Like surf? Like movies? Check it out~


It’s almost that time~ Board Shorts is right around the corner!  March 9 at Bird’s Surf Shed, gather to watch films featuring women in surf.  The event sold out last year, so get your ticket now!


What’s even cooler?  The San Diego Surf Film Festival is going to select a Board Short to feature!  Get stoked on the trailer below to see what’s to come for the festival.

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Lettuce for Breakfast at Cardiff Reef

Lettuce for Breakfast at Cardiff Reef.

via Lettuce for Breakfast at Cardiff Reef.

surf & sup- the great divide

Have I crossed over to the dark side?   


As a surfer, I never thought I would stand-up paddle, period.  Let’s not be delicate:  I thought stand-up paddle boarders were the enemy.  Sometimes, I still think so.  


But this spring, after moving onto a sailboat, I became the owner of a stand up paddle board by choice– it seemed a reasonable means of getting from point A to point B, and the kind of water activity one could potentially do while imbibing- case in point, my Brent & I used a SUP to ferry a cooler of beer from a marina store to our boat.  For such purposes, paddle boards were totally acceptable to me.  


“Just don’t bring ‘em in the lineup,” were my words, “and I’m fine with it.”  Since we’re being honest, I figure I should tell you that I may have not-so-accidentally knocked someone off their 11 foot-plus board at Ledbetter Beach in Santa Barbara.  The guy was wearing hot pink board shorts, listening to his iPod, and hogging the waves from a lot  of surfers.  Especially me…  He was asking for it.  In the interest of honesty, I should also mention that this August I (gulp) surfed a SUP.  Yes, it was a SUP only beach, but still- I broke my solemn vow.  


Well, here we are, a few months later, and I am not only paddle boarding- gasp- regularly, no less!  A I find myself truly enjoying it.  I no longer look with hatred and disdain paddle boarders- even in the line-up, I am searching for style and grace in their surfing, and understanding more that it’s not as easy as it looks.  Does that mean I’ll be paddle-surfing in the near future?  


I doubt it.  So far, I’ve preferred my surfing of the horizontal-paddle variety.  It’s just my bag, baby.  But I will say this:  You can’t knock all paddle boarders.  There are a whole different set of muscles that are used in paddling into waves standing up- and a different  mentality.


AND just because I don’t prefer the SUP board doesn’t mean I’m not into it.  Like, if you asked me which I liked better, chocolate or vanilla, I’d say vanilla- most days.  Some days, I really like chocolate better.  You know what?  Just give me swirl.  I really don’t like to choose.  


That’s how I feel about stand up paddle and surf- they are two distinct entities, like chocolate and vanilla.  Both are delicious, and some times you’re in the mood for one or the other- but usually, who not both?


Paddle boarding is totally different from surfing- it’s so zen.  From surfing, I get the amazing high of my adrenaline pumping, my heart knocking against my ribs, and gasping for air.  Paddling, I get deep slow breaths, a killer core workout, and an almost meditative calm from the rhythmic stroke of the paddle.  With both, I get to observe the marine wildlife, beauty and wonder of the ocean.  I mean, really, do they have to be mutually exclusive?


One thing I’ll note about paddle boarding is it has a less competitive culture.  So far, the paddle boarders I’ve met enjoy being in the water, appreciating nature, and having a good time as much as anyone else.  But… and this is important- they also don’t seem to be out to get me.


I know, hard to believe, right?  Ok, ok, so what does all this mean?   


It means, if you’re a surfer, you can still enjoy paddle boarding.  The ocean is very large- and it’s big enough for everyone.  We can share- though I still think that ALL paddle boarders (myself included) should be mindful of where they go, and be aware of their limits.  I’m not encouraging a whole fleet of SUPpers to flood Trestles.  


But you know what?  Most don’t want to.  They are happy to just surf the waves they find, the little corners, the small bumps, or the outer reefs.  They are stoked just to be in the water doing what they love.  


So don’t hate, integrate.  But still, kind of, segregate.  At least, on my waves.  


Barrels of Fun at 2012 Quiksilver Pt. Mugu Surf Contest

Kui Murphy & Brent Travis

The results are in for the fifth annual Quiksilver sponsored Point Mugu surf competition, and the 2012 finals held a few surprises for the crowds who’d gathered to watch surfers charge draining barrels on Naval Base Ventura County.

Travis, Murphy, Starkey

Pt. Mugu is revered as one of the best waves on the California coast- in fact, it is widely considered to be a world-class wave when it’s pumping.  The combination of a south facing beach and submarine canyons creates a steep, powerful, a-frame wave.  However, access to the surf area is restricted to active duty or retired military; the opening of the base to the public for this competition is a highly anticipated, once a year event.  This years competition brought out the best in military and professional surfers alike, with heaps of barrels and airs drawing oohs and ahhs from beach spectators.

Dane Reynolds in the barrel

The preliminary heats took place on Saturday, in great conditions: head high surf with overhead sets bombing their way to the beach.  Standouts during the preliminary heats included two perfect ten waves: the first, a beautifully executed left hander surfed by Coast Guardsman Kuilee Murphy of San Diego; the second perfect ten was awarded to none other than epic aerialist and surfing hall of fame inductee Dane Reynolds.

