A Dolphin Tale by Frank Quirarte

Ask a surfer what’s the best wave or best surf he or she had and they’ll probably say it was their very last session. Maybe it was a long ride, a few turns off the lip, a floater or better yet — a barrel. It’s almost like trying to describe what was the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted or something along those lines. It’s all good.

If you’ve surfed as long as I have, it hardly makes a difference anymore. They’re all the best at this point. And it may not have been a particular wave that made it the best. It could have been that all your friends were out on that day or better yet: you met a new one. So many reasons.

For instance, if you catch the right light and look back at the green, lush coastal range from the Linda Mar lineup you would swear you were staring at the Kanapali Coast of Kauai or some other tropical destination. Surfing the north end of the beach and catching the sunset as it ducks down behind Pedro Point makes me think of a few trips to Mexico surfing into the warm evenings.

One session I do recall that stands out in my mind was just this past summer. It was a Saturday. I rolled out of bed pretty late and didn’t have grom duty until the next day, so I was free and clear to figure out ways to not work on the house on such a glorious day.

As you know, our summers are usually quite the opposite of those of other regions of the state with plenty of fog and chilly mornings. It has something to do with the jet stream and the heat differential and other scientific weather jargon. Not this morning. It was warm and beautiful and I wasn’t about to waste it. I grabbed my bike and went down to the beach to check out the surf. The parking lot was packed. Plenty of people out. 20, 30 people on each peak: standard for a weekend summer day at Linda Mar.

I watched the waves for a while and visited with friends near the pump house. Just behind the surfers was a pod of dolphin swimming the length of the beach. I always thought that anytime you see dolphin while you’re surfing it’s good luck.

I went back home straight away, got my board and wetsuit and went back down to the beach. Once I made it back, I couldn’t get my wetsuit on fast enough. I was giddy with anticipation. I felt like a kid again. I just wanted the dolphin to still be out there.

They were, and I finally made it out to the lineup to take my place in the rotation. All the regular casts of characters were out, including Asi Ghiassi. If you’ve ever had the chance to surf with Asi, you know that she’s anything but quiet. Always heckling or defending her line in the least filtered manner of speech she can muster, and I say this with nothing but love.

But not even Asi could scare away my dolphins (at this point I adopted them for this session). At one point I just stopped surfing and watched them play. It was the most amazing feeling being so close to them in their natural habitat instead of some amusement park arena.

I wanted to get closer to them, so I let myself drift toward them. From the way they were moving they seemed to be fishing: swimming back and forth really fast then jumping up out of the water. Now, I was basically in the middle of their swim pattern. They were popping up all around me, not concerned at all by my presence. It was amazing to be right there with the pod. A couple of them were huge. When they came up next to me they dwarfed my nine-foot long board.

I watched in amazement for maybe 20 minutes, but just like that, they were gone. I couldn’t wait to paddle back over and tell everybody about my encounter, but just as that thought left my head two dolphins came up right next to me. I didn’t want to touch them or mess with them in any way, so I just lay still on my board.

Those two dove down again quickly I figured they were just swimming around underneath me. I tried to look down but couldn’t see them. The water was murky. I slid off my board and swam down to the bottom and sat. It was about 15 feet deep where I was sitting. It was dark but I could still feel them swimming around me. What really blew me away were the sounds all around me. They were all talking to each other.

I could hear them perfectly. It sounded like whistling and clicking. I tried to stay down as long as I could but had to eventually come up for air. Unfortunately, I don’t possess the same lung capacity that they do. I hopped back on my board and paddled back to the lineup.

It didn’t really hit me until I explained what happened to my son the next day. He told me, “Dad, that’s a really cool story.” Yeah, I have to agree with him wholeheartedly. That was one of the coolest surfs I ever had and a session I won’t soon forget.

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