SURFBOARDER/ARTIST’S VIEW OF LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

                                      SURFBOARDER-ARTIST’S GLIMPSE AT LIFE

 

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                                                                                                   A Craig Cambra original           

     The lone surfer, a young man in black trunks, straddled the shortboard looking out to sea, waiting for a wave at 15th Street in Manhattan Beach, Calif. It was going to be another hot Tuesday in August.

     As it is today, the world was in turmoil. Bad news was everywhere. The O.J. Simpson double homicide, the Whitewater mess, the Rwanda refugee crisis, the bloody turf conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the AIDS dilemma, drive-by shootings, suicide terrorists…

     At the time, Craig Cambra, a promising young artist, sat on his board unperturbed. The water was refreshingly cool on that early overcast morning. In fact, the 25-year-old graphic designer and fine artist left all the news and personal woes on shore with the rest of the city which was just beginning to stir.

     For Craig, there was more important things than politics and catastrophes on his mind. For example: The wedge. It was breaking just right. And he was in the perfect spot to catch it. He began paddling. Harder. Faster. Harder. Into the foam. Up on his feet. God, what a feeling. There was no describing it.

     The wave belonged to him. He was on top of it. He caught a right, pulled into a bottom turn, smacked the wave straight up… And bam! He threw the tail, slid with the crest of the wave, reversed, executed another bottom turn, then another and another until the wave pooped out.    

     As he paddled back out to sea, the muscles in his arms, shoulders and chest were tight. The thighs and calves ached just enough to tell him that the muscles and tendons did their job. His heart was pounding in his neck. For a surfer, it was a great feeling. It had been what he had described as “a good ride.”

    As he balanced on his 6-foot-2 board, manipulating the power of the breakers, Craig Cambra’s paradise was licking at his feet, propelling him through the water like a wild, untamed force compliments of the Pacific Ocean and Mother Nature.

     Despite politics and escalating global perils, the sinewy young dude’s world beneath him was clean and fresh and exhilarating.

     To a non-surfer, there’s no describing the experience of catching a “wedge” or a “peak,” harnessing the power, and “ripping away” from start to finish.

     “You’re just amped,” he explained. “It’s like a movie. You’re thinking about it as you leave, remembering all the surprises, and you go, ‘God, that was great!’ People who don’t surf can’t comprehend the exaltation you experience. Lots of people try to compare other sports to surfing. You can’t. Every ride, every wave is different.”

     During that watery moment, for Craig at least, there was nothing more in life than riding out a wave. Nothing. No problems. No gridlock. No bills. No heartaches. No anxieties.  

     In other words, for a surfboarder whose father died when he was three, who was raised by his mother, Nora, and whose older brothers, Rick and Phil “took my father’s place and did the best they could with a rowdy like me,” King Neptune was his psychiatrist.

     When he was 12-years-old, his oldest brother, Phil, loaded the youngster and an old 7-ft. Kanoa surfboard in his car and took him to 15th Street.

     “At the time,” recalled Craig, “I was scared. The waves looked awful big. He put me on the board, walked me out to the midbreak, turned me around and shoved me into the whitewash.

     “The hardest thing about catching a wave,” he said, “is learning to balance and stroking. I stood up, fell, stood up, fell.” He laughed. “When I finally rode one, I was on my own.”

     Ever since the first lesson, he has been surfing. And in recent years, surfing alone.

     “For me,” he said smiling, “it beats psychiatry all to hell. I mean, you wake up and the sun is shining. Rather than stare at the ceiling, you grab your board and head for the beach. There’s no one else around. You catch a few fun waves. When you get out of the water, you’ve had a good workout. You know you’ve done something for your body and your mind.”

     As he sat on his board waiting for King Neptune to blow a wave his way, he saw the world from a different vantage point than the people preparing themselves for life on the job in the city.

     “Every day when I’m out there, I can look out at the horizon. The sky is never the same. Gray, black, blue, speckled with clouds, it’s always beautiful and never the same.

     “I usually surf on week days — that’s when everybody else is making money,” said the free-lance graphic designer and fine artist who graduated in May from California State University, Long Beach, with a degree in (what else?) art.

     “Almost every time I go into the water, I see schools of porpoise, sometimes as many as 40. I’ve never seen a shark in these waters (like the great white that attacked a swimmer off the Manhattan Beach Pier in July 2014). But I’d recognize one if I saw one. As they move, their dorsal fin cuts across the water while the fin of a porpoise rises and falls.

     “Believe me,” he went on, “if I spotted a shark fin, I’d be outta there so fast you’d hear a sonic boom.”

     Pelicans, he said, are frightening birds. They are huge and powerful. One time while I was surfing in Malibu, one got hung up in my cinch line. It came after me like a dive bomber. Maybe he thought I was a big sardine.”

     Ordinarily, he said, “pelicans will gain altitude and dive, splashing into the water after a meal. Then they’ll bob to the surface with their breakfast in their pouch. Awkwardly, they’ll take off, flapping those giant wings.   Then awkwardly with a considerable amount of effort will take off, gain altitude and soon will be of sight.

     “Pelicans like sea gulls can’t surf but they can’t love this ocean more than I do,” said the graphic designer-artist-surfboarder who’s now an expert on all three arts.

 

                        — Boots LeBaron —

 

(Boots’ book, THE HUMAN RACE, is available

on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com)

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