I don’t usually date surfers, but J. made me laugh so hard. He was a strapping, 23-year-old goofball and we met, yes, surfing. I have a standard abhorrence of other watermen, as they are often loud and obnoxious, and drop the word “brah” every third sentence or so.
But he was different because he was making fun of everyone else when he used surf lingo such as “brah” and “get pitted.” He was seriously unserious about surfing, and that’s what I found attractive.
We frequented the pristine Los Angeles surf spots like entitled locals, but often we were just pretending to know what we were doing.
“Let’s charge Point Dume, babe,” he whispered in my ear one morning at 5 a.m. I groaned but let his boxer pup pull off the sheets and nudge me out of bed. I grabbed my bikini and pulled it on, but not before he tugged at the strings.
“Sure you want to wear that? You’d steal all the waves if you didn’t.”
PCH was clear up until Santa Monica, where they were working on the bridge. I sucked on the salt from last night, the tequila still on my tongue.
“Surfing is great for hangovers, babe.”
By the time we found parking, it was crowded and barreling. Perfect conditions.
I stubbed my toe running down the trail, but I didn’t care. Soon I was in my silky blue world, streamlining my hands like airplanes over the water as I dug in and paddling for a wave. They were sharp rights, rocks underneath, seals slipping below. It was the best session we’d had all summer. We caught one last wave together, he going left, me going right, and we laughed. I’d never felt happier with anyone I’d ever dated.
We were blissful in our surfer paradise.
I was surprised about how much I had grown to like him. It was slow at first; I thought he was too silly, unorganized and hasty. But I began to realize about myself that the longer it takes me to like someone, the stronger I end up feeling.
We went to parties together, hailed as that cute surfer couple living the good life in sunny California. We laughed at ourselves, at the image we presented to the world purely by accident. We were only doing what we loved, and somehow that was seen as idyllic.
It was a summer of love through the hot months of July and August, September bringing a lull in the waves and our relationship. I was researching graduate schools; he was trying to study for his contractor’s license. I had just come back from a trip to Oregon to check out schools when he told me, “I don’t see us having a future together.”
Excuse me, what?
I had just gotten out of the shower and sat on his bed, shocked. He politely handed me a towel, but I threw it at him and put my clothes back on.
“I don’t understand.”
The “Endless Summer” poster mocked us. He sat down next to me. This summer had been fun, he explained, adding, “I really like you. But I don’t see us going anywhere.”
My words were soon unintelligible, garbled like slushy waves, seaweed caught in my throat: “I don’t know why you’re doing this.”
Before I left, I told him, “I could have fallen in love with you, if you’d let me.”
I cried in the parking lot outside his apartment for an hour. A family looking for a parking spot drove up in their minivan, asking through my rolled-down window if I would be leaving soon, causing more tears. Yes, I would be leaving soon.
After we broke up, I didn’t surf for weeks. I couldn’t look at the water and not think of his blue eyes, crooked smile and easy finesse on the waves. I stayed far away from my first love — the ocean — because it reminded me of my second.
When a swell came in mid-October, I pulled my wetsuit out of the closet and tied my longboard to the top of my car. I went to Palos Verdes, to Bluff Cove, where we’d first met, and hiked down the trail with my board tucked under my arm.
I kept my eyes peeled for him, certain I would see him. There was a truck parked at the top of the hill that could have been his. I held my breath as I paddled out from the rocky beach, ducking my head under a wave as I made my way out to the lineup. There was a nice 3- to 4-foot set rolling in, and I took off on a wave, a perfect left. I made my bottom turn and then carved right, toes on the nose.
I felt like I had the entire ocean to myself, a wide expanse of experiences ahead of me, one wave after another, if only I was brave enough to go after them alone.
Hove is at work on her first novel. She is on Instagram @camillehove
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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