So after twenty or so dawn patrols, the dates of which were always determined by Rom’s wave readings, I began to trust his judgment, and we both began to trust my surfing. When the day came that the treacherous Third Bay was finally breaking in a manner that didn’t look like it would crush us into shark treats (with scant waves of, say, only twelve-foot faces), it only took a little arm-twisting from Rom to pique my interest.
“It can’t hurt to check it out,” Rom said, “Let’s just have us a look-see.”
Ryan and I agreed to have a look–only a look. We paddled through First Bay, stopping at Second Bay to catch some rolling tumblers. The water was a deep clear turquoise. I didn’t even need to see Third Bay; this was perfect.
“Well, that’s enough of this kiddy stuff,” Rom said. “Shall we, gents?”
Like sheep, we followed. Stupid sheep.
I usually liked to think of the sea as a nurturing mother, a giver of life. But as we rounded the lava rocks that divided Second and Third Bay, as the swell transformed from manageable turquoise into blue open-water surges that exploded against the rock, I began to resonate with how Hawaiian legends described Kanaloa, the sea’s ruler: a sea monster-god of death and darkness, the king of the underworld. I trembled as I paddled.
One of my favorite verses, a song by the spirit Ariel in Shakesepare’s The Tempest, popped into my head. It’s one I’ve always thought illustrates the beautiful notion that, because everything is interconnected, death may be more like trading in your old rusty parts than a definitive end. Given the circumstances, however, the words failed to comfort:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange
As we paddled deeper, the monsters of my childhood began to flash in my mind: rhino-like turtles as big as islands, giant squid with tentacles the size of redwoods, krakens and leviathans. I heard them all warning me “We will kill you. Go back.”