Bodysurfing Ocean Beach, San Diego & Hipsters and Hippies IPA
by James Murren
I park the car a block from the beach, getting lucky by not having to look around for a spot. My wetsuit is in the trunk. Waves are rolling in, but I cannot see them. Faintly, I hear them. Going to be a little on the cold side, I tell myself.
One leg in and then the other, pull the torso section up and get my arms in, reach back for the long zipper pull, grab it and voila, I have some protection wrapped around my body. Smear some sun screen on your face. I grab my fins and walk to the water.
Surveying the wave that crashes out from where lifeguard tower 2 normally stands at Ocean Beach, it is breaking left. The tower is gone for the season. Good form, not great, but I am here and so begin walking to the water’s edge. I walk in, the initial shock not being there. I take a few more steps; the sand below my feet feels hard. No rip is present. I take a deep breath and offer thanks and respect to the ocean.
I crouch down with my back to the whitewater. Quickly, I slide my fins onto my feet and then turn and face the oncoming water. Dive down. It is cold to me, somewhere around 64 degrees with the air temperature a little more than that. Why has my tolerance for cold water waned over the years? Get in 30 minutes and call it a day, enters my head. Relax. Don’t put time constraints on it. Be in the ocean.
I swim past the break, catch my breath, and look up and down the coast. I tread water, playing the waiting game. Another body surfer is out this morning, farther up the coast about a hundred feet. Surfers are down coast, by the pier. Seeing people in the water puts a smile on my face. Ocean rhythms have their way.
A swell comes and I am lined up. Hmm? This one looks a little bigger, maybe closer to five feet. Nice. I got this. Turn. Kick. Kick. Kick some more. I am too high and need to get down. Hold on, Jim, you are going to get tossed. I do. I am head over heels and thinking, let it roll. The water feels heavy, thick even, and it is not rushing fast. It pushes me down.
Swimming back out, I kind of have a goofy grin on my face. That was not fun. Nevertheless, it is good every now and then to feel the ocean’s power.
Waiting, more waiting, and then brown pelicans, three of them, fly by, low, dipping to the water’s surface, but their wings and bellies not getting wet. I think of their recovery and how they have survived as a species. There is joy in seeing animals in their element. Am I in mine?
Scanning in the direction of the horizon, another wave approaches and I am ready for it. Line it up, turn, and I kick and kick some more and then the magic feeling of body surfing happens. My left hand is out in front and the right one is back over my head. My back is arched; chest is up and out of the water. I am sliding.
I soon bring both hands together and put them out in front of me. The wave rolls on me and I ride along with it, immersed in the whitewater as it rumbles towards shore. Pulling out, I pop my head and let out a little laughter. Fun. Good ole fun.
My shoulders turn and I swim back out past the breakers. I want to have more fun.
My wet wetsuit is back in the trunk. Glad that the sun is shining and there is no marine layer, I walk to Pizza Port Brewing Company. It is becoming a bit of ritual, for me: body surf, beer, and a bite to eat.
I take a quick look at the beers on tap. It is San Diego Beer Week. New offerings are on the board, including some fresh hop drafts, amidst their classics. Wait. What is that? Hipsters and Hippies, a hazy IPA. It is a collaborative effort between North Park Beer Company in San Diego and Pizza Port, brewed in Ocean Beach.
Yep, it is hazy. I get pineapple. One of the guys pouring pints says he gets a lot of citrus, for sure. We talk more beer geek language, playing out our inner hipsters, perhaps. The color reminds me of drinking mai tais on a sail boat off the Kona coast. How wonderful the human mind and memories can be. How interesting the visual cues that trigger memory, like how a song can transport you.
Thinking back on years of playing in the ocean, from childhood to now, I smile in the thought that new memories are forthcoming.