"Shaun Tomson! You're Goin' Down!"
How many people can yell it, mean it and have it come true? Not many, right? Well, I'm one of the few then. There's no way I was going to let some former world champ on a shortboard beat me at my home break!
I know what you're thinking. That chick must have attached her leash in the parking lot, tripped over it on the way to the water and hit her head. Kook! No head-hitting here, my friends. Instead, I was competing in some form of relay for a charity surf-a-thon. We were split into teams. The rules were a bit confusing to those of us who were competing. The gist of it was that we would compete in 15 minute heats. The goal was to catch five waves (or as many as you could). If you caught your five waves before the heat was over, you could get out and tag your teammate. If you got fewer than five waves, you got out once the heat was up. Somehow, this was supposed to be a race. And a surf contest? All of that was unclear. Since it was for charity, who cared? I figured I'd paddle out and have fun.
I was in the first heat. So was Shaun. (My god, that is one gorgeous hunk of man!) As we waited for the horn to start the heat, that's when I turned and let him know how it was going to be! I knew I had the advantage, hands down. He's a world champion who has surfed some of the best breaks on the planet. He knows what to do with a good wave. Well guess what, Shaun? My home break is not a good wave. Nor is it a particularly well-shaped wave for those who ride shortboards. I suppose I thought he'd be waiting for something rideable to appear on the horizon. I knew better than to wait for that. This is the spot where I learned how to surf and still surf on occasion. I could see our home break closeouts were in full effect. The horn eventually sounded. About six of us paddled out for the heat. Four of them paddled too deep. Two of us stayed on the inside. I wasn't necessarily trying to get the longest waves. I was going for my five waves. If this is a relay then time matters.
I am, by nature, a kind of shy person. I still suffer from performance anxiety even though I've spent a lifetime as a competitive athlete. I'm especially prone to performance anxiety when I know a lot of people are watching me. For some reason, I didn't care today. I didn't even think about all of the people on the beach. I was focused on the waves, on the fact that I was not going to let myself get embarrassed at my home break. I can surf those shitty waves quite well. Katy caught one. Then I caught one. Then I caught another and another and so on—four lefts and one right. Before I knew it, I was bellying/paddling in to tag the next person on our team. And then what happened? I have no idea. Eventually the horn sounded and other people went out. Shaun Tomson came in. What about the other people? I wasn't looking at them. I only had eyes for Shaun Tomson. He is the first surfer I remember seeing on TV. Back in the days before Fuel TV, there was something called ABC's Wide World of Sports. Hell, this was back before cable television. There was no need for a cable box when the only channels you had were 2,4,5,7,9,11,13 and a few on UHF. But I remember seeing a lot of Shaun Tomson. I also remember that he took my breath away. Some 30 years on, I finally meet Shaun Tomson and I can't even make eye contact with him. When I told a teammate that I'd given Shaun Tomson a little gift today, she said, "What was it? Your tongue?" Is this how polite ladies speak to one another?
It was a fun day. I got to talk trash to Shaun Tomson. I also got a hug from Shaun Tomson. What a nice man, he is. Because I've had a crush on him since I was a teenager, I didn't say much to him. What was I going to say that didn't involve a lot of flustered conversation and drool?
I also happened upon Rob Machado. I got a hug from him too! I remarked that we have the same hair. He directed me to look in the back of his hair; he thought there was one bone fide dreadlock back there. When I paddled back out a little later for a free surf separate from the event, I got to spend some time in the lineup with Peter Townend. He was freezing. He'd just gotten back from surfing in Australia so he was not amused by the water temperature here. He, like Tomson and Machado, is a nice and gracious man.
This was a surprisingly great surf day. I hadn't expected to have this much fun or see all of these great surfers there. I'm assuming a good deal of money was raised to support the cause. The relay was still in full swing by the time I left (with the spouse, the child and the dog in tow). Perhaps if I ever see Shaun Tomson again, I won't be afraid to actually have a conversation with him.