It’s a weekday morning. With our respective boyfriends at work, Dana and I paddle out on our foam longboards for a girls-only session. Fortunately, it’s not too busy on the water. We join two shortboarders in the lineup.

“The only thing I got in there’s my wedding ring,” the younger guy is saying. Dark, wavy hair rests on his shoulders. He’s a good surfer. I haven’t seen him catch a wave yet, but his hair alone warrants his skill.

“You’re not wearing it now?” asks the older guy. He’s bald. He might lack skull swag, but given the board he’s sitting on, I’m quite sure of his skills, too.

“No,” says the young guy, holding his left hand in the air. All of his outstretched fingers are bare. “I hardly ever wear it.” He mimics twisting an invisible wedding ring with his right thumb and index finger. “I never got used to it.”

“Holding you down, is it?” The bald guy laughs.

“I mean, I put it on when I go out to the bar.”

“To keep ’em off ya?” He laughs again.

A dark line grows thick in the water. It moves closer, growing steeper. The young guy starts paddling for it. I paddle too, but just to get up and over.

I look back over my shoulder. The young guy paddles once, twice, and then falls off the back. A few more go by. Each time he makes like he’s going for the wave, but then backs off. I become agitated. Now I don’t care how good your hair looks.

When the next one comes, I go for it. The wave breaks, crashing down behind me, and I fall into the white foam. Surfacing, I see the young guy is only five feet from me. “Hey, sorry, I didn’t see you on the inside,” I say. You just had to go for that one? I think.

He hoists himself onto his board. “It’s OK,” he says, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye.

Another set rolls in. He duck-dives with ease under a couple waves, and he’s back out past the break. I’m not as graceful. It takes me a full five minutes to make it back out, bashing my way, ditching my board, reeling it back in, saltwater in my nose and ears… then, finally, I pull up alongside Dana. She looks at me. I take a big breath and exhale.

The shortboarders float a dozen yards away.

“So yesterday I was over there,” says the bald guy, pointing south towards a different break, “and there’s this dude on a longboard. He’s ten feet in front of me when a wave walls up. And then,” — he puts his palms together like a little kid ready to dive off the edge of a swimming pool — “he jumps right off his board. I’m like, dude! I have to jump off my board so I don’t get hit by his.”

“Jeeze,” says the young guy.

“These longboarders,” the bald guy scoffs.

I look over at Dana. She raises her eyebrows. ☼