The shrill of my cell phone alarm cuts through the quiet of morning’s first hours. I fumble to silence it so as not to wake my family, who don’t necessarily share my excitement at catching the ocean’s first offering of waves. I have always loved waking up early. There is something empowering about being up before the sun, basking in the introspection that always seems to come during the pre-dawn hours. I usually do my best thinking early in the morning, but profound thoughts need encouragement in order to fully develop, which for me comes in the form of strong coffee. I tip-toe into the kitchen, fill the various components of my coffee machine to the necessary levels, and let it do its thing. Meanwhile, I gather my board, towel, booties, and wetsuit, which is still damp from yesterday’s session. A quick check of the surf forecast shows a fun-sized swell on tap at my local break – not the best wind direction or tide for a morning session, but afternoon responsibilities make dawn patrol my only option today. The coffee machine beeps, signaling that my life-fuel is ready, and I pour the steaming liquid into a stainless steel thermos. No milk. No sugar.
Board, wetsuit, booties, and towel are tossed haphazardly into the backseat of my brother’s beat-up Toyota Celica. Good on gas, poor on sex appeal. The drive from my house to my favorite local point break takes about 45 minutes. The anticipation of getting into the water causes me to speed more than I should, but there aren’t many other cars on the road at this hour. I pull into the parking lot just as the sun is cresting over the horizon, casting a brilliant orange glare on my windshield. All of the usual suspects are there: The crusty longboarder, who I am certain lives in his camper van and more often than not manages to be in perfect position when the set of the morning arrives. The 40-something corporate hotshot driving a Beamer, getting in a few waves before trading stocks or selling insurance or doing something that involves a lot of money. The hipster guy with the ‘Flock of Seagulls’ bangs who can contort his emaciated frame into unbelievable positions, somehow managing to get himself and his 10ft. longboard legit barrel time on tiny ankle-slappers. The Prius-driving soccer mom, whose rear windshield has one of those ‘My Family’ stickers, each cartoon figure of her clan holding a surfboard underneath its arm. I wonder about the morning routines of these and other locals who surf this break every day. I assume it’s probably not much different from mine.
I suit up as quickly as possible, trying hard not to step on the cold, wet ground with my bare feet. A quick coat of wax, and I jog to the edge of the cliff overlooking the point. Through the fog of my breath against the chill air, I see them – beautiful 4-foot peelers, starting at the point and maintaining their shape all the way to the rock-strewn beach at the base of the cliff. The sun is almost fully risen now, perfectly backlighting the blue-green walls. I breath in the winter air deeply as an involuntary smile creeps across my face. Walking to the entrance of the staircase descending to the beach, I can’t help but think that this isn’t a bad way to start the day.