Sunday finals commenced with only a slight fading of the southwesterly swell, clear sunny skies, and light offshore winds.

Chris Stacy

Chris Stacy

The favorable conditions had everyone stoked to enjoy a day at the beach watching the all day surf spectacular.

Dane Reynolds

Some of the most notable waves included a sick air reverse 360 by local surfer Jake Kelley and a frothy heaving barrel for Dane-R.

Jake Kelley

Jake Kelley gave a comment to the Ventura County Star, stating that the Mugu competition is his “favorite event of the year.  Thanks to the military and everyone who makes this event happen.”  Ventura county local Cory Arrambide was also killing it in the men’s open final, making hairy drops look effortless and putting the icing on the cake with multiple well-executed airs.  The competition circuit should expect to see more of Cory in the next few years.

Cory Arrambide

Cory Arrambide

Matt Merel

It wasn’t just the boys ripping at Mugu this weekend, either.  The women’s final was a heated battle between ASP and O’neill team rider Sage Erickson, and Santa Barbara surf chick Demi Boelsterli.  Both women were charging hard, pulling in deep, and throwing massive spray with hacking turns.  It was a close heat, and inspiring to watch.

Kelly, Faucett, Ronning, Clarke

All in all, it was a weekend full of superior surf performances. Tom Curren surfed alongside his son Pat, renowned aerialist Christian Fletcher dazzled spectators with his mad skills, and everyone in the water looked super stoked to be surfing Mugu.
At the end of the day, the winners were announced, and though I think some poor judging was at hand in the military final, I’ll post the results anyway.  Then feel free to stare in amazement at the photos of this years competitors giving Mugu their best.

Kuilee Murphy

*note, Sage Erickson competed but left before judging.
1st: Demi Boelsterli
2nd: Angelita Noche
3rd: Kloee Openshaw

1st: Jake Kelley
2nd: Micky Clarke
3rd: Eric Ronning
4th: Charlie Faucett

1st: Matt Merel, USCG
2nd: Kuilee Murphy, USCG *should have won.  Seriously, ask anyone with eyes.
3rd: Chris Stacy, USAF
4th: Simon Blanco, USCG

Military Awards

Men’s Open:
1st: Dane Reynolds
2nd: Cory Arrambide
3rd: Jeremy Ryan
4th: Mike McCabe

Men’s Open Awards

Dane Reynolds

Please note, if known, the surfers name will be captioned; if not, it will be labeled unknown.  Feel free to email me for photos of yourself.

Brent Travis

Jeremy Ryan

Kui Murphy

Smells Like Freedom.

Today marks fifteen days since I’ve surfed.

I’ve filled my days with reading, blogging, writing fifty pages of my epic saga.  Steven King’s epic saga (according to him) is his seven novel compilation, The Dark Tower series. He started writing it at age nineteen and finished at age fifty seven.  Thirty-eight years, it took him to finish the epic saga.  If mine goes at that pace, you can look for it in the year 2050.  I’ll be sixty-five.   I’ll probably have grand-children.

I’ve taken a few walks… to the kitchen.  I’ve eaten more than my fair share of trail mix.  I’ve abused the privilege of having a bell with which to summon Brent, or anyone else within earshot, and upon their arrival thinking up a task for them to complete.

Because he loves me and pities me being bound to a bed for ANOTHER two weeks, Brent has bought me a few consolation prizes.  The first was an iPad.  I know, cha-ching!, right?  Well, we needed the 4-G internet connection since we don’t have the ‘net on the boat.  Not that we’re on the boat… but we will be!  Soon!  This is only a temporary setback, this nagging injury of mine.  So the iPad was prize number one, and it staved off my depression for a whole week.

One afternoon we were discussing a blog post I wrote and posted, only to retract it immediately.  It was entitled, the Broken Girl’s Guide to Having Fun and it was about all the things I am doing to keep myself entertained while I am bedridden.  I thought it was funny, but I will admit it pushed the envelope a bit when it comes to… polite talk.  Certain topics, like bathroom visits, are not appropriate for the blog, and this was brought to my attention, gently, but firmly.  I started to cry, mostly because I am a bit off due to the pain medication I’m taking, but also because I have little to do besides write and I wanted to have a pity party. Sweet, loving Brent wanted to distract me from my woes, so he enticed me to cheer up with a little online shopping.

I spent four precious hours of my life hmm-ing and haww-ing over what I wanted to purchase as consolation prize number two.  I finally settled on a black Body Glove bikini with a cross-back top and brazilian bottoms.

It’s hard to find swimsuit tops that stay put while surfing, but the Body Glove Smoothies Action Top is one of the best I’ve tried.  For three days, I was content with consolation prize number two.

Alas, my contentment came to an end.  After a particularly trying day, in which I insisted on walking a lap through the house with my walker, we had another melt-down.  Brent caught me tottering around the kitchen without my walker, trying to cut a peach into pieces to eat. He scolded me and sent me back to bed, where I cried and bemoaned my sorry existence.  And such was the impetus for purchasing consolation prize number three.

