Tanti Auguri a Te

Birthdays for those of us unfortunate enough to have them in December are typically a dismal affair. My wife Laura and I are two days apart. My brother is 2 years and five days before me thanks in part to the US Navy. My son Gabriel is New Years eve, and my parent’s anniversary is on the Winter Solstice. My maternal grandmother’s birthday was also the same as mine. Then there is the prophet’s birthday. So the short of all this information is that it is a jam packed month. My birthday as a kid was usually an abbreviated, if not perfunctory formality, like stopping at a red light. Now I share that anniversary brevity with Laura, my brother, and my son. I’ve had some good Birthday’s though. My twentieth was a great one with friends dancing the _Russian Dance_ by Tom Waits, drinking Bells, and falling down stairs with Vinny. My last birthday was a good one too. I spent it with Laura in Saugatuck at the Bently Bed & Breakfast, eating good food, getting some much needed zzz’s.

This year I took a day off and raced up to Saugatuck again ironically to paddle with Doug Van Doren and Paul Fishback. I arrived at the beach a little late and tried to suit up quickly. Waves were coming in out of the NW at slow steady intervals. I was a little bummed because they were totally surfable. But I had only brought the Silhouette. The waves peaked at 4 feet and the rogue one may have tipped five. We all hopped in and started to break out. Doug and I both let the waves spin us around and swung out. I watched Doug take quick stabbing strokes in his Valkyrie and quickly gain speed until he was beyond the spilling break.

I broke out soon after and then spun about on a wave face to check on Paul’s progress.

I should say at this point that Paul has had major brain surgery and was bravely dealing with some balance issues. I saw the top of his Neoprene covered head bobbing out and then the bow of his Recluse clear the break. We started paddling north into the wind. Paul was having a little difficulty keeping up so we stopped every once in a while to allow him time to catch up. He let us know he didn’t feel up to the pace and wanted to take a break. So after a mile or two of forward progress we aimed for shore. The break here was not as steep as it was where we launched. Paul was oddly trying to head in through a more spilly spot than where I was. I held my paddle straight up in the “come to me” sign. And he paddled over and then saw the calmer landing. He started to head in, and by some strange twist of fate got nuked by a breaker. I was literally 10 feet behind him so I surfed up and threw the breaks on and side slipped in to give him a bow as I didn’t want to have him swim. He was set up to roll, but found my bow quickly. He hip flicked up. Once up he got his bearings and then was set to go in but he got hit again and his paddle was on the wrong side to brace. Over he went, and I slid in again for another bow. He came up again. I steadied him, and then said “I am clearing out, are you ready? ” He nodded he was, and I rafted off and surfed in. Paul landed with no problem after this.

We chummed about for a few minutes and decided to drop Paul at the parking lot of Oval Beach and paddle on a bit.

Paul made it back in and we headed down wind at a higher pace than I normally go at. Doug kindly slowed a bit for me as he is easily one of the fastest paddlers I’ve ever paddled with.

All in all with dim sunshine, clear cold breezes in the high 30’s, and steep waves to surf, this was one of my better Birthdays.