I was supposed to go to Morocco at the end of January. My ticket was booked. Jordy Smith and Mick Fanning were confirmed and I writhed with excitement. Having been out of the water since May due to ACL reconstruction, I'd never been more in need of a surf trip. And to Morocco! A desert filled with endless, emerald, faraway rights. My dream, realized.
Then, in Round 2 of the Pipeline Masters in December, I watched Jordy Smith get smashed by an 8-footer at Backdoor and come up screaming in pain. The prognosis? A separated shoulder and six weeks of mind-surfing. The Morocco trip was canceled. My dream, crushed.
All it took was one wave.
On the first day of 2015, just as we began the monthly hustle to finish another magazine, I spoke with Dane Reynolds. He told me a swell was headed to Morocco and he was going with Yadin Nicol and Dillon Perillo to film a few last-minute clips for his section in Cluster. Would SURFING be interested in coming along? And would I like to join? A resounding "yes" to both, of course, but the timing was terrible for me. I had too much to do and too little time to do it. I simply couldn't go. I hung up with Dane and called Editor at Large Taylor Paul. He quickly booked his flight.
A few days later, the photos began surging in. Image after image of long, double-overhead green lines exploding in a soft golden light, with Dane, Yadin and Dillon painting them with flair. At the end of their third day, photographer Corey Wilson emailed us. Again. His subject line read: "How sick is this trip?" and he attached his photos from the day. How sick? Very sick. Like, to my stomach. I deleted the message without ever opening it. Just then, a text from Taylor. "Thanks so much for sending me here." No response. I put my phone back in my pocket and went back to editing Beau Flemister's essay on Pg. 22, titled 'When I Haven't Surfed Lately.'
In his essay, Beau writes: "When I haven't surfed lately the world is colorless and drab, overcast and dreary. Every streetlight flashes red, every parking spot is taken, and when she asks me how my day was, I scowl, "Fine," but I sure as hell don't mean it. Please excuse my sullen outlook, but when I haven't surfed lately, I'm a horrible person."
I had caught all the red lights on the way to work that morning.
I left the office to go surfing at lunch. A fun, 6-foot swell was coinciding with Santa Ana winds. It was 80 degrees and sunny in January — a condescending joke to the rest of the United States, but I couldn't be bothered to notice. I grumped my way down to the beach, suited up and ran to the shoreline with my head down. I paddled out at a San Diego slab and spent an hour watching everyone get barreled while I scrounged for crumbs. Took closeouts. Got dropped in on. I thought about Beau's essay. About how true it rang and about how I couldn't wait to paddle in, go back to work, and write an angry essay of my own, titled "When I have surfed lately but I can't catch a single f–king…"
My wave. The set of the day, and not a soul deeper. I tiptoed the drop, scooped under the lip and felt all that stress peel away from my brain. I came out of the barrel and kicked out. The entire wave lasted six seconds, maybe less, but suddenly my frustration was replaced with gratification. I went straight in. Back on the beach I smiled at everyone I passed on the way to my truck, and when I got there I gave away my $10 parking pass. I drove to the office whistling the whole way. The traffic lights were all green. And how about this weather — in January!
Back at work I pulled Corey's email out of the trash. I scanned the photos. More dreamy tubes. More f–ked-up turns. More amazing. I emailed Corey.
"This stuff is insane!" I replied. "You guys are absolutely killing it."
Next, I texted Taylor back. "Thanks so much for going to Morocco on 24-hours' notice. Everything is awesome back here." And I genuinely meant it.
All it took was one wave. —Zander Morton