As some of you may know, in the hospital they cut off my favorite wetsuit, a spring suit with short legs and long arms, which made me feel like Gidget (lovely female surfer, in case you don’t know the reference).  It was very saddening to me because I loved that wetsuit very much.  When I dried my tears, Brent asked if I knew what wetsuit I was going to get next.

I scoured the internet looking for one that was just right.  After five hours of debating- long leg or short leg?  Long sleeve or short sleeve?  I finally settled on the O’neill Long Jane 2:1 wetsuit.

Isn’t she a beauty?  After placing the order, I fell fast asleep and dreamed about cross-stepping on a perfect right-hander in Scorpion Bay, wearing my new long jane wetsuit.

The days dragged on as I waited for the package to arrive in the mail.  Two days passed, then three, then four.  On the fifth day, a package arrived and was brought to be where I lay in my bed.  I felt like a little kid on Christmas as I tore into the plastic bag, only to find another plastic bag.  Inside the second was my new wetsuit.  I took it out and draped it across my lap, caressing the neoprene and rubbing it against my cheek.  Then, I closed my eyes, and buried my face in the wetsuit, inhaling deeply the scent of rubber and glue.  With the smell came the sensation of salt spray on my face, and the feeling of gliding across a perfect wave.  As I exhaled, I opened my eyes, which had tears in them once again.

This time, they were tears of joy.  I looked at Brent and said, “Thank you.  I love it.  It smells like freedom.”

It will be a month still before I can get back in the water.  In the meantime, you can find me in my room, sniffing my wetsuit and spraying myself in the face with a bottle of salt water.

Rant for Responsibility

I will take all of the credit, and none of the blame.

What is it about our culture today that makes that concept pretty much universally accepted?  Recently, I was seriously injured in a surfing mishap.  I can’t call it an accident, because I still don’t know whether or not the girl on the massive purple longboard meant to hit me in the spine.  As a naturally charitable person, I assume she didn’t mean to plow into me like a runaway train, fracturing two vertebrae in my back and sending me to the hospital.  I assume that the reason she paddled back out, rather than offering help, is that she genuinely believed that I was alright… even though she asked if I was OK, and I said “No.”

After that day at the beach, a lot of my friends- including the guys I was surfing with that day- thought I should sue Purple Longboard Girl.  They thought she ought to shoulder the burden financially for the astronomical medical bills, and the six weeks of pain and suffering I endured while confined to a bed.  They thought she should pay extra since I live on a sailboat, and the injury meant spending a month with my in-laws, who live forty five minutes inland, where there’s not trace of salt air, nor a glimpse of a breaking wave.  From all sides, I was being lectured on how she should have taken the blame for a mishap that was so clearly her fault.

It made me stop and think about how we distribute blame.  I chose to surf Churches on a Saturday afternoon in July, when it was only three feet high.  I chose to paddle over to a peak that was dominated by long boarders, when I was surfing my fat boy fish.  I chose to catch the first wave of the set.  I chose to surf around the girl on the purple longboard, who was lying flat on her board, looking at the beach but not paddling anywhere.  I chose to trust that people in the lineup know what they are doing, and have control of their boards.  I chose to turn around to grab my board after I’d kicked off the wave.  So whose fault was it for my spine getting smashed- hers, or mine?

Listen, Purple Longboard Girl, if you’re reading this: I forgive you.  Everyone is a kook at one point- no, scratch that- everyone is a novice surfer at one point.  It only makes you a kook if you hit someone hard enough to break their bones, and don’t even get out of the water to see if you can help.  It makes you a super-kook if you see them loaded into an ambulance, and don’t paddle in to apologize.  So, I forgive you, and only you know whether not you’re a kook.  But if I may make one suggestion for the next time you paddle out into a crowd of a hundred?

Ride a soft-top.  And for goodness sakes, open your eyes when you’re moving.

Some days are just a pain in the back.

“OH!  My back!  It hurts!

Oh, my back it hurts.

Oh my, back it hurts.

See?  It’s funny!!”

Inside joke.  You had to be there.

It was Saturday July fourteenth in the year two thousand and twelve when I realized I was indeed destined to be a writer.  This realization came about via an unexpected answer to my prayers and intentions.  You see, that week I attended two separate yoga classes, and at the beginning of each class we were encouraged to set our intention- to create a goal or a prayer upon which we should focus our energies.  Wednesday of that week, my silent prayer was “Dear Almighty Heavens, please let me reconnect with my yoga practice in a deeper way than I have thus far.”  On Friday of the same week, my intention and focus was “Dear Lord, please let me dedicate more time to my writing craft, that I might achieve success as a published writer.”  These two intentions were completely unrelated in my mind, at least, until the moment of impact.

Saturday, after catching a beautiful left-breaking wave at Churches campground at Camp Pendleton, the event occurred which would be the catalyst to the actualization of my inward intentions and prayers.  What happened?  I was hit dead in the spine by a girl on a ten foot longboard, and I broke my back.  

