There are three patches of soggy blonde hair bobbing in the lineup at Seaside Reef in San Diego and I know exactly who they are. It is foggy. Glassy. Two and a half feet and playful. I trot toward the water and wave to their mom, who sits in the driver’s seat of her black SUV. She smiles, waves back at me and then returns to her book. It is 7 a.m. on a Tuesday and Jake, Nick and Connor Marshall are having a fantastic morning because they are surfing and because they are young, and if two things ever meshed more beautifully than surfing and youth, I haven’t seen it.
In the summers, as a kid, I got dropped off at Resorts back in Santa Cruz. My friends and I went there because of its convenience, consistent waves and proximity to food. Every day we pitched camp where the base of the bluff met the sunbaked sand. We surfed. We played home run derby in ankle-deep water and we flirted with girls. Once, we hog-tied the youngest kid in our pack and placed him on a tourist’s towel while the tourist had gone in the water to swim. And when our stomachs growled we walked to the local Mexican restaurant, ordered Cokes and devoured the bottomless chips and salsa that came with it. We were tan, barefoot and salty, and our biggest concern at that moment was kissing girls.
In the winters, as a kid, I got dropped off at the top of Pleasure Point. I’d stuff a quarter and a five-dollar bill in the key pocket of my wetsuit and paddle out to Sewers. From there I surfed the icy northwest swells down the point. Sewers to First Peak to 38th to The Hook to Sharks to Privates and finally to Capitola Village, where I’d use the quarter to call my mom and request a pickup. Then I’d walk into Blimpies — in my wetsuit — and hand them a soaking fiver and order a sandwich. An older surfer I looked up to, Ryan Augenstein, was sponsored by Blimpies, and while I ate my sandwich I thought about my biggest concern: “If I can learn how to do 360s in the next six months, and airs in the next year, maybe I can get sponsored by Blimpies, too.”
Back in Seaside, the Marshall brothers splash about. They giggle and they surf well. They spin airs and stomp them. They do full-rail Fanning carves, built to scale [See Jake in Grom Games, pg. 84]. They recap their waves. Every single one of them. Cackling. “That was so sick!” They talk in exclamation points. “I almost pulled that one!” They cheer each other into waves that they would have gone for anyway. “Go! Go! Go!” They push each other to improve through encouragement, but also through heckling. They leverage that they know one another’s weaknesses and biggest concerns. Like when Connor backs out of a wave that jacked a little steeper than expected, Jake rolls his eyes, throws his head back and addresses his little brother with a threat he knows will cut him to the core: “If I see you back out of one more wave, you’re not getting dessert tonight!”