regardless of where they are coming from, the important thing is that there are waves in the water, it's hot in the City, and there is work to ditch.
After several months in Winter's grip, I was overcome by indescribable joy at the onset of Summer. Like youth itself had come back to reside in my veins; I felt wild, unpredictable, ready to tear off my clothes and bound among the blooming fields. I put in long hours during the dark, cold Winter days, always staying late in the wood shop where I was employed; finishing commission work or tinkering on my own designs. Now that the sun was shining I would make up for lost time. Of course, we did get waves in the colder months; in fact the best swells of the year occur during this time. But there is an intuitive aversion to wading into frozen waters that robs some of the joy of surfing, at least for me. The rich, warm air of that first heat wave though, had me checking the swell charts like a captain at sea. Any trace of a frontal system out in the Atlantic would send my head spinning with visions of sun drenched sand bottom peaks unfurling between the jetty rocks of Long Beach and Rockaway.
If I really wanted to get serious about ditching work; a trip Out East was in order, usually with Naxto. An old surf buddy from college, Naxto's life has taken roughly the same itinerant trajectory as my own; landing him in several of the same coastal towns around the country where we've undertaken numerous adventures, with mixed results. One Summer found us both in Brooklyn, and he was even more excitable than myself regarding optimistic swell reports. I would be in the shop, trying in earnest to concentrate on some impending deadline; when my phone would erupt with frantic messages full of phrases like 'going off' and 'mental,' usually accompanied by 'out east' and 'let's take the van.' By 'the van' he of course meant my van, seeing how Naxto was carless. It was a haul out there and lodgings were spartan (usually wherever said van was parked or somewhere nearby), but once the forecast looked promising and we'd made up our minds there was no changing course; we were going Out East, waves or no waves.
One trip several years ago stands out; a hurricane swell thoroughly covered by surfing media and well attended in the water. It was Irene, if I remember correctly, and the storm stalled out in the North Atlantic sending fun waves to the whole of the Northeast for a week. The sun was out, it was warm but not humid, and the winds were light. Naxto and I arrived to thumping beach break tubes in the Hamptons and surfed more or less alone; a stray wave rider or two making an appearance. Everyone else was sitting shoulder to shoulder out at Ditch Plains or some similar nonsense. The water was clearer than usual; a dark emerald, and cool enough to be refreshing yet without need for a wetsuit. For a few days I could have been in Nicaragua or Bocas del Toro.
The first day passed like a dream. A steady rhythm of shimmering swells unfurling over shapely sand banks, punctuated only by quick breaks on shore to roll a cigarette and chomp some homemade granola. At midday the tide was out and the head high waves were draining off the shallow bar; creating wide open green tubes, sunlit and translucent. Naxto navigated the cylinders with true panache; manipulating his rather large frame with the nimbleness of a ballerina. It was almost more exciting just to watch him thread one of the fast, hollow waves; coming out of the barrel and laying into a powerful, arcing cutback than it was taking lefts and rights of my own. Only one thing topped watching my old comrade glide and trim; taking off on a tall, wedging peak-'back dooring' it, squeezing my person into the almond tube and flying by Naxto as he howled approval. That happened exactly once.
I can't remember if we took any trips after that; I'm sure we did but none that hold up in memory. It was towards the end of that Summer, I remember that much. Fitting in a way since it was sort of the end of an era; Naxto and I left Brooklyn the following Spring, both seeking firmer financial ground. Two restless, wayward college surf buddies in search of some stability. Though it's been a few years and I've since travelled many places; when I'm behind on a deadline in the shop these days, exhausted, buried under a stack of hardwood and drawings, my mind escapes not to some idyllic tropical locale, but those golden sands and spinning ocean swells back Out East.