Musings on the Coast: The Midnight Surfer

By Michael Ray.
By Michael Ray.

I keep having a dream I am on a body board and surfing the airwaves high above Laguna.

I’ve been a surfer all my life and understand ocean waves.  The best are thin, steep ones that break in a collapsing line you skim across at great speed.   The worst are thick crunchers that burst out and down.   The bursts are predictable; there only is so much a wave can do.  But once the wave hits the water’s surface, the predictability vanishes.  The energy punches down, hits its own wall of resistance and ruptures up and out.  This is when it is chaotic.  This is when surfers lose control and are tossed violently. This is what they fear.

The air I surf is the same.  I am at Irvine Cove with an onshore breeze that hits the cliffs and thrusts upward.  I am at the top of the crest looking down. I see people far below on the beach. I cannot see the airwave but I can feel it.   The fluid dynamics of air and water are the same. Even without seeing the airwave, I can sense it. I know it.  It is mine.

I am surfing south and accelerate by skidding sideways down the wall of air, like you do on a wave.   The trick is to slide down far enough to obtain the speed but not so far you flatten out and stall into the swell, lose control, get sucked up and thrown out.  I can feel how far down I’ve slid, trim up and gather into the air’s curl.  I gather velocity and jam past Emerald Bay, Crescent, Divers’, Main Beach, Brooks, Three Arch. At Dana Point, I rise to the crest, whirl midair and reverse direction.

This time it is pure speed.  My teeth are bared.  I am screaming.  Then I hit midtown and follow the coastal hills up Broadway to the Festival and the Irvine Bowl. It is summer and early evening and thousands mill below. I hang there, zig-zaging, peering below. Those down there are mere humans.  I whip north again.

This time, it is another world.  The cliffs are high and steep, not like Laguna’s mild softness, and the colors are so vibrant I can see the airwaves.   They are dangerous now, but I do not care.  My speed blurs. I am alive and alone and in my element and on the edge.


Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach.  He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.

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