Opening Days
Working through those first-day jitters.

In the outdoor world we have opening days.
They’re not on the calendar, or scheduled by some league. Nature makes the call. So whether it’s the first backcountry powder day or the weekend in spring when the mountain bike trails finally dy out, when the elements align, it’s like a Bat Signal for those communities.

Thursday was opening day at Maverick’s, the big-wave surf spot in Half Moon Bay, CA. I arrived in the parking lot in the early afternoon and found it abuzz with nervous energy. Everyone getting their equipment dialed in. Music blaring. Grown men hopping up and down with jitters. No matter how many times you’ve done it, at the start of each season, you always question if you’ve still got it.

My heart raced as I paddled out, watching 30-to 40-foot waves detonate on the reef and steamroll toward the rocks on the inside. At that size, the lip of a breaking wave looks like it’s moving in slow motion. And when it lands, it’s shockingly loud. Do I still wanna do this? I wondered.

Entering the lineup felt like going back to school, when you get to see all of your friends in one place again. It took 10 minutes to get in all the fist bumps and how you doings? and how was your summers? A welcome distraction before the first set arrived.

And then the first set arrived. Water mountains interrupted the horizon. Everyone in the lineup scattered in all directions — some to get into position, some to get out of the way. I did my best to sit still, to just watch, and see what the ocean was doing. Didn’t want to rush into one. But of course, one of those big peaks shifted right to me as if to say, you sure you just want to watch?

Without thinking, I turned my back to it, paddled my hardest, and stood up. I felt the speed of the wave, heard the crack of the lip behind me, absorbed the energy of a wave created by a storm thousands of miles away. Kicking out in the channel, the answer was blatantly obvious. Yes, I still want to do this.