Just when you think it’s coming to a close, a bonus month or two of sunshine and warm water. Indian summer is like found money. Unlike June, July, and August, it’s not the payoff for winter and spring. It defies the seasonal rhythm, a kind of turbo booster. The surprise of it all kicks us out of the humdrum of daily life.
And it happens while the kids are back at school—a good thing if you’re no longer a student; an excuse to arrive late, cut out early, or, on the right swell and conditions, take the whole day off if you still are (not that we’re encouraging such things).
I associate Indian summer with “The Day of Dreams,” a legendary September Thursday that took place when I was in junior high. I missed it. In fact I’d yet to become a fully committed surfer when it happened. But I certainly heard about it. According to the tribal elders at my local break, it was a day you remember forever, a day that you call on during lulls in a surfing life to remind yourself why you do it. Here’s how it was told me, composited from the many versions I heard:
“Santa Ana winds, solid, but not gusty. Just strong enough to make every wave throw top to bottom. The water was sapphire blue and ridiculously warm, we were trunking it and it was late September! The swell was out of the northwest, peaky, A-frames, the kind of waves that you paddle into, and as you hop to your feet you decide whether to go right or left.
It was not huge, but the biggest sets were maybe double overhead, top to bottom. You stroked as hard as you could, hopped up, dragged your hand over the face, or maybe gouged it in there, depending on how deep you were. Then you just stood there in the barrel. Pretty much every wave. It had those breaths and wafts, cool air pushing up from the collapsing lip. The tube was like a wild animal.
And there were only about a dozen of us spread over a half-mile of sand-bottom beachbreak. And it stayed like this all day. And luckily we packed Gatorade and sandwiches and apples. And by the afternoon the tube became so familiar it was like your living room at home or something, you knew every dimple, the lip heaving over your head didn’t freak you out like it does when you haven’t been barreled in months, it was almost relaxing, soothing. You had your head on the pillow—you pull the sheet up over your head for a bit, then you pull it down, breathe a little, and dive back in.”