Musings on the Coast


Just Do It

We each measure our own aging in various fashions, mostly by ascertaining what we no longer can do. For me, it is

body-boarding, a type of surfing I love.  In each of the last 12 years, I have made a deliberate trip to my favorite island, Kauai, and favorite surfing beach there, Poipu Point, to re-measure again.

This year’s annual trip to Kauai lasted only seven days, including travel days. Not much.   But it was all the time my son, Harrison, 16, had before his summer school started.


The vacations to Kauai started in 1999. My whole family went, all five of us. We took a full month each year while the children were old enough to have fun and young enough not to be bored.


But let me explain about surfing.


I grew up surfing in Newport and I loved it.  I missed it, though, when I moved to Los Angeles for undergrad and graduate school/work; and then moved to NYC in the employ of a huge international company at their corporate headquarters on Park Avenue.  It was heady stuff there in the heart of the beast. Leaving that to return to the sticks in OC was more than difficult, but I did it in good part because I wanted to surf again.


In my early 30s, I discovered Poipu Beach on Kauai’s south shore and returned as often as possible. So, it was no coincidence our “family vacation house” came to be located on Kauai near Poipu Beach. It meant I could have an uninterrupted month long annual surfing vacation.


Harrison grew to like surfing too, but the island lost its allure for the three females in the family, none of whom are beach girls. They are more of the order-food-from-the-cabana-at-the-local Sheraton types.


Also, both the island and my surf spot became too popular and too crowded. Poipu Point can accommodate 10 to 15 surfers in the water at one time, but often 40 or 50 would swarm the waves and furiously jostle for position.


More important, as I aged, it got harder. Body-boarding requires continuous kicking with your fins, and my calves, bigger than normal, always were prone to cramps. I could spend 40 minutes stretching them out, but no matter what, after an hour or so in the waves I had problems.


Further, a year ago I developed a pinched nerve (too much jogging?) in my lower back and it hurt like hell and the doctors told me to avoid activities that would exacerbate it, like body-boarding.


So as I went this year with my surfing son and his friend, it was a challenge. Could I still do it? And if so, would I still be any good?


The first question was answered the first day. I could. My back actually got better.  The second question was answered the last day when a goodly surge hit Kauai’s south shore and the waves broke overhead at Poipu. I paddled out and killed it.  I was in a zone. I was so hot the locals cheered me. The waves came one after another: catch one, hiss across the crumbling surface, then paddle out and here comes yet another one.   It lasted two full hours and I pushed it as hard as I could before not just my calves, but my feet and shoulders all cramped.


The whole experience and my life felt is if it was out of the sports ad with the tagline, “Just Do It.” I did. It felt sweet and pure. I was in my element once again and young.


Laguna Beach resident Michael Ray grew up in Newport.








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