Ah, the drama contained within that phrase!  In all fairness, I only broke a few little pieces of my back, and the damage was moderate, not extreme.  I suppose I should start at the beginning.  It’s a very good place to start.

The morning of July fourteenth, two thousand twelve, was a glorious morning at the Kona Kai marina in San Diego.  I woke around seven thirty, brewed a cup of Donut House coffee, and munched on a granola bar as I prepared to go exercise with my friend Liz, who lives with her husband Charlie just one dock over.  Liz and Charlie’s residence is a thirty five foot Ericson sailboat, with blue canvas, and all fiberglass interior.  I’m a bit envious of their floors because they are much easier to clean than our wood floors.  They only need to be hosed down, which is handy considering they have a wee little puppy named Dinghy.  Dinghy is a malti-poo, which is a hybrid sort of dog, a mix between a poodle and a maltese.  Dinghy is absolutely precious, but being a puppy, he has been known to make a mess on the floor.


It’s no matter, since Liz can easily hose the floor off!  This is a great advantage in my mind, and as I sweep or vacuum the wood floors in our boat, I often think of Liz hosing her floor off with a twinge of jealousy.  But Liz and Charlie’s floors are not the point of this story, so I’ll move on.

After picking the last morsel of granola bar off of my tank top and popping it into my mouth, I swapped my pajamas for my swishy-swooshy shorts (they make a swooshy noise) and donned an under armor workout tank.  I laced up my running shoes (new white nikes with a hot pink swoosh, ooh la la) and pulled my greasy hair back into a ponytail.  After securing my fly-aways with a headband, I did a quick mirror check to make sure I looked gym-ready.  Satisfied with my appearance, I dashed into the v-berth, gave Brent a quick kiss good-bye and grabbed my gym bag.  I set off down the dock with a spring in my step- the sun was shining, the herons were squawking, and it felt like the beginning of a wonderful day.  Little did I know that by three o’clock that afternoon I would be in the trauma ward of Mission Hospital, squawking my own cries of pain that no heron would hear.

Liz was ready to go, and we set off for the gym at the Kona Kai hotel.  Together we enjoyed an hour long workout- mostly lower body stuff, legs, butt and abs.  After our workout, we got ready in the locker room- Liz for work, and me for a day at the beach.  Liz would be working at the restaurant that evening, and invited Brent and I to come for dinner, to bring Mindy and sit outdoors on the dog friendly patio.  We made plans to do just that, and I said good-bye to Liz and went to meet Brent and the boys to head north for some surfboarding.

Why don’t we call it surfboarding?  This was the question of the day in the water.  The term was coined as a cooperative effort between Brent and Russell Black.  Think about it.  Skateboarding, snowboarding, paddleboarding, then surf-ing.  Where did the board go?  Who took the board out of the expression?  Saturday, while surfboarding, Russell and Brent decided that we were putting the board back in surfboarding.

Back to the story.  We met up at the marina parking lot with the aforementioned Russell Black and Shawn Price, a friend and fellow surfboarder who works with Brent.  After loading the boards, we made the trek north to San Clemente, only stopping to get burritos and fish tacos at Pedros before we hit the beach.

best. burritos. ever.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pedro’s, I suggest you remedy that problem ASAP.  They have the best California burritos and fish tacos in all the land. Serious.

While at Pedro’s, another friend arrived, Mr. PJ Piedmont!  With a whole pack of surfboarders in tow, we drove onto Camp Pendleton and parked right in front of Churches, a great surfboarding spot that is river rock reef but breaks like a right point.  The waves looked fun, about chest high, and though the tide was pretty full, we all paddled out, anticipating better conditions as the tide dropped.

just north of Churches/Trestles on an epic day. not the day in this story. but an epic day.

We were out for approximately an hour and a half before it happened.  Everyone was enjoying themselves, getting good waves. laughing and splashing and bs-ing.  As time went on, the lineup seemed to become increasingly populated by long boarders.  I’ll state for the record that I love to longboard, and I have no problem with long boarders sharing the same peaks as short boarders, provided everyone minds their p’s and q’s and follows proper surf etiquette.  In fact, on that fateful day I wished I’d brought my longboard so I could catch some of the gently sloping waves further out.  Instead I was surfing the Frankenboard, also known as my fat boy fish.  It’s respective monikers make sense when you see the board- it’s six feet eight inches long, twenty-two inches wide and about three inches thick.  It’s appropriate for a man around six-two, two twenty.  I stand five feet seven inches, and weigh one hundred forty pounds, so clearly it’s larger than I need.  Thus the nickname “Fatboy Fish.”  Frankenboard refers to the patch job that’s been done to this board.  She’s mostly green, but a large triangle out of the nose and a big rectangular patch in the center are spots where big chunks of the foam and fiberglass were replaced.  Sadly, once upon a time Frankenboard was sitting in a garage, and being cut into pieces to repair other boards- can you imagine?!!?  She went through a rough time, but was repaired to perfection by Paul of Sojourner Surfboards in Morro Bay, CA.  Thanks again, Paul.  When I adopted Frankenboard, I felt she needed some TLC and personalization so that she would feel loved again.  I decorated her with a spray painted stencil of a bird, as well as one of Brent’s face, and also applied with acrylic paint the letters L-O-V-E on the bottom.  She’s a total babe now that she’s been cleaned up a bit.


