STARING INTO THE SUN.
Beads of water are everywhere. I’m covered. It’s so fucking hot. The sweat started in little perspiration beads until gravity pulled them down towards the boat’s surface. Gathering pace and shape, the beads form a stream of sweat from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I am completely covered in my own exhaustion. My eyes sag in their sockets.
On the upswing of the ocean the swell barely kisses the bow of our boat. It moves through us towards the land. Traveling from Hawaii to reach us, somewhere along the way the energy has been cheese-grated. The boat barely moves. The horizon barely moves. The sun beats down on our spirit as we sit together with our own thoughts of desperation.
Five days ago, we had arrived in the quaint northern islands of Fiji with perky smiles and fresh boards to surf and score empty reef passes. We’ve now burned holes into the horizon in hopes of seeing the first set of waves from the swell we had long been anticipating. It would only be five days late…if it showed at all.
The question became: to stare at the sun or not? Our boat captain Larry had seen these blue waters for most of his life. His attitude day in and day out was chipper. Gleeful. He was so excited to see what the ocean would bring us every day. He was a firm believer in the forbidden fruit of sun staring. Each morning before the inertia of the super heat started to form on the sun’s surface Larry would stare straight into its soul with his eyes for a half hour. Apparently, this shocks the body into survival mode and produces Melanin to cover his skin for the entire day at sea.
They say the character of a man gets built in the furnace of adversity. Well, there I sat in the scorched earth heat of the South Pacific living on a daydream of perfect waves that were clearly not there. And then it happened: I started to look up.
My vision went from blue to the bright burning ball of the sun. I snapped away after an instant. How could I keep looking? But I wanted to see this place like Larry; in all its glory, in its cover shot perfection. Maybe if I tempted the stare of death to the sun’s surface I would have the knowledge. Maybe my vision for perfection would improve. I needed help. But I was nervous. How far should I go? Could I ever come back?
The boat lulled up and down for days. The hypnotic rhythm of getting skunked. The constant swing of thought. The curiosity of how good the waves could actually get. Larry with his grey eyeballs, the color of truth. His skin impossibly tan. His conversation always uplifting and optimistic. Larry. Out here day in day out. Blue ocean, little islands, and Larry.
Larry. What does he eat? How old is he? My thoughts kept drifting. I imagine Larry catching a shark with his bare hands. My head is slumped over the side of the boat. Heck, the shark could be right below us now. Larry probably knows. He sun stares.
I played with these thoughts each day. Until I realized I had become a fixture of the scene. I was just another part of the plot. Staring or not, the reality that kept unfolding became the illusions of North Fiji and its fickle fruit. The crew—Reef McIntosh, Yadin Nichol, Grant Ellis, Pat and I—laughed at the misfortune of the swell and the wonders of sun staring. Even though the boat rocked in that same lullaby fashion, up and down, for the rest of the trip, we were okay with it. In fact, we admired it. To stare at the sun and live a life in the north isn’t easy, but Larry was making it look, well, pretty damn fun. Bliss.
We eventually cracked what felt like the coldest beer I’d ever tasted, looked out at the endless blue and felt our spirits uplift. But to this day I still think about what would have happened had I chosen to stare into that unforgiving sun.