And the next day at ten o’clock sharp, Jimmy circled Swell on his stand-up paddle board.
“Come aboard,” I called. “I’m nearly ready!”
He descended into Swell’s cabin, eyes wide, taking in all the quotes and photos and details. I showed him my book collection, hoping I could give him one of my favorites, but alas, he’d read them all. And so we headed off to check the pass.
“It’s not the easiest wave,” I explained on the way. “It’s kinda shifty and there were long waits between sets yesterday, so it’s easy to drift away from the take-off zone.” He seemed slightly anxious, but unquestionably determined.
We paddled over and right away a big set leapt up in front of us. He paddled for the first but pulled out and caught the next two waves on the head. I cringed as the board pulled and snapped back just in time for another wall of water to crash in front of him.
“Oh no…” I thought, “I’m going to kill him!”
But he came back out laughing, took a few deep breaths, and paddled outside a bit.
“Try to look for the waves that come in more from the north,” I suggested. “They seem to stay open a bit more.”
And just then a lovely head-high wave sprang up from the north. He was perfectly in position. He turned and leaned into his strokes like he really wanted it. Then away he went, disappearing behind the wall of neon blue! He came back out glowing. We high-fived and cheered in celebration of his first wave in French Polynesia.
I, on the other hand, didn’t take my own advice and paddled for a lumpy west one, tried to pull in at the end section, and came up sputtering between fingers of dry reef, but miraculously unscathed.
“Better me than him,” I thought.
He caught three more beautiful waves. The third was a gorgeous set–well overhead. He rode it well into the inside and I began to worry…then just before it closed out on the reef, he and the yellow board came flying over the back of the wave. I was so thrilled for him that I didn’t even care whether I caught another wave or not. This spot was NOT easy, and he was charging and pulling it off! Afterward we celebrated with coconuts and pamplemousse.
That night I sat at the table in ‘Bloody Mary’s’ with Richard and Jess and the rest of the gang for the Saturday show. Jimmy came onstage rosy-cheeked and full of stoke. The show was magic. He played with heart and with an unmistakable twinkle in his eye. None of what had happened seemed real yet…all I knew was that it sure felt good to have a hero meet and then exceed your idea and hopes for who they are.
Eternal thanks, Jimmy!!