l-o-v-e this board

So, I was hanging out in the lineup with Frankenboard beneath me when I saw a set rolling our way.  Not one to be shy, I made my presence known as I paddled for the first set wave, aiming slightly left to show my intended direction.  As the wave swelled up behind me, I gave a few long paddles and then popped up, weaving around the people paddling out.  The last girl I passed was on a super large purple and white longboard, and she looked scared as I made a big bottom turn to go around her.  Perhaps she had been paddling for the same wave, because the nose of her board was aimed to the beach rather than the outside.  Shortly after I passed the girl, the wave foamed out and I fell flat like a pancake back into the water.  Coming up to breathe, I only glanced behind me quickly to see the next set wave charging towards me.  Turning back to the beach, I retrieved my board and made a move to hoist myself upon it to paddle back out.  As I pulled my body up I felt the impact hit me like a freight train from behind, jarring me in the center of my spine and causing my torso to move forwards while my legs, head and shoulders moved back.  Limp, like a rag doll, I was slammed underwater as the pain radiated out from the center of my body to the tips of my fingers and toes.

I came up gasping and screaming involuntarily, seemingly doing both at the same time.

“GAaaaHHAHAHHHHH SHIT FUCK SHIT OHHHHH MAN…” My voice trailed off as my mind began assessing my body for damage.  Pain, everywhere.  Identify it.  Lower back, right hip, abdomen, right leg.  The pain seemed to be coming from inside and outside at the same time.  Within one second I realized that I was injured, perhaps quite seriously.  I heard people yelling but their voices sounded tinny and far away.  Wiggling my fingers and my toes, making a keening noise I can’t very well describe, I realized one hopeful thing:  I was not paralyzed.  This was excellent news.  No matter how great the pain, the understanding that I could feel at all was very comforting. I took a few deep breaths, and willed my body to relax.  Looking behind me I saw another wave coming, and I ducked underneath it just in time.  Coming up, facing the beach again, I saw the girl who hit me standing there, staring at me with a confused look on her face.  For a split second I wanted to rip her face off- but only for a split second.  The violent impulse passed and the more urgent need to get to the sand came to the forefront of my thoughts.

“Are you ok?”  The girls voice was whiny and pleading, and it grated on me.

“No,” was the only response I issued.  My breathing was labored and talking was not going to help.

“What happened?” asked the whiny girl, and I ignored her, looking around for the next wave that could take me in.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” she asked in a louder voice this time, sounding demanding and impatient, “I mean, I know my board hit you but what else happened?” She was attempting to determine how much culpability she had in my obvious pain and suffering.

I spoke slowly and clearly, and just managed to get the words out before the oncoming wave scooped me up…

“You AND your board hit me in the spine.”  With that, I heaved my weight up onto my board and was swept away in the sweet embrace of Mother Ocean.  Submitting myself to the will of the wave, I was carried to shore and gently deposited on the sand.  Shaking, trembling, I made a feeble attempt to stand but quickly fell, and realized my right leg could bear no weight.  I had heard no crack at the moment of impact, and running my hands over my body I felt no bones jutting out.  Mentally I asked myself for the date and my location. July fourteenth, San Onofre- Churches.  Good.  Taking a few long, slow breaths, I realized that I was in a pickle.

Recognizing the symptoms of shock when one is in shock can be difficult, but the sense of eerie calm and the clarity of my senses told me I was riding high on endorphins.  Knowing this, I figured if I were to attempt to stand, now would be the time.  I took two deep breaths and on the third pushed myself up to standing, releasing an involuntary groan of pain as I did so.  It took a moment to get steady on my feet, and again I noted that my right leg would bear no weight.  Any attempt to shift weight to that side led to immediate, blinding pain in my right lower back.

Refusing to cry, I tried to figure out how serious my injury was.  There were two main factors here: 1) I was hit directly in the spine, by a large, heavy object. 2) I could not twist my torso, bend from the waist, or move my legs without excruciating pain.  I’m not a doctor, but I knew that this was a bad situation.  Two men with marine haircuts were coming from the north carrying surfboards and pointing at the waves.  They appeared to be deciding where to paddle out.  I looked around for the lifeguard, and saw no one.

“Excuse me?” I called to the maybe-marines headed my way.  They turned and did a quick scan of me, saw the controlled panic in my eyes and the way I was standing, clutching my lower back.  It’s highly likely that I looked like a hot mess, but I continued, “Are you guys paddling out here?”

“Yes, ma’am?” was the cautious reply of the taller one.  Not surfboards, I realized, but spongers, aka boogie boarders, or body boarders if you want to be politically correct.

“Hi.  Um, I need some help.  I was just hit in the spine very hard by a woman on a ten foot longboard out there.  I don’t think I can walk, and I’m not sure I can move my spine.  I may be seriously injured.  There are a few guys out there surfing who are with me.  One of them is named Brent Travis.  He is wearing a long leg, short sleeve wetsuit and surfing a white Xanadu with a red leash.  My name is Amelia.  Please tell him that I need him to come in right away, it’s an emergency.  Can you do that?”  My voice was trembling as I spoke, and my eyes began to tear up.  I swallowed the lump in my throat and steeled my nerves, willing myself to remain calm so that I could explain things to the paramedics.

