Dawn Patrol

There's something special about dawn patrol in the dead of winter. The light frost on your windshield, the gray clouds looming overhead. Your nose turns red. Oxygen escapes and forms a faint white cloud around our face. Strapping your board down can be a bit of a hassle. Your fingers are freezing and don't function as they should. You're eager to enter the controlled climate of your Subaru. Your leather seats are cold, though. After a slice of toast and a cup of coffee, you hit the road with the other early birds - Weekend Warriors on their way to find a fix. Wild-eyed junkies at the wheel of their own Outback.


The sun isn't even up yet. It may not break the horizon until you board the boat. It takes hours. Two at least. By the time you're surfside, you've warmed your fingers and filled your belly. Nothing worse than a wet wetsuit. You pull it on as fast as you can. Into the water to even things out. There's usually no wind in the morning. The swell rolls, uninhibited, to shore. Standing upright over a sand bar, wrapping itself around a point, peeling from left to right, or right to left. Like a caged animal cut loose - fueled by wholewheat toast, coffee and an inner angst - you paddle effortlessly into your first wave.

A few hours in this shit and your whole body will be numb. A face you can't feel, fingers and toes that, again, no longer function. Carrying your board back to the beach, you notice other idiots eager to enjoy their weekend - unafraid of the impending cold. As you strip from your suit, peeling five millimeters of neoprene from around your neck, you realize, as I have, that there's nowhere else you'd rather be.

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