I walked onto the beach early in the morning. My exhaustion was destroyed by what greeted me in the grey morning light. A rocky point jutted out into the Pacific and a nice left was consistently rolling off of it. There were not many surfers in the water. As I looked for a place to rent a board and I began to think about extending my stay past the proposed week. Half an hour and six long rides later the sun began to burn through the morning clouds and I knew that I had found exactly what I was looking for. I was where I needed to be.
The surf break in Mancora is caused by a field of boulders that extends into the Pacific. The waves start breaking around the same spot every time and if there is a little bit of a swell you can ride the wave 200 yards all the way to the beach. One draw back to this is that the spot where the waves start to break can get really crowded when the surf is up. But more importantly you are surfing next to and sometimes over rocks. It was pretty intimidating to look down into the greenish water rushing under my board and see pail round rocks waiting for me to make a mistake. I had a hard time judging how deep the boulders were. I’m pretty sure they were about eight feet deep; pretty sure.
I had spent 18 hours the day before, on a series of buses, taxis and finally a tuc tuc, getting from Montanita Ecuador to Mancora Peru. Montanita had been a disappointment. I heard it was a tropical surf paradise but it had been cloudy every single day with strong winds that ruined most of the surf. It had not just been cloudy; it had been Ohio in February cloudy. The kind of clouds that sucked all the color out of the world and made it ugly. The kind of clouds that drained my energy and hurt my soul. For various reasons I had spent over a week in Montanita and for various reasons I was happy to leave.
Over the next few days I walked around the small desert town of Mancora with a smile and the sun on my face. I started taking Spanish classes two hours a day. One day I volunteered at an after school program through the hostel. We spent an hour playing games with the kids. Is it still volunteering if you have more fun than the kids? The volunteer coordinator mentioned that the hostel needed bar staff and since I was already thinking about staying in Mancora for a while I took the job.
Now I tend the hostel bar four days a week. It is actually fun and easy. The only hard thing about the job is watching your friends have more fun than you on the other side of the bar. Occasionally I ask myself if am I too old for this shit? I ask myself this question every few days and when I ask it there is a massive smile on my face that immediately answers the question and makes me feel silly for even asking. Some day dancing on top of the bar to 80’s rap with beautiful Dutch girls will get old. Today is not that day.
One of the “benefits” of working here is that you “get” to live in one of the staff dorms. When I walked into the staff dorm that is affectionately known as “The Jungle” I was disgusted and I immediately felt at home. It smelled and felt like the Phi Delt house. Loki Hostel is much like my old fraternity house but with a powerful sun overhead and a beach out front.
I work just enough to have fun and appreciate my free time. I surf whenever there are waves. I run on the beach and study Spanish. I meet people from all over the world who tell me stories that bore, shock and amaze me. My only complaint is that I am so tired. There is always something to do and I am usually doing it.
In someway by staying here for a while I was looking for some stability. I have found it but not really. The beach and hostel do not change but the faces and stories do. They roll through here, some are amazing, some I don’t even notice, some are beautiful, some I will remember for a long time, but they all eventually disappear. I tell myself that I am tired of new people and then I sit at the bar and talk to the first person I see.
The work, the people and the parties are really just a distraction. I am here for the surf.
If you miss a good wave it is probably part of a set. You need to paddle back into position as fast as you can. Turn toward the beach and when you feel the water drop and get eerily smooth in front of you it is time to look over your shoulder and see what type of beautiful beast is rolling towards you. If you are in the right position, have good timing, paddle with everything you have left and have the courage to drop in, you just might have the ride of your life.
If you wipe out; at least you went for it. And don’t worry because at that very moment there are rays, waves, of light leaving the sun that will soon heat the earths atmosphere and create wind that will give birth to more waves. And those waves will roll towards you and as they do, they will perfectly mirror the shape of a life well lived.