Editor’s note: In Jaimal Yogis’s new memoir, All Our Waves Are Water, he meets an older surfer, Jimmy, who was in a cerebral malaria coma for months and has since had to relearn how to talk and walk all over again, becoming – as he was before the coma – a deft tube rider. Below, an excerpt from Jaimal’s first time at Padang with Jimmy.
“Any words of wisdom?” I asked Jimmy.
He flashed a grin.
“Believe,” he said.
It was bright and sunny, but I felt chilly as we bobbed between sets. I repeated Jimmy’s advice silently: Believe, believe, believe. Believe, believe, believe . . .
The ocean was calm, and we floated there for a good ten minutes, waiting for a pulse. When the next set came, it seemed the sea had been storing power. The swells were mountainous as they rose under the sky. My instinct was to paddle for the horizon so none of these behemoths broke on top of me, which was exactly what the other six surfers did. But Jimmy ticked his head toward the beach, urging me to hold ground. Apparently, we were already in the zone.
The first swell began to show boils, tracking the indentations of the reef. The other surfers in the pack began to thrash for it, but they were too far out.
“Go, go!” Jimmy nodded, shouting a whisper.
My brain didn’t want to go. But my body seemed to move anyway. Paddling as hard as I ever had, the water sucked me up, up, up to the crest. I stood. But it was too late. The wave was already going concave. And like that, I was airborne.
In that blink of weightlessness, I smashed my back foot down on the board’s tail, an attempt to feel the face of the wave, to keep from nose-diving. I knew this was unlikely to stop me. I almost surrendered to a horrid fall. But it worked. My fins touched vertical blue liquid. I landed with my feet positioned on the wax. And I began zooming down the mountain.
The wave was fast and smooth. It shimmered, and I enjoyed the raw speed. But as I transitioned to at sea, the bass of the wave seemed to hiccup. It dropped below surface level, slurping against the reef, and I realized that I had never seen a wave look anything like this. It didn’t even look much like a wave. It looked more like a blue-green subway tunnel that had been chopped in half and was falling from space.
The blue circuit warped and bent into a tunnel so long it seemed that I would have to be going the speed of a subway to have any hope of making it to the end. Looking down, I could see the coral seeming to rise. Water, of course, can form optical illusions, but there looked to be only a foot or two of water down there.
There was no going back though. I heard a whistle in my ear as the wind rushed past. I leaned onto my heels, trying to veer left, the direction the wave was peeling. But as the water encased me, it didn’t matter which way I wanted to go. The wave was in control. Just as Jimmy had said, time was different in here. In here, there was just the echo of water on stone. This and this and this. Somehow my board seemed to continue with me continuing to stand on it. Blue, blue, blue. The roar, the roar, the roar. The light at the end of it.
I kept floating through until a burst of foam hit me from behind and I was—could it be possible? — going to . . .
Make it . . . Out . . . Please . . . YES!
Jaimal Yogis’ latest book All Our Waves Are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride from Harper Wave publishing will be available on July 4.