“Mom, can we go see the astronauts?” Sue asked at breakfast.
“No, dear, we’re not really headed that way,” Mom replied, taking a sip of steaming black coffee.
“But aren’t we headed to the coast?”
“Yes,” Mom continued, “but this road will take us to the coast about seventy miles south of Cape Canaveral. That’s where we’ll pick up Highway 1, the beach road.”
“Beach!” Diane exclaimed. “Can we go to the beach?”
“Yeah, can we go to the beach?” Sue added.
“I want to go to the beach,” I said, completing the chorus.
“Okay, we’ll go to the beach the first chance we get,” said Mom, taking another sip of coffee.
After breakfast we loaded up the car, checked out of the motel, and headed east. We drove for an hour or two before Mom exited the highway. We followed Seaway Drive for several miles. Then we turned onto Ocean Boulevard, where we got our first glimpse of the sea. It almost took my breath away, not the glistening sand, or the sunlight glancing off the water, or even the seabirds darting above the shoreline.
What struck me the most were the waves. Unlike the little rollers in Texas, these waves were four or five feet tall, and kept rolling in one after the other. In between the long lines of waves large birds bobbed up and down in the water.
“Birds?” Diane laughed. “Those aren’t birds. Those are surfers.”
“Surfers?” I replied.
I had never seen surfers in Texas. The only time I had seen them was on television. I remember surfers in tight-fitting wetsuits streaking down mountain-sized waves.
“Surfers?” Sue blurted. “Can we stop and watch them, Mom?”
“Please?” Diane added.
“Well, I don’t know if we have the…”
“Please?” I said, riveted on the objects bobbing up and down in the water.
“Okay, but just for a moment.”
At the next intersection, Mom pulled off the beach road and drove down a narrow lane that dumped us into a small parking lot bordered by a thrift store and a bait shop.
We parked in front of the bait shop, near the entrance to the public fishing pier, which was an old wooden structure that swayed ever-so-slightly with each crashing wave.
“Let’s watch them from the pier,” Sue shouted.
“I’ll race you,” I replied.
We ran onto the pier, stopping midway to catch our breath. When Diane caught up to us we leaned against the railing and watched the handful of surfers in the water.
One surfer had just caught a wave and was riding toward us. He crouched slightly, toggling his board up and down, trying to stay ahead of the break. But the wave was fast and the break caught up to him, tossing him headfirst into the water. When he surfaced, he looked around, grabbed his board, and headed back out to catch another wave.
We stayed and watched for a half hour or so, until Mom tooted the horn. Reluctantly, we turned and headed back to the car. Diane led the way, but then stopped suddenly and stared at something on the beach—a surfer.
He had just claimed his board from the tide washing along the beach. His wet body shimmered in the sunlight. Beads of water gleamed like so many crystals. His wet hair was shoulder-length and blond. Diane didn’t take her eyes off of him. When she got to the end of the pier, she headed down the stairs to the beach.
“Diane,” Mom called from the car.
Diane ignored her.
Sue and I watched from the pier as Diane crept up to the edge of the water, dipping her toes into the glistening froth. The surfer watched, too, as he headed her way.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could tell there was an electric current moving between them. The surfer pointed at his surfboard, then to the waves breaking in the distance, then at his board again. Diane listened intently, never taking her eyes off of him.
“Diane!” Mom called again.
Diane smiled at the surfer, shrugged, then turned and hurried toward the car.
“What did he say?” Sue asked as Diane climbed into the front seat.
“Oh, nothing,” she replied, smiling, “something about how the pier makes a sandbar, and the sandbar makes the waves.”
I thought to myself that the sandbar wasn’t the only thing that was going to make waves.