They stood taller, immediately reacting to the gravity of the situation, and assuming an air of responsibility that is easy with first responders, soldiers, men of action and valor.  The shorter one quickly repeated the information I had provided- “Brent Travis.  White board, red leash.  You’re Amelia.  Longboard to the spine, emergency….” he paused for a second, then asked “Want us to get the lifeguard for you, or call an ambulance?”

“No, please, just get Brent.  There are others out there with us, if they hear you asking, they will come too.  I’m fine right here, I just need them.  Thank you.”

Nodding, they told me to sit tight, hang in there and they would sent Brent right in.  As they paddled out, the tears I was holding in began to fall- big, fat, salty drops mixing with the salt water already streaming down my face.  Part of me wanted to lose it right then, just start screaming and crying like a baby.  Instead, I held fast, and tuned into the ESP that soul mates, lovers and partners have.  I channeled all my energy into thoughts which I directed towards Brent in the water.  I’m hurt, I thought, I need you.  Come now.  Hurry.  I’m hurt.  Please, babe.  Hurry.  Come now.  I’m hurt.  The words repeated themselves over and over in my mind like a mantra, and I waved my left arm in a desperate gesture to beckon him in.  It seemed like an eternity, but after a few minutes I saw him catch a good wave, and he came in, running up the beach to me with concern written all over his face.

About that same time, PJ, Russell, and Shawn all came out of the water too.  The lifeguards had shown up, and questions were being asked rapid fire.  After calmly explaining a few times that I was hit in the spine, hard, the lifeguards seemed to finally understand that I would not be able to walk.  They then suggested that perhaps I try to ride in my own car, to spare the cost of an ambulance.  Thank goodness, at that time, Brent jumped in.

“Hey guys, we appreciate the help, but she’s getting worse by the minute, so if we could just call an ambulance, that would be great.”  By this time my groans had turned to whimpers, alternating with loud outcries as the pain spasmed through my back .  In a gentler tone, Brent said to me, “Breathe, babe, just take a deep breath.”

I was scared, because breathing hurt badly as well.  Instead of inhaling deeply, my breath was coming in short, ragged huffs and puffs.  Reluctantly, the lifeguards admitted maybe I should be off my feet, and they pulled out a long wooden board, with straps attached to it.  It looked like a medieval torture instrument, yes, but at that moment I wanted nothing more than to be strapped to that board, and off my feet. They propped the board up against my back, and wIth the help of five men, I was lowered down onto the ground.  Commotion, and noise, and confusion increased, and discussion of my condition went on without my input.

The fire department arrived, and began asking me questions.  What is my name?  Amelia.  Where am I? Churches.  Which finger are the holding? Index.  Other hand, which finger are they holding? Index, again, come on guys mix it up- that was too easy.  The man who is asking the questions seemed satisfied with the answers.  They told me to squeeze their hand, then told me to push with my toes.  I squeezed, I pushed.  Someone told me I would be lifted up, we were driving down the road to the lifeguard station.  I still had my wetsuit on, but only halfway.  I asked them to please not cut it off- it’s my butt suit!  My favorite wetsuit, an O’neill 2:1 bahia with long sleeves and short legs.  It makes my butt look cute.  It was very important that they not cut off my suit, and so they didn’t.

Brent was sitting next to me in the back of the truck, holding my hand and giving me comfort.  Shawn, PJ, and Russell took the truck and would meet us at the hospital.  We drove a short distance, then stopped.  Every motion, every bump, every stop was hot blinding pain through my back, up to my right shoulder, and down my right leg.  My mind kept telling my body to be quiet, stop screaming and crying, but my body was not listening very well.  I kept hearing myself make a deep groaning noise that could only be understood as “nnnnnNNNNNnnn.”  Strange thoughts were going through my mind, like Labor is worse than this?  Thank God I don’t have kids yet.  I’ll be a wimp.

Some time passed and a new person was there asking me question.  His name was Morgan.  Morgan and someone with him said we’d have to lift me up to transfer me.  My eyes were squeezed shut, but tears were still leaking out.  I heard Morgan ask someone else (the lifeguard, maybe) “What happened?  Have you done a PQS?”  I wondered what a PQS was.  The other guy (the maybe lifeguard) replied, “Yeah, PQS was good.”  Well, that’s a relief.  Morgan redirected his attention to me, and his tone of voice changed, became smooth and soft and comforting.

“Ok, Amelia, here’s what we’re going to do.  We need to move you now, to get you into the ambulance, so we can take you to the hospital and get you fixed up.  We will try to be as gentle as we can, but it might be a little bumpy.  Just hang in there, you’re going to be fine.  You’re going to be surfing again in no time…” his voice trailed off and he was addressing the others again, explaining that we were shooting for the trauma ward at Mission Hospital, but if for some reason they wouldn’t take me, then we’d have to go to Scripps La Jolla.

