It was a bright and warm early December morning here in Ohope and I had just finished a mid-morning surf. I stepped out of the ocean, unstrapped my leash, put my board under my arm and started heading back to the parking lot at West End. My friend, Debs, was setting up her surf tent so I went over to say hello and at the end of our conversation she whispered, “Supermoon surf tonight around 7 pm.”
I knew that there was a supermoon that evening and I figured I’d walk out to the beach by our house to have a look, but until I talked with Debs, I never thought about putting together surfing and gazing at the supermoon. Plus, the way Debs told me about it made the whole thing feel like a meeting of a secret society of surfers. I wasn’t sure I belonged in that tribe and I almost asked if I needed a password. When I got home I asked Sujata if she wanted to supermoon surf in the evening “Hell, yeah,” she said.
Later that day, while most people were finishing dinner and dimming the lights to watch the supermoon from their decks and front yards, we, along with about thirty other West End surfers stepped into the ocean and paddled out past the breakers, in the gloaming.
The sky over the ocean was filled with darkening cumulus clouds. Red and gold rays of the setting sun peeked through jagged cracks in the clouds off to the west, and in the south east, where the moon was to make its appearance, a black and gray bank of seemingly impenetrable clouds looked like an ominous smudge mark on a white piece of paper. We lowered our expectations for a good view of the moon, but the surf conditions—long, clean, one-meter waves and a convivial group of surfers—were perfect so we all rode the waves in the waning light.
I caught seven or eight waves and as I was paddling out again I noticed that an expectant hush had fallen across the line up. I popped through the last wave, sat up on my board and observed a long line of surfers silhouetted against the darkening sky. Everyone was sitting up on their boards, facing out toward the ocean.
The sky on the horizon looked like a piece of splintered dark glass set in front of a bright candle. Tiny fissures appeared in the clouds on the horizon and a red light began to appear through the cracks. The moon, Yule-log red and orange, peeked out through the widening fissures. A set moved in, but no one turned their board around to catch the waves. We all just stayed there, bobbing up and down beyond the breakers with the noses of our boards pointed toward the emerging light and waiting for the super moon to reveal itself.
I sat there a full five minutes and when the clouds had fully parted and the supermoon pushed through the clouds, hovering over the horizon like a yo-yo, I turned my board around, caught the first wave and rode it to the shore. It was a left-hand break so I was looking over the top of the breaking wave and watching the rays of moonlight cast across the ocean and onto the beach.
When I turned to face the shore I saw Sujata and our friends standing in knee-deep water quietly watching the moon as it slowly rose. Someone had started a fire on the beach and the light from the fire lit up their faces. I picked up my board and joined them. We were silent for a long time and then we all embraced, turned our backs to the moon and headed up to the beach where we popped open a few beers and wondered if we’d ever seen anything quite that marvelous.