My Last Ditch
Smoke filled the kitchen as a pungent liquid splashed from the pot. My dad remarked that had I been wearing a gas mask and lab coat, I would have fit right into Breaking Bad. He stepped aside to allow me to return to the stove and the wax I was concocting for my surfboard. A simple mixture of beeswax, coconut oil and tree sap could be blended to produce the perfect wax, or so I learned through my google search. Two days gathering materials and an afternoon stove-side yielded a puck-sized disc of wax. As a kid, my parents instilled in me the value of doing things for myself. When my brother and I played soccer, my dad delegated the production of the goals to us. We scavenged through construction sites for two-by-fours and nails, just the two of us, until we were ready for the power-saw. And why buy wax when you can make it yourself?
The next morning I woke up early to wax my board for grip and control. I used half the disc, grabbed my board, and rocketed towards Ditch Plains. Driving to Ditch on the weekend meant bumper to bumper traffic through Amagansett and all the way to Montauk. Luckily, the roads were deserted as the early morning fog filled the air. Even in my anxious caffeine-frenzied state, the straight, monotonous asphalt of the stretch seemed to linger on forever. I finally pulled into the barren parking lot and prepared for the moment of truth. The view from the top of the sand dune revealed ideal conditions: Perfect waves and no one in sight. I wasn’t concerned about being alone with the ocean as I had surfed my entire life. Ditch was my home beach so evading boulders and finding the optimal spot in the expansive sea was clockwork to me. I sprinted into the water and paddled past the break. The water rose behind me as I paddled hard. As I sprung up, my front foot slipped and I face-planted into the sandy bottom. I tried again. Same result. After 90 minutes of paddling and wipe-outs, I cursed my faulty wax and called it a day.
As I headed back to the car, another surfer pulled up. He forgot to bring wax and asked if I had any. I told him that I had some homemade wax but it was garbage. He used it anyway and made the trek out to the ocean. I decided to stay and watch to see if this guy would have better luck. He took off on a huge wave. In my head I already knew what would happen. His feet would ignore the board like the soles of sneakers ignoring an icy patch of frozen sidewalk, and he would slip. Much to my amazement, the surfer stood up without incident, and completed a perfect ride. In rapid succession and flawless grace, the surfer repeated the move three times. Could he have somehow located and substituted another wax? Was his board superior?
My morning was a failure. And a success. Usually, wax is not one of the most important things in the world. But, like anything else, in the right moment, it can be. I am aware that some things require more than an online recipe. I followed the directions, but I know there is more to life than formulas. After all, if cooking was simply a matter of following recipes, everyone with a cookbook would be a chef. Perhaps I had the temperature wrong, or the sap too thick. And I had to accept that the wax was only a small component; the main factor was me. Losing one’s balance and falling is unsettling, but it’s probably worse for one who fancies herself a ballerina. I had seen myself as a practiced surfer, so the day’s setback was compounded by the realization that I couldn’t just blame the wax. I recognize I must improve my skill through practice and adopting a new mindset. I’ve grasped that getting worked up over my failure to catch a wave was futile. For now, though, I’m going to share the blame with Google’s deceptively seductive simplicity. Perhaps my uncle was right when he said, “Google’s just a synonym for ‘majority opinion,’ not fact or experience.”
Tomorrow and the days following there will be plenty of time to test my surfing with that wax. And other wax. I hope.
The rocky coastline of Montauk was where I transitioned from a boy to a man. Most people can’t pinpoint the exact moment where they shed their childish cocoon and blossomed into adulthood, but that solitary morning at Ditch Plains will forever define my personality. I’ve learned more lessons surfing that notorious wave than I have in any classroom. Just as the waves have slowly shaped out the rough cliffs, they have shaped me into a better person. The friendly and caring surfing community has taught me lessons that translate to my daily life. The East End, but more specifically, “The End” has forged my path towards maturation and will forever be my home.