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You just had to be there…

On October 2, 2012
Comments (5)

Just have to share an experience I had moments ago, because, well, if not with you, then with whom?

It was magical, but you probably had to be there. There were small reminders, but you just have to take away what you can. And, there could even be a sign of sorts in there. But, to be honest, I really just intend to share with you a moment I had.

(Note: This is not much of a tenkara story, though if tenkara really means “from heaven” it may just be. It’s more about simple living and a good moment I had ).

Summer has finally arrived here in Pacifica, what we call our “Indian Summers”. To top it off, the waves turned on again. I had to go surfing. Throughout the entire day I couldn’t think about anything else, but obligations kept me in my office. Often in the late afternoon I will run to the post office with things that I need to ship personally; it may be the prizes I have been offering on Facebook, or miscellaneous items that we have run out of in our warehouses – today it was a rod cloth bag, and a t-shirt. Though a surfboard and my dog made it into my car for this trip.

One of the things that attracts me to tenkara is the same why I love surfing: simplicity. I grabbed my board and wetsuit and was out the door in seconds. It is largely about technique; but most importantly it is about being unencumbered by the gear and just enjoy the experience. And, today’s experience was something I will never forget for it was nothing short of magical

After a couple of hours of enjoying the surfing, without another soul in sight since this spot hardly ever has good waves, I was about to call it a day and go back home. I had gone there with the purpose: surfing (i.e. catching some waves) and I had my fair share of it. On the other hand, it has been foggy and cold here for over 2 months, so I decided to enjoy the break in the fog, the warmth and the gorgeous sunset that was to come. It was the proverbial “stop-to-smell-the-flowers” kind of moment. A small reminder to myself: forget the purpose sometimes, just relax.

Right at the moment I decided to stay, I was blessed with the most magical experience of my life – and, I should make it clear I am not exaggerating, and am not using superfluous superlatives here – dolphins splashing all over the water 100ft way. I saw about 6 spectacular jumps and flips. This would have been enough to make it a day worth talking about. But, it got even better.

The sun was starting to set. On this particular beach, at this time of year, the sun sets right at the direction the waves come from. It was blinding minutes before, which made it difficult to see any waves coming. But now there was just the spectacular orange glow of a sun 1/3 dipped in water, and no longer harsh on the eyes. The dolphins, on the other hand, were fully submerged, and I had no idea where they were headed.

Seconds later the first fin breaks the surface, now closer, about 70ft away. They were swimming, fast, and towards me! At one point I freaked out a bit. I was the only person at the beach and these smiling torpedoes were coming straight at me! Dolphin attacks are not common, I reminded myself. So, I decided to breath, and relax. If anything was supposed to happen to me, then so it should be. The sight and the story would be worth it.

Another few seconds of watching several dolphins come toward me at full speed, and a fin pops up no more than 5 feet in front of me. I could see every single detail of it. The glowing sun, now about 1/2 way below the horizon, was perfectly positioned on the other side of the fin. For a split second there was what would have been an award-winning picture, a sunset and the perfectly positioned fin filling most of the sun – if only my eyes were capable of recording the image! The fin, with every scar and marking, was perfectly visible, probably only for a split-second. Yet, I was so entranced that it seemed I was staring at it for a whole minute; so much so that I have every detail of it memorized.

The dolphins were all around me, about 15 in all.  I had surfed near dolphins before, but had never witnessed so many at once, and so playful too. And, they were even catching waves! There were also 2 baby dolphins with the group, each no more than 4ft long and each perfectly crafted, no scars and just a very good color. I saw the babies fully out of the water a couple of times as they jumped around waves. The sight of the babies scared me too, the thought that there could possibly be a defensive mother in their midst came to mind. But, I reminded myself I’d have an even better story to tell.

They hung around, catching waves and showing off their smiles around me for probably about 3 minutes. Several came within 10ft. I thought I’d be touching one anytime soon. As they were so near me, I seriously thought I was going to get pushed around by them, a victim of their curiosity. Luckily dolphins are thought to be a bit more timid than dolphins, which don’t usually swim this far north. The purpoises didn’t mind my presence a bit, not even when I attempted to catch a wave with 2 of them.

The final third of the sun was about to set below the horizon now. The dolphins, having continued on their voyage, flipped into the air a few more times as if they were saying good bye. I could swear at one moment one of them waved to me.

I am normally a bit of a loner, someone who enjoys doing a lot of things by himself: fishing, surfing, and even running a business, mostly alone. I have always seen fishing and surfing as perfect activities to indulge in alone time, perhaps I saw them as times of reflection and meditation. Experiencing this moment alone reminded me of a very good essay that Ryan Jordan wrote a while ago about enjoying an experience alone v. with people. As he writes, it is “hard to convey the depth of that experience to others. Moreover, I’m always a little bit dismayed by their reaction (or lack of) to my sharing (‘Oh, that sounded like a nice trip.’) My response: ‘Huh. I guess you had to be there.'”

There was not another soul at the beach. And, while that is a rare thing around here, and something to be cherished, I had an urge to share that moment with someone else. I came out of the water to enjoy the last few minutes of sunlight and head back to my car before it good too dark. A few dolphins were still within sight, and I may have told my dog, Yuki, to look, but she didn’t get it. A runner was passing by, near the water. But he was there with a purpose: to run. I wanted to shout: “hey, look, dolphins!” But, he had his earphones on, and in all truth I really didn’t want to break the serene moment with a shout. He kept on going by, not once looking at the ocean.

All this is happening as Margaret and I are looking at moving away, possibly very soon, to a place with streams and mountains. It is something we have been talking about for quite sometime. Moving to the mountains would allow me to go tenkara fishing every day. It would probably a good change for us right now, and I have been looking forward to it for quite sometime.

Now, I’m certainly reading too much into this, but I really can’t figure out whether the dolphins – with their smiles and all – were telling me to stay, or just giving me a final blessing to go fishing more often.

Sunset at Mussel Rock

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5 Responses to You just had to be there…

  1. Michaela says:


    thanks for sharing this beautiful moment ,i write Tanka and Haiku
    and was inspired by your story, here are two haiku that came to me while reading it.

    surfing at sunset

    dolphins gather

    around me


    seeing a dolphins fin

    cross the sun

  2. Austin.S says:

    i love the ocean, but i live in the mountains. its a hard decision though for sure! maybe you can move somewhere with both, like coastal regions of Oregon etc. … well i’ve always thought about it anyways. Here in CA though we have a lot of variety when it comes to climates and different environments. i live in the foothills just at the base of the sierras in sonora, CA – there are many many excellent small streams here that are pretty much perfect for Tenkara – the way i like it anyways 😛

    • Hey Austin, thanks for the input. My wife and I keep debating so many things that I just have to realize none will be the perfect decision, and will just to go live somewhere. I think I’m a bit of a nomad anyways, so may move somewhere again later on.

  3. Mark Cole says:

    Great Post!

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