Big hands came near my face and put an oxygen mask on me.  On the count of 3 I was rising up, up in the air again, and then down, onto another board, something with rolling wheels.  And we started moving, rolling, bumps on the ground, pain every few seconds, sharb, stabbing, blinding.  I was keening and crying and praying at the same time- OK, God, it’s your show now.  I know I will heal from this, and I thank you for your love, and grace, and mercy.  Thank you that I’m not paralyzed.  Thank you for whatever lesson this may be.  And God, please send your angels to make this ride the fastest ambulance ride ever. 

I heard Brent’s voice, separate and distinct from all the others.  “Is it cool if I ride with you guys?”  They asked if I was family.  Without hesitation, he said, “Yes.  She’s my wife.”  Love swelled up within me like the greatest anesthetic, and for a moment I felt no pain.  Then a door was slamming, lights above me, and we were rolling, rolling, moving.  Morgan was above me, I could feel him.  I opened my eyes, and there he was, with a great big head of gingery blond hair, and a bushy mustache that made me think of Mario, from Super Mario Brothers.  He was like an Irish Super Mario… Super Morgan.  I thought all this and it made me laugh.  The chuckle turned into a cry of agony and searing heat radiated out from my lower back.

Morgan again: “Ok, Amelia, we are headed to Mission hospital.  When we get there they will give you something for the pain.  I can’t give you anything now, because they need to check you out first and make sure everything is alright.  I am going to put an IV in so we can get you ready for them, ok?  How long have you been surfing?”

I knew what he was doing.  He was trying to distract me from the pain.  I answered his questions, with my eyes closed once again.  I didn’t feel anything when he stuck my arm to get the IV started.  From the front seat, Brent was giving me assurance that I would be OK.

Thirty minutes went by and we pulled up to the Emergency department, trauma ward at Mission Hospital.  Someone asked if I was supposed to be there, was I a trauma?  Good question, am I a trauma?  No one answered, but my board on wheels was moving again, this time with fresh air on my face, bumping and rolling, then going through double doors and now it is hospital, bright lights, smells like cleaning supplies.  I opened my eyes and could only see dots on the ceiling, and count the lights.  My rolling cart came to a stop and there were many people around me, all in green suits.  They had face masks on, like they were prepared for surgery.  Fear struck a chord in my heart.  Then two more came, one in purple and one in navy blue.  The one in navy blue had short blond hair and a kind smile.  She put her face right near mine.

“Hello, Amelia.  We’ve heard you had an accident surfing and hurt your back.  We’re going to take good care of you.  We need to move you to a bed so we can examine you and get you some pain medication.  It may be uncomfortable at first, but we will move you as quickly and safely as we can.”  They had taken away the oxygen mask, and Super Morgan was making his way to the exit.  I wanted to thank him, but again the crew around me was counting, and I braced myself for pain.  It came as they moved me from the stretcher to the hospital bed.  A brief moment of excruciating pain, and then a dark haired woman in violet scrubs was standing over me, and she told me that she was giving me some pain medication now.

“This is Dilaudid, Amelia.  It’s a strong narcotic, so you should feel relief from your pain very soon.  You may even feel sleepy.”  As soon as her words registered, I could feel the medication working in me, turning the rough jagged pain into a soft cloud.  The cloud was spreading from my center to my extremities, and I began to feel warm, and the lights were not so bright anymore.  I heard one nurse ask another for scissors.  “We need to cut off this wetsuit,” she said.  I tried to argue, buy my pleas fell on deaf ears.  “You’ll get another wetsuit,” they said,”but this one has to go so we can examine you!”  The distinctive sound of shears cutting fabric, or in this case neoprene, reached my ears and a few tears leaked from my eyes as they cut away my favorite suit.

I heard the medical team talking amongst themselves.  X-ray, CT scan, keep her medicated.  The X-ray was conducted right there in the bed, and then I was moving again, being transported to the room for the CT scan.  There, another pair of scrubs, another introduction- the name I can’t recall- and more questions.  Was I allergic to any drugs? No.  Was I taking any medications? No.  Was I pregnant, or thought I could be pregnant?  No.  Well, no.  I had my last period June 16, and it’s July 14, so… No.  The woman called to another person in the other room, “We’re going to need the lab results of that CBC before we can go ahead!”  Above me, there was a picture window in the ceiling.  It was a bright blue sky, with big fluffy white clouds.  The clouds were moving slowly across the picture window.  How nice, I thought.  I wanted to compliment them on the lovely picture window with the moving clouds.

“It’s so nice that your clouds move,” I said.  No one responded, and I realized I was alone in the room.  I waited two minutes, then three.  After a few minutes, I became aware that the clouds were not moving at all… rather I was just experiencing mild hallucinations.  More time passed, and the woman in scrubs came back.

“It’s negative,” she told me, which I took as a reference to the possibility of my pregnancy.  “You’re not pregnant,” she continued.  No kidding.

