Sitting Off the Beach

sleepyeyeegyptianOil and Offshore

Nov 8, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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Sitting Off the Beach


by Adam Preskill


SAN DIEGO


People love ocean views. They drive real estate prices sky high, turn
nothing towns into coastal paradises, and coax tourists thousands of miles just for a look.

But I’ll trade a view of the ocean for a v
iew from the ocean anytime. Last week I
took a trip down to San Diego, California, and over the last few years, visits to my
hometown have come to mean one thing: as much surfing as possible.

People always ask me if I miss the ocean living landlocked in th
e mountains. And I
do

other things just keep me busy, other ideas and interests take precedence.

But often I forget what I’m missing until I’m back there, immersed in that unique
perspective that only surfers really get to know. You spend most of your time

in the water
staring out to sea like everyone else at the beach: trying to see the next set, monitoring
your status within the moving mass of the crowd as you position yourself for the next
wave. But then there’s a long lull, and you slowly pivot around,
board bobbing up and
down underneath you like a floating sofa. And there’s the view that you’re not used to
seeing: the coast from the outside in.

My last night in town, I set out for the beach in the late afternoon with an evening
glass
-
off session in mi
nd. I pulled up to the parking lot at my chosen spot on the north
end of Pacific Beach just as the wind was dying on the surface of the sea, small waves
tumbling over fickle sandbars in the rising tide. I paddled out, caught a few cruisers and
sat back to

wait for the sunset. The break I’d chosen at the tip of Tourmaline Street was
right where the sandstone cliffs of La Jolla’s residential neighborhoods crumble into beach
sand at the start of the commercial strip to the south. To one side, the clifftops an
d the
water seemed in a terrible rush to meet: iceplant crowned with purple flowers reached its
tendrils over the edge of the 30
-
foot face to the piles of kelp and cobblestones, while the
beach ate into the cliff from below, undercutting the dusty brown st
one in giant bites. On
my other side, Crystal Pier stretched out beyond the surfline, the blue roofs of the tiny
guest cottages running its length glowing a faint lavender in the fading light. A cream
-
colored moon rose over the tops of the skinny palms.


Sunset is an event on a clear weekend night at the beach, and I could see passers
-
by
start to linger for that ultimate moment of sun slipping silently into sea. The California
sun seems to lose its power as sunset draws close: suddenly you can stare right
into its
fiery center, see the circular outline hidden in the fluttering ball of flames. The world
around you fades, colors dull, but the air twinkles. The brown stripe that so stubbornly
encircles the horizon bonds with the rest of the sky, layers of tan
and blue that were
separated like stripes in a parfait melting together into a purple grey. And then the sun
hits the water, pixellating into tiny blocks at its edge like a Tetris piece snapping into
place on the horizon, sinking down and down until in a s
plit second that last tiny dot of
orange is gone and the moment is over. You look around, but nothing else has really
changed.

Around the same time on the very next night, I was 800 miles away driving to a
campground at Highline Lake State Park outside Fru
ita, Colorado to stay the night. As I
neared the lake, a portable highway sign blinked its orange LEDs at me: “Beach opens
May 8.” I pulled into the campground, a tree
-
lined patch of grass on the edge of the lake
scarred by gravel parking spots and plastic

posts with campsite numbers. Where the
campground met the shore, the lake reached watery fingers up onto a flat beach of fine
sand


a stark contrast from the scrub brush and sandstone that lined the rest of the
reservoir. A line of buoys stood guard over
a perimeter, protecting imagined bathers
against wayward boaters.

The sun was just starting to set, and the sky had turned a deep tangerine. Miles
away to the east, pink clouds hovered like giant balls of cotton candy. Two fisherman slid
by in a boat with

the motor cut, taking a slow route back to the dock before dark.

It was a great sunset. But it was no ocean view.