“Thank you,” I replied.  Then I questioned whether that was an appropriate response.  I didn’t have too much time to consider it, because I was moving again… this time sliding backwards into a large silver machine, a cylindrical or maybe tubular shaped machine.  One part of the machine, an inner red ring, was spinning to the left.  The outer silver ring was spinning to the right.  I was not spinning at all.

Then I was moving out of the machine again.  Scrubs Lady was there and she told me I would experience a warm sensation in my body as a result of the iodine she was injecting me with.  Nonplussed, I agreed.  She was right.  The injection caused a warmth to spread within me, this time, from my genital area outwards.  It felt a bit like I was wetting my pants, but she had warned me of that so I knew I was not really peeing myself.

In the tube I went again, and this time the inner spinning circle was black.  The outer spinning circle was still silver, it didn’t change.  Then I was coming out again, and everything was great.  Scrubs Lady said that, she said: “Everything is great.  You’re going back to trauma now.”

I went back to trauma, and they gave me more pain medication.  I was in the floaty cloud again.  Someone asked if I’d like Brent to come in.  Yes!  I want Brent. 

“Yes, please.  Send him in.”  I was impressed with how calm I sounded- totally dispassionate and relaxed about the whole situation.  It must have been the Dilaudid.  Brent came in, with the sweetest expression of love and the biggest smile on his face.

“Hey, babe! How are you?  You look beautiful.”  His happy expression and clear love for me were a buoy for my sinking spirits, and I couldn’t help but return his smile.

“I love you.”  It is the first thing I always think when I look at him, so I said it aloud.  He came to stand next to me, and took my hand.  Looking down at my feet, he laughed and said, “Oh, just look at you!  You’re all covered in sand!  You’re just a wild beach bunny.”

salty and fractured.

I laughed too, because it was true- I was covered with sand, with salt in my eyelashes and in my hair.  I had cried as much about them taking my wetsuit as I had being hurt, and the first question I asked the doctor on duty was, “When will I be able to surf again?”  In that moment I felt overwhelming gratitude for the ability to laugh, and the fact that I could move my fingers and toes, and the love of such an incredible man.  And before the doctor even spoke, I knew I would be just fine.

sandy feet.

At that time, one of the nurses was conversing with a doctor who just came in the room.  I overheard “fractures of the lumbar blah blah blah,” and I knew they were referring to me.  Then the doctor strode over to my bed, and introduced himself to Brent and me.

“I am Dr. DeSantis, the trauma physician on call today.  Heard you got run over by a long board…” it was not phrased as a question, so I let him continue.  “It looks like you have fractured both transverse processors on the L-3 and L-4 lumbar vertebrae.  The good news is, those are not weight-bearing parts of your spine, so you should be able to walk soon, with the help of a walker.  In four to six weeks, you should be walking on your own.  And to answer your question, I’d hazard a guess that you could be surfing again with two months.  It depends on your body, but you seem to be healthy, and you should heal fast.  You may feel it very challenging to walk for the first few weeks, and especially the first week until the swelling subsides.  I seriously doubt that you will need any surgery, but bed rest for at least three or four weeks will be necessary.  We are going to keep you here tonight, and maybe for a few nights, because you’re pretty beat up and we want to be sure we get your pain under control.  For now, we are going to keep you on Dilaudid, which is eight times stronger than morphine, and you should feel pretty good.   Do you have any questions for me?”

I am fine.  I can surf.  I can walk.  Eight times stronger than morphine?  Shit.  No wonder the clouds were moving.

“No, thank you, Doctor.  I appreciate your help.  As long as you say I’ll be walking and surfing again soon, that’s all I need to hear.”  Brent smiled and shook the doctors hand, offering his own thanks as well.

“Ok, Amelia, Brent, we will get you transported up to the East Wing, they will take great care of you up there.  Would you like us to send your other friends in now?”

I agreed, and the Doctor took his leave.  As he exited the room, in strode PJ, Russell, and Shawn.  For some reason I expected them to still be in wetsuits (which they weren’t).  Then I realized Brent wasn’t in a wetsuit anymore either.  Perplexed, I started to ask about that, then realized they probably changed before they came, and Brent changed while I was being examined.  The boys all gathered around my bed and gave me smiles and high-fives for being such a strong lady about the whole thing.  I just shook my head, and suggested someone go find the girl that hit me and offer to give her our soft top.  A foam board would have been way more appropriate for her skill level.

Later that day I would be wheeled up to my room, where I would spend the next few days in a lovely hospital vacation.  IV painkillers, trashy tabloids, and jello?

frappucinos make things better.

Come on, it doesn’t get much better than that.

What does it all mean, you ask?  Well, I suspect this whole debacle will have me reconnecting with my yoga practice on a deeper level.  And, apparently, writing more.  Some say be careful what you wish for… I say, your prayers will always be answered-  just not always the way you think.

The best part of it all?  I get a new wetsuit.



Yo quiero montar tabla a las olas. Yo quiero surfiar.

Surfing is more than a hobby. It’s more than a sport. It’s a living, breathing connection with the greatest liquid force on earth- the ocean. This blog is dedicated to the pursuit of waves, and through waves, peace. Enjoy it when it’s flat, or blown out, and you have nothing better to do than read about my surfing experiences.

One Love